IT the Movie vs. the Book

Today, by request (thanks, Jay Lemming!), I’m going to give my review of the move It. But first, I’d like to draw your attention to my three newest treats:

First, if you haven’t already, I really hope you’ll go read my story “So Sings the Siren” in Apex Magazine Issue 101. It’s free on their website now, and at just over 1,000 words is a quick read. It does come with a trigger warning; it’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s horror that means something. And Apex picking it up means a lot to me, as does this story itself. It’s straight from my dark little heart. So if you enjoy it, please share it with anyone you know who might enjoy it too. <3

Second, this year’s edition of the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase—Volume IV—is out now! I’m pleased to have a poem in this one for the fourth consecutive year. “Unravel” is an unsettling horror love poem. Yes, you read that right. 😉 You can order a copy of this year’s showcase in paperback for $7.99 or as an ebook for $2.99. This is also one of the potential prizes included in this year’s #BooksBrewBoo! (Which is still going on, by the way! Commenting on this post enters you to win, as do all of the helpful options at the bottom of this post. Entries have slowed down mid-month, so please share if you can; you have a good chance of winning!)

Third, my next LitReactor post is out today, so be sure to check out “13 Halloween Themed Anthologies to Fill Your Season with Fright.” (Note: this is also an eligible entry for #BooksBrewBoo.)

Okay, on to It!

What did I think of the movie It? I was disappointed. I thought it had a lot going for it: fantastic acting by the children, beautiful production value, and a powerful nostalgia factor. It was charming to see the kids interact, and refreshing to hear them curse like kids really do. If it had been its own creation and not a movie with source material and a previous version, I might’ve liked it a lot. Unfortunately, those are the facts of this film.

One of my most popular blog posts ever has been this one: “Thoughts on IT by Stephen King, What it Takes to Enjoy Horror, and Why I Write It.” In it I talk about that infamous novel and why I love it despite its flaws: it’s truly scary. The biggest reason I love King is his understanding of fear. Creating fear in readers means understanding its sources, not just what’s scary, but why. In my opinion, King is the master of that. It serves as a case in point: it’s the only novel to give me a nightmare as an adult. That’s powerful stuff.

Modern horror movies are a mixed bag—as are all movies in every time period—but one thing they widely have down incredibly well is the fear factor. Is it a deep-seated, insidious fear that sticks with us the way the best horror novels do? Very rarely. Still, it’s incredibly effective in the moment. I feel unnerved, tense, scared, or outright terrified at at least half of the horror movies I bother seeing in theater these days. (Which, admittedly, weeds out the ones so obviously bad I don’t bother.)

So It, a movie based on one of the scariest novels of all time, made during the height of scary movie techniques, was poised to be a homerun, right?

Not for me. I was never scared during the movie. Not once. Not even a little. And you guys, I scare easy. Given the promises of Pennywise and Co., to me that’s a pretty serious fail. I don’t even know how they managed to do it. How did such a high budget, well-made production like this fail on its obvious primary objective?

I’m not a movie-maker, so there are probably subtleties I missed, but I can tell you that from a horror creator’s perspective, they didn’t understand their fear-maker. Pennywise is insidious in the books because he gets to the root of each kid’s fears. He sneaks, he slithers, he stalks. He doesn’t show his face much. That makes him scarier, because it makes him unknown. We’re afraid of the unknown; we project our worst fears into it. King understood that. The movie doesn’t.

Pennywise in this film gets almost as much air time as the actual kids. He’s there all the time. Jeeze, P, give us a chance to miss you. Although visually gorgeous in a photoshoot way, Pennywise’s costuming is way off the mark here. Clowns are inherently creepy because they fall into the uncanny valley. They’re supposed to look happy but they don’t quite. They unnerve us because we almost see the person beneath the grotesquely exaggerated makeup. We want to focus on their jovial demeanor but the unknown (ah, see there?) person beneath keeps peering through the façade. A stranger. Dangerous.

But It’s Pennywise looks like he could only be in a horror movie. Even a kid as young as Georgie would know on sight that this is an evil, scary thing. If that’s chasing you down the street you might—might—have an argument for overt creepiness being more effective. But if that’s luring you into a storm drain, it’s no contest: subtle wins. If it’s subtle, you can understand why a kid might fall for it. If you understand, it means you can imagine it. If you can imagine it, it means it could happen to you. Fear.

Back to back you can really see the difference. The first is from the original movie, of course, and not the book, but it’s one thing the original got right in a big way.

I have lots of nitpicks of the movie, but my post can only go on so long. The main issue for me is the fear factor. The other is the overall tone. I know they were trying to cash in on Stranger Things’ nostalgia boom with the feel-good childhood mojo and shifting the original 50’s setting into the 80’s, but for me they leaned too heavily into that happy sweet side of things. I love a goodhearted movie, but not when the book has such a dark heart. A little nostalgia sugar would’ve been enough. And although I’m glad they changed that unsuccessful and highly disturbing sewer orgy, I don’t think a literal group hug was the way to do it. (And that’s not a sentence I ever imagined I’d type. Life is weird.)

A lack of fright and a lack of nihilism? Doesn’t sound like King to me. So maybe It is a good movie, but for a book fan like me, it was rather disappointing.

Finally, a reminder to enter, enter, enter! I want to give you guys some yummy coffee and a spooky book this Halloween. Here’s a list of all the easy ways you can be entered to win, for a total of 13 entries! You can:

Thanks everyone, and good luck!

Have you seen IT? What did you think?

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Tricky Treats and Sneaky Peeks

Spooky people! (And normal people during spooky season!) I’ve had much going on since last week – so much so that instead of giving you more to read here, I’m going to tantalize you with bits and send you to read the things I’ve already written elsewhere. Here are three of my posts with a little sneak peek of each so you can pick your poison treat, though there’s no need to limit yourself to one. Like Halloween candy, the fun is in tasting them all. 😀

Last week I announced my #BooksBrewBoo October blog celebration and giveaway. Basically, I want to give you coffee and a scary book! The complete rules are here. This post is eligible, as are two of the three below. (The other has a giveaway of its own–’tis the season!)

13 Tourist Destinations for Horror Lovers at LitReactor

This has to be the most fun I’ve had putting together a post for LitReactor so far! The world is full of creepy, macabre, eerie, and horrifying things, and I want to go see them all. So far I’ve only seen two of the thirteen on this list; how about you?

Photo by Cordelia Persen

Taste: What’s creepier than an abandoned doll? How about hundreds and hundreds of them, mutilated and decaying, hanging from trees on a floating island? That’s what you’ll get if you dare to visit Isla de las Muñecas in Xochimilco. Legend says the owner of the island, Don Julián Santana Barrera, discovered a drowned little girl and hung her doll from a tree as a sign of respect. (Don’t ask me.) But after he became haunted by whispers and crying, he began hanging dolls all over the island in an attempt to free the little girl’s spirit. Although locals claim the place is ‘charmed,’ visitors consistently describe it as the creepiest thing they’ve ever seen.

[Click to read the rest; leave a comment with #BooksBrewBoo to be entered to win!]

How to Make Witch Books at the Horror Writers Association

Y’all know I’m crafty, so of course Halloween DIY is my favorite DIY. This year I decided to take some old hardbacks I’ll never read and turn them into wicked decorations for my mantel. The result is an amazing set of custom “witch books,” and I’ve talked you through making your own step by step at HWA’s Halloween Haunts blog series!

Taste: Click to enlarge!

Compendium Celestia, Serpents and Other Friends, Spells, Eros Enchantments, and Noctum.

[Click to read the steps; leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Dark Hallows II! Bonus: includes an excerpt from my story “The Devil Take the Hindmost” in DH2, which you can win just by leaving a comment!]

Enter the Shadow Booth: An Interview with Annie Neugebauer at The Gingernuts of Horror

I do so love an interview, even more when it’s about horror and writing and my fantastically zombie-prepared hubby. As part of spreading the word about the Tales from the Shadow Booth Kickstarter, the Gingernuts of Horror are interviewing myself and the other contributors this month. It’s a lot of fun!

Taste: Q: The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?

A: I feel so passionately about this that I’ve written entire essays. Here’s the short version: horror explores fear and associated emotions. That’s it. That’s the only defining requirement. Monsters and gore and genre conventions are secondary. So the best way to break past the stigma and assumptions associated with horror is to use the label liberally and consistently – to claim all of the types and styles of horror, not just a select few. People have to get past this equating of slasher gore with horror; there’s so much more out there that’s deep and intellectual and emotionally valuable. And fun, too. Don’t forget fun. They’re all valid uses of the genre.

[Click to read the rest; leave a comment including #BooksBrewBoo to be entered to win! Bonus: includes an excerpt from my story “That Which Never Comes” in Shadow Booth!]

Those are my three for the week! (I told you it’s busy season!) I hope you’ll go check out one or all of them and find something you like to snack on. 🙂 And don’t forget to leave a comment below and/or share any of my goodies this month to get your shot(s) at winning #BooksBrewBoo!

Happy reading!

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Books Brew Boo!

Happy October!!

First things first, TODAY is release day for Apex Magazine Issue 101! This issue includes my horror story “So Sings the Siren,” and I am unbearably excited for you to read it. Unsurprisingly by now, it does come with a trigger warning. My story will go live on their website later this month, but if you, like me, can’t wait that long, you can purchase the whole issue now at for Kindle, Nook, PDF, you name it. Happy October to me!

As pretty much everyone in the universe knows by now, it’s my very favorite time of year. For several years now in October I’ve given away scary books to celebrate All Hallows Read, and this year is no exception – but there is a twist or two. (Plot or lemon—who doesn’t love a twist?)

Since coffee runs the world, and nothing goes better with a spooky book on a cool evening than a warm mug of boo brew, I’m giving away a book and a Starbucks gift card to one lucky winner! The gift card will be for the price of whatever Starbucks’ Halloween coffee concoction is this year (finding out is half the fun), but of course it can be used on tea, snacks, or any of their merchandise. And the book will likely be one of my two forthcoming October poetry anthology releases: HWA Poetry Showcase Volume IV by the Horror Writers Association or Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghouls, Ghosts, and More by Apex Publications. Choice of paperback or ebook as available!

Coffee and a spooky book, you want this, yes? Good. You can enter up to 13 times! (Lucky!) The winner will be randomly chosen from all entries, so the more you enter the better your chances. Eligible entry methods include:

  • commenting on any/each of my 4 October blog posts right here at (including this one!), 1 per post. All commenters will be automatically entered unless requested otherwise
  • commenting on any/each of my 3 October blog posts at, 1 per post. To have your comment there counted, please include the hashtag #BooksBrewBoo
  • commenting on my interview at the To have your comment there counted, please include the hashtag #BooksBrewBoo
  • tweeting to share any of my promotional links this month—up to 2 tweets. To have your tweet counted, please include the hashtag #BooksBrewBoo
  • posting on Facebook to share any of my promotional links this month—1 post. To have your share counted, please include the hashtag #BooksBrewBoo
  • purchasing my Writing Expense and Income Tracking Spreadsheet at its special discount price of $6.66 this month (use coupon code October). All purchasers will be automatically entered unless requested otherwise
  • donating to the Kickstarter for Tales of the Shadow Booth any time this month. A donation of $14 serves as a preorder for Volume 1, so this is a win-win. Tweet/Facebook share your “I donated” link with the hashtag #BooksBrewBoo to be entered, or privately message me a screenshot/confirmation to show you backed the project

All entries must be made by 11:59 CST on October 30, so I can announce the winner on Halloween!

Really the only things I have going on that won’t count are my stories/poems themselves (though sharing them does) and commenting on my post for HWA’s Halloween Haunts, since that comes with its own giveaway (details will be in that post).

Bottom line? Share any of the copious goodies I have going on this month using #BooksBrewBoo and you’ll probably be entered to win a free book + Starbucks gift card! If you have any questions or run into snags, feel free to message me. But the ghost spirit of the giveaway this year is to share my goodies to win your own goodies. Only treats, no tricks. 🙂

A few other things of note. The Kickstarter mentioned above is for a new journal called Tales from the Shadow Booth. Volume One will have my story “That Which Never Comes” in it! Pledging $14 or more not only helps make this project a reality, but it also serves as your preorder; you’ll get a print copy in the mail this December! This is a very cool project for eerie, literary horror stories (hello!) that otherwise have a hard time finding a home. Editor Dan Coxon describes it as “authors writing interesting stories in this hinterland – stories too philosophical and introspective to fit the horror genre, but too weird and unsettling to sit within the literary field.” My accepted story is an experimental look at what it means to run from our fears, and you’re not going to want to miss it.

Good news for writers: I’m offering a discount on my Writing Expense and Income Tracking Spreadsheet this month – because what could possibly be scarier than taxes? Use the discount code October to get this budget-keeping must-have for $6.66 all month long. This is geared towards all types and all levels of writers. If you spend or make any money at all, indie, trad pub, or freelance, you should be keeping careful track, and this spreadsheet makes it clean and easy. And does the math for you!

Finally, we have fun stuff to come here on this blog. I’ve gotten requests so far for my review of the new movie IT and a video reading of my poem “Light and Liquor,” so look for both of those. And if you have a request of your own to make, go for it in the comments. I can’t make promises, but it never hurts to ask.

Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm and support during my busiest, happiest time of year. I hope this one brings you all as many treats as it’s bringing me!

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The Giant Chart O’ Poems and What’s to Come

Poets, I have a surprise for you! (Well, not a surprise if you follow me on Twitter, but probably otherwise.) Remember when I told you all about charting 500+ poems to make my submissions easier? That spreadsheet, the Giant Chart O’ Poems, is now available FREE for download at The Organized Writer.

If you’re a poet drowning in the complicated mass of poems, market requirements, contests guidelines, and submissions, do yourself a favor and use my spreadsheet template to sort everything. It will be MUCH easier from then on. 🙂

That’s really it for today – plus a quick note about what’s to come here on the blog. My favorite month of the year is only a couple of weeks away. I always do something to celebrate Halloween, and this year will be no different. I have several stories and poems releasing (October is high traffic time for us horror writers), several posts elsewhere lined up, a game, a discount for my loyal readers, and, of course, a giveaway! So keep your potatoes peeled and your eyes open, and check back often come October – or better yet, subscribe to get my posts by email if you’re not already! You won’t want to miss the fun I have planned.

See you ghouls come Spooktober. ♥

In Case You Missed It:

Fearful Fathoms: Collected Tales of Aquatic Terror has released in ebook and paperback! It includes my literary surrealism story “The Lighthouse,” along with many other wonderful tales of ocean horror.

And don’t forget to check out my latest posts on LitReactor: “When Books and Music Meet: 18 Literary Creations That Rock” and “A Gothic Literature Primer: Suggested Reading.”

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