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This is my Halloween blah-g for 2016, and I’m going by the cool list graciously offered by the great Stephanie Moore Hopkins, with a big thank you to indieBRAG for their featuring of my work and continued support, in particular now for that goofy Dr. Deathworm book I wrote.
A few things to keep in mind, considering the aforementioned book was suitable for younger readers: A lot of my favorite things are not suitable for youngsters. Even if I sneakily got my hands on these amazing R-rated works as a kid and braved my way through the blood and the guts, the fact remains that some people just don’t have as strong a stomach as a rugged old school gangsta like myself. So, anyway….
Best Halloween books: Okay, in this case I’ll recommend the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, by Alvin Schwarz, with incredible, creepy illustrations by Stephen Gammell. These stories genuinely freaked me out as a youngster. They were okay for grade schoolers but managed to be heavy on the macabre, they didn’t hold back and that’s what made these stand out. If the stories themselves didn’t make your hair stand on end then you could bet the illustrations would. Add to these novels by the greats like King and Koontz and of course don’t forget my friend Scott Nicholson who is a master of frightening fiction.
Best Halloween movies: I am a junkie for the horror genre in general and any time of the year, but if we’re trying to focus on Halloween-themed films—hmm, you know it’s funny that not so many horror movies take place on Halloween. The obvious is Carpenter’s Halloween, but besides that I’d definitely recommend the Night of the Demons films, the first and second. Those movies are over the top in blood and guts and malevolent shenanigans and a good reminder to teens to not summon demons on Halloween night in haunted houses. Oh and Will Vinton’s Claymation Halloween special was a personal favorite that never got the attention it deserved. I don’t think you can even get it on DVD but you may see it on Youtube. The Garfield Halloween special is a classic and still kind of creeps me out.
Best Halloween music: You can always find one of those compilation CDs of the classic horror film soundtracks. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Friday the 13th, Halloween … perfect tunes for Halloween. I listen to bands like Broken Hope, Cannibal Corpse and Autopsy for augmenting the world around me in bloody, ghoulish atmosphere. Great, morbid soundscapes for hardcore gangtaz like me who want to boost creative mode.
Halloween decoration ideas: If I had a budget to go crazy I’m sure I’d deck my house out with an abundance of skeletons and butchered bodies, spider webs and cockroaches and gravestones and maybe some snazzy vampire guy wearing a tuxedo with goofy flashing eyes, greeting partygoers at the door with an electronic voice box saying “Good evening! Velcome to the house of frights!” to give guests some false sense that they’re about to walk into the most childish and tame Halloween party, so they don’t see it coming when they step inside and torrents of gore slop down from buckets over their heads. I personally would apply some fake intestines to my person, put some fake bloody stump prosthetics over my hands and come crawling out of a closet, screaming in agony, trailing a slop of blood and bits of gore behind me. About that time my friend, dressed as some masked maniac and drenched in blood would erupt from behind the visitors and would launch into some maniacal tirade about how his father always beat him because the grocery store no longer carried moon pies, and now he has to butcher the innocent, or something like that. We’d then give the guests some candy and send them on their way.
Most haunted place I’ve heard of that I want to visit. Well, a former coworker had in mind to visit an old prison that was reportedly one of the most haunted places in the world. He was talking about us all making a visit there but the place was booked solid for months ahead of time. I wasn’t so sure I really wanted to dive into a place reportedly so saturated by malicious supernatural energy. I don’t remember the name of the place but look online and you shouldn’t have any trouble. Every time I visit Marion, VA I drive by the Octagonal House, which is reportedly haunted, and not open to the public. My friend Andy once asked me if blood dripped from the walls there. That sounds a little hokey, so I kind of doubt that.
What Halloween means to me? I’ll be real, it’s about celebrating the outer and the unknown and just getting to run wild with our fantasies for a little bit. I love being scared in harmless, recreational ways. I live for scary things that are in fantasy. I hate real life horror, obviously, but I live for artistic depictions of the macabre; ghouls, ghosts, maniacs, blood and guts, all in good fun. Halloween comes with the arrival of the brisk, chill winds, when the leaves turn color and a good deal of nature is basically dying, and maybe that makes us think of the unknown, about how we’ll all shrivel up and die some day and awaken to the next level of reality. It’s just a hearty time of year for an imaginer’s mind to really, really churn, while the prissy yuppies look at us like we’re lunatics for daring to dream and to embrace the strange and unknown in positive and sometimes fun ways. I love Halloween. I think Christmas has it trumped as my favorite holiday for the importance of that time, family togetherness and all that good stuff but Halloween is right on up there, almost shoulder to shoulder. It’s been a huge highlight of my life since I was able to recognize the holiday and the wonder and imagination that surrounds it. I know a lot of snobs will start prattling on about their knowledge of pagan/druidic rituals and blah blah blah and look down their noses on people who love the fun of it, but while I’d pat them on the back for their historical knowledge, they’re not going to rain on my parade! Hey, it’s fine if we discuss the historical roots of All Hallow’s Eve but I swear I’ve seen people get really arrogant toward people who don’t likewise bury their heads in their arses about it and start dogging people who dare to have fun with the holiday.
Local lore from my area? There was once this guy who didn’t have a car and worked the night shift at a convenience store. He saw all kinds of drunken college kid customers who would come in and cuss him out if he didn’t sell them cigarettes for not having ID. One night, a young man wandered out of the darkness as the employee was sweeping up cigarette butts outside the storefront. He was covered in blood with a gaping flesh wound on his face, staggering about, seemingly unconcerned with his wounds. The employee, a lover of zombie films, shrugged and accepted that the zombie apocalypse was finally upon him, confident in his knowledge of zombie apocalypse survival, already scheming to fortify the convenience store, allow in his friends and shoo away the rude customers seeking salvation from the marauding hordes of undead. He was a little giddy at the thought of being able to watch the rude kids who had cussed him for not selling them smokes get a taste of karma as they were eaten alive by the undead. It turned out, almost disappointingly, that it was really just was another drunk college kid who apparently, as conveyed through incredibly slurred speech, had called the wrong guy a “rapist” at a party, consequently being beaten into a bloody mess. So that’s all I—I mean, this employee dude, got from the battered, drunken youth before selling him a pack of smokes (he had is ID) and wishing him a good, safe night. In Fairfax, VA where I spent some of my childhood, there’s a legend of “Bunny Man Bridge”, but I don’t remember the details. I think the legend is that some guy hung himself at this bridge that formed a tunnel we used to drive under.
Halloween traditions: My Halloween traditions are pretty typical: All things horror (not much different than any other time of the year), running my favorite Halloween specials from childhood and passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Leading up until the big night I try to visit some of my favorite locales to soak up the autumn atmosphere and decorations.
Well the suggestion was my favorite Halloween costume but I’m going to instead share a story of the stupidest costume and how it came to be. I’m terrible for making decisions on anything when there are multiple options which feel equally rewarding. So one year I really waffled on what to be for Halloween up until suddenly the night was upon me and I had nothing. So I had this stupid idea that saran wrap could be used to give the effect that my skin had been peeled off of my face and I borrowed my mom’s lipstick and painted my face red to give the impression that it was the raw flesh beneath. Kind of a cool idea, I’ll give myself that, but I think to anybody who saw me I just looked like some idiot kid with saran wrap and lipstick all over my face. These days I don’t dress up for Halloween mainly because I have some fear that it will turn out to be the night where some drunkard insults me or my family and I have to get into a brawl, and I won’t feel very tough in a fight if I’m wearing some goofy vampire cape or zombie makeup. On the topic of zombies, there remains the unlikely but dreadful chance that I could lose the hypothetical fight and end up with real flesh wounds that would confuse the doctors once I arrived at the emergency room. It would be lousy if they started trying to disinfect and stitch up fake latex wounds, wasting precious time when I could be bleeding internally and nearing real death. That would just suck, so you can see why I don’t dress up for Halloween anymore, particularly as the undead. Oh, well I guess my favorite would be Jason Voorhees, because he is the man. Hello Kane Hodder.
Inspirations for my stories and characters: Elements of real life, places and experiences, good and bad, to set the stage. Typically the protagonist is an average person swallowed up by extraordinary event which leads to profound realizations and spiritual discovery, often being key to overcoming and ultimately surviving, thereby changing and coming closer to a higher reality. The real life places that enchant me become the stomping grounds and I take elements from dreams/nightmares or just random, sudden ideas that come into mind and stick with me, thrown in with the other ingredients, and from there I sit back with my hands on the keyboard, let the world come to life and see what happens. It’s just as much a discovery for me as it is for the reader, though I can objectively note my inspirations, and I’m not one of those guys who likes to write who will scoff at questions about where my ideas come from; I’ve never seen anything wrong with that question though it seems a lot of those big names have beef with it. Maybe it’s because it’s such a common inquiry. I don’t know, maybe I’ll find out one day if I ever get big.
To create a scary scene not in my book. Well, it’s been a while since I’ve listened to Gross: Dr. Deathworm Rises (the audio version will finally come out soon, I promise) but I remember enough to whip something up. I guess it won’t hurt as I do intend to write the follow-up sometime in 2017. Okay so Dr. Deathworm is this academic jerk who thinks he’s superior to everyone because he majored in entomology in college, and he hates the orphans who happen upon his estate because they don’t really care that he knows so much about bugs, egomaniac that he is. And he’s evil, or something like that. So I guess at some point, well before Donald and company took refuge in his abode, there were these two annoying girl scouts who came to his door to sell him cookies. He scoffed at them because he could tell they hadn’t graduated college, and having already judged them as inferior beings, he decides to poke some fun by hitting them with the “so, what do you do?” line. The girl scouts look confused and explain that they are scouts trying to get some badge or ribbon or whatever, and that they need to sell X amount of cookies to do so, and again ask if he wants to make a purchase. He scoffs again, explaining that he’s on a gluten-free diet, and never eats junk food because health is so important, and launches into this story about his college experience and how it helped him escape the humdrum of flyover country simpletons who sit around eating cookies. Unbeknownst to the doctor, the two girl scouts are lycanthropes, and as he rambles on about how great he is, the sun sets and the full moon has risen. He’s so wrapped up in talking about his many achievements and his culinary expertise and love of fine wines that he doesn’t even realize that the girl scouts have mutated into hideous, slavering wolves. Though they are mad with bloodlust, deep down, on some level, they know they want to kill the doctor regardless of his tasty face meat because he’s such an arrogant jerk. They maul Dr. Deathtworm and are in the process of stripping his flesh from his bones when a cloud passes over the full moon and they return to normal, albeit smeared in academic blood and bits of flesh. They apologize for the mutilation, collect their cookies and depart, while the doctor drags his ragged remains to his lab, where he fortunately has on hand a vial of flesh regenerating agent for just such an event, and repairs his body fully before Donald and friends show up. I guess this is like a month later that the events of the book happen.
An alternate ending, wow. Well I think I introduce the Mumdale sisters? I think that was their name, and they’re arrogant twins who make a huge show of their nihilism and generally just try to muck up the good times of those around them. I guess instead of playing video games, Donald and crew sneak outside of the orphanage, wanting to bask in the starlight and talk about their dreams, what they want to do when they grow up and all that good stuff. They happen upon the Mumdale sisters (I should check on that, I forget if that’s their names) who are on the bank of the river, smashing frogs with rocks, giggling away as they squash. Donald and company are so disgusted, they hurl rocks at the sisters, knocking them unconscious, then dash back to the orphanage, panicking that they might have accidentally killed the morbid siblings. The sisters are alive, but when they come to they wish they were dead, because a gigantic frog, fused with mutagenic properties from the demonic dimension seeping through the cracks in reality around the orphanage, has risen, taking her dead, broken children up into her flesh where they rejoin the collective, mewling and growling as she swells up, sprouting tentacles that hoist up the sisters, popping them into Mother Frog’s gullet. Mother Frog does not kill them or swallow them fully down, because she knows they must survive so that the second book in the Gross series can be written as it requires their presence, so she just kind of chews on the sisters for a while, eventually spitting them back onto the bank, submerging back beneath the water, muttering about what little brats they are.
Setting the mood for writing: Setting the mood for me is pretty simple. I’ll recollect memories, the good and the bad, and get an emotional charge before I let my characters loose in the nightmare-touched locales I’ve laid before them. I might play some music, either dark and heavy or sometimes happy ‘80s tunes just to gear me up and get the juices flowing (Warrant and Poison have played excessively for writing sessions). I don’t imitate other stories but I might aspire to create a vision that inspires in me, through the process of writing, similar in nature to the kind of wonder and general emotions evoked by some of my favorite films and literature. I think Stephen King spoke about having a creative toolbox, or something along those lines. I’d say it’s like having a loaded tackle box before you go out fishing to help insure you get what you’re going for. I’d stress again the characters, our emotional bonds to them and the consequent fear for them as they prepare to go up against very bad things.
Do I write about otherworldly things? That’s my life. I don’t dislike a story about everyday reality but I want something fantastic. A good thriller is fine but for me, personally, I want to break the barriers of reality and just explore the infinite “what ifs” of the planes beyond this one. I take points from experiences where I have to wonder if a dream or vision came from within my head or from outside of me. Being that I believe we all possess an energy inhabiting our physical bodies that is connected to a level of reality (mostly) imperceptible to our limited senses, I sometimes think a dream might be tapped in to something much bigger than me, and since childhood I just wanted to tear down the walls of reality when imagining and let it all flood my head, and it gives me some really fun, scary and eye-opening ideas that I love to write about. I like to explore through my characters our connection to God, or the higher power if you will, and how our experiences in life can make our connection stronger and closer as we carry on down that road toward the inevitable end of our physical beings. I also like to explore the very hideous realm that exists beyond God’s light and how the lost souls are taken along that downward spiral as they are pulled deeper by envy and greed and all the nasty stuff that makes people in society act like buttheads. When I create I want to take my characters by the hand, and hopefully the reader as well, and take a leap off the edge and plunge into those places well beyond the human experience, which we only catch glimpses of from time to time, but will come to know as newborns in the hereafter. Yeah so my grade school teachers all thought I was nuts and they were probably right but hey, I’m a dreamer so bite me.
A huge thank you again to Stephanie for setting me up with some topics to go at and many cheers to indieBRAG, seriously. Love to you all that actually read all this! Happy Halloween y’all, buy my books and give me a shout.
Gross: Doctor Deathworm Rises
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