Movie Review – The Boy (2016)

Movie Review – The Boy (2016) Rated PG-13 : Directed by William Brent Bell

Starring Lauren Cohen, Rupert Evans, and James Russell

Greta Evans arrives at the home of a wealthy English couple, Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire, to take on her duties as a newly hired nanny to their son, Brahms, so they can go away on holiday. There’s only one problem.  Brahms is a life-sized doll made in the likeness of their son who was killed in a fire years ago. At first Greta treats the doll as an annoying joke and does none of the duties assigned to her by the couple. Brahms quickly convinces her to follow the rules.

The concept behind “The Boy” isn’t unique by any stretch of the imagination. There have been a lot of haunted doll books written and movies made. The doll in this one is, from my understanding, roughly based on Robert, a supposedly real-life haunted doll that is now housed in a museum in Key West, Florida.

brahms

Brahms the Doll

robert

Robert the Doll

There were some genuinely creepy moments in this movie, though it fell short of truly freaking me out.  But then, it is only a PG-13 so maybe they had to tone it down for that audience instead of the hardcore horror fans like me. I was left with a lot of unanswered questions at the end. I can easily assume why things went the way they did and why the parents did what they did in part, but the ending was not a surprise and there were no twists that I wasn’t expecting.

Great potential, but terribly, terribly predictable.

Two Ravens out of Five

Hot Off The Press Bride

It’s been a busy, busy week here.

Jim’s mom from Texas arrived Tuesday night. Wednesday we went to Owego, NY (Voted The Coolest Small Town In America in 2009 by Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel Magazine) and walked around the shops and along the river walk. Followed by lunch at my parent’s house just outside of the small town of Berkshire, where I grew up. I was sure to take her back home via the back roads where the rolling hills packed with trees and acres upon acres of field corn amazed and delighted her.

Thursday we headed up to Cornell University where I gave her a quick tour of central campus and stopped in to visit some of my co-workers for a few minutes at Olin Library. We made a pass through Wee Stinky Glen, the Cornell Store, and Sage Chapel. Neither one of us was up to climbing the spiral steps up to the top of McGraw Tower. For dinner we took her down to Beeman’s in Sayre, PA – just so she could say she’d been to Pennsylvania, too while she was up here.

Friday morning was pretty quiet and relaxing. I headed down to Waverly that afternoon to get some things I’d ordered for Saturday. Getting home, I packed up an overnight bag, and what few things I needed, gave Jim a kiss, and had to smile when he kind of pouted and said, “I don’t want you to go.” It was so sweet.

Saturday, of course, was the BIG DAY! That’s right, THAT Big Day! After meeting in the virtual world of Second Life in January 2012 and living together since January 2013, Jim and I finally made it official and got married FOR REALS! Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but darn close and I’m not going to let those few things that weren’t perfect bother me. I’ve said from the start that the only thing that really mattered at the end of the day was that we were married, everything else was just icing. The weather cooperated, no family feuds broke out, no one drown in the pond, and the icing on the cake was really quite delicious to boot!

GRD_9363

The Newlyweds!

 

While all these shenanigans were going on (literally) my newest book, NO REST FOR THE WICKED was released on Amazon! I’d approved the final proof the day before, kinda half hoping it would be ready on the wedding day, but in all the mayhem I quickly forgot about it.

Today, now that we’re home again for a bit before seeing my new Mother-in-Law off at the airport tpmorrow, wishing her as easy a trip home as she had coming up here, and heading off on our honeymoon later that afternoon, I finally checked my email after over 24 hours. And there was the announcement.

So, lots of things to be happy about here. Head on over to Amazon, buy a copy of the book, and make this Hot Off The Press Bride even happier than she already is.

No Rest For The Wicked

LATEST RELEASE!!!!!

A Haunting We Will Go

It occurred to me this morning that I’ve not written a lot about living in a haunted house for the past twenty-one years. A lot of folks think I’m nuts when I say I always wanted to live in such a place, but they all think it’s like the movies; blood dripping from the walls, people being yanked out of their beds by the ankles, books flying around, cupboard doors slamming open, or being awakened by the ghostly wails or sobs of those that have died and refuse to move on. It’s not. In fact, it’s a bit dull.

My then-husband Roger and I bought the place back in 1995. It had been empty for three years before that. Our viewing was on a cold Monday evening in January in the dark with flashlights as our only guides. The place had been foreclosed on, and was now up for bids AS IS. Bids were due that Friday. Time was of the essence. We walked through the icy gloom of the place, the old wooden floors creaking and inhaling that ‘old house smell’ we were both partial to. Outlets seemed somewhat lacking, the wallpaper in the kitchen was horrendous, nothing appeared to have been updated since the 1970s or earlier. In the backroom was a massive chest freezer where any serial killer worth his weight in carving knives and heavy duty black trash bags could have kept four adult humans on ice rather easily. I don’t remember if we dared open that freezer for our viewing that night, but there was, indeed, something inside. We’ll get back to that later.

Upstairs we found four large bedrooms, the bathroom, (again, not updated in God-only-knows how long) and a good-sized linen closet. In total, the house, built in 1886, is over 3000 square feet. Plenty of room for us and our two children and certainly a lot more room than the single-wide trailer we’d been in for the past three years or so. We talked it over on our way home and into the next couple of days, eventually deciding we were going to bid and calling the realtor to let her know how much we were willing to pay.

Needless to say, we won the bid. Once we closed, we took two weeks off work to clean and make the place habitable again. Soon we were all settled in and looking forward to all the excitement that home ownership entails.

And then, it happened. We got up one morning to find the door between the kitchen and the backroom wide open. Nothing too mind blowing there. It’s an old house, nothing is level, and maybe the door didn’t get latched. No biggie. The next night Roger made sure the door was shut firmly and off we went to bed. Come morning, the door was open again. We exchanged questionable glances. Night came, the door was closed, locked, and tugged on to make certain it was secure. And off we went to bed.

Not more than an hour later as we lay quietly in bed, from downstairs comes, “Click, Sqqueeeeak.”

“Did you hear that?”

“Yeah.”

“You going to go check the door?”

“Hell, no.”

Roger and I were always into haunted and paranormal things. We visited cemeteries on a regular basis, we went into old, empty houses that we shouldn’t have been in, we used the Ouija board, and just generally found the whole subject matter fascinatingly. So, next morning when we went downstairs and found the door once more wide open, we knew exactly what to do. Roger stood in the doorway and said, “Okay, you’ve made your point. We know you’re here and we don’t care. You are welcome to stay, just stop opening this door, please.” That door had never opened on its own again to this day.

But, the door wasn’t our only experience. Once we were walking from the kitchen through the dining room towards the living room. At that time, the den was more a playroom for the kids than an office area. From the door of the den, a piece of fake fruit came rolling out right in front of us. I think it was an apple, maybe an orange. Either way, we figured it was one of the kids playing in there and being silly. Nope. Both kids were in the living room watching television at the time. The front porch light switch used to go on and off by itself quite a bit. It’s one of those heavy duty ones you really have to CLICK into place. You’d hear the ‘click’ and on or off would pop the light outside. The television would go on and off on its own from time to time. Most frequently was the sound of footsteps passing through the dining room and going up the stairs to one of the bedrooms. Many, many time I would be busy in the den or the kitchen and hear the distinct sound of the front door opening and someone coming in and heading upstairs. After so many years, you learn the sounds of your house, what’s normal, what’s not.

We had the house repainted and the porches repaired. The lawn that had been a hay field returned. One Saturday morning there was a knock at the door. The house was a mess, of course, and we were all lounging around in our weekend best. The woman said she had heard that someone had bought the place and was fixing it back up and said she was the daughter of the people who had owned it back in the 1970s and that she’d grown up in the house. She said she’d not been back since then and was sorry to intrude, but could she come in and see the place again. We let her in.

She was pretty emotional as she walked through, pointing out this and that while sharing her childhood memories of the place. And then she went upstairs and said in a trembling voice, “Oh, this is the bedroom Daddy died in.” She told us a little bit about her father and that his name was Herman(n).  She didn’t stay long but she certainly left a lasting impression. We didn’t tell her about our experiences, but for some reason we immediately felt that’s who our occasional, unseen visitor was. From then on, we always have called him Herman(n).

Despite it all, I’ve never felt afraid of whatever, or whoever, was doing all this. It was our ghost and we were happy to have him or her. My kids might say otherwise, but it’s never bothered me at all.

As for what was in the freezer. I’m still not sure what it was other than some sort of maybe aquatic creature, maybe a fish though the bone structure was less fish-like and more snake-like. An eel? A snake? I don’t know. It was nasty and by some miracle I managed to get the whole mess out of there without 1) falling head first into the freezer and having the door lock and seal on top of me or 2) throwing up.

Alice Is Coming To Town

… and for a mere $725 I can get a front row ‘INSANITY PACKAGE’ for a once in a lifetime experience. Now, I like Alice Cooper just fine. In fact, funny story, one of the odd things future hubby (11 days to go) and I have in common is that we’ve both dressed up as Alice Cooper for Halloween. And we’d love to experience his brand of theatrical musical madness in the almost intimate theater (less than 4000 seats) he’ll be performing at next month less than an hour’s drive from our front door, but… $725?!

The Insanity Package does sound pretty damn awesome, I’ll give you that.

FrankenAlice       HeadlessAlice

One front row ticket. VIP early entry into the venue. Exclusive after show Meet & Greet with Alice Cooper. Personal photograph with Alice Cooper. On stage tour prior to Alice’s performance – including a photo with the FrankenAlice and your head in Alice’s guillotine! Autographed Alice Cooper Certificate of Insanity. Official Alice Cooper set list. Specially designed Alice Cooper tour shirt. Alice Cooper tote bag. Collectible limited print, Alice Cooper for President tour poster. $50 merchandise voucher to the official Alice Cooper online store. A chance to be chosen to be on stage with Alice Cooper and toss balloons at the end of the show!

But…$725?!

I’d be happy with a couple of those Gold Circle ($75) tickets. First ten rows ain’t too shabby. Again, small venue. We’d be right up there.

Sadly, as with so many things we want to do in life, the timing is bad.

Almost-Hubby had this to say: “Let’s spend the $1450.00 for the two of us on a guitar and Amp and I’ll put on a top hat and play School’s Out.” Now, I’m not negating the musical abilities of my Old Man, but I fail to see where I’d get as much enjoyment out of this idea as he would.

SigningJim  <-NOT Alice Cooper.-> alice

Where’s the boa constrictor? Where’s the guillotine? Where’s the straight-jacket, the smoke, the baby dolls, bloody dismembered body parts and the gallows?! Really, Jim? You think I’m going to fall for this just so you can get a new guitar and amp? I love you, darling, but… no. Besides, my favorite Alice Cooper song is Welcome To My Nightmare, not School’s Out.

It’s pretty clear at this point neither one of us will be spending the night with Alice Cooper any time in the near future. Which, kinda sucks, but whatcha gonna do? That’s life. We all wish for a lot of things and as much as I wish this could be a thing, it  won’t be and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Though probably not as outlandish as an Alice Cooper show, our honeymoon is looking like it will be quite the experience, or as we like to call these sorts of things, An Adventure. I finally read the pamphlet that came with our cabin reservation confirmation letter last night to discover that the cabin we reserved on the St. Lawrence up in the Thousand Islands has no A/C, nor are you allowed to sneak in an A/C unit. A fan it is! I hope this hazy, hot, and humid heat wave we’ve been having this summer breaks by then. And though they have cable, they don’t have televisions in the cabins. WiFi is available, but the lady I spoke to wasn’t sure if it reached as far as the cabins. So, we’re resigned to maybe taking along a collection of bad B-movies and renting some porn to watch on the laptop. I think Alice Cooper would approve of those choices. We’re going to wing it most of the time because as much as I do like to plan, being spontaneous can be just as much, if not more, fun!

“If you confine it, you’re confining a whole thing. If you make it spontaneous, so that anything can happen, like we don’t want to confine or restrict anything. What we can do, whatever we can let happen, you just let it happen.” – Alice Cooper.

 

The Writing Process – Dark Hollow Road

Folks quite often ask how long it takes for me to write a book. As I’ve just finished the First Draft of DARK HOLLOW ROAD, I thought I’d use that as an example to answer the question. It just so happens I know exactly when the idea, the title at least, came to me, September 22, 2014.

We were driving through the wilds of eastern Pennsylvania just minding our own business, stopping at various junk and antique shops and enjoying the fall foliage when we zoomed by a small side road that led even further and deeper into those wilds. The road sign read, “Dark Hollow Road”. I laughed and said, “If that’s not the title of a book, I don’t know what is.” At the time I had no idea what that future book would be about. I had other things in the works. My Muse, who for some odd reason I envision as a dark, mysterious version of Tinker Bell, would do what she does best and find out what the story deal was and get back to me later.

She did so in June of 2015 by introducing me to Mary Alice Brown and her family. I started out writing exclusively from her first person perspective. I knew I wanted to keep her world, which in the context of the book starts in 1948, very separate from what was going on today so contained all of that to the odd-numbered chapters. I’d written at least five odd-numbered chapters before having a clue what the ones in between would contain.

One day, six-year-old Brandon Evenson showed up. He got me going on what would be happening in the modern even-numbered chapters. By October of 2015 I’d written sixteen chapters. In January 2016 I was forced to draw up a timeline to keep track of the two sections running simultaneously. In April 2016, I was sitting alone at a small campfire I had going in my backyard. As I sat there pondering whatever it was I was pondering, along came this old, slightly grouchy looking man. He introduced himself as Lee Yagar and told me who knew a fair amount about Dark Hollow Road, but had never been too keen on talking about it to anyone. He didn’t live there, but he knew the Brown family. That’s all he had to share. It wasn’t very informative, but it was something.

Then, last night, August 9, almost two years after we drove by that Dark Hollow Road sign, I typed the final, very satisfying sentence that ended it all. So, there’s your answer as far as getting to the end of the first draft to DARK HOLLOW ROAD goes. Of course there’s still a whole lot of editing and proof reading to do on it, but it’s written. It will likely be another year before it sees the like of day.

Normally there are at least two books in progress at the same time. They are at very different stages along the creation process timeline which is why it seems like I’ve come out with two new titles, rewrite and re-release a previous title, and finish a first draft for a fourth all in a year’s time. It really took a lot longer than that, but you get the idea.

I’ll take a break for a while. I’ll try to at least. Sometimes the Muse gets over-zealous and doesn’t allow that break. Sometimes she takes annoyingly long naps. She’s quite unpredictable.

Today after I have the first draft of DHR printed up, I’ll put it aside until after we get back from our honeymoon in September. I’ll give it a once over, make my own corrections,  then hand  it off to my editor friend who will have it for a few months more. The idea is that once I see it again, my eyes will be fresher and my mind will have maybe forgotten a thing or two. Makes it easier to spot errors that way.

As another example, NO REST FOR THE WICKED which is coming out this September, I started to write the summer of 2011!! It all depends on the book and what’s going on in the rest of my life, I guess.

Last night I was trying to figure out how to explain what it feels like when I type that last sentence in a novel. It never fails that I think, “I like it!” I wish I smoked so I could lean back and savor the moment. Maybe it’s like very satisfying sex, that instant when all is said and done and the parties involved lay back and bask in the afterglow of their passion. It’s definitely a mental high.

Not five minutes later I’m thinking, “What’s next? Now what do I do?”

Indeed, what do I do next? For now, nothing. Focus on the wedding, enjoy the honeymoon, and maybe getting that back deck finished up.

Stretch and breathe before taking a ride on … THE WITCH’S BACKBONE.

 <wicked evil grin>

Lumbering On Morris Mountain

T-minus 3 weeks until wedding day. As I’ve been doing about every other weekend for the past few months, I loaded the car up yesterday afternoon with some items for said wedding day, in this case soft and adult beverages, and headed up to Morris Mountain where the nuptials and merriment will be taking places. It seemed a harmless enough mission, but boy, am I sore this morning.

As I pulled into view of the house, I saw my 73-year-old father over at the pavilion working on something. I decided I’d go say hello and see what he was up to before heading inside with the drinks and to visit with mom.

Though he complains a lot about having so much to do, I don’t think Dad’s really happy unless he has a project going on. This weekend he decided to tackle constructing and hanging some folding wooden shades for the pavilion. Keep in mind that when Dad builds a thing he BUILDS! a thing. It’s not going to fall apart. That thing is going to be there for a very long time. He built the house they live in over the course of about five years while also working full-time. It’s not a little house. It’s three stories (four if you count the full basement) with a huge cathedral ceiling and wrap-around front decks on two levels. So, no small task. He also built the pavilion in which he was working yesterday and the old and new outhouses nearby. I clearly remember him building the old one because I helped draw out and cut the crescent shape on the door. It’s what they used while constructing the house and it’s still there all these many moons later.

As a kid I helped dad out with his projects as often as I could. I really enjoyed learning how to use a T-square, a plumb-bob, a line level, a hammer, skill saw, and any other tools needed for construction. I pounded a whole lot of nails into subflooring when he added on to our house around 1975. I learned about building a cinderblock wall and how to lay a brick sidewalk. One weekend I helped him put up the new stovepipe for the coal stove while standing on the metal roof of the house. I was 16.

Last year, he installed a deck floor on the pavilion to replace the old crushed stone one and started work on the new outhouse. This year, he finished the outhouse which puts the bathroom in my house nearly to shame! He’s also working on building a trellis for the wedding and, now, these folding blinds.

So, I head over to see how it’s going. He’s having a hard time of it. The wood is heavy and awkward and he can’t balance things or line things up like he wants alone so I ask ever so casually, “Need some help?” I am immediately put to work holding up this, moving that, lifting this into place, lining up this other thing, and climbing up and down on the picnic table numerous times so I could reach and balance pieces in place. The project was not cooperating and really is a three man job, not one 73-year-old-man and one fifty-year-old female desk jockey wearing cotton capris and sandals work.

While dad went to look for another piece of rope in the cellar to help with hoisting and holding things into place, I popped upstairs to visit with Mom ever so briefly. But, my respite was brief and  doing as promised, I went back out to help once I saw Dad back at it, new length of rope in hand. Mom decided she’d come out and help, too.

Finally, three hours after I pulled innocently into the driveway, we got the first shade satisfactorily into place and called it a night. No, it was not the afternoon I had envisioned at all.

Despite having a very sore right shoulder from standing on a picnic table balancing two wood panels in place so Dad could get the hinges screwed in and my legs and arms aching a bit more than usual, I actually enjoyed the work.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to help my dad build anything. He can still work circle around me and I think it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation. Therefore, this coming week, my 25-year-old son and a friend of his are going to go help Grampa Morris finish up this particular project.

Photo credit: www.gettyimages.co.uk

Creation In The Midst Of Chaos

Creative writing hasn’t really been in the cards much for the past couple months, what with getting married in 24 days and all! I’ve been jotting down things here and there for other stories as well as doing a final read through of No Rest For The Wicked before it’s ‘off to the printers’ as they say.

Once I’ve recovered from all these wedding and honeymoon shenanigans, I’ve told myself I’m going to work diligently to get the first draft of Dark Hollow Road done. I’ve got two more author events lined up for after our return that will take me into October. That will likely be the end of my 2016 Tioga County Book Tour, all of four events. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s four events more than I’ve ever had before and maybe in 2017 I’ll double that number. I’m new to this and being an introvert doesn’t lend itself well to self-promotion.

Still, I’ve come a long way in the past 41 years since Bill, The Worm Who Ran Away debuted and I realized that being a writer is what I wanted to do. My little girl dreams amounted to nothing more than being a published author. Now that I have that, I need to up the odds and add ‘well-known’ to that dream and yes, dare I say, able to make a real living off it.

As the wedding date draws closer, the concept of how much time we have left becomes more in focus. With it, I am reminded of my own mortality and I can’t help but wonder if it’s too late to truly achieve that author dream. My Spring Chicken days are behind me. I’ve worked on this almost my entire life and yet, here I am 50 years old and I’ve still not made it.

I have to remind myself a lot why I do it. I have to remember that Bram Stoker was 50 when Dracula was published. Little House on the Prairie was not published until Laura Ingalls Wilder was 64 and when Henry Miller’s first novel, Tropic of Cancer was published, he was 44. Alex Haley was also 44 when The Autobiography of Malcolm X came out and he was 55 when Roots was released.

My first novel has only been read by a handful of people and has never been published. I finished writing my second novel in 2004 and found a publisher in 2006, just a few months shy of my 39th birthday. Granted, it was erotica, but a published novel is a published novel. I wrote several more erotica titles for the same publisher over the next four years before deciding it wasn’t what I loved writing. It didn’t give me the joy I wanted. With Bound To Be Bitten (out of print) in 2010 I tried to bridge the gap between that and what truly called me, writing horror and the paranormal. I was never entirely happy with the work and that’s when I decided to say goodbye to that aspect of my writing career. I have no regrets for having done it and none that I gave it up, either.

I longed to type in the fingerprints of those authors I’d started to admire as a teenager: Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Agatha Christie, Peter Straub, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, and Tanith Lee. Paranormal-horror meets Murder-Mystery. Oddly, I found myself a bit lost when it came time to write it, but I knew I had to give it a shot. Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon (originally published as Blood of the Scarecrow) was the result. When the publisher went bankrupt, my book’s sudden death was heart-breaking. At 47 I felt my writing career was back to ground zero. Ten years of serious effort had been reduced to little more than a hill of beans.

At 50, I still get some royalties for the erotica, but the battle to get myself out there as a horror writer rages on. Female horror writers don’t seem to be as popular as male ones. Maybe publishers don’t think we women can come up with the blood, guts, gore, and violence like our male counterparts. It’s easy to convince myself it will never be what that little nine-year-old me dreamed it would be. All too often I feel I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing.

Getting nowhere fast with traditional publishers and\or agents, I decided to self-publish for the mere fact I had various people who had read “Scarecrow…” asking me on a weekly basis when the next book was coming out. All I could do was shrug and feel disappointed that I was letting everyone down, including myself. Their words of encouragement have kept me going. With the help of my future husband, That’s What Shadows Are Made Of was our first release in 2015 followed by Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon in early 2016. In just over a month, No Rest For The Wicked, the third of our self-published novels will be coming out.

I’m still trying to finish writing Dark Hollow Road. I’ve promised Hunter Shea I’ll post a review for his newest book The Jersey Devil as soon as I can. I’ve been meaning to get in touch with the editors of Mountain Home Magazine to see about writing for them … but … ack, ack, ack! Maybe after the wedding and honeymoon I’ll be able to focus more on all of this. I’m just too scatter-brained right now. I fought with tulle and my head piece last night. I’m still trying to get my wedding shoes stretched out so I can wear them a few hours during and after the ceremony. I created a pair of ‘I’m sick of wearing these shoes’ back-up sneakers. There’s a DJ station set up in my living room. Trying to figure out how else to decorate the miniature white suitcase that will serve as a guest book and a place for guests to drop off cards is proving harder than I thought. We have a regular guest book, too. There are always dishes and laundry to be done and toilets to clean. Still not 100% sure what’s being used as a cake topper. We want to get our deck built before the snow flies which around here can happen in October! My dress is still in the making. I haven’t properly cleaned the guest room for Jim’s mom yet.

Calgon, take me away!