Horror of the eyes or Horror of the mind?

:: Movie & Book Spoiler Alert ::

Horror movies today are becoming more visually grotesque than their counter parts of the black and white film days. In order to entice our growing appetite for more blood and guts mixed with heart stopping terrors, the Horror film industry today has taken on the attitude of “seeing is believing”.   So, if we do not witness the horror first hand with our eyes, does it really exist?

A little over a week ago, I saw Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe (I will try to stay away from the details of the movie so not to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it).  In my opinion, it was an okay Horror movie.  Daniel Radcliffe did a great job of acting scared, I was convinced, but I couldn’t help to get annoyed at the whole “horror” of the movie.  There was very little suspense, and it absolutely left nothing up to the imagination.  Every little bump or squeak that was sounded was quickly accompanied by the image of what was making that sound.  And to top it all off, it was very loosely based on Susan Hill’s novel.  This production pulled all the flashy imagery that made her book scary, and threw it up on the screen.  The plot barely reflected the original text.

So I went home, and had a peaceful night’s sleep.

A few years ago on one sunny day, the tome The Woman in Black by Hill happened to fall into my hands.  That night after a long day of Literature classes, I curled up in bed under the roof of my tiny house off the Appalachian Trail and fell into a nightmare of pure terror.  Hill’s words delicately conjured the horrific images of Arthur Kipp’s journey to Eel Marsh House in my mind that I don’t think I will ever forget my first read of this tale.  I honestly could not put the text down, even into the wee hours of the following morning.  To be honest, I don’t know whether that was from fear or intrigue, but I continued reading until the end.  Typically I read at a rather fast pace, but the terror that Hill spewed made my eyes crawl across each word, letter by letter.  She devoured my imagination with her sound devices and imagery that danced like gossamer on the periphery of the eyes.  She played with my mind.  Her way of telling this tale was to give a little tidbit of the unknown and then allow your mind to form the rest.  How long did I wonder, page after page, what was the “Bump bump” noise that our dear protagonist heard coming from behind that locked door without the keyhole.  My stomach knotted in anticipation as the sound would start and stop.  As I read Arthur’s mind reeling of what the sound could possibly be, my mind was screaming at him “Get Out! Get Out!”.  When at last, the sound is finally revealed… my heart skipped a beat.  I had stop reading for a moment because I thought I was hearing the same sounds in my tiny home.  Quickly, I ran to my living room to check on my own rocking chair.

So I finished the book, and I didn’t sleep for four nights.

Now, in no way do I want this to come across that I am bashing this movie.  If you want a quick fright and have never read the book, then this is a film for you.  Yet, those few, fast pace seconds in the film where Arthur first hears the “rocking” noise then soon finds the nursery room door open with a rocking chair violently rocking inside does not compare of the several pages of terror of trying to figure out what in the hades is creating that creepy “Bump bump. Pause. Bump bump. Pause” noise.   Modern day movies have lost the fear factor that brews within our imaginations.  It is all about show the ghost, show the creepy little kid with the big black eyes, show the abdominal evisceration, but where is the lasting fear in that.  Sure we may get squeamish over the thought of Jeff Goldblum being turned into a slimy, bumpy fly-human morph in The Fly or that idiot lawyer getting “cross sectioned” in Thir13een Ghosts.  But it is only a temporary terror fix.  I have found that the Horror entombed in the written word has a lasting impression on the mind.  The imagery that forms in our imagination from when we read these tales of terror burns a living picture in our minds.  That is the ultimate Horror movie.

©2012, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative – visit  Amanda Headlee — It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn for the original source of this content.

Old-school or Technology?

eBooks are a fascinating, convenient way to read literature nowadays, yet I am at a crossroad on whether to love or hate them.  I, being an owner of an eReader, cannot help to feel like a hypocrite.  The main reason for purchasing an eReader is because I have completely run out of room in my house for another bookshelf.  Within the first month of owning the device, I have downloaded and read 9 books.  Yes, I am a book-a-holic.  Before I divulge in what has me all riled about this new technology, I just want to list what I view as “Pros” for eBooks:

#1 – It saves trees!

#2 – It saves space (don’t have to buy anymore bookshelves!)

#3 – For travel, it is a fantastic feeling not having a carry-on loaded down with 20 books.

#4 – Text can be highlighted and notes legibly made.

#5 – Easier on the eyes because brightness and text size can be adjusted.

#6 – Angry Birds!

Even though these are some commendable “Pros”, I cannot help to feel guilty about reading eBooks.  Here I am, losing myself in the wonderful words that some author poured their heart into writing, and because I have either purchased an eBook at a heavily discounted price (or for free) that author is losing out on income.  I hate the guilt in knowing that I am harming another writer’s livelihood.  Let me give you a prime example of what has irked me into this rant.  A friend of mine wrote a fantastic novel that has only been distributed in hardback, and his book would typically sell in the $35.00 range.  I happened across the eBook for $.99.  Now how is he to make money off of that?  Without going into the details of what exactly the $.99 goes towards, he has pretty much deduced that he makes a few pennies off a sold electronic copy.  Luckily, he is well liked enough that he is usually healthily paid in advance.

Another element that irritates me about eReaders is that devices do not give off that warm, antique, humbling smell of a real book.   When I read, I love to smell the pages.  I also enjoy rubbing my fingers over the text to feel the words printed on the pages.  It makes the story feel alive.  I am truly holding another world in the palm of my hand.

A final “Con” to eBooks is seeing young kids reading their story books off an eReader.  Yes, the portability and colorful illustrations are wonderful, but children are going to be bombarded to electronic devices for the rest of their lives.  Why are we over exposing children to electronics at such a young age?  It’s bad enough that they get plopped in front of the TV or a video game.  Now we are taking a way a final touch of reality by giving them an “electronic book”?   I remember my childhood books best from the experience I have had while reading books:  Hiding under the covers and reading by flashlight, sitting in a tree house and trying to hold the pages down as they flutter in the breeze, coming home from a long beach trip and the pages from a beach read smells like the ocean.  Every time that book is cracked open, the wonderful memories flood in from a time when my eyes first graced the pages of Chapter 1.  An eReader cannot provide any of these nostalgic feelings and memories.

So in the end, I have a love-hate relationship with eBooks and eReaders.   I am filled with sadness and guilt because of what is being lost due to the technology, but I cannot help to enjoy the convenience.  In the end, I do not think I will ever truly turn to the electronic side.  Remember those 9 eBooks I bought this past month?  Well, I also happened to purchase and read 5 paperbacks… 

Please feel free to comment and discuss.  I would love to read your opinion.

©2012, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative – visit  Amanda Headlee — It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn for the original source of this content.


My Soapbox

I am going to insert my apologies here for not keeping true to this blog.  Life can sometimes throw a large rock into the “writing stream”.

Words are magnificent. They can convey a thousand emotions with one tiny sentence. In just a few paragraphs, different worlds and new civilizations can be brought to life. One book can take us far across the galaxy or into the distant past.

I am happy to have gone to a school district where, at the time, The Jungle, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Awakening were read and debated in lengthy class discussions. Those select works were an inspiration to me. They cultivated my love for the written word.  They made me who I am today

So that is why I cannot fathom why the younger generations are not reading.  Is there no more intrigue into the mysterious worlds and wonders that books can provide?  Has the younger generation lost their imaginations by being bombarded by video games and TV?

The worst correlation to the loss of interest in literature is that literacy levels are on the decline.  Age groups are not reading to their full potential.

It would grieve me if I ever had a child and they were handed the video of Pride and Prejudice in class and not the glorious words written by the hand of Jane Austen.

We need to strengthen childhood and adolescent literacy before it is too late.

©2011, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative – visit  Amanda Headlee — It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn for the original source of this content.

Secrets to Scare

I was in search of a good book on developing characters, when I stumbled across a gem in the local book store.  I squealed with excitement when the title caught my eye.  My Fiancée blushed with embarrassment, removing himself immediately from the area.  This is a horrible trait that I have.  When I see something that excites me, I usually make some sort of “Eeeeeee” or “Oooooo” sound, point in the direction of the object, and then make a sudden bee-line to it to pick it up.  Usually by the time I get “bee-line” part, I am standing by myself, and strangers are looking at me.  If anyone is in my path, they usually get knocked over.  It is sad to admit, but I go into a sort of a trance and nothing will stand in the way of me and that object.

Anyways, what caught my attention on this day was the book “On Writing Horror” by the Horror Writers Association (yes, the same association that some of the Horror greats like Joyce Carol Oats, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King belong to… “Eeeeeee”!).  I cannot believe that I have allowed myself to not know that this book existed.  Have I been blind?  Have I been dumb?  Have I been on another planet this whole time?  Here I am, suffering and struggling with my writing, stuck with stories that are creepy, but are lacking “something”.  Then, there is this book that exists which can help me out of this slump, give me a swift kick in the behind, and encourage me to pick up the pen again.  And I turned a blind eye to its existence –

Well, I am just going to chalk it up to everything happens for a reason at the right time… right? Yes, I am using this cop out! 

“On Writing Horror” by the HWA is phenomenal.  I have been completely inspired by the text.  So much so that I have read the book twice… and I just bought it this past Sunday.  The text is a collection of short essays from some the greatest Horror writers (ones who are currently breathing).  The book sums up every aspect that is needed to create a mortifyingly macabre horror fiction.  It is split into eight sections to formalize a story’s development (e.g., intro to the genre, education of the genre, concepts, crafting, marketing, etc.).  Each author gives the book their own unique presence and knowledge.  The essays are fluid and chalked full of information in concrete terms to help solidify the Horror writing process.  No topic is covered twice, and the essays flow into each other.  When one essay ends, the next seems to pick up where the other left off.  Such an amazement since each essay is a different topic written by a different author.  It is no wonder that this book is a Horror writer’s new best friend.  It was written by the HWA, a professional organization who thrives off of scaring the wits out of people through literature.  

So yes, love-of-my-life, my squeal of excitement over the sight of this book at the bookstore is justifiable.  You will just have to come to terms with your embarrassment. 

©2011, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative – visit  Amanda Headlee — It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn for the original source of this content.


The end is only the beginning.  For when one is at the end, the atmosphere becomes clear and the understanding of what needs to be done in order to move on is acknowledged.  Endings are never bad; Endings are an evolvement.  One should never look upon the end negativity, but rather a push to move on to the next level in level of life.  With this climb into the next level we gather enlightenment and definition, even if the next level looks like a step back.  In reality, no backwards steps exist.  What looks like a step back is only a needed learning experience to help propel a soul out of the current “slump” and onto the next enlightenment.  With each level that ends, we grow – despite the outcome. 

As a writer, this is sometimes a struggle:  to acknowledge an end.  Each draft of a story that I script is a better evolution from the previous, yet I feel horribly disheartened when the editing finally ends.  I feel that even though I brought it to life on paper, ending the story has killed the process of the writing experience.  I struggle with not allowing the story to die and move on where it could possibly flourish and be published.  For at the end of each story, I return to rewrite, and “retweek” the story to the point where it is never finished, and always changing.  Thus, the evolution becomes stagnant and I stop my writing career from moving on to the next step.  In order to push my career on to the next level, I need to allow these stories to end.

And in this push for closure, only positive things will come (in which for me, I wish for publication). 

The end is only the beginning…

©2011, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative – visit  Amanda Headlee — It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn for the original source of this content.