Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

Front cover of Monster

Front cover of Monster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Writing on the Darkside


Traci Kenworth




A lot of people get nervous when I tell them what I write. I imagine anyone who writes scary stories or horror encounters the same reaction. Add to the mix that I’m a Christian, and the eyebrows raise pointedly. The truth is, there’s a broad spectrum across this genre, as well as other genres. Some stories are lighter than others, some impart a morality, others, go deeper into abyss of darkness. I like to focus on the fact that it’s a story and each has its own road it travels. I’m not out to glamorize anything or to invite people to the dark side. It’s no different than any other book, except for where it takes you, and no, I don’t mean straight to hell.


It’s about chilling your reader, giving each goosebumps, showing them a path that perhaps they should rethink. No, I don’t browbeat my readers with the aforementioned place or the road to such. There’s this character, such and such happens to them, and they don’t end up in a good place. They search for a way back to some semblance of normalcy and therein lies the tale. After all, would you really want to live in a world of zombies, monsters, etc. day after day? Writing on the dark side then, is about the journey back from there, or failing that, surviving, and building anew.


I read a novel by Robert McCammon  titled Mine early in the pregnancy of my first child. It was about a baby stolen from the hospital and the mother’s search for it. I grieved for the mother at her loss, rooted for her as she sought the kidnapper, and gnawed my fingernails at the terror that followed. You can be sure I spent more than a few tense moments worrying about such a fate happening in my own life. Books do that to you. They become friends. Every time I read one, I want to see the character/s walk/run away from the bad things. Frank Peretti writes excellent novels that deal with morality. I’m still spooked by one of his novels that involved a haunted house with a maze inside and couples who had to face not only each other but their worst fears to survive. Stephen King is a familiar name to all of us. From It to The Stand and all his short stories in-between, he’s a master at his craft. I think it’s because he knows how to be the elusive Vincent Price or Elvira waiting in the wings to take our coat, pull up a chair, and dim the lights for a story.


That’s what an author is: refuge for a weary person run-down from their week at work, health battles, and so on. We invite them in and spin a story worthy of their time. There’s no malaise intended, we just want to tell a good tale. What about you? What do you write? Do you find a stigma attached to its genre? How do you deal/not deal with it?


Read Full Post »

Tobin @ Oakwell: 2010

Tobin @ Oakwell: 2010 (Photo credit: mySAPL)

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Traci Kenworth


I prefer the word Scary book to Horror. Most likely because most people think of horror as an abomination and although some of the things I write about, no doubt, are, I still prefer to leave the reader with something to think about on a day-to-day level and not just shovel out blood and guts. Not that all horror books do. I just prefer scary because it confides a reaction our reader will hopefully have while reading. I know people can be horrified by scenes in books too or what the theme implies but what I want to do is dig down into the ether of our souls and show what lies there. That, to me, is scary. Horror denotes a bucket of repulsion. Scary can be defeated. Horror lives on.

I don’t know about you, but I want to believe some of the characters will survive, triumph even, in the end. When there’s a mass slaughtering, I come away with a what’s the point question. I like chills as much as the next person but when it’s over and done, wouldn’t you sleep easier knowing that the boogeyman has been blasted back into the dark grave he crawled from? Or the police found the killer in question and he’s now behind bars rather than jet-setting to Europe to begin a new onslaught there? The horror that surrounds Jack the Ripper never ends. He’s real and even the best detectives couldn’t uncover his identity. I imagine his terror haunts many an alleyway, dark street, and parking lot at night still. Copycats abound.

When I suffer through my characters with some monstrosity, I want to believe they have a chance, a method to defeat the Big Bad in the end. To kill them all off would actually be easier than letting them win. It takes pain, it takes work, everything you’re got to go up against something that means to destroy you. Whether this be in real life or fiction, readers can take away a sliver of hope, perhaps, that they too can overcome. In The Stand, Stephen King re-built a future home for people in Colorado. Within The Watchers, Dean Koontz showed us that even the common man can defeat evil.  Even the worst of monsters, Dracula, met his fate at the end of a simple stake. So what are your opinions on scary versus horror? Do you prefer survivors or an all-out zombie buffet? Which would make you sleep better at night?

Read Full Post »

The Sandman was advertised as "a horror-e...

The Sandman was advertised as “a horror-edged fantasy set in the DC Universe” in most of DC’s comics dated “Holiday 1988,” an extra issue tying in with the Invasion! crossover, which was the last to involve pre-Vertigo characters such as Swamp Thing, Black Orchid, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Shade, the Changing Man, save for Worlds’ End’s loose connection to Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relationships are Key to Horror

Traci Kenworth


For me, when writing horror, the relationships are the key. The ones between your characters and, most importantly, the reader. Because if the reader doesn’t care what happens to them, then the book’s just going to be tossed aside or deteriorate on the shelves. So how do we set off getting the reader to feel empathy for the people in our story world? We show them aspects of themselves in our fictional creations. The friendly, well-meaning neighbor who not everyone appreciates until the day something horrible happens near where you live. They’re always observant, always into what’s happening in the neighborhood. You dismiss them out of hand on a regular day. Until a zombie appears and they become you and your family’s best bet to escape the Apocalypse.

The disgruntled grandpa, no one pays much attention to anymore. His crazy ways are just not appealing—until when the count goes down and your life’s on the line and he ends up saving it. What about the bad example teenager no one understands, who ends up being your savior when the demons/vamps come out at night? The woman tortured and left by the roadside who triumphs over her abuser in the end? We read about these personalities because we’re hooked by a trait of theirs, with which we can identify. Who hasn’t felt out of place at a fancy party? Tongue-tied in a foreign area/country? A bit crazed when cut off on the roadway? Those are pieces we may not like to agree we identify with, but they’re there still.

We develop our characters for readers to both love, tolerate, or downright hate. Every emotion becomes important, a chance to communicate with the reader. When our heroine feels ruined by the loss of her home, we understand that. When a young boy wants to take an adventure and escape “everyday life” we want to know why, who he’s with, and why that relationship is important to the story. So what are some of the ways you use the familiarity in your own selves in writing to pull the reader in and “show” them that we all make-up a puzzle that once together, becomes our character/s?

Read Full Post »






English: Photograph of Mount Vernon, Fairfax C...

English: Photograph of Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia. George Washington’s Home. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’ve been tagged by YA Author, Vanessa Barger for The Leibster Award. It’s where I tell you 11 Fun Facts about myself, answer 11 questions, and come up with another 11 questions for the bloggers I choose. So let’s get started:


11 Fun Facts:


1. I used to LOVE coffee but it was bad for me, the doctor said, so I switched to the milder caffeine tea. Actually, tea was my first hot drink crush so it was kind of like coming home after being away for so long.


2. I LOVE animals. Tame or wild, though I don’t go out of my way to visit the wild, “up close and personal.” Lol.


3. Revising is the “It” thing for me. I just find it brings such promise, pulling together everything and making sure the vision works.


4. Worldbuilding often goes hand-in-hand with my stories. I think it’s a throw-back to all the fantasy books/stories I devoured when a youth.


5. Mystery is another favorite of mine. Although, I haven’t read much mystery lately. I’m fascinated by the puzzle of them, the truth behind all. Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators were a few I followed.


6. I’m gearing up to move into a bigger house as soon as I locate one that suits my family and I’ve been keeping busy packing, packing, packing. You never realize how much you accumulate over the years!


7. I am both repelled and fascinated by The Walking Dead series. At first, I couldn’t watch and then recently, I was drawn back in.


8. Cats are another thing that fascinates me. Their personalities, their actions, their way of life. I’m a cat at heart, I suppose. Lol.


9. During Christmas present opening, I’m more excited about what I’ve gotten others and watching them open it, hoping they like it, than I am about what I get myself.


10. I’ll be gearing up within the next 2-3 months to sub.


11. My writing process has gone from fevered pitch to slow as I concentrate on learning and practicing the lessons.




The 11 Questions Vanessa asked:


1. What is your favorite vacation you’ve ever taken? Washington D.C. with my son for his class trip a few years ago. I loved exploring George Washington’s home and learning about the ghost that lives there. There were other fascinating places we visited, but this one stood out the most to me. It’s simplicity and yet “homey” feel to it. Oh, and the goosebumps, wondering if the ghost would put in an appearance. It didn’t. But with that atmosphere, it’s not hard to imagine it being there.


2. What is your biggest pet peeve? Being late for something. I’m usually early to whatever I go to. I just think it’s better that way.


3. What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? I tried watching The Wrong Turn once. I had to turn it off after the first few scenes. It just made me sick. I like movies that don’t necessarily show the gore or don’t “dwell” on it anyway. I’ve seen my share of Jason, Freddy, and Michael Meyers believe me. What really “scared” me though was a television series I snuck down into the living room when I was little to watch: Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot.” I had nightmares about that cellar/basement scene for months. Lol. Mostly because the bed in my room was pushed up against the attic door at the time and I kept imagining vampires “breaking through.”


4. Name one food you cannot live without? Hmm. Tomatoes. Yep. LOVE them.


5. Pirates or ninjas? Pirates, I suppose. Though in reality, I wouldn’t have liked to experience the reality of them but ninjas–that’s just asking to be killed or seriously maimed.


6. What is your favorite childhood movie? Where the Red Fern Grows maybe. Oh! No! The Black Stallion. The friendship between Alec and the horse was truly memorable.


7. Do you have any pets? Yes. Three cats: Miss Socks, Midnight, and Miss Tinky. One dog: Bear.


8. What is the best piece of advice you’ve never taken? To do what makes me happy. It’s taken me forever to get that lesson home and now I am with writing. I encourage my children to pursue their dreams because let’s face it: “do something practical” makes you miserable.


9. Road trips. Good or bad? Depends on who you’re with and what you do to occupy your time. We used to take looong trips when I was a kid with three or four vehicles following one another. It was a blast to visit places we hadn’t planned on (my dad was spontaneous about stopping here or there). Nowadays, the trips have grown to 2-3 hours (still a long while) but the kids and I keep busy with songs, trivia questions, and I spy.


10. If you had to spend the night in the woods and could only bring one thing to entertain you, what would it be? Hmm. The woods at night is spooky to me, so that in itself would be entertaining enough. Some S’mores would be nice though and is always a conversation piece.


11. Do you have any writing rituals? Not really. I spend the “early” morning going through emails, blogs, etc. and then towards late morning get to the writing. Usually, I take a brief break between the “business” side of writing and the actuality of it. It kind of shrugs things off and helps me focus. Then I spend the first 5-10 minutes re-reading over the last scene and go on from there.




Okay. My bloggers to tag: Stina Lindenblatt, Julie Musil, Penny Randall, Kelbian Naidoo, Andie Russell, and Miranda Buchanan. Yes, I know that’s short of the 11 you’re supposed to, but most bloggers have already been tagged, I think. Good luck, ladies, here’s your 11 questions and play with it!


1. What’s your favorite thing about Spring?


2. Any big changes in your life coming up? A move, book coming out, etc?


3. Do you enjoy the indoors or the outdoors and why?


4. What creeps you out? Spiders or snakes?


5. Whose your favorite character on The Walking Dead?


6. Do you read in a wide variety of genres?


7. What has become the biggest “bore” for you when it comes to a book? Theme or character-wise?


8. If you had to do one thing different/over in your writing career, what would it be?


9. Best book you’ve read lately?


10. Dark Fairytales or light?


11. What unusual thing do you have hanging on your wall/s?


Read Full Post »

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Building on What’s Come Before


Traci Kenworth




As a writer, I always want to build on what’s come before. I want to pull something new out of the hat when it comes to Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and Dracula. Otherwise, it’ll bore the reader. No two vampires are alike in the book world. Take for example: Stephanie Meyer’s sparkly/vegetarian Cullens versus Stephen King’s predatory lot. Love them or hate them, each author took the myth and made it unique to their stories. That’s what we need to do in our own. Create some aspect/twist to the monster that will thrill/awe/or send chills down reader’s backs.


To do so, we have to know the history of the creature we’ve decided on. There are so many tales about the three creatures above. Read wide and deep so you know what’s been done then compare that to where you want to take your audience. Do you want to focus on the vampire’s point-of-view or your human’s? We’ve seen vampire/human offspring (Blade) and we’ve witnessed Buffy’s (the Vampire Slayer) life. Each character brings something unique to the mix. It’s those differences that make them more compelling to the reader.


So whether we follow a whole town’s/country’s story or just one individual, the trick is to make the tale something new. Even if it’s just the mechanics of how the creature came about, what they eat, how they produce new ones, it’s up to us to dig deep into myth and scramble it about until we have the guts of our story. If we don’t know what’s come before, we risk producing something similar. Happy writing.


Read Full Post »

Combat Gear

Combat Gear (Photo credit: John Starfire)

Scary…to Me

Traci Kenworth


I considered many ways to write this blog but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what I wanted to say. We can define horror in many ways: evil, savage, beastly, to name a few. The fact of the matter is, the types are endless. When I write scary stories, it’s not to invite anyone over to the dark side, or gross someone out so that they lose their lunch. I’m interested in what scares you and me and finding a way to combat those fears. I can think of a lot in this world that terrifies me: the loss of freedom, safety, and loved ones. I’m horrified at some of the real life events that happen. In my stories, I want the reader to find hope, a reason to go on when everything is numb, and quite simply, when there are no words.

My heroes and heroines aren’t perfect. They have flaws just like you and me. They love, hate, and sometimes struggle to forgive. Life is difficult for us and fictional characters. I wish that weren’t true in our case but I’m glad it is in theirs because it forces our story people to come up higher. They find the strength, hope, and courage. With everything in them, they fight to save those they love. Sometimes they have to learn to let go too. Bitterness, anger, hatred, these can crush a person. It’s only when they overcome this darkness the light shines into the cave for them and all the bats rush outside. So, I suppose you could say, I like to bring my characters back from the brink of death, just to show them, it’s possible.

Over and over, we hear that those that do something horrible showed few signs of what they were capable of here on this Earth. In fiction, I sometimes smudge those gray areas as well. Villains love their wives, pets, even their dolls. They seem like us and yet, there is a pocket of pure evil within them that we can’t begin to understand. It forces us to confront them, ourselves, in an attempt to blot them from existence. We don’t want to see the cannibal living among us, the abuser, or the monster in the shadows. Somehow, we think if we don’t look, they aren’t there. Horror fiction to me, exposes that under seam of life, that certain nasty we want to ignore. It drives the protagonist to stab that vampire through the heart with a stake. Perhaps this same protagonist is attempting to atone for what he is himself: a bystander who takes no action against a savage act, until someone he cares about is harmed.

I don’t want to get all morally superior here and determine what is and isn’t good horror. There is certainly material out there that I find as objectionable as the next. But this is about what I write and why. Sometimes it’s because I’ve been the one in hiding, running for my life. Others, it’s because I want to show to that young girl or boy or even older reader, there is a future, a bright one, and you can triumph over evil. It’s not easy. But someday, someone will take your hand and lead you into the daylight. That’s why I write scary. So that, by doing so, I can shatter the demons around us.

Read Full Post »

Cover of "Full Dark, No Stars"

Cover of Full Dark, No Stars

Book Review: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Traci Kenworth


Scribner 2010 Short Story Collection-Horror

  1. 1922

Hook: April 11, 1930.

A confession by Wilifred Leland James. He murdered his wife in June of 1922. His son, Henry, at 14, aided him although he beat fear into him over a two month period. All over farmland. Hears things in walls. This was a chilling and at times sympathetic story over a man trying to keep what is his.

  1. Big Driver

Hook: Tess accepted twelve compensated engagements a year, if she could get them. She writes books. This is her retirement fund. She takes a shortcut home thanks to the librarian. Trouble comes in the form of wood sprawled across the road and a giant of a man. Oh, this was a hard story for me to read. It was full of such heartache, pain, and the thirst for revenge. Brutal in tone, Tess is a survivor and deals with the situation the way many women perhaps wish they could deal with their attacker. She had me rooting for her all the way through and it was a satisfying conclusion.

  1. Fair Extension

Hook: Streeter only saw the sign because he had to pull over and puke. Diagnosed with cancer, he lives in Derry, and is a banker. In return for 15% for 15 years, possibly more, he buys a life extension from a guy alongside the road. The catch? Bad luck goes to enemy. He chooses to cast everything his best friend’s way because Tom and Streeter’s girlfriend fell in love when they were in high school and married. This was my least favorite of the stories written. Maybe it’s because Dave Streeter doesn’t really see what he’s got to be thankful for (a nice wife, great kids, good career). Instead, he pines for what he doesn’t have. Even in the ending, he shows no remorse for what he’s done.

  1. A Good Marriage

Hook: The one thing nobody asked in casual conversation Darcy thought in the days after what she found what she found in the garage, was this: How’s your marriage? Darcy’s life is happy until she discovers her husband’s a serial killer and rapist named Beadie. He claims that he’s haunted by his boyhood friend who died when he was a teen. Darcy struggles to decide what to do: turn her back on her husband or unveil his deeds. King really digs into the story here and shows what someone like Beadie’s other life might really be. It was haunting and gruesome and yet surprisingly had a heart to it you wouldn’t think it would.

This collection was everything a fan of Stephen King could want, maybe more. King always tells a fascinating tale and gets down to the nitty-gritty of things which is what I personally think makes him such a great writer. He knows people. And isn’t that the greatest compliment a writer can have? In his Afterword, he explains why he writes the stories he does and what he thinks makes a bad writer: someone who refuses to look the truth of the story in the eye and tell it for what it is. King has proven time and again that he’s unflinching in his portrayal of people and their humanness. We might not like what we see when the scab is ripped off, but we know that in doing so, he’s exposing all the pus beneath. Life isn’t always sweet. Sometimes it’s painful, heartbreaking, and unfair. How we each respond to that is different, unique. It’s what makes the tale true and the storyteller genuine. I heartily recommend this collection to all King fans and to anyone who loves to see the truth behind the mask of life.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,994 other followers

%d bloggers like this: