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)
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
I finally got my second novel, The Not, out on Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iBooks and the Sony Reader! This took an insanely long time, since I had to wait forever to get it critiqued, but actually, I can’t bitch because this is the second novel I’ve released this year! But when you take into account that I wrote it in 2010–aside from revisions and some corrected details–I’ve been sitting on this for quite a while.
An interesting aside is that, when I started this book, I had nothing but a simple idea of an atheist who comes to believe in spirituality, the hard way. This says a lot for being a pantser because the greatest parts came when I put my butt into the chair and worked my magic on it. I don’t want to praise hastily, though. The verdict isn’t in yet; I have no idea what the fans will think of it yet.
Get it here by copying and pasting this link into your browser: http://www.amazon.com/Not-R-Braun-ebook/dp/B019J7F4IW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1451000386&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Not+by+A.+R.+Braun
Or go to the lower right side of this blog and click on the Amazon sales link in the cover.
Certain self-publishers–who I’m not putting down, as I am one, and am a fan of some self-pubbed writers–have been saying no one’s going to pay more than $9.99 for a book. I suppose they’re doing this to accentuate how much of a deal they’re offering for their novels. I mean, that’s crazy, right? Who’s going to pay that much for a book?
Believe it or not–even if people act like it because they hate their jobs and want to become writers–talent is not an ever-flowing stream. I should probably say it’s just my opinion, but it’s obvious to me. And, yes, it is my opinion, and nothing but. Yet I am starved for a good book! If I have to pay $13 to $15 for the new Stephen King novel or a classic like The House Next Door, I’m paying it, instead of yawning through the supposed “sea of talent.”
I apologize if this post offends anyone, and I’m probably picky, but aren’t we supposed to be connoisseurs of finer talent? We need people to work regular jobs! Who says writing will be better? It’s too much work, first of all, and it’s practically impossible to make any money at it, second. When your parents tell you the entertainment field is too competitive and to ignore the idiots in school and go to college and get a job that pays well, they do it because they love you. I attended a seminar that said under 1% of writers sell 100,000 copies of every book they write. When compared to 2% of actors and actresses finding steady work, it’s ridiculous!
So that’s off my chest.
I’m no stranger to how old horror can kick major ass, making a monkey of most modern novels. I found this out when I discovered Jere Cunningham’s other three horror novels besides The Abyss (you may not recognize that one, either; it got a Stephen King rec’ decades ago, though), Hunter’s Blood, The Legacy, and The Visitor. But lately, I’ve found a treasure trove. There’re tons of old horror novels that jam like you wouldn’t believe it. Tons! And I’m not just talking about books by Shirley Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley–everyone knows about them. And scratch Rosemary’s Baby from this conversation. Again, we’re all aware of that one.
Our buried treasure starts in the ’50s with The Bad Seed. Now, granted, this one breaks a writer rule, that no eight year old would act like that. But it’s so well-written, it doesn’t matter. And there’s a film version . . . with a different, and brilliant ending . . . not that the book’s climax isn’t killer. Plus, give William March a break. I’ve met some tremendously bratty kids. Insane, even.
Then there’s Burnt Offerings. You’ll have to search high, low, far, and wide to find one that messes with your head like this one. It also has a film version, with Karen Black. (In my mind, I’m horror-geeking out on that fact.) You won’t want to miss Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, either, a great gothic horror novel. Tragically, Robert Marasco and Henry Farrell never wrote another horror novel, although …Baby Jane has some great short stories at the end of the eBook. And there’s a film version of this one, too, with (gasp) Bette Davis and Joan Crawford!
The best news is that I’m not even scratching the surface. These are just the ones I know about! I mentioned something about tons: I haven’t read The Other; The Sentinel; All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By; The Totem; The Ceremonies; and Sweetheart, Sweetheart yet (all the the’s and funny titles). They’re seemingly endless. So get out there and dig so you don’t have to yawn through another vampire or zombie novel.
(If your heart is dead-set [see what I did there?] on vampires, Carmilla and Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood came out before Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the penny dreadfuls were actually well-written.)
This is actually a good question. The answer is not so black-and-white. While a B.A. and M.A. in English and Creative Writing/Fiction can only help, no, you don’t need a degree to do this. One only needs to read a lot, for that’s how one gets inspired. Both Ray Bradbury and Frank Zappa basically said, this not being verbatim, that you go to college to get laid; you go to the library to get a writing education.
I learned how to type in college: Basic Keyboarding class. And I learned how to use a computer in college: Computer Usage class. I also took a couple of Creating Writing classes. But my majors were Business Management, then Travel and Tourism, then Accounting. No, I didn’t get a degree. A horror accountant: now that’s scary! When I was in school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet, but I was writing short stories on WordPerfect (yes, dinosaur age here) and submitting to horror ‘zines. [Believe it or not, they still sell WP–no, really, they still do: http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/911161/Corel-WordPerfect-Office-X7-Home-Student/;jsessionid=00008PKe8YhMhwbdpWcQ3t6Fk8U:17h4h7cou?cm_mmc=PLA-_-Bing-_-Software-_-911161
I’m glad I went to college to learn to type and use a computer, but if I’d tried, I could’ve learned it somewhere else. My mom attempted to teach me to use the qwerty keyboard, and I was in a program that taught how to use a computer. If I have any regrets, it’s that I didn’t listen to my parents and graduate high school–no G.E.D.; ignore the idiots that will be old, bald losers in their twenties–then go to college and get a good job. Let’s face it, you won’t get rich writing horror.
It’s your choice. Either way, if you want to try this career, it’s your funeral (I mean fun–yeah, fun!).
I’m going to make some enemies here. When The Descent: Part 2 first came out, everyone was sure it would suck. “The spelunkers all died under that cave-in,” they said, sure they were right. They even had me believing it would suck. But did they see it? I did, and not only was it plausible, but also it was brutal, and terrific. I know, I make you sick. Get sicker, and rent the film.
Think about it. The bat things, called “crawlers,” would starve if they just waited for spelunkers to get trapped under cave-ins. It doesn’t happen that often. Therefore, of course someone above would be feeding them animals in a hole in the ground that leads to their dwelling, that someone probably a Satanist who thinks he’s nourishing demons. And, sure, there could be a mine shaft, and the sheriff and the female deputy could force Sarah back underground, thinking she’s responsible for the deaths of her friends . . . and to look for bodies.
In one scene, the deputy is trapped in a cell of falling rocks, and one of the crawlers tries digging underneath the pile so it can eat her, but a huge rock falls and crushes its head. Smush! In another scene, Sarah and the deputy fall into a stinky pool . . . with crusty piles. Then a crawler sticks his ass over the pool and takes a crap. They’re in their toilet! Both scenes, swear to God, were worth the “price” of admission. Having a free month of Amazon Prime when I bought my first Kindle Fire helped, I admit.
SPOILER ALERT NO. 2!
The same thing’s true of fiction books. I read Twilight to make sure it sucked. Stephenie Meyer used way too many weak, to-be verbs like “was,” the first thing a writer learns not to do, and went on and on about a truck Bella’s dad was going to buy for her instead of just getting to the scene where Edward, with supernatural strength, saves her life in a traffic accident.
Now I’m hearing there will be The Descent: Part 3. I’ll have to see it.
You can go back to your sanity now.