Monthly Archives: April 2014

Chekov’s Boat Anchor

This is not a review of “Oculus” because I consider myself one of the worst reviewers on the net. Instead this is a quick of cataloguing of fears exploited in the film that we horror writers might want to consider for future abuse.

Spoilers abound, so those who care should stop here now. As to the title: all it took was one shot of the weighted boat anchor suspended from the ceiling with an mechanical release to know that it would be fired before the end of the third act and that someone besides the Evil Artifact would be on the receiving end.

Before I go into my Fear Catalogue, a quick comment. “Oculus” is an ideal independent horror film. Not perfect, it does tend to run a bit long for the content, but an ideal starter film for a low-budget production team. With less than ten primary roles and only a half-dozen locations, it puts its efforts into script, editing and acting.

I also applaud the film for touching on a broad range of fears that should all be hot buttons for the suburban young demographic audience. Obviously, Fear of Death, Dismemberment and Insanity are classics used by most horror flicks. Fear of Homicidal Parents, though done before, added terrifying sense of powerlessness to the younger siblings battle with Pure Evil. I was most impressed with what the mirror did to Katie Sackhoff’s housewife character: Loss of Look and Spousal Betrayal have been done before, but I have yet to see a C-Section scar split open and start to bleed. While I’m sure the middle-aged mom demographic is not big on horror films, I would like to think their teen-aged children might dread those images going through Mom’s mind just before she tries to strangle them in the living room.

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Escalating Author Neuroses in the War Against Evil Incarnate

All writers, like all cats, are neurotic. It comes of alchemically combining pieces of your soul and life experience into some amazing simulation of life and thrusting it out into the word for approval and profit. The stress of the process as well as the pain of exceedingly personal rejection generate enough tics and twitches for a dozen Siamese cats.

I admit to all of them, but I am convinced of the saving grace that I have one more coping mechanism than neurosis, though it might be one less. It’s hard to tell. Here is my Jacob’s Ladder of Escalating Neuroses and the story of how the latest almost had me crawling into the grasp of Evil Incarnate.

1.) Can I Come Up With a Decent Story?
Early on, writers obsess about being able to write a good story, an original story, a worthwhile story. Napkins, paper placemats and Moleskin notebooks get filled with snippets of plot until something gels. The only way around this is to work up stories, by the dozens if necessary, and let them ferment in your backbrain. If you are not widely read, Google “clich├ęs” to check if it has all been done too many times before. Don’t spend a lot of time talking them out with friends and relatives, because that leads to Neurosis #2:

2.) Can I Get It Done?
Talking about what you’re going to write, is not writing. Obsessing out loud about a plot reduces the needed back pressure to facilitate your vomiting your brain’s contents onto the page. The only way to combat your neurosis about finishing stories is to finish stories. Rewriting them a few times helps with Neurosis #3:

3.) Is This Total Crap?
The short answer is “No”. Nobody’s story is total crap. The unfortunate/scary thing is that it is guaranteed that someone out there WILL think it’s crap. That is the nature of taste and free will. All you can do is refine your storytelling and your style to point that you don’t cringe at what you wrote the day before. The Mythbusters proved that you can polish a turd, and somebody will think it could make a lovely paperweight. This leads to Neurosis #4:

4.) Can I Get It Into Enough People’s Hands?
Being published by a small press with limited means has encouraged my neurotic writer brain to engage in some fairly spammy behaviors in the few weeks since my book dropped. I plead temporary insanity on that and promise to cut way back. But I still feel the need to try to get the book under as many eyes as possible to make it a success. This is what lead to the whole Evil Incarnate thing.

My wife and I had been involved with a convention for a very long time; we actually met there. Things got ugly and we left, but not before the leader took a shot at us through our dead daughter. Perhaps it is libelous/slanderous to refer to that person as Evil Incarnate, but I’m not using names. Besides, the point of this story is not what they did, but what I was willing to do.

The convention itself is of negligible importance anymore, but it still had a few hundred sets of eyes for my new book. I had worked myself up, under the influence of Neurosis #4, to seriously considering attending it for publicity, in spite of the insult to my daughter’s memory and the pain it caused my wife. She even supported my decision because she knew how important my first book was to me. Fortunately, I came to my senses before going through with that plan.

It’s fine to be neurotic and a writer. It’s almost a prerequisite. Just keep an eye out for who in your life your escalating neuroses might injure.

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The Further Adventures of a Highly Ritualized Cat

Our black cat Kestrel, as I’ve said before, has a lot of his own little rituals. Food magick, as it were. He has gotten even fussier with age.

About a month ago, he stopped eating the Healthy Indoor Cat Kibble we had been feeding him the last few years. We switched over to Even Healthier Indoor Cat Kibble with Salmon and Green Peas. That was acceptable for about a week. We tried kibble with soft centers, semisoft cat treats and little plastic containers of soft food with flakes of simulated fish on top. Except for the soft stuff, he was having none of it.

We took him to the vet, fearing tooth/gum problems or some Horrid Lingering Disease. Despite the Black Prince dropping three-and-a-half of his original twelve pounds, there was no sign of problems. He was simply Fussying Himself to Death.

We have a new feeding ritual now. Every twelve hours, we scrub out his chrome steel feeding bowl and give him half a container of the Soft Cat Food with Simulated Fish Flakes on Top and a third of the soft form of the Even Healthier Indoor Cat Kibble with Salmon and Green Peas. If these are left over portions, they must be microwaved for exactly fifteen seconds, no more, no less, to dispel the chill of the refrigerator. We must break up the two kinds of food with a fork and intermix them or he will only eat the stuff that isn’t all that good for him.

Then, I must watch.

It has to be me. Last week, I went out to catch a movie and didn’t get back until eleven. His six o’clock feeding went untouched until I came into the living room and stood over his bowl. Even now, I can see him going after his six am feast as I type this.

When I die, I want to come back as a cat.

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