Saturday, August 16, 2014

The True Story Behind My New Novel "WHITE OUT"!!!

So my new novel just came out. Everybody who has been a Regular Reader (notice I don't use Constant Reader because that would be stealing!!) says it is by far my best work, so I'm quite proud of it. If you haven't picked it up yet, check it out here:

My wife and her friend Jen Cafferty are always busting my balls about how dramatic I am because of an incident that happened a few years back. It was the fuel that created the new book. Here is the story, and no I wasn't being dramatic!!!! Bastards.

I am working a book signing event at a horror film festival. It's like the day before Halloween and we're supposed to get this freak snowstorm up here in Maine. I don't even have cable, so I didn't know anything about it. My old friend J-Sun Bailey (who works at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville, where the festival was).

Everybody knows that this snowstorm is coming, so J-Sun and I are literally the only people at the theater. They sold one ticket to the festival that night. The night before was a great turnout. I moved a couple books and made a great connection with a teacher who wanted me to speak at "career day" ("don't write books kids, unless you want to be poor!!")  at her school. Luckily, another friend of ours, Noel Haigh, stopped by to see me and get a signed copy of the book because she is moving away the next day. She is awesome like that! Came out in a snowstorm to say goodbye. (so I sold as many books as the whole movie theater sold tickets- HA!!)

I packed up early since obviously the snowstorm was murdering the whole evening. I get on the road about 10PM. I don't get home until almost 1AM. We're talking about a 45 minute drive here, from Waterville to Brunswick, where I live. 45 minutes turned into 3 hours. Only in Maine.

So I'm creeping along 295 South, which is already poorly lit, especially between Augusta and Brunswick. My wipers can't even keep up with the snow, which is falling quite dramatically, like 3 inches an hour, I swear! Big ass trucks keep zipping by me at normal speeds, kicking up slush on to my windows, basically causing my wipers to groan and drag. At one point they almost stop completely. If those wipers stop, I'm basically a dead man. I already can't see more than 5 feet in front of my little Ford Focus. I roll down the windows because I am sweating so much. Because I'm scared for my life. (this is the part where Jen and my wife Erin start making fun of me, but they weren't there!!!!) I keep thinking about my kids, trying my best not to pass the fuck out from the terror that is filling me.

I don't even know what lane I'm in. Am I still on the road? Am I dead? My hands are shaking so much that I can't even keep the steering wheel straight. Another truck goes by and my wipers are about ready to give up. I need to get off the highway and take the back roads home. It's only another 8 miles (same distance my character Annie has to travel in the book!), but there is a back road through Bowdoinham that I can take. I think.

I pull into this park and ride, and right behind me a big trailer pulls in. Sort of like an RV. I can't really tell, because have I mentioned that I can't see shit? I use this opportunity to call my wife. I even try to call a cab company, but they don't answer. They're smart not to go out in this crap.

"Erin, I'm not sure I'm coming home tonight. I've never seen anything like this."
"Oh stop it. You'll be fine. Just go slow."
"I can't even get up the hill once I get out of this park and ride. It's too slippery."
"Just wait it out a bit. Do you want me to come pick you up?"

My wife and I have 3 kids by this point, two of which are basically newborns. It's almost midnight, so the idea of her loading up the kids in the minivan and driving out to pick up her scared shitless husband is the worst idea. In case you don't know Erin, she's making fun of me here. Back to the phone call.

"No, and it's not funny. I thought I was going to die."
All the lights go out on the highway at this point, and I'm especially glad to be off the road now. I'd have died there, I swear. Jen and Erin don't quite understand that, because they weren't there and they enjoy busting my balls.
"Erin, something is happening."
"What do you mean."
"Something big is going down. All the lights on the highway just out. I think we're losing power. I can't see anything. There's somebody in this trailer that just pulled in. I'm gonna go talk to them."
"Oh my God, please stop this. You're being ridiculous."
"Something bad is going down Erin. Do you have power there? Put extra blankets on the kids."
"Stop it, just go slow and I'll see you in a little bit. I'll wait up for you."
"Can you tell the kids I love them?"
"They're sleeping."
"I know, just tell the kids I love them. I feel like I may never see them again."
"And I love you too, even though you're making fun of me. Let them know that Daddy loves them forever."

I'm so scared my voice is shaking. My wife is thoroughly amused.

I get out of my car and start rooting around in the trunk. Jumper cables. Lots of books (dammit- I only sold one book and now I'm going to die for that!!). Some old sneakers. No blanket. In case you're wondering, I'm considering sleeping out the storm in my car. The heat in the car won't last long, so I'll need a blanket.

So I go over to the camper, and this middle aged lady (gray hair, flannel shirt, very tough looking) steps out just as I'm approaching. We talk about how crazy the storm is. She says that she is from out of town, coming to visit her sister, who only lives about 2 miles away. She is going to sleep in the camper and let her sister know she won't be there until the morning. Hear that, Jen and Erin? Hear that? THAT is how crazy this storm is. She was scared to drive anywhere, not even 2 miles. Let along 8 miles, which was my distance to home. We chit chat a little and she offers to give me some blankets in case I need to sleep in my car, and then she offers to have me sleep on the pullout couch in her trailer.

That everybody thinks I am making up. This happened. I swear it on my mother's soul. On my children's souls. You had to be there. It was a survival situation. Jen and Erin, stop your fucking laughing!! I know you're reading this and you're still laughing at me. STOP IT YOU FUCKIN' FUCKS!

I'm going to brave it, I tell her. I get in my car, I talk myself up.

I follow this crazy, winding, pitch black back road for several miles. I see a car that went off the road, which was abandoned, as far as I could see. And no way I'm stopping to double check, cause I can barely get my car up these snowy, hilly roads. Did I mention I was driving a Ford Focus? Probably the worst car in  a snowstorm. Ever. Along the way, I stop a couple of times to catch my breath and stretch my hands, because I'm gripping the wheel so tight I feel like I'm doing nerve damage.

At one point, I get to a point in Topsham (the next town over). I can't see the stop lights. Or the signs. I can only tell that the light is red because it glows pink through the cover of snow on it. I literally can't see anything but pure white around me. It is a true WHITE OUT (hey, that's what my book is called, how bout that?). What I don't realize until several minutes later is that I drive through this intersection every single day on my way home from work. There are two car lots, one on each corner. I couldn't even tell they were car lots, that's how blinding this snow is. I actually went the wrong way at this intersection because I had no clue I was at the intersection. Even if I knew it was the intersection I drive through, I STILL wouldn't have known which way to go.

Jen and Erin, I swear to God. I swear I'm getting really pissed off.

So I got home after a 3 hour drive. It was harrowing. I'm alive though.

Jen and Erin, know this: I am still alive.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


My wife keeps telling me I need to do some movie reviews on my blog. I need to do SOMETHING on my blog.

So here it goes.


What the balls?!

I explained it to a couple people this way... "Before I saw The Conjuring I only knew that a person could defecate in one way. After seeing The Conjuring, I realized that a man or woman is actually able to loose himself free of yesterday's dinner in several different ways. I'm too much of a gentleman to go any further." I'm not talking about the plot of the movie, but about the other grown men and women jumping out of their seats.

I've probably seen 2000 horror movies in my life. The Conjuring is in the top 5 scariest I've ever seen, and it may be Top 2 (the first being the original Evil Dead, and probably always will be, the scene when she is naming the playing cards will always scare the hell out of me).

When a certain main character "turns" near the end of The Conjuring, scampering about the underside of the house with a pair of scissors, like some kind of feral beast, I was actually affected, and I can't be sure why. I'm never affected by horror movies, so I'm thinking that it hit home in some sort of primordial soup at the back of my brain. It really got me in the bollocks.

I think the thing that sets this movie apart from others in this well-worn trope is that the actors were near perfect and everybody had a purpose. Norma Bates, Nightowl, the annoying wife from Six Feet Under, and the TPS Report guy.... all were spot on. Even the smaller roles (such as the comedic jabs from the local cop) totally sold the story. And the doll... dammit that doll is terrifying. Can she please get her own spinoff?

The scares, by the halfway point, are nearly every minute or two. My wife just about ripped the skin of my forearm off. We lost half our popcorn to the floor. I'm pretty sure she missed most of the movie because her eyes were covered.

As for whether this is really a TRUE STORY or not. I call bull on that one, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it was a helluva ride. 5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


I've been trying to decide what I should actually do with this blog for sometime. So here's my idea... I got myself a Kindle last year and I've been just devouring books in 2012 and 2013, many of which are indie horror writers like myself, who I think have a special set of talents in that field.

One such author is Rebecca Besser, who I first took note of in an anthology by Norgus Press; one that I was also in, called "Strange Tales." She had this really oddball story in there and it totally drew me in. So when I saw that she had released a novel called "Nurse Blood," which included an ultra sexy nurse on the cover, presumably the titular character who will be putting the serious hurt on people, I couldn't resist.

"Nurse Blood" was unexpected for me. I expected the typical hack'n'slash gore that I have come to find a standard in the horror genre, particularly with the indie markets. But it was much more than that. There was very little graphic violence and gore in this book, and it worked really well with that. "Nurse Blood" is more of a thriller to me, almost... about a group of organ harvesters, one of of whom is Sonya (AKA Nurse Blood). They backstab, plot, and plan behind each other's back. They use sex, power, and threats to achieve their ends. Nurse Blood herself is at the center of the tale, sort of the epicenter of all this human maneuvering.

Their hope is to make the Big Score, to harvest an entire family. Great premise, and it delivered in spades! It was one of those I-Wish-I-Had-Come-Up-With-That-Plot books that we read once in awhile. Organ harvesting is a great stage for bits of comedy, a bit of the old nasty gore, and plenty of room for nail-biting.

I won't give away much more, but you'll have to read it for yourself.

Rebeccas Besser is a fantastic author and I can't wait to read more from her!! Check out Nurse Blood on Amazon:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Subject The Second: Evil Twins

Based upon the subject of this blog, you might guess that I think evil twins are hilarious, a bit scary, and sort of surreal in that baby-crawling-across-the-ceiling kind of way. Hey, if it works for soap operas, it should work anywhere, right? I mean to say that soap operas are the cornerstone of the entertainment world and evil twins are pure limestone.

Sarcasm aside, everybody loves a good "evil twin" story. In some cases it is even a classic mechanism done extremely well. Look at Dr. Jeckly and Mr. Hyde. While they are not traditional birthed twins, they are living inside of that same bubble of divergent personalities with the same basic molecular structure.

This hit home for me recently when I discovered that my wife is pregnant with twins (a boy and a girl!). From the moment we found out, we started working on names, as would be expected. The sonogram tech suggested Luke and Leia, and she hadn't even a clue that I was a Star Wars fan (who isn't a Star Wars fan?? Actually, my old college roommate hates Star Wars... so nevermind). Anyway, we immediately started asking, "What just happened?" in that half-dreamy-just-got-hit-by-an-emotional-dumptruck style. In addition to the twin shock, there was also a student from the university watching the procedure, a green-faced kid who couldn't have been a day over ten years old. He quickly perks up, "I'm a twin!" That was sort of weird, as though his familial disposition had wiped off on us when we started the sonogram, that he had put a gypsy-twin-curse on it. Not that it's actually a "curse", our family is complete now. Accelerated motion has always been my style. I never ran up the stairs in my childhood home one at a time; I skipped every other one because life isn't meant to be spent on the stairs.

Anyway, something hopped into my head when the sonogram tech said: "Oh my lord... I've never seen somebody go this far before, not without picking it up in previous scans... YOU'RE HAVING TWINS!"

The ground level images that raced through my mind, in no particular order:
1. SCARY TWINS from THE SHINING. Obviously.
3. FIRST TWIN EATS SECOND TWIN in the beginning of THE DARK HALF (the book, not the movie- as we know the movie was lame).
4. KITT and KARR from KNIGHT RIDER (yes, an evil twin of an automobile totally counts... similarly Michael Knight had an evil twin, which was basically just Hasselhoff with an awesome Lothario mustache)
5. BELIAL and DUANE from BASKET CASE (the one with the little conjoined evil twin, what a great movie, piss-poor sequels though)

6. LITTLE DEBBIE SWISS CAKE ROLLS. You know you just wet yourself thinking about them!
7. And of course THE PENGUIN and MR. FREEZE in that lovely shitstorm of gags called TWINS. 80's comedy at its worst. Didn't that win an Oscar for Best Novelty? 

I could go on but I will scary you the horror.

Twins are scary as shit, don't ya know? Being half of a twin pair means that somebody is walking around as you, doing things that you cannot control, potentially marring your good name, committing dastardly deeds and sporting a bad mustache/goatee.
It is fair to say that the little lop-headed twins from The Shining are by far the most disturbing that many can recall. What was wrong with those kids? I wonder what they look like now. I bet they're middle aged and smoke lots of cigarettes and talk about that scene all the time. They live together in a one bedroom apartment in Seattle. They share a bed together and one of them wears adult diapers already, a tad premature because she's scared of what her life has become. One of them probably works at an occult bookstore and the other is a phone sex operator who specializes in beastial fantasies. This is all a theory, but it seems pretty logical to me. They don't even bother finishing each other's sentences anymore because they gave up speaking aloud more than a decade ago. See what I mean, they are STILL scary... crazy after all these years.
The illogical nature of what happens at a biological level strikes at the fiber of our souls. Something beyond "human" occurs, with either two sperm simultaneously winning the competition, or two eggs (which is the case with our upcoming Isaac and Amity). One in about 95 pregnancies has twins. Compare this with dogs, cats, wolves... animals that have litters just about every single time they get knocked up. There is something animal about giving birth to twins, and that is what scares us at the root, that we are interconnected with the mammalian species even more so than the human species.

But hold up. That's just one theory.
Or maybe two identical things with different words and thoughts just scares us. Like two parallel universes- the splitting of potentials. You can have two perfect twins at birth, and by their eighteenth birthday one of them could be a tattooed goth and the other a bookworm with a reasonably mannered wardrobe and academic credentials.The divergence happens at any point along the way, like Robert Frost talking about standing at the fork in the road. This is the wildcard of the human condition, that which lies beneath the surface and mocks us for our silly assumptions that things do not change, that the world is not in constant flux... chaos and entropy swimming around us like hungry sharks.
Whoa, I say to myself as I type this... slow your roll, Socrates.
Maybe twins are scary just because we LET them be. Kubricks' visionary blood elevator and the bulbous-domed twins with the pale skin... maybe that is the true genesis, much the way that Pennywise is the first thing to come to mind when we think about how creepy clowns are.
Perhaps things are not scary until somebody makes them scary. I think of Jaws. I think of The Exorcist. Something may not be considered scary, pervading the human psyche, until somebody (a Spielberg or a Blatty or a Hitchcock or a King) really hits the underlying fear out of the park. We're not scared of sharks, we're scared of our fear of sharks. I think Winston Churchill said something about that.
When my twins are finally here, and a couple of years pass by, I will keep my eye on them. Maybe I'll figure it out then. I've always wanted to write a great SCARY TWIN novel... I think by 2014 I will have that scary twin novel ready to go. Between now and then I can figure out what really makes twins scary. Any suggestions or theories???

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Subject The First: Zombies

So I keep hearing about these blog things. On the Internets. In coffee shops. At the discotech (didn't you know? I am PREMIUM DANCER at discotech).

Here is my blog.

My first subject: ZOMBIES.

It's safe to assume we've all seen Dawn of the Dead and most of us genuinely accept that it is probably the most unique and overall greatest zombie movie we have (or ever will ever) seen. My grandmother might not agree, but she doesn't watch movies like that. That is a generation after her that started this whole spiral into gory madness, when the Hitchcocks of the world were replaced by Romero/Savini/Raimi/Argento(s). But Dawn of the Dead is the best, and if you disagree, that's fine... there are plenty to choose from, so I'm looking at the obvious one, which also happens to be my personal favorite. Hollywood can try its best, with television or films or CGI or marketing that convinces you otherwise, but DOTD is fantastic for a host of reasons, one of which I will address below.

Anecdote: I recently read somebody post something on Facebook that said: "Zombie stories are written by people that don't know how to write." I bit my tongue, and ignored it. If I'd had a few beers, I might have ripped that person a new one, but I didn't. But I completely disagree. This person had obviously never read or watched a GOOD zombie story. I admit, a lot of zombie stuff out there is tepid at best, but that's because of the Hollywoodization of the phenomenon. The dipshits in the 3 piece suits and the slicked back Patrick Bateman hair, you know- the Studio Guys. They don't "get it". I read recently that they were developing a television show for the WB or some crap like that, and the pitch was, "It's like Twilight, but instead of vampires, it has zombies!" Somebody stick a 6 shooter in my nostril and pull the trigger. Those people don't get it either. Right out of the gate, they don't understand storytelling. It's not a formula.

To explain why Dawn of the Dead is the best of the lot and the WHY behind that, we need only examine the remake. What were the differences? Other than the obvious: 1.) newer 2.) prettier looking- both people and film stock 3.) the setting is a more modern mall. But beyond that, the biggest difference is the treatment of the zombies. In the remake, the zombies RUN. The zombies become something closer to a velociraptor from Jurassic Park, not the drooling dolts from the original. They essentially become "scarier", as viewed through our modern glasses. I don't consider intimidation scary, though. They are more aggressive, more intimidating, more everything. This is why it doesn't work as well as the original.

But WHY?

Because they are slow... docile... useless on an individual level, only en masse can they do damage, much like American citizens... When they are fast- FLASHY, let's call it- it distracts us from the entire purpose of this venture: THE SURVIVORS. The zombies, in the remake, completely attempt to steal the show from the survivors. They fail. Luckily, it's still a great remake, in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it didn't have the uneasiness of the original, for that very reason.

Zombie and monster tales, in general, are about the survivors, not the beasts. The beasts are a prop that we tell human stories with. They are a crutch by which our characters either rise or fall or get their faces chewed off. The zombies are supposed to be background noise, a catalyst to the plot, not the end-all-be-all of the plot.

That's what Romero understood (well, not anymore- the last couple of Dead movies he did were just not very interesting). The zombies can't speak, so by default they aren't nefarious (like a Hannibal Lecter). They are mean (no different than an animal is mean) and like to eat brains, but they don't have evil intentions. So that eliminates that angle. And without that angle, the story wouldn't be that different from a thriller with people stuck in an isolated location, surrounded by wolves. The wolves and zombies are interchangeable because who cares about them? I cannot RELATE to them. What I relate to is the survival instincts and reactions of those who are left behind, to deal with the wolves scratching at their door, to rebuild their lives and accept that, "OK, I guess this is the new normal. Let's do this thing. What kind of life do we want to create for ourselves now? <struggle ensues>"

Zombie and monster tales need characterization. Strong characters. Weak characters. Flip-floppers between those two extremes. Your zombie story needs to have the guy next door, the one who is always cooking kielbasa and stinking up your whole house if your forgot to close the windows. It also needs that potential pedophile that lives on the other side of the street, the one that you wanna punch in the teeth for even talking to your kids. Your story needs characters that people know from their own lives, people that can disgust or invigorate or inspire or demoralize your reader. Only then will your reader feel as though they're IN the story. That they can smell the dead zombie flesh. That their heart is racing. This applies to any sub-genre of horror, but zombies and monsters in particular. If your Bad Guy can't even speak, then you can't depend on them to carry your twisted tale. They can only rip off so many limbs before the reader gets bored.

Look at Fulci's wonderful "Zombie" (AKA "Zombi 2") from 1979. Yeah, the one with the zombie fighting a shark... which seems to have been picked up by mass media 30 plus years later. I actually saw that referenced in a television commercial. This random Italian zombie movie from the year I was born was suddenly hip again. Because it resonates with people, because the zombie isn't nearly as menacing... well, as long as you don't have fins and gills. They are those slow-moving dumbbells that will only capture and eat you if they A.) overpower you with sheer numbers or B.) you're in a wheelchair C.) have broken your leg or D.) have tiny midget legs that can't stride as far per pace.

Flashy zombies will kill your story. It can't be mechanical. Zombie bangs at door. Zombie gets through the door. Zombie grabs the main character's mom. Zombie rips her arm off. Zombie eat's mom's brains. That isn't interesting writing, not to me at least. I want to know about the mom, even the silly inane stuff (what kind of childhood did she have... what kind of mother is she to her son?... how far will she go to protect him from the zombie hoard?)

Maybe I'm full of it. Or maybe I'm right. I guess I'm just a sucker for interesting characters. Not that I don't like seeing a zombie rip somebody's head off and suckle on the bottom side of it. I do! But if you can make me feel something, anything, for the characters... then you won me over as a reader.