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WHY WE LOVE GETTING SHIT-SCARED

A3We’re fascinated by monsters. Violent horror movies. Psychological crime thrillers. Blood, guts, and terror are blockbusters. They’ve been bestsellers for generations. Something’s buried deep in our collective subconscious that craves fright—something hard-wired in our brains that physiologically reacts in a fight-or-flight response when facing horrific, brutal, and shocking creatures and events.

A1We know lots of fictional monsters. Freddy Krueger. Norman Bates. Hannibal Lector. They’re household names. We love watching them perform—from a safe distance. But most know nothing of real-life monsters like Michael Oros, Billy Ray Shaughnessy, Esa Raasanen, and David Shearing. I guarantee these creeps will scare the living shit out of you because I know who they are…what they’ve done…what they can do…

I’ve investigated them. I’ve written about them. And I’ll tell you about these true-life monsters in a bit.

So, why do we love fright? Because fright gives us pleasure.

A4My internet friend, Lisa Cron, wrote Wired For Story. This was a game changer for me. As a crime thriller author, I wanted to know what makes psychological crime thriller readers tick—why so many are fascinated with death—so I could write better stories.

Particularly murder stories.

Lisa explained shock is the triggering mechanism for releasing our brain’s chemicals that active a fight-or-flight response. Our brains are lightning fast at assessing threats. Shock stimulus shoots adrenaline, oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine re-uptakes through our neurotransmitters. This mentally and physically prepares our neuromuscular systems for a drastic response. It shoves us to the edge of the mental cliff.

Ready to run. Or fit to fight. But not to fall.

These natural chemicals are also responsible for giving us pleasure. This shock rush is like crack to the brain and it craves a repeat—provided we know we’re in a safe environment—subconsciously reassured when we’re at home, quietly watching TV or reading a book.

Lisa says more about why our brains crave fright. Ultimately, our brain has one overall responsibility for the rest of our body.

To ensure our survival.

A5Our brains evaluate everything we encounter with a simple question. Is this going to help me or hurt me? Not just physically.

Emotionally, as well.

From the start of a story—from the very first scene—our brains crave a sense of urgency that instantly makes us want to know what happens next. It’s a visceral feeling…seducing us into leaving the real world behind and surrendering into world of story. Our brain’s goal is to predict what might happen so we can figure out what to do before it happens.

This is where shock value comes in. And where the monsters come on.

A7Storytelling’s master of monsters and sheik of shock is Stephen King. He’s scared the shit out of millions and his audience is massive. They love it and keep coming back for more. It’s because Stephen King gives readers pleasure.

I’ve repeatedly sent emails to Stephen King asking permission to republish an outstanding article he wrote years ago. It’s called Why We Crave Horror Movies.

I don’t know if the master’s too busy or if I’m a small pupil, but Stephen King ignores me. Nerve of him, after all the money I spent on his stuff.

So I said “Fuck Stephen King.” I’m tired of waiting.

A8Stephen King’s piece on why we love getting shit-scared is just too good not to share. Therefore, I evoke the “doctrine of fair use and open source domain in accordance to the statutory and common-law allowances of the country of publication”. Besides, you can download and read the pdf here.

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Why We Crave Horror Movies–By Stephen King

I think that we’re all mentally ill; those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better—and maybe not all that much better, after all. We’ve all known people who talk to themselves, people who sometimes squinch their faces into horrible grimaces when they believe no one is watching, people who have some hysterical fear—of snakes, the dark, the tight place, the long drop . . . and, of course, those final worms and grubs that are waiting so patiently underground.
When we pay our four or five bucks and seat ourselves at tenth-row center in a theater showing a horror movie, we are daring the nightmare.
Why? Some of the reasons are simple and obvious. To show that we can, that we are not afraid, that we can ride this roller coaster. Which is not to say that a really good horror movie may not surprise a scream out of us at some point, the way we may scream when the roller coaster twists through a complete 360 or plows through a lake at the bottom of the drop. And horror movies, like roller coasters, have always been the special province of the young; by the time one turns 40 or 50, one’s appetite for double twists or 360-degree loops may be considerably depleted.

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We also go to re-establish our feelings of essential normality; the horror movie is innately conservative, even reactionary. Freda Jackson as the horrible melting woman in Die, Monster, Die! confirms for us that no matter how far we may be removed from the beauty of a Robert Redford or a Diana Ross, we are still light-years from true ugliness.
And we go to have fun.
Ah, but this is where the ground starts to slope away, isn’t it? Because this is a very peculiar sort of fun, indeed. The fun comes from seeing others menaced – sometimes killed. One critic has suggested that if pro football has become the voyeur’s version of combat, then the horror film has become the modern version of the public lynching.
It is true that the mythic “fairy-tale” horror film intends to take away the shades of gray . . . . It urges us to put away our more civilized and adult penchant for analysis and to become children again, seeing things in pure blacks and whites. It may be that horror movies provide psychic relief on this level because this invitation to lapse into simplicity, irrationality, and even outright madness is extended so rarely. We are told we may allow our emotions a free rein . . . or no rein at all.

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If we are all insane, then sanity becomes a matter of degree.
If your insanity leads you to carve up women like Jack the Ripper or the Cleveland Torso Murderer, we clap you away in the funny farm (but neither of those two amateur-night surgeons was ever caught, heh-heh-heh); if, on the other hand, your insanity leads you only to talk to yourself when you’re under stress or to pick your nose on your morning bus, then you are left alone to go about your business . . . though it is doubtful that you will ever be invited to the best parties.
The potential lyncher is in almost all of us (excluding saints, past and present; but then, most saints have been crazy in their own ways), and every now and then, he has to be let loose to scream and roll around in the grass. Our emotions and our fears form their own body, and we recognize that it demands its own exercise to maintain proper muscle tone. Certain of these emotional muscles are accepted – even exalted – in civilized society; they are, of course, the emotions that tend to maintain the status quo of civilization itself. Love, friendship, loyalty, kindness — these are all the emotions that we applaud, emotions that have been immortalized in the couplets of Hallmark cards and in the verses (I don’t dare call it poetry) of Leonard Nimoy.
When we exhibit these emotions, society showers us with positive reinforcement; we learn this even before we get out of diapers. When, as children, we hug our rotten little puke of a sister and give her a kiss, all the aunts and uncles smile and twit and cry, “Isn’t he the sweetest little thing?” Such coveted treats as chocolate-covered graham crackers often follow. But if we deliberately slam the rotten little puke of a sister’s fingers in the door, sanctions follow – angry remonstrance from parents, aunts and uncles; instead of a chocolate-covered graham cracker, a spanking.

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But anticivilization emotions don’t go away, and they demand periodic exercise. We have such “sick” jokes as, “What’s the difference between a truckload of bowling balls and a truckload of dead babies?” (You can’t unload a truckload of bowling balls with a pitchfork . . . a joke, by the way, that I heard originally from a ten-year-old.) Such a joke may surprise a laugh or a grin out of us even as we recoil, a possibility that confirms the thesis: If we share a brotherhood of man, then we also share an insanity of man. None of which is intended as a defense of either the sick joke or insanity but merely as an explanation of why the best horror films, like the best fairy tales, manage to be reactionary, anarchistic, and revolutionary all at the same time.
A12The mythic horror movie, like the sick joke, has a dirty job to do. It deliberately appeals to all that is worst in us. It is morbidity unchained, our most base instincts let free, our nastiest fantasies realized . . . and it all happens, fittingly enough, in the dark. For those reasons, good liberals often shy away from horror films. For myself, I like to see the most aggressive of them – Dawn of the Dead, for instance – as lifting a trap door in the civilized forebrain and throwing a basket of raw meat to the hungry alligators swimming around in that subterranean river beneath.
Why bother?
Because it keeps them from getting out, man. It keeps them down there and me up here. It was Lennon and McCartney who said that all you need is love, and I would agree with that.
As long as you keep the gators fed.

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There. That’s the best explanation of why we love getting shit-scared.

A14So where am I going with this monster, fear, and pleasure thing? Well, I’m doing shameless, self-promotion for the stories I write.

I write about human monsters because I’ve met a bunch and I try explaining how I think these extremely dangerous, fascinating, social-rejects operate. I also try portraying how police investigators behave—how real cops use creative and technological aids in modern-day monster-catching.

I believe an author’s storytelling job is to entertain, educate, and enlighten—and I believe there’s an intense reader interest in psychological crime thrillers. Here’s a snapshot of what I’m up to.

KushtakaNo Witnesses To Nothing is based on the true story of Michael Oros—a deranged bushman, terrorizing the frozen Canadian north and murdering people. Legend said Oros was the monstrous manifestation of a mythical shapeshifter who hunts people, kills them, and steals their souls. It’s also an intertwined, true story of two police informants who were murdered in apparent police-ordered hits. Deep down, No Witnesses To Nothing is not really a crime thriller. It’s a serious search for the science and spirituality behind our human existence. The soul.

Get No Witnesses To Nothing here.

NoLifeUntilDeath8No Life Until Death is the black-market world of international human organ trafficking. It parlays characters from No Witnesses To Nothing and continues the series of Sharlene Bate Crime Thrillers. No Life Until Death follows paths of two families whose daughters are targeted by a monstrous pair of abductors harvesting human organs in North America and shipping parts to the Philippines. No Life Until Death‘s tagline is Desperate People Do Desperate Things.

Get No Life Until Death here.

InTheAttic2In The Attic is the true story I investigated where Billy Ray Shaughnessy, a monstrous psychopath, hid in Maria Dersch’s attic with an ax. He climbed down at 3 a.m., slaughtering Maria and her new lover. It’s told in first-person with me, as the detective, narrating the story before and after the murders, as well as in Billy Ray’s homicidal thoughts while he lurked eight feet above. In The Attic‘s dialogue comes from actual transcripts and notes of my interviews with Maria and Billy Ray.

Get In The Attic here.

UnderTheGround8Under The Ground is from another factual case—the story of Esa Raasanaen and Kristen Madsen. It’s a monstrous tale of murder where Kristen disappeared and Esa was suspected of killing Kristen, disposing of her body. Under The Ground follows a highly-complex, psychological undercover sting where Esa was sucked into a fictional organized crime group. He confessed to the undercover operator and turned over Kristen’s body. What Esa did to Kristen…where he’d hidden her…was horrific—shocking to the most seasoned homicide investigators.

A15From The Shadows is my newest crime-thriller. The manuscript is underway. It’s based on the shocking true story of the worst monster imaginable. David Shearing murdered six members of the Johnson-Bentley family—three generations—to fulfill his psychopathic and pedophilic desire in capturing two pre-teen girls as sex slaves. From The Shadows follows the discovery of an unspeakable crime, the frustrating two-year investigation, and the final psychological break-down of Shearing during an outstanding police interrogation.

No Witnesses To Nothing, No Life Until Death, and In The Attic are currently available on Amazon.

Under The Ground is readying for publication. From The Shadows is close behind. I’m looking for ARC (Advance Reading Copy) readers for these two stories, so if you’d like an eBook file of either/both, email me at garry.rodgers@shaw.ca and I’ll ship you the monster stories.

…provided you love getting shit-scared.

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P.S. — Please comment, share on social media, and – if you’ve read the books – I’d really appreciate if you’d take a moment to leave a short review on Amazon. And thanks for your support in my writing and for following DyingWords!
~ Garry

MINING THE MINERS

A1Self Publishing is the book-writing gold rush for indie authors. There’s money in them thar words and that’s no lie. A lot of people are making a lot of money outside the Big-5 print publishers and good for them. But most of the money is made by people selling stuff to gold-stricken writers.

The ones who made good money off the gold rush sold shovels to the miners. That’s right. They mined the miners. They also sold food and packs and clothes and toiletries. They sold eggs at a dollar a piece and whiskey at five bucks a shot. They sold a shave & a haircut for two-bits, baths for fifty cents, and women for whatever the gal could command.

A2The miners did mine, and some got quite rich, but most got frustrated and gave up.

Indie writing is no different. There has never been a better time to be a writer and I believe that. There is a fortune of information available on line, in print, and in person which you can turn into golden words.

Thing is, you have to pay for most of it.

And a lot of it is good stuff.

A3In the three plus years that I’ve taken writing seriously I’ve spent hundreds, no, thousands of dollars on author services. I’ve got over fifty books, print and electronic, on the craft of writing and the business of marketing. I’ve taken webinars and seminars and sat in bars reading about writing. I’ve paid for editors, formatters, and cover designers. And I’ve given away gobs of information to others.

It’s paid off.

Not in gold – yet. That’s to come.

A4It’s paid off because I’m starting to figure this game out and it’s been because I’ve paid for the help from others. I’ve made tremendous on-line acquaintances. Some actually personal. Some are ether mentors. Some are those who struck it rich.

Here’s an example of someone from my home town who hit the motherlode. I met Chevy Stevens (pen name because her real name is hard to pronounce) when she was a realtor showing a house for me. She aspired to be a writer and she sold the farm to succeed. Literally.

A6Chevy so believed in herself and her craft that she quit the realty business, sold her own house to survive, and sat down to write. She paid a lot of money to have Renni Browne of The Editorial Department work her first book, Still Missing, into a New York Times BestSeller. Now Chevy’s on her fifth BestSeller and internationally known. She’s the first to admit that it wouldn’t have happened if she didn’t pay for good help.

Good help is not hard to find.

I see a lot of online bashing of Author Solutions – a division of Penguin Random House. Now there’s an example of mining the miners. These clever bastards saw the indie gold rush not as a threat to print publishing, but a new vein to be tapped. Author Solutions has some great outfits for sale and they’ll upsell the shit out of you. Draining your wallet is their aim. But if you take the gold dust out of your eyes, and know what you want, there’s value in their pack.

A7An interesting new outfitter is Booktrope. Rachel Thompson, who I highly respect (Rachel in the OC / Bad Redhead Media), referred me to them and she’s now heading one of their imprints called Gravity. This is an interesting concept where you can get published without spending any money. Yep, it’s for real.

Booktrope is a cooperative of writers, editors, designers, and marketers working together to produce quality books. All you have to do, as a writer, is to provide quality content. They’ll help you to get published and, in their model, no one makes money till they all make money. It’s an interesting concept and I hope they succeed.

A8They say that those who can’t do, teach. I’m not so sure about that, but here’s some free dirt from someone who’s still digging a shaft.

For gold on the craft of writing, read Stephen King’s On Writing.

For gold on grammar, read Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.

For golden motivation, read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.

For the gold on scientific storytelling, read Lisa Cron’s Wired For Story.

For a pot of gold on everything writing, go to Joanna Penn’s TheCreativePenn.com.

What have you dug up that makes a better writer?

I’m dying to see your mine.

STEENA HOLMES – DO YOU NEED A PEN NAME?

“Surround yourself with other authors who are reaching for the same things you are,” advises award-winning author Steena Holmes, whose novels have sold over one million copies and landed her on the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Top 10 BestSeller lists. I’m so pleased to have Steena Holmes, a fellow Canadian writer, as a guest on DyingWords.

AE2At lot has changed since 2011 in the realm of publishing. So much that if you’re still reading blog posts dating back to 2011, you should realize that they are old and outdated. The publishing world has changed so much that it’s almost hard to keep up.

There are a few constants in the publishing world, however, that remain the same.

  • Write a good book.

  • Ensure that book is edited and has a quality cover.

  • Social media is a necessity in today’s world – you no longer can hide under that rock and assume others are going to market for you.

  • Brand is important. Essential even.

  • Your readers want the same thing they have always wanted. Your next quality book.

AE17There are things that have changed. How we can market ourselves. Amazon’s algorithms, where to sell your books, where to promote, where not to promote and… do we need a pen name still.

Honestly – whether you have a pen name or not is up to you. Some people need them – they write a genre that wouldn’t be acceptable in their line of work (teachers writing erotic anyone…). Some people have also found that creating a pen name and starting over has given them a fresh breath of life with their books and you’ll find names skyrocketing the markets today that you never heard of before.

It’s up to you.

There’s really no right or wrong answer to this question.

AE11I used to have a pen name. I don’t anymore. Everything I write is under my name, my brand, and everything I write is part of my brand. Yes, our brands change, they should…it means your writing is growing. It means you’re understanding yourself, your writing, your readers a little bit more than before, and that’s a good thing.

AE10Can we all just agree to stop arguing about this. If YOU feel that a pen name is necessary for YOU and YOUR brand…then go for it. If you don’t, then don’t do it. Regardless, you will still need to brand yourself, you will still need to find your readers, you will still need to write your books.

You can do searches and find blog posts and website articles dedicated to this one subject. If you are a writer in a writer’s group, you can ask this same question “do I need a pen name” and you’ll get a multitude of responses. Everyone has an opinion and everyone’s opinion is different and their own.

Think about this: Why do you need a pen name?

What is the reason for it? Is it because you’re writing in different genres that you don’t think will mesh together? Are you worried about your fan base, if your readers will follow you from one genre to the other?

AE15Remember this…no matter what book you write, you will still need to promote you and your brand.

Everything you do, everything you write should be under that brand you’ve created. It’s up to you to decide if your readers can handle you writing YA and Horror at the same time (I’m sure they can), or even sweet romance and erotic romance.

AE3Maybe the real question isn’t whether you need a pen name but whether you know how to brand yourself.

Just my thoughts…from someone who has been there, done that, and had to wear multiple T-shirts because she couldn’t decide what she was going to do or how to do it. 

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AE1Steena Holmes is the Top 10 New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon million-selling author of nineteen books including four series.

Steena, like me, grew up in a small Canadian town where there wasn’t much to do but ride your bike, hang out with friends, and daydream. She always wanted to write but never dreamed it was something she could do as a career. She loves to travel and fell in love with the sheep covered hillside, old castles, and romantic history of Scotland and England.

AE4Steena dreams about waking up in Tuscany and touring small town shops in the south of France with her husband, of placing her toes in the ocean, and experiencing history first hand. As a mother with three daughters, she says she’s learning that teaching them to pursue their dreams is a lasting legacy.

She loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains near her home in Calgary, Alberta, will forever enjoy the taste of coffee and chocolate, and can’t imagine the day when a story doesn’t unfold in her heart. “Living a life with passion and pursuing dreams is a life well lived,” she believes.

Here’s more advice for aspiring writers from Steena Holmes:

AE18“Surround yourself with other indie authors who are reaching for the same things you are. Always be willing and wanting to learn and don’t stop writing. Stop focusing so much on the promotion and focus instead on your words…nothing sells a book better than the next book – and even though we’ve all heard that, it’s so true! And don’t forget your readers. Above all else – don’t forget your readers!”

Follow @SteenaHolmes on Twitter: https://twitter.com/steenaholmes 

Like Steena on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SteenaHolmes.Author?fref=photo

Visit her website at: http://www.steenaholmes.com/