Saturday, July 31, 2021

[Link] In Memory of Award-winning Author and Creator of Logan's Run William F. Nolan

by Mark Gottlieb

William F. Nolan was a multi-award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy and horror novels—most notably the creator of Logan’s Run, which went on to become a cult classic film, based on the novel of the same name, with a remake due out from Warner Bros.  Among his many accolades, Nolan was nominated for Best Paperback Original by the Mystery Writers of America. He was voted a Living Legend in Dark Fantasy by the International Horror Guild in 2002, and in 2006 was bestowed the honorary title of Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. In 2010, he received the Lifetime Achievement Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association (HWA). In 2013, he was a recipient of the World Fantasy Convention Award in Brighton, England by the World Fantasy Convention. In May 2014, Nolan was presented with another Bram Stoker Award, for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction; this was for his collection about his late friend Ray Bradbury, called Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction. In 2015, Nolan was named a World Horror Society Grand Master; the award was presented at the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, Georgia in May of that year. Nolan lived in Vancouver, Washington, with an apartment full of books, pulp magazines, and stuffed animals. Jason V Brock was his caretaker and heir to his literary estate. (Nolan and Brock conducted this interview with me, shortly before Nolan’s death on July 15th, 2021).

How did you both get your start as authors within major trade book publishing? 

William F. Nolan: When I started my career there were a lot more publishing houses. Even before I had an agent, I was able to pitch ideas to friends, such as the late Charles Beaumont, and then we would work up proposals for anthologies or other books. There were also a lot more places for publishing stories or articles in magazines, such as Rogue, Playboy, Mademoiselle, Colliers, and the like.

Jason V Brock: By the time I was publishing regularly in the mid-2000s, the landscape had changed quite a bit with respect to outlets. Magazines were waning in influence, and small press anthologies filled that niche. Novels are still popular, of course, but mostly the small press has taken the spaces once occupied by magazines, and online appearances are increasingly the norm.

Read the full article:

Friday, July 30, 2021

FIFTH DI... December 2020 edited by Tyree Campbell

The Fifth Di… presents science fiction, fantasy, and horror for your reading enjoyment. This issue includes an alternate tale of Iphigenia, sacrificed by her father during the Trojan War; a new look at Pandora; the problems with species reassignment therapy; and the end of the end of the world. Come meet these characters and others in The Fifth Di…


Only the Soul Sees by Ryan Klopp

Short Stories

The Weight by Joseph Carrabis
Grin and Bear It by Gustavo Bondoni
Krampus Night by Thomas Kodnar
Animal Land by Glen R. Stripling
The Unweaving by Elana Gomel

Flash Fiction

Demolishing the Box by Maureen Bowden
A Pleasant Walk, a Pleasant Talk by Graham J. Darling
The Hour Before by Terry Sanville


Dragon’s Hoard by Colleen Anderson
Have Pity by Krista Canterbury Adams

Read more:

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Sean Taylor Destroys the Teen Titans -- Booster's Titans!

Occasionally on my Facebook page I post these sarcastic little #seantaylordestroys posts outlining what I'd do to a few core pulp and comics universes and how smart the DC and Marvel are not to give me the keys to their toys. Here's one I was really proud of. 


Art by Iantoy
In the ongoing saga to prove how unfit I am for writing for the "Big Two," I present The New Titans Multiversal Jaunt I call "Booster's Titans!" 

On a dark little planet in the dirtiest depths of the DC multiverse, a college brainiac named Michaela Cortez traverses the multiverse on a fantastic joyride -- until the day she returns to find it under the iron fist of her world's version of the grown-up Teen Titans. Thanks to a "Tower of Babel" style contingency plan, the Titans are undefeatable by any of that world's known heroes. 

So Michaela adopts the name Booster Gold and ventures back out into the multiversal timeline to track down heroes who are familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of her world's core Titans (Dick, Kori, Garth, Roy, Donna, Vic, Wally, Rachel, Kon'el, and Gar) but whom his world's Titans know nothing about (since they didn't exist on her world). 

Michaela finally tracks down eight young heroes with ties to the Titans she is convinced are the heroes she needs. But she must not only convince them of the truth of her mission but also earn their trust and prove herself an ally as she gathers her own "Magnificent Eight" to save his world. 

Booster's Titans include:

  • Argent from post-Zero Hour core earth
  • Skitter and Power Girl (teen) from N52
  • Doomsday Jr. (alternate earth version of Doomed)
  • Flamebird by alternate Steampunk earth
  • Darkwing (alternative Redwing) from apocalyptic version of earth where all beings are part beast
  • Half-Life from an earth where the Ravers were the core version of the Titans
  • Warlock's Daughter from an Inquisition-styled earth where magic users are hunted down and imprisoned or killed
But don’t forget about Michaela’s roommate Teddy Cordova, who becomes a brand new hero called the Blue Beetle, after she picks up from Michaela’s tinkering with some weird alien tech she picked up on her joyride through the multiverse before getting serious.

Cosplay by Marlene Does.

But will they be enough to take on a legacy team that defeated their entire world? I guess we'll never know. Hehehe. Ain't I a stinker!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Scare Me

Think about the first time you met a famous author. Did you at once want to (a) learn from them and (b) impress them -- and somehow at the same time. It's okay. We all want that. We want to be told we're good at something we believe we are good at. That's where Scare Me starts. But then it doesn't just veer off the rails, it destroys said rails with high-grade acid so no other train can ever ride them again either. It's that effective. 

Fred is a wannabe author (let's not empower him enough to call him struggling) played by Josh Ruben. He rents a cabin in the snow-covered woods to work on his werewolf story. On the way he is ubered by another aspiring writer who treats him the same way "that person" treats you at a writing conference or literary/sci-fi/fantasy convention where you're a guest. Gushing all over you. Picking your brain. Wanting to impress you. You get the picture. It's a natural place to be as a beginning writer. But Fred is having none of it. It's bothersome at best. 

Once at the cabin, he learns that one of his neighbors is the author of the acclaimed horror novel Venus, Fanny, played by Aya Cash. The two don't hit it off exactly, but a storm forces them together to try to scare each other by telling scary stories (that may or may not be from their work). 

The trouble is though, that right off the bat, it's clear that Fanny is years ahead of Fred. Her skills basically emasculate him (or e-write-ulate him) and put his lack of talent on display. He only does his best work when she chimes in and goads him into it. Outside of that, he merely teases ideas rather than telling stories. 

For example, after telling the outline and opening scene of his werewolf novel, Fanny is unimpressed. 

Fanny: That's a cool little boy voice, but what's the story?
Fred: What do you mean 'What's the story?' That's the story. I just told you. 
Fred: No, that's an idea. What actually happens?

Fanny then proceeds to demonstrate what she means by telling him a story that has him thoroughly interested and intensely so. Where he spoke in plot broad strokes, she introduces characters and gets in their heads, then twist plot points back on themselves to build suspense. He goes to plot points. She goes to characters and story details. He gives an outline. She gives intensity and gravitas.

You can almost feel his masculinity wilt in front of her. He's humiliated. 

So he takes another stab at it, this time, grabbing details and going deeper. Only he's pulling from what he's seen and read before in his limited reading. 

Hiding in the closet like Halloween's Jamie Lee Curtis. The revolver stored in a box in the top of the closet. Even ripping off Jaws in an epic kill scene. 

They proceed to tell the next story together, and maybe he's getting it. Maybe she's getting him. Maybe they're actually into each other and it's turning into a night of sex between two writers. 

Then. Bam. Pizza's here. Along with the delivery guy, played by Chris Redd. and together the three of them act out a wonderful story about a singer who sells her soul to the devil. But even in the midst of that, Carlo realizes where all the real talent lies. 

"It's like one of those nights, you know, when you deliver a pizza to a couple of strangers who end up being friends. Tell ghost stories and do blow. One's your favorite author. The other one [he looks at Fred] is your friend."

Now, the real strength of this awesome movie is what happens between Fred and Fanny as she easily one-ups him throughout the night. But that would be a huge spoiler. Suffice it to say, Scare Me is indeed a horror flick, and a truly unique sort of anthology film without really being an anthology film.
But it has a wonderful lesson for us writers. The devil is in the details. Character details. Story details. Twists and turns details. The hard work of writing is getting past cliches and outlines and using the stuff that makes you, well, you, to actually create a story that only you can tell.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Blog Re-Run: Femme Fatales—An Obsession Dissected

 Here's the original blast from the past... The very first article that ran on this blog. Enjoy!


 Like the hard-boiled hero, the femme fatale dates to classic myth. An example is Circe, who turned Odysseus' men into swine in Book X of The Odyssey and the Sirens, whose beauty and alluring song attracted his sailors in Book XII. … In the Middle Ages, Christianity refashioned this archetype as a devil, called the succubus. -- Characteristics of Hard-Boiled Fiction: The Femme Fatale (

If you read my writing at all, you know I’m obsessed with writing femme fatales into my stories. In defense, giving the hero an equal and opposite makes for strong storytelling, but surely I could just give him a straight up villain for that role, right? Yes and no.

While a villain needs to be a fully realized character just as much as the hero, the femme fatales (at least to me) are something different, something special, the proverbial monkey wrench (though drenched in curves and slinky sex appeal) thrown into the machine. It’s her role to play Jiminy Cricket in a way, but more for the dark side, but not completely dark, but dark enough to fight dirty and to throw society’s conventions to the wind. She’s the little voice trying to seduce the hero to true independence from being pure good. She’s the test, at least in my mind, that reminds the hero that he (or she) has feet of clay and to never take that for granted.

A Few of My Favorite Femmes

Femme fatales abound in classic films, of course, and many of my favorite actresses played them at one point or another in their careers, such as Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Lizabeth Scott, Lauren Bacall, Gene Tierney, and Ann Savage, and some, such as Barbara Stanwyck all but made playing them their bread and butter roles.

But many of my favorites exist outside of classic noir films. In comics, particularly, Catwoman has to be the ultimate femme fatale, the temptation for Batman to dirty his cowl and cape by letting her go and subsequently trying to tame her time and time again. In many ways, Poison Ivy serves that role to, but with a darker shade of fatale than Selina. Many of today’s comic book heroes got their start that way, from Scarlet Witch to Black Widow.

In Christa Faust’s Money Shot, Angel Dare is in effect both the hero and the femme fatale as the same time.  Even classic fantasy has its share, including the women who oppose and test and support Thomas Covenant in his adventures written by Stephen Donaldson.

While she was most certainly on the side of right and good, even Emma Peel was clearly built (pun intended) on the model of the classic femme fatale, as if dressing up the heroine from the bad girl’s closet would engender the show to a greater demographic—which it did. Even Doctor Who got into the act with the addition of River Song, who is clearly the Doctor’s equal, and clearly less concerned about society’s moral impositions than the stodgy Doc. If anything, she’s a modern creation, the femme fatale with the heart of gold (somewhere underneath all the shooting and jail-breaking.

And modern films and TV are full of them too, including the Indiana Jones series, Decker’s obsession with Rachael in Blade RunnerAngel’s Drusilla, Darla, and later Illyria, and one of my favorites, Captain Mal’s “wife” of multiple names played by gorgeous Christina Hendrix.

What’s Fates Got To Do With It?

 No. That’s not a typo. It’s not fate, like destiny, but fates, like the three Greek mythic women. Just look at Hammetts’s The Maltese Falcon:
“There Sam Spade is attracted to three women, a motif that echoes the ancient Greek Fates, who tell men the future. He is involved in an adulterous affair with his partner's wife, Iva Archer. His secretary, Effie Perrine, is a tom-boyish, competent girl-next-door who would make the perfect spouse. Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the femme fatale, seems to promise sensuality and wealth, but Spade sees through her – and uses her when she thinks she is using him. The novel's end leaves Spade alienated from Effie, who is, ironically, mad that he rejected the "romance" of Brigid, while Iva knocks at the door. It is a grim morality play about making your bed and lying in it.” (
I had forgotten about this at the time, but realize now it’s the same thing Bobby Nash and I did when we put together the story bible for The Ruby Files for publisher Airship 27. Our own 1930’s private gumshoe has his own trio of beauties to contend with—his good girl secretary who wants to save his soul, his bad girl interracial lover, and the socialite who wants to tie him down to marriage—not to mention the femmes he meets from story to story. I’m sure one smarter than I am could make an id, ego, and superego reference to those three female archetypes as well.

“Of the three types of noir women, the femme fatale represents the most direct attack on traditional womanhood and the nuclear family. She refuses to play the role of devoted wife and loving mother that mainstream society prescribes for women. She finds marriage to be confining, loveless, sexless, and dull, and she uses all of her cunning and sexual attractiveness to gain her independence. … She remains fiercely independent even when faced with her own destruction. And in spite of her inevitable death, she leaves behind the image of a strong, exciting, and unrepentant woman who defies the control of men and rejects the institution of the family.” (

“Critics tend to classify the women of film noir into two categories identified by Janey Place: the "rejuvenating redeemer" or "good" woman and the "spider woman" or femme fatale. But noir films also feature a third type of female character, the "marrying type" — a woman who poses a threat to the hero by pressuring him to marry her and "settle down" into his traditional role as breadwinner, husband, and father.” (­)

I really like that term “spider woman” and not because it makes me think of a certain friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. To me it really defines the type of woman I’m addressing here—she spins a web and you will get caught in it if you get to close. And chances are, she will eat you up, whether literally or symbolically, before the tale has come to an end. 

Or as Marlene Dietrich sang in The Blue Angel in the song "Fallling in Love Again":
"Men cluster to me like moths around a flame
And if their wings burn, I know I'm not to blame"
She does her thing because it’s her thing to do. No one can tell her differently and no man can tame her.

In the majority of noir films, however, the femme fatale remains committed to her independence, seldom allowing herself to be converted by the hero or captured by the police. She refuses to be defined by the male hero or submit her sexuality to the male-dominated institution of the family; instead, she defines herself and resists all efforts by the hero to "put her in her place." (

And just now, as I’m typing this post, it hits me that I’ve subconsciously done the same thing in my story “City of Relics” for the Blackthorn: Thunder on Mars sci-fi anthology for White Rocket Books. The bad girl, the one who falls in love and could settle down (if the difference in species would allow for it), and the companion good girl, all together again in a pulp space adventure. The fates reunited on Mars for another book tour, so to speak.

So you see how these archetypes just work their way into you as a writer and become sort of second nature. Good stories are good stories, and so many of them have their basis way back in the myths and legends of the ancient world, even for something as future-seeking as Martian sci-fi or as tied to the early 20th Century American life as gritty pulp noir.

All well and good, of course, but the one who interests me is the bad girl with the heart of gold. She may ultimately fight on the side of right and good, but doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty or playing a game of “seduce the hero” while fighting the good fight.

Thank You, Barbara Stanwyck!

But really, you may say, all this is just a way to cover up the fact that you want to write sexy, violent women without people thinking you’re some kind of delinquent pervert.

Well, one thing I’ve learned is that people will think what they damn well please, and I try my best not to care what they think.

When I was writing the Gene Simmons Dominatrix comic book for IDW Publishing (of which I was thrilled to find Broken Frontiers called in a review “the pulpiest pulp on the stands”) I wrote a few pages of dialog between Dominique and her handler/client Doug that I think sums up my fascination with the femme fatale role and why I write them so frequently into everything from sci-fi to super-heroes to fantasy to action stories.

While Dom is threatening to throw Doug out of her house painfully, he blurts out the simple words, “Barbara Stanwyck.”

Dom replies: “What?”

Doug: “Barbara Stanwyck. She got me into this.”

Dom: "The woman from The Big Valley got you interested in conspiracies?"

Doug: "Doesn’t anyone under forty watch classic films anymore? Lady of BurlesqueMartha IversDouble Indemnity? Ringing any bells here? I watched her movies when I was a kid. I guess I sort of fell in love with strong women because of that."

Dom: "Fine, but don’t try to turn this into some kind of bad movie moment."

I was trying to explain Doug’s nature to readers at the time, but the more I go back and read the Dominatrix trade paperback, I find that I was inadvertently writing myself into the story at that point. It was Barbara Stanwyck who defined the role of the femme fatale for me, and I’ve been writing her into so much of what I create without even realizing it.

Even in her more dramatic (Meet John Doe) and comedic (The Lady Eve) roles, her characters were tough as nails and played by their own rules.

My Own Twist

I’ll admit it. I hated the movie Pretty Woman. I just can’t buy into the hooker with a heart of gold theme. Maybe it’s my fascination with noir. Everything should be dirty, tainted of original (and some new and unique) sin.

In spite of that, I do however love to write the femme fatale with the heart of gold—or at least with a heart of something slightly less valuable than gold. For me, the pinnacle of my fatale creations is Monique San Diablo (also called the “Saint Devil”), whom I created for my story “A Dance with the Devil” in Lance Star: Sky Ranger Volume 3. She plays both sides of the fence, freely admits to being a thief when it suits her, and a British agent when her special skills are needed On top of that, she’s more than willing to sully poor Lance’s reputation with his good girl Betty—if she can convince him to take her for a ride. She’ll do what it takes, but she’ll also do what she wants, all the while saving the day—when she feels like it.  

And there you have it.

Hi. My name is Sean, and I’m obsessed with writing femme fatales. But I didn’t spill my guts so I could quit like some 12-step program because… What’s that saying? … Oh yeah, 12-step programs are for quitters, and well, me and my femme fatales, we’re in it for the long haul.

So pipe down and back off, before they fill you full of lead, you big galoot.

And in case this post has gotten you interested, here’s a list of “The Greatest Femme Fatales in Noir Film”:

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Slice of Paradise Now Open for Submissions

Deadline: September 1st, 2021
Payment: $0.01 per word for new stories and/or $25 for reprints PLUS $5 for complimentary flash fiction.
Theme: Beach Vacation Horror

Please read carefully. Submissions that don’t meet the guidelines may be automatically rejected.

Submissions will be accepted until September 1st, 2021– please submit to, ensuring ’Slice of Paradise’ is in the subject line.

What we are looking for:

Horrifying short stories that occur on a tropical beach paradise. We also encourage writers to have good representation of POC, LGBTQ+, and strong female characters.

What we are NOT looking for:

Please, do not submit stories that do not take place on a tropical beach. Submissions cannot contain graphic sexual or rape scenes. Please ensure any scenes of a sexual nature are necessary and non-exploitative.

Submissions must be between 5,000 and 8,000 words.

Complimentary flash fiction submissions must be between 1,000 and 2,000 words.

Title, submitter’s name, pen name (if different), story word count, and author email address must be centered at the top of your submission.

Submissions must be written in 12 pt. Times New Roman and double spaced. Please DO NOT use the “tab” or “space” key to indent your paragraphs.

Submissions must not contain headers, footers or page numbers

All scene breaks must be three asterisks, centered, with no spaces in between (***).

Submissions should be clean and edited to the best of author’s ability.

Authors may submit as many stories as they want for review, however, there will be a limit of one published story per author.

We do not require exclusivity. You hold copyright, licensing us just for this publication.

If your story is a reprint, please include its original publication details in your submission email.

Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but you must have the right to license your story in an anthology. Notify us by email at if you need to withdraw your submission.

The deadline for submissions is September 1st, 2021.

Read more:

Friday, July 23, 2021



Every year, hundreds of men join the French Foreign Legion to escape from their shadowy pasts. But unlike other Legionnaires, Mace Bullard is a man with no past...and little chance of a future. Based on a concept created by Paul Bishop for Pro Se Production's PULSE FICTION series, Bullard rides hard into his latest full-length adventures-SAHARA SIX: A MACE BULLARD PATROL by James Hopwood! Now Available in print and digital formats.

After being found guilty on charges of insubordination, Bullard is transferred to Sahara Six as punishment, one of the most remote and ramshackle outposts in Morocco. Bullard has one last chance at redemption. If the motley crew stationed at Sahara Six are to survive, he must stand tall in the face of overwhelming odds and prove he is worthy of the famed white kepi and that he has the heart of a Legionnaire. The final battle sees the wind-swept sands of the Sahara run red with blood.

SAHARA SIX, a rapid-fire tale of valor, honor, and high adventures is the work of David Foster writing as James Hopwood. The stunning cover and formatting and design is also by Foster. Published by Pro Se Productions. SAHARA SIX: A MACE BULLARD PATROL is available in print for $7.99.

Bullard’s latest patrol is also available on Kindle formatted by Foster for $0.99 for a limited time. Kindle Unlimited Members can read this thrilling adventure for free!

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Sara Freites: I Can't Ask for More

Sara Freites is not just a gifted writer but a friend. When we first met, I got way too much fun kidding her about her age (or lack of it at that point -- she has gotten a little older now, but she still doesn't look it, and yes, I'm super jealous. I met her while she was focusing on her cosplay work, but I'm super proud of the writer she has become more recently, and I figured it was high time to introduce her to you. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My book Rise of Midnight is a YA fantasy novel about a teenage girl named Autumn. She gets kidnapped by vampires who tell her that she’s the reincarnation of their elder vampire leader, and the reason they took her in is they need her help in sending a demon back to hell with powers she didn’t know she had from her past life. 

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

I started reading the Animorph series at a young age and it was all over after that lol. I made up a character while reading the books that was “me” and I would pretend I was a part of the story. It led to me writing short stories, poetry, and eventually my first novel. 

What inspires you to write?

Anime and instrumental music.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Inner growth and finding oneself.

What would be your dream project?

Oh, I have a few...but something that would be turned into an animation.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

KA Applegate, Anne Rice, Stephanie Meyer and Arthur Golden

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

It would be my first book, I would have shortened the beginning so that the action started a little sooner. That book is a slow burn and builds up, and I found that the slow start has turned some readers away from reading on.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Omg, both. I believe you do have to have some level of talent to write, but you also have to learn and build on your writing skills. I found reading others' work has helped me.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

I am a VERY slow writer LOL it takes me forever to have something finished and ready for my actual editor’s eyes ūü§£ that and I always want to go back and change things last minute.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

Bouncing ideas off them, reading their work, and sometimes just listening to their ideas. I like to see how others work and think.

What does literary success look like to you?

To me, being published by a big publishing company, having your books in most bookstores, and possibly having a movie/TV adaption. I know I shoot for the moon LOL BUT...once reality sets in... I think just writing a book and putting it out there. I did the thing and finished a book. And I have a lot of people supporting me. I can’t ask for more. 

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I am working on the sequel to my 1st book called Rise of Daybreak, coming in December! I am also working on 2 other non-related fiction books. No official titles yet.

For more information, visit: 

s.a.f.ire_art on IG!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: The Owl and the Pussycat

Let's just start by admitting I'm not sure how this rom-com '70s romp stayed off my radar for so long unless it has something to do with the fact that I simply wasn't a fan of Barbra Streisand. Still, I should never have let that stop me. This flick is a delightful, amoral good time between a hoity-toity lit snob writer with no real life to speak of and a carefree on-again-off-again prostitute with the life she wants at any given moment but no livelihood to speak of. You can see the third act coming clearly from that description, I'm sure, but that doesn't nullify the journey to get there. 

Felix is a stuffed shirt of a writer who would rather spend time parsing metaphors than living his life. In a moment of genuine feeling (rage, sadly) he gets the annoying Doris kicked out of her apartment, and when she realizes who is responsible, she shows up and returns the favor, beginning their oil and water, Odd Couple forced time together. Along the way, Felix learns that he needs life moments, not just imagination and technique, to create books people might actually want to read.

The movie begins with Felix facing another form-letter rejection from a publisher and retreating grumpily to his apartment. This sting is further reinforced when he and Doris are talking later and she says that as a model she tried out for Playboy.

Felix: Did you ever try reading a book?

Doris: A book! Oh yeah, yeah, I used to read Playboy all the time until I got mad at them.

Felix: Why?

Doris: Well, you know, I posed for these, eh, terrific, eh, playmate of the month thing, you know.

Felix: Yeah, what happened?

Doris: They sent them back.

Still, in spite of his failure to see his work published, he sticks to his guns to be the kind of writer he believes he needs to be. (Now, don't mistake that with the kind of writer he needs to be, but instead the one he believes he needs to be -- an important distinction.) 

Felix: I don't write to make money.

Doris: But, you'd take it if they gave it to ya, wouldn't ya?

Felix: Yes. But, it would be inconsistent with my aesthetic responsibilities.

Doris: I understood "with" and "my".


Felix: They would give me money to write THEIR way. I want to write MY way!

Doris: Well, I guess they figure it's THEIR money.

Felix: Yes, I think that's the way they figure.

Doris sees the reality of his problem right away, even arguing over a metaphor with which Felix begins his magnum opus, one about the morning sun spitting morning into the main character's face. She interrupts his reading and tells him the sun doesn't spit, going so far to act it out at the edge of the bed to demonstrate how ludicrous the idea is to her. 

Her life is raw and practical and doesn't allow room for metaphors. 

His life is filled with metaphors and themes and doesn't allow for raw and practical. 

In a way, she's right. The sun does not spit and writers need to ground their work in some kind of reality to make it work. If not, they turn into the creators of the dreaded flowery imagery, purple prose, or the ridiculed ten pages of how the mountains looked. But in another, she's wrong. Without the ability to see the world through an imaginative set of metaphor-colored glasses, a writer culls all the imagination from their prose style and is writing little more than a newspaper account. Even Hemmingway metaphored, so to speak. 

Based on the poem by Edward Lear, this adult fairy tale is definitely not for kids anymore, but it just may be a must-see for writers struggling to find themselves. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Horror Movies That Influence Me As a Writer

As a writer of horror stories and connoisseur of scary flicks, I get asked a lot what my favorite horror movies are. Well, it's not that simple with me (it never is; ask my wife and kids). There are so many and how can one possibly pick a favorite when there are favorites in so many subgenres? (It's like how my wife tells me she can have more than one best friend when "best" is a superlative, not a comparative.) 

Anyway, as of this moment in time (subject to change), this is my list of favorite horror movies (and those that influenced my ideas and my writing) categorized by subgenre. 

If you want to consider this your own "to watch" list, I won't stop you. It's a fantastic list (at least in my opinion) of the essential horror stories committed to film. 

FYI, you will notice some crossover between subgenres, because, well, that's just the way horror works. 

Ghost Stories

For me, ghost stories are my favorite genre of horror tales, and whether they're about a haunted person, house, or even plot of land, I'm all in. 

1. The Orphanage

2. The Devil's Backbone

3. The Haunting (1953)

4. Thir13en Ghosts

5. The Others

6. Ju-on

7. The Ring (US version) 

8. The Innocents

9. In a Dark Place

10. The Sixth Sense 

11. The Shining

12. Session 9

13. The Terror

14. Kwaidan

15. The Babadook

16. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

17. Dark Water (original) 

18. Crimson Peak

19. Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman

20. The Changeling

The Living Dead

I'm really burned out lately on zombies, and I'm really tired of the "zombies as the apocalypse" theme. I love, however, to see directors and screenwriters do something new and different with the living dead, which for me also includes mummies and ghouls returned from the grave. 

1. Dead Girl

2. Night of the Living Dead

3. Carnival of Souls

4. The Fog (original) 

5. Tombs of the Blind Dead

6. Make Out With Violence

7. 28 Days Later

8. Dawn of the Dead

9. The Re-Animator

10. Zombi 2

11. Dead Snow

12. Brain Dead

13. Dance of the Dead (2008)

14. Return of the Living Dead

15. Day of the Dead

16. Candyman

17. Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night 2

18. The Ghost Galleon

19. Night of the Seagulls

20. Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

Dr. Frankenstein/The Monster

The scientist who wants to play god is another of my favorite genres in horror, but not just that. This type of film also includes for me those who can't accept the "wrong" parts of people and want to create a sort of perfect version, even in non-science-y ways. 

1. Deadly Friend

2. Bride of Frankenstein

3. The Bride

4. Frankenstein

5. Frankenstein Created Woman

6. May

7. Lady Frankenstein

8. Splice

9. Embryo

10. Demon Seed

11. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

12. Depraved

13. The Spirit of the Beehive

14. The Curse of Frankenstein

15. Ex Machina

16. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman

17. The Island of Dr. Moreau

18. The Golem

19. Tusk

20. Island of Lost Souls


Vampires. The original bad boys long before they ever sparkled. Let's just get this straight. I don't mind modern romantic vamps, but I prefer even my romantic vamps to enjoy a good rip of the jugular every now and then. 

1. From Dusk Till Dawn

2. Forsaken

3. Dracula (Spanish Version)

4. Let the Right One In

5. Night Watch

6. Chronos

7. Shadow of the Vampire

8. Nosferatu

9. Prey

10. Salem's Lot (original TV miniseries)

11. Near Dark

12. Dracula

13. Lost Boys

14. Fright Night

15. 30 Days of Night

16. Strigoi

17. The Night Stalker

18. Embrace of the Vampire

19. Taste the Blood of Dracula

20. The Brides of Dracula

Werewolves and Shapeshifters

Lycanthropes may be the A-listers in the shapeshifter crowd, but the world of therianthrope isn't limited to just wolves. I think for writers, the shapeshifters offer one of the best shorthand for looking into what makes humanity actually human, whether, wolf or cat or snake or lizard.

1. Cat People (original)

2. Howling

3. Howling V: The Rebirth

4. An American Werewolf in London

5. The Wolfman (original)

6. The Reptile

7. The Gorgon

8. Cursed

9. Cat People (remake)

10. Dog Soldiers

11. Silver Bullet

12. Blood and Chocolate

13. Underworld

14. The Wolfman (remake) 

15. The Curse of the Werewolf

16. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman

17. Ginger Snaps

18. Ginger Snaps Back

19. Skinwalkers

20. Night of the Cobra Woman


There are as many cultures of demons in the world as they're are countries and cultures of people. Although movies tend to default to the Western devil and demons, I wanted to include a few other brands of the demonic here as well. 

1. Wishmaster

2. Sinister

3. The Beyond

4. The Exorcist

5. Lisa and the Devil

6. Rosemary's Baby

7. Drag Me To Hell

8. Jennifer's Body

9. The Evil Dead

10. Hellraiser

11. Demons

12. Night of the Demons

13. The Garden (2006)

14. Insidious

15. The Exorcism of Emily Rose

16. The Last Exorcism

17. Nightmare on Elm Street

18. Antrum

19. Prince of Darkness

20. Hereditary


Yeah, I know there's a huge different between horror movie witches, Wiccans, and nature worshippers, but for this list it if fits in any of those it works. 

1. Suspiria

2. Black Sunday

3. City of the Dead (Horror Hotel)

4. The Dunwich Horror

5. The Wicker Man

6. The VVitch

7. The Babysitter

8. Midsommar

9. House of the Devil 

10. Witching and Bitching

11. Season of the Witch

12. The Virgin Witch

13. The Love Witch

14. Inferno

15. Mother of Tears

16. Rosemary's Baby

17. Blood on Satan's Claw

18. Witchouse

19. The Lords of Salem

20. The Autopsy of John Doe


It's the genre that will never take a break, must less die. Knives, axes, machetes, pointy sticks, bows and arrows, you name it, these folks use any tools at their disposal to dispose of their victims for revenge or no motive at all. And we still love to watch them. 

1. Twitch of the Death Nerve (Bay of Blood)

2. Peeping Tom

3. The Burning

4. Halloween

5. Sleepaway Camp

6. Friday the 13th Part II

7. Dementia 13

8. Hatchet

9. Audition

10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

11. Stage Fright (2014)

12. Last House on the Left (original)

13. I Spit on Your Grave (original)

14. Theatre of Blood

15. The Visit

16. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

17. Martyrs

18. Final Girls

19. The Banana Splits Movie

20. Happy Birthday to Me

Creature Features

For my list, I'm separating supernatural and mutated creatures from the "Nature Gone Wild" critters. These monsters should be way about sharks and bears on the scary-ometer. And they are. The thing I love about this genre is that often the critters are more sympathetic than their prey. 

1. Pumpkinhead

2. Gojira

3. She Creature

4. Pan's Labyrinth

5. The Creature from the Black Lagoon

6. Silent Hill

7. Dagon

8. Feast

9. Troll Hunter

10. Humanoids from the Deep

11. Tremors

12. Nightbreed

13. The Mist

14. Digging Up the Marrow

15. The Host

16. The Bay

17. Jeepers Creepers

18. Tremors III

19. The Golem

20. Cellar Dweller

Nature's Monsters

You'll never go back into the water. You'll never venture alone in the woods. You won't piss off earthworms or birds anymore either. 

1. Jaws

2. Cujo

3. The Birds

4. Eight-Legged Freaks

5. Piranha (original)

6. Chaws

7. Deep Blue Sea

8. King Kong

9. Orca

10. Squirm

11. Willard

12. Empire of the Ants 

13. Marabunta

14. Sssssss

15. Them!

16. Grizzly

17. Food of the Gods

18. Anaconda

19. Snakes on a Plane

20. Link


At some point, sci-fi aliens shifted from adventure to horror, and I love it. Who says first contact should be with something we can categorize and tame? Certainly not these otherworldly killer critters?

1. Alien

2. Slither

3. A Quiet Place

4. John Carpenter's The Thing

5. The Blob (remake) 

6. Species

7. Virus

8. Night of the Creeps

9. Bad Taste

10. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (remake) 

11. Phantasm

12. Pitch Black

13. Day of the Triffids

14. Planet of the Vampires

15. Galaxy of Terror

16. Dead Space: Downfall

17. Under the Skin

18. Killer Klowns from Outer Space

19. Ghosts of Mars

20. The Color Out of Space


There's often a lot of crossover between psychos and slashers, but a true psycho is out of his/her/their mind. They over have little to no rationale for their killings, and or if they do, it's because of a break from sanity. They take the murderous urge above and beyond the average.

1. Nightmare in the Wax Museum

2. House of 1000 Corpses

3. Psycho

4. Misery

5. The People Under the Stairs

6. Pieces

7. The Devil's Rejects

8. The Boy

9. 2000 Maniacs

10. Eaten Alive

11. Saw

12. Don't Breathe

13. The Collector

14. Dressed to Kill (and yes, there are problematic issues that don't translate well to today)

15. Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator

16. Christine

17. 31

18. The Devil's Rejects

19. Fade to Black

20. The Pit and the Pendulum

Creepy Kids

Creepy kids have to be the absolutely creepiest movie "monsters." But it's so easy to overdo them and turn a flick into a farce. There's a very fine line that must be walked for the story to avoid the "cornfield" motif from Twilight Zone. 

1. Orphan

2. The Omen

3. Children of the Corn

4. Cooties

5. The Children (1980)

6. Hard Candy

7. Village of the Damned

8. The Bad Seed (1956)

9. You'd Better Watch Out

10. Wicked Little Things

11. Who Can Kill a Child

12. Alice, Sweet Alice

13. The Brood

14. Goodnight Mommy

15. Them (2006)

16. The Children (2006)

17. Kill, Baby, Kill

18. Case 39

19. Spider Baby 

20. Pet Semetary

Holiday Horror

I love just about any horror flick that attached to a holiday. They can be so much fun, and typically they don't take themselves too seriously. Some though can be super creepy and terrifying, in spite of the holiday trappings (or often because of them). 

1. Black Christmas (original)

2. Halloween

3. Rare Exports

4. Santa's Slay

5. Saint

6. Gremlins

7. April Fool's Day

8. My Bloody Valentine (original) 

9. Anna and the Apocalypse

10. Trick or Treat

11. Satan's Little Helper

12. A Christmas Horror Story

13. Wind Chill

14. Dead End

15. Santa Jaws

16. Letters to Satan Claus

17. Holidays

18. Krampus

19. Terror Train

20. Midsommar


Okay. A lot of anthologies kind of suck. Maybe one good segment in a bucket filled with crap. But a few, a select few, get it right. Maybe by theming with a good theme. Maybe by lining up great writers and/or directors. Or just maybe by getting lucky. 

1. Trilogy of Terror

2. Trilogy of Terror II

3. Tales from the Crypt

4. From a Whisper to a Scream

5. V/H/S

6. Creepshow

7. The House that Dripped Blood

8. Asylum

9. Southbound

10. The Field Guide to Evil

11. Trick 'r Treat

12. Creepshow 2

13. A Christmas Horror Story

14. V/H/S II

15. Dr. Terror's House of Horrors

16. Tales from the Hood

17. XX

18. The Uncanny

19. Cat's Eye

20. Ghost Stories

Creepy Comedy

There's a big difference to me between a comedy movie that adds tropes from horror and a horror flick that paces and dresses like a comedy during its run time. I tend to like them both. But the best is the kind that integrates both genres almost seamlessly. 

1. Bubba Ho-Tep

2. Shaun of the Dead

3. House (with William Katt)

4. Monster Squad

5. Black Sheep

6. Fido

7. The Cottage

8. Trailer Park of Terror

9. Doghouse

10. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

11. Love at First Bite

12. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (movie, not series)

13. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

14. Grabbers

15. Zombieland

16. Evil Dead II

17. Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy

18. Psycho Goreman

19. Young Frankenstein

20. Zombie Strippers

Giallo Horror

When Noir abandons black and white, it found the world of four-color gore and violence. This is one of my favorite genres to watch. I love the everyman aspect, caught up in a dangerous crime spree or mystery. And I love the way this type of film skirts the edges of horror tales and mystery stories. 

1. Don't Torture a Duckling

2. Deep Red

3. Blood and Black Lace

4. Hatchet for the Honeymoon

5. Bird with the Crystal Plumage

6. Tenebre

7. The Case of the Bloody Iris

8. Cat O' Nine Tails

9. Kill, Baby, Kill

10. Four Flies on Velvet

11. Night of the Glass Dolls

12. The Red Queen Kills Seven Times

13. Black Belly of the Tarantula

14. Unsane

15. A Blade in the Dark

16. Whatever Happened to Solange?

17. Don't Look Now

18. Stage Fright 

19. Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key

20. The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Body Horror

This one can be a tough genre to watch. It tends to revel in its super-gross-out ideas and images. It can be sickening down to its core concept (I'm looking at you Centipede). But when maintaining a fantastic story to accompany that imagery, they can be the most memorable stories around.

1. Videodrome

2. Blue My Mind

3. Dr. Jeckyll and Sister Hyde

4. Altered States

5. Shivers

6. The Human Centipede II

7. The Fly

8. Teeth

9. Spring

10. Thale

11. Tetsuo the Iron Man

12. Society

13. The Fly (Jeff Goldblum)

14. Bug

15. Splinter

16. Dead Ringers

17. American Mary

18. Eraserhead

19. The Skin I Live In

20. Tusks



Voodoo is a mixed bag in horror. Some films treat it as a bogeyman and make up stuff left and right to give it more horror gravitas while some evil cast it as the "white man's fears of others" -- some select few at least try to treat it fairly as a religion. But whatever the bag it's put in, it's still the home of the original zombies. 

1. White Zombie

2. The Serpent and the Rainbow

3. Scream Blacula Scream

4. Venom

5. Eve's Bayou

6. Sugar Hill

7. The Skeleton Key

8. Ritual

9. Jessabelle

10. I Walked with a Zombie

11. The Plauge of the Zombies

12. Black Mamba

13. The Curse of the Doll People

14. I Eat Your Skin

15. Ouanga

Gateway Horror for Kids

Even as a kid, I loved being scared by movies. Without these horror-themed entry-level flicks, where would kids like me have ended up? Some were designed to be horror-lite, but some just took elements of horror and wove them in to build in the creepy factor. Either way, they were my gateway drug as a kid. 

1. Coraline

2. Corpse Bride

3. Monster Squad

4. Goosebumps (the movie) 

5. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

6. The Gate

7. Willy Wonka

8. Monster House

9. The Watcher in the Woods

10. ParaNorman

11. Hocus Pocus

12. Little Monsters

13. Gremlins

14. The Lady in White

15. The Witches

Super Powers Gone Crazy

As a writer of superhero fiction, I love it when horror and superpowers mix. Call me a cynic, but I think if we have powers like that in the real world, they would more often lend themselves to moments of real horror more than boy scouts saving folks from falling buildings. 

1. Phenomena

2. Carrie

3. The Fury

4. Firestarter

5. Brightburn

6. The Crow

7. New Mutants

8. Split

9. Scanners

10. Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Warriors

11. Akira

12. Dead Zone

13. Chronicle

14. Blade

15. Tourist Trap

Creepy Dolls

On the creepy scale, does anything rate higher than creepy dolls? I mean, really? (Okay, maybe clowns, but even that would be too close to call without a photo finish.) What is it about things that are almost lifelike that scares us so? Especially things that are inanimate. It there something in them that reflects something we don't want to face back at us?

1. Dolls

2. Puppet Master

3. The Boy

4. Dead Silence

5. Love Object

6. Magic

7. Dolly Dearest

8. Marronnier

9. Worry Dolls

10. Tourist Trap 

11. Annabelle

12. Devil Doll

13. Bride of Chucky

14. Trilogy of Terror

15. The Devil's Machine

Stupid Shark Movies

I'll admit it. I love shark movies, both the genuinely awesome, scary ones that make me look twice at the ocean before entering the water at the beach AND the ones that are so stupid, so ridiculous that I simply laugh all the way through at the zany situations they create on celluloid. In fact, sometimes I prefer the really goofy ones, and the dumber the better. 

1. Sharktopus

2. Sharknado

3. Santa Jaws

4. Sand Sharks

5. Ice Sharks

6. Ghost Shark

7. Two-Headed Shark Attack

8. Empire of the Sharks

9. Sharknado III

10. Planet of the Sharks

11. Trailer Park Shark

12. Jurassic Shark

13. Ouija Shark

14. Toxic Shark

15. Malibu Shark Attack

Torture Porn

Not a fan or the subgenre, but the first Saw and the first Hostel, like the original found footage cannibal films, were groundbreaking horror flicks. Seems like the films they inspired were just insipid and uninspired derivatives. 

1. Saw

2. Hostel

3. Cannibal Holocaust

4. Martyrs

Truly Weird/Genre Defying/Outliers

This last list is for my absolute favorite of horror flicks, the kinds that don't fit neatly, or often at all, into easily definable categories. This is the place where the truly gifted or the truly insane come to play. It's the kitchen where writers and directors operate with a blender and a spray nozzle more than with a paintbrush or a list of classic techniques and storylines. And it's were the best of the best in horror can usually be found (at least in my opinion). 

1. House (Hausu)

2. Usumaki

3. Lake Mungo

4. Rubber

5. Dave Made a Maze

6. The Lift

7. In the Mouth of Madness

8. Lord of Illusions

9. From Beyond

10. Chopping Mall

11. Cabin in the Woods

12. The Woman

13. Jacob's Ladder

14. Freaks

15. Donny Darko

16. Us

17. Waxworks

18. The Deaths of Ian Stone

19. Irreversible

20. It Follows

21. Frontier(s)

22. The Broken

23. The Baby

24. Scare Me

25. Santa Sangre