Haven

haven

I love the horror genre. I grew up with it, staying up late, watching bad horror flicks and even badder ones, sometimes alone, sometimes with my grandma. “Alien” had been my first real taste of horror, when the chestburster blew out of John Hurt’s heart. Last night, the wife and I watched “Aliens” and it was her first time to, and she was terrified. That’s a timeless piece there, folks. It’s not much data, but to me, it’s proof why “Aliens” is highly regarded as the best in the entire damn franchise.

Tom Deady, winner of this year’s Bram Stoker Award for his debut novel, “Haven” has that timeless feel swirling in me. Anybody who’s new to this might say it’s reminiscent to Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which is, to me, a tribute to some dude named Stephen for his stories “It”  and “Stand by Me” (Originally, “The Body”). Both are excellent stories that should become required reading in schools.

The story begins with Paul Greymore walking out of prison as a free man, where he returns to his hometown called Haven, the place where he was arrested 16 years ago, accused of murdering children.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. We know Paul is innocent all along and it’s just a matter for us to find out what’s really happening. Deady drops hints early in the book to confirm that, so we don’t overthink things through.

What I loved about the book was the depiction of the monster. Better yet, monsters. A lot of people in Haven are pissed that Greymore has returned, and many of them are wary, paranoid, and ready to kill.

While in a way book feels like “It,” “Haven” is much shorter, and points you toward the action without introducing too much backstories from random people that would no longer be breathing and be in one piece by the chapter’s end.

“Haven” is a story about family. Yes, there is a monster in the book, and don’t be surprised by that. But it plays more in the sidelines, always hidden in the dark, compared to the real horrors humanity may inflict on to each other: The horrors what an angry lynch mob can do, domestic abuse, police brutality, and bullying.

I love this book. I gorged through it in two nights. And it’s exciting what other things Tom Deady can come up with.

To wrap things up, here’s “Dead Memories” by Slipknot. Cause, Paul Greymore reminds me of Paul Gray.

Innards #13

I promised never to make another “Innards” post unless I’ve actually made some real, solid progress with my stories. Then this means, I just made some real, solid progress!

It’s only been a little over a month, and my current project, titled, “Year of the Red Whale” has built itself a humble 15,000 words. More are still pouring in as I do my best to type as fast and meticulous as I can. I’m rather satisfied with the outcome so far and things are continuing skyward, much to my satisfaction. Before the month ends, I hope to reach 20,000 words and enough to proceed to the book’s “Part 2” segment, which I aim to become my NaNoWriMo entry. Whether I reach the 50,000 goal or not should be awesome. There is a deeper drive now to finish my stories more than ever.

As I continue the Red Whale, I’ve gotten a chance to check out my older projects, “The Conductor” and Project Scar. Each were started in 2010 and 2008 respectively. Both are around 30,000 words and looking at them now, I’m surprised by how different they are from what I’m writing today. Not in a bad way. The prose was a little bit more florid, the pacing was nice, and world was more imaginative and bigger. On a single page, I’ve managed to cram in a lot of information, without feeling like an infodump. I know what I’m saying sounds egocentric and I’m just blowing air into my head. Not really, I’m just saying, if someone like me, who has little to no talent in writing, can come up with something like that. Then anyone can.

The biggest difference I’ve made was spending a lot of time in those two stories. I remember staying up late at night trying to finish a chapter. Always pushing into my head, one more paragraph. I’d spend entire weekends locked in a room, staring at a blank page, trying to cough up the right words that would breathe life into my stories. I wrote a paragraph. I stare at it and I take it out, unsatisfied. It’s a long, damning process that ended up being worth it.

It was also a time when I’ve done nothing but read a lot of books, nonstop. I suppose all those prose bled out into my subconscious. “Year of the Red Whale” begins to pale in comparison against “The Conductor” and Project Scar. Looks like I’ve a lot of thinking and redesigning to do.

The only advice I ever took was from an Aussie writer: “Read, write, and practice.” He said. I took it to heart, kept reading a lot, kept writing a lot, and got a lot of feedback. I never settled on what I’ve written. If I had to cut out entire chapters just because they no longer fit, so be it. It’s a habit that needs to come back.

These days I only get to write three to four hours a day, at night, after getting back from work, where I’ve spent the entire day writing. It gets dull and sickening, but, that’s all part of the challenge.

I never really relied on any other books that thought how to write. Sure, I got a few, read what advice they’ve got to offer, and I’ve only ended up feeling disappointed, wishing I’ve spent my money elsewhere. There are a ton of forums out there who can give the same exact advice from those books, for free. They can be a little harsher though. The only books that I felt were ever really important, were Stephen King’s “On Writing” and Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style.” The first one, was well, because it was about King telling us how he got into writing and it was damn interesting. The second book, King himself had actually suggested in his book I’ve just mentioned, cleaved a path  on how to write better, how to construct concise and clear sentences. If I had to choose between two sentences where one attempts to sound profound and sophisticated, over one that immediately puts an image in my head without disrupting the flow of the story, I’d pick the latter any time. That’s the most important thing, clarity. Writing is a long process. You’d start with a blank page and by the time you hit less than 1,500 words, over an hour has already passed. That’s fine. That’s how good art is crafted. Savor every moment of it.

On other news: The Wife is insisting I should switch jobs. With my income, I could hardly blame her. She believes I can do better. She’s not the only one, truth be told. Many other folks who have grown old within the company are insistent, I should get out while I still can. The inferiority complex in me is trying to cower behind closed sheets, afraid to take on another professional, meet new people, but, but, potentially earn at least twice as more than my current job. I only earn, in US dollars equivalent, around 280. It’s pretty dismal.

Earlier this week Nintendo has finally unveiled the NX console – the Switch. It looks amazing. It’s a console I want to have alongside a PlayStation 4 when I get one. When they announced sometime ago that Nintendo was working on going mobile, I didn’t expect this. It is a brilliant execution, a potential merging between handheld and home consoles – considering handhelds in these past years, had been Nintendo’s strongest selling point. If ever, the Switch will be my first Nintendo console since the SNES, and I’m really looking forward to it.

It’s no mystery that I’ve gotten myself into reading more self-published books. It started with Hugh Howey’s “Wool,” and followed by Anthony Ryan’s “Blood Song.” I wanted to see what all the fuss had been about and how the independent-segment is fairing. And it’s looking quite good. There are lots of talented traditionally unpublished authors out there. Sure, some of them needs a few more polishing, but the quality of fun and stories they deliver remain to be topnotch. My recent read was Will Wight’s “Unsouled” and it’s something that needs more attention.

Apparently I’m still in-love with Hayley Williams. Her weird iTunes Festival getup in 2013 and the green-haired, tight shirt,  skirt, stockings look in Wango Tango 2014, was just, damn.

Out of boredom I went back listening to some bands I haven’t listened to for a long time. It’s just such an amazing treat to go back and relive the songs that defined my era while growing up and how I started getting into music. Green Day gets the most nostalgia in me with their song, Basket Case, and of course, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. This is quickly followed by Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue, bringing back old memories from my time in California as a wandering, angry, solitary teenager. I also just found out they’re on their very last tour. That hurts. Finally, there’s Foo Fighters. I haven’t been a fan of their newer songs, while still great, I’d still like to dwell on their songs like Monkey Wrench, Learn to Fly, Long Road to Ruin, and yes, Everlong.

The season 7 premiere of “The Walking Dead” blew my brains out. So, spoilers from here. Based from the comics, I knew what was going to happen. But the first shocker had thrown me off guard, it was an attempt from the production crew to mess with the longtime fans of the series. Something worst was bound to happen. It just did.

Small Wonders

It’s been a while since I’ve done any bloggy stuffs and it would be crap of me to say I was busy.

Anyhow, last month I went to Singapore for a Hewlett-Packard press event, about printers. Yeah, I traveled all the way there just to see some new shiny printers. It wasn’t like being in Drupa for a printer convention, but still, at least I got to travel a bit.

What amused me, were the cab drivers. The first one we took to the Ion mall, the driver had an iPhone 4S. Sure, 5 was long out by then, but if you have a 4S there’s little reason to upgrade at all – especially in the Philippines where features like LTE and NFC are still being developed. Not only did the cab driver had a cool smartphone, but he also stopped the meter when we reached the mall, even though we hadn’t parked yet, and while we were charged 7.38-or something Singapore dollars, he only charged us 7. It wasn’t quite the same as the cab going back, but instead of an iPhone, the driver had a Galaxy S3. There I was thinking, these cab drivers have such awesome phones. I don’t know in other countries, but that is extremely rare in the Philippines. If cab driver owns the latest smart device, people would often assume he bought it from a thief. I’d like to think he worked really hard for it. Besides the drivers, I was in Singapore last year, and I noticed then that there were a lot of constructions. Then my latest visit, there were still a lot of constructions. Which means what? Their progress and development is non-stop, and they continue to renovate and fix things to make everything better. I just wished the same here in Philippines.

Earlier today, I attended Digital Filipino’s e-Commerce convention. It’s basically a seminar for those hoping to learn more how to utilize the digital space for entrepreneur purposes. And one of the speakers, a Vietnamese that spoke with an Australian accent, shared his tale about working in their family cafe, wiping tables, mopping floors, refilling the fridge with beverages. Then about his time as he worked as a programmer, looking at scripts all day, pauses to greet the boss who waves at them. And in my mind, I saw his boss’ face, must be just as miserable. The speaker said he always dreamed of accomplishing something, anything that he wanted to do. So he quit his job and basically started from scratch, he developed websites, one was very successful. And all he claimed he did was just put everything he knew and loved into that website. “Passion-driven” were his exact words. And I have to admit, I was inspired by this, I was moved into thinking of quitting my job and focus all my time into my novels. But let’s be honest, it just isn’t as practical. Regardless, very inspiring. Setting goals and having dreams may be a cliche, but it really is freaking awesome to have some. You may not reach them, you may not find them as expected, but they become guidelines in how you want to drive.

I believe Stephen King said something about don’t write for profit or fame, just enjoy it. It just adds the ‘Passion-driven’ sense that you’re just going to need a lot of perseverance.

Anyhow, I noticed how cheesy I got. So, yeah, let the tumbleweed roll…

Popping Eyeballs: Something about Horror Writing

So, some friends had asked me to check out their horror stories, which I did, grudgingly. And although many of them had some really good ideas, they fell flat without giving me the slightest flinch. Then, as I commented, they kept interrupting me but neither asked how to improve it nor what they did wrong. But instead, defended it without end.

The first thing that came to my mind was, “Dude, STFU, the work should speak for itself”. Then I thought, maybe I just missed the entire point – and I was sure I hadn’t. Just the same, I thought real hard before answering, trying to remember the horror stories that gave me a real scare.

Apparently, almost anything can give children scares. I remembered as I kid, watching Creepshow 2, the story about the four college kids stuck in a raft because of a black blob in the water. I couldn’t get off my bed for the entire morning, and I had to jump from my bed to the outside of my room, and even after, I ran without looking back. I also couldn’t put my feet down from the sofa, afraid that some black substance might creep out from underneath. In short, I was scared shit.

Another movie, a Filipino horror anthology, Shake, Rattle, & Roll IV (a very popular horror film series that continues every now and then), there was a scene in there with a shokoy (very small version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon), hiding inside a toilet. So, when this bitchy old lady sat there… well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Maybe that old lady deserved to die like that, but the thought of how she died was very disturbing. I couldn’t use the toilet for days after that. Of course, that was 15-18 years ago. All the horrors I see today have brains and intestines being flung here and there, and the best one I’ve seen in years was Woman in Black.

So, it’s because of this I see horror as two things. One that truly tries to scare you, and one that simply tries to shock you, so shocked you begin to develop some frightened symptoms. I believe splatterporn, delivers this shock valued horror.  Most of the stories I’ve written in the 3rd grade were splatterporn, maybe it was a reflection from my first horror film encounter, with a dick-shaped worm bursting out a man’s chest – and yes, Alien isn’t splatterporn, but that scene has left a significant scar somewhere in me to this day. This was followed by Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, and my horror crusade began from there.

From all those things, I’ve drawn my conclusion to what my friends had done wrong. Their brains were too fucking scattered.

I do not, claim any expertise about horror writing, I’m nowhere near King, Straub, Barker, or Ketchum, I don’t think I’m even half as good as other amateur horror writers out there. But based on all books I’ve read, the single, important thing in horror writing, is the simplicity. There is very little time to become florid in style, the writing has to be concise. Because you are trying to frighten your reader, the action must enter the their minds as quickly as possible without them trying to decipher what the heck is happening.

Let’s take a quick look into King’s ‘Salems Lot, the part where he describes the “sucking sounds”, sure, it sounds very informal, you might even dispel the tension, thinking about a certain bed-time activity (fuck it, it does sound the same). But I believe it gets the job done by sending chills, like a kid drinking his favorite soda from a straw, and there’s nothing left in the cup but ice, you know what it sounds, and you mirror that into something as a vampire sucking your neck, then that’s one creepy shit. It’s all about the atmosphere of using simple, everyday things, and turn them into something macabre and twisted. The more concise the writing, the less noise there is, thus, you get this immediate sense that it’s too quiet, and whatever action the characters do is so freaking loud you wish you could shut them up, because whatever’s out there, would certainly hear you.

Now, my friends asked, so what makes something horror? Simple, it’s a story about people in horrifying situations. It doesn’t always have be about monsters and ghosts, horror stories can be about people vs people. Example, a woman was abducted by three men. But, this might put it under thriller. What makes it horror, is what the men might or might not do to the woman. Her rescue/escape is irrelevant until later, it’s the situation she’s in, is what matters.

The second most significant thing in horror writing, as I’ve noticed, is the exploration of the unknown. A little bit of spoilers from Brian Keene’s awesome zombie novel, The Rising, teases us about why the dead are getting back to their feet. A certain line was spoken about how there came the undead, and how many they were. You will want to ask more but you can’t, so you’re left in the dark, trying to feel your way into comprehension, and when you found it – BAM, here comes insanity. This is where implied horrors occur. Let’s check out the movie, Salt, in the beginning we see Angelina Jolie, obviously tortured, I believe we were shown of her getting beaten – and obviously, I doubt that’s the only thing that has happened. All sorts of torture could have happened to her and we don’t know it, and we are left with our imaginations. Another example, in the video game, Xenosaga Episode III, the game was so violent it was censored in US release. The little girl, held something on the foot of the bed where her recently butchered mother was. This part was censored out and you don’t really know what that girl is holding – me and some people I know, all thought it was a heart, or a brain, or something found inside your body – turns out it’s just blood. Last example, Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi, need I say specifically what? … Fine. Jabba the Hut and Princess Leia. Exactly what the fuck did that giant worm do to her? Kept her as a pet, humiliated her to all the guest? Sure, seems the thing Jabba would do, exactly what kind of humiliation? Was Jabba into interracial kinkiness? Shit, maybe. Or does he enjoy watching others do the work for him? We will never know. As in, never.

UPDATE. Revenge of The Jedi is the original title for Return of The Jedi.

Point is, our minds are pretty fucked up and we assume the worst of the worst. We have that “need” to know exactly what happened, but we won’t be able to grasp it  no matter how hard we try. So, in response, we imagine the worst, hoping the outcome wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. It’s only fucked up that we’ll never know for real.

I didn’t mean for this post to be this long. A thousand apologies. If you’ve made it this far, you’re awesome – I doubt anyone will anyway haha. So, to sum things up: horror needs to be written in a concise form, it can be disturbing or thought-provoking in some way, it doesn’t always have to have monsters, ghosts or unstoppable slashers – it just really needs a horrifying situation, and of course, make the unknown as badass as you can.

I’m actually open for discussion about this. So, yeah, bring it, I’ll just be chilling out here while listening to Rolling Stone’s Paint It Black.