Monthly Archives: August 2015
Posted by G G Collins
Don’t Go in the Basement!
Caution: Profanity if it offends you.
I “met” Michael Frost on Twitter. He’s noticeable because instead of hawking constantly for customers, he supports other writers through a #ShoutOut, #FollowFriday and #TerrorTuesday which he created. As a horror writer he has some scary pictures to go with his Tweets, but also a sense of humor about it all. You’ll love the last question about children and monsters in the closet.
1. First, the question you likely always get: Why write horror? What motivated you to take this direction in your writing?
For the amount of times I have been asked this, I should have mastered a simple and direct answer, but I find myself retreating back to the overly used factoid of ‘Kangaroo’; to be quite honest I really don’t know.
I didn’t seek it out that’s for sure. It more or less found me.
As a kid ANYTHING horror scared the piss out of me, and just catching a glimpse of the latest Friday the 13th commercial teaser would have me up all night watching the shadows that my small lamp didn’t fill. Yes, I slept with a light on religiously; damn near until I was thirteen.
When I started writing on the level of actually finishing a story I was eleven, and then until I was seventeen it was always fantasy having completed my first 389 paged book just shy of my 17th birthday. I was a big D&D and J.R.R. Tolkien fan long before any of the movies took to the screens (save the animated ones which were rather good and followed the books pretty well). Then, one day in March of 1990 while sitting in front of my typewriter and suffering from recently having my tonsils and adenoids removed, the horror in me just woke up. I know how it sounds, but I cannot be more honest and direct than that; the horror woke up and began to whisper to me, and boy did it had a lot to say.
Besides venturing across genres here and there depending on whatever story came to mind (of which many forming their own identities and voices in my noggin to suit those genres [and there are a few of those clamoring around in there]), I’ve never looked back.
2. Are you more King or Poe? What writers have influenced you?
Neither one or the other; a bit of each when it pleases me, but I have favorites from both of them. Older King stories of course; some, but not all of Poe. There were writers who influenced me, but not much in the guise of horror. Authors like Pearl S. Buck who wrote The Good Earth, Tolkien naturally for my pursuit at the time of fantasy and Shakespeare in my early years; Philip K. Dick and the works of Margaret Mead came later in my teens, with plenty of Terry Pratchett, Spider Robinson, Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams thrown in. However, when I consider the real Whom I would have to say my father who was a published author during the Civil Rights 60’s.
I know that’s an ‘Aww’ moment, but my father was both supportive and not all too supportive of my writing at the same time, taking a somewhat backwards approach to it. Sure he got me my first typewriter for me: a big, black and heavy Royal that strengthened the hell out of my fingers, but often when I asked about publishing I was just handed that years Writer’s Market Guide and a new box of carbon paper. He was obsessed with duplicates. I guess he encouraged me the most because I had something to prove, and once I got past trying to prove anything to anyone, then I truly started to write.
I miss the hell out him though.
3. “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand,” has been attributed to Raymond Chandler. He was talking about crime fiction.
Finish the sentence, as it applies to horror: “When in doubt . . .
When in doubt on whether or not you’ve killed the bogeyman, keep hacking away at the fucker until its head comes off. Then it’s dead, the nightmare’s over and you can go home.
4. How do you translate terror into words so the reader can feel the fear of your character? What is the difference in terror and horror?
Good one…favorite one…most hated question of all, so I will somewhat combine my answer. I have a usual response to this, one of which is in my blog under About Michael, and it’s one I have said for years now, but for this let me try a different approach.
Terror can be best expressed in a single thought, an idea which can invade every single person’s life and soul without will or want not of the reader. It can easily relate to the masses, and to the individual experiencing it, they can feel the breath of the beast on their neck.
A quick example of Terror would be: You are taking a shower and you live alone, keeping the bathroom door closed so to trap the heat and then suddenly, there’s a knock on the bathroom door.
To me that would be terrifying to say the very least, and you are in the perfect place if you wish to piss or shit yourself.
When one looks at Horror and Terror, they are relatively the same thing save the delivery. When writing Horror, I have pages upon pages to set the stage, to keep the reader on edge while dreading the very next line, however I want the reader terrified, so I deliver the blows which are either expected or not, but they last for a very long time. Sure the pages might be filled with some very horrifying stuff which makes the reader want to slam the book shut and go watch Babe so to clear the mind and spirit, but like a drug they cannot. When you as the author can feel it, damn near taste the terror’s climatic surge, you give the reader both barrels with extreme prejudice. This is not the climax of the story, no; you just keep delivering it over and over unexpectedly like a blindfolded roller coaster rider entering a loop.
I think that covers it, or I can revert to my usual response by stating:
To understand Horror is simplistic really. You never open the closet door…you never look under the bed…you never fall asleep in an unfamiliar place and you never get into a strangers car. Out of all of these I must add, you most certainly never—EVER—run into the woods.
To understand Terror, however, is much more far reaching; darker. That scratching you hear during the night at the window’s glasscould be nothing more than a branch in the breeze just as your mind has convinced you that it was, or, there really is something standing just on the other side of the glass with sharp claws and it’s watching you—only you—and come morning you never discover which one it ever was.
Old and new, new and old; same ice cream, just different flavors; take your pick of the one that suits you.
5. You are a great champion of writers. In a social medium like Twitter where most everyone is shouting “Look at Me!” you bring attention to writers over and over again through Tweets and Lists. What made you want to take this route?
I smile that you have noticed this about me, G.G, but in all truth I do this because I care; I truly care about each and every writer out there who is hunting for their voice, and if already found, to give them honest support if they are willing to take it.
I can honestly say that during my whole career of writing that no one ever stopped to help me; not a single one. Whether it was family or friends, significant others along the way, not any of them did. I envied all those around me who had family and friend support in their pursuits of their dreams, always wondering what that felt like…what it tasted like…was it real or Memorex or more like some Cosby Show episode.
I was completely alone in my pursuits to find my voice, and despite all the spite and rage of being ignored and left to fend for myself, I eventually did find it and came to peace in all my endeavors of doing so. I was used to people only noticing when I failed, when those rejection letters came one right after the other, and of course I would get the sympathetic comments followed by the soft murmurs of ‘I figured as much’or ‘I told you so’s once the back was turned. Screw that. That surmounting lack of support gave me all the strength I ever needed to keep on pushing, ignoring the odds of ever publishing a single thing, and I formed my steadfast motto: If you want Sympathy, just look in the dictionary between Shit and Syphilis and you’ll find it.
It was harder in many ways back then to engage in the act of writing and attempting to publish. There was no internet to speak of at the time; the world of the web was at its infancy with BBS’s (Bulletin Board Services) and basic dial-up through ISP’s like NetCom. Hell, AOL and CompuServe were still in their developmental programming stages with only the hopes that they would catch on. No, then it was query letters and submissions via snail-mail, the demand of Times New Roman 12pt font, double-spaced, proper surname with numbering in the upper right corner of each page following the first (you never numbered the your first page), and all your pages were secured by a small piece of paper in the upper left hand corner with a paper or binder clip so not to dent or crease the pages. And of course, there was the wait; that damn, damn, damn long wait. Six weeks if you were lucky to get a response, eight at max, and if accepted YAY, and if not, you were then able to submit elsewhere for there was no simultaneous submissions allowed (which thankfully is still the norm).
For all those on Twitter many have never experience this and see only the new age of writing and publishing, and to be very understanding of them, only the process has changed for the most part. It is still a very hard thing to do, writing is; to delve into your own soul and cleave it apart so to distribute it amongst the masses is a very hard thing to do. I still find it hard to do even to this day regardless of how long I’ve been at it. For this I commend each and every one of them, and if promoting them in lieu of promoting myself is what I have to do to show them that someone is behind them, then that’s what I will do. If I can be there for just one who is floating down that turbulent river alone in the dark, then I have redeemed my own demons in parting of such memories. Perhaps my support might very well be that light in their distance assuring me that despite all my struggling endeavors that I have earned my place to call myself a writer, and that I have truly learned to listen.
6. Many children see monsters in their closet or under their beds. As someone well-acquainted with monsters, do you have any tips for parents trying to reassure their little ones.
For this I have a fun and happy story to tell regarding my own daughter. When she was just a tot, she swore that there were monsters in our closet and under her bed, and although this story might be a little long-winded, there’s a solution within and a quick summary to follow.
When she was nearly five years old, there was a span of several weeks that she complained about monsters, and unlike her mother’s approach that there were no such things—I having been my daughter at her age in spirit before—I damned well believed her! So, each night I would do the daddy thing and check for her in all the places she pointed, and although I was brave for her in my searching, it was all a façade because I dreaded the idea of What if she’s right?!
Anyway, one day I got an idea. I got a box about the size one might get a new microwave oven in and I brought it into her room. I sat down on the edge of her bed and explained that I know the monsters seem scary and mean, but they are actually scared themselves.
“Why would monsters be scared of me?!” she questioned wholeheartedly with a doubtful undertone which I feared she figured me out before I began, but I continued bravely.
I had expressed that the reasons the monsters were scared is because they wandered too far away from Monster Land and didn’t know how to get back, and what seemed like big mean monsters were actually frightened creatures who just wanted to get back home hence why they hid in the closet and under her bed.
So, I showed her the box and said: “This is a magic box that can send all the lost monsters back to Monster Land.”
“How?” she asked with genuine wide-eyes of wonder and belief to my fatherly lies.
“Easy…magic,” I put on my show, standing while opening the closet which I had previously made sure the floor had space for the box. “See? We put this inside the closet and call out to the monsters that we have a magic box which will take them all home. We then leave the room because monsters are shy creatures and when we come back after a while, all the monsters should be inside the box with the lid closed.”
Let me tell you, she was very excited about the possibility of this, so I gave her the honor of sliding the box inside, then—by her good-natured insistence—we placed a pillow inside so that they would be comfortable. When I told her we were ready, she did the one thing I will always remember and get misty over. She told me to wait, little paws extended up to me, dashed off to her bed and collected up a little bear and placed it inside.
“This will make them feel safe,” she smiled and I nodded, wanting to pick her up and hug her.
Okay, back to my parental lies and deceit!
We left the room and shut the bedroom door behind us, moving to the living room to play her most favorite movie of all: Aladdin. After a few minutes and offering her Stix-Sticks (how my 4yr old pronounced fish sticks), I left her to play with her blocks as she sang along with the movie to heat them for her, but not before quietly sneaking into the bedroom. I quickly removed the little bear from the box and hid it, folded in the flaps and crossing them so they clocked together, quietly closed the closet door then exited away from the scene of deceit. Then, minutes later returned to the living room with her stick-sticks for her to munch away.
Oh she did inquire about the monsters and I insisted that we give them time which she simply nodded in-chew and back to the singing genie she went. After a little while, the true magic began.
“Did you hear that?” I quickly said after a little while, sounding excited above a whisper.
“What?!” she beamed just as excited.
“I think I heard the closet door shut!” and before I could breathe after the last word, she was up and dashing to the bedroom with me in pursuit.
“Hold on,” I slowed her as I took hold of the knob. “Now we have to be very quiet so we don’t scare them anymore than they are, okay?”
A nod and a ‘thumbs-up’ was my response and I slowly opened the door. There sat the closed box to her widening eyes as she slowly inhaled with excitement.
“They went inside!” she bounced wanting to scream it, but she mimicked me with a forefinger to pursed lips as I knelt.
“Alright, they’re all inside,” I whispered. “Now, there are some magical words we must say which will send them back to Monster Land, okay?”
“Okay, daddy,” she nodded her understanding.
“Okay, now repeat after me,” I did my best not to giggle as I held my hands over the box like some half-baked magician in a mall’s food court. “Monsters, monsters, go away; go back home where you can play.”
There in the mouth of the closet we repeatedly said the words I pulled out from thin air, her little palms circling over the top of the box as she copied the actions of her silly dad. I began chanting it louder with her in suit until we were nearly shouting it and then I slapped my hands down on the top followed by her mimicking and we knelt smiling at each other.
“Are they back home?” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” I replied, leaning an ear towards the top. “I don’t hear anything, do you?”
She leaned in and listened with one finger up signalling for me to stand by, and then rose back to her kneeling posting with a shaking head.
“Well let’s open ‘er up and take a peek!”
Letting her do most of the work, the flaps were pried apart and there, in the glow of the overhead light of the closet sat the void of the box and the pillow. She squealed her joy and clapped, lunging into my chest for a vise-like hug and clapped some more.
“It worked, it worked!” she bounced on her knees repeatedly as I clapped and agreed.
“It sure did, baby,” I smiled and simply watched her pass the little milestone in her young life.
That night she climbed into her bed and got her hugs and kisses from her mother and me, never once asking for me to check under the bed or the closet or any of the darkened corners for any monsters.
We left her then, my then wife and I, leaving the door opened just enough to let some hallway light in and sat on the sofa for a little adult programming on the tube. A few minutes after we were settled on some show I don’t remember, I heard her little voice call out across the bedroom: “Goodnight monsters in Monster Land!”
I smiled…not feeling guilty in the least.
To summarize my long winded story? Well, we were them once—little and afraid—and if for one moment, just one itty-bitty moment we adults put ourselves back into their shoes we can see what they see and feel it as well. Sure it might be annoying because we know (think)nothing is under the bed, but taking a little effort to prove it and resolve it with their assistance can be the difference of a good night’s rest or bed-hogging toddlers in your bed later on because they can’t sleep.
Children are honest little-folk even if that honesty steams from the realms of imagination, and if they believe monsters are real then you better be damned-tooting they are real and you should feel just a little bit scared yourself! Yes, I know, you don’t want to humor such nonsense, but have you ever asked yourself this: If you tell them they are not real, and If they just so happen to be real, what then? Think on that the next time you turn off their light and close their door leaving them to fear the darkness without checking the nooks and the crannies. There might be something lurking there and now it knows exactly what you look and smell like.
OH! What happened to the little bear from the story you ask? Well, she was rather happy that they took her bear with them to Monster Land, but she also missed it that night come bedtime. That was quickly resolved by morning.
Early before she woke I retrieved the bear from behind some shoes along the base of the closet and placed it back inside the box. Before closing it up, I collected a sheet of paper and one of her Crayons and using my left hand—I’m a righty so I wanted it to look more ‘kid-speak’—I wrote a simple note and placed it inside with the bear. I woke her not too long afterwards saying that I heard something coming from the box in the closet that sounded like her bear. She dashed inside, pulling open the box, exclaimed “MY BEAR!” and I retrieved the note and read it to her.
Thank you for sharing your teddy!
It made us very happy during our trip!
We’ve sent it back to you so you can cuddle it.
Think of us when you do!
Seventeen years later, I still have the monster’s note and her bear.
♦ ♦ ♦
Keep up with Michael and his works on Twitter: @MichaelFrostChi and on his Frost Bitten Blog: http://michaelfrost.wordpress.com where you can sample his stories and poetry.
About Michael Frost: Before writing exclusively in late 2012, I was a senior Wide Area Network, Microwave and Satellite Platform Communications engineer who worked his way up from a lowly help desk geek from the 90’s before there were real degrees in Computer Science and mice were optional on computers (it was still a DOS and OS/2 Warp world for the most part then in the business environment with Windows 3.11 spread throughout).
Father of one fantastic multi-talented, multi-lingual senior University daughter who is my Light.
I have been writing for nearly 32 years (over 25 for horror) and currently write under 5 other published names which I will keep to myself their identities. Sorry for that, but they are rather selfish-folk inner writers are. I have published numerous stories over the years in regional magazines across the US, Canada, Australia and Europe, including visual flash fiction. I work for an educational publisher Nelson Education for digital supplements to their high school language arts printed books.
For horror books I dragged my feet to publish for reasons unknown, and although I have written 8 of them in the genre, the very first will be available in print early 2016 (announcement date will be available in October of this year): Eleanor’s Creek.
Did I mention the selfishness of those other inner-writers?
Michael Frost releases scheduled for 2016: Sowing Seeds, Murder Black, Staad and three novellas Bane of the Black Witch, When Madness Calls and The Fall of Illeana Dubois. And a collaboration with Canadian artist Carrion Trilevel; a “wicked vicious book of dark literary horror and stunning graphic art.” You can expect a “teaser” in the coming weeks.
Posted by G G Collins
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