Friday, January 30, 2015


Theme Parks: Fun or Fright?

Nancy J. Cohen

Do you love theme parks, or do you consider them scary places? Some people view these tourist traps with distaste, similar to circuses with their creepy clowns, dangerous acrobatic acts, and animal abuse. Others love the fantasy presented in their rides, familiar characters, and whimsical scenery. I’m one of the latter, although I am a fan mainly of the Orlando parks and not others. I view the neighborhood carnival through the same wary lens as I do the circus.

The bigger theme parks, however, hold an attraction for me. They can be fascinating places, magically transporting you to a realm of happiness, peace and joy. I’ve gone to Walt Disney World to celebrate my engagement, the release of my first published book, and recently our thirty-eighth anniversary. We’ve brought our kids there every year almost since they born.

Because these places elicit strong emotional responses, I’ve gravitated to using theme parks as a major element in my romantic fantasy Drift Lords series. But here I have turned them to a dark purpose, sort of like Ridley Pearson’s “Disney After Dark” books.

In my stories, the evil Trolleks—invaders from another dimension via a rift in the Bermuda Triangle—have turned theme parks and other tourist attractions to a nefarious purpose. Each of my three installments that are currently available uses this innate fear to create a sinister atmosphere in a place we look to for fun and frivolity.

Warrior Prince contains Drift World, an adult role-playing theme park in Orlando where you can live out your dream job. Nira, our heroine, visits the attraction while on an information-gathering mission. She hears an odd buzzing in her head in the presence of her guide, a lovely blonde woman named Algie, whose secrets Nira means to unravel.

Her ears tuned in to the buzzing noise in her brain. Beyond the omnipresent sound rose the splash of water, the droning of an airplane overhead, the flap of a flag in the breeze. Absent were the happy chatter and laughter of families like at other theme parks. Why this struck her as odd, she didn’t know. But something wasn’t right about this place.

In Warrior Rogue, the action takes place in Hong Kong at an attraction called Dragon Balm Gardens. What’s our hero’s quest? Why, to find the dragon, of course. This place is even less appealing than the one above. Drift Lord Paz Hadar and his lady friend, Jen, visit the park.

“What’s inside that place?” He stopped beside a mural featuring an azure sky and fluffy white clouds. Against this placid background, two dragons spewed cords at each other. The cords made a symbol in the center that looked a bit like the mansion on the hilltop.

Jen perused the pamphlet. “The pagoda contains Buddhist relics and the ashes of monks.”

Further along, they came to a scary statue of a husky man with big eyeballs, a wide sneer, and a muscular body. He carried a curved blade and looked as though he could come to life in an instant. The next path wasn’t much better. Paz glanced in horrified fascination at ancient punishments depicted by grind stones to press a person to death, body stretchers to pull limbs apart, and tools to cut out tongues from gossipers and to sever hands from thieves.

Ugh. Can it get any worse? In Warrior Lord, we’re back to a happy land called Jolheim Gardens in Copenhagen. Our heroes, Magnor and Erika, are searching for a clue to the fabled Book of Odin. They enter the Grote Mine ride, which seems innocuous. Or is it?

Short fellows with big eyes and funnel-like ears waved at them on their journey along the track. The small folk, busy digging for glowing rocks, wore friendly smiles under their miner’s helmets.

They got so close to one that she could see its eyelashes. Admiring the detail, she noted the sad look in his eyes, the smile that appeared more like a grimace, and the tear that streamed down one cheek. A tear? Water must be leaking from somewhere above.

Was it? Or were these people more real than visitors were led to believe?

It’s so much fun to create these places where guests go for fun and find frightful happenings instead. I’ve even included a derelict theme park in my latest work in progress, #13 in my Bad Hair Day mystery series. It seems I gravitate naturally to these tourist attractions.

So what about you? Do you adore theme parks or hate them with a passion? Which one is your favorite?

All commenters will be entered into a drawing for a free ebook copy of Warrior Prince.


Nancy J. Cohen writes the humorous Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore. Several of these titles have made the IMBA bestseller list. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide for writers on how to write a winning whodunit. Her imaginative romances have proven popular with fans as well. Her titles in this genre have won the HOLT Medallion and Best Book in Romantic SciFi/Fantasy at The Romance Reviews. A featured speaker at conferences, libraries, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets.


Nancy J. Cohen said...

Thank you for having me as a guest.

Julia said...

I love theme parks. Roller coasters are my favorite. My favorite theme park is Knott's Berry Farm.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I avoid roller coasters and any spinning type of ride that would make me dizzy. Disney World is my speed. I've never been to Knott's Berry Farm.

Faith V. Smith said...

You are more than welcome. I love your books.

Faith V. Smith said...

Thank you so much for stopping by, Julia.

Faith V. Smith said...

Nancy, I used to love riding roller coasters but can no longer do so because of my back. However, I do love the walk-through at the new park

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I'm too scared of roller coasters. And I am not crazy about Ferris wheels, either.

Julia said...

I am not crazy about Ferris wheels either.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Faith, which walk-through do you mean? And what park?

Faith V. Smith said...

It's been decades, but I loved it when went to Walt Disney World in Florida. I love looking at the shop so just walking around

Mary Ricksen said...

Sell a ton Nancy. It's a great series!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Thank you for stopping by, Mary! said...

Theme parks are scary for me. I am disabled. So many rides are not possible or fun. People shoving, children crying, kids running, long lines, not fun..But I do like to eat. Love you Nancy

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I wonder if it depends on the theme park. At Disney, we see disabled folks in their motorized scooters all the time. They don't have to wait in lines and get right into the rides. Rides there can be sedate, like Carousel of Progress at Magic Kingdom or Universe of Energy at Epcot. Those are the kinds that I like anyway. But you are right in that you would have to miss many of them. As for the crowds and screaming kids, that bothers me, too. We have annual passes so we can go early, have lunch and leave. Love the food and the beautiful landscaping.

Lilly Gayle said...

I love theme parks. I've been to Disney, Kings Dominion, Universal Studios, MGM Studios, and Sea World. Now that I'm older and my kids are grown, I doubt I could get my husband to go and I'd be scared of getting there, getting on a ride, and being sick the rest of the day. lol! Using a theme park in a book is intriguing. Dean Koontz did that once. The book wasn't his best work, but he wrote the book AFTER the movie release and had to stick to the script. Wish I could remember which book and movie it was.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Lilly, there's also a Kingdom After Dark book series that has Disney's stamp of approval. I prefer to make up my own theme parks and give them a sinister purpose. Sounds like you have been to a lot of them.

Faith V. Smith said...

I want to thank each and everyone of you for stopping by and visiting with Nancy here at my blog! Please come back any time! I will be announcing the winner of an ebook copy of Warrior Prince in just a few moments! Thank you so much Nancy for being my guest! I love your books!