Friday, May 17, 2013

Inherently Weird. The puzzling Past of a Horror Writer

I've been attracted to death, ghostly visitors, and paranormal stories for as long as I can remember. Where does this fascination come, I have no idea, but while other kids played on their bikes or read funny comics, I was obsessed with witchcraft and read scary stories. The only way to entice me to read was to dangle in front of me stories of the sort, and so my mom introduced me to A CHRISTMAS CARROL and ghostly mystery stories for kids. 

Yeah, I know, I was weird. But before all that, my most distant memory and the way I was possibly introduced to the concept of horror was through a series of nightmares. I must have been about seven and had experienced nightmares before. This, however, was a totally different thing. Now, I know what you'll say, but my parents were not divorcing, I had no reason to feel stressed, and people didn't talk about horror themes with any of us children around. So no, there was no reason for my "Nightmare Attack."

It was only one nightmare, but it besieged me for eight months. It always started with me sitting alone in a small boat, drifting through a calm river. The water was so crystalline I could see colorful rocks on the bottom and the landscape was beautiful. But I was afraid, didn't know why, just simply afraid. Without any apparent reason, the water started to turn red, little by little until it was all the color of blood. I looked around for the cause and realized that at the bottom of the river laid severed hands. Completely terrorized, I jumped out of the boat and swam to land, running like crazy until I was facing a hill. I climbed it only to find a Roman soldier on the top that confronted me with a spear, threatening to kill me. The floor was littered with corpses and I knew I could not escape. Then I woke up, screaming and crying. Every night.

You can imagine that after a month, my mother could no longer dismiss the nightmares and became really worried. I don't remember much of what she told to me or the different remedies that we tried. All I know is that about six months in, she started to pray with me every night. The more we did, the calmer I felt when going to sleep, and the more the nightmares drifted away. Until one day, there were nightmares no more.

Now, I'm not saying it was prayer that took them away, at least not per se. I think it was the positive images and reassuring words that finally got to me. What intrigues me really is their origin and why then I became so intrigued by the unearthly. It is a passion that has always tugged on me, sometimes as a positive influence like in my writing, sometimes in a very negative way... but that is material for another post.

So, is it truly genetics all that pushes us? What amazing experiences shape us in all different ways and what brings them in the first place? Do you have one such amazing influence in your life? I can't wait to hear about it.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Based on True Stories: A Nightmare on Elm Street

People in the writing business--and movie making--often say that there is nothing new under the sun. Every story is based on another story, on a real situation, on a century-old question. Everything that you can think of, someone has done before... talk about a downer. Truth is that original ideas are very hard to come by and after 2000 years of making up stuff, the well of new is not overflowing anymore.

But there is hope still. For those of us who like to create for a living, there are two possibilities: You are either one of those amazing minds that can still coop up the next best thing ever--Hello to all the Einsteins, Steve Jobs, and the like--or you can re-tell a known tale in an extraordinary way. And here is where Wes Craven and one of his master pieces, A Nightmare on Elm Street, come in.

For ages, males of Asian origin have been dying in their sleep. And I'm not talking about babies here but full grown, perfectly healthy men. Depending on the country, there are a series of legends and demons that have been blamed for such deaths. These countries' rich folklore has accounts as old as civilization and we westerners had no idea of how deeply rooted the fear of dying in your sleep was for the other side of the world. Until the late 1970s and early 1980s that refugees running away from their war-torn countries found their way into the USA.

As reported by the New York Times on May 9, 1981, The Federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta conducted "... an intensive inquiry into the manner in which 18 apparently healthy Laotian refugees died mysteriously in their sleep in this country within the last four years. One possibility being explored is that they were frightened to death by nightmares."

Surprised? I know I was--and more than a bit freaked out.

In the end the deaths were attributed to the Brugada Syndrome, where an apparently healthy man's heart (it is much more common among Asian men) fibrillates during sleep, causing a fatal arrhythmia, and death. And even though today we can diagnose the disease with an ECG, not every Nightmare Death Syndrome case (or Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome, as it is known these days) can be explained in this way.

So, there you go, another freaky place where inspiration was found. But, if you're not Asian, or male, don't feel too relieved, yet. After all, Freddy might still be lurking under your bed.

Have nice dreams. =)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Call for help. IWSG to the rescue

April is gone and we are now facing our May IWSG meeting. It's been a long time since I gave credit to the awesome ninja writer Alex Cavanaugh for being the master mind behind this group. There are hundreds of great writers posting about their insecurities, successes, and experiences on this day. If you want to find out more, you can alway click on the page I have dedicated to the group, or you can go directly to the source and find out bout the Captain Ninja yourself.

So, yes, it's already May. The year is going so fast! And I think it has been a very busy, very interesting year so far. I'm making an effort to stray from my comfort zones, and grow as a writer. I tried my first ever Creative Writing class with success and a few tears (refer to this post); I'm also writing more thrillers and noir stories, which have been lots of fun; and I even learned a few things about writing poetry. That last one was a bit painful, though, and I don't think I feel inclined to try that road again, at least not any time soon.

In general, I'd say I'm feeling positive about my writing these days, although there are always doubts and it's been too long since I have received an acceptance. Of course, then, I'm having a hard time letting the rejections slip off me and I'm not jumping to write the next submission letter as soon as I can. Still, I have a short story and three flash fictions doing the rounds and I'm trying to keep my faith in myself up. How? By writing more. I'm currently working on three more short stories and a novel. So I'm busy, and kinda happy.

And where does the 'support group' part of the post come in? Well, I need to ask you a favor. One of those stories I'm working on is a gothic horror and I'm stuck. I've been told that the story 'told' to much and 'showed' little, so I worked on that. I was also told that it was a bit 'baroque', meaning I needed to pair down the narrative, which I also did. Sadly, by now I just don't see the story anymore. The details are too familiar for me and I like too much to be any objective. I would love for a few critical eyes used to gothic style to give their opinions, but I just don't know anyone willing to break my heart and be blunt. So, the question for you: do you, or do you know of anyone who would like to help me? I can always pay with the same token... And with chocolate. Lots of chocolate. =)

Well, then, that's it for me. Now to you: Tell me how do you feel about your year so far? Is it going like you expected? And what do you do to keep your morale high?

I hope you have an excellent an inky May. Cheers!