Please welcome Darlene to the blog!
Before I came up with the horror-movie loving heroine in my paranormal mystery serial, all I knew about Bruce Campbell was that he was a cult film actor who has a thing for the word groovy. Seriously. His Twitter handle is @GroovyBruce.
I took my daughter’s sage advice that in order to write with authenticity about someone who’s crazy about scary movies, I needed to watch some of the classics. And I absolutely, positively must start with Evil Dead.
Okay, I said. Anything for my craft.
That was my introduction to the actor known the world over for his portrayal of demon-fighting Ash Williams. While in research mode, my objective was to figure out why Bruce Campbell became such a superstar. Knowledge like that could be invaluable in creating a hero readers could love.
Campbell stood out from the first scene as one of five college kids who set out for a vacation in the woods. The young Campbell was a looker with those sultry eyes and wavy, dark hair. Don’t even get me started on the magnificence of his square chin. But lots of movie stars are handsome. There had to be more to his popularity than that.
When the credits rolled for Evil Dead, I didn’t quite have it figured out. Campbell’s Ash was smarter and more resourceful than the other characters and had the added bonus of being alive at the end of the movie, but I was missing something.
On to Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.
Once I got over the sheer stupidity of the Ash Williams character taking his girlfriend to a cabin for a vacation after he watched four of his friends meet their bloody ends in the woods, I started to get it.
If Jamie Lee Curtis is the Scream Queen, Campbell is the King. The man can roar with the best of them. His scream is low-pitched and has staying power. Add to that, his face is spectacularly expressive. It shows every nuance of the horror he’s experiencing, and there’s a lot of horror.
It was quite the acting challenge to run screaming into the night while the severed head of his possessed girlfriend is attached to his hand. Or to break plates over his face and repeatedly slam his head into the sink while he’s similarly possessed. And how about the scene where he cuts off his hand with a chainsaw? Although that’s not the moment when I truly understood Campbell’s appeal.
No. The moment of enlightenment came when Campbell’s Ash uttered an iconic line after attaching that same chainsaw to the bloody stump at the end of his arm to saw through evil.
“Groovy,” he said.
How will this insight into what makes Campbell such a cult favorite help me in my writing? So many of his skills, after all, are visual. I haven’t quite figured it out, but Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness is on my to-be-watched pile.
Please enjoy this excerpt from Dead Ringer 1: Illusion.
Four months ago
When the police find me, I’m stumbling out of a deserted carnival. The place is boarded up for the season, awaiting the fresh swarms of tourists who descend on Midway Beach every summer like Alfred Hitchcock’s birds.
I trip on a crack in the pavement and pitch forward onto my knees. The sound of laughter resonates in my ears and the back of my head throbs. I reach up to touch my skull, half-expecting my hand to come away bloody, but the wound’s nothing more than a bump.
The dizzying spin of police lights and the accompanying thud of footsteps against the frosty ground intensify my headache. I wrap my arms around myself to try to stop my shivers. It may be North Carolina, but even southern beach towns feel the chill in February.
“You’re not supposed to be here.” A flashlight shines in my eyes before angling back to the ground as the cop bends down to put a hand on my shoulder. The voice is much softer as he takes in my state. “Are you all right?”
It’s a fight to force the words past my chattering teeth. “H-h-how did I get here?”
Another beam of light hits me in the face as a second, shorter cop jogs up behind the first. “Hey, Wainwright? Isn’t that the Greene girl?”
Why would a Midway Beach cop know who I am? The answer slowly penetrates my fuzzy brain. My stepfather’s a felon now, and these must be the two cops who came to the house asking questions about him. The surge of anger is preferable to the headache, but only barely.
“Yeah, it is,” Wainwright says. He’s so ripped he looks like he’s wearing a muscle suit. He loops a strong arm under my shoulder and helps me to my feet. The ground spins, but he doesn’t let me fall. “Your name’s Jade, right? What are you doing here, Jade?”
“I was walking to Becky’s house.” I’d set out for my best friend’s house at dusk, but judging by the darkness shrouding our surroundings it seems much later than that now. “And then I was here.”
A terrible realization sweeps over me. I’m missing time. It’s the sort of thing that happens in movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. For all I know, there’s a pod Jade hiding in the carnival, waiting to invade our peaceful little town.
“What happened to me? Where have I been?” I ask the cops.
Wainwright peers over my head at his partner. “We better take her to the hospital. Looks like she has a whopper of a concussion.”
At the hospital, I discover things are worse than I thought. Much worse.
I haven’t just lost hours. I’ve been gone for days.
Although leaving her life as a newspaper sportswriter behind for love and romance worked out pretty well for Darlene Gardner, she’s veering off in a haunting new direction with the Dead Ringers serial for the eBook market. Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets a seaside carnival, minus the aliens and pod people. The nine volumes in the Dead Ringers serial are available both individually and in boxed sets of three. Click here for retail links.
Darlene has more than thirty romance novels in print, from single-title romantic comedies to emotionally charged family dramas. Updated editions of her romcoms, as well as a couple romantic mysteries, are also available as eBooks. Visit Darlene on the web at www.darlenegardner.com
Thank you Darlene so much for blogging with us!
Darlene sees Bruce Campbell as a “hero to die for.” What about you? Who is your hero to die for? Why?
Be sure to share your answers in the comments section!