Life Gets Busy: An Open Letter to Whom It May Concern

Greetings To All,

Let me first start off by saying thank you to everyone who supports/reads/comments on any of my work. I have been caught trying to play catchup with all my writing projects. I am beyond blessed at some of the opportunities that have come my way.

Secondly, I apologize for not putting out regular content on my blog for over a month. I started this project with the goal of posting once a week. Then my real-world job started demanding more of my time; then full-time school demanded more of my time; then my Army Reserve duty sent me on a mission to the wilds of Wisconsin for almost month; in other words, my real world responsibilities took priority over my writing. I still have a few commissioned writing projects on my plate and I am thankful for these opportunities. I have kept a running list of all my updated published works HERE for anyone wanting to read my stories on the interwebs.

Third, I am still committed to writing a once a week blog in addition to my daily social media contributions. I have purchased special tools to help me with my organizational skills and help me attempt to produce quality writing works.

I will return full force to the once a week blog format starting in May.

Once again, thank you to everyone who supports independent authors/writers. There are many of us that slog through the writing mire without the expectation of earning a dime from what we write. I appreciate both the peaks and valleys of the writing process. I know that, with hard work, all my endeavors will soon align and the rewards will grow exponentially.

Good luck and happy writing to all!

V/R,

Arthur Unk

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(About Photo: Chest tattoo I got last week to support Autism Awareness and my son who has autism.)

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#MicroCommunity

Intro

The absolute best thing about a writing community is the support you get from other writers. You quickly realize that you are not the only one struggling to write anything. Writer’s block happens to everyone, grammar errors are common, chaos ensues when your desert raiders accidentally become dessert raiders and the local FroYo will never be the same. Editing sucks. Even the people who get paid to edit deep down knows it sucks (just kidding for any proofreaders out there. I’m the one with the issue.).

It is also a writing community is a comfortable place to share with others your joy and success. Just sat down and wrote 2000 words, awesome! Just figured out how to fill that nasty plot hole, high five! Just got a story accepted in (insert name of publication that you think is popular, but probably isn’t), outstanding! The support from your fellow writers often makes you want to quit your job and write full time (Don’t quit yet. Dave will be pissed.). There are a few who want to steal your sunshine and rain on your parade, but for the most part most writing communities are full of the best people on the planet.

“Where do you find these lovely communities, Arthur?”

I’m glad you asked random made up person (who for the purposes of this blog is Rachael Ray, and she’s madly in love with me). I have found the easiest way to connect is through social media. I prefer Twitter (@ArthurUnkTweets) others stick with Facebook or Instagram. It is a personal preference and honestly depends on how much time you have and how comfortable with technology you are. For me, social media gives my brain the warm up it needs to be productive. 280 characters is about all I can handle most days.

I do not live in a big town and there is no thriving artist or writing community that I can find. There’s about 6 creatives in a 30-mile radius, and we hate talking to each other. I had to drive over 30 miles from my house to meet and have breakfast with @AJCainoffical (coauthor of our soon to be published horror story Misery in Chaos). In-person clubs in my town meet so infrequently that the members often forget they are a part of it. If a social club last more than two meetings around here, alcohol is usually involved.

But I digress, Twitter, for me, has been an outstanding platform to keep the creative juices flowing. I can put the story ideas in my head out into the Twitter-sphere and almost immediately see what works and what doesn’t. It’s almost like a giant group text that you actually want to participate in. I’ve had to learn how to play the hashtag game to get in touch with the right audience for my writing.

For example, if I don’t have any followers and I want feedback on a story, I cannot just write something and throw it into the ocean of the interwebs. I have to use a corresponding # symbol to “tag” my work for others to find (#horror, #romance, #humor, #hashtag). There are entire communities built around certain hashtags. They tend to fall into 2 basic categories: daily and weekly. A leader amongst writers (usually the originator of the hashtag) chooses a prompt word, phrase, or situation and the rest of us write a story based on that word. It is rumored that some can even fashion a single micro-story using multiple prompts and hashtags (I like the extra challenge).

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A great daily hashtag community I participate in is known as #vss365 or very short story 365 days. Once a day someone will give out the prompt word and the writing community does the rest. Below are some examples:

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The results are often amazing. It is like reading a good book every day. Sometimes it’s only a scene other times it is a complete micro-story.

Then there are the weekly communities (This is by no means a complete list. I participate in stories for all the prompts shown below.):

Monday (#MurderMonday, #Monsense, #LoveLines, #Meta4Mon, #MartialMonday)

Tuesday (#SockItTueMe, #TimeTravelTues, #TueStories, #TrickyTues, #Brt2sDay, #TuesTropes, #FoodParty)

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Wednesday (#TalesNoir, #WeirdWriters, #WackyWed, #1LineWed, #WFWed, #WineWords)

Thursday (#FeelLines, #WriteThurs, #Thurds, #ThursTale)

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Friday (#FriTease, #FridayKiss, #WhoNeedsAHero, #FriDare, #SciFiFriday)

Saturday (#POVPrompt, #BadWordSat, #SciFanSat, #SuperheroSat, #SciFiSat, ##SlapdashSat)

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Sunday (#SeduceMeSunday, #SongSun, #SunScribbles, #SaidSun)

Whew! I bet there is a book that could be written primarily in tweets (jots note about making a Twitter book). I have gathered a lot of good ideas and utilized parts of my brain I didn’t know still worked. It all comes down to one thing: putting words to paper/screen.

The only way to get better at writing is to do it. I have failed over 100 times to get something published anywhere this year. I plan on using all that experience to eventually finish off my larger works. I’ve worked harder at writing than anything else I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve planted the seeds and the harvest to come is going to be beautiful.

Go join a writing community today. If you just don’t do social media come join me on Thursday’s story thread at http://theflashdogs.com or every Friday at http://microcosmsfic.com.

Good luck and happy writing.

Arthur Unk

Labors of Love and Necessary Life

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(Picture Credit HERE)

Authors Note: Every author has a labor of love that gets trashed over and over again. It’s like witnessing a horrible accident and being unable to do anything about it. The story that follows is my abused child. It has been rejected over 7 times, but I still have faith in it. Like many of my works, it’s foundations lie in music. I invite you back to the era of early 90s metal and secret songs. In an effort to sell more music bands would place a “B” track or a secret song on the CD, compact discs (like a blu ray but only for music) for you younger folks, to increase sales. I will let you discover which esoteric secret song this story is based on (shouldn’t be too hard if you’ve been following me for any length of time) and all the wonder that goes along with it. Never lose hope or faith in something you believe in, especially your labors of love. Good luck to all and happy writing!

Necessary Life by Arthur Unk

Daylight broke through your hazy mind as you woke up in your ditch. The dew of the grass felt cool on your skin. Open eyed, you searched the sky above and chose blue to be your color. Calm. Deep breath. Rhythmic heart beating of a life born again. There was goo all over your clothes and hands as you rolled over to your knees. Your nails chewed to the flesh. Long fingers stretched away the stiffness. Your blue jeans stained and faded. Your flannel shirt worn thin. Your boots covered in dried crimson.

Calloused hands rubbed against the grass. Green was now your color. Oh Lord, take this cup from my lips. Why did everything keep changing? God punishes the wicked who disobey. God was the final judge. The voice of God was your master. The giver and taker of life. Abel, the good son, was the first to show the way of favor with blood. It was God who last spoke to you, “This is necessary. Life feeds on life.”

No image from the days before remained. The repetitive motion of your hands on the grass slowed as the haze returned. There was always sound; a light breeze, a dulled yet raucous tone in your ears, cries of small children screaming faded into the distance. The halo above your head slipped down and choked your breath.

Nausea that accompanied nervousness made you feel uncomfortable. Your head throbbed more as you stood upright. Your thoughts emptied; no memories stayed. The constant pain had an old familiar sting. The world faded in and out with each heartbeat. A long valley of grass, weeds, and an open sky was your soul. You crawled out of your ditch, onto your road with the hope that your mind would return soon. Walking sometimes helped with the pain.

Your sun showed a car parked in the distance further down the road. If God is the Father, you thought, then Satan is our cousin. Why didn’t anyone else understand simple thoughts? Your memories burned away as quickly as they formed. House. Moon. Walking. Red doors. Stairs. Knife. Smiling. Gray. Screams. Hands. Blue faces. Nothing.

You arrived at your car. All the doors were locked. The car was new and red. An expensive leather satchel with stitched lettering rested on the front passenger seat. Margo was not yet a familiar name. Your breath fogged the glass. You caught a glimpse of the stranger reflected in the glass. His mouth moved, but no sound escaped. Why was he always screaming?

You searched your pockets, but did not find any keys. Out across your field you saw the movement of two tiny people walking by your woods. The world kept fading, pulsing. The knife was still in your hands; the blade dulled by the same goo on your clothes and boots. You walked towards them. A warm feeling washed over your body as you heard the voice of God. Red was your color and, of course, those little people out there were yours too. “This…is…necessary. Life feeds on life…”

Warning, Movie Spoilers Ahead!!!

Most things in my life begin with a simple discussion. This particular day it was focused on horror movies. Not just any random horror movies, but ones where the villains win in the end. It was a challenge at first. Some franchises build their entire lore on the bad guy never knowing defeat, I’m looking at you Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.

Right off the bat, I was able to name about 7 movies. I thought to myself, if I can name 7 can I name 10? I soon reached 13, 17, 23, 25, 30 all without the help of the internet. I decided to stop at 30 because my brain hurt. Wow! 30 awesome movies. I didn’t have to reach too far back in time for a classic, 1976 was my oldest. I’m the type of guy who likes a challenge and I love controversy. The best way to do both is to list my personal top 5 best horror movies where villain triumphs over the do-good hero.

Numbers 30-6 in no particular order are: The Hills Have Eyes (Wes Craven remake), Se7en, The Collector, Nightmare on Elm St, Event Horizon, Freddy vs. Jason, Jeepers Creepers, The Blair Witch Project, Omen, Lawnmower Man, Cloverfield, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of a 1000 Corpses, Silence of the Lambs, Evil Dead II, Dead Silence, Autopsy of Jane Doe, Paranormal Activity, Oculus, The Mist, Drag Me to Hell, Scream, Skeleton Key, The Thing, Final Destination…

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well that about covers everything.” or “Arthur (insert movie title) isn’t a horror movie.” or “Arthur you forgot about (insert movie here)” But you would be wrong, on all counts. This is my list. Go create your own list, so I can disagree with you.

Before I get into my top 5, I have to fill you in on how I judged these top horror masterpieces. Three criteria used for this assessment: 1. Overall quality of the movie (quality of the actors and actresses, script, special effects, cinematography, etc.) 2. Wow factor of the villain winning. Did I stand up in the movie theater or in my own home and say, “Wow, I did not see that coming!” 3. Did the villain winning make sense. Don’t jerk me around Hollywood. I can tell when the writers were lazy. Without further ado…

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Number 5: Dawn of the Dead

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This movie is a zombie classic. If you haven’t seen this movie, stop reading my mindless rambling and go watch this movie right now. People are dying within the first 5 minutes and all hell breaks loose by the time you get 10 minutes in. Outside of the movie 28 Days Later, this is exactly how I imagine the zombie apocalypse to be when it finally hits.

The movie is lulls you into a false confidence towards the end. The asshole of the movie dies, there are some good people left and then tragedy. The epilogue of the movie is told throughout the end credits. Snippets of found footage tell a depressing story of the escape vehicle running out of gas, them almost starving, and then arriving on shore with a zombie horde to eat them alive. This was the saddest ending to a movie I had ever seen, until The Mist came along.

To say I was left speechless at the end of this movie is an understatement. I genuinely felt bad for the characters surviving for so long, just to be torn apart. It was obvious where the true ending was heading as the epilogue progressed, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch. I felt helpless and I thought to myself, what would I do differently? I still don’t have a good answer. The end was definitely justified and zombies are a force to be reckoned with.

Number 4: The Cabin in the Woods

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This movie was strange from the start, but it has a young Chris Hemsworth… wait… what? Yes ladies, Thor himself plays a big part in this movie as a goofy lovable jock. The rest of the cast is filled out with other college stereotypes, except for these office workers? Government workers? Who? About halfway through the movie the real plot emerges. There is a world-wide conspiracy to sacrifice groups of teens to an ancient god to save the Earth from ultimate destruction. In typical horror movie fashion, no one follows their roles, people die, and the movie ends with two people choosing the destruction of the planet over self-sacrifice. This movie is at its best accelerating towards the end of the movie and the end of everything.

The last quarter of the movie the plot is fully out of the bag and it just becomes a race against time and everything else. Once you realize exactly what is at stake, this almost becomes another movie. It is a welcome change of pace and the death of Chris Hemsworth is among one of the all time greatest movie kills ever. (What? Mad you found out here that Thor dies. Tough. I told you from the beginning there would be spoilers) There is one point in the movie where you see several “horrors” on the screen, and they all get a few seconds of infamy.

The ending of this movie is just nutzo. It asks the viewer to stretch their imagination and embrace some wild ideas. Somehow it all makes sense in the end. I’ve went back and forth on if I thought the ending was justified or not, but I respect the directors choice (Bravo Mr. Eli Roth). The first time I watched the end of this movie it was a little overwhelming, but after subsequent watches I can honestly say I cannot imagine it ending any other way.

Number 3: The Ring

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I’m going to start off by saying that the girl that is found in the closet still freaks me out to this day. The way the jaw is stretched into an unnatural scream, the pale skin, and the disheveled overall look of the body still brings a shudder to my mind. A video tape that kills people. Okay, you have my attention. This was one of the most original movies I have ever seen. The way it is shot blew my mind at every turn. It wove the story together in a way that did not feel forced and I did not feel cheated in the end. I think this was the last movie that I saw where I was genuinely freaked out when I left the theater.

When that creepy girl crawled out of the television I said out loud in the theater, “Oh fuck that!” It’s not that I wasn’t expecting a twist, but it was executed to perfection. The crawling out of the TV and the quick jerky movements became a horror standard for a few years afterward. I’m not afraid to admit that I was a little freaked out when the credits rolled. I stayed up a little later that night and I’m pretty sure I destroyed some VHS tapes just to make sure no “accidents” would occur.

The ending was seamless with the overall movie. The director knew exactly what they wanted for the ending and it was accomplished in spades (Did I just use the phrase “in spades”? God I’m old!). This is a movie that you can only watch a handful of times before the creepiness wears thin, but it is fun to watch others who haven’t seen it in jump out of their skin at Samara’s surprise.

Number 2: The Decent

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Claustrophobia, monsters, and the poster looks like a Dali painting; I’m in. That is basically what this movie is about. It is a testament to girl power and a cast that is pretty bad ass. I’ve never been the one to say, “Hey let’s go explore some uncharted caves to see how far back they go!” I read too much H.P. Lovecraft to know how that story will turn out. This movie does a good job of balancing tight spaces with epic openness. I hope they shot some of these scenes in a studio, because being underground with millions and millions of tons of rock overhead is a powerful and scary feeling. Did I mention there are cave creatures? Yeah, these frickin things make Golem from Lord of the Rings look like a perfect next door neighbor. They utilize their cave home to their full potential and wreak havoc on everyone and everything.

She makes it out in the end; Racing against unspeakable horrors and starts to make plans for the rescue of her friends. Oh, wait… nope… she’s trapped in the worst possible scenario. On top of being lost, tired, hungry, and alone, she is also lost. The whole movie keeps you guessing is there just one creature, or a whole hive until the very end. (Spoiler, there are a lot of them!) I watched this movie for the first time at home and went pretty quickly from that was an awesome movie to, oh hell no! I felt so bad for the last surviving girl. There were several sequels that followed (don’t watch them they all suck) none of them were able to capture the magic of the first one.

The shift at the end from kinda happy to bleak as hell was a jolt to be sure. I was accepting of it before the credits rolled. I felt bad for all the girls for like half a second. I quickly came to my senses when I realized that they were the dumb asses that climbed down into Satan’s Sphincter (I don’t remember if that was what the cave system was called) and got themselves in trouble.

Number 1: Saw

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I really didn’t see it coming till the end. Even if you had told me that the bad guy wins at in end before the movie started, I would not have been able to predict the end of this movie. This movie spawned a thousand sequels and a thousand more poor imitations. The first movie had only one semi-famous actor in Carey Elwes and introduced the world to Tobin Bell, Jigsaw himself. It was exactly what you would expect from a low budget horror movie, but those traps were sinister. Back when there was only one movie like this it stood alone. It hit at just the right time and became a cultural phenomenon. This is one of the most copied movie styles in horror. Every horror studio in existence has since tried to capture the same magic. Did I mention the traps? Nothing like it had been seen at the time. This was a horror movie ahead of its time.

That ending had me sitting in my seat long after the credits rolled. Not only was I obsessed with what traps I would be able to personally survive, but when Jigsaw stood up at the end and shut the door. I actually cheered for the bad guy. There has not been a scary movie since that captured my attention. I had to wait months for it to come out on video, so I could buy and re-watch it over and over trying to piece the clues together.

The ending totally matched the film in the best possible way. It was a nervous ride the whole way through. A constant guessing game about what it all means, why is this happening, and will the killer ever be caught? I was a little unhappy at how the overall plot evolved through the course of the 70+ movies, but the magic of the first one still remains.

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That brings us to the conclusion of my top 30 horror movies where the bad guy wins at the end. Your list may be different from mine and that’s okay. We are adults and allowed to agree to disagree. I’m sorry (not sorry) if I spoiled any movies you haven’t seen yet. I am not open for a debate in the comments section, but I will gladly join you in a discussion.

Until next time. Good luck and happy writing!

It’s…All…My…Fault…

It was a dark and stormy night is a horrible way to begin any story, but that’s exactly what type of night it was; the darkness oppressive and the rain torrential. I did not let the flashes of light nor the shadows on the wall distract me from the fact that my soul was forfeit. I knew something was coming to collect and if I didn’t pay it would torture me forever. I am only writing this in hope that it will be read by someone and used to save a life. I feel the evil surrounding this place, so I’ll start at the proper place for this tale, the beginning.

It was an uncomfortable day outside the small town of Blythe, Louisiana. I don’t just mean the temperature was high, but the air was thick and hard to breathe. It was interesting to watch the dragonflies as they chased the mosquitoes through the haze. I didn’t think much of the house when the cab dropped me off. I stood on a semi-manicured lawn and stared at a plantation house. The house looked like a mini castle against the wooded backdrop.

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The tenants of Castle Bayou were Mr. Franklin “Frank” Landry and his wife Elisabeth, who insisted from day one I call her Lizzy. They were both in their mid-seventies and assisted by a live-in caretaker Emeric Chauvet, (the correct pronunciation of his last name will forever escape me). He lived in a modest guest home detached from the main house. The Landry’s, as it turned out, were very capable people taking care of things inside the house, while Emeric’s responsibilities fell more towards driving, handy-work, and outside maintenance.

Dinner was served promptly at 6:30. Lizzy made a shrimp gumbo, that to be honest, filled my mouth with flavors I never experienced before. Cornbread made up the side dish. At 7:30 I helped clear the dishes, there were no leftovers. By 8:45 I was in my room that was straight out of a late 1800’s Sears and Roebuck catalog. Everything in the space looked like an antique right down to the books on the shelf.

The sounds of night filled the air. A soft breeze flowed in driving out the heat. I saw the front door to the guest house open and Emeric step out onto the porch. He took a seat in a rocking chair and sipped a drink. He looked like he could help begin my story. My inquisitive nature took over and I went downstairs to join him.

“Evening Mr Chauvet. Mind if I sit out here with you for a bit?”

“It’s a free country. Have at it.”

I chose a worn, but steady looking wooden chair. Emeric sat back in the rocker, and we watched the fireflies dance across the expanse of the backyard.

“You missed a good dinner tonight.”

“Miss Lizzy’s gumbo is good, but I managed all right.”

“Do the Landrys get many house guests?”

“A ways back they used to throw big parties, but now everyone is too old or moved away.”

“How long you been working for the Landrys?”

“I started out ere’ with my daddy about 25 years ago. He passed some time back and I took over after that.”

“You always lived in the guest house?”

“You sure ask a lot of questions.”

“I’m a writer it’s kinda what I do.”

“Oh yeah, what you write?”

“Mostly stories. Fiction. Urban legends and stuff.”

“Hmm.” Emeric took a long pull from his drink.

“You got another one of those? I’ve had a long day travelin.”

“Well Mister Writer, I hope you have a tough stomach. This ere’ is local to Blythe. We call it Homebrew.”

Emeric disappeared into the house and brought me a half full glass of something that smelled closer to gasoline than alcohol. The first sip brought fire to my lips, throat, and belly. A fit of coughing followed.

“I would suggest sippin,” Emeric said with a low chuckle.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said and took a smaller drink.

“What can you tell me about a devil tree Mr Chauvet?”

“Emeric.”

“What?”

“You can call me Emeric. No need to be formal.”

“Alrighty then, Emeric, I’m Chris. What can you tell me about a haunted tree some where round here?”

“It’s not too far.” He pointed off into the wooded distance and continued. “Bout 50 years ago my daddy told me that the Landrys and a few others chased some hoodoo woman off into the woods. Somethin’ about er’ killin miss Lizzy’s baby. When they caught up to her they strung er’ up in a tree and left er’ to die. The police didn’t investigate too hard because Frank’s dad was the police chief at the time.”

“Dead children and lynching? Sounds like a rough time.”

“Yeah. I wouldn’t bring it up to em’ though. It’s a touchy subject.”

“They think I’m here to write a story on life in the bayou.”

“You be careful Writer Man or you might become the next story round here.”

“Duly noted. Do you know exactly where this tree is or what it looks like?”

“Oh… It’s probably about a half mile back into the woods near the swamp. Just follow the trail. Trust me when I say, you won’t miss it.”

I drank and talked with Emeric late into the night. I don’t really remember going back to my room, but that is where my pounding head woke me up the next morning.

“Good Morning Chris,” Lizzy said from the hallway. “Coffee?”

I could barely mumble a response that resembled a yes. Breakfast was grits, biscuits, and black coffee. It helped to mute the bass drum beat in my head, but only slightly. I sat at the table and watched Emeric through a window as he landscaped the lawn.

“You and Emeric have a good time last night?” Frank asked from behind a newspaper.

“I think he enjoyed watching me sample the Homebrew.”

Lizzy let out a small laugh and Franklin chuckled.

“Yeah,” Franklin began, “it can be rough the first go around, but I think it grows on ya.”

I managed a half smile and nursed myself back towards health.

“You got a busy day planned?” Lizzy asked.

“Figured I would take a walk around the place. Get a feel for it.”

“Well if you need anything be sure to ask. Keep an eye out for any critters that may want to make you a snack. Frank and I may go in to town later. Be sure to be back before supper.”

Lizzy’s bony hand patted mine for emphasis.

I finished the breakfast and retrieved a small digital camera from my bag. Sometimes taking a picture helps me to remember when words fail. The day was already sweltering and the time on my watch didn’t even read noon yet. Clouds, at least in this part of Louisiana, seemed to be in short supply. Soon I was in the middle of the woods surrounded by sounds of birds, bugs, and creatures unknown.

The worn path was easy enough to follow. It looked like an old animal trail that led in the direction I wanted to go. I gave little thought as to what kind of animal would need to forge a trail in the bayou. I counted off what I believed to be a half mile in my head and began to look around. The air had grown humid the closer I got to the swamp, but when I saw the tree my blood ran cold.

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It was tall and gray; a stark contrast to the lush greens and browns around it. It had thick gnarled branches with no leaves. The roots reached out of the ground like hands reaching out to drag me to hell. I couldn’t even see where any other plants had grown within ten feet of the living statue. I felt like I was staring into an ancient living obelisk ready to summon forth Lovecraftian horrors from the aether. I did not realize at the time how close that thought was to the truth.

I pulled my camera out and began to take photos. Something caught my eye in the lens and I zoomed in to take a closer look. Around the lowest, thickest branch I noticed groove marks where ropes had once hung. I could almost hear the whispers and cries of the dead. The sudden appearance of a cloud hid the sun from my eyes and cast long shadows on this tree of woe. It seemed to come alive; angry at me for having life. I took one last picture and headed in the direction towards the house. Being near that tree was akin to walking over someones grave. I found the trail again and followed it back to the Landry’s house sweat dripping from every pour.

It was a past 4:00 when I made it back to my room. I showered and changed eager to get started on my story. The smells coming from the kitchen were distracting and filled the whole house.

Dinner was served once again at 6:30. The spread was incredible ham hocks, rice and beans, and collard greens. I don’t know what a rhubarb is, but it makes a wonderful tasting pie. Emeric shared the meal with us this time. By 8:00 I was enjoying scotch that was definitely older than I was.

My next memory was of me in bed fully clothed with the world around me slowed to a crawl. It was still night out and my watch indicated that it was about 2:45 in the morning. A soft glow and noise from outside drew my interest. I approached the window cautiously. The world spun slightly beneath my feet.

I saw a young girl, dressed in a sheer white dress, lead a group of people carrying torches into the woods. She was hauntingly framed by the torchlight and I couldn’t make out what the noise was exactly, but it sounded like chanting. I sobered up quickly, grabbed my camera, and took off after them.

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It was a dark new moon night, but there were plenty of stars out. I could barely keep my eyes on the path. The path seemed wider, but the trees closer. A pure black circle could be seen in the sky even though there was no visible moon. The sounds of the woods grew silent and then I heard it; a soft rhythmic chant up ahead.

“Kalu-li-Ra-Noh… Kalu-li-Ra-Noh…”

The words themselves were unknown, but carried pure evil intentions by their tone. It sounded like something other-worldly, ancient. My steps were softer once the fire was in view. I wasn’t sure what I saw at the time, and knowing what I know now I should have just ran away.

The young girl was under the tree swaying back and forth to the chant. Emeric was out front and had white runes painted on his face. He was the main source of the eerie chant. His clothes looked out of place for any century. There were about ten others present with faces painted in white. I was surprised to see Frank and Lizzy as part of the motley group that stood by with torches in hands. Their eyes were long gone. My gaze was drawn to the tree. It looked alive.

The branches moved and swayed to the same rhythmic chant as the young girl. The roots were reaching, clawing in the flame’s shadow. I made sure the flash was off on the camera and took as many pictures as I could.

“Kalu-li-Ra-Noh… Kalu-li-Ra-Noh…”

Emeric’s chanting grew louder and louder. That was when I noticed the girl float off the ground. Only she wasn’t floating. A rope was around her neck, and she was being lifted towards the branch of the tree. She reached for her neck trying to scream. It seemed that sanity returned at the wrong moment.

Emeric held a curved knife up in the air, lost within his own spell. I dropped my camera and bowled him over before he could finish whatever he was doing. The knife hit the ground and the tree twisted towards me. I didn’t see any movement from the young lady hanging from the thick branch.

“No! I must complete the spell, or he’ll destroy us all!” Emeric shouted.

I picked up the knife and drove it deep into Emeric’s chest. A large gust of wind blew the remainder of the fire into the swamp; only the torchlights remained. The tree seemed more alive now than ever. I ran over to one of the torch-bearers and took the flame. I threw the fire at the base of the tree; to my surprise it caught fire quickly. An otherworldly scream echoed in my head and the rest of the zombie party turned their heads towards me. The tree writhed in agony. The chase through the woods left me breathless by the time I reached the house. I heard them near; the closer they were the louder the screams in my head.

I was too scared to notice at first, but when my foot hit the back porch I noticed something was very off. The pristine house that I had stayed in the night before was now run down and falling apart. The paint was old and faded; the dust inches thick. I ran up the dilapidated stairs to my room. It looked the same, but everything was in tatters, covered in dust and mold. I grabbed my travel bag and made my way down the stairs.

The backyard looked dead and patchy; Emeric’s house was nothing more than a ramshackled pile of wood. The pursuit finally caught up with me. A growing darkness seemed to swallow the woods as the first of the torch wielding zombies appeared. Lightning flashed in the sky and the rain began to pour down. The outside door to the cellar looked to be the only thing that had not succumbed to the ravages of time. I quickly opened and shut the heavy doors behind me. I put a solid wooden board in between the handles to buy me some time. To my surprise soft candles burned below.

A book was open on the table written in a language I could not understand. In fact, most of the books around the cellar space I could not read or understand. That was when I came across Emeric’s personal journal. I scanned the last few entries and my blood ran cold. It told the story of KaluLi RaNoh, an ancient deity from Africa. Emeric’s ancestors had kept the ancient one trapped in a tree for quite a few generations through the use of magic handed down from father to son.

Emeric was the last of his line, but he was also a chosen. He was a seventh son of a seventh son; the one who could finally send KaluLi RaNoh back to the void. Tonight, it seemed, a once every thousand year occurrence happened; an eclipse during a new moon. I regretted his death almost immediately.

That brings us to the present. I am a hack writer who was just trying to make a name for himself. The door can’t take much more now. I don’t even know if anyone will ever read any of this. What I do know is that life as we know it is over and it’s all my fault. I only hope that the universe forgives me before I’m torn…

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Authors Notes: This story is 2588 words set in the fictional town of Blythe, Louisiana. It should be noted I love a story where the bad guy wins in the end, not that I have anything against good triumphing over evil. It felt good to write a story just for the fans and myself. No prompts just, me and my imagination. The story took 2 days to write and 4 to edit. I welcome any comments, criticisms, and concerns.

Photo Credits: (1) (2) (3) (4)

Tell Me How You Feel

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(Photo Credit HERE)

“I need to watch things die from a good safe distance / Vicariously I live while the whole world dies / You all need it too. Don’t lie.” – From the Song Vicarious by Tool (Listen HERE)

Keep in mind this blog is a product of my own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. You are more than welcome to agree or disagree with anything I write. That’s what makes life on this spinning mud ball worth it.

I am of the opinion that if you are a lover of reading/books you are innately gifted to living a little vicariously. It’s not unusual for me to get caught up in whatever story I am currently reading. I remember the day when my wife handed me the book Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson. It took me half a day to read and I cried for the other half. I warned my wife never to give me a book like that again; too many emotions attached.

That book was written purposefully to hit the reader in right in the feels. It is a different experience when it hits you unexpectedly. In the totally awesome, and definitely worth the read, Homeland by R.A. Salvatore the main character is forced to fight his own family, to include his father, to the death. This a story to me of a person that was born in the wrong place, time, and is in a constant moral conflict between what he feels and what he is told. It illustrates the struggle of defying your own family to do what you believe to be correct.

A good story will transport me away from reality and put me into a new one. A great story also makes me feel what the characters feel: a family that loses a child; a soldier trapped in a war; falling in love for the first time; facing a fear. For a short time I become someone else; I am able to travel to places I will never go; I can do things that are otherwise impossible.

One of my goals is to write, as my heroes do (which include song writers), and make the reader feel something. However, this type of empathy writing comes at a price. I have to evoke feelings from situations I’ve never experienced. I love writing horror and suspense, but I’m not about to become a serial killer. I want to write about a failed marriage, but I’m not divorcing my wife for the experience. I have to rely on the things experienced vicariously through others balanced with my own personal experiences to get me through these situations.

“So give me a song and I swear I’ll sing it / Like never before / All of my life I’ve watched this moment / Go right through the door / So don’t you save a single breath / For me when I’m gone / Cause there will be no lungs inside my chest / And nothing inside my heart” – from the song If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves by Arcane Roots (Listen HERE)

It has been my personal experience that vicarious living needs to be balanced by real world experience. It is rare that anyone can write an emotional love story without having the real world experience of love and loss. The result of such attempts often come across as amateur, fake, or disconnected. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

Unfortunately, there are some who cannot turn off their empathy and become trapped by emotions they cannot control. I remember reading and watching news stories about people that could not cope with the tragedy of September 11th. The unusual part of the story for me was the fact that these people lived miles away from the actual event (Read article HERE). Collective trauma is what psychologists called it.

One of the many things that upsets me about the state of the world today is the number of people who cannot tune out reality television. I do not care who gets kicked off the island; I don’t care if Samantha gets a rose; I definitely don’t care about whatever Kim Kardashian has to say about anything at any time. Time and time again I am told that I am in the minority on this opinion. For once, I am glad to be a black sheep. There are people out there that actually believe that they are a part of these contrived stories. They try to emulate what they see the characters on television doing: things they wear, the things they buy, where they eat, and the producers of these show know how to take advantage of this trend.

My advice, get off the couch, get out of your home/parents basement, and go experience life. Tell that guy or girl you love her, punch the bully in the face, do something you have always wanted to, but were too afraid. Have a shared experience. Then write about it. The leverage gained through actual experiences and vicarious living will be abundantly clear to the reader.

Good luck and happy writing.

Arthur Unk

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The Musical Drug

The only thing that takes up more space in my brain than movie quotes is music lyrics. I do not have a regular physical happy place where I write all my tales of horror, romance, and bad puns. I am a semi-regular at a local coffee shop here in town where I have written quite a few tales whilst sipping a very large chi latte. The library is my second choice. The ladies who work there always greet me with a smile and friendly conversation. The very last place I write is at home, sitting on the couch with kids, wife, animals, television, and video games all calling for attention. The music on my iPod is how I tune the real world out and reach my safe writing space.

There have been so many great songs and albums created that I have listened to during my short time on this planet. Fantastic artists have taken me on journeys to places I thought I would never go, or would never go willingly, and they have enhanced the experiences of my life first-hand.

I incorporate music into many of the stories I tell. I often write yarns veiled in the lyrics of the Beatles, Clutch, Tool, Ray Stevens, Megadeth, commercial jingles, and many others. It helps get my creative juices flowing and lubricates the process with emotion.

I labor under the delusion that there are three things can touch your soul “in person” per say: the spoken word, a great book, and music (I know there are paintings and sculptures out there, but I personally have never been moved emotionally by one. Also, I don’t like the theater/plays. I respect the art form, I just don’t go).

I have had many lengthy discussions with various people about music and I have come up with my top 5 albums that in addition to being perfect from beginning to end, aid in my daily writing. Keep in mind this is what works for me. As a writer or someone who aspires to be a writer, we all have different muses. I’m not trying to convince anyone that my way is right or wrong, but I will say that you are missing out if you don’t have something in your life that inspires the way music does me.

#5 Album — Like Swimming by Morphine (1997)

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Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album HERE

Favorite Track: Empty Box

Morphine is classified as an alternative rock group hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts. This album is one of my ultimate “chill” albums. On many of the tracks there are often only two instruments playing, much like the White Stripes, but it is not always a voice, guitar, and drum. Sometimes it’s a saxophone and a drum, or just a voice and a guitar, or a bass and an organ. Every song has a story to tell and takes you to a different place. This album delivered me through many tough times growing up and its creativity never ceases to amaze me even over twenty years after its release. Interesting side note, I was dating a hippie who gave me my first copy of this album.

#4 Album — Frizzle Fry by Primus (1990)

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Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album HERE

Favorite Track(s): A tie between Too Many Puppies and John the Fisherman

The first time I ever heard of the band Primus was on the movie Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey during the battle of the bands scene. The next time I heard them was this album. My friends in high school all had unique tastes in music and thankfully Primus was one of the bands they listened to nonstop. We would all laugh and marvel at this amazing album. Years later, after gaining a larger appreciation for music, I am still able to be continually impressed by this album. It is wonderfully weird and complex in the best of ways. Les Claypool is a bass god, contrary to what the latest dub step DJ or rapper might claim. Les is a once in a lifetime talent on that instrument, and he puts in work on this album. I challenge anyone to find a group that is more uniquely creative than Primus.

#3 Album — American Standard by Seven Mary Three (1995)

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Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album HERE

Favorite Track: Lame

This is probably the most pure of all my musical picks. No gimmicks, outside of one song that is just drums and vocals, and just straight up great music. The vocal style of Jason Ross is unique to this band and is worth more than its weight in gold. Every song on this album should only be played a max volume. Each song tells its own story in an outstanding display of both hard hitting sound and lyrics. American Standard just makes me feel good when I listen to it. It stands alone among the other music of its time.

#2 Album(s) — Blue Lines (1991) and Mezzanine (1998) by Massive Attack

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Photo credit HERE 

Listen to the whole album Blue Lines HERE

Favorite Track Blue Lines: Hymn of the Big Wheel

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Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album Mezzanine HERE

Favorite Track Mezzanine: Teardrop

Words cannot describe the void that Massive Attack fills in my musical life. Massive Attack is one of the few groups that can be playing as background white noise and still instantly send me to another head space. I have almost their entire discography, but these two albums, in my opinion, define what the band is all about. These two albums are probably the most listened to when I want to do an extended writing session. Someone usually has to make physical contact with me before I even notice they are there if I am listening any of their tracks.

#1 Ænima by Tool (1996)

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Photo credit HERE

Listen to the whole album HERE

Favorite Track: Pushit

This was the album that changed my life forever, and I am grateful. I first saw Tool in concert in Dayton, Ohio in 1996. The opening song was Third Eye, and I was addicted for life by the end of the set. This band is the reason I love music. Maynard has a gifted voice, Danny has been voted drummer of the year numerous times, Paul and Justin’s bass tones perfectly complements Adams guitar-work. This album touches on a wide variety of subjects from science, to magic, to Scientology, to a love of comedy, and so much more. I could probably write a research paper on the various topics and influences that this band touches on in a near 80-minute experience. This band is deeply connected to every aspect of the art of music and showmanship.

Honorable Mention for an Individual Song: Jidenna — Hail to the Chief (listen HERE)

Favorite Line / Lyric: Now they say “Jidenna why you dressing so classic?” / I don’t want my best dress day in a casket

Is it a coincidence that all my favorite albums were released in the 90s? Absolutely not. The 90s had one of the biggest influence on my life and played a crucial role shaping who I am today. It was a musical awaking for me, and I am forever grateful for it. I could fill up twenty more pages writing about all my musical influences and favorites, but it felt right listing just the top 5. My musical tastes currently number over 20,000 individual songs from all genres of music and that number grows daily.

I hardly ever shy away from talking about anything musical. I enjoy hearing about how other lives are affected by music. My writing is better because I have music in my life. Much like books, music helps to take me to places I would not be able to reach on my own. It is, for lack of a better term, my drug of choice.

Good luck and happy writing!

Arthur Unk