You know things are taken to a whole other level when all sports are cancelled. We’re talking billion dollar industries, canned for the foreseeable future. Wow. I mean, if was told to quarantine myself, I was looking forward to afternoons watching the Mets spring training games.
For better or for worse, whether the chain of reactions are rational or ill-advised, this is the way the world is going to be now. I’ve washed my hands raw (because I work with the public and don’t want to bring anything home to 3 of the 4 high risk people in the family), tapped elbows and now am locked in an office as we practice some heavy duty social distancing. It’s all a very good excuse to ignore people, especially the ass wads who try to ruin your day.
Our favorite movie theater just closed for the next few weeks. The St. fucking Patrick’s Day parade is kaput. I’m sure the bars will be temporarily shuttered by next week. We need to learn how to make our own toilet paper if we’re ever going to carry on.
The Shea lair s stocked up on beer and wine. And whisky. And peanuts. Plus a smattering of other food stuffs. Is there anything else we’d need?
Through all of the madness, I see this as an opportunity. For some, it’s a golden chance to stay home with no pressure to go out and do a thing, veg on the couch and watch TV until their eyes bleed.
Me? I’m looking forward to catching up on my reading. Oh, and writing. Started a new book and I can really put a dent in it this weekend.
Here are some of the books I’m hoping to dive into as coronavirus drags on. What’s in your TBR pile?
I’m looking at this post as a kind of PSA, an urge to get folks to take a deep breath and stop spiraling into panic and madness over the Coronavirus. Just think, we’ve lost trillions of dollars here in the US stock market over 2 deaths. That’s right, as of today, we have 2 deaths in the US. More diabetics have died from toe infections in the past week.
If the Coronavirus was put here on Earth as a kind of intelligence test, we’ve failed. When people are not buying Corona beer out of fear, well, we’ve lost.
Did you know that there have been over 4,000 death from the common flu in the US this year alone? The good old flu has a just over 5% mortality rate here in the country with the best access to medical care in the world. The Coronavirus has a 2.3 (and that’s rounding it up!) mortality rate. Don’t believe me? Click here to see the website that is tracking all of the madness.
We can’t compare ourselves with other countries that don’t have our healthcare underpinnings. Sick people come here when hope is running out, not the other way around. Trust me, I know. With a handicapped wife who has been given last rites twice in her life, only to keep the fuck on trucking, we’re well versed in where to get the best treatment. In China, where the virus has hit the hardest, the mortality rate is 3.6%. Again, less than the flu in the US. And do you think communist China has healthcare than even deserves to stand in the same room as the US? If you do, you need to get back to school.
Nothing makes me angrier than blind hysteria, especially in a time when cold hard facts are at your fingertips! Does critical thinking exist anymore? Or are we just programmed to react to anything spoonfed to us by a corrupt, fear-mongering media? What I’ve witnessed here in New York over the past few weeks has left me shaking my head. What’s really behind this beating of the drum?
And now it’s being politicized. I saw a commercial for Mike Bloomberg last night extolling how the current administration has bungled the Coronovirus and only Mike can save us. Hey, moron, by the time you’d win, according to you, we’ll all be dead anyway. Have fun running an empty country. This kind of fear mongering should get people thrown in jail, just as you would a person yelling ‘fire!’ in a packed movie theater.
You can’t find hand sanitizer on store shelves (or plastic bags now that the ban is in effect in NY. Imagine if plastic bags were the cure to Coronavirus?). I see people stockpiling food and water and talking of self quarantines, even if they’ve been working from home since the so-called outbreak began and haven’t so much as walked by another human being. Hell, I want to quarantine myself if it means I get to not go to work for a couple of weeks and binge on horror movies and books. Hmm, maybe in that sense, the panic does have a silver lining. A nice two week vacation. Two weeks of sipping on cold Coronas.
Maybe you think this whole post sounds harsh and I’m a cruel, uncaring person. Truth is, I do care. Mental health is as important as physical health. And right now, the head ain’t right. It’s listening to voices and losing the plot.
My advice. CALM…THE FUCK…DOWN. Please. Look at the facts and think!
Oh, but always wash your hands. Because if you get the flu, you really have something to worry about.
Or again, you get to stay home for a few days and catch up on that TBR pile.
When my good buddy Terry M. West comes a-calling, I answer the fucking call. This time around, the master of all things horrific is starting an Indiegogo campaign for his Car Nex Anthology. We’re talking fresh tales of ooey-gooey terror, gals and ghouls. I’ve been tapped to write a brand new bit o’ 80s inspired squeamishness and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
However, this shit ain’t gonna happen unless peeps jump on the campaign. (yeah, I said peeps without any sense of irony). So let’s spread the word and get this bad mutha off the ground. Here are the deets. (ok, you can mock me for deets).
Pleasant Storm, Texas. 1965. A God-fearing family man finds an ancient book of secrets and is compelled to perform a blood ceremony. The Car Nex is brought into our dimension, and Hell is given form and fangs. Weapons will not slow it. Prayers will not stop it. It is coming. And it hungers.
This is going to be a short post because I want to get right to the point. This time of year, a lot of people start thinking about what their new year’s resolutions are going to be for 2019.
Don’t be one of those people. Resolutions, like hearts, are made to be broken. You want to do something? Get off your ass TODAY and do it.
I’ve known a lot of people who swear they’re going to start writing that book that’s been circling around their brain right after the ball drops. Guess what? They don’t.
Ideas are like passion fruit. Eat them now before they wither and die.
If you said you will write a book in 2019 and wait until 1/1/19 to start instead of today, you’re already behind. You could have written 30,000 words already! And face it, by the time New Year’s Day rolls around, you’re going to bitch and moan that you’re hungover or tired or just worn down from the holidays.
Write now. Eat right and exercise now. Start your own custom bagel shop now. Pet every dog you meet now. I don’t care what you do. Just don’t be one of those suckers who thinks they need to wait for a date on a calendar to start your passion, your dream, your big plan!
Don’t just take my word. Listen to this guy. He has a beard and tattoos and curses a lot – and he says it like it is.
Happy Halloween to all my Hellions far and wide. As we slip into the spookiest of all days, I thought I’d share my one and only time messing around with a Ouija board. I wrote this article a few years back and thought it would set the mood perfectly. So light some candles, lock the door and call out to the dead…
Halloween is fun until the scares are real. I learned that in college.
This is something I and my old friends rarely talk about, not because we worry it might sound crazy to people (and it does). No, we don’t like bringing it up because of how deeply it affected all of us. Maybe it was the night (Halloween), the place (my friend’s apartment next to an old cemetery), our intentions (five dopes looking to talk with the dead) that took us down a dark path. It was most likely all three. Yeah, it had to be.
My friend Gene (all names changed to protect the quasi-innocent), rented a top floor apartment right across the street from a cemetery in New Rochelle, NY. We were in college and had started our own fraternity because we hated the dumb crap frats made pledges do. With us, if we liked you, you were in. No humiliation.
I digress. Four of us went with Gene to his apartment on Halloween night with the express purpose of having a séance. There wasn’t anyone in particular we wanted to reach beyond the veil. Any disembodied spirit would do. Oddly enough, we were all stone cold sober. That alone should have told us something was off.
We had a couple of problems. None of us were mediums and we didn’t have a Ouija board. It was too late to run to the toy store to buy one. That problem was easily solved. We drew up letters and numbers on paper, cut them into squares and lined them up on the floor in a circle. For a planchette, we used a cut-up plastic coffee lid. There, Ouija boards made easy! It wasn’t the best looking spirit board, but it would do.
The five of us sat around the carefully placed scraps of paper, each putting a finger on the makeshift planchette. We asked it questions. The wind actually howled outside the window. All we were missing was lightning and a black cat.
At first, nothing happened.
But then the planchette started to move. It was the oddest sensation. My finger was barely on it. Sure, one of them could have been moving it, but I got a strange rush that went through my body. Something was talking to us, answering our questions. And it wasn’t happy. The more freaked out we became, the angrier it got. As much as we wanted to stop, we just couldn’t. When we spoke about it later, we all agreed we were feeling the same unearthly vibe.
We learned the name of the spirit was Fran Turner. Fran wasn’t thrilled that we were disturbing her. We were no longer thrilled that we had called something into our little, unprotected circle (I later learned that homemade spirit boards are a biiig no-no. It’s like opening a portal without knowing how to close it properly).
Finally, we couldn’t take it any longer. We removed our fingers at the same time. Hearts racing, we were happy to leave Fran alone.
But it didn’t stop there. Even in the dark, we could see Richie’s eyes had rolled up to the top of his head. He began talking in a strange voice, saying he was Fran Turner! Now, Richie was one of the most innocent, unassuming guys I’d ever met. Still is. He’s not a prankster. For several minutes, this Fran Turner talked to us through Richie. I’ll admit, I nearly crapped myself. We were so flipped out, we shook Richie hard and scattered the pieces of the Ouija board all over the room.
That seemed to break the spell. Richie stopped talking, head rolling onto his chest. When he opened his eyes again, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. It took a while to settle him down. We left the apartment an hour later feeling an invisible set of eyes at our backs. We promised to never, ever screw with a Ouija board again. It took a few slugs of Jaegermeister to get me to sleep later.
We couldn’t let it go. The next day, we were all still shaken. Our usually boisterous meet up in the school cafeteria was markedly subdued. While I was in media class, a couple of the guys went to the boneyard. I’m pretty sure you can guess what they found.
Fran Turner’s grave was right there, the old headstone nestled in the middle of the cemetery. At one point that week, each of us went to the grave, mouths hanging open, minds blown, knees feeling as if they’d been turned to Smucker’s jelly.
It’s over 25 years later and we’re still confounded by what happened that night. Some guys refuse to even talk about it. Did we actually pluck the shade of Fran Turner from the ether? Was it our focused, collective unconscious that created the spirit’s actions on the board and Richie’s bizarre spell? I don’t know or hold out hope to ever get to the bottom of it. All I know is that it happened, and there are five grown men who would pay good money to have the whole night erased from our memories.
If you take anything from this, please don’t fuck with Ouija boards next to cemeteries on Halloween night.
Trick or treat instead. You can thank me later.
Hey there Hellions. How’s your Horrortober so far? I’m starting this week working on a new novel for Flame Tree Press titled SLASH and editing my next Severed Press book, ANTARCTIC ICE BEASTS. So, since I’m a tad swamped at the moment (because if I have free time, it will be filled with watching horror movies), my buddy Dallas Ray Kitchens is going to talk about his love affair with horror movie soundtracks. What are some of your favorites?
In the fascinating world of horror, whether its books, movies, or soundtracks, I find that we have a fascination with violence. We see an accident and we can’t look away. It’s a burning, itchy feeling in the brain impossible to ignore.
And often it’s the soundtrack that makes or breaks a movie. Which brings me to the first and one of the best, 1982,s John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s a throbbing pulsing beat that gets your blood boiling. The main theme sets the tone for the entire movie. It grabs you by the throat and does not shake you loose until the end credits.
Music can and often does make the movie. When you’re sitting there waiting for your movie to start, all relaxed and comfortable, staring at the screen, telling yourself, I’m not scared, telling yourself, this movie ain’t nothing, the house lights suddenly go down, and the first musical note hits, and you hope against hope you don’t shit yourself.
Let’s delve into The Shining from 1980. The terrifying soundtrack starts with a low deep vibration in your chest, and you start thinking, what the hell is happening to me? You begin to realize that you’re being released from the horror of your life, and opening up to a whole other world. A world of sound unlike anything you’ve ever heard or felt. Just close your eyes, and it will take you back to a fear that’s never left you. It’s just been buried deep down in your soul.
Some of the movies that changed my course forever are 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera and The Monolith Monsters. The Phantom runs you over like a tank, leaving you breathless, saying thank you sir may I have another. The Monolith Monsters, is a scifi classic, where a desert town is attacked by giant blood thirsty Crystals. A giant meteorite crashes and explodes, leaving hundreds of fragments that grow to be big and tall and menacing, and then they fall and it starts all over again. Yep, killer rocks. What more could ask for?
When a soundtrack gets it right, all you need to do is turn it on, close your eyes and relive the horror in your mind. We all have our favorites. What give you shivers in the dead of night?
I need your help! Please tell me what to read. Let me explain…
It amazes me that with the proliferation of comic book movies, actual comic books, especially ones about superheroes, are not experiencing the same boom. You would think that there would be a comic book shop on every corner, what with Black Panther, a minor Marvel character at best, raking in half a billion dollars. It’s quite the opposite. In the past three years, I’ve seen comic book shops close left and right.
Kids may love to go to the movies, but it sure as heck doesn’t look like they enjoy reading about Batman and Captain America. The average age of the patrons in the comic book shop I go to is about 40. I know reading isn’t perceived as fun for young folks, but reading comics used to be something we all looked forward to. Times are changing.
So are my tastes. I grew up devouring X-Men and Fantastic Four, but now as a man of a certain age, I tend to look beyond the men and women in tights. I want adult stories, horror, compelling scifi.
What I’m looking for are suggestions of what to read. The titles I’ve loved over the past year are HARROW COUNTY, BITCH PLANET, THE CAPE, THE WOODS and SAUCER COUNTY. What books are you reading and highly recommend? Keep in mind, I stick to buying the trade paperbacks. I need to support my local store, so help me fill my shopping cart!
As an added bonus, I’ll select several random people who reply to this post and send them a free ebook. So bring it on, comic lovers!
The miracle of Christmas from a horror writer’s perspective…
This time of year, I see a lot of signs and bumper stickers that declare we need to “put the Christ back in Christmas.” Even if you’re not a Christian, I’m sure you can agree that the birth of Christ is the true reason for the season. It’s just a matter of historical perspective. The secularization of the holiday has created a backlash, though it gets drowned out by frantic shopping, bright lights, and lying to children that elves on shelves and fat old men are watching their every move. We CAN put the Christ back in Christmas, if the Catholic church so desires. I’m going to propose a very unconventional way to go about it.
Faith seems to be in very short supply these days. It gets harder and harder to keep the faith as we are bombarded with more and more distractions. Our 24/7 news cycle is designed to only show us the worst of humanity and the unfairness of life. It’s not only depressing as hell, it also makes you question whether there can be a Creator God who would allow such things to happen to his (or her) children. Add to that an abundance of material and opinions on religious history and it gets to the point that you don’t know who or what to believe. So what do you need to pull your head from the orgy of Christmas excess to the true meaning of this time of year?
And like I said, faith is getting pretty hard to come by.
Even during the time that Jesus walked the earth (kinda like Kung Fu) and was performing miracles, there was a lack of faith. The Apostles and his disciples needed constant reminders of his divine origin. Remember good old Doubting Thomas?
From John 20:24-29 :
24 Now Thomas , one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas, who was alive when Jesus was healing the lame, turning water into wine, and bringing the dead back to life, still needed concrete proof. His faith wasn’t strong enough, even though JC was in his midst doing what JC did best. Thomas needed that extra bit of proof.
So why are we expected to have so much faith two-thousand years and endless atrocities later? It’s nice to be blessed, but it isn’t easy to attain, even now, during what is supposed to be one of the happiest and most holy times of the year.
People need proof. And short of the second coming (which, if you believe the prophecy, will not be all wine and roses), we need concrete evidence of divine forces working here on earth. You might say “we need miracles!” and run to your book of saints, pointing out the oodles of miracles performed in their names over the centuries. Or the stigmata of Padre Pio, who was with us all the way until 1968, stunning believers and non-believers alike. Tales of angelic intervention and miracle cures abound.
But it’s not enough to cut through the noise. Not for us. Not for this world we’ve shaped.
We feed off the negative. I know it’s hard to say, but it’s true. If we didn’t, our newscasts would be vastly different, Jerry Springer would have been on the air for 25 days, not years, and civil discord would be the norm, not the exception.
So, in light of what we are and what we need, I propose this:
Show us an honest to God exorcism.
We have endless ways to document and record the fantastical feats performed by the possessed. From speaking in strange languages in bizarre voices, to vomiting objects such as nails, insects and small animals (people have been known to throw up frogs and mice), levitation, and so much more, these are things that will frighten us into belief. Imagine the visuals and audio of an exorcism, presented to us not just through tacit approval of the Catholic church, but also independent sources (especially if we can get an atheist on board, which shouldn’t be hard to find in the media).
I was told by a monsignor that had performed several exorcisms that true evil does exist. We all know that. We see it, and want to see it, everyday. What we need proof of is that evil exists as an entity separate from man. We may not be able to see the good around us, but if you take the time to show us the bad, people will take notice. Film a miracle and I doubt it will make the news (if it does, it will have X-Files music playing in the background). Show the terrors of an exorcism in living color, and it will be the headline story.
All of this says more about us (and me), than it does about God (or whatever name you want to hang on the entity that made us…if you believe). But as any parent will tell you, we learn through fear. Parents instill a fear of putting your hand on a hot stove, leaping off the edge of the tub, talking to strangers, taking drugs, and hundreds of other things. That fear keeps us safe. If you want the most incredible Christmas in history (okay, the second most), frighten us. Put the fear of God and the Devil in us. Prove to us what awaits a shallow, secular life and we will sing praises, open our hearts to love, and spread joy at Christmas. We will believe because just like Thomas, we will have been given proof. Maybe we won’t be as blessed as those who never needed proof, but we’ll be on the right path.
Sure, this won’t work for everybody. Nothing can. People will claim the proof is fake, or a ploy to get fannies to fill church pews. There’s no such thing as a cure all. But the impact will be seismic. Is it sad we have to cater to our base nature to elevate our souls? Perhaps. Or maybe we just have to accept what we are and find a way to improve our lot in life (and the afterlife), no matter how much it makes us cringe.
Maybe we’re the little Whos down in Whoville that needed proof of evil in the form of that nasty Grinch to strip away the distractions and noise and show us that we better get our acts together. His heart may have grown three sizes that day, but what impact did his evil have on them?
Something to consider.
And speaking of the Grinch, I’ll leave you with Dr. Seuss’s parting words:
“Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be, just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.”