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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happy 16th Birthday, Dan!

Dear Dan.

Happy 16th Birthday! This is Dan in 2012. I’m trying to think what I did to celebrate on my 16th, but as I’m drawing a blank, it couldn’t have been anything interesting or sexy.

So how’ve you been? I was thinking what would be a great present to send you, but as it costs a fortune to send a parcel oversees, I can predict that I can’t afford to send something both oversees and back in time. So, you know, I’m emailing. It’s free (for now). I hope you can access this on the one computer at your high school that has the internet.

Yeah, the internet is kind of a big thing nowadays, but I’m sure you’ve already considered the benefit of it in regards to downloading guitar tabs, band pictures and of course, porn. Just a heads up on that last one: the internet does speed up after a few years. Fear not!

You see, already I’m telling you too much about the future, which might upset the space-time continuum. That might sound like a good thing, but the way I see it out here in the future, is that if time runs its natural course, I’ll make it to at least 32 years, which would an incredible achievement. I always thought I’d die early in some cripplingly embarrassing way.

Anyway, I will try and keep it general.

I can remember sixteen being a very awkward age, being not quite here nor there. The same with seventeen, but I think you can get away with more at that age (like the Tudor pub WILL serve you). Some of the things I recall I wanted back then…it’s weird, looking back, because in hindsight it was pretty good.

For example, body. You wanted contact lenses to get rid of your geeky glasses, right? Skip to 2012, and you don’t bother with contacts anymore and prefer the glasses…because seriously, who gives a fuck if you wear glasses? If someone treats you differently because you wear glasses, then…I don’t know. Glass them.

You know when you had your braces off and the arse-cunt dentist left an annoying piece of cement on one of your teeth? Sixteen years later and it’s still there. But at least you still have all your teeth so keep doing what you’re doing.

Body size. Ah, at sixteen you still have the majority of hard work gym hours ahead because you think that’s a belly. Ha! You don’t know what a belly is! I’m currently doing an hour at the gym every day to try and get back the figure you have right now that you don’t want! So think on.

And running the risk of that whole space-time continuum again, I feel the need to point out that you have been healthy up until now. So any pain you feel in the next sixteen years isn’t cancer or a rupture or appendicitis or anything. So don’t stress about it.

What to talk about next. Oh yes, music! Most of the bands you like (hell, no, let’s just come out and say it: obsess over) will ultimately either break up, sell out or release crappier and crappier albums, mainly due to them selling out, which failure will cause them to break up. Are they replaced with new, better bands? No. You have done the thing that you swore you never would. You have become one of those ‘music was better in my day’ people.

That make you feel old?
It makes me feel old.

Guess when (for me) was the best period for music? 1995-96. Where you are now. So go out and see more bands before they’re gone. You’ll have more memories to enjoy when something called Gangnam Style comes along.

Never stop gaming. You might at some point think it’s immature and stop…but don’t. You’ll be lying to yourself.

You know how many times I’ve thought about going back in time and influencing the past? And it hasn’t been to make myself rich, or to benefit mankind or anything. It’s always been to advise my past self to avoid certain people: those people who made you miserable. The bullies, the back stabbing friends, the bad girlfriends (that’s right, they do come along!). But you need those people, so endure it. Chris calls it character building, and I recall he used to say that back in your day. He must have the power of foresight.

Oh and as I know that no negative effect can come from this: always do what Chris suggests. I know he recommends that, which makes it all a bit more suspicious, but things are always more fun this way. Trust me. I’m you. In the future.

What other nuggets of wisdom can I offer you? Oh yeah, people die. People do die, and usually not the ones you want or have money on. So enjoy people. Spend more time with them. Even the ones you don’t overly like will create regrets when they’re gone. Woulda coulda shoulda, old buddy.

Don’t play the lottery. It’s like a tax for morons.

You’re better at handling your drink if you stop at a few and feel fine instead of drinking more and becoming a mess.

Don’t grow your hair long. You manage it twice (and I don’t mean that awful Britpop fringe you’re sporting right now. That’s right. I remember) and just…well, just don’t.

Like the music and people, remember that nothing is sacred and that things you think will be around for years  might not be. Enjoy what you have. Things get destroyed, or closed down, or bulldozed. You really don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

Jesus, I hate it when sayings like that are true. Same is time is the best healer, which is true…unless you’re suffering from the symptoms of old age. In which case, time is the best at making things worse.

I digress.

Enjoy your day, the experiences to come and especially the music! I have to sit around and wait for my email from Dan age 48. Screw his time-continuum, I want some horse winners or the name of a company to invest in.

So Happy Birthday, Dan. Take in what I said, but don’t try and read into it too much. If you do, and you change my past, there’s a chance I could drop dead, and no one wants

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 2:57 pm :: 0 comments

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Guest post: Paula Stiles

I’ve always been an advocate of the camp ‘write what you know’. Usually this applies to locations, details and characters. For example, I’ve had characters with the same jobs as I’ve had, with coworkers and bosses based on people from that time in my life. Hell, if any of my characters have to go abroad, it’s probably to somewhere I’ve been.

Sometimes, you get a reader that pokes at one of your details and tries to call you out on it. Is this REALLY how business would be conducted in a law firm? (office chair Buckaroo? Yes.) Is this REALLY how an employer would react under these circumstances? (Sleep with his secretary? Yes.) Can a teacher REALLY think that about one of his students? (planning murder? Definitely.). Fiction aside, yes that’s REALLY how it can go down. I’ve felt it, seen it…smelled it.

But people vary. How you might react to one thing might be different to what I would do. Just look at my partner and I with spiders. With me, it’s just a spider. With her, it’s THE END OF THE WORLD.

I’m very happy to have over on the blog today new Dark Continents author Paula Stiles, who joins our happy family with the release of her latest novel, The Might Quinn.

Paula, as a writer with a wealth of experience in extreme situations, might have a vastly dissimilar reaction to you during the plights that occur in a horror novel. Is this a realistic approach, or different strokes for different folks? Take it away, Paula…

Like a lot of writers, I write what I know. What I know happens to include things like managing a spooked half-blind mare inside a dark stall, trying not to drown under a motorcycle on a West African dirt road, driving ambulances at night in freezing rain, and dealing with unmedicated psychotics in domestic disputes. Unsurprisingly, then, my protagonists (like Quinn Bolcan, in my urban fantasy novel, “The Mighty Quinn [http://www.amazon.com/The-Mighty-Quinn-ebook/dp/B009IB98C8/]”) frequently end up in dangerous situations and find themselves at risk. What they don't do (unlike far too many characters in horror fiction) is act like hysterical idiots when it happens. Unless, of course, they're about to die horribly. Because acting like the kind of bloody moron you normally encounter in slasher flicks is an excellent way to get killed in a risky situation.

Hysterical and overemotional behavior, of course, is quite realistic for certain people in hazardous situations, a classic one being the panicky swimmer that lifeguards in training are always warned about. This is why you never grab a conscious swimmer who is drowning, but give him/her the float and get away. Someone who is actively in the process of drowning will crawl all over you in a panic and drown you first, before sinking after you.

One thing I learned the hard way while still a teenager, courtesy of working on rescue squads, is that civilians (unlike pigs named 'Babe') are definitely stupid. And that it's very easy for a rescuer to become a civilian-slash-victim if you're not paying attention. One of our EMT instructors used to call it “Don't make two patients.” That is to say, you should always scope out the hazards in a situation before rushing in to help a patient. You're not going to help anyone if you fall victim to the same thing the patient did.

This was somewhat of a revelation to me, since my previous experience with panicky creatures had been 1200-pound horses. We were expected to be the calm ones around the crazy, dumb equines (speaking of things that can kill you). It had never occurred to me up to that point that humans could be just as stupid. And dangerous.

The mindset of a horror protag who is going to survive longer than a single kill scene has to be...well..different. Someone who is competent at surviving is not having big, overblown feelings about anything, including conscious fear. That person is simply reacting and a truly accurate portrayal of such a scene will include little or no emotional reaction at the time, just physical and mental action, reaction and (if the POV character has time) planning an escape route or counterattack.

I have been accused of having unemotional POV characters during scenes of high risk, but that's been my personal experience with those situations. The emotional reaction is always delayed—be it by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or even years or decades. It is not in sync with what is happening. A lot of people die unknowingly, absurdly, killed before they even realize they are at risk. And the biggest problem for someone who is at risk is that your mind tends to wander. It's as if your subconscious wants to put your conscious mind anywhere but right there in front of the monster. You can go off on some really absurd mental tangents, even if you are trained to respond to emergency situations. And that's while you still could do something to save yourself, like run.

This kind of absurdity has some very odd side effects. I've never been able to figure out whether I had had a few too many close calls within a short time, or if it was a proof of reincarnation, when I once found myself about to be run down by an out-of-control logging truck while on my motorcycle in Africa, with nowhere to go. My only thought? A thoroughly exasperated “Oh, no. Not again.”

Bio: Possessing a quixotic fondness for difficult careers, Paula Stiles has driven ambulances, taught fish farming for the Peace Corps in West Africa and earned a Scottish PhD in medieval history, studying Templars and non-Christians in Spain. She is the author of horror novel, "The Mighty Quinn,[http://www.amazon.com/The-Mighty-Quinn-ebook/dp/B009IB98C8/]" co-written supernatural mystery novels, "Fraterfamilias [http://www.amazon.com/Fraterfamilias-ebook/dp/B004FV501Y/]" and the upcoming “Confraternitas,” and non-fiction medieval history book, "Templar Convivencia: Templars and Their Associates in 12th and 13th Century Iberia [http://www.amazon.com/Templar-Convivencia-Templars-Associates-ebook/dp/B008CXB038/]." She is Editor in Chief of the Lovecraft/Mythos 'zine/micropress Innsmouth Free Press [www.innsmouthfreepress.com]. You can find her at: http://thesnowleopard.net.

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 8:19 am :: 0 comments

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