Sunday, December 17, 2017

Top 5 Horror Films of 2017

It's been a while since I've done a movie review post. So I thought I'd tell you guys about my favorite top 5 horror films of 2017.

5. A Dark Song

"A Dark Song" is a one woman's journey into her own dark psyche to find answers after her young son is brutally killed.

A trip through hell, to reach a final conclusion that I didn't see coming, but it makes total sense. The visuals are neat, there are some really creepy things that happen in the house when shit hits the fan, and I can't recommend it enough. It heavily features religious iconography, so keep that in mind while you watch it. It's got a lot of Christian esotericism in it so themes of angels and demons run throughout.

4. The Void

A strange cult has trapped people in a hospital that is about to shut down. Tentacles and monsters soon attack, and the Sheriff is forced to work with two strangers to try to save his nurse wife from an unimaginable evil.

I reviewed "The Void" here. It makes the list because it's a fun creature feature that's a mix of "Silent Hill" and "Hellraiser," two franchises that I absolutely adore.

Also, it would've been higher on the list, if it HAD BETTER DAMN LIGHTING!

3. Stake Land II: The Stakelander

It's the vampire apocalypse. Martin is on a quest to find Mister, a legendary vampire hunter who saved his life in the first movie and trained him to fight and stay alive in desperate times.

"The Stakelander" has a wonderful western movie feel to it. Vamp cult comes to town, kills Martin's family, and sends him on a quest for revenge. Highly underrated. If you love vampires and vampire hunter stories, this is a must see!

2. Cult of Chucky

Chucky is, back, and this time he's picking off patients of a mental hospital, one by one, while he patiently waits for Andy to come for him.

I have to admit, I wasn't a fan of the last three Chucky films. So I was pleasantly surprised when I enjoyed the hell out of "Cult of Chucky." All the wit, wry gallows humor, and clever viciousness of Chucky is back, in full swing, for one hell of a fun ride!

1. IT

An evil alien takes the visage of a creepy clown and terrorizes local kids of the Losers Club. They fight back, and find a way to win...for now.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I was going to like "IT" when I saw the trailer.  It looked like another mainstream heartless horror remake.

I was wrong.

It has a lot of heart, and the kid actors are top notch! This one is at the top of my list because I thoroughly enjoyed it, it did everything right, including adding new things to the old familiar story. While nothing surprised me, and overall it didn't scare me, there were a few suspenseful scenes in it that were completely unique, and I LOVED it for that.

Plus, the kid playing little Georgie was AMAZING! And Bill Skarsgard is a wonderful Pennywise. Love his version of the monster. Can't wait to see the next movie.

Honorable mentions go to The Babysitter and Raw. 

"The Babysitter" is a fun little romp into horror slasher land. Evil babysitter worships Satan and wants to sacrifice the kid for power or whatever.

"Raw" is a good French thriller. I don't really consider "Raw" to be a horror film. More like a cannibal family drama. It's not as gross as people said it would be, but then again, maybe I have a stronger stomach for that sort of stuff than most people do lol

What about you? What were your favorite horror films that came out in 2017?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Top 5 Important Lessons I learned in 2017

Well, guys, we made it through another CRAZY year over at Casa de la Carnage. And boy, am I tired!

Too bad I can't hibernate. Sigh.

I don't know about you, but 2017 was pretty darn rough for me. And, like most periods of trial and tribulation, I learned some very valuable lessons.

Without further ado, here are my top 5 things I learned in 2017.

5. Social Media is Great for Self Promotion

Twitter is an invaluable promoting tool for an author. Prior to doing book ad blasts on my Twitter account, I was lucky to get 200 page views a day. This number increased up to 2,000 page views on average.

It would be higher, but I had some run-ins with the Google Search Engine police...meaning they kept changing the algorithm and started punishing people for putting links to their own books on their blogs. Not sure why, but they HATE it when you do that. They call it link stuffing. Been slapped on the wrist twice by Google for doing that now.

It's bullshit, but whatever.

4. Link Stuffing is Not Something You do to Turkeys for Thanksgiving

Say for instance you have a book published on multiple sites, and you decide to share ALL THE LINKS in a post so that people know where to find them, and on what sites they show up. That will get your search results rank lowered. BIG TIME. I went from 2,000 page views to 100 page views overnight. OUCH! THAT HURTS.

So...from now on, no big list of links on the site to my books on Amazon etc. And if I do share a link to Amazon,  it has to have the rel=no follow attribute added to it.  You can read more about that here if you're interested.

3.  If Given the Proper Amount of Time, I Can Write up to 10,000 Words in One Day

Wait...what? Are you fucking serious?!

Yes. Yes, I am.


Keep in mind, on average it takes me 1 hour to type 1,000 words. So, in order to write that much, I have to have my butt in the chair, with zero distractions, for 10 hours straight. Needless to say, that doesn't happen very often. But when it does, it's fucking glorious. Feels good too.

Leading up to that was several months of writing 4,000 words a day. I had to flex my writing muscles and build up their strength to achieve such feats. Will I ever do that again? Probably. Am I counting on every day being that fucking amazing? No. Definitely not. That's just setting myself up for failure, and I won't do that again.

2. If You Don't Give Yourself Permission to Write for Fun, You will Suffer Burnout 

This lesson was a tough one to learn.

Writer's block, physical and mental fatigue, frustration, feelings of being useless and a failure, all go hand-in-hand with writer's burnout.

Burnout can happen in a myriad of ways.

I suffered it back in June and it took me 4 months to break out of it.

I was pushing myself too hard, and putting way too much emphasis on how much my books were selling (and how little money they were making) and not enough emphasis on how much I enjoyed my work.

That combined with absolutely zero emotional support from the people I lived with, made it pretty damn hard to get up and be eager to start working on my next book. Or free serial for that matter.

It sucked. HARD. And not in the good way. We're talking vacuum cleaner, not sexy kinky sucking.

All that dirt and crap from the stress of not reaching unrealistic sales goals right off the bat got stuck in my head and made a complete mess of me. I had to fight tooth and nail to get my headspace cleaned up and back in working order.

And once I did that (after summer and fall had passed) I realized that I had unrealistic expectations and that they caused me to stop enjoying what I was doing, and that is why I had the worst writer's block I have ever suffered from.

Here's something "they" won't tell you: 

When you first start out as an author, your books won't sell that much. That's just a fact. But every time you put out a new book, the sales numbers increase. Sales for your other books will raise as well.

I know a good number of fellow authors that gave up because their first book didn't sell for shit.
I'm talking making less than $20 in a month type of shit sales here. That hurts. It hurts your bank account and your ego.

Until you have three books up, don't pay for advertising, and don't expect your books to sell well. Because people buy in bulk. If they find a new author they're interested in, they'll buy all the books that they've put out.

Just keep that in mind, and don't ever stop working on your next project just because you aren't selling books. KEEP ON KEEPING ON my friends.

1. Don't Quit. Ever.

If you're a creative type, like me, it's easy to get discouraged. Perfectionism, focusing low sales numbers during the summer (when there is always a lull in sales- you can look it up. I know I had to, in order to find out what the best months for book sales were during the year),  and family members telling you to give up your craft and go get a "safe job" in a different field all lead to INTENSE PRESSURE THAT THREATENS TO CAVE IN YOUR SKULL.

Creativity jumps head-first out the top story window and plummets to its death, splatting on the pavement in a streak of red gore and shattered bone.

You're left sitting at your desk, staring at a blank Word program screen, watching the cursor blink and spacing out, before the frustrated tears start to fall and blur your vision. (Did I mention that this year was fucking hard? Because it really, really was.)

And then I saw this video and everything started to click into place. 

Yes, I know it sounds like self-help guru bullshit. But, it's not. TRUST ME ON THIS ONE!

Essentially, whenever you have zero motivation, like you feel like giving up and shooting your brains out for instance, (That's hyperbole. I was not suicidal, but I was damn near close to becoming depressed.) you take a step back and count down from 5 to 1.

And in that short span of time, it makes your brain go to a screeching halt and stops the negative thinking. It helps you refocus your attention so that you can start tasks. Whatever they may be, if you don't feel like doing them, don't wait for the motivation to strike. DO IT NOW.

Take a deep breath, count down from 5 to 1, and GO DO YOUR SHIT.

I was so pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this actually works!

It is also very useful if you suffer from random anxiety attacks like I do. It cuts that shit off fast. It is probably THE MOST USEFUL BRAIN HACK I HAVE EVER COME ACROSS. Seriously.
Try it. You won't be disappointed.

With everything that I accomplished this year, (and really, I have accomplished a lot! I published two books, started another serial, was establishing my reader fan base here on my blog and on Twitter, and getting a lot of praise for my writing) I was frustrated. I felt useless and like I was a huge failure.

Then I saw that video. I watched it several times.

Things starting clicking into place and I realized, I can change everything that is wrong with my life. Very easily. I just needed to do it.

And that is what I have been doing. One step at a time. I've been figuring out what I can do to make my life better, and I'm doing it. Some days are easier than others, but I am committed to making positive, permanent change in my life.

I'm also eating better.

Yeah, I also learned this year that I am gluten intolerant. Not in the trendy hipster way, but in the "oh shit this is fucking up my stomach and intestines" kind of way whenever I eat wheat. Like, the pain and bloating and other unsalacious things I won't mention that go along with Celiac disease kind of way. Of which,  also causes depression and a whole bunch of other nasty things if it is ignored. There's no cure for Celiac. There's no pill to make the symptoms better. The only thing to do is to not eat wheat, barley, rye, or any of their by-products.

So I am now on a low carb diet, sans gluten of any kind. And I FEEL BETTER! Mentally, and physically. And it's nice.

What do I anticipate will happen in 2018? 

I am going to work smarter, not harder.

I've started using this free app called HabitHub. It lets me track when I do certain tasks and gives me reminders that I can set during the day, to ensure that I finish them. It gives me a visual, a chain of finished events that I have done over the week. The goal is to get that chain longer and longer until I am just so damn proud of myself that I brag about it on social media.

The plan is to establish a new writing routine that gets my mind set up to habitually want to write every day. I did it before, back in 2009 when I first started doing technical writing for sites, so I know that I can do it again. And I will.

I've crunched the numbers (because I'm a HUGE PLANNER GAL) and figured out how much I need to write, on a daily basis, to get everything I want to do, done. This includes paid technical writing while I get my fiction writing career off the ground.

Doing paid writing work for websites also takes the pressure off of me, so that I can finally enjoy writing fiction again.

For every hour I do technical writing, I will do one hour of writing for fun. And naturally, for me, writing for fun involves a good amount of blood and suffering for my characters. Mwahahaha!

Also, I decided that if my books sell significant amounts next year, great! If not, I won't be crying about it. I'll just keep plugging away until I reach my sales goals and can scale back the technical writing side of things.

And finally, I am going to help my husband and lift him up so that he gets a better paying job. This will also take pressure off of me and will help us get a new house. Because sooner or later (hopefully sooner) we're going to be starting a family. I am looking forward to that.

How about you?

How was 2017 for you?

Do you have any goals for the new year?

I'd love to hear from you!