Saturday, August 16, 2014

Guest Author Eric Red on Researching Horror

My latest guest writer is someone whose work I’ve been a fan of since the 1980s, when Eric Red was writing screenplays and directing movies. Two movies he wrote I consider classics. You may have seen The Hitcher (1986) and the vampire flick Near Dark (1987). When I was studying screenwriting at UT Austin back in 1989, my professor talked about Eric Red and his screenplays, and we discussed The Hitcher in depth. I admired Red’s early success as a writer. In 1991, I went to the theater to see the horror movie Body Parts and there on the big screen was Written and Directed by Eric Red. Mr. Red went on to write and direct some other recognizable horror movies, including Bad Moon and 100 Feet, to name a few. 

After making his mark on the movie business, Eric Red has gone on to write comic book series, graphic novels and channeled his talents into writing horror short stories and novels. I was thrilled when he joined the team of authors at my publisher Samhain Horror. Now, with the release of his latest Sci-Fi monster novel, It Waits Below, I’m honored to have Eric Red as a guest on my blog as he shares his wisdom about researching for a horror novel.

 What does research matter in horror?

You’d think doing research as an author would be less important for a horror novel than other literary genres, because monsters and the supernatural aren’t real—or at least some think so. But in my opinion, the more realistic the everyday details, technology, ordinance, hardware, professional behavior, and science, the more the reader believes what’s going on, increasing their involvement in the story. Even though the reader knows a horror story is unreal, I believe the greater the verisimilitude, that on an unconscious level people believe what is happening just a little bit more—and it’s that much more scary. It all comes down to suspension of disbelief.

I knew two things before writing It Waits Below, my new Samhain novel about the crew of a three-man Deep Submergence Vehicle who encounter an alien life form at the bottom of the ocean. One, the book had to be technically accurate. Two, I didn’t know shit about subs, and needed technical advisors who did. With the help of The National Academy Of Sciences, I was introduced to one of the top Alvin sub pilots in the world and his wife, a prominent oceanographer and microbiologist. For months they gave me invaluable help explaining how these subs are operated and what the crews encounter many miles down. They answered a million questions and shared fascinating materials that provided inspiration for some of the most terrifying scenes in the book. Later, I would run finished scenes by them and ask if this could happen or that could happen. Without the help of my technical advisers, the novel would have been about as convincing as an old Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea TV episode.

Some writers are research-wonks, but originally I wasn’t. When I started writing scripts for movies like The Hitcher—road thrillers set in a spare highway iconography—what the hell did you need to know? Get a map of Texas. Find out the makes of the police cars and what kind of guns they carried. The rest was pure imagination. But over the years, as my subject matter grew more involved, so did the research entailed. What I discovered was some of the most creative ideas often sprang from the research.

For instance, in Containment, my IDW zombies-in-space graphic novel about to be re-republished, I had to research long-distance space exploration and immediately realized the movie cliché of these cavernous space arks is a total myth. The fact is everything would need to be built as small and compact as possible to conserve weight and mass for propulsion. The creative opportunity was since the story involved cryogenic zombies on a spaceship, the more cramped and claustrophobic the surroundings, the greater the tension and suspense.

In It Waits Below, the alien comes to earth and ends up at the bottom of the ocean on a falling asteroid that destroys a Spanish treasure ship in the 1800’s. Centuries later, a salvage dive by treasure hunters sets the story in motion. Again, a little research paid off. I hunted down some footage of meteor strikes and was astonished by one event filmed not too long ago in the Eastern Block by witnesses on DV cams and iPhones from every conceivable vantage point. An actual large asteroid impact didn’t look like I imagined, or had seen in movies—it was a pulsing light over the world that turned in day to night to day to night and back again; utterly apocalyptic and chilling. So the crashing meteor that hits the treasure gallon in the opening of the novel was described in just such a manner.

Even when you know the technical realities of the subject matter, you inevitably take certain liberties. In It Waits Below, for dramatic purposes, I needed a second chamber in the DSV that houses a specially designed diving suit—people have to run and hide from aliens somewhere in a fifteen-foot sub, after all—and neither of these exists in actual submersibles. Still, I ran it all by my Alvin sub pilot consultant, and made it as “speculatively accurate” as possible.

The space monster stuff—well, that I made up!


Here’s the synopsis for It Waits Below:

It waits no more!

In the 1800s, an asteroid carrying an extraterrestrial life form crashed to earth and sunk a Spanish treasure ship. Now, a trio of salvage experts dives a three-man sub to the deepest part of the ocean to recover the sunken gold. There, they confront a nightmarish alien organism beyond comprehension, which has waited for over a century to get to the surface. It finally has its chance.

As their support ship on the surface is ambushed by deadly modern-day pirates, the crew of the stranded sub battles for their very lives against a monster no one on Earth has seen before.

It Waits Below is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Samhain Horror.


Eric Red is a Los Angeles based motion picture screenwriter, director and author. His original scripts include The Hitcher for Tri Star, Near Dark for DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, Blue Steel for MGM and the western The Last Outlaw for HBO. He directed and wrote the crime film Cohen And Tate for Hemdale, Body Parts for Paramount, Undertow for Showtime, Bad Moon for Warner Bros. and the ghost story 100 Feet for Grand Illusions Entertainment.

Mr. Red’s first novel, a dark coming-of-age tale about teenagers called Don’t Stand So Close, is available from SST Publications. His second and third novels, a werewolf western called The Guns Of Santa Sangre and a science fiction monster novel called It Waits Below, are available from Samhain Publishing. His fourth novel, a serial killer thriller called White Knuckle, will be published by Samhain in 2015. A collection of eighteen of his horror short stories titled Toll Road will be published by SST Publications in 2015.

His recent published horror and suspense short stories include “Colorblind” in Cemetery Dance magazine, the western horror tale “The Buzzard” in Weird Tales magazine, “Pack Rat” in Beware the Dark magazine, “Little Nasties” in Shroud magazine, “In the Mix” in Dark Delicacies III: Haunted anthology, “Past Due” in Mulholland Books’ Popcorn Fiction, and “Do Not Disturb” in Dark Discoveries magazine.

He created and wrote the sci-fi/horror comic series and graphic novel Containment for IDW Publishing and the horror western comic series Wild Work published by Antarctic Press.

Mr. Red’s website is:
His IMDB page is:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Guest Author Kristopher Rufty

Today’s guest writer is an up and coming horror author best known for his books The Lurkers, Oak Hollow, Prank Night and the classic slasher Pillowface. Kristopher Rufty is one of the busiest writers I know, churning out at least 2 books a year. He also writes screenplays and has written, produced and directed a horror movie, Psycho Holocaust, which features his Pillowface serial killer. Rufty’s latest release, Proud Parents, hits closer to home, because he is a devoted father of two kids. Without further ado, I’ll let Kristopher share the humorous story of how he came to write his latest novel. 

How my son helped inspire Proud Parents…

A few years ago, I was laid off from my job as an office supply store assistant manager (phew! Try saying that job title all in one breath!). I became a stay-at-home dad for a summer, and really got to spend a lot of time with my children.
One summer day, I received a phone call from a friend of mine about a script I wrote. She’d shown it around to some producers and wanted to tell me all about the reactions it received. To hear her better, I went into the kitchen, away from my loud children and fully-cranked SpongeBob on TV.
A few minutes into the conversation, my son came into the kitchen, wanting to know if he could have some cheese puffs. To be a cool dad, and also to shoo him out of the room, I opened the bag and handed it over.
“Was that your son?” she asked.
“Yeah. He wanted some cheese puffs.”
“Aw, that’s so cute. You did put it in a bowl for him, right?”
At the moment, I was confused why she’d asked me that. “No,” I said. “I just gave him the bag.”
“You gave him the bag!”
I immediately realized my error and dashed into the living room. Pausing in the doorway, I gazed into the living room, horror contorting my face.
“I’ll have to call you back,” I muttered into the phone before letting it fall from my hand.
A cheese puff massacre had taken place in my absence. Orange flakey chunks and crumbs covered the couch, leaving smeared carrot-colored paths down the front and all over the floor. My son was covered in cheesy dust, holding a few puffs between his fingers like Wolverine’s retractable claws. He smiled at me, moist clumps of cheese puffs on his face, proud of his accomplishment.
I still laugh when I think back to that day. I took a picture of the debris, but it’s stored away on a disc in our tower of family photo CDs. One day I’ll search through them and find it so I can share with the world how my son began inspiring me to create the character Gabe in Proud Parents.
This memory was lifted and sensationalized in the book. Even as I was on all fours, scrubbing cheese powder out of the carpet, I knew I’d use it in a story someday.  
My son was a very hyperactive wee one. So much so, that people constantly suggested to my wife and I that we should take him to be tested. Don’t you love it when other people tell you there’s something wrong with your kid? That’s how we felt, but after we heard it so many times, including constant preaching from his preschool teachers, we thought it might not be a bad idea for a consultation.
The doctor didn’t see much wrong with our son, but he said he would prescribe him something to mellow him out some if we felt he really needed it. And this led to a month-long fight between my wife and me over whether or not to put him on the medicine. We gave it a try, briefly, before agreeing he didn’t need it. He wouldn’t be our son if he wasn’t the kid showering our living room with cheese puffs and doing leg drops on his stuffed animals and diving through toy basketball hoops.
The fear that something might be wrong with our son and our frequent bickering about whether or not it was our place to change him stayed with me. I wondered what would happen if a parental team had an actual monster for a child, but they loved him with such unconditional love that they’d do anything for him. If they were told they’d never be able to have a child, but were medically blessed with one, even monstrous, how much more dedicated would their love be? What would happen if their son was changing into something more voracious and violent, but underneath that, he was still the same sweet booger he’d always been?
And what if through their attempts to help him made things worse, and not only affected their household but the families around them?
So many possibilities…
If you take the time to read my newest book, Proud Parents, I hope you enjoy the experience. If you’re a parent, you’ll probably find yourself trying to correct all the mistakes this couple makes along the way, but maybe you’ll begin rooting for them to prosper. Because deep down their hearts are in the right place, though blinded by their devotion to their son.

Here’s a short synopsis from the back cover:

He’s still their son. No matter what.

It was a risky experiment, but Greg and Sheila wanted a baby. Unable to conceive, they signed up for the project. Their prayers were answered when they were selected for the experiment. And it worked. All of the chosen families conceived. Then came the mutations—followed by the men with guns, killing everyone, and the fire that burned the place to ashes, erasing its failure from existence.
But it didn’t eliminate them all. Six years later, Greg and Sheila are still on the run with their son, Gabe, moving from small town to small town, just wanting a life to call their own. Gabe’s getting worse, his appetite is voracious, and his temper is untamable. And now Gabe is changing…again.

Proud Parents is available through Amazon, Barnesand Noble, and SamhainHorror.

Kristopher Rufty lives in North Carolina with his wife and two children, and the zoo they call their pets. He's written the books Angel Board, The Lurkers, The Skin Show, Pillowface, Proud Parents, and more, plus a slew of horror screenplays. If he goes more than two days without writing, he becomes very irritable and hard to be around, which is why he's sent to his desk without supper often. For more information, visit his website at www.lastkristontheleft.blogspot.comHe can be found on Facebook and Twitter as well. He loves hearing from his readers.  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My Tour of a Wildlife Rescue Center

Most people know me as a writer of scary books, but I also love nature and have a soft spot for animals. This past week I got the opportunity to tour a wildlife rescue center in Central Texas that rescues baby raccoons and skunks. Here are some fun photos.

I learned that when baby animals lose their mothers and become orphaned, they are rescued and taken to a wildlife intake center where they are fed, nurtured, and taken care of. This gives them the best chance of survival. When the animals are mature enough, they are released back into the wild.

The wildlife center that I visited was currently caring for close to 40 baby skunks and 4 raccoons. At first, I was apprehensive about going anywhere near a skunk, but learned the babies don't tend to spray unless spooked or stepped on and will usually give you plenty of warning by bouncing up and down. The skunks I met were all very tamed.

Holding a baby skunk named "Flower"

 I found out quickly that Flower 
likes to gently nibble your ear.

 These guys were as curious and playful
as a litter of kittens.

 The raccoons were quite curious
to see visitors.

This raccoon is thinking about 
getting in the hammock.

 Here's a guinea hen that freely walks the property.


This retreat center requires donations to cover the costs of food and supplies for the animals. If you would like to make a donation, you can visit the website below and donate to:

Texas Metro Wildlife Rehabilitators