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Wednesday, October 6, 2010


To Scare or Not to Scare

Blogs, for me anyway, are like mini essays. Of course, they’re easier to write than when I was in school, because I can talk about whatever I what. In some ways, though, that makes it harder. There’s a certain freedom in “Discuss the major themes in Gulliver’s Travels” that one doesn’t have in “WHAT am I going to write about now?”

Today I’m going to write, a bit, about horror as a theme. I enjoy being scared, I enjoy watching or reading a good horror. I’m a little old school – I enjoy the original (not the recent movie version) Van Helsing style hero fighting monsters. Or even the beleaguered amateur thrown into the role of hero. Which is why I chose to make my werewolves and vampires evil. My books aren’t horror by a long stretch – they’re definitely romance – but with monsters as the antagonists, there’s a need for a wee bit of the horrific, a hint, or flavor, if you will. This doesn’t mean it needs to be filled with slash and gore in true Friday the 13th fashion.

H.P. Lovecraft was a great story teller, and the stories he wrote were incredibly creepy while being extremely intellectual. No sensational gore, no sudden jumps, but true psychological terror. I have two others, which for me, were the ultimate scares. The Breathing Method by Stephen King (it was a novella) and the movie Fear Dot Com. Stephen King’s got some great horror, but that one particular story made me need to walk out in the sunlight. Awesome scare! And I had nightmares about Fear Dot Com. That may not seem like a glowing recommendation, but since I use my dreams extensively for inspiration, occasional nightmares are a good thing.

But horror, whether it’s classed as such, can be found in many other venues. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds – some might classify that as a thriller or suspense, but it’s got many horror elements. Into The Storm by Suzanne Brockmann – it’s clearly a romantic thriller, but the serial killer elements are borderline horrific. Even if it’s not horror, many different stories can give you a small jump. A little bit of a scare can be just as thrilling as a hot sex scene, and it means the creator has sucked you into the story – success! Which brings me to the question – what’s your favorite horror movie or story? Or if you don’t care for horror, what about a non-horror featuring traditional horror monsters (and I’m not talking about vamps & werewolves as misunderstood heroes)?

Here’s a short excerpt (because it was hard to find a longer excerpt that was clean… ahem…) from MIA Case Files: Wolfsbane, available from Loose Id – with evil werewolves. As of writing this, I don’t have approved excerpts for the soon-to-be released MIA Case Files: Blood Relations (evil vampires) but I’ll post on my site ( as soon as I can. Check it out.

Agent Lachlan Carmichael has a job to do. A portal is open in Rothburg, and this time the Umbrae passing through it are creating werewolves. He needs to close the portal, even if it means losing two-thirds of the people possessed by the Umbrae.

So what if Adam Farelli, the town's screw-up, is the sexiest man he’s ever seen? Carmichael’s been content to live with 'don't ask don't tell' for most of his life. A gorgeous, shiftless layabout isn't going to convince him to step out of the closet.

But when Carmichael needs Adam's help to close the portal, he's unable to resist the temptation Adam represents. But his lies and lack of trust put Adam in danger when one of the werewolves, obsessed with Adam, kidnaps him. Even if Carmichael can save the man he's grown to love, he's going to have to convince Adam to forgive him.


“Doesn't look like a hotbed of satanic activity, does it?” Agent Lachlan Carmichael asked his partner as he put the SUV in park. It didn't, at all. In fact Rothburg resembled the complete opposite of evil. Agent Oliver Cardoso gave him a blank look, which, after a year working together, Carmichael had no problems interpreting. And the interpretation wasn't flattering.

“You should know better by now,” Oliver replied.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Things aren't always as they seem. But are you sure your mystic antenna isn't on the fritz?” Carmichael looked through the windshield at the only lodging the town had to offer. He wasn't sure he'd ever used the word quaint before, but it had repeated in his mind over and over since they drove into town. The bed-and-breakfast was almost terrifying in its storybook perfection -- two-story white farmhouse, lacy crap edging the roof like a gingerbread house, and complete with a stereotypical white picket fence. The sight of the place gave Carmichael hives.

“Mystic antenna?” Sarcasm infused Oliver's tone.

Carmichael didn't bother looking at his partner. He still wasn't used to all this paranormal stuff he'd been recruited for. No matter how often he'd tried to convince both his partner and his superiors at the agency that he had no particular skills in this area, they hadn't believed him. He'd spent six years as military police and never heard a whisper of a government agency dealing with weirdness like this. Despite that, it had only taken one case to convince him that the unbelievable wasn't. In any case, he'd yet to impress Cardoso with his continued derisive remarks about both of their livelihoods.

“C'mon, look at this place.” Carmichael gestured in front of them. “This is where rich folk go to escape the big bad city. This is where they wallow in their bland, orderly existence. There's no way anyone here would tolerate something as chaotic as satanic rituals.” Every other case they'd investigated delved into tenement houses, the projects, the slums. Places just like where Carmichael grew up. Places he'd been determined to escape by joining the army.

“Stop with the 'satanic' already, Carmichael,” Oliver drawled. “We've been over this. People into satanic rituals are like children playing dress-up. Satanism wouldn't create a blip on the agency's radar, and you know it.”

“So what is going on here? How come you never know?”

“Carmichael…” There was an edge to Oliver's voice, the one that told him he'd almost gone too far. But he couldn't help it. Why couldn't they tune their paranormal receivers, or whatever the hell they used, properly? Cardoso could talk all day about the effect of open portals on electronics, but Carmichael had trouble understanding why detecting and tracing those portals was so inefficient, considering all the gadgets they'd lugged along in the trunk.

With a sigh, Carmichael opened the door and got out. Disappearances. When it wasn't straight-out dead bodies, it was people disappearing. Trouble was, they rarely reappeared. Well, alive.


Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

The Shining, with Jack Nicholson--he looks like the devil. Psycho. Years after seeing the movie, I was in the shower when a lightning storm knocked out the electricity--immediately I thought of Psycho, that someone was in my apartment--and I was in big trouble! Alien--the first horror scifi for me. Jaws--we lived in Florida and swam in the ocean a lot. And tons of others!!

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, there are too many for me to name! I saw the Exorcist as a young child and was terrified, as you can imagine! Also Amityville Horror. That one was particularly horrifying because my older sister decided to scare the living daylights out of me afterward by pretending she was a demon (I still haven't forgiven her for that one).

I think my favorite horror movie is not really traditional horror: The Devil's Advocate. I loved it because it was unexpected, thought-provoking, and not too scary (okay, I'm a wimp).

Anonymous said...

I write straight horror under my regualr name, so I know what can be scary. Scariest ghost story ever: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. She scared me in the daytime in a room full of people--Stephen King and others had to do it when I was alone at night. The Haunting (1963) based off the novel is very close to the bok.

KC Burn said...

Terry: I loved The Shining! It was so creepy. I tried to get hubby to watch 5 or 6 times - I still don't think he's seen the entire thing. He keeps falling asleep! Psycho & Alien are also great horror flicks. And I live in Florida,too - I NEVER go in the ocean. Jaws certainly is a factor. :)

Rosalie: I never saw Amityville - mostly because it was based on a true story, and I was terribly disappointed by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But the Devil's Advocate was a great movie too - they don't have to be super scary to be good! Although, if I'm going to watch Keanu in a creepy movie, The Watcher is another great alternative.

Sapphire: I want to try writing horror sometime too, but I also want to sleep at night! I applaud you for doing it. I still have my mother's copy of The Haunting of Hill House & I reread it periodically. I never saw the 1963 movie, I saw the newer one. Which was... not nearly as good as the book. ;)

Kristal Lee said...

Hi K.C.,
A few months ago, my DH and I watched "1409" with John Cusak. It's from a Stephen King novel. Scared the heebee-geebees out of me.

KC Burn said...

Kristal - that was really creepy. I forgot about that one. A lot of Stephen King's short stories adapt very well to movies - more so, I think, than his full length novels.

Chudney Thomas said...

I really don't like Horror at all, but Alien I will watch over and over again.

KC Burn said...

Hey Chudney - yeah, Alien is a classic.