Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Using Horror to Inspire Setting

Surprisingly, or not, my writing is greatly influenced by horror writers, from Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft to Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. I study them to write tense, scary scenes because my book involves zombies and demons from another dimension, and while I try to incorporate humor, zombies are scary!

In my Necromancer Books, necromancers played a large part in how demons initially made contact with humans, which led to disastrous consequences and which is part of what Ruby, my necromancer heroine, is dealing with in the books. Ruby travels to the demon realm quite a bit throughout the series. Those scenes were fun to write, but also challenging in how to make that world unique and interesting without copying every other fantasy realm already imagined. I drew upon ancient cultures like the Sumerians to imagine my architecture (in the mythology, the demons actually influenced Sumerian architecture) and added some descriptions influenced by both H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker.

Below is an excerpt from The Necromancer's Betrayal, a scene in the demon realm, illustrating how the above-mentioned horror writers and a particular experience I had when I lived in Brazil, inspired my demon realm. The description of the bottles containing various creepy crawlies is actually true and based on a bar my Brazilian friend and I visited. The bar was tiny and served shots of cachaca from bottles containing the very same creepy crawlies described in my demon realm! (I apologize for the fluctuating fonts and sizes. This is blogger being difficult.)

Tivor turned down a less crowded, narrower passage, and if I’d hadn’t known better, I’d have said we’d entered a red light district of sorts, with demons stumbling about as if drunk. I raised an eyebrow at Ewan, and he just smiled and waved me onward. Tivor ducked into an opening in the rock. Damon had to bend almost ninety degrees to clear the entrance to what could only be a bar packed into a small cave, as dark and musty as an aged British pub. Stone benches lined the walls circling a stone pillar in the center out of which an enormous, multi-eyed, octopus-like creature served up drinks with his tentacles. I clasped Ewan’s arm. “Why is Cthulhu the bartender?”

He laughed. “Ah, Cthulhu, as you call him, won’t hurt you,” he reassured me, but I wasn’t—reassured. “I guess he does look pretty Lovecraft-inspired, but don’t tell him that. I think he much prefers Poe. Damn good bartender though.”
I stuck close to Ewan as we squeezed our way past the patrons to one of the benches. Rock shelves rimmed the stone pillar, displaying a collection of bottles in various sizes and shapes, all filled with a clear liquid. But it was the items contained in the bottles and jars that caught my attention—things that resembled crabs, snakes, spiders, herbs, snails and anything else that crawled, wiggled, bit, or scraped. There were no large mixed drinks poked with an umbrella and sipped over nachos or onion rings here.
Ewan pointed at the bottles. “Locals swear the ingredients carry medicinal properties. This stuff will cure you of shaky bones, swollen joints, heartache, even financial woes.”
“Until you wake up the next morning with a pounding headache,” Damon said with a wry grin.
Ewan ordered something in demon, and we sat across from Damon and Tivor on benches jammed into a corner of the cave. Cthulhu unwound his tentacles, gripping shot cups carved from garnet-colored crystals. I plucked mine from the outstretched appendage, and it curled back to its owner. Ewan and Damon raised the cups, dipped a finger in the alcohol, and rubbed it on their foreheads before knocking back the drink.
“What’s with the forehead thing?” I asked, still holding my drink in front of me, not quite sure I’d survive the demon concoction.
“It’s our toast. May the drink lighten our hearts and balance our minds.”
I snorted. “I’d say.” I eyed the cup. Well, I was part demon.
“Here goes nothing.” I raised my shot and hesitated when I caught the devious glint in Damon’s eye. That didn’t bode well. I took a small sip and immediately sputtered the alcohol out in a spray. I coughed while the demons laughed. I swore I heard a weird gurgle coming from Cthulhu. “What is this, lighter fluid?” Just the tiny drops that soaked my tongue had sent my head spinning.
I met Ewan’s smile and had to smile myself, enjoying seeing his face lit by amusement instead of tension and anger. “You know, you once told me that human alcohol didn’t make demons drunk, but what about this?” I asked.
He laughed and cocked an eyebrow. “Would you like to find out?” He stood and shouted for more drinks in a display of inebriated braggadocio. Tivor frowned in obvious disapproval while Damon slapped a hand on the Chronicler’s knee. “Tivor, my friend, you remain much too cloistered. How long has it been since you bedded a female?”
I widened my eyes, but Tivor appeared unperturbed. He carefully lifted Damon’s large hand and responded in the demon tongue without blinking. Whatever he said made Damon frown and sent Ewan into a fit of unadulterated laughter. I smiled at his carefree display. Tentacles delivered another round, and Ewan and Damon tossed it down while I respectfully declined, causing said appendages to quiver in disapproval.
Ewan’s eyes flashed, and a wicked, unapologetic grin curled his lip. Already, I sensed an air of mischief about him I’d never experienced before. I’d have loved to discover what a drunken Ewan dared. As if reading my mind, he moved closer, trapping me between his heat and the cold stone wall. He leaned over, and I smelled his breath, hot and spiced from the alcohol. He growled. “I sense his touch on you.”
I closed my eyes, my entire body coiled, ready to spring. My breath escaped in shallow gasps. Ewan continued to surprise me with the many facets to his personality, but I’d never seen this insouciance. The alcohol and seedy location had stripped away the barriers holding him back. He ignored Tivor and Damon, too involved in nipping my neck, as if trying to bite away Ly’s touch, holding the skin in his teeth for a brief devastating moment before letting go.

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