Monday, October 31, 2011

The Chain Letter Horror Story

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Other than the fact that horror movies scare me way too much to ever actually watch them, I love all things creepy. Macabre books, rotting costumes, haunted cemeteries, and the ghosts that I have never, ever seen, even though I grew up in a very haunted town.

When I was in college, instead of writing the literary and serious short stories my professors wanted me to do, I turned in stuff about ghosts, death, and--of course--zombies.

And that's what I have for you today, with a twist. A horror story--written by ten people. All of the operatives and a few of the spies ran with a crazy idea: the chain letter horror story. (Let me tell you, the idea to do the story like this was almost as collaborative as the actual story ended up being.) Sans prompt (so as not to limit our creativity), one operative--whose name I drew randomly--started it. And we sent it around, person by person--only reading the story up to the part that we each added, and then sending it along with no idea of how it would end. And nobody has read the whole thing. Because it's still not finished.

Until now.

If it seems a little like Frankenstein's monster, well--isn't that appropriate? But the real twist is not that we all wrote it without knowing where it was going. It's that YOU are going to end it.

Hop in the comments and write a bit. It can be as long or as short as you want (our boundaries were 1 sentence to about 150 words, but that was so the post didn't get too long. You can follow them or not). Give us an ending, a cliffhanger, or just continue the story.

Here is what we came up with:

Her name was Mabel and she wore bracelets made of barbed wire on her wrists. At first I thought they were charms glinting red in the moonlight, tokens of happier memories. Then I saw the spikes. She caught me looking and guided my hand to the twisted metal.

There was no blood—not on the bracelet, not on my finger, not on the white sheet underneath me—but that's when the fever started.

I glanced out the window with bars over it and saw what was left of the crumbling Eiffel Tower. Crap. We were still in Paris. Gut-wrenching moans filled the starless sky.

"They're out there," I whispered to Mabel.


"The zombies. I can hear them groaning and clawing at the walls, trying to get in here."

Mabel caressed my face. Her barbed wire bracelet scraped along my cheek, but the pain soothed me. "No, precious," she purred. "The only one groaning and clawing at anything is you."

A guttural bark shocked the air and it took a second to realize it was Mabel's. In a blink her spikes had me pinned to the bed and her splintered teeth came at me, snatching away flesh.

The pain pierced my hallucination and its shimmering walls collapsed like a bubble. A wave of sound came up and crashed on my ear drums, making me nauseous.

"Ca va?" The mother next to me stared from the edge of the bench and held her pram with fingers I could see had gone white.

Ignore her. I wiped saliva pooling at the edge of my lips and stood uncertainly. A clutch of children giggled nearby.


"In a minute."

"Mabel, now!"

I reached past the guignol, startling his master, and gripped Mabel's hand. The parents tittered and clucked as I half dragged Mabel away.<

A block down she said, “Did I do something wrong?”

A deep breath and then I took her in my arms. “Mommy's just acting--” But I never finished.

I felt heat rising off her forehead.

Mabel's fever spread to my skin, itchy and oppressive. Paris around me started to blur. I blinked, and Mabel's face blurred, too. I heard shouts, screams, growls, but they weren't coming from my surroundings. They were echoing inside my head.

"Mommy?" Mabel whispered.

I couldn't answer. I tried, but my lips wouldn't move. I couldn't move...

My world collapsed again; I had the cold sensation of being yanked from a dream.

Stitches in my lips, straps around my hands, barbed wire digging into the skin of my neck. I was back in the room with the view of the crumbled Eiffel Tower. The room with the bars on the window. Mabel straddled my chest, grinning at me with a blood-covered mouth.

Her broken teeth flashed when she spoke. "Welcome back, dearie."

I looked into her eyes, trying to find something behind her blood-thirsty look. I knew she remembered what had happened that day. I knew she remembered the truth. She had to, right? I kept asking myself that same question, over and over; her expression never changed.

Her lips raised into what I thought was meant to be a smile. Her teeth were bloody, and her breath reeked of rotted flesh. The way she pinned me, I could only see her ravenous smile, those bloody teeth, and grey, soulless eyes. And that sight was infinitely more painful than the throbbing in my shoulder or the spikes digging into my wrists. I squeezed my own eyes shut, tried to focus on days where that now sanguine smile used to be red or blue or green from too many lollipops. But that didn’t help. The pain in my shoulder, the smell, the memories—they were too overwhelming.

Mabel wasn’t like them yesterday. She wasn’t like them this morning. But the Transmogrification affects everyone differently. I wondered how long it would take for me to turn. To become like Mabel. To become like the rest of them.

So, my dear writers...

What's next?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Comment of the week

Every Thursday we ask all of you a question--and every Saturday we pick our favorite answer! The winner gets to choose a prize from our vault.

This week's winner is:


Lina left us a long and very creepy story about a Dark Man, a haunted cave, and human sacrifice. I definitely will not be driving by any caves any time soon.

This local urban legend is known as The Black Man around here.

I spent summers with my grandma, and everyone in this rural area knew all about him - especially all of us kids.

It all started in the '50s, when a young man from the city drove the 50 miles to see his girlfriend every Friday. One Friday, he had everything planned for the big proposal - flowers, a box of chocolates and a diamond ring he'd scrimped and saved for.

To get to her house which was the first farmhouse surrounded by fields, he had to drive around winding roads along a mountain/hill. At the base of the mountain there's a cave which has long been surrounded with rumors about it being a portal between this world and the spirit world, and because of this was often used by local kids who summoned spirits.

At around this time, there were several disappearances in the county except no one ever found the bodies. 

It turned out a group of teens was really into the occult and they used the cave for their rituals. As sacrificial victims, they waited for a car with out-of-town people to drive down the deserted road and they then stopped the driver, supposedly asking for help. When the unsuspecting driver got out of the car, they grabbed him and slaughtered him in a ritual. No one ever thought to look in the cave because none of the people who disappeared had ties to the small rural town.

The young man from the city was their next victim. 

They dragged him into the cave, slit his throat and used the blood to summon evil spirits.

No one ever looked for him in the mountain. His car was never found.

The kids were arrested a few months later after one of their victims fought back and escaped.

The young man's body was found in the cave.

Now, he roams the roads around the mountain in his car, dressed in black with a black hat, which is why he's called the Black Man. 

He seeks revenge because no one - not even his beloved girlfriend - thought to look for him there. 

If people are too curious, he lures them to the cave and keeps them there forever.

But only after giving them one chance to escape, as he wants to be kinder than the people who killed him were to him. The first time someone stops him to ask for directions to the haunted cave, he turns them away but leaves a box of chocolates in the back seat of their car. But instead of chocolates, there are slips of paper with the names of their family, along with a warning: "Keep away."

If someone comes back, and asks him again where the haunted cave is, he tells them to follow him. Instead of leading them down the right road, he leads them to a bluff, hoping they'll drive off.

The people he kills he keeps trapped in the cave. 

People who walk up to the cave instead of driving, escape him. And inside the cave they find hand-prints carved into the stone. The weird thing is that the hand-prints are never in the same place. And that's because the people he killed are still trying to get out.

There's more "proof" to this urban legend:

1. The occult teens were actually tried and convicted, and there are newspaper clippings. 2. People who escaped still have the empty box of chocolates with his warning. 3. If you leave the car in neutral without the handbrake where the Black Man was taken, it doesn't roll down the road. It goes uphill up the road closer to the cave.

I never believed this until my "genius" physics-major brother actually tried the car thing, trying to prove to everyone it's bogus.

It actually worked, and went uphill on its own. 

Now he claims it's because of an electromagnetic field or something.

I told him if he goes again he'd better not tell the Dark Man where we live:)

Friday, October 28, 2011


Hi, everyone! It's me, Copil (Juan Solo to my friends). We're starting a regular feature here called Ask-a-Dude! This is how it works: you'll be the ask part of the equation, I'll be the dude part. Run the equation and solve for X. Am I over-explaining this? I have to, I'm a dude.

There are a lot of dudes out there, by some estimates as many as 3.5 billion! In some places that would constitute an infestation and they'd send people in hazmat suits to eradicate it. Given so many Y chromosomes in the world, you might ask why I am the right person to answer your man-centric questions.

Very simple. I have walked among their kind. I have eaten their food (beer) and prayed to their gods (football and beer). I have held sacred their traditions (always laugh when someone trips) and believed their myths (chicks dig my ketchup-stained “Free Mustache Rides” t-shirt). And now, under penalty of death, I will reveal all for the cover price of one, shiny question from you.

Here's a list of things you might learn from this monthly feature:
  • How do I get my guy friend to read something I think he'd love?
  • What do guys really talk about in the locker room?
  • If two guys, one in L.A. and one in Chicago, approach each other at a constant rate of speed, how far out of their way will each go to avoid even looking like they touched hands in a crowded hallway?
This stuff is gold, people. Absolute gold.

So go ahead. Ask anything. It can be YA-related or not. And I'll answer.

Send your questions to copil [dot] yanez [at] gmail [dot] com.

Let's get started!


Q: What do guys really think of girls with uber-short pixie cuts?

A: Girls have hair? Okay, in the interest of research, I went online and, sure enough, women not only have hair, there seems to be a whole military-industrial complex of products and services dedicated to making you believe that guys will notice the subtle gradations between your honey-blond summer highlights and your dirty-blond fall highlights.

Personally I love the pixie cut (also known as the “Rhi-Rhi,” the “Halle,” and the “WTF?! I asked for a trim!”). Unfortunately, it is not very popular with most guys. Evolutionary biologists say it's because, to the limbic region of the male brain, you look like a thirteen-year-old boy. This results in a subconscious desire to invite you over for some Call of Duty.

The pixie cut does, however, have at least one thing going for it. It shares some similarities with the only hairstyle we understand: the ponytail. We like ponytails because they speak to us. They say “See, I can be casual, I just threw my hair in a ponytail and now I'm ready to watch that bloody UFC pay-per-view with you and your bros.” By the way, your hair lied to us.

Look, all women are beautiful and the pixie cut won't take that away. But guys are like bears. Startle them and their primitive instincts take over.

Here's my advice. If you're rocking the supah-cute pixie cut and traveling in a region where you expect to encounter males, stay to well-marked paths, speak loudly to alert them to your presence and prove to them you're not a thirteen-year-old-boy by rolling your eyes when they offer you tickets to the gun show as they kiss their biceps. A man's primitive brain thus deceived, he will not be aroused to flight, no matter what hairstyle you wear.

But just in case, pack bear spray.


Q: What kind of book covers appeal to guy readers?

A: This one may be easier to answer in terms of covers that don't appeal to guys:
Cover #1: Four girls, knee deep in attitude, stand with their arms crossed and stare out at the reader. This one's bad because every guy assumes he is the center of any female's attention (the fact that these women only exist as illustrations on a book cover matters exactly not at all). But while one woman's attention is always welcome, four women's attention is, in man-logic, an anti-guy crusade. So naturally guys assume they are being judged (again, the fact that this assumption is ascribed to a group of non-living illustrations is irrelevant - seriously, you can't apply logic to man-think). Once a guy starts feeling he's being judged, he's going to do one of two things. First option is to start a gonad punching contest with his buds. Why? Because there's no international rules-setting body for gonad punching contests so no one can tell him he's doing it wrong. No standards equals no judgment. The second option is. . .actually, no, on further review, the gonad punching thing is the last, best option for most guys. So, yeah, this is not a super-popular cover with us.
Cover #2: This cover depicts some inscrutable symbolism that requires me to read the book just to understand it. C'mon, the whole point of the cover is to tell me everything I need to know about the book without ever cracking it open. Book covers that appeal to guys allow them to write C+ quality book reports using nothing more than the cover art and the book's top Amazon review. If your book has two pale-white hands holding a blood-red apple on the cover, most guys are going to fantasize about punching your cover in the kidney. Just to be clear, we understand on a logical level that books don't have kidneys. That won't stop us from spending twenty minutes looking for one.
Cover #3: An emo dude or dudette stands with hands in pockets, his/her angst-ridden face half-hidden by a sweatshirt hood. It's not that men don't like emo culture, (an emo bro of mine actually invented the phrase “Ugh, this is so booooring!”) But emo equals exactly one thing in a guy's mind: feelings. Feelings about boredom, about pain, about OTHER feelings. Feelings are male kryptonite. I'm pretty sure I read about a man who experienced the pain equivalent of open-heart surgery and made it through without anesthesia simply by watching pre-recorded videos of his mother asking him, again and again, what was wrong with him today, he just seemed so distant. In the presence of feelings, men will experience total body numbness within twenty seconds and brain death in eight minutes. Eight minutes! And you still want to talk about why I don't want to meet your parents for dinner on Thursday? Get off my back, angel of death!
Cover #4: This one has fields, streams, mountains or farm equipment. Problem is, none of them are being burned, forded, climbed or turned into zombie chopping vehicles of death.
So what would constitute a perfect cover? A hot woman (looking away from the reader), a title that includes words like star, war, zombie or sex (preferably all of them in one go) and a short sentence at the bottom telling me exactly how it ends.

I'll pay extra for dinosaurs or robots in the background. But not both. That's just stupid.


Q: What do guys really think of romance in books? Do they secretly dig it?

A: First, some background. Girls can read romance and feel emotional excitement on behalf of the protagonist. But when guys read romance, they almost exclusively see it as a proxy for their own love lives. Put another way, women see themselves in the character (“you go, girl!”) while men see the character in themselves (“dude's a mack daddy just like me!”).

This romantic lens, which falls under MRDS (Man Reality Distortion Syndrome) but should not be confused with beer goggles, causes our joy receptors to spike when the romance we read most closely mirrors our own desires. This means that our interest in romance peaks when it appears in novels at two extreme quantities: almost nada and muy mucho.

Because you totally asked for one, here's a curvilinear graph explaining the phenomena:

It is no coincidence that a male romance graph approximates a goofy smile.

Why the u-shaped plot? When a story has a light romantic hand, a dude enjoys it because all guys have crushes that never go past that initial phase where lack of knowledge can be very sexy. A guy's familiarity with that type of relationship means a little romance will peak his interest.

But as the romance in the story becomes more prominent, guys begin to lose interest because feelings, crucial to understanding complex emotional states, make Hulk heAd AcHE, mAKe HuLk aNGRy, HUlK wAnT SMASH FeeLinGs! More feelings equals less familiarity equals less interest (thus giving the romance graph its saggy butt).

At the other extreme, where romance starts to take over the story (I'm thinking of romantica, here), guys start to tune in again for the same reason they enjoy porn: it requires little imagination. In this region, the feelings are more animalistic, baser, instinctual. And familiar.

Short answer, yes, we like us some romance. Longer answer, if your goal is to attract more guys to your romantic YA, either keep things light and don't emphasize the romance too much or put in everything including the kitchen sink. Yes, as a location. Now you're getting it!


Hope this month's answers helped you understand the male psyche! If so, congratulations. You're rich!

That's it for this month! See you next time!


Send your questions to copil [dot] yanez [at] gmail [dot] com. That's the same place to send comments, complaints and pictures of fried stuff, cuz I totally dig on fried stuff. The fryier, the better.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Local Urban Legends

Every Thursday, we post a question for our followers--and every Saturday, one of the commenters will be selected to choose a title from our Vault! ARCs, signed books, awesome books... Anything we have--you get to choose.

To enter, follow YA Confidential and please make sure that your email address is linked to your comment in some way! (So we can get in touch with you :)

Today's question:

In the spirit of Halloween (muah-ah-ah) we're talking about local urban legends today! What are some of yours?

Our answers:

Sara: Bunny Man Bridge!! So, about fifteen minutes from where I live is a place called Clifton, where a lot of my friends in high school lived. There's an ancient urban legend about a Bunny Man, which sounds a WHOLE lot cuter than it actually is. There are lots of different twists, but they all revolve around a guy who wears a bunny costume and carries around an axe to attack anyone he runs into.

The specific spot, is a one-lane road that passes underneath a railroad track. It's surrounded by woods and is totally creepy. See?

Except when I was younger, it was totally covered in all this
creepy (and awesome) graffiti! Now it's painted over.
And the story goes that if you drive through the tunnel and over the wooden bridge just past it, and looking your rearview mirror, you'll see the ghost of someone hanging from the end of the tunnel. I've driven through the tunnel (not by myself, clearly) but I've never had the guts to turn around! And one time I was on a double date and the boys thought it'd be funny to force the girls out of the car and leave us there for five minutes by ourselves. Needless to say, neither one got a second date. Also, here's a link to the "real" legend. Though, don't be too scared. It's pretty much false :)

Copil: While Virginia has a number of interesting urban legends, including The Bunny Man and The Richmond Vampire, I'm partial to legends that defy geographical boundaries. For example, many states have some version of the Midgetville legend or the fabled Town of Little People. The story goes that there's a part of town few people have ever visited because of the impossible creatures sighted in the surrounding woods (elves, giants, two-headed beasts, gainfully employed Medieval History Majors - super-creepy stuff like that). Inevitably, some intrepid reporter will venture out to the mysterious neighborhood and find clean, orderly rows of picture perfect, half-scale homes and tidy lawns. After knocking on some doors, the reporter is shocked to find the town populated by little people, bearded ladies, a lobster boy, a strongman and other circus performers laid off when a nearby circus went bankrupt. Unwilling to tolerate the mean-spirited gossips in town, the circus folk build their own community in an out-of-the-way cul-de-sac. The reporter gets a reluctant interview only after pinky-swearing not to divulge the exact location of the town.

I'll give you the GPS coordinates for five bucks.

Cambria: There's an old abandoned mental institution in Ellicott City, MD that was shut down a long time ago after authorities found out about these crazy experiments they were doing on the patients there. There's a road that runs right by it that we call Seven Hills because, well, it has seven hills you have to drive over. The story is that if you slow down or stop on any part of that road, the ghosts of the tortured mental patients will kill you as retribution for the suffering they went through when they were alive. Needless to say, we used to drive really REALLY fast over Seven Hills when we were teenagers!

So, anyone up for a road trip? :)

Alexandra: The town I went to college in is pretty haunted, and there are many stories I could tell. But I'll stick to my favorite. Like Cam's, this story has to do with a haunted former insane asylum. While the asylum still housed patients, a deaf and dumb woman got lost in the attic. She couldn't find her way down, and she couldn't scream for help. She also couldn't hear the staff calling for her as they looked, and they never thought to look in the attic. Legend has it that she took off all her clothes, folded them up, and then lay down to die. As her body decomposed, she left a stain on the floor that won't come out. If you dare venture into the attic of the asylum and touch the stain, she'll haunt you forever.

Karen: At the southern end of Fort Desoto beach in St Petersburg, FL, if and when the moon is shining just right, you can see and hear mermaids in the waves, searching for human playmates. But they aren’t kind, pretty, Disney-ish mermaids. Observers have reported that they sing wordless songs, their skin looks like parchment paper, and their eyes are hollow and haunting. If you stare and listen long enough they’ll lure you into the ocean then try to take you under with them. They don’t care that humans can’t breathe underwater, so, um, you can figure out how that story would end. A few years ago photos circulated saying this mermaid skeleton washed up on shore, but turns out the body (artistic work) was created by artist, Juan Cabana. You can find lots of creepy looking mer-corpses on his website.

I may or may not have walked Fort Desoto beach at night looking for these mermaids.

And I may or may not have seen one.

Your turn!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


We're all about Halloween this week here at YA Confidential, so it's only appropriate that this week's Undercover post is about covers that go bump in the night. Covers that make us cringe, or creep us out. Covers that cover a variety of scary, disturbing, haunting and/or icky.

Great minds really do think alike, because when I surveyed our operatives and teen spies, 2 covers were mentioned by several peeps. First up...
This was one of my (KHoops) picks. Fem Fatale also included it in her list of favs, and it has been on Agent A's TBR list even though she doesn't know if she's brave enough to read it.

Next up is a book that makes Cutta Mutha look at all small children with a slight apprehension...including her own child! In her own words, "
it gives me the heebiejeebies!" Agent A was brave enough to read it and lived to blog about it.Teen Spy Athena Darkholm loves this one too.
"The cover isn't the creepy-ist picture in the book. There are more in the book that give me chills and it takes a lot for me to get scared. If you can get the pictures inside the book, those will scare the crap out of you. The scary thing is that those pictures weren't photoshopped and were actually taken, which I thought was cool."

Homey C and I both have an affinity for monsters and favorited this one...Homey C said the cover is creepy and foreboding. She loves the tiny light in the window of the house, which makes it look so vulnerable, and the silhouette of the monster against the dark, cloudy sky. I've heard amazing things about this book, and I hear the monster isn't the kind of monster you expect.

Teen Spy Funny Bunny has a dark side and chose this creepy cover and asked,
"I think it's the way the woman is sort of...melting? Do you see that, too?"

Teen Spy
Athena Darkholm confessed that this cover made her want to steal a dead girl's boots...
"I want those boots!!!!!!!! Dead cheerleader? Ah-freaking-mazing!!! I'm stealing those boots, just to be clear on the subject."

The Black Wiggle weighed in on his fav with this one...
"It wasn't until many years after I'd read The House with the Clock in its Walls that I recognized one of the main reasons I liked the book so much (and found myself so frightened as a kid). It has really cool illustrations by Edward Gorey. Gorey's illustrations could be equal parts wickedly funny and creepily haunting. From his art you might guess he was a British artist with Victorian leanings. In fact, he was American with a HUGE pop culture obsession (Gilligan's Island and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were among his favorites)."

Other scary/creepy/freaky favorites...

Draw the DarkNecroscopeThe LightPatient ZeroAshes (Ashes Trilogy #1)Sleepless

YOUR TURN! What cover do you not want to be alone with in a dark alley?
(Creating this post may or may not have given me nightmares, but don't tell anyone because I have a tough spy image to protect.)

Teen Roundtable: Halloween, Horror, and Paranormal Romance

For the October roundtable, and in celebration of Halloween week here at YA Confidential, our discussion was about all things Halloween-themed. From paranormal stories, to the dearth of true horror books in YA, to the scarily slutty costumes some kids like to dress up in.

Come in, take off your shoes, and please stick your hand in this bowl of eyeballs...I mean peeled grapes. Learn all kinds of fun things about teen life and Halloween! But please stay away from the pet zombie. It's kinda hungry, and we don't have insurance.


How do you guys feel about the paranormal genre? Are you sick of it? Just sick of vampires but still digging werewolves? 

Lennon: I freaking love the paranormal genre!! My favorite. I love vampires and I'm cool with werewolves unless it's Jacob Black. Jacob is evil. EDWARD FOREVER!!!!!

Katie: I love paranormal books, stay away from vampires and werewolves for a couple of years!

Lissa: I'm over the paranormal genre, most of it. I'm over werewolves and vamps, even though I love my old series. They've become too repetitive, but I do like the odd ghost story or vampire love

Alexandra: So, for those of you sick of vampires, what's the new "thing"?

Lissa: The new thing for me is fantasy. Like, HARD CORE fantasy

Katie: There isn't a new thing yet, give me something new that no one has thought of yet

We see a lot of burn-out on certain creatures. Do you guys think that because you're such avid readers, you get burnt out more quickly? Like, do your friends still read vampire books long after you're sick of them?

Lissa: I don't think so. I'm pretty sure it's TOTALLY done.

Laura: I get burnt out with any repeated theme super quickly while my other, non-reader friends still cling to the concept.

Katie: the reason i'm burnt out on vampire and werewolves is because there hasn't been a book that has been writen about them that was good so i got tired of trying

Cristin: Katie, but are your friends burnt out on them too? Or do they still read them because they don't read as many books as you do?

Katie: Cristin- Yes, they're burnt out and they don't read as much as i do.

In books that have any sort of scary element, is it romantic when the guy "protects" the girl? Or is it just annoying?

Laura: ANNOYING. Don't let that brother touch you. You hold out. You're strong, woman!

Lissa: I want to rip the pages of my book. It's revolting 


What does everyone think of zombies as romantic interests? Or would we rather zombies stay as they are--scary (or funny) antagonists?

Lennon: I like zombies I think that they are great romantic interests. Generation Dead anyone?

Lissa: That's stretching it for me. I can't picture a slimy dead guy kissing a pretty, warm-blooded human without wanting to hurl

Katie: Zombies are just creepy

Laura: Yeaaahhhhh, zombie romance!

Alexandra: Laura, was that sarcasm I detect?

Laura: NO way! Bring on the rotting romance!!

All the sagging flesh and broken limbs - how is that NOT attractive? I don't know. It's just interesting, I guess. Plus, I'm NOT a romance fan.

Katie: I think you guys need to re think romance now because of laura

Laura: Right? Plus, it would be pretty hard to have arguments with zombies. No more domestics! See, we're solving issues here, people!

As far as horror goes: what's in, and what's tired?

Lissa: Anything works for me, really. There just aren't enough out there in YA

Lennon: I agree completely. Horror is completely underrated in YA.

Katie: i love scary movies and books but it's hard to find a good book, and a pg-13 movie

Cristin: Do you guys ever read the old school horror that was popular back in my day, like the Fear Street books or Christopher Pike?

Lissa: I read Remember Me by Christopher Pike, and hated the second and third stories so much I've given away the book. I have Flowers in the Attic, or whatever that's called, but haven't read it yet.

(Most of our spies expressed an interest in finding more YA horror. We had a hard time thinking of many YA titles, and our spies were really feeling that publishing needs MORE YA horror.)

Should horror books have romance or is that taboo for the genre?

Laura: Ughhh. Maybe a little side romance, but nothing that really "becomes" the book. It destroys the plot.

Katie: you can do romance and horror together if you do it right

Lissa: Romance is fine, as long as it's side romance. Focus on the scary, please :)

Lennon: It depends on the plot. If it's just a side note then yes but if it could be classified as a romance with horror in it, no.


What's cool to do on Halloween? Dress up? Trick or treat? Parties?

Katie: Tomorrow i'm going to a halloween costum dance and then next saturday a halloween party!

Laura: I can totally dress up next week and go to my "school" and freak the heck out of my teachers who would have no clue it's Halloween.  (Laura lives in Australia!)

Katie: I just go to parties. clean parties though 

Alexandra: Katie - are there a lot more of the raunchy parties? Who has the clean parties?

Katie: There are a lot of raunchy parties. i know people who have bad parties and a lot of people who have clean ones. though all the clean ones i've gone to has been hosted by Lalter Day Saints, other wise nicknamed Mormons

Lennon: I go to one party every year with my parents. Some of my friends come with their parents. Ours involves babysitting the younger kids, watching Zombieland, and watching our parents get TRASHED.

Lissa: I'm going trick or treating this year, but only because I have a huge sweet tooth. Will go party next year tho 

Cambria: What is everyone dressing up as? Like, do all the girls dress up in those, um, (what's another word for slutty?) questionable costumes?

Katie: Cam i keep my costums clean, i hate it when girls to that

Cambria: Katie -- doesn't it seem like all the store-bought costumes are super slutty, though? Like, whatever happened to a mouse costume, you know?

Katie: Cam- you are so right they are! i have had to make one at home for the last two years. i wish they would bring back the mouse 

Lennon: Nearly all my friends are being slutty on Halloween, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, stippers. But I'm going as Katniss or gothic tinkerbell so I won't fall into that I hope. Oh, one of my guy friends is going as Santa and they want to be his "ho"s

What about urban legends?

Laura: Okay. So, I live out in a rural area of Victoria where there are lots of old farms and ranches and things, you get the idea. There’s a hill behind my house that is basically forest now but there is this rundown cattle farm in there. When I was a kid, I used to dare my friends to go up there because “legend” has it that there is the ghost of an old farmer in there who cuts up the bodies of little children and throws them in a barrel that he used to use to store cow’s milk. It’s also said that there is a giant pit of snakes under the house that will swallow you whole if you try to escape. Needless to say, my friends didn’t sleepover that night…

So, there you have it. The operatives are very happy that Halloween is still a 'cool' holiday for our spies (at least, the ones who live in North America and actually have opportunities to celebrate!) Though the slutty costumes are rather unfortunate, since we all know it only gets worse in college....

If you're a writer looking for something new to write, it looks like our teens are seriously salivating after some good YA horror! Just as long as there are no vampires in it.

On a last note, I will leave you with this:

Cambria: Wait. So people actually bob for apples?!? *perplexed* It always seem so impossible.

Katie: cam yes people do, don't worry i've never acually got one, the one type of person that seems to alway get them are football players, it seems really weird

The football players are the best at bobbing for apples. A little known fact if you want to write an authentic football player. Do with that what you will! ;)


Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Superstitions: The Origin of Slasher Sue?

This week at YA Confidential, we wanted to get the proverbial bloody head rolling in anticipation for one of our favorite days of the year:


It's a time when one quarter of all candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased ($2 billion! Can you say ka-CHING?!), and it's the third biggest party day (behind New Year's Eve and Super Bowl Sunday). But did you know Halloween—or All Hallow's Eve, All Saints Eve, Samhain, The Feast of the Dead, or El Dio de los Muertos, if you prefer—actually came by way of the Celts some 2,000 years ago as a last hoorah with the spirits before the long, cold winter set in? Did you know instead of trick-or-treating for Tootsie Roll Pops and Nerds, kids used to bug their neighbors for Soul Cakes (think Christmas fruitcake meets Mardi Gras king cake) in exchange for prayers to dead relatives?

Maybe you knew all that.

However, Halloween isn't just about plastic fangs, superhero costumes, or fake cobwebs that don't come out of your bushes no matter HOW hard you try. Halloween is where a lot of our superstitions originate. All Hallow's Eve is said to be when the lines between the living and the dead are the most blurred, so the connection to spirits is greater, hence being super super careful about things like broken mirrors, walking under ladders, and stepping on cracks. You've heard of those bad luck omens, right? (And if you haven't, I bet at one time or another your mom probably steered your little toddler-self away from any crack-strewn sidewalks for fear she'd end up in one of those claustrophobic back braces with an itch she couldn't reach.)

But there are some beliefs from back in the day you probably haven’t heard too much about because, well, I like to think our heads are screwed on tighter now. Specifically, the beliefs I'm referring to deal with young women trying to identify their future mates by doing the most asinine things and then trying to make sense of it all. Like tossing apple peels over their shoulder to see if the peel resembled the initials of their future love. Or eating a walnut-hazelnut-nutmeg mixture before bed with the hope of dreaming about their very own Edward Cullen, only less sparkly. And that whole bobbing-for-apples thing? Nowadays, that seemingly innocent Fall pastime is a given for humiliation and laughter (and probably communicable diseases, but that's neither here nor there). But back then it was more likely an elbows-throwing debacle because whoever successfully bobbed the first apple, also took home the "I'm getting married first" prize. And along the just-plain-freaky lines, girls would stand in front of a mirror in a dark room and instead of saying "Bloody Mary" three times, they'd hold a candle up to their face, then look over their shoulder expecting to see their prospective spouse's image.

For real.

There are more like these, but I wanted to spare you. Still, all these retired traditions and superstitions make me wonder if the girls who thought they could see their crush's name written in a bowl of egg yolk floating in water, eventually evolved into the naïve, TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) characters we see today in campy horror films. I call them Slasher Sues. You know who they are: the girl calling out, "Who's there?" when she's alone, the power's out, and there's creepy footsteps down the hall; the girl making out with her boyfriend in the woods when there's a serial killer on the loose; the girl who wedges herself into a tiny bathroom when there's not a window in sight and only a Venus razor that should've been thrown out weeks ago. * headsmack *

As we gear up for Halloween (and NaNoWriMo!), let's take a moment to remember all the good, bad, and downright creepy things the day represents. And tell me – what's your favorite Slasher Sue situation? Are you superstitious or do you say "Pshaw!" in the face of bad luck?

Agent Cutta Mutha OUT.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Comment of the Week

Every week we pick our favorite comment to get a spotlight here, and it's author receives the gift of their choice from THE VAULT.

This week's winner, who told us about her favorite book-to-film adaptations, is...


I liked the "modernized" Romeo and Juliet because of the death scene. Few productions of that play make the choice that Lurhman did - to let Juliet begin to wake up so that both Romeo sees her alive and then she watches him die. It makes it a true tragedy. (Other than that, I hate R&J, no matter ho makes it or who's in it.)

I guess my favorite adaptation is Lord of the Rings. It changes things from the books, but it maintains their "soul", and it's just so darn pretty with all the New Zealand shots.

(And I actually do think the cinematography from Twilight makes it worth watching for the scenery. Gorgeous panorama shots.)

Let this be a lesson to you all: you rarely go wrong when commenting about Shakespeare, especially when I'm in charge of the COTW post!

Josin, please email us and let us know what fabulous VAULT prize you want!

Many thanks to everyone who commented this week!

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