All posts by Marie Sexton

Song of Oestend is FREE on Amazon

Song of Oestend will be FREE on Amazon today and tomorrow (November 28-29). It will also be out in audio any day now (just waiting on Audible to approve the listing). You can find it here.

I have several book freebies and discounts scheduled over the next few weeks. A few will be on Amazon exclusively. A few will be available on other platforms. Some will be through Book Funnel. I’ll try to remember to post them all here on my blog, but I can’t make any promises. 😜 The absolute best way to stay up-to-date on all of them is by joining my Facebook group, which you can find here.

Two Quick Promotions

Need something new to read? I have two quick promotions to share with you. These are all for LGBT+ romances.

First, check out this list of contemporary and historical LBGT+ romance, which features a lot of names you’ll probably recognize.

Second, check out this list. These are all stories that can be downloaded FREE or in exchange for your email address. (This one includes my novella, Blind Space.)

Happy Reading!!

Favorite Horror (Part 3 of 3)

Hello, and welcome back for the conclusion of my favorite horror movies of all time! This one’s pretty long, so I’ll jump right in

My all-time favorites:

Three of these four make the list not just because the first movie is good, but because the franchise has held up over time. These are movies I own and watch regardless of whether it’s October or not.

The Crazies (2010)

This is the only one-shot film on my “favorites” list (as opposed to a series), but man, it’s good.

This “turned up to 11” twist on Outbreak stars Timothy Olyphant as a small-town sheriff, and it’s like watching Raylan Givens take on a town full of zombies. (No, they’re not technically zombies, but the overall effect is similar.) Much like Hush (which I talked about in Part 2), the thing that makes The Crazies so good is that the characters aren’t idiots. They’re smart people trying to find their way out of a truly scary situation where the government and military hold all the cards. My daughter and I just watched this movie again yesterday, and one line caught our attention: “What would you have preferred, a global pandemic?”

Final Destination (2000)

Yeah, here’s where I go cheesy. I said back in my first post that I like my horror to be fun, and this series delivers in spades. Trying to anticipate just how each gruesome death will occur is half the fun.

The fourth movie (confusingly titled The Final Destination, with “the” in itty-bitty print) is the worst of the lot by far, but movies I and V more than make up for it. (Quite honestly, the last movie in the series might be the best.)

Scream (1996)

Was Wes Craven brilliant or what? Right when it seemed like horror had become little more than a collection of bad tropes with nothing new to offer, Craven turned the tables by giving us characters who knew those tropes and mocked them right along with us. It’s all silly and overly gory, but these are movies where the dialogue counts for something (if only to show us just how self-aware the movie really is).

And finally, the absolute best of the best:

Halloween

Here’s what this franchise has going for it that Friday the 13th doesn’t: quality over quantity. There are nine Halloween movies (eleven if you count the Rob Zombie reboots), and in my opinion, only one of them is unwatchable. I’m not saying they’re all great, mind you, but most are perfectly good “what to watch in October” fodder. So, let’s count them down.

Halloween (1978):

The movie that started them all and helped set the tone for an entire generation of horror. It’s even more impressive when you know the backstory. The original film was shot in only twenty-one days on a budget of $300,000 (a shoestring budget, even by 1978 standards).

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock (1596336a) Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis Film and Television

If you’re a fan at all (and even if you aren’t), you should check out Halloween: The Inside Story, a great made-for-TV documentary on the making of a classic. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and it definitely proved true on the set of this movie.

Halloween II (1981):

If you can get over the fact that the only people working in this entire hospital are a couple of hot nurses, this isn’t a bad ride, although not one of my favorites of the franchise.

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)

What moron decided to make a sequel that has nothing at all to do with the first two movies in the series? Recently, horror purists have decided this was a great film that only gets hate because it doesn’t have Michael Myers. Give me a break. People hate this movie because it makes no sense! It’s about Halloween masks that make people follow subliminal messages broadcast in TV commercials. Okay, sounds interesting. But then there are witches, and evil doctors, and killer robots. What the actual fuck, people? It’s like they were picking their next plot point by throwing darts at Joss Whedon’s dry erase board.

The board from Cabin in the Woods, and also the playbook for Halloween III.

Just delete this movie from the franchise’s history, please.

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

These are the ones with the little girl, played by Danielle Harris, who frankly was a damned good actress, given how young she must have been. If you can get past Tina’s over-acting in Revenge, then pop some popcorn and get ready for some good old-fashioned horror movie fun.

Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

This one’s weird – something about a Michael Myers-worshipping cult and ancient Druid curses and a mystery baby? Uh… okay. The worst of the series for sure, second only to that thing with the killer robots, but Paul Rudd as a grown-up Tommy Doyle makes it watchable.

Halloween H20 (1998)

And here’s where it gets good again. The story I read somewhere (but have no idea as to its veracity) is that Jamie Lee Curtis was sick of the whole franchise and bought the rights specifically so she could make this movie and kill Michael for good. (And her mother, the original scream queen from the shower scene in Psycho, also makes a cameo.)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Nicola Goode/Dimension/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5882086p) Josh Hartnet, Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween H20 – 1998 Director: Steve Miner Dimension Films USA Scene Still Halloween: Vingt ans après

If you ask me, this film really works. Laurie Strode returns as the heroine, although she’s changed her name and moved away in order to distance herself from the horror she lived through. I sympathize with her son, played by Josh Hartnett, as he tries to balance being a normal teen against the demands of his haunted, alcoholic mother. And if LL Cool J reading smut to his girlfriend over the phone doesn’t make you laugh, I can’t help you.

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Poor Jamie Lee Curtis went to all that trouble to get rid of Michael, but of course those lawyers at the studio found a loophole and went ahead with another movie. In this version, Busta Rhymes is a TV producer, livestreaming a reality TV show from the original Myers house. A lot of people hate this one, but I’m not one of them. Just make sure you’re on your second or third glass of wine before you hit “play.”

The Rob Zombie versions (2007 and 2009)

I’m going to be honest here: I like Rob Zombie’s music, but not his movies. Rob Zombie made his reboots modern in that he made them dark and angsty. Which is sooooo 21st century. But personally, I prefer the original. I don’t consider these to be canon. (And despite what we’re told in the latest movie, H20 will always be canon to me.)

Halloween (2018)

Although I think they could have made this without negating H20, I was super excited for this movie and saw it almost as soon as it was released. I think they wanted to balance the demands of the original audience (people like me) against a new, Saw-driven market that demands darker, more disturbing horror.

Mostly, I think they succeeded, but I won’t know exactly how I feel about it for another couple of years. There are supposed to be two more installments as well, directed and produced by the same people. One thing I can pretty much guarantee: I’ll be shelling out money to see them both in theaters. And I fully expect them to become regular October viewing at some point in the future.

Conclusion

So there it is — my list of my all-time favorite horror movies. Which ones do you think I got right? Whether you agree or not, I hope you have a fabulous Halloween!

Favorite Horror (Part 2 of 3)

Welcome back for part two of my three-part series on my favorite horror movies of all time! Today, we jump into the fun stuff. I have a lot of fun films to talk about, so let’s jump right in.

They’re good, but are they horror?

The quintessential defining question of horror has to be “is it scary?” These movies are all billed as horror and often found on “best of” lists. They’re movies I love and watch any time I have the chance. I’d even call them favorites! But I just don’t think they’re scary.

Jaws (1975)

Here’s the thing: I live in Colorado. The nearest ocean is more than a thousand miles away. Besides, I already think the ocean is the scariest fucking thing in the world, and not because of sharks. Is this one of the greatest movies ever? Absolutely! Can I quote every line? That’s some bad hat, Harry. But is it scary? Not for this land-locked movie-goer. Besides, all you need is a bigger boat.

Alien (1979)

Just like I’m too far away from the ocean to be scared of sharks, I’m too far away from space to worry about xenomorph. (Although in Alien Vs Predator: Requiem, they come to Colorado, so maybe it’s time to reassess.)

Ripley is the ultimate Final Girl — absolutely badass and smarter than everybody around her. And for the record, I love Aliens even more than the original, but that’s a full-on genre jump from horror to action/adventure. Either way: not scary.

The Thing (1982)

This movie is basically Snake Plissken in the Arctic and let’s face it, Kurt Russel is the fucking bomb.

But no matter how hot Snake/MacReady may be, the supercheese-tastic special effects of the ‘80s make it a bit too goofy to be truly scary. (And for what it’s worth, I fully enjoyed the 2011 adaptation. As viewers, we didn’t know whether to expect a reboot or a sequel. The last scene in the movie proves it’s neither, and I’m 100% on board.)

Super 8 (2011)

Does this count as horror? I just found it on a “best of horror” list, so I guess maybe? I don’t consider it scary, but I do think it’s one of the most subtly brilliant movies I’ve seen in ages. It’s like Stand By Me meets It in an authentic-feeling period piece about the ‘80s, long before Stranger Things made the decade cool again.

So now that I’ve talked all about movies I didn’t like (in part 1), and movies I liked but I don’t consider “horror,” maybe it’s time for me to get serious and tell you about some of my true favorite horror movies.

Honorable Mentions

I hesitate to call these “favorites” (largely because in many cases, I haven’t watched them a second time), and yet they’re so darn clever that I can’t not mention them.

The Changeling (1980)

Nobody has seen this movie, and what a shame that is. I haven’t seen it in years either. It’s never on TV, and it’s impossible to find in the sale bins at Target or 2nd & Charles. This is the penultimate haunted house flick, and I dare you to watch it alone after dark. It’s scary AF without a bit of gore, and unlike a lot of horror, it doesn’t end on a down-note.

Hush (2016)

One of the complaints often lodged against horror (usually by people who don’t actually watch it) is that the characters are all stupid and make bad choices. This may be true in a lot of bad horror films. But I would argue that the best and scariest horror movies have exactly the opposite – intelligent characters who, despite making all the best choices, still find themselves in mortal peril. Hush is a perfect example. The main character is plenty smart, but she’s trapped alone inside her house with a killer right outside. She’s also deaf, which gives the movie a whole new level of scariness.

Hush is the best kind of tense, psychological horror. It’s a Netflix exclusive, and like most of Mike Flanagan‘s work, it’s definitely worth watching.

Train to Busan (2016)

Don’t be scared away by the subtitles. This Korean film is not your typical zombie movie, largely because it has heart. You will truly care about these characters by the end. Probably the one and only horror movie that nearly made me cry.

I hear they’re making an American adaptation. (They’ll probably ruin it, but I’ll hope for the best.) There’s also a Korean sequel which I haven’t seen yet, but it looks quite different from the original.

The Babysitter (2017)

Like Hush, this is a Netflix exclusive. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but holy crap, what a ride! This movie is over-the-top gory and super funny. If nothing else, watch it for Samara Weaving and Robbie Amell, who are both smokin’ hot. But don’t be surprised when you’re laughing out loud over geysers of blood.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Cloverfield (2008)

I’m listing these two together because these movies both changed the horror industry. To some extent, they changed the entire way movies are marketed. Those who are too young might not realize how insane the idea of “found footage” was when Blair Witch first came out. When the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, its promotional marketing campaign listed the actors as either “missing” or “deceased”. Missing person fliers were printed. Rumors dropped in internet chat rooms and a website that looked all too real made it impossible to know what was fact and what was fiction. Were we really watching the final moments of these kids’ lives? We honestly didn’t know! It was my generation’s version of War of the Worlds.

In hindsight, the entire thing was absolutely brilliant. Some say it was the greatest marketing scheme ever. Ten years later, the makers of the Cloverfield franchise took it to a whole new level with their Alternate Reality Game. They’ve raised the bar for anybody in the horror genre.

And yeah, the movies were fun too.

Conclusion

That’s it for today! Be sure you check back for part 3 of my Favorite Horror Movies series. And in the meantime, tell me what you think of my picks.

My Favorite Horror Movies (Part 1 of 3)

It’s October, that spooky, scary time of year. (Although at this point, can Halloween really scare us any more than real life? No, but it might offer us a fun escape.) And I’m a writer with blog space who also happens to love the hell out of horror. So I thought I’d do a little series on my favorite horror movies of all time. And I’m breaking it into three parts because it was going to be one long-ass blog post by itself.

Favorite vs “Best”

Years ago, my brother and I had a friendly argument over whether disliking something necessarily means that “it sucks.” The topic arose because he said Linda Ronstadt “sucked.” I countered that while he might not enjoy her music, saying she “sucks” implies that she can’t sing, which is a ludicrous statement. I mean, have you even listened to White Rhythm & Blues? I can recognize that Bob Dylan is a songwriting genius even if I don’t particularly enjoy his music.

Easily one of the creepiest scenes ever.

Likewise, a movie that may be one of the “best” may not be my favorite. Two obvious examples are The Exorcist and The Shining. I genuinely think The Exorcist might be the scariest movie ever made. I also have great appreciation for The Shining. But are they my favorites? No. Not even close.

So what is a “favorite”?

To me, a favorite is a movie I’ll watch again and again. It’s a movie where I know each line and jump-scare but I enjoy every minute anyway. So even though I think The Exorcist may be one of the scariest and therefore “best” horror films, it’s not one of my favorites because I don’t have fun while I’m watching it.

I’m going to break this list down into three sections:

  • Favorites, but are they really horror? (Part 2)
  • Honorable Mentions (also Part 2)
  • My absolute go-to list (part 3)

But lest I leave you in too much suspense, let me tell you about a couple of movies you won’t find on my list.

Movies That Don’t Make the Cut

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Yes, I know. I can already hear all those horror purists dying to tell me I’m wrong. Here’s the thing: sometimes, it’s all about timing. If I had first seen Les Misérables as a teen, around the time I first discovered Phantom of the Opera, maybe I would have enjoyed it. But I was in my forties before I saw it for the first time, and good lord, what a load of drivel. Likewise, if I had first seen Chainsaw back in the day, when I was first developing an appreciation for the genre, I might have thought it was great. But for some reason, I never did. I didn’t watch it until a couple of years ago, and I was mightily unimpressed. All Sally does is scream, and holy crap, did that get old. Still, this movie gave us the Final Girl trope, and thank goodness for that.

I just wanted Sally to STFU.

Nightmare on Elm Street

Oh, Nancy. If only you could act.

I used to love these movies. I mean, these were the films that first made me a fan of horror movies. Dream Warriors? At the time, I thought it was one of the greatest horror films every made.

The thing is, the Elm Street movies just haven’t aged well (much like Goonies, much to my dismay). What was campy then is just plain ridiculous now. And that girl who played Nancy couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. So although I appreciate these movies for being part of my intro to horror, I no longer consider them “favorites.”

Evil Dead

Once again, I know people will freak out. For some reason, every horror fan is supposed to LOOOOVE Evil Dead.

Well, I don’t. I don’t like the original or the reboot. The one and only thing I even remember about either of them is a girl being raped by a tree.

No thanks.

Friday the 13th

How can anybody take this franchise seriously? I’ll watch the first one if it’s on, mostly so I can marvel at how young Kevin Bacon was.

Kevin Bacon and fellow cast members on what was apparently a chilly day.

But beyond that? No thanks. Even if you can get through movies 2 through 7, the next three films (Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell, and Jason X, which takes place in space, for fuck sake!) take ridiculous to a whole new level. Although I have a real fondness for ‘80s slasher horror, I’m just not a fan of this series. If you ask me, the 2009 remake with Jared Padalecki is easily the best movie in the franchise. (Yeah, I said it. Don’t @ me.)

Conclusion

So that gives you some idea what to expect (or what not to expect, at any rate). I’ll publish parts two and three in the next few days. In the meantime, go ahead and tell me how wrong you think I am. 😉

Adventures of a Newbie Birder

Like many of you, I found myself rather bored and tired of staring my own walls at some point this summer. And like many of you, I decided it was a perfect time to familiarize myself with birds. After all, birds are everywhere! Here was a new hobby I could enjoy from the relative comfort of my kitchen during Covid lockdown.

In theory, that is.

Whether due to bad timing, or because the birds had no particular reason to visit my yard, or a bit of both, my first few weeks of birding were rather uneventful.

Wait.

Is it Birding, or Bird-Watching?

This seems like a good time to talk about “bird watching” vs “birding.” Personally, I think Matt Kracht summed it up very well in his hilarious book, The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America, when he said, “Today, in reality, the two terms are for the most part used interchangeably by laypeople, and the only substantive difference between a “birder” and a “bird watcher” is the degree of pretentious erudition versus competitive prick-ness.”

Being rather uncompetitive, I suppose that makes me a bird watcher, not a birder. So be it.

Anyway…

Where was I?

Oh, yes. I was telling you how it turns out that the heat of summer in Colorado is apparently a bad time to become a bird watcher. To begin my bird-watching, I hung out several different types of feeders. I then perched with some anticipation next to my sliding glass door. And I waited.

My first visitor, not counting the squirrels.

In those first few weeks, I fed a whole lot of squirrels, but little else. I was thrilled the morning I looked out and found a house finch using one of my feeders, and even more excited a few days later when I spotted two red-breasted nuthatches. Success at last! At least, a bit of it.

During this time, I also ran all over town to our various natural areas, trying to find more birds to add to my very sad little “life list.” Where in the world were they? Why were they all gone, now that I was looking for them?

Except…

The one place in my area that was sure to be lousy with birds was the reservoir/natural area a few miles from my house. Here, barn swallows were abundant, as were pelicans and red-tailed hawks. (And Canadian geese, of course. Those fuckers are everywhere. To quote Matt Kracht again, “Thanks a lot, Canada.”) And so I went back on a pretty regular basis, usually in the morning. I spotted a pair of collared doves building a nest and watched anxiously through my binoculars (that’s “bins,” for those serious birders out there) for their eggs to hatch. Alas, a predator must have found my doves and their eggs because one morning, they were there, and the next morning, they were gone.

Barn swallow
This guy sat on the wire every morning, scanning the fields for his breakfast. Check out those talons!
Pelicans and a couple of egrets in a totally grody corner of the reservoir. Apparently, they’re not picky.

And then…

And then I had foot surgery, which eliminated my trips to the reservoir for a few weeks. But through all of this, things were changing. Many birds, after all, are migratory, and so the beginning of fall meant a change in avian visitors. Suddenly, my back yard is abuzz. There are black-capped chickadees and my two red-breasted nuthatches, of course. There are the occasional woodpeckers. The biggest tree in my yard rustles with the flitting about of little warblers and sparrows, most of which I can’t yet identify. And the newest arrival, a hermit thrush who stays near the safety of the fence. There are also the blue jays, rather loud and rude, but so handsome, I forgive them.

Handsome blue jay, giving me the side-eye.

My daughter and I sat watching the birds through her lunch break today (her school is still 100% remote), and we marveled at the constant flutter of wings back and forth over our yard.

And suddenly I thought, if there are this many birds here, there must be tons of them at the reservoir!

So I jumped in my car, and off I went. But to my great disappointment, the reservoir was practically deserted. Gone are the mobs and mobs of swooping barn sparrows, and the scores of pelicans. A large flock of floating birds bobbed about on the water, too far offshore for me to get a good ID on (although I think mostly plebes and gulls of some kind). And there are still geese. Tons and tons of geese, but that’s about it. I’m not sure what I expected, but not this.

Now, I know that unfortunately, there was recently a huge die-off of migratory birds in this part of the country. You can read about it here, and here, and here. (And many, many other places.) It’s heartbreaking. But being an utter newbie at this, I have no idea how much or how little this plays into the lack of birds at my reservoir. If nothing else, I know the bald eagles will be back in the next month or two. They can frequently be seen circling over the reservoir in the winter. In the meantime, I’ll go check out some of those other natural areas and see if there are more birds there.

But I still have this…

My trip to the reservoir wasn’t a total loss today though. On the way home, I spotted this guy sitting on a fence post right next to the road. Red-tailed hawks are incredibly common around here, but in my mind, that doesn’t make them any less impressive. He was even nice enough to wait while I pulled to the side of the road and took a picture.

The Funniest Accidental Wedding Photobombs

I find the funniest things on this site. Or, maybe I’m just easily amused. Either way, I figured we could all use a laugh these days, so here’s one of my recent favorites. (These are only a few of the photos featured on the site. Follow the link at the bottom if you’d like to laugh a bit more.)

Enjoy!

 

Source (with even more hilarious wedding photo-bombs): The Funniest Accidental Wedding Photobombs

And, don’t forget our big cover reveal for the Lost Ship of the Tucker Rebellion coming up on Saturday at Joyfully Jay’s!

Have a great weekend! 😁