How Do You Know You’re Good Enough as a Writer?

I am up late tonight. I don’t have insomnia per se at the moment, but I am only now starting to feel sleepy–and it’s 4:00 a.m.

I am, of course, surfing YouTube. I came across this gem of UCLA professor Richard Walter talking about how does someone know that he/she is good enough to be a writer. Even though he is talking specifically about screenwriting, I can relate to a lot of what he says.

Check it out.

Photo of man wearing a coronavirus mask
Prevent the spread of Coronavirus/COVID-19 for the sake of yourself, your friends, and your family.

Notes on “The Possession Experiment”

About 3:00 I finished talking to my wife (in Texas) via Messenger intending to go to bed soon. But first, I thought, I will watch a little of a movie on Amazon. In all the times I have told myself that, it has never worked out as I planned.

I chose the 2016 horror flick “The Possession Experiment”, which is about a college student who starts out writing who intends to interview a priest who conducted and exorcism as part of a project for his theology class. However, he eventually decides to go much further and actually be possessed by a demon.

It is now 4:44 a.m. and although I am drawing close to the end of the movie, I paused to write down a few notes.

  1. This is a good movie. It’s not great, but it is not bad and it is fun.
  2. The movie, initially, has a lot of dramatic tension for the first two-thirds, but no gore. At the hour mark though, the gore and horror began and keep building.
  3. The acting is good…for the most part. The actors playing Brandon (the protagonist), Clay (Brandon’s classmate), and Leda (a medical student they hire to monitor Brandon’s vital signs during the possession) all do well. I think Clay does the best though. One failing of the movie is that the lines written for Brandon’s dad sound like they were written by a drunken eight-year-old, though the rest of the writing is reasonably bood. It does not help though that the actor playing Brandon’s dad is terrible and is awkward in his delivery. He might do well at narrating corporate workplace safety videos, but that’s it.
  4. I like the character of Brandon. The actor (I don’t know his name) does well portraying a college student who is a little “out there” to begin with and who becomes increasingly twisted as the story progresses. That said, I think the actor portraying Clay does better and the actress playing Leda (I disagree with the idea of calling all performers actors by negating their gender; I give credit where credit is due) does well also.
  5. There is at least one major gaffe when the trio goes to the place for the exorcism and brings a woman with them, but who she is is not revealed (not even her name) until a few minutes later. I was startled to see an additional character following them into the spot chosen for the possession with no mention of her being made previously.
  6. Nevertheless, this movie is worth watching.
  7. The horror ramps up in the last half hour.

That’s all for now. I might write more later but felt I needed to get those thoughts down right away.

Hasta luego. Wear your mask.

UPDATE 1:47 p.m. October 25:

Of course, I finished watching the movie a few minutes after the last post. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the ending. The horror and tension ramp up more and more the closer one comes to the ending.

I recommend watching this movie on Amazon as part of a subscription or renting it from Redbox or another low-cost source, but I wouldn’t buy the DVD or pay for a theater ticket.

Reprint: The Real Dracula’s Castle — Stop 2 of the World’s Greatest Horror Locales

Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula 1931

Bela Lugosi
as Count Dracula
1931

Bună dimineața!

I published this on my website a few years ago, but this morning I thought I would re-post just for my followers in Romania. Enjoy.  If you live in Romania or are from there originally, I would like to see your comments on this article. Tell me if I am on the spot or if I am off base.

The first thing you learn about the historical Castle Dracula is that it is a fictional location from Bram Stoker’s imagination.  The Wikipedia article does a nice job of summarizing the history of the fictional abode and of analyzing the novel for clues to its supposed locale.   The most precise it comes to identifying the spot of Dracula’s Castle is:

“The site of the Vampire’s home has always been one of the greatest mysteries of the novel. The route descriptions hardly mention any recognisable landmarks, but focus on evocations of a wild and snow-covered landscape, haunted by howling wolves and lit by supernatural blue flames at night. Because of this conspicuous vagueness, the annotated Dracula editions by Leonard Wolf,[6] Clive Leatherdale[7] and Leslie Klinger[8] simply assume Bram Stoker had no specific location in mind and place the Castle in or immediately next to the Borgo Pass. As a consequence, these editions take for granted that the Count’s men, pursued by Harker, Holmwood, Morris and Seward, follow the Bistrița River all the way up to Vatra Dornei and then travel the route through the Borgo Pass already taken by Van Helsing and Mina. The same view is adopted by Andrew Connell in his Google Map mark-ups.[9] These theories ignore or misinterpret Stoker’s hint that around the 47th Parallel, the Count’s men are supposed to leave the river and cross-over to Transylvanian territory:

We took it, that somewhere about the 47th degree, north latitude, would be the place chosen for crossing the country between the river and the Carpathians. (Chapter 26, Jonathan Harker’s Journal, Entry for 30 October)[10]

“Only recently, the Dutch author Hans Corneel de Roos discovered the site the Irish novelist really had in mind while shaping his narrative: an empty mountain top in the Transylvanian Kelemen Alps near the former border with Moldavia, ca. 20 miles south-east of the Borgo Pass.[11] De Roos also explains why Stoker chose to obscure this location in his novel and compares the vampire’s fortress to the Grail Castle as its anti-Christian antipole: It cannot be found on purpose, only by guidance. Harker is brought there by the Count himself, while Van Helsing and Mina – equally nodding off – rely on the instinct of their horses and the mounted men arrive there by following the Gypsies.”

If you have read the book and have seen at least the original film version of Dracula with Bela Lugosi, you know at least one place they have in common is Borgo Pass.   This is where Jonathan Harker disembarks from a coach to wait in an inn for the Count’s own carriage to come and fetch him and the village people try unsuccessfully to warn him away.

Aerial view of the Hotel Castel Dracula in the Borgo Pass from Google Earth

Aerial view of the Hotel Castel Dracula in the Borgo Pass from Google Earth

What you will learn from a few places on the Internet is that a hotel has been built on the spot in the Borgo Pass where Harker is supposed to have changed rides.  Romanian Tourism describes it so:

 

Borgo Pass

(Pasul Tihuta) 
Where: 277 miles northwest of Bucharest / 12 miles northeast of Bistrita

Note: Access by car only

 Borgo Pass (Bargau in Romanian), made famous in the opening chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is an oft-trod passageway through the Carpathian Mountains in northern Transylvania. Located near the small township of Tihuta, the pass peaks at 3,840 feet.

The Bargau Valley encompasses some of the most beautiful unspoiled mountain scenery in the Carpathians with picturesque traditional villages located in valleys and on hillsides, ideal bases for hiking, riding or discovering their vivid tapestry of old customs, handicrafts and folklore.

Here, you will step into a realm that the fictional Mina Harker described in her diary as “a lovely county; full of beauties of all imaginable kinds, and the people are brave, and strong, and simple, and seem full of nice qualities.”

If you travel via Google Earth, if you search for “Borgo Pass”, you will find the location, but the name for it on Google Earth is “Pasul Tihuta”, the Romanian name, not the Hungarian “Borgo Pass” that Bram Stoker used.  Once in Pasul Tihuta, search for Hotel Castel Dracula.  That’s the spot where Harker is supposed to have changed carriages.   Don’t be surprised that the modern hotel looks nothing like the quaint hamlet of the movie.  The Wikipedia article on Tihuta Pass states:

Tihuţa Pass (Romanian: Pasul Tihuţa; Hungarian: Borgo or Burgo) is a high mountain pass in the Romanian Bârgău Mountains (Eastern Carpathian Mountains) connecting Bistriţa (Transylvania) with Vatra Dornei (Bukovina, Moldavia).

The pass was made famous by Bram Stoker‘s novel Dracula, where, termed as “the Borgo Pass”, it was the gateway to the realm of Count Dracula. Stoker most likely found the name on a contemporary map. He never actually visited the area.

Today the pass is home to Hotel “Castel Dracula”. The hotel was built in 1974 and is located at an altitude of

Hotel Castel Dracula Borgo Pass, Romania

Hotel Castel Dracula
Borgo Pass, Romania

1,116 m (3,661 ft). The hotel has become quite an attraction due to its architectural style of a medieval villa, as well as the sheer beauty of the location.

That being said, the next question that arises is if there is no Castle Dracula, but there was a historical figure on which was based, where did the historical figure, Vlad the Impaler, actually live?

 

A woodcut of the historical Vlad Tepes from about the sixteenth century

A woodcut of the historical Vlad Tepes from about the sixteenth century

If you read any summary of his life, you will find that Vlad the Impaler was constantly on the move, either attacking his enemies or running from them.  Pinning down his abode to a single spot is difficult.  A good, brief summary of the most famous can be found at Romania Tourism.  You will note that most of the popular tourist sites have at best a tenuous connection to Vlad Tepes.   This is probably similar to the number of places along the US east coast that claim to be where George Washington slept during his campaigns in the American Revolution.

From what I have found during my Internet searches one of the best and probably most reliable articles on the places associated with Vlad Tepes is this one entitled “Dracula’s Homepage” written by a man who has apparently conducted extensive research into Vlad Tepes and the places associated with him.   The author describes for us which spots were locations where Vlad Tepes actually lived as opposed to ones that the tourism industry identifies with him, but which in fact may have little, if anything at all, to do with the bloodthirsty ruler.     The two locations described in this article as where Vlad Tepes spent a significant amount of time are Tirgoviste Palace and Cetatea Poenari.

The Tirgoviste palace is actually called “Curtea Palace”, where Vlad Tepes built the Chindia Tower.  If you search for “Chindia Tower” on Google Earth, you can hover just over Vlad Tepes’s Tirgoviste Palace and even go to street level to view the tower as if you were walking past it.

Tirgoviste Palace today (from Google Earth)

Tirgoviste Palace today
(from Google Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chindia Tower from the street (from Google Earth)

Chindia Tower from the street
(from Google Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Search Google Earth for “Cetatea Poenari” and you will be taken to a secluded mountaintop over a narrow pass.   This place probably captures the eerie spirit of the novel more than any other place you will find.  If you have the Google Earth 3D buildings feature on (as I do in the photo below), you will see a 3D virtual representation of the castle, though the best views of it are from the dozens of photos tourists have attached to the location via Panaramio.

Cetatea Poenari (from Google Earth)

Cetatea Poenari
(from Google Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The website “Dracula’s Homepage” mentioned previously has a beautiful description of what it must be like to travel to the castle along with some of its historically horrific background:

“If there is an edifice that can be labelled Vlad Dracula’s castle, it is the ruins of Poenari. Actually, this is a fortress (“cetate” in Romanian) rather than a castle, located at the entrance to the gorge of the Arges River, north of the town of Curtea de Arges. As you leave Curtea de Arges (itself an interesting town with fortifications dating back to the 13th century and Basarab 1), you drive over a secondary road through several little villages, proceeding up the Arges valley towards the base of the Carpathian range.The road reaches the base of a group of high, heavily wooded mountains and there on the rocky top of one of them is Cetatea Poenari – Dracula’s Castle. Even from the road below it is a forbidding sight. What strikes one is its inaccessibility, high on a mountain top and the entrance to the gorges of the river (the river, by the way, has been diverted by a hydro-electric project). Poenari was the castle fortification that Vlad Tepes forced the nobles of Tirgoviste to build. The nobles were forced to walk the distance from Tirgoviste to the Arges (quite considerable by road – probably about 60 km overland) and then drag the material up that mountain to build the castle.

Foot BridgeTo get to the top, one has to walk up almost 1500 steps. But the effort is certainly worth it. As you approach the magnificent ruin (last 50 steps or so) the scene is totally Gothic. There is the outline of the castle perched on the top of this rock, seeming to grow out of the very mountain itself. It covers the full space at the top, has a sheer drop on three sides, and is barely accessible by a small bridge near the top of the steps.

“I have returned to this site three times, as it is one of my favorite places in Romania: not only because of the sense of history but the magnificent scenery. One particular view (looking northwest) is spectacular – just the way you might picture the landscape around Dracula’s Castle in Stoker’s novel (though Stoker knew nothing about this place).

“This is the route that, according to local legend, Vlad took in order to escape into Transylvania from the Turks in 1462. He was assisted in his efforts by the villagers of nearby Arefu, where many narratives about Vlad still live in their oral culture.
Pass

“Then there is the southern wall of the castle – a sheer drop!

Southern Wall

“This is where, according to another local legend, Vlad Tepes’ first wife flung herself, committing suicide rather than being taken captive by the advancing Turks. This castle is where Vlad would go for refuge in the face of advancing enemies. And from its towers he had a commanding view of anyone approaching from any direction. It was practically impenetrable.”

If you like horror, I highly recommend reading up on the historical Vlad Tepes and his reign.  You will find actual terrors that would make any of the ficitional Draculas look like TV’s Mr. Rogers in comparison.

If, during your virtual journeys through the worlds of the fictional Count Dracula and his historical counterpart, Vlad Tepes, encounter any fascinating places or adventures, please feel free to share them via the comments section below.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Review of “Overlord”

If you are a stickler for historical accuracy, Overlord is probably not for you.  The most glaring error I saw was Whites and African-Americans serving in the same paratrooper unit.  During the Second Word War, combat units were segregated.  Black personnel had their own units, although some African-Americans did serve in white units in a support capacity such as cooks or transportation drivers, etc.  Combat units did not become integrated until 1948, three years after the war ended.  The paratrooper unit in the movie should have been either solidly white or solidly black (there was one black paratrooper unit, the 555th Regiment, though it did not seen action overseas). There were probably lots of smaller errors, though none were blatantly obvious to me, and I am probably more well-versed in the units and tactics of the Second World War than most people, because I have a longstanding interest in military history, particularly that of World War II.

The story is about the survivors of a squad of paratroopers on D-Day, who are supposed to parachute behind German lines and blow up a communications tower.  However, they find the tower, which is concealed in a church, is on top of a covert facility in which the Nazis are using the local French populace as guinea pigs in experiments to develop a soldier that will live for a thousand years.  The serum to transform the soldiers is not yet ready and, although it can raise the dead (turning them into hideous monsters), it has not yet been tested on the living.  Of course, you know that some of the living will be injected with the serum.

As far as the story goes (outside the noted anachronism), I thought it was well-written with regards to explaining how certain aspects of the plot tie together.  For example, in one scene American soldiers are hiding in an attic while German soldiers are on the floor below.  One of the Americans knocks something over and the Germans start up the steps to investigate.  A young French boy who is with them, and who is the brother of the woman the Germans are questioning, downstairs happens to be in the attic with the Americans.  As the Germans come up the stairs, he appears at the top with a baseball glove and ball, which he drops down the stairs.  The Germans think the noise was caused by the boy, laugh, turn around, and head  back downstairs.  The reason the boy has the baseball glove and ball is explained in an earlier scene, when it is noted that he has a longstanding interest in baseball, which is not normally a sport that interests the French.

The film is fast-paced and the suspense and action are constant.  This film straddles the genre boundary between horror and action and does it very well.  For a horror movie or action movie, the characters are well-developed.  I actually felt some empathy for the main ones in their various plights.  When someone dies, there is actually a reason.  This is not the norm for most horror or action films where the characters are there just to build the horror by increasing the body count.  The ending is not disappointing and it ties up one plot point nicely.

This movie is well worth getting at Red Box, which is where I got my copy, and would be worth the price of full admission at a theater.  It might even be worth adding to your DVD collection.

I recommend this film to horror fans, though action-adventure fans may find it too gory.

Kazuo Ishiguro: A Review of the Film Versions of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go

Phil Slattery, 2015

Last week while in Albuquerque, I attended the Tuesday night meeting of Southwest Writers.  It was a pleasant evening with Jim Tritten giving an enjoyable and quite professional  presentation on why writers should write short stories (he had a long list of reasons, which I won’t even try to list here, but they were on the money).  I met a few people and I was engaged in a conversation on favorite authors with one person, when she said something, which I unfortunately cannot recall at the moment, that made be think about just who the most recent Nobel Laureates in Literature are.  Many years ago I had wanted to start reading the works of Nobel Laureates in order to learn about the state of the art of writing, and I never followed through, though I did collect a few additional works for my library.  Some of my favorite authors did win the Nobel Prize, but they most fall into the realm of classic literature, in the sense that they are all dead:  Hemingway, Mann, etc.  Therefore I looked up the latest Nobel Laureates on Britannica.com, and decided to start with the most current laureates, reading their best known works and progressing backwards in time.

Of course, the first laureate I encountered was Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the award in 2017.  I found an interview with him on You Tube, which was quite interesting and I read the Wikipedia article on him just as starting points.  I wanted to learn more about his works as quickly as I could, but as I read rather slowly or at an average rate at best and have none of his works in my library, I decided I wanted to get just a taste of his subject matter and his basic ideas.  In his interview, Ishiguro mentioned that he was happy with the two movies that came out on his works:  The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go.  Therefore I went out an rented them.  Granted, these told me nothing about this style or voice, but it did give me an idea, however vague, of his subjects and themes.

I am not a big fan of slow, low-key, thoughtful movies, which these were (I prefer action movies, thrillers, horror, etc; I love Quentin Tarantino films such as Kill Bill or Inglourious Basterds or old school movies such The Longest Day, Donovan’s Reef, Spartacus, Dr. Zhivago, or Lawrence of Arabia). Looking at these two from a literary perspective, I did find both intriguing, because I saw in them a lot of ideas as subtext that posed interesting questions about life.

For example, in The Remains of the Day the butler, Stevens, seems to hide from life in his job, never forming close attachments, though the Housekeeper is definitely interested in a relationship with him.  She sees something in him that attracts her, but Stevens always keeps to his almost robot-like performance of duties. When the Housekeeper does find Stevens reading something, and playfully insists on seeing it, though Stevens is very reluctant to reveal what it is, she discovers that it is a simple, sentimental romance.   So, Stevens does seem to have an interest in romance, but he never lets that show.  He is very reluctant to go outside the comfort zone of his job.  Even when his father, the under-butler, dies suddenly, Stevens puts off mourning and tending to his father’s corpse, preferring to tend to the important meeting that his employer is hosting at the moment.  To me, The Remains of the Day poses as subtext the question of how many people are like Stevens, avoiding the fears and unpleasantness of life, such as fear of confronting death or fear of failure in romance, by focusing on their careers.  Doubtlessly, there are a lot of themes that can be read from this work, but those are the first two that pop into mind.

In Never Let Me Go, a work of science fiction, in an alternate reality in which a cure has been found for all previously incurable diseases, three friends grow up in a series of boarding schools to find out that they are being grown only to provide donor organs (I am not clear about why donor organs are needed if all diseases have been cured, unless they are damaged by injury or something other than a disease).  They do not know who their parents are and eventually theorize that they might have been drug addicts or criminals or other undesirables who gave up their children for adoption.  All of these children are expected to die (which is called “to complete”) by their third donation, which is usually before the age of thirty.   During the course of the movie, as they grow up into young adults, the young man (Tommy) at first loves Kathy, but then they split up and he reveals his love for Ruth.   But the continue on with the lives society has designated for them, and [SPOILER ALERT] and Ruth and Tommy are gradually sold for parts, their young adult lives consisting of constantly recovering from surgery.  Kathy lives a little longer, because she becomes a “carer”, who helps others through their surgeries and therefore her life is extended a few years to provide this service. At the end, the movie (I do not know if Ishiguro does in the book) points out that none of us have enough time in life anyway.

Maybe I missed it somewhere in the movie, but the question that kept popping up in my mind was why don’t these kids just run off to another country.  If all they have for them in life is to be chopped up and sold as spare parts like a stolen automobile, why not run off to a south seas island, where one can’t be found?  I saw nothing to stop them other than a lack of money to buy a ticket, but if I were in that situation, I would find some way, legal or not, to get a plane ticket, especially if I could save not only my life, but that of the woman I love as well.  To me, this whole scenario poses the question of why would anyone play out an unpleasant role/life that society has designated for them, when one can simply run off like Yossarian at the end of Catch-22?  Maybe I missed something in the movie.  Maybe the movie didn’t cover a detail in the book.  I don’t know.

At any rate, I will continue to investigate the works of Kazuo Ishiguro.  Though not exciting, per se, they do pose interesting philosophical questions.  What little I have actually read in a sample of The Remains of the Day shows me that Ishiguro seems to have a simple, clean writing style and voice that I like. I would like to see how Ishiguro actually treats these themes in writing.  I like writing that is simple in appearance, but that has great depth. I would like to see how he pulls that off in prose.

Now, I just need to find the time to read both these works, but I have already started listening to the audio book of Der Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, the Nobel Laureate for 1946.   We’ll see what happens.

Review of “The Disappointment’s Room”

the-disappointments-roomI am not very enthralled with “The Disappointment’s Room” .  I started to nod off to sleep once and I found myself checking my e-mail when a major denouement occurred.  Nonetheless, it’s an okay film to which I give a C+ (slightly above average).

It’s  a typical, low-key haunted house plot.  A family consisting of a mother, father, and small son moves from the big city (Brooklyn) to an old mansion in the country (in this case North Carolina) outside  a very small town of quaint characters where everyone knows each other.  The mother finds out that their house is haunted by the spirits of a nineteenth-century family, ruled by a stern father, who kept their deformed daughter locked in a room upstairs.  However, the mother’s perception is in question, as she is recovering from her own bout of mental illness and depression, somehow rooted in the death of the couple’s daughter (I won’t give away any more).

The ad I saw billed this as “drama/thriller”, and I would say that is a decent summary, except I would add this is about 60% drama and 40% thriller.  This movie would have been better if the director (D.J. Caruso:  Disturbia, Eagle Eye, Taking Lives) had focused more on the thriller aspect.  The psychological aspect of the mother’s problems isn’t sufficiently explored to be terribly interesting…nor is the story behind the ghosts.

The suspense (though not intense) is fairly continuous as the story progresses, but no real shocking revelations in terms of twists or the unexpected take place.  Still, the story is put together better than some and I didn’t notice any obvious loose ends.  Luck did play a major part in resolving the plot, which I always take as lazy writing.   The whole film seems to be made out of stock characters and bits of stock plots lazily interwoven to make a few bucks without really advancing the genre or taking the effort to create anything new or to explore the deeper aspects of the characters.

I recommend seeing this movie at a matinee, if you have nothing better to do and if you have a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket.

Announcing the Advent of “The Chamber” Magazine

Phil Slattery Self-portrait, August, 2016

Phil Slattery
Self-portrait, August, 2016

Beginning in January 1, 2017, this will be the location of a new on-line quarterly magazine for short stories, poetry, and other short works of the horror genre.  Please feel free to start submitting as of September 9, 2016.  You can find the guidelines for submissions on my current Submissions and Announcements page, which will remain the same, with the only exception being that the word limit for submissions for “The Chamber” will increase from 1,000 to 2,000 words.

I am creating this magazine primarily because it is not fair to my contributors to submit a work for publication, when that work will be at the top of my blog posts for only a day, and then that author and his readers will have to wade through a morass of unrelated blogs to find that one post.  To remedy this, I will create a separate page on my blog for my new magazine, “The Chamber”, where each quarter’s selections will appear on a separate page for eternity (or until WordPress folds, or until I give it all up and wander off to buy a bar in Key West or etc.)  Issue 1 will appear on January 1st.  Cut-off date for submissions will be November 30 (I don’t want to work over Christmas).  Selections will probably be made by December 15.   Send submissions per the Submissions and Announcements guidelines, but specify Submission for “The Chamber” in the subject line, if you want your work published in The Chamber, or Submission for The Blog, if you want to be published in the regular blog.  I will continue to publish submissions in my regular blog until December 31.

Why call it “The Chamber”?  The word chamber has numerous sinister and macabre connotations: a chamber of horrors, a torture chamber, one chambers a round into a rifle, etc.  A chamber can also be where a sorcerer, an alchemist, or a member of the Inquisition stores his library.  It is with this last connotation in mind that I am developing my Chamber for the storage of my selection of sinister and macabre works from the best up and coming authors that seek to contribute to my blog.

So, start editing your best, most powerful material and see where this new venture takes us!  I want powerful, hard-hitting material that leaves its readers gasping and awe-struck at the end.

Hold onto your seat at “Don’t Breathe”!

Dont breathe Sept 2016Pay full ticket price to see this at the first opportunity.   This is one hell of a suspenseful movie.  I’m old enough that I fall asleep in action movies and shoot’em-ups if they flag the least in holding my attention.  I sat on the edge of my seat like a teenager through this entire flick, flinching, dodging, squirming, and ducking with the action every step of the way.

The plot is incredibly simple.  Three teenage friends work as a team to  break into rich people’s homes for different reasons, a girl to earn enough money to run away from home, her jerk boyfriend who trips on the vandalism, and the intellectual who has a crush on the girl and will follow her anywhere.  The jerk finds out about a blind veteran of Iraq, who won a lot of money in a lawsuit involving the death of his daughter.  They film the vet’s house in a deserted section of Detroit until they find out that he rarely leaves.  They decide to go against their usual practice of waiting until the owners leave and instead break in during the wee hours with the intent of chloroforming him while he sleeps.  Of course, things do not go as planned and the friends find themselves trapped with a tough, twisted killer who has a dark, sinister secret to protect.

With Iced Tea, Farmington, New Mexico, March 20, 2015

With Iced Tea, Farmington, New Mexico, March 20, 2015

Now, at this point, you can probably guess who is the first to die and then the second, but don’t be too sure about the ending as there are innumerable twists and turns throughout and they are particularly rapid-fire at the end.  I found the action very inventive and well done with completely unsuspected twists.  One moment that had me twisting and muttering “Ewwww” was the most wicked and innovative use of a turkey baster that I have ever seen or even heard of.

I found the acting first-rate and the use of close-ups very effective for bringing the viewer directly into the fast-moving, blood-splattered heat of the action.  I didn’t catch any slip-ups and I thought all the action was logical and exceptionally well planned out down to the tiniest detail.  The set-ups to maintain or generate constant suspense were right on the money.

See this movie at your first opportunity.   This is one of the most terrifying thriller/horror movies I have seen in a very long time.

New Prose Poetry: “Remains” by Larry Thacker

I am bound to only the portions of books you’re paging through, a forced patience as you deliberate over the aged leather bindings and titles, of chapter and verse, of gradual plot developments and story arcs, the lovingly slow conflicts unraveling over black on beige onion skin thinness, so hauntingly unrushed even for me with the bottomless well of time in this shaded condition. Long uninterested in my own company.
 
I hear your steady breath mouthing words as you read and it still aggravates hell from me. I would gladly hover here, over your shoulder for years, as this slightest presence, a forever company in poetry and story, word, letter, and pen, if I could but accomplish something more than some slightest benign breeze on the curtain. An afterthought after a boring day. An aftertaste after a sip of tepid wine.
But sometimes, when you have finally given in to sleep’s call in the early morning dark and startle suddenly awake to find that book turned to a different page than you remember, it is then I have just barely mustered enough of a whisper to turn the page, yet you have missed it and I am exhausted in this lost state. Again, undetected. Again, left to my own retched company.  
###
 Larry D. Thacker is a writer and artist from Tennessee (US). His stories can be found in past issues of The Still Journal, Fried Chicken and Coffee, Dime Show Review and The Emancipator. His poetry can be found in journals and magazines such as The Still Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee, Mojave River Review, Broad River Review, Harpoon Review, Rappahannock Review, and Appalachian Heritage. He is the author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, the poetry chapbooks, Voice Hunting and Memory Train and the forthcoming full collection Drifting in Awe. He is presently taking his MFA in poetry and fiction at West Virginia Wesleyan College. More stuff at:www.larrydthacker.com
 

Announcement: Phil Slattery Teams with Darksomnia Productions to Produce Documentary of a Haunting

Francene Kilgore (l) and I on the set with Alrenzo Black (r) and 2tk (center) of Darksomnia Productions, August 6, 2016

Francene Kilgore (l) and I on the set with Alrenzo Black (r) and 2tk (center) of Darksomnia Productions, August 6, 2016

My fiancée (Francene Kilgore) and I are teaming with Darksomnia Productions of Farmington, NM to produce a documentary/dramatization of a haunting that occurred in south Texas from about 2006-2010.  Filming is taking place.  Parts of the documentary will be dramatized by actors while my fiancee and I appear discussing the events.  The video should be completed within 1-2 months.   More details to come.

 

Darksomnia Productions

Darksomnia Productions

Alrenzo Black (l) and 2tk (r) of CEO's and co-founders of Darksomnia Productions.

Alrenzo Black (l) and 2tk (r) of CEO’s and co-founders of Darksomnia Productions.

Reminder: Submissions of Works of Horror Being Considered for Publication

If you would like to submit a short horror story (flash fiction of less than 1,000 words preferred), an article or book/movie review on the art of writing horror fiction, or just on the art of writing, please send it to horror@philslattery.com.   Everything must be submitted by e-mail either in the body of the e-mail or a Word document (.doc or .docx).  There is no pay for any submission at this time (maybe after I win the Pulitzer or Nobel, but probably not before then).

I am seeking:

  1. Articles under 1,000 words on the art of writing horror (fiction of any length, poetry, screenplays, etc.) or on writing in general, but material along the lines of horror is preferred.  Articles on foreign horror are encouraged.
  2. Book and movie reviews, the more recently published or distributed the better, but I will consider reviews of classics works such as those of Poe, Lovecraft, Blackwood, etc. all the way back to Walpole (and before if sufficiently interesting).   These must be under 1,000 words also.
  3. Articles on horror in other countries are encouraged.  These must also be under 1,000 words.
  4. Translations of articles, stories, or poems from French, German, or Spanish are considered, but the original article/story/poem and its translation must not exceed 2,000 words.
  5. Horror poetry (under 32 lines) or articles on horror in poetry.
  6. Flash horror fiction (i.e. under 1,000 words) preferred, although longer stories may be accepted if really good.
  7. Horror screenplays (under 1,000 words), horror haiku, horror sonnets, basically anything innovative that can be considered horror will have a shot here.  I will even consider short videos, but I have not even experimented with them yet and do not know how to write the guidelines for them.  The first consideration, however, will have to be that they conform to WordPress’s guidelines for videos, so I’ll start with that.   If you want to submit a video, please do, but be aware that I may have to decline it, if it turns out that I do not have the technical expertise to post it and do it justice.   Drop me a note first about other formats however, so that I can determine if they are feasible within the limits of my blog and skill set.

Guidelines

  1. Be professional.
  2. Use standard manuscript format.  The easier it is for me to simply copy and paste into the website, the more likely you are to be published.
  3. With submissions include your website, twitter handle, or any other social media identification you like.  A short bio of 100 words or less (including a list of previous publications) is nice, but not required.   Knowing your publication history won’t influence whether or not you are accepted, but it might be nice for the readership to know.  If you don’t want to include any social media contact info, don’t include it.  Pseudonyms are fine, but please state them as the byline and include your actual name and contact info in the top left of the first page of the submission per standard manuscript format.
  4. rose and balisongIn the subject line of your e-mail state whether this is an article or review or poetry of fiction submission, your name, and the work’s title.  For example:  Article by Phil Slattery  “Poe’s Raven: an Analysis”
  5. No hardcopy submissions.  Everything must be submitted by e-mail either in the body of the e-mail or attached as a Word document (.doc or .docx).
  6. I would like to reach as large an audience as possible, so please keep profanity to an absolute minimum.
  7. I will try to respond to submissions as quickly as possible, but please allow at least a couple of weeks before querying about your article/story.
  8. There is no pay other than the honor of being published on this website.
  9. I am not taking multiple submissions or simultaneous submissions.  Once you have submitted one article/story, please wait about a week before submitting another.
  10. You may submit on piece of artwork or a photo to accompany your article/story.  I will edit it (mainly re-sizing) as needed to fit the space available.  I will not publish any form of what I deem pornography or in bad taste.  If you do not submit artwork or a photo, I may select something appropriate.  JPEGs, TIFs and other formats accepted by WordPress are okay, but keep the number of bytes to a minimum.  I have only a limited amount of space available.
  11. Artwork and photos may be submitted on their own and you must own the copyright to them.  There is no pay for these either.  If I do not use these right away, I may keep them until a use arises, but please let me know if this is okay.  If you no longer wish me to use them, please let me know as soon as possible.
  12. Do not send advertising (no matter how cleverly veiled it is).  It won’t be published.
  13. Gratuitous sex, extreme violence, violence to children, rape and anything else that offends my personal sensibilities will not be published.  Anything that seems to reflect an actual crime (past, present, or future) will be immediately turned over to the proper authorities.
  14. If I like your submission, I will publish it as soon as possible, probably within a week.  This will depend on the backlog of submissions and other factors.   Don’t ask for a timeframe.
  15. Reprints are okay, but you must tell me when and where the article/story/poem was first published.
  16. I do not want fan fiction.
  17. Always re-check the guidelines before submitting.  I may change them at any moment without prior notice.

I will update these guidelines as time allows and events warrant.  This page was last updated on July 23, 2016.

Please contact me via horror@philslattery.com with any questions.

Thoughts?  Comments?