About typical lydia

I am a regular girl that likes gardening, fine cuisine, sex, death, horror and loud noises. Read my novel, Nightface, or articles in Xalt magazine. check http://www.typicallydia.com or http://nightface.ca for more

On seeing “It Follows” at The Mayfair Theatre

At first, this was a post to accompany my original ‘yay! I’m going to the Mayfair!” post on Facebook, but after writing so much words, here we are with a bona fide blog post. Also, this is barely a review. Listen to the linked review for that, or go see it yourself. Both are worth it.

To expand: at first, because this was based around sex, I’d thought I wouldn’t want to see it. After ‘Teeth’ and, like, every other sex based horror film I disliked, I wasn’t about to willingly subject myself to another. Thankfully, that’s not it at all. The characters themselves (let alone their intercourse) are decidedly pedestrian (no pun intended) and utterly believable. And likeable. Though very plain, we all know kids/people just like this. I hesitate to say ‘kids’ because they all conduct themselves in a very mature and ageless manner. They drive cars without them being status symbols. They are in out of hospitals without defiance or supervision. They accept in a mostly non-judgmental manner that their absent parents are just that; absent.

They take on this force, ‘it’, alone and without bravado. Very mature.

Their settings are largely bland and lower-middle class which I can relate too. So many of the houses look plucked straight from my hometown. The only thing that left me wondering about their incomes and lifestyle is their cars always had gas. Maybe that’s a Motor City thing? Like Albertans always have gas and beef? It certainly would have broken the spell to see any of them spend money gassing up.

The spell, as it were, is they really have nothing to do. They are likely some of the first to really attempt to fight back at this thing as opposed to hide, spread it further, or simply give in.

Listening in to the Bind Torture Kast review, as I tend to revisit these when I do see a film they cover, reinforced something I thought while watching. Two things actually.

One, they are of a social class some people may typically attribute (in a short sighted and misinformed if not cruel way) to impulsive and reckless sexual behavior. They have nothing better to do. They are all incredibly close and talk openly about encounters, sex, and relationships, and they are young. They drink and have no parental guidance. They watch old sci fi and horror into the wee hours. Sex? Seems to be the last thing on their minds. ‘It’ has barked up the wrong tree, if it’s goal is to spread and kill. No one knows that though.

While watching, I thought of how I would avoid death if afflicted with this force. The only way is to have random sex? Well, I guess it’s best to find someone who is going to pass it on faster than it can walk, right? Dirty idea, but the only way out. Chris (host of BTK) pointed out how the first girl in the opening is of a higher income bracket. True. The boy who passes it to Jay is of a slightly lower income – evident in that he would have been embarrassed by the house he pretended he lived in, and that residing in the house he Actually lives in is his caring and very present mother. The girl he chose to pass this to, Jay, is slightly lower-income than himself.

In a later scene, Paul seems to be moved to spread this among sex-workers, but decides no to. It would have been the inevitable escape. To find an even lower ‘class’ group of people who may be lucky enough to spread this faster than it can walk. I can see why some liken this to STDs or AIDS but I just can’t. If I want to liken it to an epidemic, it’s the spread of apathy toward sex. Sex as recreation or a commodity becoming commonplace. Not that I have an opinion on that, and I don’t mean epidemic in a negative fashion. It is what it is.

Second, being able to see a damn fine horror film in a theatre.

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We are blessed, those that have small repertory theatres at our disposal. Spoiled even. Had I been forced to attend a multiplex to see this, I’d have skipped it. No way would I want it marred with trailers and bullshit, let alone dude-bros praying for tits or hoping the sex would get their dates squirmy. Luckily, I got to see this at my favourite haunt (however I neglect the place too often) with a decent crowd who applauded at the end with actual appreciation. It’s something the review hinged on from start to finish, and I agree. Seeing anything in a multiplex these days is torture. It doesn’t have to be that way. Seeing wide-release horror is normally torture enough (formulaic plot, pretty rich annoying characters, stupid fucking nu-metal and folk rock soundtrack) but add in the plebs and mouthbreathers – a terrible evening for the handful who actually want to enjoy a film.

Apparently there is a sequel coming. Yes, it follows It Follows to it’s origin from what I’ve read. If only in a perfect world they could create the same lightening strike and have a creeping terror of a film, perfect sound, well written and spoken script and direction, with the same kind of organic release based on interest. A girl can hope.

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Dark Side Tour – Pobi, Pyper and Cutter in Ottawa

To anyone, three men sitting around a restaurant discussing the books in hand may not be so striking. To know they are preparing for readings and selecting passages may pique the interest of a student of horror. What they are choosing are bits that they know are either striking to their readers, or portions that they really feel embody the highlights of that particular work or as a hologram of their craft as a whole.

~DSC_6017smNone of them wear ‘scary’ like a uniform. Horror is in books and film and in their imaginations. It’s not sitting down for a meal or spending the day on the lake with the kids, let alone getting to meet and talk with the public. So, seeing them all with their books going over the evenings reading selections and chatting about their work and the tour remains as “business casual” as anyone would suspect. They were fresh off the Dark Side Tour launch the night before in Toronto and this, the second date on the tour in Ottawa, was the gateway to Montreal and Quebec City.

‘Paperback Writer’ by The Beatles drifted over the restaurant sound system and conversation veered in and out of the craft of writing, their current work, beginnings, forensic pathology, the current tour and their tremendous support they receive from the sponsors. Such regular conversation to start, you barely notice the quick dips from mundane to taboo without the bat of an eyelash.

Andrew Pyper: “We are externalizing a very internal process. Like, every question is about this thing I do inside of my head, alone, at four o’clock in the morning… it’s like explaining skateboarding. Try explaining skateboarding to somebody.”

Without focusing on beginnings such as school and earliest memories of writing, I asked how their publishing journey was. Had they had a long arc with small presses or short story sales, or hit large publishers right off the bat.

AP: I was very lucky. I had a book that came out of a small press, The Porcupines Quill. Then I went away and wrote a novel. I had an agent based on essentially that she thought I was going to write a novel. So she took it out and it was picked up in Canada first with Harper Collins, then in the US, UK and elsewhere. There was a movement from small press to big but without the process of rejection or multiple novels having to be written before you take that next step.”

Robert Pobi: I had a longer, weirder experience. I sold my first novel when I was 23. I was in Mexico waiting for the galleys to be sent to me, and the publisher was bought out twelve days before the publisher went into production. Presidio Press. Afterward, I went out a few query letters, didn’t have any luck. I mean I had been picked up to the first one I sent the book to and got a contract so I thought this was easy. I tried for six or seven months, sent out seven or eight letters and they all said, ‘thank you, but no thank you’. So I was just writing in a vacuum for the next twenty years. I didn’t show my work to anybody. When I came out of the box, five or six years ago now, Simon & Schuster were the first people to pick me up. I got picked up by Random House in the UK and things just went. I got lucky right off the bat, I guess, but after paying my dues in private for twenty years.”

Nick Cutter: It’s been a roller-coaster for me too. I wrote my first horror book under a different pseudonym. I think I was 25 or 26. And then I started writing literary stuff and tried to sell short stories to journals. If I were masochistic I could have filled a pillowcase with rejection slips. I cobbled some stores together and it feels like when the floodgates opened, they opened suddenly. Like boom. Then boom-boom-boom you got a bunch of acceptances. Maybe I had pre-loaded. Like just had to get better and better so then you just hit this nice slipstream. ‘Rust and Bone‘ came out, then ‘The Fighter‘, but no one wanted anything to do with me after ‘The Fighter‘, my second novel. So I was down again. Didn’t know what i was going to do, then ChiZine, who I’ve been friends with published my book ‘Sarah Court‘ and that sort of helped me get back on track toward writing ‘Cataract City‘ which is my over book under Craig Davidson, then ‘The Troop‘ and ‘The Deep‘. So yes, it’s been a roller coaster but I think a lot of writers follow that same course.”

Horror, as a genre, could be seen as paying rent to live in the basement of a building it used to own. A sad state on one hand. On another, the mother ship could be seen as buried under the new civilizations that are thriller, urban fantasy and dark literature. I asked their take on that idea and being fit into the horror genre.

RP: ‘Eye Of The Storm‘ I thought was a horror novel. ‘Harvest‘ I didn’t, but the next one coming out, ‘Mannheim Rex‘, that’s a horror novel. I just write fun stories and see where they go–I guess children having their feet sawed off qualifies as horror–I didn’t approach Harvest as horror. I would have worked on the heat a little more, the atmosphere in the city a little bit more. Probably dealt my main character a couple more blows emotionally. I would have handled it a little bit differently. I had sold ‘Bloodman‘ to Random House UK which I had written as a horror book and they said it was a great thriller and said ‘we’ll take it if you sell us a second police novel’. So they saw it as a strict police book. In France I’m on the shelf with literature. French translations of Poe; then me. In the UK it’s in the take-away at Sainsbury’s next to the fried chicken.

AP: I wouldn’t say I’m uncomfortable with the term horror to describe my work, because it is. Within the genre, I think something like psychological horror or supernatural thriller would probably in my case be simply more accurate. I don’t care whether it’s more savory, just that it’s more accurate. It’s at the end of the spectrum where it kind of crosses over into suspense or literary, or even to an extent crime. These nuances are interesting to think about as the more nuanced it gets the more helpful it gets at marketing books. Whether it is the UK or here. To market it as horror? I’m fine with that. That’s just a decision of the rack, but as a matter of aesthetics, I would probably be more comfortable with supernatural thriller.

NC: I grew up in the 80s and 90s reading books that were clearly marked horror on the spine. So, if I could fall in with that lineage I’m fine with that. I think things have splintered since that time and it gets broken down into elements of what a book could be slotted as. It’s more of a decision of the publishers and what they see things as, but for me personally, if I have horror stamped on the spine of my books that’s fine.

Huge thanks to Amy Jacobsen and Loretta Eldridge from Simon & Schuster, who did an excellent job of managing the tour. Alongside sponsors from Beaus Brewing, and Elle Canada, they worked with hosts ChiSeries, Maxwell’s and Perfect Books to make for one very cool evening. Seeing everyone from ChiZine, Can-Con, Maple Books, Geek Inked, Postscripts to Darkness and Lackington’s was a veritable who’s who of dark literature here, and that’s just who I had a chance to visit with.
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The readings were intense. Stark. The selections had lines that toyed along the edge of good taste and taboo, as those familiar with these books could guess. Pobi had even those that had read his work squirming and the crowd reactions to all were priceless. You can hear and watch over at Geek Inked!

DarkSideAuthors

The question and answer segment was new to Ottawa ChiSeries but flowed like a mini panel on the mind of a horror writer. Gone were industry questions on how to get an agent and what writing is like. The crowd wanted blood or at least meatier input. How their minds work. How research influences them and how they can lay their morbid thoughts to rest and have headspace to share among the living and loved ones. One of the questions that arose was how do they reign it in. Have editors ever stopped them from including passages that may be too scary, too gory, or too insane?

RP: Going too far. It’s something I worried about when doing this full time and my standard response is ‘Do you know Ed Gein?’ what ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is based on? When they arrested him, he was wearing under his clothes a belt made out of human nipples and had a vagina that wasn’t his in his pants. What can I do that’s gonna top that? Edmond Kemper is another one… you look at the news what ISIS is doing, there is so much badness in the world…truth is stranger than fiction.

NC: In ‘Danse Macabre‘, Stephen King talked about the three levels of fear. He said, first I’ll try to terrify you, and if that won’t work then I’ll try and horrify you and if I can’t do that, try to gross you out. Sometimes I skip terrify and horrify and go straight for the gross out. Andrew works on a different register where he terrifies… but Rob and I have to deal with the question of do you turn it up to the next level or do you not? I have given up on trying to write by trying to assay peoples tastes. It’s a hard thing because what doesn’t even get close to ‘your’ terror register as a horror fan is way over ‘their’ taste level. You can get frozen inertia by staying where your supposed readers tolerance is and then you don’t do anything. You have to have fun with this if it’s what you want to do, so you have to be able to do whatever you want.”

The question of research and how it influences their writing ranged from profiling crime to spirituality. This is one area where I think many authors tend to understate the amount of research that goes into fiction. That or it is largely unnoticed as Pobi pointed out, since it may take a stack of books to influence or validate a line or two in a chapter.

AP: My research tends toward the specific or going places like Detroit in the case of ‘The Damned‘. Or more mythological research. There is a typically a classic text that forms the basis for the recent books. There is the ghost of Dante’s ‘Inferno‘ in ‘The Damned‘ or Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost‘ in ‘The Demonologist‘, so there is a kind of fact based research, but for me it’s understanding the pre-existing myth and what I’m going to do with it.”
Hopefully we will see another round of the Dark Side Tour.

So, what will we see on the shelves next?

Andrew Pyper: Probably the most ambitious project I’ve ever undertaken as it requires quite a lot of research. It has historical aspects to it and conceptually it’s the most ambitious book too. I’ve never been as excited by a book and as scared as I am of blowing it with this book.

Robert Pobi: My next book is called ‘Deselected’. It’s about evolutionary mechanics and the beliefs in place in the religious right in the States and when scientific threats start coming down on humanity beliefs begin crumbling in domino effect. It’s about this narcissistic navel gazing and us being the centre of the universe.

Nick Cutter: My next book with ChiZine is called ‘The Acolyte’. It’s about this society also ruled by a religious right and the acolytes job is to stamp out any faiths that are not in line with the traditional state. It follows a couple of these acolytes and what is going on when they begin to fight against this system that is in place.

People Live Still in Cashtown Corners – Nightmare Fuel

The edges of my vision are flickering as vertigo climbs my legs. This is normal. My diet has been out of whack and I’ve been fighting a head cold for, oh, maybe three weeks. It seemed like a good time to settle into reading “People Live Still In Cashtown Corners” by Tony Burgess. Or, maybe it was the worst time. Who knows.

After picking this up at the last ChiSeries Ottawa night – which was the last reading I did on October 9 for the launch of Postscripts To Darkness IV – I resolved to move it to the top of my reading pile. “Pontypool” was a favorite and with that reading night and launch, I was technically published alongside the man. As usual, I bought other books since then that leapt to the ‘top of my reading pile’ burying the book alive.

After wrapping another novel, I basically turned its last page into the first page of “Cashtown”. That was at ten o’clock this morning. I was finished by noon. On the button. I know this because the last line rung in my mind as I put the book down in order to come back to planet earth when the church bells began to sound off.

If I were to recommend not only the book, but the environment in which to read it, I’d have to say it must be read in one sitting at the very least. Perhaps adopt a bad diet a few days before hand. If you drink, stop for a week. Be ill. Influenza, a cold, it doesn’t really matter. Be confused. A little social drama brewing in a circle twice removed will help. Be out of sorts. Feel weird. This will only help to heighten the experience.

Sure, the experience will be different for everyone, but I must say this one chilled me sufficiently. Looking for short but very hard-hitting horror? This is a good bet. I like true-crime so the images included did the fun job of building the story for me. All in all, the look and feel of the book helped. It is not average book size. It is not average book length. These are more things that take you out of the ordinary and sell Cashtown Corners to your imagination, other than the fact that the physical location actually exists. I enjoy the first-person point of view which is done extremely well in this case. I also enjoy finding one barely noticeable typo in good books. I found one, and it has a typo too. 

Sadly, I can’t imagine this being shoe-horned into a screenplay let alone made into a film. Since Burgess is also great at scripting, he’d be the obvious choice but I just can’t let go of the story in my mind to trust anyone to bring it to life in just the right way.

Take one part ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, your favorite Saladfingers episode, and kill scenes from the film ‘Maniac’ then stir until you are well shaken and that is what reading “People Live Still In Cashtown Corners” is kind-of sort-of like. While it does have quiet parts and revolting parts, the storytelling is where this grabs you by the throat with both hands to whisper in your ear. Hearing the inner dialogue of Mister Clark and nothing else is a trip through a dark, dark madhouse. You can’t help but put yourself in the head of this man since you are led there with a beautifully set up world crafted by a gifted author.

“Bob Clark owns the Self Serve in Cashtown Corners. It’s the only business there and Bob is the only resident. He’s never been comfortable around other people. Until he starts to kill them. And murder, Bob soon discovers, is magic. People Live Still in Cashtown Corners is Bob’s account of a tragedy we all thought was senseless.” – ChiZine

Trailer Review – And The Night Growled Back, by Aaron Dries

I like Aaron Dries work, and was specifically drawn to it due to his book trailers as mentioned in my review for The Fallen Boys. It turns out he has made them himself. This is my second prerequisite for a horror fiction trailer I want to review. The first is that they be good, so here we are!

This one begins innocuously enough. I like the mix of the brooding voice-over, highway shots and live action. By the time the tension and mystery build, the soundscape warps. Some may be turned off by the high pitch tone used, but I love this. Nothing says terror like your hearing giving out, no? It’s at just about that point that this trailer rears up and snaps at you – literally!

Anyone out there looking to release a book trailer can learn a lot from these reviews. And remember, there is a larger life for these videos outside of YouTube. They are far more fun to share than a static image. They make great entries to horror and Halloween film festivals. With a little added audio, most can do well as radio spots and the like. So, to not keep you waiting, here is some conversation with horror author Aaron Dries about the trailer for And The Night Growled Back.

Typicallydia: I want to ask about the technical side. What camera did you use?

Aaron Dries: No grade A camera in use here, sadly. My book trailer budget was miniscule—which is a polite way of saying absolutely bloody nothing—so the bulk of this  production was shot on my partner’s DSLR with an HD video capture function. The one problem is that it’s so lightweight. Lightweight cameras are great if you’ve got a tripod but can be problematic because they capture every shake of your hand. And no, I didn’t have a tripod. The camera had no image stability feature. I actually had more dolly/tracking shots in my shotlist, but my arm just wasn’t steady enough. Not a gliding THE SHINING-esque push in to be found in any of my footage. Oh, and let’s not forget that I didn’t have any dolly tracks laid out or anything. The interior shots were all done in my one bedroom Canberra (Australia) loft. So I cleared away my coffee table and rolled up my shag rug so I had the open floorboards to work on; then I sat on my wheel-based swivel chair and had my partner push me around, back and forth, front-ways and sideways. I’m glad we’re on the third floor of our apartment building. The people on the street would have thought us insane otherwise. But then again, maybe we are.

I used a secondary camera for the ‘highway’ shots, an old Bloggie cam, which is USB powered and is about the size of a small TV remote. We’ll get to how I used this one later…

TL: What sort of lighting was needed? I know how important good light is…

AD: For all of these interior shots, the only lighting I had available was that I could source from around my apartment. I accumulated every lamp and torch I could find and strategically placed them around the limited space, just out of shot. I bounced light off the walls to give the background some definition and to try to cast some shadows over the actor’s faces, where appropriate (especially at the dining table). I used a floor lamp to light their faces, and angled the lamp shade in a particular direction to diffuse the brightness. I would alternate which ceiling lights I’d use depending on which direction I was shooting in, but this was often problematic, as it let too much light into the scene, breaking the mood. Lighting, for the record, was the hardest part of the shoot. You can have a good camera, or a really simple one, and shoot something that looks great—but if it’s not lit well, you might as well have shot your masterpiece in a shoebox. Lighting is critical. It was a challenge, but it worked. Eventually.

TL: Where is that highway, and was the lighting there a challenge as well?

AD: That highway was actually just a road, which kind of looked like an eerie and abandoned highway when shot from a low angle. I tried shooting on an actual highway, but there was too much traffic—highways are well lit, too. I didn’t want that. I only wanted the glare off the tarmac and the blare of the dividing lines, really. I was really going for a David Lynchian LOST HIGHWAY kind of thing. I just wasn’t going to get that on your average Australian highway… So these exterior shots were taken on Mount Ainsle in Canberra, about a five minute drive from my apartment. I waited until the middle of the night so there wouldn’t be any other cars and did it all in one shot.

To capture this image, which to me was crucial (I even considered just using this one shot, unbroken and complete, without any of the interior inserts, just a voice over), I took my little Bloogie cam and used electrical tape to fasten it to the number plate of my car! In order to do this, I had to set the camera to record first and then attach it, crossing my fingers as I did so. I then got back in my car and … sped and swerved up that mountain and then down again. I’m sure if the police had seen me I would have been pulled over for sure. I wasn’t terribly proud, but I was careful. The only real danger up there was all the wildlife bounding about. At one point a Kangaroo leapt out in front of me.

[That, right there, is why I like interviewing Aaron Dries]

So I drove, and the whole time I was praying to the low-budget filmmaking gods out there, “please-please-please don’t let the sticky tape break, please don’t let the camera hit the ground and shatter into a million pieces. After all, the damn thing doesn’t even belong to me. It’s my partner’s as well! I took it without permission because there’s no way I’d get the green light if I’d actually said what I planned to use it for!” (I mean, who would?)

As for the lighting, I knew that the majority of the shot would be in shadow. The night was pitch black. By putting my blinders on I knew I was guaranteed to get the road glare, if nothing else. And that was enough. My problem was focus! This is a low-fi camera we’re talking about here, with no manual focus feature. I just had to luck it. There was also no way of checking the footage until after I’d gone up and then back down the mountain. I pulled over, jumped out of the car and pretty much screamed Hallelujah when I saw that a) the camera was there in place, and b) the footage was useable. Eureka! David Lynch, eat your heart out. In post-production I desaturated the shots and put a slight blue/green filter on it. All of the camera shake was digitally simulated in Final Cut Pro.

TL: There is a wonderful growl at the end… where did you collect that sound?

AD: It’s a good growl, don’t you think? So monstrous and evil sounding… Sorry to disappoint you kind folks out there, but this noise isn’t the roar of some Australian creature in the outback, which I coincidentally captured whilst going up Mount Ainslie. Nope… It’s me. I did multiple takes, ran the sound at 50% speed and overdubbed the tracks. I dropped a couple of audio filters on it, thus upping the bass. I cranked the sound so it would really blare. Done. Easy as pie—only cheaper than your average pie.

All of the sound was done by me, including the score. Not that I can play any instruments, mind you. There’s an out of tune piano at my work (I work in a nursing home), so I went into the room on my lunch break and recorded myself just striking random keys. At home, I changed the footage into MP3 files. I imported the audio clip into Final Cut Pro, dropped the speed a little and played the sequence backwards. The wind sounds and the scratchy record effect were sourced from a generic sound-effects CD that I borrowed from my local library. These worked a treat. Finally, I asked my friend, Leigh, who has a wonderfully laconic voice, to do the narration.

TL: So, you mention a tiny budget of $25. What was that spent on?

AD: The number one expenditure for the entire trailer was the monster at the end. I really wanted to find a bear mask, or something wolfish. But I couldn’t find a single mask that fit that description in all of Canberra. I considered sourcing something via Ebay, but everything was so overpriced. Remember, sadly, we don’t celebrate Halloween in Australia (please let that change, and soon!), so there isn’t the huge market for these kind of novelties like there is overseas, especially mid-year. I went to a costume shop wedged between two XXX adult stores on the outskirts of the city (go figure) and found a zombie mask that I thought would work. Not because it looked like a bear or wolf (I’m not that lucky), but it had these great teeth on it. I also knew it was something I could operate with my hand. I knew the shot I wanted, and I knew that the monster would only be seen for a moment. All I needed was the suggestion of jaws. I also bought a kid’s ‘tiger snout’ (which goes over your nose and is attached with elastic). I went home, widened the zombie’s jaws with a pair of scissors and stitched the snout to the zombie’s nose, thus extending the face. I masked the stitches by cutting off the zombie’s hair and sticking it to the divide with chewing gum!

I remember looking at it and thinking to myself, “there’s no way on earth that this is going to work.” Turns out it did. I knew if this bastard mask was shot from the exact right angle, with the exact right amount of camera shake, it’d at least look threatening. In the end, this composition ended up being my ‘money shot’. So, in the end, I guess getting that mask from the little store between the two XXX adult stores was … well … apt.

The rest of my grand expenditures went towards buying the electrical tape used to fasten my camera to my number plate, and towards a small packet of sewing needles that I got at the local dollar store (for, you guess it, a whole buck), so I could stitch the mask together.

So here’s the budget.

Mask: $17.00
Tiger snout: $3.00
Tape: $3.95
Sewing needles: $1.00

TL: Two bottles of wine were also listed in the budget. Did it cost more than $25 and, most importantly, what kind of wine?

AD: The wine! To thank my wonderful actors (my friends Beth and Harrison, who are very good sports, indeed), my partner and I cooked dinner for them (Malaysian red curry, rice and vegetables—from ingredients all in our pantry) I dusted off two bottles of wines that I found under my staircase. I thought a couple of drinks would ease their nerves. We cracked open a bottle of Shiraz (from the Barossa Valley) and Semillon (from the Hunter Valley, my old stomping grounds) and they were delicious. We didn’t overdo it, though. We shot this book trailer on a Wednesday night. A school night. Hardcore, right? Yep, that’s how I roll.

***

(Before I could get to additional questions about making trailers, Dries beat me to the punch. You can tell he is as passionate about film as he is about writing. There is little I can add to his perfect addendum with tips on making a good short video.)

AD: There are a lot of book trailers out there. 99% of them are god awful. That’s not to say they haven’t been made with love, and often exorbitant amounts of money (and for many of us authors, anything more than a hundred bucks can—and usually is—be considered very expensive). There are many things you can do to make your trailer better, without breaking the budget.

Here are some helpful tips.

  • Don’t put over-dramatic stock music in your trailer. This only ends up making your cheap visuals look cheaper. Scale it all back. Make your music complementary to your images, not dominant. Go for minimalism. Also, all stock music has been heard before. It diminishes the effect. You’re better off just having atmospheric sounds and narration.
  • If you’re going to have any text in your video, choose it well. Make sure it’s appropriate for the material you’re advertising. Don’t use a font that looks like it was written by a fifteen year old girl daydreaming about her first school crush when your content is about blood-and-guts murder. It just doesn’t work. I see this all the time. Keep it simple. Less is always more.
  • Don’t have an amazing camera to shoot your trailer on, as was the case with me? That’s okay. Shoot it on your phone. Shoot it on anything. But whatever you do, light your compositions well. Anything less than really good lighting will make your trailer look as cheap as it really is. But lights don’t need to be something you hire. You can go a long way with lamps and headlights.
  • Don’t have professional actors to work with? That’s totally fine! Use your friends … Just don’t get them to deliver any lines. Getting your friends to pose on camera is very different from having them read a script poorly on camera. Just get them to look in the right direction and create the drama out of the film techniques you’re employing — and you should employ them. Get a book on simple filmic techniques, or model your setups after sequences in the movies you like. Hell, Youtube how to shoot basic conversations.
  • Don’t make your book trailer too long and don’t give too much away. I’ve seen five minute long trailers. I usually turn off about 3 minutes in. Two minutes max, unless it’s really good. Like, really REALLY good.
  • Get creative. Don’t settle for mediocrity.
  • You can download free editing software online, or you can dish out the $200 to buy a copy of the new Final Cut Pro. There’s iMovie, there’s all sorts of stuff out there… But whatever you use, remember this: just because there are effects and transitions in the toolbox doesn’t mean you have to put them all in your book trailer. So, no star wipes, scrolling text, or any of those other awful 3D simulators. If you do, watch out. The night really will growl back at you.
  • When it comes to editing, you want your finished product to look as much like film as possible. You’ll never reach this height, trust me. But you CAN get closer by doing the following: desaturate your footage, increase the grain and color-grade every shot. Make the blacks look really black. Contrast is good. Contrast looks like money has been spent on lighting. And yes, I know it’s cheating, but changing everything to widescreen instantly makes everything look more cinematic. But if you’re going to do this, make sure you allow extra space above and below every shot when you’re filming live, otherwise you’ll end up with chopped off heads when you go to edit. And not the ‘good kind’ of chopped off heads.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start. So what are you waiting for? Get filming now! In the immortal lines of the Wicked Witch of the West, “Fly my pretties. Fly!”

*end transmission*

So.

There we have it. I certainly hope I can find more scary book trailers out there with authors willing to share the production experience with Dreadful Tales. Huge thanks to Aaron for giving us a front-seat view of his project. You can pick up this short story, And The Night Growled Back, at Samhain for $2.50 while you wait for him to wrap up his next novel. I’ll be writing up a review on this in the near future too!

All Hallows Read (Day 10) – The Crawling Abbatoir

Re-released this year as an ebook, Martin Mundt’s short horror collection The Crawling Abbatoir caught my eye by title alone. It is one I missed since the initial release in 1999. Thanks to twitter, and John Everson (author of our current book club pick, Violet Eyes) having written the introduction and designing the 2013 edition I’d have likely not run across it anytime soon. So, don’t make the same mistake I did. Pick this one up for All Hallows Read.

crawlingabattoir-500To praise ‘DWF’ and ‘My Love Is A Dead, Dead Rose’ would be nearly narcissistic. He writes like I think in these stories, so he hit a real vein with me right away. The rest of the collection is humorous horror and I am sure many will find the two aforementioned stories funny, but I was actually creeped right the hell out by them. Being a follower of serial killer and cannibal news may be getting to me. There are people out there that think like that! There have been for centuries! There likely have been people posting intimate personal ads looking for corpses! BUT GETTING RESPONSES!!

Yikes!

So, the rest of the collection is creepy and ooky and funny and spooky and a great laugh as much as it is full of terrible dark thoughts and raucous gore. I’d give this book to the class clown with the sick sense of humor. If you thought The Human Centipede was a comedy, you may like The Crawling Abbatoir. It would also make a perfect gift for the academic in your life that takes their horror far too seriously. This is what Lovecraft and Poe read in the outhouse, no doubt.

All Hallow’s Read (Day 9) – Lucifer’s Lottery

I could have picked any Edward Lee book for an All Hallows Read. Really. It’s all good. As far as Hell goes, I could recommend any of the City Infernal series. I could choo-choo-choose Black Train (a.k.a. Gast) for a creepy earth-bound tale. Monstrosity is another great one for budding crypto-zoologists. There is always The Bighead but that is getting enough press at the moment and really, I get to pick my favorite here.

Enter: Lucifer’s Lottery.

What more could a horror-hound want than a trip through Lee’s Hell with Howard Phillips Lovecraft as your guide? The amount of gore and perversion found in Lee’s work is more than enough to tickle your gag-reflex, should you still have one, and this one doles it out in spades. His books that feature Hell read like a Cenobite’s nightmare version of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But, you ought to see what they do to the Muggles there! Oh Mylanta!

This is one for the sicko. The perv. The blasphemer. The reader who delights in illustrated pathology texts or Gnostic tomes but spends as much time watching Saturday morning cartoons. You know, for the anvil drops.

It’s not all mutilated pubic mounds, effluent troughs, and burning bibles either. There are stories here. Even characters you meet for a flash are sketched so clear with intricate wording, you can’t help but adore even the most repulsive. And the bestiary! Well, that sort of crosses into the human and human-type characters too, depending. Fantasy for freaks. Science Fiction for sociopaths. If you are looking for something deeply disturbing with no holds barred page after page, this is your golden ticket.

All Hallow’s Read (Day 8) – The Radleys

Have you ever found yourself wishing Twilight was a better story? Seriously. Having real modern vampires that hold jobs, go to school and have real friends? Not some crime fighting or ultra rich vampires. Not hyper-sexed or rock star vampires. Just real, bloodsucking freaks that do just that. Drink blood. And cope. And drive a Toyota. If have read or watched too many unsatisfying versions of this, pour a nice glass of The Radleys, by Matt Haig.

If you know a youngling that was a Twilight fan, since the fad has largely passed and they are likely a little older now, this would be a perfect All Hallows read.

Now, there is gore. There are touchy social subjects. It’s not necessarily a young adult novel entirely, though it is set partially in high school. There are enough adult situations (not porn) to balance out the flavour. Totally enjoyable to readers of any age, this would serve the chaperons of Team Edward well. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and fall into neither camp.

What sold me on this was the cover. Lo and behold, there are exactly one thousand cover versions to this book – well maybe a dozen – and here are a few to check out so you can see what I mean. Also, news-wise, The Radleys will be turned into a movie produced in part by the BBC.

While not exactly horrific, this one does entertain thoroughly. Extremely well written with doses of humor and strife peppered throughout, this is a must-have for the Dracula inspired bookshelf of your teen friends, your gothy soccer-moms, or your own well rounded and discerning palate.

The first cover pictured here is the one I fell for. Some are available in only the US or the UK of course, but any copy should be easy to find wherever books are sold for a nice Halloween gift.