Friday, October 23, 2009

Stephen King's Night Shift

Well, I've finished reading yet another book and I've finally got my inspiration back (for now). I'm actually almost finished writing another novel to add to the Cimmerian City saga that I'm hoping will spark another trilogy. So, things have been going well lately.

The latest book that I finished was one a friend loaned to me a long time ago. I'm very glad he did. Stephen King's Night Shift is an excellent collection of stories that I would recommend to anyone that likes horror. I have to admit, I am a Stephen King fan girl at heart, but I'll try to make this a legitimate review instead of gushing all over every story in it.

My favorite stories in the collection were "Jerusalem's Lot," "the Mangler," "Battleground," and "I Know What you Need." I'll give a short review of each of these stories and then move on to the very few that I didn't like as much.

"Jerusalem's Lot" is the story that inspired Salem's Lot. I have to admit, the vampires in the story were much more terrifying than traditional vampires, mostly because King depicts them as twisted monstrosities that are mockeries of their former selves. Still, that wasn't what impressed me most about the story. What impressed me was that the story had the feeling of something written by H.P. Lovecraft. Stephen King once again shows himself to be a very versatile writer. Jerusalem's Lot is an abandoned town with a desecrated church, where something huge and horrible lurks underneath the city, ready to be awoken from its long slumber. The main character, Charles, inherits the home of his ancestors, and finds out that his family has a bad reputation for digging into things that the other townspeople fear. I couldn't put this one down, so be sure to read it when you have a bit of time on your hands. It's the first and longest story in the book.

"The Mangler" impressed me far more than I expected. I've seen previews for the movie "The Mangler" before. Let me just say that movies have a way of butchering very awesome stories if done incorrectly. The movie makes it look as though "The Mangler" became a possessed machine because of the meddling of evil people. What is so scary about this story (other than the fact large machines tend to be frightening anyway since they are so dangerous) is the Mangler becomes possessed from a series of unconnected unintentional events. The thought that something evil could enter the world, or create the circumstances to enter the world, without people with evil intent to guide it is a very scary concept indeed.

I don't want to spoil the story of "Battleground" but let me just say this, only Stephen King can make toy soldiers scary. I liked the fact that this story felt like it took place in a cyberpunk universe without even a large description of the setting, and that the corrupt man in the story gets exactly what he deserves.

"I Know What You Need" is probably my favorite story in this book because the characters in the story felt so believable that I could almost see them. I knew people like that in school, in fact, I still know several people that comprise the character, "Ed." The "villain" of this story is actually a sympathetic character for me. It was one of those tragic love stories that, at the same time, is kind of scary. It tells the story of the lengths that obsessed people will take to get what they want, and how people are willing to ignore danger signs in a relationship if they're happy enough in it. Very interesting, and very good.

There were really only three stories in this set that I had problems with, and even those stories were entertaining to read. I had a few complaints with "Sometimes They Come Back," "The Man Who Loved Flowers," and "The Woman in the Room."

First of all, I really like the story "Sometimes They Come Back." I know I said, I had complaints with it, but let me explain. I liked the concept very much. The story is about the literal ghosts of the main character's past coming back to haunt him and to kill him. (They killed his brother, and now they want to finish the job.) And, I actually liked the movie very much too. The complaint I had with the story is that I start to dislike the main character halfway through it. I feel like if he really wanted to keep his wife safe he would've tried just a little harder to communicate with her and to tell her exactly what was going on. It might just be my relationship with my husband, but we don't keep major secrets from each other, especially if those secrets could endanger the other partner. Also, I found the ending very far fetched. This is mostly because it's a classic blunder that anyone who ever played a table-top RPG would understand--"I'm going summon something bigger and scarier to take out the thing that's trying to kill me." I can almost see the person running the game "face palming" right now. Still, that's my only complaint. It was still a good story, but left just a bit to be desired.

"The Man Who Loved Flowers" was a good story because it shows how people in love give an intoxicating happiness to those around them, so intoxicating that they might not realize the person might not be what they seem. The problem I had with this story is that I predicted the ending the second I noticed the hint about the ending. It might just be me, I'd love to hear if you predicted the ending of this one or not. I didn't think the hint was subtle enough because the type of crime was so vulgar and strange that I knew it would come up again--and you can tell from the beginning there's something about this story that's a little too happy to be real. It was a good story, but predictable.

"The Woman in the Room" is an excellent story. My only complaint is that you don't want the ending to happen. This is one of those stories that makes you feel downright suicidal at the end, and it's the last story in the book. Maybe if this story was placed in a different area of the book I wouldn't have a problem with it, but it ends the entire set of stories on a very low note. That being said, read this story early on, and everything should be good.

Well, I hoped you enjoyed the review. I tried not to put too many spoilers in it. But seriously, even if I spoiled anything, read the book because it's the journey that matters. These short stories were all excellent, even the ones I didn't mention here and it's well worth the time of reading these short stories. They are great examples of the lost art of the short story and anyone, especially aspiring writer's would be enriched for reading them. Thank you, again, Stephen King, for the inspiration. You're books are, after all, part of what made me want to become a writer. (Okay, maybe a little bit of gushing fangirlism...I know that isn't a word, but it should be.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The First Real Disappointment

I've been looking for an agent for several months now without much luck. I don't get excited about hearing from any of them unless they show some interest first. But, lately there were two agencies that requested additional material based only on the query letter. Well, long story short, one of the agencies I was waiting to hear from finally got back to me, but rejected my work. This one was a disappointment because they were actually interested in the concept enough to ask for the first several chapters and a summary. I was really hoping they would ask for the full manuscript but they weren't enthusiastic enough about it to ask to read the rest. In other words, once again, it was a general rejection.

I'm hoping if I'm rejected by the next one they'll at least have some feedback for me, positive or negative. What I'm really hoping for though, is that the other agency will at least request for me to send the entire first book. The manuscript can speak for itself.

Anyway, I'm not giving up. I'm determined that this series will be published, but if I get another rejection from the next agency, I'll have to start going down the list again starting at the last place that I stopped. Keep me in your prayers and please wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Black Widow Scare

I had a little adventure this week. There was a spider trapped between the windowpane and the screen on our kitchen window a few days ago. Since it's close to Halloween, I decided it looked eerie and that I would spare it. After all, it wasn't able to get inside, and even though I don't like spiders, it was killing bugs that got trapped there with it.

It turned out, as I looked at it over the next few days, I noticed that it was a black spider with red spots on it's back. (Because of the light shining on it, the legs looked brown when I first noticed the spider.) I didn't think black widows typically had red spots on their backs, but I decided to look it up. The internet is a wonderful tool for knowledge. It turned out that spider was a black widow, and there are six species of black widow living in the South. As soon as I inspected it further, I saw it spin around on it's web and it had the hour glass shape on it's underbelly, a female, the dangerous kind.

That's right, it would be a black widow that I would decide to spare. Needless to say, the spider isn't with us anymore. Finding out that my friend in the windowpane could've killed (or at least really hurt) one of us in one bite meant the safety of my family had to come first. So, long story short we sprayed it with bug spray last night through the screen and it was dead this morning. It's odd, but I"m kind of sad about it. Still, it had to be done. I shouldn't feel too bad though, one black widow usually means there are five hundred somewhere else. Wish me luck that I don't run into one again.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Writer's Block and Some Thoughts

Well, I'm still fighting the writer's block. This has been the worst few months that I've had it in a long time. I'm glad to say I'm finally feeling the spark again. I just need for it to catch fire. I'm going to try to write today as best as I can. I've already missed the opportunity for several anthologies simply because I can't come up with an idea. ::sigh:: I guess I should turn back to my unfinished novels and try to see if I can brainstorm some ideas. Oddly enough, even when I don't feel up to writing, usually ideas come and I can at least jot them down for later. It occurs to me that I love Halloween but I've never written a story that takes place during that time. I think that maybe I'll start there.

I still haven't heard from the two agencies that seemed interested in the concept. Still, according to them I should hear something by the end of the month. I'm just hoping that at least one of them wants to read the entire manuscript. I think the fact I haven't heard anything is a good sign, but sometimes it's very hard to say. Still, I have to be confident that my book can speak for itself. After all the changes I've made, I think that it's finally more than ready. And, according to my harshest critic, it's now a very good book. Honestly, the waiting really is the hardest part. I just want to hear something soon.

Halloween is almost here. It's hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. I'm done with my decorating. Still, I need to think about pumpkin designs and start making a party supply list. I also need to narrow down my choices for the movies I'm going to show this year. I'm expecting a pretty good crowd this year, thankfully. I was very careful to not plan over someone else so everything should be good. I'll keep you posted about it.

Well, I'm off to try to add some kindling to the tiny glowing ember of creativity I'm starting to feel. Wish me luck.