By Jean Nash Johnson / The Dallas Morning News
It is Halloween Eve, and you're still not scared enough; you have no Goosebumps yet?
Don't worry, because in time for the ghoul season, R.L. Stine sends you to his new place, The Nightmare Room.
Readers 8 to 12, too young to remember The Twilight Zone, will go on a journey similar to those Rod Serling led in the popular TV series. Parents know a trip like that is filled with chills and thrills, and if you have a taste for it, it should be worth the ride.
The first of the new 12-book series, The Nightmare Room: Don't Forget Me (HarperCollins, $3.99), is sure to haunt you. Mr. Stine has been producing one a month since late August. The second, Locker 13, also is available.
Each work begins with a welcome that evokes The Twilight Zone. Mr. Stine writes:
"For all of us there's a place where true horror waits â€“ our personal Nightmare Room. You might find it anywhere â€“ at home, at school, in the woods, at the mall ... in your MIND. Take one step, shut your eyes â€“ and you're there."
Of course, you'll read on. In Book 1, Mr. Stine introduces Danielle, a worried-looking girl with solemn dark eyes who has been tense lately. Her brother has been acting strange since she "lost" him in a harmless game of hypnotism. The whole thing might be her fault â€“ she always wished she were an only child. Be careful what you wish for.
Mr. Stine, 56, says he watched The Twilight Zone as a teen and had always wanted to do a take on the show for kids.
The writing in Nightmare is fluid and fast; you'll finish the book in one sitting. But don't expect to find a work riddled with cheap thrills.
The first two books contain no blood and gore. Instead, find immediate, brain-tingling stories that fall into the realm of remote possibilities. This "It could happen" approach is scarier than more explicit stories.
"As our reality becomes more surreal, it's really the basic fantasies, such as dark halls, attics, basements and creaky floors, that scare us the most," Mr. Stine says. "Getting children to confront fears safely in the world of books is not only therapeutic, it is my inspiration to write."
He knows what kids want. Six years since the debut of his best-selling Goosebumps series, he remains hugely popular. In a recent reader poll by Parachute Publishing, 98 percent of Goosebumps readers said they would read another R.L. Stine book.
Mr. Stine also knows where kids are today. The Nightmare series was launched with its own Web site, www.nightmareroom.com, where kids can chat with the author and read his original story "Dead of Night," which was published exclusively on the Internet. The site by Headbone Interactive also invites youngsters to play games, e-mail fellow readers and send their own nightmare story ideas.
"There's no better way to excite young people than to put them at the center of the story," Mr. Stine says.
"I want to bring writing to the Internet. Children's authors have to be where the kids are."