My short story “The Garden” had a very strange origin, with inspirations from Guns N’ Roses and Georgia O’Keefe equally.

First was Guns N’ Roses and their song, “The Garden”, which gave me a title and, for over a decade, a mood. I started the story in mid-2006 and worked on it for a week or so before realizing the couple hundred words I had were going nowhere and amounting to nothing, so I abandoned it, knowing I would get back to it later.

The first incarnation was about a boy walking through a meditative labyrinth who … something something magic and something, I never really figured it out.

And I did a TON of research on walking and labyrinths and meditation, took a lot of walks myself, hoping to get into the headspace for a story about walking, but it just never happened, nothing came to me, there was no story.

Then one day, years later, I saw something about Georgia O’Keefe and her particular style of art (flowers were made to represent a certain part of the female anatomy) and I had a vision in my head of a guy being seduced by a beautiful woman in a garden, only there was no woman, he was being hypnotized by sentient plants. From there, the story pretty much told itself and I wrote the first draft over a couple of days.

The names of the characters, Gordon, Randy and Bobby were he names of the guys I hung out with around the same age I imagined Gordon to be in this story. Gordon Bennington, Randy Collings, and Bobby Fairchild. The name Mya means “great one” or “mother”.

The Garden

Gordon showed up at the back of the Rogers farm like Randy’d told him to, but his friend was nowhere to be seen. Randy’s bike lay at the edge of the woods where the property stopped, and there was his jacket among the flowers. The Rogers had a good twenty acres and this far back from the house, Gordon knew they wouldn’t see him and come out to run them off. Then again, there was a garden back here that looked pretty well-tended, so who knew? He wasn’t even sure this far back was considered their property at all. He hoped not, if what Randy told him was true.

Gladiolus, tulips, Madonna lilies, daffodils, hyacinths, begonias all reds, yellows, whites, pinks, blues and oranges. Gordon didn’t know the names, but they smelled good. Hidden among these, half-buried, were several larger bulbs that could have been watermelons except they were grey.

He called out, “Randy!” several times, but got no reply. He must have wandered further
into the woods. Gordon sat down on the jacket and was about to call out again when something got his attention, something lumpy under his ass. He felt and found Randy’s jacket pocket. He reached in and pulled out something slick.

This was what Randy told him he’d been doing up here the past few days.

Gordon had no idea what the flowers were called and the bigger bulbs in the ground were an equal mystery. But Randy had told him the leaves were edible. More than that, they’d given him one hell of a high. No after effects, either. He’d chew a few leaves, lay back, and before long he was in the middle of one of the best trips of his life. Gordon found a plastic bag with a rolled bundle of leaves in Randy’s jacket pocket. Maybe he was going to take them home and try to smoke them. But surely he wouldn’t mind if Gordon had a couple for himself. After all, this was what Randy’d called him up here for in the first place.

He pulled two, then took a third from the rolled bundle, slid the rest into the bag, then back into the jacket. He looked at the leaves and wondered how they’d taste. Bitter like grass? He sniffed them, and it was a familiar scent, but he couldn’t place it. They were dark red and shaped like hearts.

He called out, “Randy! Hey!!!”

When he got no reply, he put the leaves in his mouth and chewed. Almost as soon as the chemicals in the leaves touched his tongue, but surely by the time he’d swallowed them, the leaves took effect. He lay back in the grass, staring up at the brilliant blue summer sky, cloudless and crisp. His head felt thirty pounds lighter. His fingers tingled and, he realized, so did his toes.

Whatever this stuff was, Gordon would have to thank Randy as soon as he figured out where he was. For now, he wouldn’t worry about it, he just wanted to ride this wave.
If he lay still enough, he could feel the blood rushing through his veins, into his brain. He could hear it pumping.

His vision swam and suddenly he felt himself sink into the earth, into the grass and flowers, and he felt their leaves tickling and trying to wrap around and drag him down. Gordon tried to sit up and scream, but the flowers had become thick vines and his puny strength was no match. His heartbeat raced and he thought he might be sweating but if that were true, the sweat burned his skin like acid and the sky turned purple overhead and a shriek echoed inside his skull and then, before he could fully comprehend what was happening . . . it stopped. Gordon sucked in a huge breath, shot up from the ground, clutching his chest.

He sat there, panting and being glad he was alive when he heard a noise. A high, lilting sound. He looked over and saw something in the trees. She was tall with long blonde hair. Her face was that of an angel. Finally he managed to catch enough breath to say, “Hello?”

She stepped out from behind the tree. She didn’t say anything, just giggled again. Her walk was fluid, as if the structure of her legs were free-floating, more for motion than support. The sight of it had a strange effect on Gordon’s equilibrium and he had to look away for a second. She glided closer, giggled again, and Gordon asked, “What?”

“Nothing,” she said after a moment. “You just looked funny laying there all splayed like that.” Her voice reminded Gordon of rainbows and butterflies. Who was this girl? “What are you doing here?”

He hesitated, reluctant to tell her about the leaves or his quick but intense trip. At least, he thought it was quick. The sky did look a little darker.

He started to get up, found his legs too weak, and he fell again with a grunt.

The girl giggled again.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself,” Gordon said. “Help me up.”

“What for?”

“Because I have to get up,” he said. “I was up here looking for my friend. Hey, have you seen him? Bout this tall–” (he held a hand just an inch or two above the top of his own head) “long black hair? Wears glasses?” She shook her head.

“Probably wearing a Chiefs cap?”

She shook her head again.

She shrugged and sat next to him on the ground. Gordon was surprised to see her just drop down onto the grass because she was dressed in a long white sundress and the way it shone even in the lowering sky, Gordon knew she was about to stain it. He didn’t want to stare, but it was hard to take his eyes off her. Gordon knew who he was and knew this girl was beyond his reach. She’d see that in a minute and get up and walk away.

So he was taken by surprise when she turned and said, “What’s your name?”

“Gordon,” he said, feigning indifference by looking into the trees for Randy.

“Mine’s Mya,” she said. “Do you live around here?”

He shrugged. “Close enough, I guess.”

“What are you doing up here?”

“Looking for my friend,” he said. “I already said that.”

“Well,” Mya said, looking around. “Doesn’t seem like you’re looking very hard.”

“His stuff’s right here,” Gordon said. “He’ll be back to get it.”

“What if he doesn’t come back?”

“Then he’s gonna lose a jacket and his bike,” Gordon said. “Because his bike’s just over there and I’m not taking them both with me when I go. Maybe the jacket.”

“What if he’s never coming back?”

“Uh-huh.”

Gordon wished she’d stop talking to him. This kind of attention from someone this beautiful was making him uncomfortable.

“What if he’s dead?” she asked.

Get the rest of the story in my short story collection THE DICHOTOMY OF MONSTERS.

Five friends are about to enter the most extreme Haunt they’ve ever visited. And in a town like Angel Hill, that’s saying something.

The Nightmare Corridor appeared overnight just outside of town and for John, Marcia, Sam, Malcolm and Virginia, the promise of a thrill was too good to resist.

But before the night is through, they will each be forced to face their worst fears, alone.

These five Angel Hill natives have seen their share of the unexplained, but nothing can prepare them for the hell they’ll face in the Nightmare Corridor.

 

Buy it here for the low intro price of $0.99.

You ever get halfway through a particularly long and challenging manuscript only to realize you’re bored? Not bored with the story or the process, just … your mind needs something else to ponder for a minute. Not a week, this isn’t one of those times where you need to take a week off and work on something else. Just a day. Maybe an hour so you can recharge. You don’t want to stop writing for the day, though, you just want to work on something different.

Diversity is important. Variety, as Morris Day said, is the spice of life. At these times I have a list of alternative things I could work on just for a minute, something to kick start my brain, put me into writing mode, but not bog me down in the same thing I’ve been working on for the past three months.

Reviews. I love writing movie and book reviews. They’re a quick way to force you to organize your thoughts, you’re getting to praise something you love, or learn from something that didn’t quite work, and you’re getting your fingers limbered up and your mind focused, ready to get back to work. Sometimes writing something that isn’t the thing you’ve been working on, even for an hour, is enough to make you miss the real work.

Blog posts are another alternative. Sometimes I’ll take a minute to post something quick, like what I’m currently reading, or the posters to any movies I’ve recently watched. I actually haven’t done this in a while, but once upon a time it was a regular thing. Back when I had more time to watch a lot of movies and whatnot. Or you can talk briefly about what you’re working on. No details, but a few words on what research you find yourself doing, just enough to tease.

Have you updated the CTAs (calls to action) in your books lately? This is another quick little job you can do when you need to get your mind on something else for a minute.

Something I love to do when I’m bored looking at the same page for the past two days is CLEAN MY DESK. You know your desk is the messiest part of your house, admit it. And it’s much easier to work on a clean desk. If you’re bored with your current work in progress, take the day off from it and clean your desk. And your office while you’re at it. And your inbox.

Sometimes I’m not bored, I’m just tired. I need to step back, take 20 minutes and rest. I often find when I do that, I can come back to it, maybe not wide awake, but not dozing off mid-sentence, either. Set a timer and close your eyes, the world isn’t going to end. And if it does, at least you didn’t have to see it coming.

And the last suggestion for when you’re bored working on the same manuscript every day: work on it anyway. Seriously, sometimes the best work I do on something is when I really don’t want to and I make myself get the words down anyway. I don’t know where the reluctance to work comes from, maybe I’m only bored with it because I know what comes later and I want to hurry up and get to a particular scene. But that’s not going to happen if you don’t write the damn thing. So the only thing to do is shut up, put my head down, and power through whatever downtime scene I’m on so I can get to the fun, exciting one behind it.

There you go, 6 tips to help fight boredom when you want to be productive but just can’t face that same story AGAIN. A quick diversion will keep you working, keep you productive, but give your brain and eyes the break it needs without convincing you that abandoning it altogether is the only option.

Now stop reading blog posts and get back to work. Slacker.

(THIS WAS ALSO POSTED AT WWW.MIDWESTCREATIVITYCOACHING.COM)

What do you like better, writing, or having written?

Me too.

Having written something is always so much more enjoyable than actually writing it. The work is hard, the after is the reward, and are we not a reward-based culture?

So having written is always favorable to writing.

But we can’t have written without doing the writing. So we have to get started. And I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always the beginning that’s toughest.

There are so many possible ways to start any and every story, it’s like a kid in a candy story lined wall to wall with all the best chocolates and gummies and whatever you like, but you’re told you can only pick ONE.

So that one has to be just perfect, doesn’t it?

Welllllllll. See, this is the nice thing about beginnings in writing. They’re just a starting point, but 9 times out of 10, that beginning is going to change by the time the story sees publication. NO beginning is ever perfect the first time through, because at that point we’ve only got the vaguest idea what direction or tone the story is going to take.

I can’t tell you the last story I wrote that didn’t have at least one or two false starts attached to it. Sometimes you just need to work your way through the story and see where it leads, then go back afterward and make adjustments to the beginning so it falls in line with the rest of the work.

There’s no shame in it; sometimes going back and re-working the beginning is a vital part of the process, especially in a longer work where the distance between the beginning and ending is greater.

But sometimes that false start is all kinds of wrong and doesn’t even convey the story you want to tell. That’s fine, too. My short story, “The Foodies of Mars,” I started writing that with only the vaguest notion of what the story was about, and for several days I wrote a solid beginning before trashing it the next day and starting over, because while those false starts could have worked okay, they weren’t the story I wanted to tell.

So I started over, with a completely different angle, point of view and main character, a different location, trying out story openings like school clothes, just waiting til I found the right combination that made the perfect first day of school impression.

Every story has to start somewhere, but don’t feel bad if you don’t nail it right out of the gate. That’s natural and doesn’t reflect on you as a writer at all. It’s much easier to go back after and fix a beginning than it is to keep working the front end of the story and never even getting to the back half.

Just GET STARTED and KEEP WRITING.

 

(THIS POST WAS ALSO MIRRORED ON MIDWESTCREATIVITYCOACHING.COM)

Back in the days before self-publishing made submissions irrelevant, I used to love submitting to themed anthologies, mostly because I loved the challenge of writing something specifically for those guidelines. One such anthology was called Vile Things, and the guidelines listed a number of old horror anthologies to turn to for inspiration. It just so happened, I had one of those anthologies, GREAT TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL, edited by H. Wise. So I leafed through the book and stopped on a story called “Caterpillars” by E. F. Benson. All these years later, I couldn’t tell you a thing about that story, but I know where I got the title and the idea for this one.

First I had to get the background details right, so before I even started the story I researched Thalidomide babies and discovered such a condition CAN be genetic. Time to get started.

For main character inspiration I only needed to look to my mother. She had a finished basement with basically a small one-room apartment down there and one day when I went over there I saw the basement was full of someone’s junk. Not her junk because it wasn’t there last time I’d been over, so I asked where it came from.

She had a cousin who had been out of town for years and years and was coming back to town and had decided he was going to be staying there so all his stuff was now in the basement. I’m not sure he ever actually showed up to stay, but his stuff was definitely there.

Check, I thought, one deadbeat cousin who needs a place to stay and comes into this weird situation he doesn’t understand with this Thalidomide baby.

What next?

Well, he has to be forced to deal with the girl, and what better way to make sure he can’t beg off and hide out downstairs or at his buddy’s house than to have the parents vanish in the night, glad to be free of this burden.

But what kind of parents would do such a thing to an innocent girl? Hey, who said she was innocent? What if there was more to this girl than just an absence of arms and legs?

Like what?

I remembered King’s THE DARK HALF and Thad Beaumont’s undeveloped conjoined twin. Holy crap, what a creepy image if, on this girl’s back, there was a whole other girl. One with little nubby limbs she could use to skitter around the house late at night, legs like a caterpillar.

At the time, I was reading SILK by Caitlin R. Kiernan and I think a lot of it went over my head, but I remember something about a pretty girl and spiders and I thought what if this girl coughed up spiders and spun webs.

This would totally freak this guy out, let’s see how he would handle it.

While all of this was going on in the story, though, I also had to tell the story of this innocent girl who just wants to live as normal a life as she possibly can. And having a daughter of my own who means the world to me, it wasn’t hard to write Jessica as a real person. And from there, he relationship between her and the main character developed naturally and, if I do say so myself, quite wonderfully. I’m very proud of the work I did in this story with those characters, and with how dark and creepy it got in the last third.

To this day, in my opinion, Joon is one of the most unsettling characters I’ve written, and I’m happy to have done so.

I don’t know what comes out of the cocoon at the end of the story, so don’t ask. Use your imagination and decide for yourself.

And now, the first scene of The Caterpillar:

IT WASN’T MY FIRST CHOICE, and I was pissed at my parents and my sister for saying no, but whatever. So when I came back to town I wound up staying with my cousin Judy and her husband Jeff in their basement. I don’t think they wanted me there, more likely they were just too polite to turn me away. I showed up on a Tuesday and hauled what I could in through the garage to the basement, then parked the moving truck in front of the house so Jeff could have the driveway and went inside to thank Judy, again, for letting me stay.

I heard a door close down the hall and then Judy appeared, emerging from the dark with a towel in one hand and an empty bowl in the other. I’d forgotten about their daughter. Jessica was ten and we’d never met. But I knew about her.

She was a second-generation Thalidomide baby. According to the FDA, only 17 American children were born with Thalidomide-related deformities. Jeff’s mother had been one of them. While another article, published in DRUG SAFETY, assured the drug did not cause further defects, and yes Jeff had been born normal, Jessica suffered from Amelia, which meant she’d been born with no limbs.

I followed Judy into the kitchen, thanking her, as she put the empty bowl in the sink and laid the towel on the counter.

“No,” she said, “it’s okay. You get settled. It’s good to have you home.”

I wondered how sincerely she meant that. I’d been in Florida for ten years, involved in a number of businesses, all of which had failed. I had a moving company, owned a miniature golf course, a bar, a skateboard shop, just to name a few. I had good ideas, just bad luck. And maybe bad business sense. So after a decade of failure, I decided it was time to come home and just live a life again where I wasn’t dodging creditors all the time or watching my possessions being sold at auction to pay my debts. Not to mention the cost of living is a lot cheaper in the Midwest.

I returned every few years to attend reunions or show off my success for a weekend, but I always left before my cash ran out or the bill collectors tracked me down. I never stayed in town long enough for the cracks to show. And I rarely kept in contact with any of the family. So it came as no surprise when I detected reluctance in Judy’s tone. Not to mention I’m sure she and Jeff had enough problems with Jessica without worrying about me in there, too.

Just a couple weeks, I reminded myself.

Judy said to make myself at home, asked if I was hungry. I was, but I said no. I commented on how they had a nice house. She said thank you. Then I returned to the basement to start unpacking.

To read the rest of the story, you can it as a standalone ebook HERE.

This is a blog post I’ve wanted to write for some time, or at least one like it. But I have a ton of short stories and never know where to start. So today I left it up to my team, emailed them and asked which story they would like to read the backstory on. The first answer was for one of my favorite stories called “Cunt”, but that’s a pretty personal one and one I’m not comfortable sharing. Luckily, the second answer was for another favorite, probably my very favorite, called “Monday”. So here it is.

“Monday” was originally inspired by the first line in the song “Working for the Fat Man” (which also inspired another story with the same title) from the band The Escape Club. The line is “Every day is Monday in the house up on the hill.”

For half a decade at least, I carried that line around, knowing there was a story in there if I ever just made time to write it. But the first time I tried, it was a story about a guy who winds up on a crew building a house and every morning when they get to the site, they find all the work they did the day before has been undone, and the job turns into a neverending race to get it built before the end of the day when the work is undone all over again. It wouldn’t have been a bad story.

But it wasn’t THE story.

So I scrapped it and started again. I’ve no idea where the final version of the story came from, I only know I sat down one early morning while it was still dark out and wrote the opening scene of Maddy waking up and getting her day started. Maddy’s morning routine was pretty much the same as my morning routine, so the writing went pretty easy that day.

The part about “every day is Monday” informed the opening about waking up with déjà vu, but I didn’t know with that first scene where the story was going. So I kept writing. I talked about the people across the street who insisted on parking in front of Maddy’s house because at the time I had some neighbors who always parked in front of my house–the orange Mustang, however, belonged to the people who lived across from my mother although I don’t know if they ever parked in front of her house; I just thought it was a noticeable and obnoxious car.

And then, somewhere mid-scene, I realized what Maddy was about to do and the shape of the story, if not the key to it (that calendar page), came to me.

I hesitated a bit, thoughts of “Groundhog Day” in my head, and not wanting to tell a story that had already been told, but damn I was enjoying the writing of this one, so I kept going.

I wrote that opening scene on day one, then came back the next morning and wrote the next full scene. I wrote the story over five days, each day pretty much just repeating what I’d written the day before, then going back to edit some details (I admit I got a lot of the structure for the recap sentences from the SAW movies, the short, clipped way they do the recaps in the end when the big twist of whichever installment it is reveals itself) and add new ones. By day two, I still don’t think I knew the thing about the calendar as the stuff about Maddy’s grandmother didn’t happen until day three. By day two I was still just enjoying the process and having more fun writing anything than I had in a long time.

By day three, when I wrote the part about her grandmother and the calendar, the whole thing came together in one rush of information and the next three days writing became crystal clear.

I have similar thoughts as Maddy sometimes when I have deju vu, trying to remember why I feel like I’ve done something before, and then trying to remember if the outcome had been good or bad and, if it was a bad, how do I change it? It doesn’t happen quite as often now, but once upon a time, it was ALL the time.

But from there, it was just a matter of getting Maddy closer and closer every day until she reached her goal, solved the puzzle of the déjà vu, and was able to bring the story to a close. It was really quite simple, in the end, and I can’t believe every story isn’t that easy to write.

A few key details, all the Ms. Maddy, Monday, May. All on purpose.

“Monday”, along with a lot of other stories are available in my collection THE DICHOTMOY OF MONSTERS here. Now, here’s the first scene of “Monday”:

Monday

C. Dennis Moore

 

She woke with déjà vu, as if she’d been dreaming about waking, and then lay there staring at the ceiling for a minute before managing to climb out from the covers. In the bathroom she emptied her bladder, brushed her teeth, and took some aspirin for her headache. In the kitchen she replaced yesterday’s filter with a fresh one, scooped coffee into it, filled the water reservoir, then turned on the pot. The red-orange glow indicating the thing was on only increased her anticipation of that first cup.

While the coffee brewed, Maddy walked into the living room, past the chair, glancing at the clock on the cable box once to see it was now 8:18, then went to the front window and stared outside. The sight promised a warm May day, and she contemplated a walk before changing her mind; going out would mean getting dressed, and Maddy was perfectly fine in her pj’s, thank you.

She stood there and watched the woman across the street, whose name she’d never bothered to learn, pull her ugly orange Mustang back into her driveway after dropping her two kids off at school, get out still looking half-asleep, and trudge into her house. Maddy had never bothered to learn the woman’s name because when they moved in, for about the first month, the woman’s husband used to come home from work at night and park his truck in front of Maddy’s house. Maddy had her own driveway, but it was the principle. She’d hated them right away. That was last year, and the man hadn’t parked there since, but that first impression had tainted Maddy’s opinion.

In the kitchen, the coffee gurgled, telling her it was done brewing and ready for drinking, so she turned and headed back to make that first cup.

Maddy’s sugar and powdered creamer were kept in similar-looking plastic containers and she had a habit of telling which was which with a shake. The creamer was silent while the sugar sounded like maracas. A hearty sprinkle of creamer and four scoops of sugar, a stir, five times clockwise, five times counterclockwise with three delicate taps of the spoon on the edge of the mug. The spoon went to the ceramic cradle beside the coffee pot and Maddy grabbed her cup and went into the spare bedroom where her computer monitor displayed a series of interweaving designs in various colors until she sat down and nudged the mouse to deactivate the screensaver.

Four new emails awaited her, including a notice she had accrued $5 in Borders Bucks from the book store, and a “get-to-know-me” survey from her friend Anna, which Anna should know very well Maddy was not going to fill out–and scrolling down to the line which read “Which of my friends is least likely to respond”, Anna had entered Maddy’s name.

“Good thinking,” Maddy said out loud.

But she perused Anna’s answers, then the list of other addressees to whom Anna had sent this particular email, always curious about the outside ties people form from their core group.

She sipped her coffee, then, as it cooled, took bigger gulps until the cup was empty. As she stood from the chair, she noticed her desk calendar. Monday. Déjà vu again, but it was only her dream resurfacing for a moment to remind her and suddenly Maddy felt very uneasy, but couldn’t pin down what it was that caused the feeling in the first place. That déjà vu, that dream. Whatever it had been.

Like it matters now anyway, she thought, and realized that was right. Whatever caused that feeling, it was a moot point at this juncture.

She put the cup in the sink, then turned off the pot, always wary of a stray spark setting the house ablaze, but didn’t bother dumping out the remains she hadn’t drank, and got a glass of water.

She had a bottle of pills in her purse, and now she took these out, dumped the contents onto the coffee table, and counted. Twenty.

She tried to swallow three at a time, but that was too much. She settled on swallowing two at a time until they were all gone. Then she set the near-empty water glass back on the coffee table and leaned back into the couch, staring out the front window. She had no idea how long it would be, but it was a beautiful May day. The clock on the cable box told her it was 9:02. Outside the sun sent down brilliant orange rays and the grass had never looked greener, she thought. Soon she found her eyes heavy, her chest thick, and it was a little harder to draw the next breath. She slumped over, groggy, wondering what day it was and how long she’d slept. Then her eyes closed and she fell over.

CHILDREN OF THE SNORE, MORE LIKE

Sometimes you just need to stop making sequels, especially to movies no one is asking for a sequel to. But in 1996, they did it again with a THIRD sequel to the King “classic” CHILDREN OF THE CORN. This latest installment, CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: The Gathering, is not only the fourth in the series, the second to go straight to video, but is also the first time Naomi Watts received top billing. And she is the BEST thing in the movie.

God knows it isn’t the story, the script, the directing, or the acting by most of the other cast.

Let’s see if I can sum this one up relatively quickly.

Grace Rhodes (Watts), has returned to Grand Island, Nebraska (I’ve been to Nebraska; it’s about the most landlocked state you can find, there are no islands there) to care for her agoraphobic mother, played by Karen Black. Also, Grace’s two MUCH younger siblings, James and Margaret.

While in town, Grace takes her old job working for the local doctor, when one night soon after her arrival, all the kids in Grand Island suddenly come down with a mysterious fever. The fever quickly dissipates all at once across the board but the next day the kids all start to behave even weirder than kids growing up in a place called Grand ISLAND, Nebraska would probably act. For one, they stop answering to their names and instead insist their names are something else, the names of former, now dead, kids from the area.

And when Grace runs a blood test on her siblings, the results she get confuse her: they show there are traces of dead and decaying blood in their systems. But she never gets a chance to run the test again because by this point, bodies start to pile up or local residents turn up missing. One of the fathers has been suspected of killing his wife, when in reality it was his young son Marcus, under the influence of an evil child preacher whose soul was given to the dark one decades earlier before the townsfolk dragged him to a corn field and burned him alive. It is suggested in several places online that this may be the origin of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, but those six words are never spoken in this film, so I can’t say for sure.

Turns out the child preacher was abandoned by his mother, left to be raised by traveling preachers, which the boy turned out to have a knack for and people showed up in droves to see the child preacher. But, over fear of losing their golden goose, the rest of the troupe begin to feed him mercury in order to stunt his growth and keep him looking like a child. And now, Grace deduces, after seeing the reaction Margaret had to Mercurochrome, Mercury must be the way to finally defeat this evil.

She and the local father with the dead wife go to the farm where the boy was originally killed, where just previously, he had all the other kids in town spilling their blood into a pool of water, which somehow allowed him to be resurrected.

He was brought by when Margaret–another child abandoned by her mother (Grace is her real mother, not Karen Black, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out early on)–gives herself over to him. But once doused with a whole vat full of mercury, then knocked backward into a tub of the stuff, the evil child preacher dissolves into mush, and Grace is able to pull her daughter back out of the water and revive her.

I don’t feel the least bit bad about spoiling any of this because I really see it as a serve I’m doing for you, the reader. Because there’s NO reason for you to sit through these 86 minutes like I did. And I had to do part of it twice because, once the credits started rolling, I had to backtrack and watch about 20 minutes of it again, I was so sure I’d missed a big part of the climax.

But upon a second watch, I can say with all surety, no, I missed nothing. The climax was what it was, and what it was was quick, BORING, and painless.

Sure, Grace wins, but you knew she would anyway, so who cares?

This is a boring movie that goes nowhere quickly while at the same time taking its sweet time getting there. I’m not saying it’s totally worthless–Naomi Watts is really good here–but with a little retooling, this could have been a middling horror film on its own, without forcing the inconsequential Children of the Corn nonsense into it.

Co-written by first time writer/director Greg Spence (The Prophecy II) with Stephen Berger (The Cold Equations), CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: The Gathering is by no means required viewing, not as a horror movie, not as a Stephen King-related movie, and not even as a Children of the Corn movie. The corn is an afterthought here, a plot device that, previously, had meant everything to the mythology. Here, though, it’s been tossed aside, mentioned in passing, and the ONLY holdover we have from any of the previous movies is the idea of kids killing their own parents. Congratulations Lyle and Eric Menendez, this means you qualify as Children of the Corn.

The effects here are goofy, the tension is nonexistent, and if that was a climax to a horror film, my name is Professor Mergatroid Highbottoms (that’s not my name and that was NOT a climax).

The most I can hope for at this point is that the next film in the series is only half as badly done as this one. But let’s be real, so far none of these sequels have been worth much. I fully expect that trend to continue throughout the entire Children of the Corn series of movies. What’re you gonna do?

 

King on Film
1976-1992 (Carrie to Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice)
The Dark Half (1993)
The Tommyknockers (1993)
Needful Things (1993)
The Stand (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)
The Mangler (1995)
Dolores Claiborne (1995)

The Langoliers (1995)

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1995)

SOMETIMES THEY REALLY SHOULDN’T BOTHER.  AT ALL.

Five years after the ho-hum film adaptation of the Stephen King short story “Sometimes They Come Back”, two unknown writer types (Guy Riedel and Adam Grossman) decided they had the perfect follow up and penned 1996’s SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK … AGAIN. One of the unknown writer types (Grossman) directed it and now 23 years later I’m watching it for the first time.

Honestly, this one copies so much of its structure from the first movie, I can’t understand why it was even made. I’m all for sequels. I’m all for bad sequels. I’m all for bad straight-to-DVD sequels (or straight-to-video as was the case with this one). But I still believe a sequel, especially one that has only the most tenuous of ties to the original, which I will get to later, should at the very least bring SOMETHING to the table.

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK … AGAIN, however, does not.

The plot is thus: thirty years previously, Jon Porter (Michael Gross) watched his sister get murdered in a satanic ritual by three greasers who were a decade out of time in 1966, in their bid for eternal life. After killing Jon’s sister, the hoods notice Jon has seen everything and then they all purposely(?) step into an ankle-high puddle of blood into which Jon is able to knock a live electrical wire, frying the street toughs where they stand.

Because the juvenile delinquents decided to perform their black magic ritual in an abandoned mine where there’s a live junction box with loose wires coming off it for whatever reason?

Anyway, so thirty years later, Jon’s mother is killed in a mysterious accident and he and his daughter Michelle (Hilary Swank) have to go to the dead mother’s house for a few days to set her affairs in order and close out her life. While there, Michelle makes new friends Maria and Jules, grandmother’s ex-house cleaners, and also the dark and mysterious Tony Reno (Alexis Arquette), which, coincidentally, was also the name of the main thug who killed Jon’s sister.

Maria is hot for Tony, but Tony’s only got eyes for Michelle. As he begins his seductions, the bodies start to pile up. First is Steve, the simple-minded lawnmower man (see what they did there?) who is obsessed with Speed Racer and is suspicious of Tony Reno, having watched him disappear before his very eyes the night before.

As with the previous SOMETIMES movie, the rule is, when someone dies, another of the dead gang is allowed to come back from Hell. Next to go is Jules, who is slightly psychic and knows Tony Reno is up to no good. With this death, Tony’s got his whole gang back and now they want to complete their earlier ritual and gain the eternal life they were promised.

But Jon’s got other plans, thanks to the exposition and assistance from a local priest who Jon went to thirty years earlier after his sister was killed. The priest knows the backstory on Tony Reno and his gang and, luckily for Jon, also knows the ritual that will send them all back to Hell for good.

Do I really need to keep going?

Oh, wait, that tie to the first movie. At one point, Jon is told to contact Jim Norman, who will be able to shed some light on what’s going on. Jim Norman, since I know you don’t remember, was Tim Matheson’s character from SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK.

But when he tries to call, Tony Reno has intercepted the call and taken on the voice of Jim’s wife who tells Jon that her husband died last night. True or not, Tim Matheson never made a cameo in this movie, and I hate to say it, but that’s too bad.

Adam Grossman directed ONE more movie after this one, the 1998 remake of the classic CARNIVAL OF SOULS and while I know I watched and reviewed that movie years ago, I don’t remember a single thing about it. I assume neither does Grossman. As for this movie, I can’t imagine he’d remember much about this one, either. I just finished it and I’ve already forgotten half of it.

The script is overly simple, while the acting is underwhelming. Arquette chews the scenery and more, while Michael Gross is given almost nothing to work with whatsoever. A cardboard cutout could have played that role for all the depth it had, and I put that squarely on the writers and director.

If anything, the only person who gave anything close to a truly professional performance was Hilary Swank who, despite the story and everything she was working with, came across as likable and natural. No wonder she was only three years away from her first Oscar win.

Overall, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK … AGAIN falls smack in the middle of the Unnecessary Sequel category. I’m not saying it’s a terrible movie as I’ve seen MUCH WORSE, it just isn’t a movie we needed. It adds absolutely nothing to the mythology, tells basically the same story, and isn’t even REALLY a King movie.

Unless you really HAVE to, this one’s a pass.

King on Film
1976-1992 (Carrie to Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice)
The Dark Half (1993)
The Tommyknockers (1993)
Needful Things (1993)
The Stand (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)
The Mangler (1995)
Dolores Claiborne (1995)

The Langoliers (1995)

writing. Sort of.
I want to write a book that never ends. I mean, like a really long long long story that just goes and goes. But is exciting and has lots of characters and twists and whatnot. I’ve been wanting to for a while and a few months ago I think I hit on which story to tell.
About 10 years ago I plotted a 66 book scifi series that I’ve always been afraid to write because I know I’ll die before I finish it. But I could easily tell this as, instead of 66 novels, one long story that just never ends.
The first part is the hardest, though. It’s called The Heart of the World, the series is, which would then obviously be the title of the humongous fucking novel. If I ever finished it.
But first I have to figure out the first part. I DO know the two main characters in part one are named Neal Adams and Evie Sinclair.
What impossible project have you always wanted to do?

 

Today was an unusual day in terms of starting a new piece in that I had the beginning written probably nine months ago. I knew clearly what the opening to The Witches of Green Lake was going to be, so clearly that I had to take a day in the middle of working on something else–one of the Invasion Agents issues, I’m sure–and write this opening instead.

So today, when I sat down to get started on the beginning of Witches, I already had the beginning. I just needed to figure out what came second. And second wasn’t exactly so clear in my head.

Sure, I had a ton of notes on what the plot, OVERALL, is about, but I don’t have it broken down any further, and certainly none of the finer scene-by-scene details. So today was the beginning, but not the beginning, and I had no idea where it was going. After spending 90 minutes and getting about 500 words, I stopped for the day and picked up my daughter from work. I’ll pick it up again tomorrow.

Immortal Iron Fist Vol. 2: The Seven Capital Cities Of Heaven

Collects Immortal Iron Fist #8-14 & Annual #1. While his friend is held hostage by a Hydra-affiliated megalomaniac, Danny Rand has been ushered to the fabled city of K’un-Lun to fight in a tournament against the Immortal Weapons of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. Will the Iron Fist be the last Immortal Weapon left standing?

While I didn’t get a LOT of words done today, I got some important ones done. Only about 400 of them, but I put a lot into those 400 as I was trying to describe a thing, a time, a place in the world of the story that doesn’t have substance, or location, nor does time pass there.

So that was an experience. But I think I managed it alright.

I need to go through my Prolific Works (formerly Instafreebie) stories and change the CTAs in them since I downgraded my account from paid to free yesterday. I just can’t justify–never could, really–paying $20 a month to FORCE people to sign up to my newsletter whenever they download one of my FREE books, and then have 70% of them never even open the thing, let alone buy any books.

I do get some really good engagement with my readers on there now, and I love it, but I’m not really seeing the money I make every month coming from newsletter subscribers, therefore that $20 a month could very well be better spent elsewhere.

So I need to change the CTAs in those books to saying something like if you liked this story and want more, please sign up for my free weekly newsletter at, and then give the URL for the sign-up sheet.

And that should also eliminate all the people who unsubscribe claiming they never signed up in the first place. I assure you, you totally signed up. I gave you a free novel, and in exchange you gave me your email address. It even says it on the website. But that’s okay, they only came for the free ebook anyway, they clearly were never going to buy any of the other books.

Hopefully I can get to changing those very soon.

Well, after a rough start yesterday, I’m finally on day two of the WRITING of Band of Gypsies 2: Bold as Love, and I am exactly on track with 2002 words.

I lost a little time yesterday to some research I didn’t feel could wait, and I ended the day with only 909 words, but I made up those lost few today and I’m feeling very good about what I have so far.

This story is going to be something of a writing experiment between me and David Bain, my co-writer on the first Band of Gypsies book. On that book, as well as Return to Angel Hill which we wrote together, we took turns doing a few hundred or thousand words each, then sending it back to the other one who would then add a few hundred or thousand words, so on and so forth until we had a finished first draft. But in both cases, we never really knew where the story, or the other writer, was going until we saw it.

For this one, though, I had Dave write me an outline for while I will do the first draft, then when that’s done it’ll go off to him for editing. We’ll do a few passes, and in the end have a brand new finished novella. Or novel. Not sure yet how long it might be, but if 2002 words and I’ve only written the opening scene are any indication, it might be a long one.

Reading. Currently I am reading, in anticipation of the movie that my daughter and I still haven’t decided if we’re seeing in theaters or not:

Today’s writing goal: another 1000 words on Third Floor 2.

Today’s total: 1060 words, bringing the book, currently, to 4080 words.

I’m almost done with the prologue, and if I’d gotten an earlier start this morning, could have finished it today. But the day is moving along and I’ve got to make some lunch before work. However the below zero temps here have played havoc with the world and I lost a chunk of the morning to HAND washing dishes that would have been in the dishwasher if the hot water hadn’t been frozen. But I digress. I’ll finish the prologue tomorrow.

And speaking of today’s words, I found a detail near the end of the day that tied back to one small, almost forgettable scene in the first Third Floor, but also played so perfectly into what was happening in this scene, God I love it when that happens.

Times like that are the jewels we look for, the spark that reminds us why we love doing this job so much.

I’m looking forward to finishing this prologue tomorrow.

Writing goal for the day: Add another 1000 words to The Third Floor 2.

Writing total: 1008 words, bringing the book to 3020 words in the first 3 days.

Not bad. My goal for the first week is to get the prologue written. That’s what I’m still in the middle of, but I will definitely finish it this week and when I get back to the book in three weeks, I’ll be starting chapter one and the main part of the plot. But first I have to finish the prologue.

No worries, everything is on track.

Also, yesterday I had to do research, image searching “guest room décor.”

Today’s writing goal: hit 2000 words on The Third Floor 2.

Final total: 2012 words. Goal met.

I had trouble getting these words out, and honestly considered quitting for the day when I was only halfway there. When I went down to get a new cup of coffee, the kitchen floor was soaked. I had the tap running at a slow drizzle because it’s supposed to get down to 4 degrees in the next 24 hours and I didn’t want the pipes to freeze, and somehow all the water backed up into the dishwasher and started leaking out. No idea how or why, but I turned on the dishwasher and it all drained away immediately, so that’s good?

But this roadblock almost made me pack it in for the day and do something else. But I was halfway there and am I really the kind of writer, or do I want to be the kind of writer, who lets a stupid thing like that keep me from reaching my daily writing goal?

Of course not. So I finished the days words and added another 12 with 2 minutes to spare before my lunch is ready.

Today’s writing goal: Start writing The Third Floor 2 (at least 1000 words).

Finished count for the day: 1028 words.

I met my goal, so that’s a good day of writing.

And I like the opening, which I was nervous about because I feel like the legacy of this book looms larger than it should. When I wrote the first book, I just wanted to capture some of the creepy stuff that had happened to me when I used to live in that house. I didn’t know when I wrote it, or when I self published it, that it was going to sell quite as well at it did. Of course I hoped for it, but we hope for it with every title we publish, and I have a LOT of titles out there now, and none have even come close to what The Third Floor sold.

So, yeah, it feels like there’s just a LITTLE bit of pressure on this one to do a great job, more pressure than if I were writing a follow up to anything else.

And I think today I started it right. It’s a solid opening and gives me many directions I could go while also laying the groundwork for the direction it’s GOING to go, which I already knew when I started today. So it all worked out.