In commemoration of the Rio Olympics, I thought I’d share a writing exercise I wrote for Warriner’s Grammar and Composition, Third Course. The paragraph is about Nadia Comaneci, who at the 1976 Montreal Olympics was perfect more than once. It doesn’t have anything to do with horror, unless you muse over how human beings can’t be perfect; then I guess it could be a sci-horror paragraph about Nadia being an alien. But she wasn’t an alien, so that doesn’t work. Anyway, if you’re a fan of the Olympics-which is a hell of a lot better than watching my baseball team, the Chicago White Sox, lose and lose and lose again–you should enjoy this. It may mean nothing to most people, but when I watched her steal the show in ’76, I was so in love with her when I was thirteen. On an interesting side note, the scoreboard manufacturers were told an athlete getting a perfect score was impossible, so they scored her 1.00 instead of 10.00, at the Olympics and the competitions before the Olympics. Here we go:
The Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci is the best female Olympic athlete ever. She garnered a perfect score at the tender age of fourteen and earned eight perfect scores in all. She had to do that, for the Russian judges were prejudiced against Romanians back then. Therefore, it was the only way Nadia could win. She won three gold medals in Montreal in 1976, then two more in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Over the Olympics, world championships, European championships, and summer university games, Nadia won twenty-one gold medals, seven silvers, and two bronzes. The Olympic gold medals were for the balance beam–twice–uneven bars, floor exercise, and all-around. Only Mary Lou Retton was perfect again, for that’s supposed to be impossible for humans. No one did it as much as Nadia, however–not inhuman, but insanely talented.
Admit it, great books are hard to find in any genre, but especially horror–thanks to all the “authors” way-past-overdoing vampires and zombies–and if you do find them, you’ll probably have to pay too much, as is the case with any recent eBook by Stephen King or Joe Hill. Over ten dollars for a digital book is just greedy and unfair. Therefore, let me make it easier for you to find great, affordable horror.
Nobody knows better than me how hard it is to not only find a great horror novel, but also to come across the rare jewel of an excellent horror film that, holy crap and miracle, actually scares you (Holidays, V/H/S). In past posts, I’ve made it easier to find great horror movies. Now I’m going to fill you in on the terrific free horror novels. It’s common knowledge that most of the books by the olden-day horror authors are free (unless you want a good cover), i.e. Lovecraft, Shelley, Poe, Blackwood, James (M.R.), James (Henry), Stoker, and Le Fanu, so I won’t list those. Just the modern ones.
The Familiar–Benjamin A. Sawyer (This one draws you in with great characters.)
The Taste of Fear–Jeremy Bates (See above.)
Green Lake–S.K. Epperson (Quite creepy in that stalker kind of way.)
Possess–J.A. Howell (This one and the 1st sequel–which isn’t free–will creep you out. After that, the series [ugh] turns into romance [more ugh].)
Pure Evil–Jesse Bastide (Horribly disturbing in a get-under-your-skin kind of way.)
Rushed–Brian Harmon (Just a great, original horror tale; the world needs more of these!)
I wanted to share an assignment for Warriner’s Grammar and Composition, Third Course that I’m fond of. It’s a paragraph about the life of Emily Dickinson, my hero, because she got rid of people. Let’s face it, with the exception of your parents, no one really has your best interests at heart. People are more trouble than they’re worth, and I’m a notorious loner. You can go ahead and call me the extreme-metal version of Morrissey.
I don’t care if nobody reads this blog, either.
Here’s the assignment, after I revised and edited it as much as I could:
“Alone Is Better: the Life of Emily Dickinson”
How could the best poet of all-time have been a recluse? Because she experienced life on a deeper level than those with people around. Some of her loner lifestyle wasn’t her doing. She had many fast-disappearing friends found through family. Eventually, she came to the conclusion that she bore an intensely-lived private life no one else could share or comprehend. Surprisingly, Emily never had the desire to publish her poetry. It was found after her death and published, never to be rivaled by “people who need people who are the luckiest people in the world.”
My newest novel, The Not, is now available on Smashwords.com for $1.50 instead of the usual $2.99. It’s part of a promotion they’re doing called the Summer/Winter Sale, which ends July 31. I’m not sure why it’s also called a “Winter” sale, unless they’re doing the ever-popular “Christmas in July” thing. Anyway, it’s a great time to get a deal on the book I released in December, if you haven’t already read it.
Here’s the code to get it for $1.50: SP97D Here’s the link to my profile on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AlanRBraun (Copy and paste it into your browser.)
It’s a sensational introduction to The Not. And hey, it’s an eBook, so why should you pay too much for it? For the impatient (thanks for your kind and amazing interest in my fiction!), I’m working on getting my next novel published, so I have no idea when it’ll be out. But if I have to self-publish it because of no agent or publisher interest, then it should be available around Halloween. I wish it could be faster. Yet I edit ten times–sometimes more–and of course try to get it published so it will sell well and have a movie version. Anyway, enjoy the sweet deal! I hope you have as good of a time reading my novel as I had writing it!
I’ve decided to take grammar Nazism to an extreme this week by teaching how to subjugate verbs in all six tenses. I know how much panic this statement can cause, from hair-pulling to all-out screaming. But I’m here to show you that, once you take it on, hardcore grammar isn’t as bad as it seems. Most dreads aren’t when faced.
Being a horror author, I’m going to use “hack,” an extreme verb, as in “hack and slash.” Let’s go!
Present tense: “I hack people up.” This shows the act happening regularly or permanently.
Past tense: “I hacked people up.” Shows I already did it.
Future tense: “I will hack people up.” Something that hasn’t happened. Yet.
Perfect tense: “I have hacked people up.” Did it not too long ago or at a certain time in the past.
Past perfect tense: “I had hacked people up.” Came right before another act.
Future perfect tense: “By tomorrow, I will have hacked up my girlfriend and her lover.” Acts that will come before other future acts.
That’s pretty much it, something you can do with any verb, especially if you’re a writer and need to know your grammar and syntax, or as an exercise in self-torture. Either way, it’s bound to be satisfying! Let’s see if you can guess how to subjugate “slash” in all six tenses. Come on, you can do it! I’ll even give you the first one.
Present tense: “I slash people.”
Past tense: ___________ Remember, it shows you already did it.
Future tense: _________ Remember, it’s something that hasn’t happened yet.
Perfect tense: _________ Remember, you did it not too long ago or at a certain time in the past.
Past perfect tense: __________ Remember, it came right before another act.
Future perfect tense: __________ Remember, acts that will come before other future acts.
Did you ace it? Good for you! Not sure? Here are the answers. I practically gave them to you:
- I slash people.
- I slashed people.
- I will slash people.
- I have slashed people.
- I had slashed people.
- By tomorrow, I will have slashed my girlfriend and her lover.
Oh, you’re right. This is cruel. I’m a sadist as well as a grammar Nazi, I admit it.
All right, so it’s the least fun part of being a writer, but we all must know it, so let’s clear up some grammar misconceptions and errors I’ve seen even in published novels, as well as self-pubbed ones:
1. There is no such thing as a four-dot ellipses:
The way ellipses points are written varies upon style. You can use three dots with spaces around all the points . . . the way I write it, or together with spaces in front and in back of the points … which some prefer. But one thing that’s universal: there are never four ellipses points: that’s an ellipses with a period. Ellipses points are for pauses in conversation (“Hey, what are you . . . ?”) or for added emphasis at the end of a sentence (If I’m going to die someday, why not get it over with. . . . ). You’ll see both ellipses points alone and ellipses with a period in novels by the greats, and I’d learn when to use which if I were you.
2. Don’t start your sentence with “However” just to do it:
The only time it’s acceptable grammar-and-syntax-wise to use the word “However” at the beginning of a sentence is when you use it in the sense of “However way you want to do this.” It may not seem important to you, but Joe Hill knows it. I’ve read most of his novels, and he uses it correctly. He also writes for one of the big-five publishers.
3. Use a hyphen for compound adjectives, but not for all of them.
I’ve seen this a lot in critique groups, the reluctance to use a hyphen for compound adjectives. But not all C.A.s use the hyphen, so consult a dictionary, or watch how famous authors do it. It’s an important-but-thankless job to use grammar and syntax correctly.
4. Don’t use bold or all-caps in a novel you’re pitching to agents or publishers:
I know, you’ve seen it done in published novels; so have I. But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt your chances at publication and getting paid well for your art. We’ve all seen those uber-gifted authors who can break the writer rules–my favorite is Gary A. Braunbeck’s run-on sentences that seem to go on forever–but with a novice trying to get discovered, it’ll look sloppy. Basically, if you’re writing in all-caps, you’re yelling, and you can even get in trouble for it in some critique-group forums. It can be done in a better way. By that I don’t mean use of ass out of exclamation points; agents and publishers hate that, and I’m not seeing it done in my favorite writers’ books. I mean like so: “Get off my foot,” she yelled. And no bolding is a given; if you let loose with bolding, what’s next? Headers? Bullet points? A fluffy font? Control yourself!
That’s enough for now. We’ll delve into more Grammar Nazi lessons later.
I’m beyond grateful for John of the Dead’s blog about the best horror films on Netflix: http://johnofthedead.com/2015/02/11/the-best-horror-films-on-netflix-instant-streaming/ I’ve found a good number of movies he didn’t mention, however, and I’m going to list them now. You’re welcome.
- Last Shift
A new female police officer has to deal with Manson-Family-Type ghosts, and you know right there that it’s going to be nasty. Talk about on-the-job training, or a crash course! Creepy and eerie are understatements for this one.
I hate to include a zombie movie here, but this one comes at the old Z tale with a fresh take, and I feel it’s worthy. You get to watch the progress, after the undead virus is spread as an STD. Bet some chicks became nuns after seeing this one!
Haley Bennett’s come a long way since playing Cora Coleman in Music and Lyrics, but almost ten years later, she still looks young enough to play a college student. This time a murderous cult’s after her with this catch phrase: “Kill Kristy, kill God.”
Get ready for nightmares. Crooks find a corpse and a stack of VHS tapes, and they’ll soon wish they hadn’t. Spookier movie than most.
5. Inner Demons
A straight-A student who knows the Bible better than anyone in the area–except maybe the pastors–has come down with a drug problem. But she’s getting high to keep back her demon, and when intervention time comes, watch out!
6. Alien Abduction
All right, let’s tell true: it’s our worst fear, the A-word. And it comes true in this flick that’s guaranteed to make you jump.
A brother and sister are back to the old house after the bro’s released from the mental home, for revenge against a supernatural mirror, and not one to be messed with. After all, it killed their parents.
Insects from hell are on the rise in this one. Two young caterers attempt to thwart the monsters, but can they succeed?
If you love Katherine Isbell, as I do, you’ll fall for this one. A woman awakes with amnesia, and the journey to memory takes her on a revenge-filled hell-on-earth.
10. Apartment 143
The paranormal-investigator-finds-poltergeists story unfolds in an apartment this time, and with horrific results. Get ready to flinch.
I had to include a couple of movies you can get from Netflix DVDs, because they’re mandatory:
- The Other
Simply one of the best horror stories ever, Thomas Tryon’s novel comes to life in this movie, sure to be a mind-fuck.
2. It Follows
This actually isn’t a zombie movie–it’s way better. Again with the STD plot, in this one you can give the virus away…if you have sex with somebody else and have no conscience.
If you haven’t seen these, have fun. And don’t watch them alone!
All right, so I wanted to do a top horror films ever list that’s honest, instead of being like Bravo’s list or the UK Scariest Moments list, to share my true favorite horror films, in my own opinion–the top three not being The Shining, Jaws, and The Exorcist–and in order. You may not agree, and that’s fine. Feel free to leave your list in the comments section if you want. So here goes:
1. The Innkeepers
2. The Shining (original version and second version, albeit the latter truer to the book, therefore not a remake)
3. Megan Is Missing
4. The Ring
5. The Exorcist
7. The Evil Dead
8. The Spell
9. The Lost
10. The Night Flier
12. Carrie (original version)
13. Ginger Snaps
14. The Last Horror Movie
15. Night of the Living Dead
17. The Last House on the Left (original version)
18. The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum version)
19. The Serpent and the Rainbow
21. An American Werewolf in London
22. The Exorcist III
23. The Howling
24. One Dark Night
25. Pet Sematary
26. Let the Right One In
27. Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola’s version)
28. The Wicker Man (original version)
29. Lake Mungo
30. Salem’s Lot
32. The Devil’s Advocate
34. Faces of Death 4
35. Tales From the Hood
36. The Omen (original version)
37. From Dusk Till Dawn
39. The Craft
40. I Spit on Your Grave (original version)
41. Alice Sweet Alice
42. Mother’s Day (original version)
43. The Descent
44. Killer Party
45. The Thing (John Carpenter’s version)
46. The Other
47. Halloween (original version)
48. Jeepers Creepers
49. Wrong Turn
50. The Amityville Horror (original version)
51. A Nightmare on Elm Street (original version)
53. Grave Encounters
54. House of 1000 Corpses
55. The Dead Zone
56. The Mist
57. The Servants of Twilight
58. American Mary
59. Dark House
60. The Rapture
62. Rosemary’s Baby (original version)
63. They Live
66. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
69. The Birds
71. Children of the Corn
72. The Sentinel (1977)
74. The Demonic Toys
75. Piranha (original version)
77. The Conjuring
78. When a Stranger Calls (original version)
79. Natural Born Killers
81. The Haunting of Julia
82. House on Haunted Hill (original version)
83. The Haunting (original version)
86. Drag Me to Hell
87. The Possession
89. Wait Until Dark
90. Trilogy of Terror
91. It’s Alive
92. The Unborn (original version)
95. The Brood
96. The Hills Have Eyes (original version)
97. Mr. Frost
98. The Silence of the Lambs
99. Ed Gein (2000)
100. The Sixth Sense
101. The Entity