Guest Post: Finding the Heroes Within Ourselves by Stephen Zimmer

Guest Post: Finding the Heroes Within Ourselves by Stephen Zimmer

The idea of what it means to be a hero is at the center of Heart of a Lion and ultimately the character of Rayden Valkyrie.  The setting of the story may be sword and sorcery, but the ideas and what this character and story ultimately represent are timeless qualities that anyone can embrace. 

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Experience the Hell Around Us with Hellscapes, Volume 2


I'm happy to be part of the blog tour for the launch of Stephen Zimmer's new collection of short stories, Hellscapes, Volume 2. Return to the nightmarish, shadowy realms of Hell in the latest installment of the Hellscapes series by Stephen Zimmer. Six brand new, macabre tales of the infernal await you … but be that you only visit these realms, you do not want to share the fates of the inhabitants you will encounter! 

Stephen has joined me today to talk about the horror that impacts our lives, how we're influenced by media, and more!

Kentucky Geek Girl: What's your favorite scary movie?

Stephen Zimmer: My favorite scary movie is still The Howling, which features my favorite creature of all time, the werewolf.  This movie truly unnerved me as a kid and still has an edge to this day when I watch it.  

For one thing, the werewolves were done so well and had a realism to them I'd never seen before  They were walking wolves and not wolf-men, so to speak.  

But that wasn't the only thing.  Even when I was a kid I took note that the werewolves in the Howling could change at will, even during the daytime, and furthermore did not entirely become “wild beasts”.  

The scene at the file cabinet, where the werewolf waits for the woman to find the folder with his name before making its presence known, chilled me as it displayed a conscious will to be the beast. That was the main difference between the Howling and other werewolf movies.  The werewolves wanted to be what they were and maintained free will even after changing form.  The Eddie Quist character was a true killer who reveled in the terror caused in his werewolf form.  Of course, his savoring of causing that terror proved to be his undoing later, but the fact remained that these werewolves were conscious of what they did as humans and in beast form. 

KGG: What can do you do with the horror genre that you can't do with the other genres that you write in?

SZ: The horror genre truly has no bounds.  Horror can be psychological, it can be visceral, it can be so many different things, but in all cases no punches need be pulled.  You can go to some extremes that you can't necessarily do in other genres.  Very stark and shocking imagery that would cause a rift with readers in other genres can be used in horror to express a number of things.  

In the Hellscapes tales, I use visceral imagery to drive home the horrific nature of hell and to address the kinds of evil being explored and depicted in the various tales.  Horror truly lifts the boundaries and gives me a tremendous range of options in everything from the use of symbolism to making a point regarding an issue being addressed.  Horror is a very liberating genre due to its general lack of limits in what can be shown or depicted. 

KGG: The concepts in Hellscapes Volume II seem pretty rooted in reality. Would it be safe to say that Jean-Paul Satre was right in saying that "Hell is other people."?

SZ: The Hellscapes tales are indeed about the hell people inflict on others, it is just that in these tales they are not spared by death and are held to account for what they have done in the worst prison of all. Behind all the environments, creatures, and macabre situations, ultimately, are the actions of people.

The actions of people are the cause for each of these places.  They are the cause for the presence of the demons, guides, and monsters found within.  They are the cause for the presence of the characters in these realms.  Hell, truly can be seen as other people, as reality of full of horrors, suffering and evil caused by the actions and decisions of people.  People are indeed at the center of the Hells in Hellscapes.   

KGG: How does music affect your writing? What is your soundtrack when writing horror?

SZ: I do play music when I write, but it is more as a background that shields out the noises outside my house.  It keeps me from distraction.  I do not focus on the music when I write, but I do tend to play music that will have a vibe that will resonate with the kind of story and scene that I am writing.  

When writing horror I tend to listen to much heavier forms of music, bands like Slayer, Pantera, Hatebreed, Behemoth, Testament, Exodus, Overkill, Amon Amarth, Chimaira, Dimmu Borgir or Acheron, to name a few examples.  Sometimes is is simply darker music like Danzig, or Marilyn Manson, or very aggressive, heavier music like that of Five Finger Death Punch or Killswitch Engage.  These stories deal with an exploration of evil, they are not lighthearted and involve some powerful imagery.  Heavier, angrier music is well-suited to accompany the stories and serves as a suitable sonic backdrop when I write. 

KGG: What do you think makes a good story?

SZ: Good stories of any genre require at their foundation a compelling character, or ensemble of characters within a strong plot.  You can't have one without the other.  The reader has to connect on some level with the characters, but even the best character can't shine too much without a good plot.
Personally, I think the best kinds of stories both entertain and have something to say within them.  They might inspire, uplift you, or challenge you to think about an issue in a way you didn't before, but in one area or another there is some substance to go along with the entertainment.


Thanks for stopping by, Stephen! Get your Halloween week going by reading Hellscapes, Volume 2. 

Included in the pages of Hellscapes, Volume II:

In “The Cavern”, a man finds his way into a nightmare, subterranean world that leads to an even greater, and more devastating, revelation. A police officer takes pleasure in violently executing his duties and it appears to be open season in “The Riot” when he is part of an operation sent to crack down on a gathering of people protesting an economic summit nearby.  But this is an operation that is going to take a very different kind of turn, one that opens his eyes to a new reality.

A woman finds herself stranded on a high, rocky ledge, along with many other men and women, surrounded by a frothing sea in “Above as Below”.  Shadows glide beneath the surface and soon she will discover what lurks within the depths.

“Spots Do Not Change” tells the story of a man who has never had any qualms lying, cheating, or deceiving the women in his life.  A reckoning day looms as he comes to understand that his actions have harmed the lives of many others, actions that in the realms of Hell take on forms of their own.

Having spun webs of intrigue and personal destruction at the heights of national politics throughout his life, a man finds webs of another sort to present grave danger when he finds himself lost within a strange wilderness in “Weaving Webs”.

Many are drawn to “The Club” in the heart of the decaying, shadow-filled city of Malizia, hoping for some entertainment and release, or even safety from the monstrous dangers lurking in the darkness.  One man struggling against amnesia finds his way to the seemingly popular establishment and its confines give him momentary hope; until he discovers the nature of this night club and those who run it.

Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky.  His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Sawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections.

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Beauty and the Beast kicking off Broadway Live, Tickets Still Available

Ryan Everett Wood as Beast and Jillian Butterfield as Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Ryan Everett Wood as Beast and Jillian Butterfield as Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

As a child of the 1990s, Disney movies, and subsequently their stage musicals became some of my favorite things. Theater-goers can relive the magic of Beauty and the Beast this fall with NETworks presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast live at the Lexington Opera House.  This classic musical love story is a tale as old as time, filled with unforgettable characters, lavish sets and costumes, and dazzling production numbers including “Be Our Guest” and the beloved title song.

You know the story, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress.  If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity. This classic story has inspired popular culture for years and now you can experience the stage production's return to Lexington.

The Enchanted Objects of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The Enchanted Objects of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The original creators of the Broadway production have reunited for this new touring production. The play is directed by Rob Roth and choreographed by Matt West, with Costume Design by Ann Hould-Ward (Tony Award® winner for her work on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), Lighting Design by Natasha Katz (five-time Tony Award® winner), Scenic Design by Stanley A. Meyer, Sound Design by John Petrafesa Jr. and Music Supervision by Michael Kosarin.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast is just the first production in an amazing season of shows for Broadway Live at the Lexington Opera House! There are plenty of opportunities to see musicals that pop culture fans will enjoy.  The rest of the season is packed full of great musicals like The Producers, Annie, Mamma Mia!, and Flashdance.

Be sure to check out my review of Disney's Beauty and the Beast coming later this month! 

DISNEY's Beauty and the Beast
Presented by Broadway Live
and the Opera House Fund

Lexington Opera House
401 W Short St
Lexington, KY 40507
(859) 233-4567

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