Skip to content

Category: Outside Thoughts

“THISsss… ain’t no funeral home.”

Clarence Williams III was memorable in a lot of film and television roles, and almost certainly had his biggest impact as part of the original Mod Squad, which was before my time, but was a significant and even game-changing show in its day, and had enough cultural cache to earn a (not very good) film adaptation a quarter-century after its last episode aired. In short, he’s known for much more than just the time he played the Devil in the once-upon-a-time-underrated Tales From the Hood (which has gained more attention and praise over time, resulting in the recent Tales 3, which I liked and reviewed here). But I’m a horror author who’s loved frightening stories since I was a kid. So, upon hearing of Mr. Williams’ passing at 81-years-old, I first thought not just of his depiction of a Hollywood Devil, but one of the best depictions of Hollywood Devil of all time. READ MORE

My Interview with Sapphire Sandalo

More than enough time has passed for me to share this here–an interview I was very fortunate to have with Sapphire Sandalo, creator of the popular “Something Scary” YouTube series / podcast, who has since progressed to the podcast “Stories with Sapphire.” Her podcast is fantastic, her generosity and thoughtfulness are outstanding, and she’d have to kick my mom down the stairs for me to ever stop appreciating her for giving me an opportunity to share some thoughts I have on race and horror. Here’s a link to her site where you can listen to the interview. READ MORE

Some Advice on Writing Advice: Elmore Leonard’s Rules

Elmore Leonard was one of the greats. I own and love Out of SightKillshot, Get Shorty, Mr. MajestykValdez is Coming and a few more. He’s one of the writers I wish I could write like, but my propensity for wordiness often precludes it. He is still an inspiration and a titan.

He has a list of “10 Rules for Good Writing” that you can find pretty easily online. Like other writing advice lists, it is considered fairly unassailable by some. Understandably, at least on the surface. Advice from a legend is priceless. Strangely, though, his rules do not align with the content his ten favorite books. I haven’t read every single one of the books on that second list, but the ones I have read tell me that several of his favorite books–per his official website–contain things that flout the “rules.” READ MORE

Confessions of a Fearphile: Ringu / The Ring

I’d heard of Ringu shortly after it came out in Japan, well before it was made properly available in the United States, before the American remake had been publicly announced, and long before any kind of reliable internet film streaming option. I remember futilely hunting for it in stores ranging from Blockbuster to small indie video stores whose names I can no longer remember. For about a year or so I wasted time doing this before finally gathering the nerve to make an online purchase on this site I’d only used once before called ebay. This would be different from when I purchased a used copy of the novel Simon’s Soul through the site, however. I was going to be buying a bootleg copy of a film, presumably with unofficial English subtitling. Scandalous! READ MORE

The Problems with Paying Writers with “Exposure”

Generally speaking, exposure alone can be worth it. The television show Shark Tank provides easy evidence of that. For any not inclined to immediately click out of this post, the linked inc.com article breaks down just how beneficial an appearance on the show can be to a business that has a product to sell directly to consumers, regardless of whether the business hooks a “shark” as an investor. Bombas socks, for instance, got passed on by every investor on the show, but nonetheless saw their sales skyrocket. I even looked into buying a pair, but just can’t bring myself to spend quite that much on socks; even so, I’d have never even known of Bombas if not for the Shark Tank appearance, and the stats evince that the same applies to many other people. 1 More importantly to many other buyers. And that’s just one example of many from the inc.com article. In many of those cases, the owners of the business come out ahead by not getting an offer, since they get an increase in revenue without having to relinquish any of their business interest (at least not since Mark Cuban killed ABC’s previous policy of demanding a percentage of any company’s equity or royalties in return for just appearing on the show). READ MORE

Story Turn-offs: Obvious Meaningful Names

In my teenage years, when I first started taking writing at least semi-seriously, but still thought I could somehow be a successful screenwriter while still living in San Antonio, I wrote a very, very, very bad script called Reaper. This was in the post-Scream slasher renaissance, so naturally I’d written a whodunit slasher story, and just as naturally I tried to get way too “cute” and “clever” with it. Probably the worst of many bad things featured in that script was the last name of the man who’d eventually be revealed as the killer: Ankou. READ MORE

Confessions of a Fearphile: The Alien

I never knew the creature as the “xenomorph”, despite having seen Aliens–the movie where the term xenomorph was first used–before seeing Alien. My friends and I were far more informed by the titles of the film franchise than by the scientific designation tossed out by everyone’s least favorite space marine, Lieutenant Gorman. We knew that the scariest creature to ever crawl across a movie screen needed no fancy descriptor. It simply was the Alien. The Alien.

To date I’ve had more nightmares about the Alien than anything else except for tornadoes, with Bloody Mary running a distant third. I’ve had nightmares about the first two well into my adulthood, and in fact had my most recent dream of an Alien swarm just a few months ago. I don’t remember much of the dream, just that the Alien infestation was so massive and devastating that the entire west coast was being evacuated, and it was roughly 100x’s more intense and frightening than any zombie apocalypse could be. READ MORE

One of the Keys to Keeping “Unlikable” Characters Tolerable

The recent box-office disappointment Rough Night drew obvious comparisons to the movie Very Bad Things given the shared premise of “accidental killing of stripper/sex worker leads to cover-up and further criminal behavior.” In speaking of Very Bad Things, several of the film’s detractors have pointed to just how vile and insufferable the characters were. Sure, it’s a dark comedy/thriller, so at least some of its characters are expected to be criminals. And it’s far, far, far from being the first or only movie whose primary characters are unsympathetic, selfish and even murderous assholes. And while there are certain people who are just never going to be on board with watching or reading a story featuring “unlikable” unsympathetic characters, there are many others (like me) who find such stories interesting, provided that the story is, well, interesting, and provided that the unlikable characters aren’t utterly insufferable. READ MORE

“The Horrors of Travel”

Some of the scariest works I’ve read or seen didn’t come from a work of horror fiction, but from books about and accounts of historical disasters. The description of the sea suddenly overtaking an already flooded Galveston Island during the hurricane of 1900, as written in Isaac’s Storm, is as chilling as it is succinct. There are parts of Stewart O’Nan’s The Circus Fire that are at least as terrifying as anything in the most affecting horror novels I’ve ever read. READ MORE