"Published author, aspiring novelist . . . welcome to my world of madness!"

Aug 16, 2011

Ouija Boards: How Games Can Inspire Horror

Ouija boards. You can find them in the game aisle of any toy store or major retailer out there, but are they really a game? Much debate surrounds these little wooden boards with their letters and planchettes, also known as oracles.

Some say they are a hoax, driven only by overactive imaginations, or friends playing tricks on each other. Others claim they work all too well, and serve as a portal to the other side: a portal to the demonic underworld that cannot be closed once open. They say playing with an Ouija board is like sending a written invitation to any sinister spirit looking for a home.

I say they are a great tool in horror!

The Exorcist” was one of the only movies to ever truly scare me in my lifetime. It centers on young Regan, and the chilling aftermath she endures after playing with an Ouija board. It started with the pointer moving by itself, scratches behind the wall, strange noises at night, and the unforgettable violent shaking of her bed. Then came the demonic possession. *shudders* The images of this girl and the horror she went through haunted me for weeks. I slept with the lights on, if I managed to sleep at all. That inhuman voice echoed in my head, eliciting shivers. The mere thought of laying in bed terrified me, lest it, too, started to shake.

 Sure, laugh, if you will--but I was scared!

The book and movie are said to be based on the ‘true’ story of a little boy in Georgetown, USA. His is one of the only official exorcisms performed in the States. The movie, itself, was reportedly cursed. Some claim this was a hoax to garner more public interest. However, some facts do remain. A fire broke out on the set, delaying production for six weeks. The lead actress, Linda Blair, the actress who played Regan, suffered several mental breakdowns. Family members and actors tied to the film experienced a number of tragedies during and after production, including multiple injuries on set. Jack McGowen died of a heart-attack after completing his role in the film. Other deaths “linked to the Exorcist curse” are a night watchman, a cameraman’s offspring, and a special effects expert. Coincidence or not . . . you decide.

Other films that have used the Ouija board as a catalyst for horror include, “Witchboard,” “Thirteen Ghosts (also uses a séance),” “The Uninvited,” What Lies Beneath,” and many more. A more recent film, “A Haunting in Connecticut,” utilizes séances and boards with drastic results.

Whether they are a harmless game, a useful tool, or something much more sinister, the Ouija board has played a major role in inspiring terror. The Ouija will entertain, warn, instruct, or offer information from the spirit world, often with mixed results. This is a key scene that can set the stage for the rest of the story. It’s a plot device that sets the scene for many “what if” scenarios. Perhaps your character is truly haunted after playing with one. Is it a spirit, or something much more ominous? Or maybe, they have gone mad, driven by hallucinations and the result of their own fear. What sort of terror and acts do these hallucinations inspire? One thing is for sure . . . in the case of fiction, the Ouija does, indeed, open many doorways!

*Bullet* Historical note: Up until close to mid-last century, many cases of epilepsy, schizophrenia, and other mental and neurological diseases were attributed to demonic or spirit possession. In the medieval era, people were tortured in the name of medical science as people sought a way to “purge them of their demons.” In later centuries, they were locked away in insane asylums and forgotten, where they also suffered cruel experiments far from society’s eye.

Even advice on how to properly dispose of the board ranges widely. Some say throw it out or give it away, it is, after all, a cardboard game, saying it is comparable to Monopoly or CandyLand. Others claim it is no game and must be cleansed and burned. There are some who say burning it leaves the portal open and insist it must be cut up and buried. Yet more people claim it has to be weighted and dropped beneath running water. It seems the ways to dispose of it vary as widely as the opinions and stories surrounding the board itself.

Such debate and mystery leaves a writer’s options wide open, and would make anyone looking for a sincere option very confused. See the conflict this could provide for a character? What if option ‘A’ turned out to be the wrong one and after pitching said board, they discover it has somehow found its way home?

This is just one look at the many catalysts and options the horror genre provides. Like all things in life, the point of view taken on it is subjective to one’s own whims. I’m not here to argue or debate the board and its purpose, or the rumors surrounding it. I only know those rumors scare me silly! It’s not even the board itself that scares me. It’s the “what if” factor! This is just another example of where imagination can take us. Of what belief, or even a moment of suspended belief can do. For me, the results lasted a lifetime. I hope you found this information entertaining and, perhaps, a bit chilling. Most of all, I hope it provides a small glimmer of inspiration somewhere along the way.

~Best wishes and happy haunting!~

Aug 11, 2011

Book Review: The House on Blackstone Moor

The first thing that struck me about this novel was the unique character voice. Rose literally transported me to another place and time. She comes across as a living, breathing essence that leaps off the page and beckons you forward, inviting you to come sit and stay a spell between the pages with her. This is not easy to accomplish, nor is it something that can be taught. Carole mastered this art with a finesse that makes writing look easy. I guarantee Rose will draw a reader in if given a mere page or two.

The plot starts off with a bang. Carole wastes no time thrusting her audience into a tense, terrifying situation. Rose finds her family slaughtered around her and has no recollection of what happened or why. She’s immediately whisked off to a mental asylum, which in itself would be unnerving enough, but the author has her own brand of horror in store.

We’re cast back into early London times, when these places harbored true acts of evil. Back before regulations and rights, asylums truly were a playground for the evil and depraved. My heart pounded faster as I wondered what would happen to Rose between these walls. Throughout the entire novel, there is a pervading sense of doom that mounts with every page—one the reader cannot escape any more than our ill-fated protagonist. It feels like every character we meet is one that cannot be trusted, yet Rose, in her innocence is steeped in kindness and despite the tragedy surrounding her, still maintains a trusting heart.

Perhaps that is part of the lure, for the reader can always feel the constant push and pull, the underlying battle between good and evil that occurs just below the surface of every page.

The House on Blackstone Moor is a novel rich with mystery, horror, and suspense. The evil shrouding Rose’s past, and her dark family secrets are revealed bit by bit, like tantalizing bread crumbs for the reader to follow. Unlike a lot of novels, Gill does not make it easy to guess what lurks around the corners. Instead, she lulls the readers into feeling comfortable with their assumptions, only to rip those illusions away. Nothing in this book is quite as it seems, from the doctors Rose encounters, to her employers at Blackstone Manor and the children she governs.

The novel really picks up the pace, as does the intrigue once Rose begins her journey at Blackstone. The descriptions of the Manor and its grounds were rich and lavish. It is a place the reader can easily imagine, and one they won’t soon forget. Nor are the characters she meets.

Inside these walls, the plot thickens, the mystery grows, and eventually it blossoms into forces so evil, even Rose struggles to comprehend. She’s confronted with the ghosts of her past, hunted by powerful forces of darkness, and tempted with the bittersweet pangs of forbidden love…a love that may very well be the death of her.

Carole Gill did an excellent job blurring the lines between good and evil, reminding us that as with human nature, not everything can be defined in terms of black and white. Sometimes the lines are blurred and become hazy shades of grey—especially when it comes to matters of the heart. I won’t ruin the outcome by telling you who, but I will say this book had terrifying characters and ones that will make you smile. I guarantee it will make you take a moment to question yourself and all that you may have believed.

I was on the edge of my seat when I finally learned what was happening to Rose and why…and again when the story came out about who and what Eve, the children, and Louis were. Way to go author! This was heartbreaking and riveting all at once. Louis, with his dark good looks and seductive manner…the children who are such an endearing part of this tale, and serve to pull the reader in as much as they do Rose…Eve with her tragic mistakes, and  Echo who is a truly delicious nemesis worthy of the chills he elicits. I hope we see more of him in the future. The scenes where he arrives to battle and inflict misery are truly harrowing!

Fallen angels, vampires, demons, mystery, love, torment, and unspeakable evil—both of this world and beyond: this book has it all. It’s a fine example of gothic horror that kept me on the edge of my seat. Carole does a great job balancing setting, plot, and character development and I’m eagerly looking forward to purchasing the sequel. I invite you to take a look and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
You can purchase her work HERE
For more of Carole and her work, follow her here on Twitter and visit her official author's blog. 

~Best wishes always~

Aug 8, 2011

Where's the Panic Button?

Hello, Darlings!

It’s been a while since I gave a personal update. I am sure you are all grateful, but the time for gratitude has come to an end. Believe me—after this post those of you who can do so without combusting will probably pray that I revert back to a state of sullen silence.
I’ve been quiet with good reason, you see. No, one of the minions did not escape and ply my mouth with duct tape, though that would have been fun, would it not? I’ve hit the final stretch of my novel. We are talking mere teens when it comes to word count. While most would see this as a cause for mass celebration, I’ve done little but panic. And write…and panic some more. Not to mention the cleaning and shopping sprees that I use by means of procrastination. 
Why can I not have one of these?

I wonder what pressing it does. Would the world end? Would the ceiling open up and vast amounts of confetti and glitter rain down in a sparkly shower? Hmm…perhaps blood. Yes, that’s it. Blood and feathers. Surely panic looks like the inside of a chicken coop once the fox slips in and all the birds realize they are about to fall victim to a slaughter. *small smirk*  Poor little dears.
As for me, I am wondering how to wrap things up. I’m struggling with how to tie up loose ends without cinching them off completely. It is not something I’ve had to do before, but a second book is already begging to be written, and perhaps a third before these characters have had their full say. I don’t think anyone would complain. Seir is quite amusing between his contradictions and sarcasm. Not to mention his unique take on the world and its occupants in general.
I must find a way to be a clever, clever girl and present this in a way that it could stand on its own, yet beckons to readers to return for a second helping. PANIC. I don’t even want to think about marketing right now, or where to turn when it is all said and done. All of this is truly beyond my ability to comprehend at the moment.
Hell, the mere thought of ME actually finishing a novel, let alone in under a year is unthinkable. Brace yourselves, darlings. This may very well be a sign of an impending apocalypse. I’m sure those who know me will agree.
In the meantime, feel free to share any input, as well as your stories about that shiny red button and what it might do! I truly AM curious.

~Best wishes always~