Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Halloween Viewing: Tim Burton Favs

My youngest daughter is even *more* into Halloween than I am, so we are both so gleeful the entire month that it's a wonder the rest of the Bryants can deal with us at all.

One way we're enjoying is by watching Halloween movies. We're on a Tim Burton kick right now. His aesthetic is right there in that middle ground between whimsical and disturbing…which could probably describe us as well (though there's less mascara and lace involved for us). She's already seen and loved The Nightmare Before Christmas, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, 9, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland. I'm planning to share a few more Burton favorites with her across the season.

But, the youngest Bryant had never seen The Corpse Bride (at least not that she can remember), so we kicked off our season with that.  I found it slower than I remembered (thought still good), but she really enjoyed it.

My take: I had forgotten the lovely wedding vows. Really some of the most romantic ones I've heard. It was also very sweet how the two misfit children whose families were trying to use them for social gain actually had a connection and some hope of making each other happy in the end. A more romantic story overall than I remembered.

Her take: She loved Scraps, Victor's dead dog (who reminded her of Zero from Nightmare Before Christmas), but agreed with me that the Peter Lorre aping worm was grosser than funny. She knew almost from his entrance that Barkis Bittern was going to turn out to be the long lost "love" of the Bride. Kids these days, so steeped in tropes it's hard to surprise them.

Next we tried on Sweeney Todd.

I fell in love with this musical as a college student, listening to the Broadway recording with Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett and Len Cariou as Sweeney. So, when this movie version was announced, I was hyped. I was pretty sure the youngest Bryant would love it too.

My take: Visually, it's quite a treat, gritty and atmospheric. I quite enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter's Mrs. Lovett both in singing and acting, and she has great onscreen chemistry with Johnny Depp. Johnny's Sweeney was better in visuals and speaking than singing (I loved the way he held his jaw--so stiff, seething with suppressed emotions). He was "not bad" on the singing. If I didn't already know the music as voiced by Cariou, I might have liked his take better (much like I felt about Hugh Jackman's Valjean) . The best moment in Depp's performance, in my opinion, is when Todd snaps the rest of the way and goes from wanting specific vengeance to decide that "they all deserve to die."

Her take: She's becoming quite a Sondheim fan, having been enamored of Into the Woods for a year or two now. She loved the lyric complexity. She wasn't as sure about the obviously fake over-red blood for the gory scenes. She said it pulled her out of it too much, but she conceded it might have been "too horrible" if the blood had looked realistic. We agreed at the end that poor Johanna and Toby were damaged for life by the trauma of having wandered into this story.

Next up, I'm planning to show her Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow, both of which I enjoyed when they were new and haven't really seen since. My girl likes Winona Ryder, both in Stranger Things and in some of her younger roles (Heathers, Beetlejuice), so I think she'll enjoy them.

Any other Tim Burton fans out there? Which ones are your favorites and why? Any that you don't recommend?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

October Frights: Nightmare Fuel: The Other Jack

Welcome to the October Frights Blog Hop! I'm Samantha Bryant. If you visit here regularly, you already know that I'm a Halloween fan (if you're new here: Welcome to the Madhouse!).

Last year at this time, I posted a blog series on 31 days of Halloween. My *favorite* thing the past few years though, has been #nightmarefuel

The Nightmare Fuel Project is the brainchild of Bliss Morgan, a talented friend whose work you should definitely check out!

Each day in October, she posts a creepy picture prompt and invites anyone who wants to play along to create something macabre or magnificent and post it for the group to enjoy. This is my third year playing along, writing creepy flash fiction each night in celebration of spooky season.

Here's my favorite of what I've written so far this year. You can check out all my creepy flash fiction for the project on my Facebook page.

The Other Jack

Jimmy’s room wasn’t really a room, it was more like a partition. His mother had found some smoky plexiglass somewhere and used it to divide the space into two tiny bedrooms, each barely big enough for the bed and a narrow chest of drawers that was also the desk and the nightstand. It wasn’t much, but it gave him and his brother a little illusion of privacy, something that mattered more now that his brother was older.

Jimmy had to pretend he didn’t hear a lot of things these days, especially if Mom wasn’t home. He’d never tell, of course. Brothers didn’t rat on each other, even if the girls were mean or the smoke smelled weird.

But he missed the nights when Jack would turn a light on the plexiglass wall and make shadowpuppets for him or press his face against the wall smooshing it comically and getting them both in trouble for wild laughter.

Laying on his bed drawing, Jimmy heard a tap on the glass. He jumped. He hadn’t thought Jack was home. He looked over his shoulder and saw a hand laying against the glass. He laid his own over it on his side of the wall and Jack spread his fingers wide so Jimmy could compare the size of his hand to his brother’s. Jack was almost ten years older than Jimmy, so catching up was taking a long time, but he felt sure his hand was bigger than it had been the last time. Pleased he knocked three times, their secret signal for happiness. Jack didn’t respond.

The hand moved away and Jimmy went back to his drawing. The cat-man he had invented was having an undersea adventure this time and Jimmy was having a hard time getting the bubble helmet to look the way he wanted to. After a few tries, he threw the wadded up paper at the wall in frustration.

There were two hands on the wall now, pressed flat enough that Jimmy could trace the lines in the palms. Jack was pushing hard, like he wanted to come through the plexiglass wall instead of climbing over his bed to get to the narrow hallway like a normal person. The makeshift wall scraped against the ceiling, groaning like a train car. “Stop it Jack! You’ll get in trouble if you break it.”

The pressure released. Jack could be crazy sometimes, but Jimmy could usually get him to stop before it got too bad. Just as he was thinking about picking up his drawing again, the hands were back, clenched into fists this time and pounding against the wall, making it scrape and groan and shake ominously. Jimmy yelled “Stop it Jack! Stop it!”

At the foot of his bed, the door opened. “Stop what, Squirt?” Jack leaned in, still wearing his fast-food tee shirt.

“J-J-Jack?” Jimmy pointed at the wall behind him, wordlessly. The Other Jack still pounded the surface again and again and when Jimmy turned to look, he thought the fists might be bleeding. His mouth went completely dry.

Suddenly, Jack had him by the armpits and was pulling him out of the trailer into the chilly night, barefoot. The two of them got into the car and Jack was backing away, driving before Jimmy had even put on the seatbelt. “Where are we going?”

Jack didn’t answer him. He was on the phone, talking fast to someone, He said their address and said there was an intruder. He said he didn’t know where their mother was. He said other stuff, too, but Jimmy couldn’t understand--it was hard to hear over the squealing inside his head. Then, his brother was shaking him, telling him it was okay.

There were blue lights flashing and a woman with a flashlight and a clipboard. There was yelling and a loud bang. An ambulance that took away someone. Jimmy wasn’t allowed to see. Jack held him too tightly, kept Jimmy’s head pressed against his chest.

It was years before Jack got the full story of the night his mother died and he almost died, too. They told him his mother was a hero, that he was lucky. She’d trapped the man in Jack’s room with her. If Jack hadn’t gotten home when he did . . .

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed, please check out the rest of my site to see what else I'm up to, or subscribe to my newsletter (no more than one email per month). I've got a collection of Weird Tales coming out at the end of the month! Stories from Shadow Hill is a series of weird and macabre tales that take place on the dark side of a suburban neighborhood suspiciously similar to the one I live in . . . Details will be forthcoming in my next newsletter!

Be sure to also check out Deadman Humour, my most recent publication. This creepy anthology is a collection of stories about what scares clowns. My story "The Gleewoman of Preservation" shows that there are things scarier than clowns in the woods near Preservation.

If ghost stories are more your style, you can read my daylight ghost story, "The Girl in the Pool" in Off the Beaten Path 3 from Prospective Press, alongside some excellent ghostly tales from other fabulous authors. 

Remember to hop on over to check out the other participants' offerings as well.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Wording Wednesday: Arcachne and Her Sisters

The new season of Wording Wednesday is underway. Fellow author Andy Brokaw collects a set of prompts and puts them out there for the world to use for inspiration.

You can check out my stories for Season 2 (weather) here: CloudyClearSunnyRainWindSnow

And for Season 1 (beginnings) here: InfancyMorningTravelMeetingFirst SnowCeremony

For Season 3, the theme is creatures and this week's inspiration is a friendly arachnid by Rose Tursi, whose work can be found at: My post from last week can be viewed here.

Check out the links and play along if you'd like, or just enjoy reading.

The nicest thing about having been transformed into a spider was all the extra limbs. All eight of her appendages were dextrous and agile, strong and useful for a variety of tasks, from weaving to climbing. 

The worst thing had been the revulsion. Arachne couldn't really blame her sisters for their reactions. She had once felt the same way about spiders, skittering, skulking creatures watching you with far too many eyes. When her sisters returned to their chambers and found her clinging to the massive glittering web she had constructed in her first few hours as a spider, the screaming nearly brought down the house. 

Luckily, her youngest sister, Alethea, had witnessed the entire contest with Athena and was able to keep their eldest sister, Ademia, from squashing her with a shoe. Ademia still screwed her face up like she'd been eating lemons every time she looked at her once-favorite sister, but she left Arachne in peace, so long as she constrained her weaving to designated areas. 

The webs she wove now put her earlier creations in tapestry to shame. Thread was so thick and clumsy in comparison to spider silk. And she could work so quickly! 

Alethea had been such a dear, waiting patiently while Arachne wove her messages in webwork and doing her best to get the things that her sister wanted for her happiness in her new life. 

Only today, she'd managed to find the tiniest of teapots and to assist Arachne in brewing lemon olive tea. Drinking it was almost like being human again. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG: Writers Who Don't Read

Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that means! It's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy, ideas, and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

The awesome co-hosts for the October 2 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor! Be sure to check out what they have to say, too.

This month's question: - It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

Okay. I don't take many hard stances in my life. 

I know that nearly every circumstance is smeary and gray in the boundaries rather than crisply clear with lines delineating "good" and "bad." 

Ambiguity is where the interest lies, in life and in fiction. 

But here, I draw a line. A firm, bold, uncrossable line. 

Writers must read. 

Reading is the number one best method to improve your craft, and every writer I've met who has told me they don't read has disappointed me on the page if I got that far. 

Generally when I meet a writer who tells me they don't read, they spend a lot of time talking about other kinds of story: film and television mostly. 

Film and television are lovely. I enjoy both a great deal, given the time. 

But they are not books and if you are trying to write books that are like film and television, you are ignoring the bulk of the magic, limiting yourself to visual, cinematic view and losing out on all the other senses, and interior life. 

As for the argument that not reading means your ideas are new and original? 

Hogwash, I say. 

Not reading just means you're influenced by non-literary things (film and television, mostly). 

Unless you go full-on hermit and shut out the world entirely, you are a human moving through the world and are influenced by it. 

There's no purity of vision to be had, immaculately contained in a bubble of only your own making. We're all made of and by our experiences, both literary and other. 

Now, "I'm not reading much right now" or "I don't read in the genre I'm writing while I'm writing it" are not the same thing as "I don't read." 

Lulls happen. Everyone has to find their own process. 

But not reading at all? 

Sometimes I miss the way I read before I was serious about my writing. It was easier to lose myself in the world and not analyze what the author was doing while I read. But that doesn't mean I'd ever give up reading! When I *do* get that truly immersive feeling, I know I've found a wonder of a book because it made it past my writer-vision and got all the way to my underlying story-loving brain. 

What do you think, friends of the internet? Do you have an example to prove me wrong? A writer who doesn't read but still writes compelling fiction themselves? I'd love to hear form you in the comments.