Another Step Along the Way

dark-terror-book-mock.jpgI usually try to keep this blog and my novel writing endeavors separate but there always seems to be some crossover. The book creation process has so many milestones and touch points and I never seem to grow tired of them. Maybe it’ll wear off some day, but that day is not today. My latest novel, The Dark Terror, just went out for pre-order.

Let me break it down for you, at least the way I have done it.

Step 1: Write the story. I am what is commonly referred to as a “pantser.” I fly by the seat of my pants. Meaning, I don’t plot and I don’t outline. When I started The Dark Truth in 2016, I had a character and a premise in mind. It just went from there. Not outlining or using a complicated novel writing application like Scrivener did lead to some continuity errors, however.

Step 2: Editing. Lots and lots of editing. Not so much with the story, more spelling and grammar. As much as I’d like to say I have command of the English language I do still have trouble with sentence structure, word usage/choice and of course, spelling and grammar. Writing is a discipline. If you can’t spell, if you don’t know basic grammar and if you have no concept of sentence structure, then what are you doing? Funny, I can always tell the writing sessions when I had a few too many adult beverages, that’s where all the damn typos are.

22237098_10212510335852055_114300165_nStep 3: Query. I got lucky. I got a contract offer from a publisher on my first go-round. No rejections. I just had to agree to make some revisions. They weren’t unreasonable, so I added some things and re-wrote a few others and voila. You get your release date in your contract or shortly thereafter. In my case, we were able to release the first book early. Press releases go out and, once you have a release date, e-mails to bookstores for book signings go out.

Step 4: More editing.

Step 5: Cover design. This is fun. This is when it gets real. You start to see what the finished product is going to look like.

Step 6. Pre-Sale. Several weeks before publish day, the book goes up for pre-order. That’s where we are with my third book right now. The Dark Terror is now available for pre-order. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the prep work that went into getting ready for this stage with the creation of a brand and a social media presence. Hopefully there have been a few interviews here and there, blogs, podcasts, radio and TV and other outlets. I’ve been lucky that way. More press releases and media advisories go out to promote what hopefully is now a book tour.

Step 7. Author copies arrive. I am anxiously awaiting my copies of The Dark Terror, which should arrive sometime this coming week. This is the moment I relish. When I first received the book of copies of The Dark Truth, I lost my mind. My words, printed, in a book. Sweet, sweet nectar, and I’m not talking about the Scotch I drink when the box arrives.

IMG_3227.PNGStep 8. Publish day. Wooohooo! Readers start getting copies of the book they pre-ordered. This is a day that is also celebrated with a dram of good Scotch. My publisher, Trifecta Publishing House, and I have hosted online Facebook parties to celebrate my book launches.

Step 9. Marketing. Lots and lots of marketing. Book signings, social media posts, paid social ads, more press releases and media advisories. Full court press on getting the word out. I am a regular Vistaprint customer. Nothing makes me feel more like a rock star than a book signing, I can tell you that.

How long does all of this take you might ask? Good question. It took 13 months to write The Dark Truth. I finished in February 2017. The book was released in November 2017. I think it took roughly six-seven months to write The Dark Descent and it was published in April of 2018. My deadline was New Year’s Day. The Dark Terror took nine months to write, my deadline was the end of October 2018, I beat it by three weeks, and the book is due out March 18. In just over three years, I have written and had three novels (and two audiobook versions) published. I didn’t even mention the production that went into those audiobooks.

Not too bad for a guy with a day job and a hefty commute.

Check out my official web site, www.jerryknaak.com, for more information about the books and how to get them.

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A Six-Pack of Horror Films on an October Sunday

I took yesterday as a college football/kid’s flag football game day so you get a six-pack of my favorite horror films for today’s blog entry. These six films are admittedly all over the place as far as genre, theme, and tone. But they are on the list for a reason.

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2002

I don’t know why exactly Wes Craven’s name is attached to this highly underrated film. Night terrors come to life in this Laura Regan vehicle directed by Robert Harmon. A group of kids are marked as youngsters by boogey men. Those boogey men, who were dismissed as night terrors, come to claim the kids when they become adults.

Another film that aims to be different, overacting by Marc Blucas damn near ruins the movie, but Regan is a delight as the main character, Julia. One of my favorite short stories, The Great God Pan by M. John Harrison (inspired by Arthur Machen’s groundbreaking novella of the same name), involves a group of friends who pulled back the veil, and brought something back. This has a similar feel.

We’ve established I like different and this one is good different.

MV5BMTczMDI5MzM3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTcxODgyMQ@@._V1_84. Mansquito or Mosquito Man
2005

Okay, so SyFy channel has produced some clunkers over the years. Ice Spiders, Python, Python II, and a whole host of Crockzilla vs Dinocroc Debbie Gibson/Tiffany mash-ups. The idea is science gone wrong. After Gothic Horror and dark science fiction, science gone wrong is right up there for me.

Corin Nemec, who never met a role he didn’t like, stars in probably the best feature film SyFy has ever produced. That’s not saying much but the title tells you all you need to know. Matt Jordon’s character is exposed to some experimental whatevers and becomes a, you guessed it, man-sized mosquito.

Look, a good horror film doesn’t need to have a big theatrical release or even a cult following to be a bloody good gore fest. Mansquito certainly qualifies.

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1997

We all believe that a genie is a good thing that grants wishes after you free him/her from his/her lamp. Well, not in the horror movie genre. This is one where the folklore is horribly under served. We know more about how to resurrect a mummy than we do the history of genies. Wishmaster taps into the dark side of that history and mythology.

Andrew Divoff tries his best to create an iconic bad guy as the Djinn, a truly evil genie from whom you really don’t want wishes granted. There’s always a twist and they usually cost you your soul. His chilling voice delivers the command that almost makes the movie, “Make your wishes.”

The sequels are hit or miss, but the first film is an interesting entry in the horror movie catalog thanks to Divoff’s performance. Tammy Lauren stars as the protagonist who matches wits with the Djinn.

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2000

This is the movie that introduced Vin Diesel as an action star to be reckoned with, I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing. This is a film I had to watch more than once before it really hooked me. Diesel is excellent as Riddick, Cole Hauser turns in his best performance as a bounty hunter, and Radha Mitchell makes her mark. Keith David also stars.

A spaceship crashes on a remote planet inhabited by light-sensitive baddies created by creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos (Godzilla 1998). The planet is plunged into darkness because of a lengthy total eclipse and the survivors of the crash have to band together as the indigenous flying monsters are unleashed.

This film was to launch the Riddick franchise of science fiction adventure films. This is the best of the three. I like this one because of the unique creatures and the human conflict among the people who find themselves relying on a career criminal and murderer for their very survival.

MV5BODk4MjRkODctOTVjNS00MmI2LTg0Y2ItMWQyMzdkZDU3MzMyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyODkwOQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,684,1000_AL_81. Mimic
1997

Most of tonight’s films are from roughly the same era. Horror was trying to find its way in the late 1990s in the wake of movies like Scream. Another science-gone-wrong film, Mimic involves altruistic scientists trying to solve a children-killing plague and accidently create six-foot-tall killer cockroaches in the process.

An ensemble cast including Mira Sorvino, Josh Brolin, Charles S. Dutton, Jeremy Northam, Giancarlo Giannini, and F. Murray Abraham pace this dark, gritty creature feature.

Of course, there are sequels and they are not very good. Stick with the original. It’s plenty gory and gooey.

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1997

Another from 1997, and instead of Mira Sorvino, it’s Penelope Ann Miller this time. Science mixes with jungle tribe folklore and mythology as an ancient creature is unleashed on unsuspecting museum-goers in Chicago. Potions and elixirs concocted from native plants take center stage as Miller and Tom Sizemore’s characters try to solve the mystery and slay the beast.

Now, I really like Tom Sizemore. It’s too bad that his personal life has been such a mess over the years. I think he is at his best in roles like this, a cop or a government agent, skeptical, wisecracking, but ultimately heroic. Miller has appeared in all kinds of productions throughout her career, and this appears to be the only horror film she’s done.

Linda Hunt and James Whitmore also star in yet another underrated horror movie.

Vampires and Mobsters, Throwback to 80s Horror and Hillbilly Justice

After last night’s werewolf theme, it’s back to mashing up the styles. If you can’t tell already, I like horror films that dare to be different. Now, the genre-bending aside, if the film at least tries to adhere to the rules and mythology of the genre, I’m usually okay with it. I am a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, specifically the Cthulhu mythos. One of the films tonight has Lovecraftian overtones and themes. I have chosen a unique vampire film for tonight as well and a good old-fashioned creature feature straight from the backwoods.

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1992

Directed by John Landis, Innocent Blood dares to be a different kind of vampire film. The story focuses on vampire Marie, played by Anne Parillaud, and a cop played by Anthony LaPaglia. Our girl Marie runs afoul of some mobsters during her nocturnal feeding. Robert Loggia, Don Rickles, Tony Lip, Kim Coates, and a host of other mob film veterans are conscripted by Loggia’s character who has been turned into a vampire.

It’s fun, it’s campy, it’s different, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The film adheres to many of the familiar vampire tropes and Parillaud is delightful as Marie.

You almost expect an appearance by Triumph the Comic Insult Dog as this plays more like a black comedy than a horror film. It’s like Goodfellas, only with vampires.

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1988

Longtime movie veteran Lance Henriksen stars as Ed Harley, a simple single country dad who lives in Appalachia. When his young son is killed in a tragic accident by city folk, Harley seeks country vengeance and visits the local crone. Of course he does. But at what cost?

What Harley unleashes is the stuff of nightmares. The 1980s were full of slasher films and franchise players like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, along with a host of other knife-wielding spree killers. The title monster is otherworldly, large and terrifying and impossible to stop. The sound design for the film alone will give you night terrors.

Henriksen has appeared in dozens of films, including installments in the Alien franchise, and aside from Bishop in Aliens, this might be his best role. Underrated and terrifying, this is a must-watch for any horror fan.

MV5BNzU0MzgxMjAtYjU0NC00ZWYyLTljZWUtNTRkNzBhZTYwYzY4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTM2MzgyOTU@._V1_86. The Void
2016

This one is new to the countdown. The Void, originally available on Amazon Prime and later Netflix, apparently was released in theaters but I don’t remember it at my local cineplex. Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski wrote and directed this film that reminds me of movies like Lord of Illusions. There is a cult, mysterious blood-soaked victims and unspeakable evil.

The Lovecraftian overtones and themes are palpable and the film has the look and feel of something from the 1980s like From Beyond. Another film that dares to be different in an era of sparkly vamps and Paranormal Activity schlock, this taut fright fest channels the true tenets of good horror film making. Darkness, violence, mysterious figures with unknown motives, and hidden evil waiting just on other side.

Like The Ritual, this is one I have to watch again and I am sure will eventually move up this list.

Werewolves

The werewolf genre is under represented when it comes to good films. However, there a handful of really good ones. The best of the bunch will be included later on in the countdown but I will present some tonight. You won’t see some of the bad ones like Skinwalkers, the re-make of The Wolf Man with Benicio Del Toro, or the later Howling sequels. My problem with The Wolf Man with Del Toro was that it conflated Lon Chaney, Jr.’s seminal role with Henry Hull’s turn in Werewolf of London. It took Hull’s origin story and mashed it up with Chaney’s Larry Talbot story and made one big hairy mess.

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1961

Most of the younger generation’s introduction to Oliver Reed came via 2000’s Gladiator as he portrayed Proximo in his last on screen performance. He died before the film’s release. This legendary actor’s performance as Leon in Hammer’s The Curse of the Werewolf is obviously my favorite performance of his.

In the late 1950s, Hammer Studios decided to re-invent Universal Horror, with re-makes and re-boots of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy. The effort would not have been complete without a werewolf film. Again, I am not one for genre-bending, however, this film, directed by Terence Fisher, dares to be different and that’s one of the things I like about it. John Landis borrows heavily from this movie for 1981’s American Werewolf in London.

The make-up effects alone make this movie worth the watch. It is set in Spain, another element that sets it apart from other werewolf films.

MV5BMTg1NTg3OTI4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDAxNDYwNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,672,1000_AL_90. Ginger Snaps, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning
2000, 2004, 2004

See, this is how I get more than 100 films on my list. I lump these three together because, well, the sequel to the original film wasn’t all that great. The first movie, Ginger Snaps, had cult classic written all over it. Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins star in all three installments. Isabelle plays the title role and she is quite good as the Ginger who snaps. The plays on words, the double entendres, the 1980s horror aesthetic all make for good campy, bloody fun.

Ginger Snaps 2 plays as a straight sequel to the first and Perkins’ character, Ginger’s sister, goes off the rails for me and that’s where the movie loses me. Ginger Snaps Back is more of an origin story of sorts. The relationship between the two sisters is more akin to the first film and that why I think it works better.

As far as werewolf films go, you could do a lot worse than this triumvirate. Or you could skip 2 and just make it a double-feature.

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1974

This film is the cause of some division in the Hammer Horror fan community. There are those of us who love the film and there are plenty who despise it. I think it is different, unusual and unique in the genre. Calvin Lockhart, who goes on to play King Willie in Predator 2, plays a wealthy big game hunter who decides that werewolf is the ultimate prey.

An great ensemble cast is featured in this film, including Peter Cushing, Michael Gambon (Alfred in the Tim Burton Batman films), and Charles Gray (Rocky Horror Picture Show). The movie includes some audience participation elements that some find off-putting. I think it adds to the film’s charm.

I grew up watching Commander USA’s Groovy Movies on the USA Network. Every Saturday afternoon, this loony tune in a knockoff Captain America costume and a trench coat would introduce creature features. That’s how I was first made aware of films like The Beast Must Die and I am forever grateful. It also explains a lot.

Zombies and Vampires and Authors, Oh My!

Fellow Trifecta Publishing House label mate Mark London Williams joins me on the latest edition of the Get the Knaak podcast. We discuss all manner of undead creatures, his new book, Max Random and the Zombie 500, and my new book, The Dark Truth. And we let you know how to attend our Facebook book release party. Both books drop Monday, and our party is Monday too. You can order both on Amazon.