Influences of a Writer: From where does inspiration spring?

To quote a character in a Rodger Zelazny novel “If I knew I would walk over and stand there”. I love that line, although I do have an idea where my inspiration comes from. It is a short walk to my bookshelves. The things I love to read and the genre’s I prefer to write in creatively are tied together. I was thinking about the stories and authors I love to read and how I got turned onto them at a young age.

I was interested in fantasy from an early age having read and enjoyed the Narnia series. Then I was given the Hobbit, followed by the Lord of the Rings and my love for fantasy was cemented. I have read those once a year since I was about 11 years old. By the time I was 15 I was reading the Silmarilion yearly as well. Then I was introduced to the aforementioned Rodger Zelazny. He wrote both sci-fi and fantasy and sometimes both, (which is difficult to do well.), in the same story. His Amber books are what hooked me. After the late great Zelazny I found Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, Frank Herbert’s Dune series and sci-fi became cemented in my favorite genres for reading pleasure. After sci-fi I was then introduced to classic horror or gothic romances with Bram Stoker and Mary Shelly, Frankenstein and Dracula in the original forms. I branched out to Stephen King and my love of the horror tale was cemented at that time.

Creatively that is where my obsession lies. Fantasy, sci-fi, horror, they all are genres I have played with and enjoyed doing so. Some would say they are all in the same realm as the fantastic stories. Either way those are where I get my reading pleasure and inspiration to write. Interestingly enough I was introduced to all of those mentioned and more by my brother John. The first book I read in any of the genres I listed was given to me by John starting at an early age. He was the one who passed on the knowledge of these wonderful worlds that I could explore and have explored ever since. Thanks John, it is appreciated every time I sit at my computer to write, or pick up a book to read.

These are thoughts on some of my own inspiration and influences, what about yours?"Alas! Poor Yorick...I knew him well"



The Classic Dracula…Thank you Bram Stoker…

What better way to finish off a Halloween series than with the classic Dracula. There really is nothing to compare that has came out since. Vampire legends are in every country in the world and go as far back as recorded history, but Stoker took the European legends and solidified them into something that has been causing chills and thrills ever since. Many have tried to duplicate, spin off, or even completely change the legends of the vampire, (looking at you Twilight), but none have succeeded in the pure thrills and shivers that Stoker did with his masterpiece.

Whether it is in the beginning when Harker realizes he is a virtual prisoner in Dracula’s castle, or the final show down with the monster, the writing is such that you are there with the characters, experiencing the fear and loathing that they are.

Stoker uses the vintage style of diary entries/letters to tell his tale of horror and it is a favorite style of mine as a reader. Diaries and letters are personal things and there is privileged feeling of being allowed to read a personal writing of such importance. You know you are reading fiction, of course, but the personal touch of the journal style still has that effect. This style also enhances the feeling, mentioned above, of being there with the characters described. It is a wonderful way to make the story inclusive to the reader that is part of why this wonderful book has such impact and staying power in the world. As the saying goes, “often imitated, never duplicated.”

Thank you Bram Stoker!

Have you read it? What did you think?

Have you not read it? Why not? Scared? You should be…


Night of the Living Dead (Zombie fans represent!)

While this blog concentrates mostly on books, a Halloween discussion cannot be complete with out this film. The Night of the Living Dead completely changed how horror movies were made. It was the most disturbing movie made up until that point. (I would argue that to this day it hasn’t been beat.) What made it so? Sure, the graphic depiction of cannibalism is pretty shocking, even if the diners were dead.

Does that make it cannibalism? Or do you have to be alive when eating someone for it to be cannibalism?

In any case I think what made it shocking, and further adventures of zombies since then shocking, was that we the people, normal everyday people, were the bad guys. Up until that point most horror flicks were in far away places with mad scientists or alien encounters. This was in the heartland of America and our deceased relatives were climbing out of their graves. The gore of the movie aside, the location and the people make The Night of the Living Dead a psychological horror film. This holds true for the flood of Zombie movies, shows and books that continue to be made. There have been many great zombie tales since, but for my money, it all begins and ends with The Night of the Living Dead.

As a side note, George Romero the director admits it was a rip off of the book I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Although in his novel, (and subsequent movies), it was a disease that caused something like vampirism.

Also the movie itself never called the zombies zombies. They were referred to as ghouls.

Memories of the first time you saw it?

Have not seen it? (gasp in shock)


Those Who Hunt the Night

A frightening vampire story by Barbara Hambly that has a touch of realism which makes it all the more creepy. “Spoiler alert”. Set in 1907 England a man is hired to find out who is killing the Vampires of London. A threat against a loved one is sufficient to get him working for the Vampires, and so he hunts whoever is killing them during the day. Those who Hunt the Night is an intriguing look at what vampirism could scientifically be, yet this does not take the story out of the horror genre. It still remains one of my go to books for this season. Or any other when a good scare is what the doctor ordered.

There is a scene where they visit a crypt in underground Paris. It is the place where victims bodies of the Black Plague were dumped long ago. If that does not satisfy you taste for unnerving, you may need to see a doctor, because something is wrong with you.

Have you read this? Would you like to?