Z is for Zombies


I mean, hello, how could it not be!

In the event of a Zombie apocalypse and Donald Trump’s bid for power is a very real indication that there is one coming, you should do the following.

Stock up on canned peaches.

Buy pointy weapons – although wooden stakes are normally reserved for vampires in a pinch if you have them lying around they can also be used.

Get a copy of the SAS survival handbook or get a Daryl.

Find a place to hold up.  Invest in boarding.

If you aren’t handy with a hammer and nails then you need someone who is.   It would also be handy to live near a big shopping complex with a DIY store.

Now it might seem like a good idea to actually hole up in a shopping centre but hey, we’ve all seen those movies and it never turns out well.

Electricity will be scarce.  Apparently even though nuclear powerstations exist they will not supply the electricity grid for any length of time for some reason. Perhaps they need people to toggle switches or something.   Invest in candles.  You may be mocked for having a cupboard full of scented candles  now but just think how handy they will be after a zombie apocalypse.

The biggest drawback will be no microwaves.  You are going to have to learn to cook. And possibly grow your own food.  Canned peaches won’t be around forever (although according to many Zombie shows it will seem like it.)

So what next?  Yeah, a ‘go’ bag.  This is kept near the door or in your car.  It should have a change of clothes, a map of where you are going to hide up until it passes, some pointy weapons,  SAS survival handbook, canned peaches, basic cookbook, a guide on how to grow your own food and scented candles.

Now when I talk about books I mean the paper kind.  Sure you can fit more on your kindle but how are you going to power that thing up when there is no electricity?

Also, not sure what kind of currency you’ll end up using after the zombies attack but I’m thinking maybe luxury goods like chocolate. Now when you buy a bar you can justify it with if there is a zombie apocalypse then this will be currency.

Bear in mind that you won’t have access to internet when it starts so you probably don’t want to post those handy tips about gardening or 101 things to do with canned peaches on pinterest.

And the final thing, good luck.

P.S. Mexico will probably be a good place to head,  Donald Trump has just built a wall that will protect them.

 

 

Y is for You


I wasn’t sure what to put for y.  There are no well-known monsters movies starting with y.  No particular literary or writing terms.

Finally after a week of avoiding writing I came up with you.

You refers to the reader.  It is every one of you.   The ones who leave comments, press like, pingback, follow.  All of you.

And I’d like to add another word, something that doesn’t start with  but is really appropriate.

Thank you.

Building up a following on social platforms is hard.  My stories are posted on multiple sites and my poetry has a a specific audience. Those that are published are in various anthologies.  But without you I wouldn’t have the confidence to send off to publishers, to kept writing my Rola stories, to enter competitions.

So thank you.

 

 

X


X is for the unknown.

As a writer my favourite viewpoint is Third Person Omniscience. It means that I know everything about my characters from thoughts to feelings and am able to swap from one character to another (avoiding Head Hopping).

There is also Third Person Limited Narrative. This is when you tell the story from the vantage point of one character but they do not know the thoughts and feelings of other characters.

First Person relies on what your character knows and sees.  They are unable to look into people’s heads and find out what they are thinking or feeling, and in addition they cannot know people’s backstories or life histories unless they have been told them.

I labelled this X the Unknown because even writing from Third Person Omniscience there are still unknown factors to your character or storytelling.   When you are writing it from a certain viewpoint for example your character won’t know they are blushing unless they are looking in a mirror.  They can feel heat radiating from their chest, feel it travelling into their cheeks and know they feel hot but without seeing a reflection how can they tell if their cheeks are red and flushed?

X the unknown is also for the vast array of things in the universe we simply don’t have an explanation for.  All the unsolved mysteries.  We are naturally curious and while we strive to have answers for everything there are things we just don’t know.  Why did the dinosaurs become extinct? Was there a meteor that changed the Earth’s climate?  What happened aboard the Mary Celeste? Why did they build the pyramids? What happened to the Mayans?

I admit to skipping ahead in a book to finding out the ending.   The big reveal where the murderer is announced because I just couldn’t wait another moment to find out.  Are you like that?

 

W has to be for Werewolves


And not just any werewolf.

The original werewolf – Lon Chaney Jr.

I’ve mentioned his name on another blog post but there is nothing that can beat his portrayal of the Wolfman in 1941.  As the tortured Lawrence Talbot his portrayal led to a succession of others throughout the years.  The moment he wakes after turning into the wolf for the first time and the expression of horror on his face is what makes this film.

Of course, it’s 1941 so the special effects aren’t a patch on CGI but with the lights off and just the flickering screen in front of you watching as his hands grow hair and then seeing his feet become paws.

His hunched form becomes the perfect example of someone with an animalistic nature as he prowls through the screen and you have no choice except to believe that he is a werewolf.

The film also provides an interesting narrative on the folklore of werewolves. Now we have to be bitten to become one, that it is a curse and if shot with a silver bullet we can be released.  It also added the caveat that we changed only when there was a full moon.

Werewolf tales exist from Greek and Roman times. These shapeshifter myths can be found all over the word from China to Iceland and Brazil to Haiti. Hollywood took these tales and added in a curse, turning them into monsters at the rise of the full moon.

Not for the first time was the moon accused of altering people.  Although in common use for centuries to describe people with mental health issues in Victorian times a Lunacy Act was instigated to ‘control’ those with issues.   Luckily as we discover more about the causes of mental health the terms used and the laws surrounding them have been updated.

 

Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night.  May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright.

V is for Vampire


Anybody who loves horror has a soft spot for Vampires.

Most people believe that Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ was the original Vampire novel however there were instances of the Vampire in fiction years before, for example in the 1819 publication of John Polidori’s short story ‘Vampyre’.

The idea of an undead creature sucking lifeforce from us is not a new idea existing in many cultures in many forms throughout history.   The version appearing in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ appealed to many on different levels including the erotic.  With the promise of immortality who would object to donating a little blood?

The Victorians memorialised death with monuments and Gothic tombs. They believed in an afterlife,  in Heaven and Hell. With the introduction of Dracula the barrier between life and death was breached and the mysterious-nous of many deaths attributing them to the supernatural became a logical step.

The eroticism in vampire lore is more about the anticipation and the temptation than actual sexual conquest. There can be direct comparisons between the sharing of blood to become vampiric and the mixing of bodily fluids during sex.  Later day vampires are more attractive and luring than before, there is a market for vampire novels especially those that have enough sexual content in them to qualify as porn!

Despite all this there is the horror of feeding of others in order to survive.  The preternatural having power over the living, becoming violent aggressive monsters at a moments notice, in other words being all too human.

 

 

 

 

U is for Underground Railroad


The Underground Railroad was a route whereby runaway slaves could travel north and live as freed men and women.  The network of routes extended through 14 Northern states and “the promised land” of Canada–beyond the reach of fugitive-slave hunters.

As a teenager (and to this day) I adored the book and film ‘Gone with the Wind’ but what I didn’t like was the way that people believed they had a right to enslave other people on the colour of their skin [Note 1].  Although today the novel is damned for its depiction of slavery, with commentators veering between saying it glamorises a brutal period of history or whitewashes it the book gave me a basis to build on, provoking me into wanting to know more.

I watched ‘Roots’ as did most of my generation and of course ‘North and South’ with Orry Main and George Hazard.  I knew more about the Civil War in America than I did the English one.

The people who helped them on the journey were called ‘Conductors’.  Everything was conducted in secret using codewords and secret names.   In the 1930’s there was a Federal Writers Project which captured many of the stories of the Railroad and those who moved along it.  I came across it a few years ago when I was just doodling around on the internet. Many of the stories are harrowing, knowing that people treated others as commodities.

The Underground Railroad offered people a way out of a desperate situation. They gave people hope and helped them forge new lives away from subjugation.  The journeys were fraught with fear and the risk of being returned to the slavers or even killed.  How bad was it was that would risk this for themselves and their families?

Slavery in America began in 1619 when the first Africans were brought over to assist with the Tobacco harvest.  With the growing economy in America slavery grew and became a lucrative business in as much as any other business at the time.

Some 5,000 black soldiers and sailors fought on the American side during the Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

In the 17th and 18th centuries, black slaves worked mainly on the tobacco, rice and indigo plantations of the southern coast whereas in the North the economy wasn’t as dependant on the slaves as down south. Combined with this was the growing rise of the abolitionist movement.  Spurred on by the abolitionist movements gaining momentum in other countries many states declared slavery illegal and assisted with slaves gaining their freedom although the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law declared that any runaway slaves were to be returned.

Although often cited as the catalyst for the Civil War there were a number of other factors involved and with the Northern states being industrialised the South was already at a disadvantage.

[Note 1 –  A large number of Irish ‘indentured’ servants were employed particularly in Northern Factories.  Sometimes these are referred to as the Irish Slaves.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

T is for Tales of Terror


Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr,  Claude Rains, and Basil Rathborne were some of my favourite horror movie actors.  They transferred the written word to the silver screen imbuing us with a sense of terror. 

I adored the tones of the movies, they relied on your imagination as they gave you shades of light and dark, the creeper in the shadows, and the sensation of being watched in the dark.

Old fashioned movies gave you a narrative, they alluded to the dark horrors within the stories and in that way they are a vast improvement from the gore fests we are inundated with today.

When Frankenstein bustled around his lab concocting potions and using electricity to reanimate his monster you were there with him.  You felt his trepidation and the elation of seeing his creation come to life.  You felt the heart-stopping moment when you saw the cruelly constructed face of the monster.   As he lumbered around the screen you were with him, your heart pounding.

That was fear. That was fear based on your own interpretation of what you were seeing.  The monster couldn’t escape the screen and come for you but … maybe… what if…. there was that creaking sound from upstairs earlier…  Nothing scarier appeared on the screen that was more powerful that your own imagination.

Which is why, even though I do like them, the modern gore fest films just can’t rate.   Instead of relying on your own thoughts and feelings as you watch the movie it is all there in front of you with more blood spraying out than is actually in a human body.

Not to mention that we know the pretty blonde is going to fall over within reach of the chainsaw killer, that the dumb jock is going to think he can fight him and end up his next victim, that locking the door and running up the stairs never works out.   They are clichés that have been done to death…

I adored the ‘Hammer House of Horror’ films. Mass produced horror with a dubious quality.  They gave you an hour of a story where your heartbeat would quicken and for a writer with the imagination we are imbued with we’d wonder ‘what if’ as soon as we lay in our beds aiming for a good nights sleep.

Bela Lugosi peering at you through the screen as he portrayed Dracula and the director lit his eyes up so all you focused on was that intense hypnotic stare. You were mesmerised by his gaze as he moved towards you.  It was all you could focus on and then it was too late to scream because Dracula had you.  That moment was more intense than knowing Jason had his chainsaw and was coming after you.