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Inspiring Fear: “Scary Stories” Headed to the Big Screen

hblf, lfneJason L Blair09 December 2013

“Saw Writers Bring Your Little Fears to the Big Screen With ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’”

Don’t let that headline fool ya: It’s not talking about the game line.

It is talking about something that might be relevant to your interests though! Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, two of the guys behind the Saw franchise films are adapting Alvin Schwartz’s classic short story collections, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to the silver screen.

I own an omnibus edition of the three books and I adore it. If you haven’t read the tales, or haven’t for a while, I encourage you all to pick up a copy. It’s rife with Little Fears inspiration and the illustrations by Stephen Gammell are wondrously horrific.

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Halloweek 2013 – Doll-O-Ween #5: Slappy the Dummy

hblf, lfneJason L Blair01 November 2013

And we finish this year’s Halloweek/Doll-O-Ween with one of the most iconic dolls in literature: R. L. Stine’s Slappy from the author’s insanely popular Goosebumps series.

First appearing as an ordinary ventriloquist’s dummy in 1993’s Night of the Living Dummy, Slappy was not the antagonist of that book. Another dummy, named Mr. Wood, took that honor with Slappy only coming to life at the end of the story. Over the course of two more books in the original Goosebumps line—1995’s Night of the Living Dummy II and 1996’s Night of the Living Dummy III—we see Slappy terrorizing various families and often drawing the ire (and vengeance) of his fellow dolls.

While he has a mind of his own, when left for a long stretch of time, he enters an inert state where he is indistinguishable from a regular ventriloquist’s dummy. That is, until someone speaks the magic words: Karru marri odonna loma molonu karrano. A phrase which multiple unwitting children manage to mutter over the course of twenty years and five more books across multiple Goosebumps series. That’s a lot of traveling for a fella with wooden legs.

1998 brought Bride of the Living Dummy in which our wooden troublemaker becomes enamored with a doll belonging to his new owner’s sisters. Stung by Cupid’s arrow, Slappy will stop at nothing to get the woman he loves. This book is also where we learn that Slappy was carved from the coffin of a dark sorcerer—and he wasn’t the only one as later books revealed.

Just a year later, a new book featuring the diabolical dummy hit the shelves. Titled Slappy’s Nightmare, this book presents a solution to dealing with the doll. After getting tired of Slappy’s antics, main character Jimmy O’James learns from his new doll (and Slappy’s coffin-brother) Wally, that if the boy can get Slappy to do three good deeds in a week, Jimmy will have control over him. Though, as the book title suggests, all this may not actually be true.

Slappy makes two appearances in the Goosebumps HorrorLand series. Author R. L. Stine calls Revenge of the Living Dummy one of his scariest stories. The HorrorLand series is notable for how it places its characters into horrifying situations and then brings them all together in the titular theme park as a Very Special Guest.

As the series continues, the characters from the different books have to come together to escape. Slappy makes another appearance in later HorrorLand volume, The Streets of Panic Park, but as an ally.

In 2013’s Son of Slappy, we learn that the dummy, like Chucky, has a kid. Forcing current owner Jackson Stander to deal with not one, but two, evil dolls.

Slappy has a long history full of interesting tidbits you can pull into your own Little Fears stories. I highly recommend the books though seeing Slappy in action on the TV show is pretty spectacular as well.

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Halloweek 2013 – Doll-O-Ween #4: Creepy-Ass Dolls

hblf, lfneJason L Blair31 October 2013

A child’s doll is one of the oldest toys still in production. Records of dolls date back to the civilizations of Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, and artisans have used all manner of materials to create these tiny humans, from wood to wax to bone. Dolls are a mainstay of human culture. We seem to have a fascination with creating replicas of ourselves. Some represents standards of beauty, others depict cultural traditions, and then there are other dolls. And who knows what folks were thinking when they made them. They are so poorly conceived, so poorly executed, that you wonder if they aren’t part of some strange ritual or curse. Thus, we have a long history of creepy-ass dolls.

Some of the most singularly disturbing (and offensive) dolls can be seen in a couple books by Stacey Leigh Brooks. In Creepy-Ass Dolls, Ms. Brooks takes us on a curated tour of the world dolls, pairing phrases such as “Mary had a little lamb…but I ate it” and “Don’t let the sassy plaid fool you. I will swallow your soul while you sleep!” with some of the most disturbing simulacra I’ve ever seen.

The second volume, Diary of a Creepy-Ass Doll, follows a doll’s descent into madness through journal entries, odd scribbles, and other artifacts that lay out her wicked schemes and plots to maintain strict control over her attic kingdom.

Both books are generously illustrated with photographs and drawings that highlight just how twisted dolls can become. As inspiration for Little Fears, or a curious coffee table book, I recommend picking up both volumes for the complete creepy-ass treatment.

Creepy-Ass Dolls and Diary of a Creepy-Ass Doll are both available in print and digital formats. Definitely worth taking a look if you want to include some creepy dolls in your Little Fears campaign.

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We’re Starting a Fiction Line!

lfneJason L Blair20 September 2013

The LFNE Book 3 Kickstarter passed $8,000 in pledges last night—which means I’m writing a Little Fears book this November!

That is amazing. Thank you all so much. We still have just over a day to go! Please help spread the word wherever you can.

Hey, am I getting a copy of this book?

As was outlined in this Kickstarter update, every Kickstarter backer who pledges $25 or more will get a free digital copy sent to them. If you back at $70 or more, you’ll get the digital copy PLUS a signed print edition sent to you. This book will be shipped separately so it will not delay fulfillment of your backer tier. Or, you can add a digital copy to your pledge for $5—no matter the level—and extra hardcopies for $10 (please include $5 shipping if you need it sent outside the United States).

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One Week to Go!

lfneJason L Blair13 September 2013

The LFNE Book 3 Kickstarter has just one week to go! Please help spread the word. We’re still a little over $1400 from launching the Little Fears fiction line. If you’d like to see some books set in the Nightmare Edition universe, help the Kickstarter reach $8000!

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Help Launch the Little Fears Fiction Line!

lfneJason L Blair09 September 2013

The Kickstarter has eleven days left on it and we’re less than $2k away from launching the Little Fears fiction line! I’m very excited, and it’s a goal we can reach, but it’ll need your help. Please pass the word, spread the link, and share your own Little Fears stories online and with your friends. I’d love to be able to get the first book, The Wolf Pact, to press with your help.

If you’re not familiar with my fiction writing (I imagine most of you know me from my roleplaying games), I posted a short fiction piece to my professional website a bit ago. A teacher friend of mine asked me for a 4-5 paragraph survival story for her Sixth Grade class. (She tells me it was quite the hit—so hooray!) My contribution is called REST and you can read it here.

You can also read a brief excerpt from The Wolf Pact in a previous update to this site.

Thank you all for your continuing support! I really does mean the world to me.

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Kickstarter Stretch Goal #1 – Little Fears: The Wolf Pact

lfneJason L Blair29 August 2013

Nate opened the library door slowly and glanced inside. Miss Dennison’s desk was at the back, to the right. Twenty steps or so. The boy shut the door behind him, pushing it until he heard a faint click. Even though lunch had just let out, and the tables were filled with students, the place was a silent as a cemetery. As he crossed the room, his eyes darted across the desks, avoiding direct contact whenever he could. Nate counted his steps as he crossed the room toward the librarian. Twenty-one.

Nate looked at Miss Dennison, her eyes fixed on a computer screen, fingers flying across the keyboard. The monitor glowed softly on the thin woman’s pale skin.

“Um,” Nate squeaked. “Do you have any books on werewolves?”

Without looking up, the librarian pointed a long bony finger towards one of the aisles. “Row 12. Fiction. Horror.”

“No,” Nate said, a bit too quickly. “Um, I mean, like, facts about werewolves.”

Miss Dennison stopped typing. “Excuse me?”

“Real life,” Nate searched for the right words. “Like, history and stuff.”

The librarian withdrew her hands from the keyboard. She raised her head slowly. Her every action was precise. She spoke, low and steady. “I suppose you could check Folklore. There are many accounts of lycanthropy among ancient civilizations. For historical accounts, I recommend an Internet search. Computers are at the back. Use your Student ID to log in.”

“Thank you,” Nate said, quietly, eyeing the imposing aisles stuffed with books. He had never been much of a reader. The thought of delving into so many books made his palms sweat. He stepped toward the shelves, thought for a second, then turned around. Miss Dennison was still looking at him, her face like stone. Nate swallowed down a lump in his throat. “Lycanthropy?”

“Yes. Lycanthropy.” The librarian wrote the word on a yellow sticky note and handed it to him. “Werewolves, shapeshifters, skinchangers, all of them fall under the category of lycanthropy. It’s a good word to know if you’re doing any research on the subject.”

Nate took the piece of paper. The tacky strip on the edge stuck to his fingertips. “Thank you.”

Miss Dennison’s face turned up in a flat smile. Her lips parted slightly, exposing a long row of thin white teeth. “Of course. That’s what I’m here for.”

The Wolf Pact

Little Fears: The Wolf Pact is about 11-year Nate Torrance. Drifting away from his two best friends—one doesn’t want to grow up and one who can’t wait to be an adult—Nate feels more alone than he ever has in his life until he strikes up a conversation with Jennifer Mills, the new girl in Mr. Jenner’s Sixth Grade class. Their friendship quickly blossoms and, one day, Jennifer admits to Nate why her family moved into town: two years ago, her older brother, Brandon, disappeared in the middle of the night. Her family soon fell apart, and she and her mom decided to relocate in order to get a fresh start. Jennifer reluctantly admits that she believes her brother was taken by monsters.

Real ones.

Nate worries Jennifer might be crazy—until he runs across the path of a werewolf who has been stalking a neighbor’s house. The neighbor? Nate’s friend, Darren, the 12-year old who can’t wait to grow up. But it’s not Darren who the werewolf wants, it’s Darren’s 8-year old sister, Lindsay. Nate then recruits Jennifer to help him stop the werewolf and prevent Lindsay from suffering the same fate as Brandon. It’s not until the two run into a second werewolf, one who claims he’s hunting the first one, that Nate begins to discover the truth behind monsters and a mysterious place called Closetland.

The Kickstarter

I wrote the first draft of The Wolf Pact back in 2007, before the launch of Little Fears Nightmare Edition in 2009. While it was a worthwhile experiment, that original text is not the book I’m looking to publish. I’d like to take the same basic idea and many of the characters and rewrite it as a new novel set within the Nightmare Edition world. And if the Blessed are the Children Kickstarter hits $8,000, I’ll commission a cover from Veronica Jones and publish the book in print and digitally as a PDF and eBook. In addition to the fiction, the book will include full stats for the characters and creatures featured in the story.

Every Kickstarter backer who pledges $25 or more will get a free digital copy sent to them. If you back at $70 or more, you’ll get the digital copy PLUS a signed print edition sent to you. This book will be shipped separately so it will not delay fulfillment of your backer tier. Or, you can add a digital copy to your pledge for $5—no matter the level—and extra hardcopies for $10 (please include $5 shipping if you need it sent outside the United States).

I hope this excites you as much as it does me. I’ve long wanted to launch a line of Little Fears novels and, with your help, I’ll be able to. Thank you!

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Little Fears Fiction Line?

lfneJason L Blair26 August 2013

The LFNE Book 3 Kickstarter is now over 200% funded (woah!) with 26 days left to go! You all are amazing. I cannot thank you enough.

Looking toward the future of the Kickstarter, I’ve been thinking over stretch goals with an eye towards what’s feasible, what’s best for the line, and what do folks want to see as the (not necessarily in order) criteria. A fourth book is a definite possibility but I’d HATE to promise anything that would cause a delay in shipping the Book 3 rewards (I learned that lesson from the Streets of Bedlam Kickstarter). Besides, I’d also like to grow Little Fears in other directions as well.

So, my current thought is launching the long-in-waiting Little Fears fiction line as a stretch goal for the Book 3 Kickstarter. The big benefits of this are:

1. Helping grown Little Fears in a new direction
2. It will not delay fulfillment of the other tiers in any way
3. The art demand isn’t nearly that of another game book

That said, there would be art and that’s what the stretch goal funds would cover. Veronica Jones has agreed to do the cover and I’d also have some interior illustrations as well. The book would be 25-30k words, made available in eBook and PDF as well as softcover and limited edition hardcover, and set in the Nightmare Edition of the world. I’m still working on the specifics of which tiers would get which version of the book but it’s safe to say $45 and over would get at least the free digital version and the print version would be available as an add-on (again–shipped separately so your reward would not be delayed because of it).

I’m throwing this out to you all though. Would you like to see a Little Fears fiction line?

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Grab STRANGE FORCES #1 free for Kindle

hblf, lfneJason L Blair18 May 2012

I’m a little late in posting this, as the deal ends tonight, but you can grab Strange Forces #1 for free right now for Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can download the app for PC, Mac, and iOS for the big old cost of nothing.

Fans may remember me extolling the virtues of Strange Force’s predecessor series, Strange Matters, a while back. If you’re not familiar with the series, check out the authors’ website for info.

You can grab your free copy of Strange Forces 1 by clicking this sentence. If you dig the book, please consider checking out Book 2, Book 3, and the newly-released Book 4 as well.

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Inspiring Fear: Strange Matter

hblf, lfneJason L Blair19 March 2012

And I thought I was up on these things.

Despite the fact I have every book in both the Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Eerie, Indiana tie-in fiction lines, am well familiar with the many varieties (and hundreds of volumes) of Goosebumps books, and have numerous other Middle Grade selections (including some obscure series such as Fiendly Corners and Scream Shop), I somehow was completely unaware of the Strange Matter line until Little Fears fan RandolphC posted about it on the Yahoo!Group.

I am, quite frankly, ashamed of myself. And I should be, because the books sound great.

Published in the mid-to-late-90s, at the height of the “let’s frighten children” era, Strange Matter saw 30 books written alternately by Marty M. Engle and Johnny Ray Barnes, Jr. The line also spun off a four-book series called Strange Forces.

The series takes place in and around the city of Fairfield, and features tween protagonists encountering and battling supernatural threats that range from werewolves to undead athletes to plants masquerading as regular folks. Each book is a new situation, featuring sometimes-new/sometimes-recurring characters.

Kids fighting monsters. Sounds great.

Sadly, the original line is out of print but the authors are looking to bring it back in ebook format in the near future. Three of the four spin-offs are already out for Kindle (see here: 1, 2, 3). I’ll be sitting down with those soon and I look forward to picking up the originals as they’re released. I recommend you do too, as they seem prime inspiration for the game of childhood terror.

You can keep tabs on the series at the authors’ official site, and I’ll be sure to drop notices here as well. My best to the authors in their relaunch. I can’t wait to see what I missed.

(Big thanks to Little Fears Yahoo!Group member RandolphC for the heads up on this intriguing series.)

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Praise for Little Fears

"I love this treatment of the concept of playing kids fighting not-so-imaginary monsters, where belief can be a powerful force for good or for horror." ★★★★★
Jordan Peacock

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