It's all about the tea and terror here

Why I love CZW – for Carla

If a picture is worth a thousand words, consider this my 5,000 word essay on why I love CZW.

Scotty Vortekz Scotty Vortekz
Scotty Vortekz Scotty Vortekz
Scotty Vortekz
Apologies for momentarily turning my blog into tumblr.

Posted in Wrestling Stuff | Tagged , , ,

Update – March 2014

Well, my resolution to blog more has already crashed and burned. In my defence, I spent half of February in Las Vegas, and the other half preparing for it. As for my March excuse… I got nothing.

Social

High: I went to Las Vegas and got married on my 10 year anniversary to Craig. Carla gave me away. Jake took many pictures. It was perfect.

Wedding Day - 21 February 2014

Wedding Day – 21 February 2014

Many vicious games of Cards Against Humanity were played. Pretty jewellery was purchased from BicoLV – Carla and I have matching bracelets, and we will buy a new charm every time we achieve a goal (or something is really pretty and we need it right now).

Low: Carla mentioned saying goodbye, and that was hard. Another thing was just how busy Las Vegas is. Carla and I get over-socialised, and Las Vegas is a place where that happens quite easily. Next time we’re renting a holiday house somewhere. Or an island. Or a lighthouse. It depends on Carla’s mood and how much Enid Blyton she reads before booking.

Writing

High: Carla and I sent The Talking Dead to first readers. Craig, my husband(!), has given us feedback. We are waiting for further feedback, but Craig’s is always very thorough and fair.

As for Monsters and Music, the sequel, parts of that are writing themselves and sticking twos up at the outline. Characters are taking charge as we get to know their voices and realise that they’re not going to react as we outlined… oh god, do I sound a bit like a certain author who believes her characters are real and is quick to litigate over fanfic?

Also, as Carla mentioned, Intern promoted himself to Manager in our absence. I asked him if that meant we needed to pay him. He said no. So, yay, my manager doesn’t need paying, but boo, my manager is a bit of an idiot.

Low: We’ve not had much time to work on Monsters and Music, and we need to review the outlines, based both on the feedback from Craig, and the small changes that have been made on M&M.

The Nox series is bothering me a lot at the moment, and I think it’s bugging Carla too, because when I briefly mentioned it, she got that gleam in her eye, before quickly saying, “We’re not working on that at the moment.”

Reading

High: I’ve read a fair bit of chick lit over the holiday, and, by strange coincidence, they were written by Lynne Moriarty, who is the sister of Jaclyn Moriarty, whose books I gave to Carla as a gift. I’m also re-reading old favourites by Stephen King.

Low: I’ve not found anything un-put-down-able since I read the Gone series by Michael Grant. I want to find something that awesome again.

Wrestling

High: I got to watch the Elimination Chamber with Carla and Jake. I love the Elimination Chamber, it’s my favourite PPV of the year (although nothing will touch the 2011 one). Watching wrestling with Carla is awesome.

I also saw a live event in Vegas. One of the matches pitched The Shield against Christian. Words cannot express how much I love Dean Ambrose and Christian. To see them in the ring together live was awesome. Sadly, I didn’t get any good pictures, I was still getting used to the camera. I did get a pretty good shot of the Bella twins though.

The Bella Twins in Las Vegas on 16 February 2014

The Bella Twins in Las Vegas on 16 February 2014

Also, I got a quick video of Kofi kicking ass in a dance-off.

Low: Mostly Fandom. This is why we can’t have nice things. Grow up, kids.

Posted in Life Stuff, Nox Series, Reading Stuff, UK Horror Series, Wrestling Stuff, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

2014 Goals

Carla: Too long; didn’t read version: Read 100 books a year, with individual subgoals, write Talking Dead and maybe the rest of that series, and blog more. Then a wrestling diversion at the end.

Reading Goals

Sarah: To read 100 books (and to actually track them this year), and at least 20 of them must be from my “To Read” list on my Kindle.

Carla: Sarah made an awesome spreadsheet for us to use while tracking. It also automatically calculates how many days we spent reading a book. I’m not sure why she thinks that’s important. Is it a contest? Are we competing?

Sarah: Sarah thinks that’s important because her entire job is all about making spreadsheets that track everything we do, and spit out results that can be displayed in graphs. Be thankful Sarah didn’t put a bloody graph in there.

Carla: Why is there no graph? I love graphs.

Sarah: Fuck graphs. I love my job, but I hate graphs.

Carla: Hater.

Carla: Also, my secondary goal is to read at least 50 books from my “To Read” bookcases. Yes, plural. Yes, I have way too many books I need to read, hence this part of my goal.

Sarah: Now what? Is that the only question? Was it really worth opening yet another shared document? Or are we just so totally codependent that we cannot even answer one single question alone?

Carla: Yes.

Carla: And, of course, we’re supposed to talk about other goals. Those are the only official reading goals I have, though I do have a few lists of books I am trying to read within my lifetime. Do you want in on that kind of challenge? Do you want to play with the big kids? Do you want to actually challenge yourself with your reading?

Sarah: Mostly, I just want to sleep.

Carla: It’s not even fun being mean to you when you’re this tired.

Writing Goals

Sarah: To finish Talking Dead and get it out to agents is the official one, but in the back of my mind, I’m pretty sure we can write the whole series this year.

Carla: I’m glad that’s in the back of your mind, because my official goal is to finish at least first drafts of the entire series, as well as polish Talking Dead and submit it to agents. Our first readers are going to love us.

Sarah: Eh, they’re mostly your friends. Mine don’t really offer much feedback. You can piss off your friends with multiple drafts of five books! Mine will just vanish!

Carla: Hey, your hubby gives excellent feedback. And I appreciate Ken’s enthusiasm.

Sarah: CAN WE GET INTERN TO GIVE US FEEDBACK?

Carla: Alas, Intern is not a reader. We should remedy this. And his hatred of wrestling. Eventually, he will give in and love both books and wrestling.

Sarah: Intern does not read, and refers to wrestling as “fake”. Remind me again why we love Intern?

Carla: He’s our “in” so we know what the kids are saying these days. Or something like that. Mostly, I love him because he’s awesome and my nephew. Isn’t that kind of required? Plus he’s going to teach me about basketball and stock car racing.

Carla: OH! The biggest reason: he keeps us on track! We should send him our list of goals.

Sarah: True. He’s very bossy (in a good way). Very motivational.

Carla: Indeed. My other big writing goal is to write every day this year.

Sarah: I have a side-goal, which is to come up with something (preferably short and sweet) that I can write on my own, just so that I remember how to write alone! Also, I think it would be good for me to outline a book by myself.

Carla: It’s hard work! I’ve forgotten how to write fiction alone!

Blogging Goals

Carla: Besides the monthly writing update, I want to blog more often. What’s a reasonable goal? Once a week?

Sarah: I think once a week is reasonable. I’m also attempting to just keep pace with you as far as blogging goes.

Carla: Now that inspires me to make a goal of blogging multiple times a day. Keep pace with that.

Sarah: *crawls under desk and cries*

Carla: Oh god, not this again.

Sarah: I’m thinking that setting goals while I’m this tired has not brought out the best in me. This kind of mood is more suited to passive-aggressive conversations with my co-workers about their lack of common sense.

Carla: We should figure out how to blog about more in-depth topics than, say, horror memes and our goals for the year.

Sarah: Also, I’d like to have a reader. I don’t even need plural, I just want someone not-Carla to read my blog.

Carla: Pretty sure my dad reads both our blogs. Just saying.

Sarah: My best friend and her dad read my blog. There are no words for the success I have attained.

Carla: I hate you so much.

Sarah: That said, I appreciate that your dad reads our blogs. Hi Carl! *waves*

Carla: So one of our goals should be to figure out topics that will draw in readers who aren’t related to one of us? And, along the same lines, possibly to network more?

Sarah: I suddenly feel like I’m at work again, being forced to join LinkedIn and use Yammer. But yes, when I’m not too busy snarking at you, I actually agree with you.

Carla: ANYTHING but Yammer. And I know how to read between the snark. Possibly we should use Twitter for more than just wrestling updates when I watch pay-per-views.

Sarah: I would suggest you do what I do and keep wrestling and writing twitters separate, that way I’m not bombarding wrestling snarkers with angst about writing, or boring YA writers with my thoughts on Dean Ambrose’s ramblings.

Carla: Ambroxley is the greatest.

Sarah: You’d best explain “Ambroxley”, otherwise we’ll look like those weird fans who think you get bonus points for knowing someone’s real or indy name!

Carla: Oh god, not that. This is really digressing, but basically, when he was wrestling in the indies, he wrestled as Moxley, and his character frequently went on drunken tirades. In the WWE, he wrestles as Ambrose, but lately, Ambrose has been having what sounds like drunken tirades more and more often. (Likely not actually drunken, because the wrestling is rated PG these days, but still.) So the more he starts to sound like Moxley in promos, the happier we are, and we coined Ambroxley for the Ambrose-channeling-Moxley hybrid.

Carla: Are you happy? Now we’ve done that writing step in our process in which we talk about wrestling instead of doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

Sarah: It’s part of our process. Don’t be a hater.

Carla: We should do an actual wrestling blog post soon.

Sarah: I last did one in November.

Carla: I have never done one. Huh.

Sarah: New goal: As a Brit, I must start to say SHED-uled, instead of SKED-uled. I guess that’s more a talking goal, but since we’re talking about (IRL, rather than in this document), it can go into my goals.

On the subject of MOAR GOALS, I also want to get another retweet from Michael Grant. The first one validated my existence, imagine how awesome and self-important I could become if he retweeted me again!

Carla: He is amazing. I’m still envious that you were retweeted. And, again, thank you for introducing me to the Gone series. SO GOOD.

Sarah: Just knowing that he and Katherine Applegate are married makes me happy. If their children end up being writers my brain may just asplode!

Carla: Can you imagine? Making Out meets Gone. It would be the greatest YA friendship-and-apocalypse story ever!

Sarah: *suddenly wishes for fanfic*

Carla: I think we’ve digressed enough. There are some goals. Let’s check back in December to see how we did.

Posted in Life Stuff, Reading Stuff, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , ,

Young Adult – Old School

Carla gave me a poke the other day, and reminded me that I haven’t updated my blog.

Carla is very pro-blog.

Carla is also a magnificent troll, because whilst on a pro-blog promo, she encouraged me to pick a domain, then once I had made my choice and told her I would buy it in a week (after payday), she bought said domain. She is kindly using it to forward to my servers, but it can’t be transferred over while we’re in the 60 days after initial purchase. Troll best friend trolls on an epic level.

Anyway, she wanted me to blog. And I don’t think a blog post about how Carla wants me to blog more often is going to cut it.

So here, let’s talk young adult books. I would do a Fave Five, like Booker T, except I’m incredibly picky about books, and many fail to make the grade. Some books I love because of the ideas, but the execution is not what I’d hoped for; other times I like characters but am not keen on where the story goes; other times I worship the world but don’t connect with a single person involved in the world.

So I’m going to list my Fave Three young adult series from my youth.


1: Making Out by Katherine Applegate

 

“Zoey, Lucas, Jake, Nina, Benjamin, Claire, Christopher and Aisha have all grown up together on Chatham Island, just off the Maine coast. Zoey has been with Jake forever, but when Lucas returns to the island after two years away, following a fatal accident he caused, Zoey finds herself drawn to him. And Claire has a secret – a secret that will change everything. But will all be revealed before Zoey fools around?”

I swear that these books got me through my teenage years. I wasn’t the most social of teenagers. Some days I felt like the characters in this series were my only friends. Especially Nina. Although I wanted someone to drown Zoey in Big Bite Pond for her overreaction to everything. Also, Nina/Lucas was my OTP. When I met Carla, I recommended the series to her, and she too fell in love with them. We would compare notes on which books we were missing, and our endless hunt for the complete collection.

I liked these books because they were a bit more grown up than the nonsense I had been reading, these characters swore (very mildly and infrequently, but still, a lot more believable than seeing an eighteen year old say “gosh darn it to heck”), they had problems (Jake’s alcoholism was not a Very Special Episode, it carried through the whole series) and the continuity was there. Unlike other books I had read, this series kept track of what happened and applied it, unlike another series which has at least three books dedicated to someone’s first kiss, all with different guys. It was just smarter than a lot of teen fiction I had read up until that point. Oh, and it was funny. Not in that annoying “they all laughed” way, but everything Nina has to say is worthy of a smile – and her rant about what they should do to the opposing football team makes me laugh every time (“Forget football! Let’s bomb the bastards!”).

Note: I am aware that a ghostwriter took over after book 8, but they still continued to be awesome. I mean, there was a lot of angst and disasters for one small island, but I’m willing to overlook that because it was a damned entertaining read.


2: The Eventing Trilogy by Caroline Akrill

 

“Elaine’s dream is to become a top eventer, but when she starts working for the eccentric Fane family it leads to a difficult choice between ambition and loyalty.”

I was one of those horsey girls when I was younger. I read pretty much everything by the Pullein-Thompson sisters, the Jill books were memorised by about the age of nine, and Black Beauty was my bible. However, this series is still one of my favourites of all time.

As with Making Out, this series was just so much smarter than anything I’d read before. JK Rowling noted that she found it sinister that throughout the entire Famous Five series, none of the characters ever had any romantic notions (by the end of the series, the kids were aged 19-21), and the same was absolutely true for me in every horse series I read. By the end of the Jill series, Jill has left school and is working as a writer and still isn’t interested in anything but horses. I’m not saying that every character needs to find a boyfriend, I’m just saying that the absolute lack of interest in anything non-horse-related in every single series was a bit eye-poking. It left me feeling like horse books were only about horses, and non-horse books were about romance, and the two could never combine.

This series does this. Romance is a low priority, but it’s far more believable that an eighteen year old who regularly interacts with males, may find herself the subject of someone’s romantic notions or might get a bit wibbly over one of the guys. It’s only background, and I didn’t need some epic romance cluttering up the plot, I just like the realism of Elaine juggling money, love, horses, and her dreams.

But most appealingly, these books are funny as hell. It’s pretty much impossible to find a character I don’t love, and two of my favourites are the horses, The Comet and The Bad Tempered Chestnut are amazing. As for the people, Nigella and Henrietta Fane, Elaine’s employers, are a wonderful combination of pragmatic and whimsical (if you can imagine such a thing).

I just cannot say enough great things to put this series over. Go, locate a copy now.


3: Fly By Night and The Team by K. M. Peyton

 

“Fly-by-Night” was not the best choice for an eleven-year-old girl who had never ridden before; but as soon as Ruth Hollis saw the sturdy, lively pony, she knew that he was the one she wanted. All her life Ruth had longed to own a pony and now that her family had moved from London to a new housing estate in East Anglia, she had persuaded her father to let her spend her savings on a pony. But having taken possession of Fly-by-Night, Ruth found that her troubles had only just begun.

As above, horsey books are only about horses. Except this one isn’t. In the first book, Fly By Night, Ruth is too young to really want a romantic entanglement, but by the second, she’s interested in a couple of boys, in different ways. Nothing is really done with the romance aspect, but it’s nice to see it there. Just one of those crushes you live with and do nothing about when you’re young.

I liked the way this series was written, there was an air of weary cynicism that just wasn’t usually present in similar works, which were basically Blyton on horseback.  Also, the characters were a bit more real than the usual jolly hockeysticks fare.  Peter was a foster kid, wanting nothing to do with his over-bearing dad; Jonathan was more sarcastic than you would expect; and everyone is likable, but not sickeningly so.


It’s a damned shame none of these books are available on Kindle.  She says pointedly.  Every week I click the link on Amazon, telling them that “I’d love to read this book on Kindle”.  One day.

One day.

Posted in Reading Stuff | Tagged , ,

Horror Questionnaire (by Sarah and Carla)

What was your first exposure to horror?

Carla: Dirty.

Sarah: Dirty Dancing?  Truly horrific?

Carla: I hate you. My first horror movie was The Howling. I don’t remember how old I was, but I was under 10, I think. I spent part of every summer on the road with my dad, who was a long-haul trucker, and one night at a truck stop, I saw The Howling in the trucker’s lounge. It was amazing, and I have loved werewolves and horror ever since.

(We were never allowed to watch horror growing up, mostly because just the sound of horror movies scared my mom. I used to read a lot of horror, though. Dracula was the first horror book I remember reading.)

Sarah: The first horror movie I saw was Gremlins.  I was probably about six at the time, and we lived in an old farmhouse and none of the carpets fitted right.  Mine bulged in weird places, and I spent at least a year convinced that gremlins were hatching under there (slow hatching, admittedly, but damnit, they were coming for me!) … it just occurs to me that we can probably trace my insomnia back to that time.

Carla: Ouch, that sucks.

Sarah: Fuck that, insomnia is a life saver when it comes to Freddy Krueger.

Carla: I’ve never been so glad that sleep and I broke up.

What do you like about horror?

Sarah: I like spooky entities.  I’m not so much about the monsters or the serial killers, although if you add a supernatural element (killing in dreams, possessing a doll, etc), then suddenly I am all over that.  Mostly though, ghosts and demons, preferably invisible, really powerful, and nobody knows how to help.  I like the scary to be completely impossible to deal with in real-world terms.  If a serial killer walks towards you, shoot it.  As many times as possible.  In the head.  Or bludgeon with something heavy.  If an invisible growling entity picks you up by the ankle and throws you around your house, the only option you have really is to scream.

Carla: Depends on what I’m after. For pure entertainment, I love creature features and cheesy horror movies and horror-comedy and pretty much everything but cannibals (boring) and torture porn (yeah, no). If I want to be scared, spooky, isolated locations and creepy descriptions and the unknown. Written stories are always scarier to me than visual horror. My imagination is better than any special effects.

Sarah: I second Carla’s hatred for torture porn.

What scene scared you the most in a horror movie?

Carla: Like I said, generally written stories are scarier for me than visual ones, but that damn image of Samara climbing out of the tv and stop-motioning across the floor in The Ring never fails to make me shudder.

Sarah: Yeah, that was the one that sprang to mind immediately for me.  And I have to put my hands up and say that it’s The Ring for me, not Ringu.  The Japanese ones just didn’t do it for me.

Carla: I found Ringu pretty creepy when I was reading it in translation, but the movie didn’t get to me. Maybe in part because I saw The Ring first and have had to tell myself that crawling-out-of-the-television-Samara is really just Lilo (from Lilo & Stitch) in a costume ever since. (Daveigh Chase is both Samara and the voice of Lilo.)

Sarah: Agreed on both counts.  The last paragraph of the book was horrifying – the way the story will mutate and people will need more people to see the tape… creepy.

Carla: Right?

Sarah: Oh, I just have to add this.  There’s an episode of the animated series Dungeons & Dragons, where a portal to another dimension opens up underneath the beds of children, when they stand up, it drags them down into a hellish place where they have to work as slaves.  I swear to god I didn’t sleep for a month after seeing that.

Carla: That is AWESOME. I really missed out, never watching that series.

Who hangs out in the scary dark corners of your basement?

Carla: I live in an apartment in a converted hotel, so the basement is the laundry room and the gym and it actually is on the ground floor anyway, not really underground. There was a basement in the house where I grew up, though, and have always had a recurring dream in which a t-rex lived in the basement. (I am nearly too tall for the basement. This is clearly impossible.) I also was never able to play music in the basement there until I was an adult thanks to that Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode about the thing in the basement that ate people and came out when music was playing. (Episode 1×1 “The Tale of the Dark Music”)

Sarah: Nobody.  I live in a new-build house without a basement.  I do have a cubbyhole under the stairs though, and a cold draft comes through there, so maybe it’s ghosts.  But they’re going to be pretty cramped, because it’s a 3’x3’ space, filled with all the crap that came with the house that we didn’t want and can’t get rid of.

Who writes the best ghost stories?

Sarah: For me, nothing will top the ghost stories I read as a kid.  I was forever picking up anthologies of ghostly short stories, and I loved them.  I did actually pick up a copy of the first ghost story book I ever bought myself recently… it does not stand the test of time, unfortunately.

Carla: Oh, what was it?

Sarah: The Bumper Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Mary Danby.  I’ll lend it to you when I see you.

Carla: Thanks. I don’t actually have a favorite ghost story author. However, I, too, have an anthology from my childhood story. I recently picked up old copies of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz, with drawings by Stephen Gammell. I know they have a new version out with different artwork, but the new artwork is not nearly as creepy as Gammell’s. I bought them because I’ve always wanted copies, but also, because I’m looking for a young adult horror short story I read as a kid, and I thought it was in one of these books. It is not.

I remember there was a creature (maybe a werewolf, maybe not) scratching at the walls of a house, and there were at least two kids inside while their parents were gone. (The main character may have been a pre-teen or teen girl.) At one point, the main character shuts the creature’s paw in the window downstairs, forcing it to retreat. The scratching returns, though, and she’s up in a loft(?) with her sibling, and they hear the window open and the creature coming for them. They see a paw at the top of the ladder, but then headlights sweep over it, their parents are home, and the creature flees. I am desperate to reread this story. Ping any bells for anyone?

What was the last book you read, last movie you saw, and/or last game you played that made you want to double and triple check all the locks on your doors?

Carla: Nothing, really, though I saw The Woman in Black at the cinema with some of my siblings and was suitably tense throughout because of the atmosphere. I quite enjoyed it. (Besides, I double and triple check all the locks anyway. I hate it.)

Sarah: Megan Is Missing.  I have never in my life been so horrified by a movie.  Everyone should watch that movie, so they can understand how threatening the world is.  And on the other side of, nobody should ever watch that movie, because it’s so damned disturbing.

Have you ever been frightened by music?

Sarah: Have you ever fucking played Silent Hill?  Jesus fucking Christ.  It’s amazing I can play to the end because sometimes I hit a corridor and the music is so threatening, I just want my character to curl up in a corner, give up and die, because I don’t want to know what the fuck has prompted the makers to put that sound/music on there.

Carla: Best answer. I’m stealing it.

You’re going to be a monster’s victim. Choose which one.

Carla: Werewolf. End of story.

Sarah: Colour me shocked.

Carla: Or maybe not end of story. I mean, it would be awesome to be a werewolf. I already feel like a werewolf emotionally, adding the physical aspect would just be entertaining. (Long story very short, I have bipolar disorder, and it very much feels like a monster just beneath my skin trying to break out much of the time. No wonder I love werewolves.)

Sarah: Vampire.  A proper one though, like in the The Lost Boys.

Carla: Not proper teeth, though. Have you ever looked closely at their fangs? So wrong.

Sarah: Just remember being disturbed by Laddie’s kid teeth/fangs, and never really looked after that.

Carla: It’s like they’re one tooth in too far on each side, I think.

Are you afraid of the dark (or were you afraid of the dark)?

Sarah: Yes.  Still am.  Don’t judge.  Or mock.  Or anything or I will KICK YOU IN THE SHINS!  HOW COULD YOU MOCK ME?  WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE BEST FRIENDS!  WHAT KIND OF A MONSTER ARE YOU?

Carla: Werewolf. Wasn’t that the last question? And I wasn’t going to mock you. I was going to threaten people on your behalf, but no more.

Sarah:  Well, it’s less the dark, and more all the oogaty-boogaty monsters/murders/general threats that might be in it and wanting to kill me.

Carla: I also am afraid of the dark, mostly because I don’t see very well in it. Anything could be in it, just beyond the edge of my crappy vision. I face this fear by forcing myself to be in the dark, though. (I try to force myself to face most fears … except that s-word. DO NOT EVEN MENTION THE S-WORD.)

What is your favorite work of fictional horror (books, movies, games, etc.)?

Carla: This is like asking a wrestling fan to name their favorite wrestler. I love werewolf movies and stories, Stephen King, I could go on and on. I am going to stop talking now.

Sarah: Too many to list without missing something out, but I’ll give it a shot.

Movies (in no particular order): The Exorcist, The Ring, Blair Witch Project and The Woman in Black are the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.  Honorable mention to Megan Is Missing for being the most threatening.  As for fun horror, nothing will ever top Zombieland, although Tucker & Dale vs Evil comes pretty damned close.  When it comes to franchise horror, I’m a Nightmare on Elm Street and Final Destination girl.

Books: It, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Needful Things and Duma Key, The Breathing Method, all by Stephen King.  I’m a passionate fangirl when it comes to his works.

Games: Silent Hill 2 and 3.  Terrifying stuff.

Carla: Actually, yeah, I can name favorite horror games. I like Silent Hill 2 and Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Most horror games I can’t play, because they are first person, and that kicks off my vertigo. Alas.

Freddy v. Jason?

Sarah: Freddy. Always Freddy. If you choose Jason, you’ve gone wrong.  This shouldn’t even be a question.  It should just be a statement: Freddy.

Carla: I choose Jason.

Sarah: *sigh*

Carla: Look, Ma, I’m a troll.

Ghosts or goblins?

Carla: Ghosts.

Sarah: Ghosts.  I can’t imagine a world where we would write goblins… garden gnomes, on the other hand…

Carla: I could have gone on with my answer, but I knew Sarah would take it.

(And I do love “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti. There’s an untapped mashup market.)

Vampires or werewolves?

Sarah: OMG! I WONDER WHAT CARLA WILL CHOOSE! ARE ALL ON TENTERHOOKS?

Carla: Goblins.

Sarah: Good answer.

Fairies or witches?

Carla: Witches. I hate fairies.

Sarah: GOBLINS! I GET THIS GAME NOW

Carla: I hate you, too.

Have you ever had a paranormal encounter?

Sarah: … goblins?

Carla: Do the broken garden gnome salt and pepper shakers count?

Sarah: Amazon is haunting you!

Carla: … valid.

Do you believe in ghosts?

Sarah: I believe that there are thousands of scam artists out there who want you to believe they can talk to the dead.  Sarah does not approve.  For ten seconds, I’ll stop shouting “goblins” as my answer.  These people are scum of the earth and I don’t know how they live with themselves.

Carla: While I do believe, I think Sarah makes a really, really good point. Anything I say will just take away from her answer.

Favorite Halloween costume (yours, someone else’s, a character’s, etc.)?

Carla: I went as a werewolf one year when I was in my 20s. (Shut up, Sarah.) Of course, I went in plain clothes. After all, it wasn’t a full moon.

Sarah: *sigh* I’m English.

Carla: Are you? I hadn’t realized.

Sarah: I think you’ll find it’s “realised” and would you like a cup of tea?

Carla: Thanks, dear, I have my own Tetley already.

Did you go trick or treating as a child?

Sarah: English.  English.  A world of non-trick-or-treating fucking ENGLISH!

Carla: My parents raised me in an English church. No, I kid, but they did raise me in a church that didn’t believe in celebrating: Halloween, Christmas, Easter-that-involves-bunnies, or birthdays. We also couldn’t eat unclean meat. (Pork is an unclean meat, for the record.) I had an interesting childhood.

What is your most vivid horror memory?

Carla: I was telling Sarah I didn’t have an answer to this, then I realized that back at the beginning of September 2013, I started having really vivid, horrible nightmares in which my mother was trying to kill me and my family and friends. The end of September 2013 was the first anniversary of her death. That was a less than fun month.

Sarah: I remember watching Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time when I was eleven.  In broad daylight.  I had to turn it off twice before I got all the way through it.  And then mostly I just watched because, I have this strange theory (that Carla also kinda subscribes to, we discussed this years ago), that if you don’t finish a movie or a book, you kind of leave the genie out of the bottle.  You have to finish and reset the world.

Carla: Oh, I definitely subscribe to that. If you don’t finish it, they could come for you.

Sarah: Tiny little demons living inside the VHS tape, that can crawl out of the machine and EAT YOUR SOUL.

Carla: Way to show our age. Next thing you know, we’ll be making Blair Witch references that the kids these days won’t get or something.

Sarah: “mom” jeans, VHS, betamax, mix cassettes with songs taped off the radio, only rich people could afford portable CD players, minidisc players were THE NEXT BIG THING, crop tops, side ponytails on the top of your head…

Carla: I never had a minidisc player. Though this makes me want to know, what was the first tape you ever owned? Pretty sure mine was Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell by Meat Loaf.

Sarah: You’re really making me do this?  Fine.  Fuck you.  It was The Twelve Commandments of Dance by The London Boys.

Carla: You know, if you hadn’t responded so defensively, you could have convinced me it was cool.

Sarah: That alone proves you’ve never heard anything by The London Boys.  (BTW, RIP lads, you were awesome in the 80s.)

Carla: … there’s really no way to respond to that in a funny manner.

Sarah: Real deaths have stolen our funny.

Do you have nightmares? What’s the worst?

Carla: See above. I mostly don’t have nightmares, I have horror movie dreams, which are awesome. They’re scary, but fun. The only time a dream crosses into nightmare is when it is something like my mother trying to kill me, or all my family being dead and me unable to bring them back to life, etc.

Sarah: I spent the past couple of weeks being killed by things.  In a very video game way.  Something would kill me, I would die, and then respawn and have to figure out how to get past it.  Thankfully, that stopped.

Are you superstitious? If yes, what are your superstitions?

Carla: Finish the story or they will come after you. Don’t let your foot hang over the edge of the bed. Don’t say “blood mary” any number of times in front of a mirror.

Sarah: I don’t say anything into a mirror more than once, just in case.

Carla: I’ve just realized what a death trap this apartment is. There are mirrors everywhere.

Sarah: I know I have more quirks, because I’ve told Carla, and she’s mocked me about it, but honestly, they’re just not coming.

Carla: I would never – not mock you. That’s what I’m here for. My biggest quirk is not actually a superstition, because it could happen. Check for the s-word everywhere. You never know where they’re hiding. And once you kill one, its friends and family will come hunt you down.

Sarah: I’ve just remembered my real-life horror moment!  One night I was talking to Carla on AIM, and Craig was in France.  I heard a strange sound outside my apartment door, and told Carla about it.  Then I lampshaded the fact that I was home alone, chatting about horror in a frivolous manner, and was about to check a strange noise.  So, went to my front door, nobody out there.  I wrote it off as being my neighbour getting home (although it would be a weird time for him, about 4am our time).  I shut the door and double locked it.  I turned quickly and nearly screamed the apartment down as I caught sight of a murderer.  Or, you know, a coat on a hook, just sitting there, minding its own business.  I laughed, and made a note to tell Carla what an idiot I was.  Then I moseyed down the hall, in the dark, and as I was doing this, one of my cats bounced out of the bedroom and landed at my feet, hissing.  I screamed again, but this time I ran to the computer, knowing that two false scares mean imminent death.  I made Carla promise to get in contact with the emergency services if I stopped IM-ing.  And then I was murdered.  No, I made the last part up.  But I really did feel like the warning shot in the opening ten minutes of a slasher movie.

Carla: And now you know our secret. Sarah’s really a ghost. She’s a ghost writer. It’s awesome.

We’ve since upgraded to talking over Skype, and we tend to live the call on while we do other things, so we spend some time looking at an empty screen. I’m always sure one of us is going to see someone else in the house even though we’re alone.

Actually, this happened not too long ago. Even knowing Sarah’s future hubby was home and getting ready to go make dinner, when he walked past and I caught a glimpse of him in the doorway, I nearly shat myself. All I saw was a shadow and movement and OMG MURDERER.

… This is also the guy who answered Skype once with his face about a hair’s breadth from the camera. I was not expecting that. I nearly knocked over my laptop. He’s a troll.

Sarah: Cannot deny that.  He is a troll with manly facial hair.

Carla: He has ginger chops! They’re amazing!

What are the best parts of the horror genre?

Carla: Using scary stories to look at the world. I love analyzing horror stories for layers and themes and meanings. People bonding together, creating families (if maybe only temporary ones) to survive. I want to be scared. I like exploring the monster within (hence my love of werewolves and, really, the Hulk). I love an oppressive atmosphere, the way you can really ratchet up the tension without anything horrific happening for a long, long time. Mood and description, always a good way to go in my book. And I love gallows humor, the laugh-so-we-don’t-scream response. I love stories that turn the “final girl” trope on its head. (Not that all the women die, but that not only one can survive.)

Sarah: Can I say “boobs”?  No.  I’m better than that.

Carla: Yes, pretty sure you’re old enough to say “breasts” now.

Sarah: Ok, breasts aside, I do like that women seem to feature prominently, and the sole survivor of a slaughter is usually a girl.  Good start.  I love bad horror movies.  I love sitting there with my cup of tea and my cigarettes, pointing out every wrong move everyone makes, it makes me feel superior.  As for good horror, I love the threat, the panic, the how the hell are we going to get through this vibe of it all.  I love unusual settings, or movies with particular attention to set dressing – Silent Hill and Necromentia get major points for putting fairly bland films into the most beautifully distressed environment ever (add to that both have a killer soundtrack) and making them far more enjoyable for the effort.

What are the worst parts of the horror genre:

Carla: Torture porn. “Crazy people are all dangerous.” Dudes get to be fully dressed, but women run around in next to nothing. Stupidity. (Though, as Sarah says above, it can be so much fun to point out the errors.) Black character always dies. All straight white folk all the time. Oh, it’s on an “Indian burial ground” of course there are vengeful ghosts. While I do think it is possible to tell a story set in an asylum without disrespecting the actual experiences of people who have been in them, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it done.

Sarah: Torture porn.  I always think that torture porn is horror for people who don’t really like horror.  Horror is being frightened, not disgusted.  Bad characterisation, a desperate grasp on the idiot ball in order to separate the morons so they can be killed separately, scattered writing in an attempt to be clever (recently watched a film with about eight different plots, none of which were resolved and not a single one related to the title the film had).

Carla: I love your description of the “idiot ball” life plan…Sarah’s just told me that’s a TV Tropes thing. And here I was going to crow about the cleverness of her, but no.

Sarah: I’m well read when it comes to that site.

Carla: By which she means she wastes hours we should be writing.

On the subject of tropes, what are your favourites and the most hated?

Sarah: I love: abandoned places; people thrown together, preferably in some kind of youth hostel or psychiatric ward due to their supernatural issues, which everyone in authority takes to be standard teen angst bullshit; super badass characters with strange side-quests (Tallahassee and his twinkies in Zombieland, for example); anything in the found footage genre – but only if they play by the rules, I hate it when it suddenly cuts back to a movie cam.  That’s cheating!

Carla: I wish I could watch more found footage, but vertigo! Shame. Tropes I love:  People with monsters inside, especially if it is a struggle (maybe a losing struggle) to try to control it. (See again, werewolves. The Hulk.) This goes beyond just horror stories, but chosen/created families. (Family isn’t just about blood, people.) Monsters as heroes. Characters being both crazy and having supernatural things happen to them. Groups of strangers/near strangers/enemies must find a way to work together to save the world. Boarding school stories. Girls and women getting to have grand adventures. Horror stories set in nature – woods, mountains, beaches, corn fields, etc. – where part of the horror is simply to survive the nature, not to mention the supernatural.

There are also tropes I hate: rape as dramatic backstory, particularly when male characters can have nuanced backstories, but the women are always raped and/or lost a child. Adopted families aren’t “real” families. Killing female characters to create dramatic tension for the male characters. Characters who think they’re crazy, but oh, no, they’re not crazy, not like those real crazy people, they’re just experiencing the supernatural. Don’t worry, ghosts are fine, it’s just lucky you aren’t actually crazy, etc. Fuck that noise. Stalking treated as a romantic and positive thing (I say hypocritically because Sarah and I joke about her being my stalker).

Sarah: I hate: pretty much everything Carla mentioned features, but my super “OMG I HATE THIS TROPE” trope is dead parent.  I fucking hate this trope.  I don’t mind having dead or absent parents, but I hate it when it’s written in such a way that the character spends 90% of their time, staring soulfully out a window, watching the rain, thinking about how fucking perfect life would be if mommy/daddy was still here.  The other 10% of the time, they recount tales of how dead parent is their BFF.  Life would not be perfect if dead parent was still alive.  It would just be different.  Who knows, if dead parent had lived much longer, maybe your parents would’ve got divorced.  Or maybe he’d be there, but they’d be fighting about paying the mortgage when one of them lost their job.  Or grounding you for failing a test/dating someone they don’t like.  It wouldn’t be perfect, it would just be different.

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Writing Process: Outline

So, a bit of backstory on who I am, who Carla is, and things like that.

Carla and I met online back in the days when everyone had a GeoCities site, and those sites were divided into districts, depending on the topic of your site – for example, hers was in Hollywood because it was about a movie.  Her nephew/our intern/bossy guy who keeps us from slacking off is actually the same age as our friendship (referred to as Intern).

I sent her a gushing email telling her she was awesome and I was going to stalk her until we were best friends, and I can’t remember exactly what she said in return, but it was very friendly and encouraging.  Then we bumped into each other on a mailing list.  She seemed pleased to see me, despite the threat of stalkage.  Since then we’ve followed each other to various places online (due to my stalking her to LiveJournal, I met my soon-to-be-hubby, but that’s another story).  We started co-writing back in 2001, and despite our very obvious differences (she’s American, she’s all about threatening atmosphere, delicious description and a ruthless addiction to plotting and outlines; I’m English, and into dialogue, strange characters, and a slap-dash approach to writing, which is basically: type something, see where it takes you), we seemed to click writing-wise.  Even back then, if you ignore the English/US spellings, it’s actually hard to see who wrote which chapter.

Carla has worked her tail off trying to get me to be a more functional writer.  After thirteen years, we’re at the point where she has got me as addicted to outlines as she is.

Our writing process for the outline is this:

  • Open a new doc in GoogleDrive.
  • Argue over what to call it.
  • Wait patiently while I format the document to my liking.
  • Waste ten minutes while I whine that “keep with next” is not an option in GoogleDrive.
  • Briefly outline that A plot, B plot and, if necessary, C plot.  Waste 60 minute coming up with wrestling metaphors for our plots/discuss the merits of Paul Heyman.  Get side-tracked for a further 30 minutes by either complaining about how Cena is booked, or speculating on what will happen next with The Shield (the wrestling stable, not the TV show).
  • Decide on POV characters.
  • Type the words “Chapter One”.  Then bold them.
  • Discuss wrestling until one of us reminds the other that we’re supposed to be writing.  This goes a lot faster if Intern is in the background, he will then set his timer for 30 minutes and want to know how many words/chapters we’ve done during this time.
  • Get chapter one done in a flurry of activity.  Until one of us mentions the wrestling.
  • Speculate on which wrestlers might not be opposed to being in the movie of our book.  Which we are currently not outlining.
  • Get stuck on chapter two or three.  Bitch about it.  A lot.
  • Revise chapter one, until two and three behave.
  • Suddenly get excited over the book, and outline 15 chapters.
  • Realise Character X has a different motivation.  Amend previous chapters accordingly.  Put notes in previous book outlines that this will require tweaking.
  • Sit back, all satisfied and check Ringside Confessions.  Discuss the contents from every conceivable angle.  Once more fangirl over the sheer presence and charisma of Paul Heyman.
  • Repeat as necessary.

I love the outlining process.  I get the same amount of satisfaction on a completed outline as I do on a completed book.

Carla and I are trying something new at the moment.  We are trying to outline an entire series (the UK horror series) before working on the books.  Books 1 and 2 are already written, but need revising drastically, given that we wrote them as stand-alones separately (Book 1 is mine, Book 2 is hers), before deciding they could work in the same universe.  With that in mind, we started outlining the whole series, so we couldn’t be blind-sided by later plots that develop that we didn’t see coming and should have seen – and more importantly, should have foreshadowed.  It’s an awesome process watching our world come together.

As an update on my last post, we have now finished the outline for Book 3, and have started 4.

Cross-posted at CarlaMLee.com

Posted in UK Horror Series, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , ,