2014 In Review

Whelp, if you’ve checked out the blog roll lately, it’s the end of 2014! I am shocked I’ve been able to keep up this blog for this long. I started in May, and I’m still excited about every post I make and every person I meet!

First, a few things I’m thankful for:

1. My friends and family who have continued to read my blog long after they were obligated to

2. Scrivener for keeping my crazed thoughts in one place

3. The WordPress.com community. I still remember the first like and first follower I received, and I was so nervous about following and linking etiquette. I have yet to run into anyone on here who isn’t amazingly unique and interesting. Special applause goes out to those who write about things that I’m scared about. You guys all rock!

Now that I’m done sucking up to you wonderful folks, I figure I should choose a top 5 lists of my favorite posts. Posts by me that is. Shameless self-promotion. I love this time of year!

Honorary Mention: Adventures in the waking mind

I still hate my stupid brain.

5. My Top 5 Scary Stories on the Internet

I love this post because all 5 of these sites have inspired not only my writing, but my confidence in putting it out there. All of them are masterfully plotted and still give me chills. I hope it helped some aspiring horror writers by giving them something to creep them out as well.

4. Making People Uncomfortable: My Love of Horror and My Inspirations Pt. 1, 2, and 3

I think this is the first time I really opened up about myself and why I love horror writing. It also focused on scary incidents from my childhood and the haunted farmhouse I loved growing up in. Really personal stories to me, and some of the first I felt truly comfortable sharing.

3. Cowboy Boots Are Cool: Some thing’s I’ve learned from my father

Great to write about my family, and I can still see how far I’ve come in changing and not giving too much of a shit about what people think. Dedicated to my dad and our mutual love of hidden and unexplored pieces of Earth. I hope you all have found your own cowboy boots, and wear them proudly, whatever they may be.

2. Strange Happenings with Bailey

One of the first creepy things to happen at my new house, and with my new puppy to observe it to boot. She’s not much of a reliable witness, but I’m still convinced we were surrounded by something malevolent. I don’t scare too easy from weird one-off things, however this time was something special. I still get creeped out by stepping foot outside in my perfectly normal subdivision at night.

1. The Deer, The Map Part 3

Probably my favorite post I’ve written, and my favorite part of The Map series. If I could only keep one of my stories for the rest of my life, it’d be this one. I’m not trying to toot my own horn with this, really, but this is the entry that was the most challenging yet most rewarding for me to write. It works well as a standalone story, and as part of The Map, and I’m proud of that.

So there you have it. I hope you all have enjoyed reading my writing as I have putting words to keyboard. Please, in the comments below, feel free to share your favorite posts from your own blog! If you don’t have one, any blog posts that have meant a lot to you, mine or anyone else’s, are welcome as well! I love seeing what everyone treasures.

(Thanks to Don Charisma for the Post-Your-Own idea! Check him out!)

The Wendigo

So it has been confirmed. Myself and the other members of ItsInTents.com are going to be winter camping in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Right now it’s -2 Fahrenheit up there, with 4 inches of snow on the ground.

It’s going to be awesome!

Some of you may remember me mentioning the farm (farmhouse pictured above) in past posts, because it truly is one of my favorite places. It’s welcoming in the summer during the day, and eerie at night. It gets so dark up there, and the fields so open, that your fire can be seen for miles. One year a friend of ours brought up a thermal scope. Thermal scopes pick up traces of heat and render them into visible images. This was a military grade scope, and the landscape lit up all around us at night with the terrain definition of the fields and distant buildings that are lost when sitting by the firelight. It really does bring home just how alone you can be up there and how empty the fields are.

Continue reading The Wendigo

Horror Movie Review: The Babadook

Let me start by saying that I love horror movies. That in itself should be apparent, based on the content of my site. I like my horror with supernatural elements, not too much blood or gore, and still a bit of mystery. For instance, you probably won’t find me reviewing “Saw” or the like. However, I had heard good things about a new Australian movie, “The Babadook” from a source I trust on horror movies, and I had to talk about it.

Outright, “The Babadook” is the best horror movie I’ve seen in years. Now, let me tell you that it starts as a slow burner. Jump scares are minimal, but perfected. The story follows a mother as she tries to live with her strange young son after her husband’s death. She is coasting through life, and her son’s behavior is getting worse and more bizarre.

Shortly after the film begins, she finds a book called The Babadook on her son’s bookshelf, with no publisher or author information. Upon reading the book to him, she releases a creature known as the titular Babadook who not only imposes a physical danger, but emotional and mental ones as well.

The story hinges on the relationship between the mother and her son, which is why this is one of the better movies I’ve seen in years. Their relationship, and her stress as a single working mom with a behaviorally challenged son, proves to be just as enigmatic as the Babadook itself.

A little bit of a spoiler, but my favorite scene is shortly after the mother destroys the book and it reappears. This is a common trope in horror movies, but is handled in a much more spectacular and eerie fashion. The use of a child’s pop-up book adds to the creepiness factor, and leaves you dreading yet needing to know what’s on the next page.

I give “The Babadook” 5 stars out of 5. I’m extremely harsh on horror movies, so this may will probably be one of the only 5 out of 5’s I write about. Absolutely great horror movie, and one of the best in years if not the past decade. Like I said though, know going in that it’s a slow burner and not jump scare after jump scare. The movie definitely focuses more on dread and atmosphere than jumps.

Creative Writing

Just a bit of free form writing I started this morning. Nothing from my life except the horror. Dragonfly guy popped in my head when I woke up and I loved him too much. Bit of a break from horror.

The cold metal chair bites into my back as I listen to the latest speaker. I shouldn’t be slouching, but I feel like a kid stuck in church. The group had been billed as a fiction writing group, but if you add a podium, we could be an AA meeting. Hell, add some robes and we’re a cult.

The empty school gymnasium echoes as the poetry guy talks again. He just simply showed up and started reciting poems. Jasper, the guy that was running the group, tried to explain that this was for fiction writer’s and not a poetry jam, but the guy didn’t get it. We just kind of let him do his thing. It would be cool if his poetry didn’t suck so bad.

The overhead lights are shut off and we’re illuminated by a set of hastily placed work lamps. The janitor apologized and said the overhead’s were on a timer. I think he’s full of it though, and just wants us to leave.

Ok, poetry guy finished his introduction. My guess is the poem will be about his mother.

“My poem is entitled, ‘My Mother, Dragonfly.’” He beams.

I look around, some people have looks of pity for the guy, some are leaning heavily into their hands trying to stay awake. We just came off a long lecture about ‘showing, and not telling’ from Jasper. He told us all the ways we could show things.

“Mother dragonfly, your legs are not strong enough to walk, but you can fly,” poetry guy recites from a pristine piece of paper. It had been folded but the lines are so crisp that you can tell he had spent more than a minute folding it.

All the poems are like this. Last week was ‘Soaring mother eagle,’ and then before that ‘Proud mother lion.’ We all felt bad for the guy, clearly he had just lost his mom and was trying to express himself in the only way he knew how. I mean, even if it was just through rhyming animal facts he was still expressing himself.

Then his completely healthy mother picked him up from the meeting last week and now it’s gotten a bit weird.

I try to make eye contact with the cute girl across the way that writes about elves and dwarves and stuff. She’s beautiful in that ‘pre-taking off glasses’ moment in a high school movie kind of way. I never got that, half the time the girls were better looking with the glasses and messy hair. More unique.

Anyways, I tried talking to her last week, but found out quickly that she wasn’t into any universe but the one she made up. I made small talk while she explained the intricacies of her magic system. When I tried to explain my basics for what I feel makes great horror, she kept steering it back to the scary creatures occupying her world. I listened and smiled but it hurt, weren’t we here to share ideas? Also it hurt that she didn’t care a lick about my writing but the ideas thing is probably more important.

Applause struggles for life as the Dragonfly guy sits back down.

The next woman called up is in her forties and was just laid off. She told us this last week and I went home and teared up about it for a bit. She was good. I mean best seller good, but she couldn’t finish her manuscript for the life of her. Just kept re-editing and re-reading us the same passages. I wanted to tell her to submit it. It was about her life experiences as a single mother of two, having come from a nuclear family. It was touching, and I hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask for a manuscript but I think I will someday. I want to tell her to submit it to some literary agents, but I don’t.

I get up and read next. It’s more Gothic horror, and I’m starting to run out of ways to say ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘mind-shattering.’ The more I write, them more I lose the horror. I can’t put together a novel length story to save my life. I don’t write blood and guts, and I have no idea how to keep the story going past 1000 words. I went to a literary agent once, but they told me no one cared about a short story collection unless you’re established.

With that the meeting concludes. Jasper says he’ll see us next week because writing’s cheaper than therapy and we laugh. It’s a bittersweet laugh because I know half of us are in therapy. Hell, that’s probably why we’re writers.

I get up to go ask the single mother for her manuscript but stop myself. It feels wrong, it just feels so intimate to ask for something like that. I don’t want to pressure her into doing something with her work she doesn’t want to do yet. I walk away and catch up with the elves girl.

I ask her out on a date and she says yes. As we walk through the empty school halls and into the brisk winter night, she regaled me with the royal history of the Elven people of Aeri.

Capsule 7

“Welcome to the Davidson Mark 2 Space Survival Capsule! In case of emergency, fasten harness securely and pull the red lever!”

The tinny voice came through the speakers again. It was a woman’s voice. A voice too damn cheery for what could become a floating tomb if they never found you.

I’ve never been a lucky man, and I thought my transfer to the Liberty would be an exception. Finally get off-world and see the stars. Seemed like the only way to get out there was on a Coalition ship, and in peace time this was a no-brainer assignment.

I’m a shield technician. The heat and radiation kind, not the fun weapons kind. Those guys get to sit on the bridge and scream dramatic updates. “Kinetic shields at 47% Captain!” The Environmental Shielding team gets to say quietly “Shields holding on approach to Star A24-667f.”

Captain Denton never visited us like he did the weapons team. That’s where the promotions were, but that just meant we were able to be a bit more… lax with our standards.

“Welcome to the Davidson Mark 2 Space Survival Capsule! In case of emergency, fasten harness securely and pull the red lever!”

The damn recording again, this time a little slower. Liberty’s emergency power must be failing. The old Chicago-class ships weren’t exactly known for their robustness. We were built for planetary bombardment, dropping big kinetic rods from space to devastate cities. Pinpoint targeting lasers. Nuclear smart bombs. Stuff like that.

We weren’t meant for scientific expeditions so I don’t know what the hell Command was thinking. Sending us this close to a previously unstudied star. We had no idea what kind of solar activity to expect. They didn’t even tell us in Environmental Shielding we were doing anything but cruising through the black. They probably told the Weapons Shielding team. The bastards.

Oh god, I see someone moving through the clouded view port. Poor guy will be dead within a minute.

So we were playing cards, right? And no one tells us whats up. Redundant shield generator 3 goes offline. Now, if we were on one of those new class battle cruisers, like the Avenger, the computer would’ve fixed it. On the old Chicago-class ships, you needed to climb through a tube for ductwork and electronics, breathing coolant that would shorten your life by years unless you wore the rad suit. If you wear the rad suit, you get tangled in the cables and cause more problems. They never thought to give us simple respirators, or the ability to shut off the coolant without having to shut down the engines for a day.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.

So the next hand we wager who has to go flip the breaker. It was the least important bet at the time. I was already up 3 months worth of credits, never been that lucky, so I counted my blessing when breaker-duty was the hand I lost.

“Welcome to the Davidson Mark 2 Space Surv-” and there goes the recording. The capsule’s generator doesn’t even start unless you detach from the ship.

So there I was, on a winning streak when I decided I’d reset the breaker after I lost my next few hands. Needless to say, it wasn’t for some time. I’m usually a shitty poker player, but my god, you feed some of these boys some jury-rigged distilled moonshine and they lose all ability to play.

I can only imagine what was happening on the deck. The Shields Officer probably ignored the small red light on his console as they stared at the approaching star. Anyways, that’s why we had 1 and 2 shields, right?

There’s Denton, smug in his Captain’s chair while all of a sudden the star chooses that particular moment to flare. And I mean fucking flare. I’d wager it was some kind of record but I imagine the Science Officer won’t be around to tell anyone about it.

First shield just pops instantly, the backup starts to weaken, and I see she’ll break no matter what.

Wait, was that something else? Goddamn grime, can’t see a thing out there.

Well, I grab my credits and run. There’s no way to stabilize the shielding after that big of a hit. We’re going to be toast in minutes. Our emergency alarm is offline. Tom was supposed to fix that yesterday. I breeze past some others before I think to hit the next ‘abandon ship’ alarm box.

The Captain never gave the order until I was in the pod, and by then they were walking dead men. See, the escape pods are built with the understanding that you need a shit-ton of materials to protect from radiation since you lack shields. Shuttles, fighters, and capital ships at least have rudimentary shielding, so more material is set for ablative armor and the like. Radiation shielding is usually an afterthought thanks to the redundancies.

With the third shield we may have made it through this. But we would have anyways if they deemed fit to send the Wanderer instead right? That was their goddamn job! I don’t know if this was some kind of PR Navy cruise where we demonstrated even our orbital weapons cruisers could do peace time shit, so that’s not on me. They never should have approached the star without talking to us anyways. At least then we would know to be sober.

I slam the door shut on the pod and lock the bolts. Shield 2 gives way and radiation floods the ship, killing nearly everyone instantly. I admit, I was crying so hard I couldn’t see the red handle to disconnect the pod. I finally find it, pull it, and… nothing. I shove it into position and pull it again. And out comes that cheery fucking voice.

Through the shielded view port I can see people stagger and collapse as a fire rages out of control in the escape bay. No one makes it to another capsule.

I check my engineering manifest and find a note from the life support team. Capsule 7 is offline. Explosive bolts have been removed, and should have been reinstalled two days ago.

My heart drops. If I can get out quickly enough, maybe I can make it into 6 or 8 before the rads and heat from the fire gets me.

I pressed the button to open the door and nothing.

Wait, no I definitely see movement out there. Maybe a rescue team? I pound on the metal door with my wrench, they have to be able to hear that!

This damn capsule is stuck in a computer loop. Since it hasn’t blown its explosive bolts, it won’t shift to its own power. Once you’ve pulled the handle, it thinks it has blown the bolts and doesn’t let you open the door into space. But you’re there. Stuck in limbo. Without a redundancy.

Thud thud thud

Knocking on the door back, yes!

I strain to see the rescue team. Their lights aren’t penetrating the carbon build up on the glass from the fire. The Captain did something right after all. He must have activated the emergency jump beacon.

I see a spot begin to clear on the window. They’re writing something!

I scream for help, “I’m a survivor! Please get me out!”

A shriveled and burnt finger appears and begins to write.

“No survivors.”

The power fails, and I hear the sound of tools hitting the metal door.

Back to the grindstone

Hey everyone! Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. I’ve been working on my new camping and outdoors site, It’s In Tents! and have been trying to get that up and running. I haven’t forgotten about you lovely people however, and have started writing my fiction again. I have a piece of The Map waiting to be discovered, as well as some horror movie reviews (seriously, if you like horror movies, check out ‘The Babadook.’)

I’m also stoked to get back into the swing of reading all of your wonderful stuff! I’ve put so much time in to the book editing I had mentioned a few posts ago that I haven’t had time to really get on here at all. So, sorry I’ve been quiet, and I’ll try and be a bit more prolific on here without rambling.

Heh, like I could ever NOT ramble.

Now we are all sons of bitches

Alright kid, I have a story for you. You buy me another round and I’ll tell you. You ever hear of one of the nukes we lost? I mean the US Air Force lost nukes. Yeah, in ‘68 a B-52 bomber was flying over Greenland. Goes down, crash landing. Conventional bombs go off throwing the nukes on board every which way. Story goes that all of them are accounted for but one.

Big cover up, Denmark got into some shit because they let us keep our nukes in Greenland just a year after announcing they wouldn’t. Some radiation got released.

Anyways, we didn’t lose that nuke. Big thing to say right? I know, I know, you need the facts. Goddamn reporters won’t let someone tell a good story. So, in ‘68 I was part of a tactical fighter squadron based out of Thule Air Base in Greenland. That’s where the bomber was from and where our recovery efforts started. You can find my service record if you look hard enough. Anyways, last chance to duck out of this. I had a lot of men in suits and sunglasses tell me I never saw anything, but I don’t have a family so I don’t give a shit anymore.

Continue reading Now we are all sons of bitches

Give a read to an essay I wrote

I wrote an essay over at my other blog ItsInTents.com.

Normally I want to try and keep the two sites separate. After all, this is my creative writing blog, and ItsInTents.com is about camping and outdoors articles and reviews. However, I’m going to break my loose rule today by linking to an essay I made over there regarding someone illegally hunting on my parent’s property. I’m still a bit angry about the whole thing, and since the cops haven’t been able to stop this from happening, this is my temper tantrum of a way of trying to get my opinion out. I want to share this here because I know that I have some hunter’s and sport shooter’s that also read this blog.

Please, give it a look.

Thanks all,

On Editing

I was recently hired by a friend to do a quick first editing of their novel. Find awkward phrasing, spelling mistakes, the normal. I don’t have to go too far into detail with the actual editing, however I cannot believe how interesting it has been. Make no mistake, it is WORK, and I have a new found respect for editors, but seeing the good and the bad of a first draft is really interesting.

The story works, and most of the issues I find are with phrasing or the repetition of words. The latter of which I have struggled with in my own writing. It’s also nice to see how a first draft looks in person that isn’t mine.

What I like about it is that it is actually really good. The characters feel real, with the exception of a little too perfect protagonist, but I feel almost like every first time writer is guilty of that. God knows I have been. Otherwise, with the exception of struggling to remember if a rule of grammar has been broken, I’m having a pretty good time with it!

Have any of you done any long form freelance editing? Any suggestions for me?

Horror Haiku’s

A friend of mine suggested on my last post trying horror haiku’s. It was a bit tougher than I expected, but I came up with some results that satisfied me. Not sure how scary they are though, but they were definitely fun to write!

I could feel pounding

As I tried to hold closed

The bloody door

She climbs in to bed

My wife talks about her day

She’s been dead four years

I throw the shovel

A hand grabs me from the dirt

The dirt was too light

The man changes form

Toothed mouth and sharp long claws

Silver does the trick

The man pulls his knife

Tonight she will be his prey

Her claws go unseen

Any other mediums you all would like to see? Let me know and I’ll give them a shot! Sorry I haven’t been writing as much lately, but I’ve been working on my outdoors website, ItsInTents.com. Check it out if you have the time!