Tell Me Your Fears

Tell Me Your FearsI’m not really into Halloween, but I do appreciate fear. It’s something that we all experience, and the reasons for it vary. There are small fears, or surprises, that make your breath quick and your heart jump. Then, there are deep fears that live within us and that only surface from time to time. Those fears are always there, but they are not always awake.

Since it’s Halloween, I want to talk about seasonal fears. I want to know which one makes you the most uncomfortable, and which just doesn’t do it for you. There are millions of movies, books, and TV shows out there based on different supernatural fears, but not all of them actually scare all of us. So, which one scares you?

1) Vampires. Whether we are talking elegant vampires, such as Anne Rice created, or monstrous creatures like Stoker created or those portrayed in The Strain (which I believe is also based on a book), vampires are still interesting. They live forever, they drink human blood, and they usually have special powers, such as speed, night visions, or strength. I don’t find them particularly frightful myself. They are so close to being human that they lose a bit of terror and gain a bit of romanticism, don’t you think?

2) Zombies. Walking Dead, World War Z, Z Nation, and many others have been taking advantage of our current obsession with zombies. The undead. These, to me, are just like low-class vampires. They live for a long time, they used to be human, and they survive by eating our flesh. When humans are bitten, they turn. Yes, these are quite similar to vampires, but much more rotten and lacking intelligence. The only zombies I have ever found to be actually frightening were those in I Am Legend. They had intelligence, malice, and the ability to seek revenge. These “zombies” were quite well done and really held their own in the world of the undead.

3) Ghosts. I must say that in my real life, I don’t believe in ghosts. I see and understand the intrigue in them, and though I think it would be highly exciting to learn that they were real, I do not think that they are. In movies, and in books, the ghosts usually have a back story that eventually becomes resolved and then they go away or continue their reign of terror. To me, knowing that there is an end in sight, an inevitable conclusion, sort of ruins it for me. I will admit that the first Paranormal Activity movie did scare me a little, but the ones after that did not. The unseen and the unknown make me jumpy. Such as The Mothman Prophecies. Creepy.

4) Werewolves. I do not like these things. They have a similar story to vampires and zombies: once was human, become infected, turned into a monster creature. I watched the movie Ginger Snaps when I was very young at a friend’s house. This friend lived in the middle of nowhere surrounded by trees and coyotes. I never quite recovered, even though I will admit that they are not all that scary in reality.

5) Aliens. Beings from another planet that come to abduct humans or invade Earth. They are usually funny looking and altogether too human-like (consider how intricately we evolved as humans and then how likely it would be for beings to be so similar to ourselves from another world. The chances are quite small). The logical side of me (about 90% of my brain) always reminds me of how unlikely it would be for aliens to come to Earth to take over our planet. Why would they want this place to begin with? These are not generally something that will make me want to sleep with a light on, but I was afraid of them as a child.

So, what scares you? Are you more afraid when reading about something or when viewing something? What was the single most frightening thing that you ever read or watched?

I would have to say that mine was, irrationally and ashamedly, Ginger Snaps. Oh, and creepy dark woods at night. Happy Halloween!

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Writing and Music

I know a lot of people who enjoy listening to music when they write. They find the lyrics soothing and the rhythms inspiring. Many of these people are also ones who listen to music constantly, giving themselves a soundtrack while they complete their everyday tasks, whether it be work, school, a commute, or just relaxing.

I hWriting and Musicave never been one of those people. I am a lover of silence, and of the sounds that exist when everything is calm. I adore the sounds of rain, and sometimes even snow. I find it peaceful and safe and conducive to intricate thoughts and musings. I don’t listen to music at home often, unless it’s Christmas music during the season. Anything else just distracts me.

When I am at work, though, in my lonely silent office (with no windows), I need something that will distract me. I need something that reminds me of the outside world, of the sun and the rain and the wind. I need something that takes me out of my own space into one that exists in my mind. This is where I use video game, movie, and TV soundtracks. I listen to Assassin’s Creed, The Hobbit, Celtic music, and many others, without lyrics. They remind me of things that I enjoy and with no lyrics, I can concentrate on writing. Which is what I do all day long. My job literally consists of writing for hours on end, and I quite appreciate it. But it does get lonely when all you can hear is the humming of your computer tower and the occasional buzz of your phone.

If i listen to music with lyrics I do one of two things: I will either block it out completely in order to concentrate, or I will accidentally start writing the lyrics into my latest blog post or onsite content. That doesn’t bode well when you are supposed to be writing about investment real estate and you start putting in words from one of Bing Crosby’s songs.

I’ve never understood the pull that many have to music, although I know it exists. I appreciate certain kinds, but I have to be in the mood. Just like I have to be in the mood to play a game or read a book. I have never been able to grasp the continuity of music in the lives of others. To me, it’s another way to pass the time, or to enhance a tedious task.

I think many have the misconception that if you are in artist in one way, you must be artistic in others. I don’t necessarily find that to be true. I cannot paint, and I can only draw if I really set my mind to it. It takes me ages to actually complete anything (and I have trouble drawing the left side of anything, though the  right side usually turns out alright). I can’t sing at all. I tried playing various instruments and just didn’t find any interest in it. I have no desire to take up sculpting or dancing.

I am a good writer, and that’s where all of artistic energy goes. Even in terms of hobbies. I write, I read, I play video games (they’re basically just interactive books), and I bide my time doing other tasks that I favor as well. None of them are particularly artistic.

How about you? What do you listen to when you write? Are you also artistic in other areas? Where do your best talents sit?

Who Are You When You Write?

Who Are You When You Write?I recently had a conversation with a coworker whereby we discussed who we are when we write. We are both writers by profession, and we both pursue personal writing outside of the writing that we do for our jobs. Most of what we write for work is non-fiction, and because of the type of content, we can’t leave much of ourselves in it other than small hints that only learned writers would see—a serial comma here, em dash there, and so on. More so style choices than anything else.

I do write this blog, and it is also non-fiction, but it leaves more of my personality behind than my professional writing does. You can easily see what my interests are by looking back over my posts, and by the way that I write, you can make a few assumptions as well. If you were notably observant, you would most-likely glean that I have pets, I write some horror, and I dabble in a number of other services outside of writing, such as editing, publishing, marketing, and design, to name a few.

But, do you really know me? Does enough of my personality leak out into the words for you to have a good idea of who is behind these words? I don’t think so. I think that we, as writers, choose who we wish to show to the public and who we keep to ourselves. The self that we show to the public is what we want people to see, the piece that we keep to ourselves is the one that encompasses all of our faults and families and friends. Not everyone writes that way, of course, some bare all and write about their innermost thoughts and desires. I’ve heard that it can even be freeing to do so, because the people that you are writing for don’t know you from anyone else and the release of your emotions can be quite wonderful.

I, however, am very careful about who I am when I write for the public. Part of the reason is probably that since I have to guard my writing for clients and employers, it’s just instinct for me to do so. The other part being that I am actually quite a private person. I may talk about general things of interest, or vague opinions, but nothing that would ever lead anyone to know who I am.

It’s not that I am a disappointment to myself, or that I don’t like to share, I am just one of many, many introverts, that prefers to have a different life at home that online, or even on paper. There have been a number of writers, and other professionals, out there who have removed themselves from any sort of spotlight, focusing on their skills instead of whatever interest those skills may pull in.

I wouldn’t say that I am completely different from the person that I seem to be when I write, but I am not as precise, eloquent, or even as thoughtful in real-time as I am on here. Writing has always been my communication of choice, because it allows me to sort my thoughts and feelings into a cohesive and well-organized retort or piece instead of the interjections, interruptions, or debates that arise when speaking.

This post plays a bit into another one I did about not feeling that you have to reflect your genre of writing. Artists of any kind have the opportunity to portray whatever they choose in their work, and it doesn’t always have to relate to the individual that created it. Sometimes, art just happens, and we aren’t always 100% responsible for what it becomes.

So, I ask, who are you when you write? What do you think you have learned about me from reading my posts?

To get into the sharing mood, I’ll tell you that my favourite days are filled with rain, I have two dogs and a cat, and I come from an acreage in Nova Scotia, Canada.

How Do You Write?

How Do You Write?When I write, I must focus on one thing at a time. The same goes for when I am submitting stories—I submit one at a time, reworking it if it’s rejected, and on and on until it either gets published, or I find myself pulled into trying a different story.

If I am writing for work, I have to start and complete one writing task at a time. This way, I can focus all of my attention on perfecting my piece, however frustrating that may become. As soon as I have a task, ideas flock to me, it just comes down to sorting them into what is actually good and what is not. And believe me, I have bad ideas too.

If I am writing for personal pleasure, I do the same. I focus on what I want to accomplish, and continue to do so until I am pleased with it. I find that lending my brain to more than one story leaves too much room for error. When I run into a problem, I stop and ponder it until I have it figured out, and then I will eventually take up my pen once again. I suppose, for me, it makes for longer writing because I first write a story in my head, and then move it onto a screen (or sometimes paper, if necessary). That can mean waiting months to figure out a problem before getting back to writing the story again.

I know that some people set goals for themselves, such as to write a certain number of words or pages a day, or to have a piece done by a certain date. Goals like those can force you to write, and to push your boundaries, but for me, they lead to a lesser piece of work. If I am not given the time I need to write something the way that I think it should be, it will never be the best that I could do.

I may have various stories twirling about in my head at any time, but I write one, then move to another. I know that many of you work on more than one at a time, and to be honest it quite baffles me. But, to each their own.

I want to know how you write. How do stories come to you? Are you like me, where ideas just appear, branching off of each other until you have the ultimate tale? I tend to stew over things for a long time when it comes to writing, then when I have my idea, it pours out effortlessly for the most part. Of course, like I said, there are times where I reach problems, and I take time to work them out, but once I have them decided, the rest is generally quite simple.

How many pieces do you have going right now? Does it help or hinder the quality?

Every Villain is a Hero

The basis of almost every book, movie, or video game is this: you have a hero, generally some sort of underdog, who has to overcome some sort of evil, usually represented in the physical form of a villain. This hero has to go through many trials and tribulations whilst the villain thwarts them at every turn. Eventually, the hero overcomes and the villain is defeated.

The hero is sculpted to make you relate to them in most cases. A good person, someone who has faced adversity, who is fighting for what is right. The villain is designed to be someone that a reader, player, or watcher can despise. Someone who says and does things that make your heart turn against them, but these villains almost always have followers of their own, people who believe in their cause and their vision.

While we might find reasons to side with the hero, we must attempt to remember that those who side with the villains have their reasons too. That’s what empathy was invented for, right? Take a look below to see some famous villains from various books and games that may or may not change how you see them.

Lord_Voldemort's_FigureVoldemort (Harry Potter): Voldemort was born to an abused and magical mother and a non-magical father. He was conceived into an already broken home, seeing as his mother used magic to charm his father into falling in love with her. When she dies in childbirth, Voldemort (then Tom Riddle), is left to go into an orphanage and spend his days wondering why he seems to be smarter and more skilled than the other children around him.

Eventually, Dumbledore visits him and invites him to attend Hogwarts, but instead of attempting to understand why Riddle did such nasty things as a child, he immediately finds that he is wary of him. He invites him to the school, but instead of offering love and support, offers suspicion and prejudice.

What would Riddle have been had Dumbledore offered him the same bond as he had Harry? Voldemort seems to be a simple case of someone who has never known love, and instead of knowing where to find it, he creates walls around himself and recruits followers that will do his bidding. He would have been a very different man had he felt affection from someone early on.

The One Ring (LOTR)Sauron (The Lord of the Rings): Sauron was once an “angel” of sorts. Melkor, this other angel-type being, started spreading about his own thoughts, which ran a different way than those of the other spirits and of their creator. Thus, Melokor was deemed evil. At some point, Sauron decides to join Melkor, and this is when he is forever labelled as “evil”.

It could have been different, though, had the other spirits accepted Melkor’s thoughts, or even pondered them, as opposed to immediately deeming them to be unsound and inappropriate. Or perhaps if they had destroyed him straight away even, which would of course be harsh. But if Sauron had known what was to come, or if he had been shown that other thoughts are ok, but not necessarily as actions, would he have made the same choices? One will never know.

BatmanRa’s al Ghul (Batman): Ra’s story is a sad one. The basis is this: he is a doctor, married to and in love with a woman named Sora. He discovers a magical place that can heal people, and when he is called on to heal a sultan’s son, he lowers the son into it. The son, who was already a little cracked, comes completely undone and murders Ra’s wife. Ra’s is blamed for the crime, and sentenced to death. He escapes and vows revenge on sultan and thus begins his life of evil.

This one doesn’t need much explaining. When a person loses the love of someone important, they can become desensitized. After the death of his wife, it is only natural (in the comic book world) that he would want revenge on the sultan. Then, once that is done, he finds solace in a life of darkness. With nothing left of happiness or hope or love, where would any of us be?

Hans_Holbein,_the_Younger,_Around_1497-1543_-_Portrait_of_Henry_VIII_of_England_-_Google_Art_ProjectHenry VIII (Non-fiction): Henry VIII is a man that many love to despise. His actions were quite atrocious even when he was king, which is saying a lot since public hangings, burnings, and beheadings were still acceptable. Henry had a number of wives (six in all), four of which whose deaths are directly or indirectly attributed to their loving husband. Henry was a second son, destined for the church and not for the throne. His brother, Arthur, died before ever becoming king, so the crown fell to Henry, who had not been raised as a ruler, but rather as a spoiled little boy.

Henry wasn’t taught a lot of things that Arthur was. His life was meant for different things, so when he finally inherited the throne, he apparently thought that it was all about pleasure and that being king meant that his life was meant to be great. He enjoyed women, and games, and parties, and hunting, and all of the other amusement-based aspects of ruling. It was how he was brought up—not necessarily to rule, but to be spoiled before possibly one day becoming a cardinal or even the pope.

Things would have been a lot different had Henry been taught the same things as Arthur had, and if he had been raised to take the throne instead of to live for pleasure. There’s not really a protagonist to Henry, unless you want to count any one of his wives, who many still feel for.

Assassin's Creed LogoAssassin’s Creed (1): The first Assassin’s Creed game is set around Altair, an assassin who takes orders from Al Mualim, who is basically the head assassin. The entire game is shaped around Altair questioning the “hits” that are delegated to him, as he begins to see that there are two sides to every story. Throughout the game, your enemies are Templars, but near the end, you start to understand that maybe, just maybe, Al Mualim is the corrupted one, and that, although opinions may vary, the Templars and Assassins are not so very different.

In this game, and some of the others that come after it, the lines between friend and foe can be blurry. You learn that not all of your “enemies” are as terrible as you thought. You learn that taking blind orders can be dangerous, and that thinking for yourself is a noble trait. A trait that sometimes requires going against the grain.

There is an endless list of villains that can qualify as heroes. It’s important to remember that while an author shapes our perception, we should remain thoughtful creatures that form our own evaluations as opposed to taking everything that is handed to us.

What are some famous villains that you have felt for? What are some that you could never appreciate?

PS: I do have a FB page if anyone is interested. You can find it here.