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Monday, November 21, 2016

Far Out Fantastic Events: NaNoWriMo and New Gaiman TV Series

The most far out fantastic events for me since last week have been my participation in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and news of author Neil Gaiman producing a new sci fi TV series.

World-building and Character Development for NaNoWriMo

I had said at the beginning of the year that I would write a full first draft of a novel (or novella) and there’s no better motivator for it than now, NaNoWriMo. In the last two posts I talked about writing through writer’s block for one of my short stories and searching for new monsters for another. [link to the posts that talks about these] But I’ve decided to take a break from both these stories so I can write my novella during this month of November. The problem is I only started writing it last week and we’re already in the middle of the month. In fact, I didn’t even actually start writing it; I just planned it. But even so, there probably won’t be another motivator for another year, so I’ll still write it even if some of that writing spills into next month.

Some people start off approaching their novel with character development because the story is more character-dependent. Others may start off with the stories’ events and, therefore, the plot and so develop it as they write. This novella will depend on the settings most of all, at least initially, since it centers around the collision of two universes. So I began with developing those. Therefore, I thought that the best way to begin writing this story was to start with the world-building. The novel will take place in a near-future earth, so that setting requires relatively little development. The setting that does require a lot of development is the online game that the story involves. So I’ll basically be developing a world for a MORPG (multi-player online role playing game) for this story. But who knows, maybe it will turn into a real online game. (Any game developers out interested?)

I’ve also been working on making a profile for the protagonist. I need at least sketchy details about the main character because knowing something about him ahead of time will also help me find a direction to go in writing the novella. Normally, with short fiction I can start writing the story itself and then take care of the other developmental aspects after. But with a 60-plus page novella versus a 10-to-20 page short story, I would probably get writer’s block within a page of the draft. For a story as long as that, writing without a pre-created main character and setting that is so integral to the plot would be like writing in a vacuum which just doesn’t happen. This sequence of writing a novel or novella works for me personally; it may or may not work for other writers. A lot of it has to do with the type of story you’re writing.

Two planets are reflected in a body of water.

Neil Gaiman to Produce New Sci Fi TV Series

Speaking about conflicting universes, Neil Gaiman is planning to produce a new TV show about interdimensional travel, according to iO9. Titled The Building, it’s based on an indie-produced film called Parallels and involves a group of people in a skyscraper that travels through multiple universes. The series will cover the origins of the skyscraper and the characters’ attempt to get back to Earth of our own dimension. So here’s one more in science fiction to add to the alternative universe subgenre! Working on a TV show like this and having recently written for several Doctor Who episodes, which also deal with multiple universes, shows that Gaiman is opening up to more sci fi. He’s mostly written fantasy.

I may or may not be posting here this weekend (or early next week, keeping in mind that I’ve been running late with these posts which I apologise for). I will have family in from out of town for Thanksgiving and so am not sure if I’ll have time to come up with something to post. So if you don’t see me here this weekend, I’m still on the planet, in this universe, and will be back here at the Fantastic Site the following weekend. And remember, we may be in a dark aftermath of the elections and many of us may be unsatisfied and even straight out angry over the results. It may be right up there with a zombie apocalypse for some of us. But we still have a lot to be thankful for. So try to remember some things to give thanks for this Thanksgiving.

Those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo, what level of the writing process do you begin your novel? For example do you begin by brainstorming for ideas or by outlining? Do you start by creating your characters or by writing the story itself? Leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .  

Monday, November 14, 2016

In Search of New Monsters For Horror Fiction

A ghoul holding a candle and peaking through a doorway.

The most current horror story I’m writing is a haunted house one but the challenge is in coming up with unique monsters. So far I’ve steered clear of the vampires and zombies (unless you count attacking skeletons, which I don’t because they don’t have enough flesh to be considered a corpse). I don’t want to create any spoilers, but the monsters that are cliché in this story are more so in high fantasy than in straight horror.

For the past decade, vampires and zombies have dominated the horror/sci fi scene. As with many types of monsters, their popularity is a phase. Vampires have been fading out in the last year or so. Although the two will be in the popular imagination for years to come, like everything else they are fads and fads eventually fade out. Aliens were a fad in the ‘90s and early 2001s; pirates were a fad in the late 2001s through the early half of the present decade. As much as I love zombies, their popularity will probably be used up soon and the masses will probably move on to other characters of interest. These could be demonic clowns which seem to have been getting more of a spotlight horror fiction lately.

Yet, for those of us writers who specialise in certain monsters that have been traditionally popular such as the undead or werewolves, we can still put twists on their characters in order to prevent rehashing old plots. But the challenge in writing about archetypal monsters such as these is to come up with new ways of portraying them. Fairly recently, comic books have been doing this by making the hero a zombie such as in I, Zombie, or a vampire breaking the stereotype of monsters as evil and victimising. But now this trend is getting old.

The problem with much horror, not just today’s but that of the past 50 years at least, is that it caters to the more familiar archetypes like the ones mentioned above. Which is a little ironic because the basis of horror fiction is fear of the unknown, and so fear of the unfamiliar. But Frankensteinian monsters, Dracula and Jeckylle-and-Hyde archetypes have been done numerous times in both books and movies, not to mention television. What’s so surprising is that, with the fan cult following of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthullu character, that a major movie hasn’t adapted that character yet. Though a movie based on Lovecraft’s Mythos, The Mountains of Madness, has been in the plans for the last two years at least, there seem to be very updates on it.

An article at, entitled “Alright, Folks, It’s Time Horror Got Some New Monsters” talks in great detail about the need for new fiends in fiction. It’s a really good one and includes interviews with horror authors and movie directors on the subject. I strongly recommend reading it.

So what monsters out there in the mythical universe do you think deserve a chance in books, TV and the big screen? Please leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Monday, November 7, 2016

Post-Halloween Post: 'I, Frankenstein', Writing Challenges, Variant Cover

I hope everybody had a great Halloween. It went by all too fast as always. Maybe that’s why I’m a horror writer, so I can have “Halloween” year round. Overall, my All Hallow’s Eve was okay, even though I became dreadfully sick and I hadn’t even eaten any candy! So I didn’t do anything that night except stay home and read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats In the Walls”, which is one of his best stories and has plenty of Gothic elements such as a haunted castle and a dreadful family secret. I strongly suggest reading it. The next evening, however, I attended a Halloween party that my writers group put on. Each year we get together on or near the hallow-day and read a story we each wrote based on a photo prompt. I’m not good writing in response to prompts, at least when it comes to fiction. So I’ll admit that my story was crap. But I’m glad I wrote and read it for the sake of participating. Here’s some more of my post-Halloween activity:

Short Movie Review of I, Frankenstein

The day after the party I was sick again. This time jt was probably from eating too much Halloween candy and other goodies at the night before. So I stayed indoors most of the day. I used part of the time to watch 2014’s I, Frankenstein that one of the local TV stations was airing. I hadn’t seen it before. Overall, I liked it. It’s a popcorn horror/dark fantasy flick, but it worked. What made this movie fairly good was that the story stays relatively true to Mary Shelley’s novel. Even though it starts out after the events of the book, its continuity between them and those of the movie was strong. The movie was loaded with plenty of suspense and story development and more than enough action. In fact, the movie was mostly all action, which kind of rushed the story. The set design was fantastic, though. The special effects were okay, the exception being that when the demons are killed in battle and explode the pixelation of the digital effects give away the realism. Also, Frankenstein’s monster (given the name “Adam” in this movie and played by Aaron Eckhart) looked too much like a normal human being which was my biggest fault with the movie. Other than those few problems, it wasn’t bad.

The Challenge of Writing the Opposite Sex’s P.O.V.

Now that the Halloween rush is over, I’ve been getting back on track with my writing projects. I’m continuing editing my current short story, a sci fi horror about a search engine. It’s been a bit of a challenge because the main character is a woman and I haven’t written many stories with female protagonists. The few that I have I’ve fallen short in developing their main characters. But the key to writing from the point of view of the opposite sex is to think of the common human desires and ambitions your protagonist has, and so desires and ambitions we all share as human beings, then give him/her distinctive traits. An article by author A. Lee Martinez at talks about this in more detail and so if you have problems writing from the view point of the opposite gendre I strongly recommend reading it. 

Writing Through the Block

The other challenge with this story was a sudden case of writer’s block. It came about from myself having inevitably changed directions in the course of the story while revising. I couldn’t go back to the old direction because the story and character would’ve remained stale. So what did I do when I couldn’t find a solution that connected A with B and therefore one scene with the next? I simply wrote through the block. Not only did it help me continue revising the story but it lead to a new idea that enhanced the plot! So the next time you get a block in your writing try writing through it no matter how lame the words seem. It’s in writing itself that develops ideas and brings in new ones, maybe not immediately but eventually.

To Come . . .

The other project I’ll be returning to is “Circa Sixty Years Dead”’s variant cover, the photo realistic cover that I said I would give my newest published book of horror. [link] So you’ll be hearing more about that in the weeks to come.

So what did you do for Halloween? Did you go to any parties? Hand out treats? Hand out tricks? Did you watch or read any good horror? Feel free to leave your responses in the box below.

Until next time . . .

A skull with a pair of skeleton hands beneath it.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Halloween Reading: Free and Discounted Horror Books and a Review

Three jack-o-lanterns and a raven.

I said I would have some treats for you on this Halloween weekend and I’ve kept my word! Starting now and ending midnight October 31st (early November 1st ) you can purchase my collection of dark fiction, The Fool’s Illusion, at 50% off the list price. To do that just go to and use this code: 5HVKZ4DU. And if that’s not good enough, then starting Sunday and also ending at the stroke of the witching hour on Halloween, you can get a copy of my newest horror book, “Circa Sixty Years Dead”, for free! Just go to Amazon to claim it; no code needed. A print book of short horror and science fiction at half price and an ebook of a short but terrifying supernatural tale at no cost! Take advantage of this offer now because, as I said, they turn back into rotting Jack-o-Lanterns at midnight, Halloween (early morning November 1st).

And if my books of horror and dark storytelling aren’t good enough for your Halloween reading, check out my review of one that is, a book by author Mercedes Lackey--Jinx High. Lackey’s novel has everything you can ask for in a Halloween read: demons, spirits and witches. Michelle Miller gave me the pleasure to guest-blog this review at her Castle Macabre. Thank you again, Michelle! And may you and all you readers out there have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Take scare, everybody and until next time . . .

Woman wearing a painted Day of the Dead skull face.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Halloween Flashback Flash Fiction and More!

Halloween Flashback

Halloween is just shy over one week from tonight! Can’t wait? Well then I have a ghost’s chain link to a story just for you! Also, below you will find other haunting chain links to posts of past Halloweens. First the story. It’s called “The Boos Brothers”. I wrote it back in Halloween of 2013, but didn’t publish it here to the Fantastic Site until the following year. I talk more about it at my "Halloween Ghost Post" which is the post from the night before I published the story to the Fantastic Site, that night being the one before Halloween or, if you prefer, All Hallows Eve Eve. It also includes a Halloween reading list. I was hoping to include one for this year but didn’t get a ghost of a chance. Anyway, “The Boos Brothers” is a ghost story about Halloween decorating and, of course, Halloween haunting. In this tale, the two are tied together more closely than one would think.

Speaking about decorating, I’m just finishing up with my own for the season of Samhain (the Celtic god Halloween was originally celebrated for). I’ve hung most of my door decorations, most of them that I made throughout the years. My Disney Haunted Mansion scene is already up, complete with The Nightmare Before Christmas characters (just minus the Christmas; I’ll do that in December). You can see some of these decorations from past years at my "Hallow-Day Decorating" post of 2012. I’ve put out my metal vintage style Jack-o-Lantern, my abstract style Jack-o-lantern, my skull-o-lantern and Day of the Dead candy skull cup an aunt of mine made a couple Halloween/Day of the Dead seasons ago. Finally, I put on my kitchen window sill some solar-powered animated decorations: a Jack-o-lantern man, a graveyard scene and some skeletons.

A tin vintage Jack-o-lantern, a skull lantern and a Day of the Dead candy skull cup.
A Jack-o-lantern, a skull-o-lantern and a Day of the Dead candy skull cup. This last one was made by an aunt of mine.
Photo Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

Your Ghoul-Ru Fortune Teller Predicts . . .

Next week there will be Halloween treats for you--discounts on my books and a freeby! The details . . . The magic crystal 8 ball is very murky at this time so tune in next week for the details!

Until then . . .
Take scare!

Monday, October 17, 2016

4 Documentaries About 4 Famous, Fearsome Authors

A while back, I talked about how interviews of some of my favourite authors motivateme to write better, especially during those times that I don’t feel like writing for whatever reason. Well I thought I would put together a short list of documentaries about four of the world’s most famous horror authors since we’re nearing Halloween. Below are documentaries and bio films of Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King. All four of these can be viewed for free on YouTube, and one is also at

Frankenstein: Birth of a Monster: This is a dramatisation of Mary Shelley’s life as a writer. Originally aired on the BBC network in 2003.

They Mystery ofEdgar Allen Poe: This was a Biography channel presentation. You can watch either on YouTube or at, but I strongly suggest you watch it at the latter; the YouTube version cuts off the introduction and opening credits (probably to prevent potential infringement issues).

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown: Out of the four, I liked this one best. It’s filmed with both archival footage as well as modern day depictions of author’s work by some really great artists, including comic book artists. The accompanying phonographic recording style of H.P.’s narration footage gives a sense of the “ancient” of his work like his work itself gives the sense of the ancient of the Elders. Let alone, it gives that haunting effect. And if this isn’t enough, there are interviews with contemporary horror writers--including Ramsey Campbell, Guillermo Del Toro, and Neil Gaiman--about the author. Produced by independent film studio Wyrd.

Steven King: Fear, Fame and Fortune: This was an A&E channel presentation originally aired on Halloween of 2002. It covers King’s life from birth through his critical accident that he fortunately recovered from to continue writing his macabre stories up to this day.

If you know of more documentaries about famous horror authors, please let me know by posting in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Saturday, October 8, 2016

6 Far Out Phantastic Finds for Your Halloween Blog Reading

A Jack-o-Lantern

This is one of my favourite times of the year. A time when the darker weather comes (though it hasn’t come enough here in Sacramento yet), the days grow shorter, and a post-harvest haze permeates the air filtering out the sunlight by a few layers and giving off a burnt aroma. Darker days (literally darker, that is) call for darker stories and events that grow out of the horror genre. We like to take on the forms of our favourite creatures of darkness through costuming. Well, as much as I love the season of the witch, more commonly known as Halloween, I couldn’t come up with anything relevant to write about for this post. Yet it’s still early in the season but it will fly by faster than a witch on her broom or a vampire bat fleeing the oncoming dawn. So I dug up this list of six phantastic blog finds for your horror-reading zombie appetite. But there will be a special Halloween treat for you (and maybe even a trick) by the weekend of Halloween as there has been in past years here at the Fantastic Site. But for now, check out these groovy ghoulish links!

The HorrorWriters Association’s Halloween Haunts: This is a seasonal series of blog posts by some of the Association’s authors who give their personal takes on Halloween. 

Season of theWitch at Castle Macabre: This is author Michelle Miller’s seasonal blog read-along series. Her first read is Edgar Allen Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”. 

“Poe Read-Along- The Mask of the Red Death”: She talks more about her Read-Along, Poe’s story of a demonic plague and even Poe himself here. She even has a small but interesting paragraph on the 1960s Vincent Price film adaptation and how you can watch it for free! 

“Witchy Peril-‘Masque’ and other Short Stories”, The Writerly Reader: This post by another author who visit’s Michelle’s above post also discusses here impression of “Masque of the Red Death”. She also goes over other short horror stories, including one by H.P. Lovecraft. 

“Salem’sLot Read-Along”, Gather Together Read: This blog is now reading one of Stephen King’s earliest novels. You may be able to catch up with them if you head on over now to find out where they’re at in this creepy read. 

Blaze McRob’s“Haunted Halloween Party”: Horror author Blaze McRob is producing a series of blog posts for the season where you can participate in contests to win prizes as well as discover horror fiction writers you may never heard of before. Even so, they have some really great stories up their sleeves.

Like I said, I’ll have my annual Halloween treat here for you by Halloween weekend, and maybe even a horror book review before that!

Until next time . . .