Flash Fiction: Night in the Canyon (part 2 of 4)

grand-canyon-sunset_35388_990x742

I picked up the beginning of this piece, titled “The Sheriff, the Priest, and the Killer,” over at ROKTyping as part 1 for Chuck Wendig’s 4-part flash fiction challenge.  I had a hard time choosing, but this’ll be my contribution to part 2 of Chuck Wendig’s 4-part challenge.

I was a little confused about our dramatis personae, but I think I’ve got it down as follows: there’s Sheriff Cairns, Billy and Sam O’Connel, and two men named Johnny and Kurt.  There’s also a character named Rusty (who was dead, last we knew); the inhuman murderer Matt Quinn; an as yet unnamed priest; and an as yet unnamed boy with a toothy, too-wide smile.  There may have been some counting issues, since the priest only references 5 people being present, but I think we can ignore that.  Enjoy!

***

The sun rolled down behind the edge of the cliffs, limning the top of the canyon in light for a moment before it disappeared completely.  The deep gulch was suddenly too dark, but everyone could still see the too-wide smile of the freak that rode alongside the padre. Continue reading

Advertisements

Flash Fiction: Trouble Close Behind

zoe_gun

Right, so, I’ve finally got Chuck Wendig’s “X meets Y” prompt finished.  I already told you the two prompts I discarded out of stubbornness (Fast and the Furious meets The Godfather, and The Matrix meets True Grit), but here’s the one I got first: Transformers meets Toy Story.  This, of course, is how I ended up with something that feels a bit like a sci-fi horror western with magical girl-esque figures, all in barely less than 2000 words.  It makes perfect sense*.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you do, I have more for you.

***

Lina stood at the edge of the bar’s porch, staring down the busy street as a familiar figure slowly rode closer.  Her hand rested lightly near her gun while her other picked at her chapped lips.  Mare was in town.  Trouble couldn’t be far behind. Continue reading

Further Troubleshooting: Last Days of Loneliness

Turkey Day approaches.  I’ll be spending a bunch of time with family around then, and for the week after.  This means that I’m unlikely to post much in the next two weeks, though I’ll see if I can scare up a few more interesting posts for you.  This Wednesday will be largely occupied with travel.

Today’s post is going to be a lot like last Wednesday’s, so spoilers abound.  This time I’ll be working through how exactly Amanda ends up deciding to break the town’s covenant with its deity-figure.  Oglaf illustrates the concept quite admirably here (surprisingly SFW, though the rest of the site isn’t).  Enjoy!

Continue reading

Last Days of Loneliness: Writing the Middle is Terrible

My apologies for the much delayed post, I’ve had a moderately busy day: my visit to the optometrist took a bit longer than I’d anticipated, and I’ve started writing this far later than I’d originally planned.  Today’s topic is all about how frustrating I find writing the middle of Last Days of Loneliness.

If you followed that link (or remember the other earlier posts), you should have a pretty good idea of the shape of the story that I’m writing.  Like those posts, this one is going to be full of spoilers… so if you really want to shield yourself you should probably just stop reading.  If you want to read my thoughts as I try to solve the trouble that I’ve run into while trying to make the middle of the book live up to the promise of the premise, you know what to do.

Continue reading

The God Engines, by John Scalzi

6470498

My apologies for the brevity of this post, I’m writing with an odd tremor in my left hand and that’s throwing me off.  Anyway…

If you’ve read my previous reviews of Scalzi‘s work, you’re already familiar with how much I love it.  There’s something about his style that I find captivating, perhaps unreasonably so.

The God Engines is no exception to my love for Scalzi’s writing.  It features space travel powered by faith and subjugated gods, and eschews many of the “upbeat” qualities (for lack of a better word) that I’ve come to recognize in Scalzi’s other pieces.  It’s short, sweet, and ultimately horrifying, and I would happily recommend it to anyone who would like to read about holy war in space.  Having just written that, yes, the setting does feel a little like Warhammer 40k, but not quite in the same grandiose grim-dark fashion for which 40k is pilloried.  I don’t want to say any more that might accidentally spoil sections of the story for the especially perceptive, I’ve already had to rewrite this bit several times to cull possible references to spoiler material.

Also, well done Scalzi for writing an entirely genderless character.  I’m not sure I understand how they fit into the larger scheme of things that you devised for this setting, but they felt wonderfully human in a way that some might have ignored.  And while I loved the appropriate ending of the story, I was sad that it meant that I wouldn’t get to learn more about the world that encompassed all these wonderful and terrible things.  I suppose that means you hit the perfect length for the piece.

I really liked the fact that no character felt like they were entirely “good.”  Some were certainly more sympathetic than others, but mostly people seemed very human: they wanted, they feared, and they cared (or didn’t) in ways that pulled me into the piece.  It never felt like we went very deep with any of them, perhaps due to space restrictions, but I got enough of a sense of them to feel connected before the end of the book.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, definitely.  It’s short, it’s an easy read (I went through it in one sitting), and it’s a lovely look at a frightening concept.  It’s a quick piece of horror writing done well.

p.s. Oh, and here’s Scalzi’s favorite negative review of The God Engines.  It’s pretty good.

Last Days of Loneliness, a YA horror story pt. 3

This is yet another post about the YA horror novel I’ve been working on, which I roughly outlined here.  Last time I gave you the very beginning of the story (which I’ve already altered again); this time I’m going to give you the very end of the story.  This ending will undergo further changes: I already know that I need to decide whether it makes sense to have italicized thoughts-of-the-moment within the narrative, and if I like them, decide how to alter other story sections to incorporate them holistically rather than as a last minute deal.

Here’s the action climax:

Continue reading

Last Days of Loneliness, a YA horror story pt. 2

Like I promised, I’ve got some actual text for you today.  I’m a bit late because I’ve just finished pounding through Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance, which I rather liked, but hopefully this material will make up for it.

Keep in mind that this is all still rough.  I’m not even sure that the narrator’s voice is appropriate, so whatever ends up being final may look wildly different.  With that said… I do hope you enjoy it.  Also, please do comment if you think something works particularly well, or really needs to be changed.  The beginning of the story lies after the break…

Continue reading

Last Days of Loneliness, a YA horror story

A number of years ago, one of my writer friends mentioned a story concept that she wanted to share with me.  She wondered what would come of a Lovecraft-inspired horror story in which the protagonist was a high school girl who had just recently moved to a new town.  I immediately latched onto the idea.  We spent a few hours bouncing ideas back and forth, and at the end of our brainstorm session I asked whether she would like to collaborate with me on the project.  She said yes.

I started writing material for the story, occasionally ignoring school work that I really should have been doing at the time.  I soon had a great deal of (questionably valuable) material to share with her, but she’d fallen into a work-hole and been unable to claw her way out.  She ceded the project to me, though we continued to share our thoughts on it.

Fast forward a few years: after finishing my thesis, graduating, and getting back into the swing of writing for a while, I dust off my old drafts of this nascent YA horror novel and get some other people to take a look.  The drafts are, to put it figuratively, mostly made of poo.  I’m now aware of the fact that I have little idea of how to write a teenaged female narrator, which makes looking at my past struggles all the more painful.  But there are some pieces that seem like they still hold some value.  The concept and the basic story beats still seem basically solid, and the story clearly has an excellent ramp up to the climax.  Now the time has come to strip the piece down to its bare bones and tinker with it for a while.  Oh, and write a variety of new attempts at a teenaged female narrator, while reading as many pieces with teenaged female narrators as I can (preferably from the right genres).

In case you’re wondering where this is going, yes, I’ve got some material to share with you today.

Continue reading

Tremors: Horrific Comedy Done Right

Kevin Bacon as a rural Nevadan handyman, facing off against subterranean worm-snake monsters alongside a surprisingly entertaining ensemble cast?  Yes please.  Tremors is nutty, ridiculous, and entirely more fun than you’d first think.

Despite being billed as a comedy-horror, in my mind the film is almost entirely comedy.  I’m sure some people will be scared by watching Tremors, but I can’t say that I know any of them.  There are a few good startling moments, and some particularly dreadful scenes in which people die horribly, but I never really felt the same tension or clenching fear that I would expect from a horror film.  It’s laughable to think of this movie as being the same category as something like Aliens; despite having ostensibly similar story arcs and genre expectations, they are not at all like each other.

Case in point: the very first shot sets the tone for the rest of the movie, with Kevin Bacon pissing off a cliff down into the valley below.  Tremors repeatedly leavens its tension with humor, and it nearly always does it with moments that ring true to the characters involved.  Better put, it didn’t feel like any lines were being delivered as jokes.  If something funny happens, it feels like it happens because the characters would do that thing rather than because someone decided that that was the right point for a punchline.  I had no idea that people living in a remote town in Nevada could be so unintentionally entertaining.

I should clarify.  Living in a remote town in rural Nevada is mind-numbingly boring, but the characters are a delight.  Burt and Heather Gummer, the town’s two survivalists, are some of my favorites.  They are so enthusiastically over-prepared and so happy to finally have a chance to be proven right that it very nearly hurts.  And the town’s children are similarly entertaining; it’s their clear boredom that really sells me on the town’s isolation, even though I wouldn’t give them high marks for their acting and even though they don’t play a large part in the film.  It’s fascinating to see what develops when terrible things start to happen in a town where everybody knows everybody, and nobody has all that much to do.

Give it a try.  For more of my thoughts, read on after the break.

Continue reading

Game Analysis: Devil’s Tuning Fork

Zeeblee

Devil’s Tuning Fork is an interesting exploration in design which seeks to weigh in on the classic question, “What is it like to be a bat?” (don’t worry, this will remain a game review and not an exercise in philosophical discourse) The game places you in control of a child who has fallen into a mysterious coma who must now explore a strange dreamscape in order to awaken. In order to escape what is eventually identified as a sort of dungeon you must rescue other children and traverse multiple platforming exercises/puzzles. And you must do this while experiencing what it is like to be a bat (sorry, I swear I’ll stop referencing Nagel’s paper.)  The overall tone of the game tickles my love of horror and the surreal.  But as it is with most things which I love, it isn’t perfect.

Continue reading