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Adventures In Publishing: The Ruined Man

After the excitement from “The Saga of Shamus” died down I took a step back and decided to work on my craft. Learn how to smith the words better. To accomplish this, I started writing short stories like a mad man. This was a relatively new field for me. Until then I had mostly written plays and novellas. I had just moved to Albuquerque and me and my friend Brandon would spend our weekend mornings writing. And believe me, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I churned out at least one short story a week for a weeks on end.  Most of these stories were garbage and will never see the light of day. I collected my favorites and self-published a collection called “Twisted Yarns.”  I know what you’re thinking. Why would I self-publish again? What would possess me to want to undertake that exercise in humility again? To be honest, I was getting discouraged. Because even though I was churning out garbage short stories at a record pace, I couldn’t find anyone to publish them. Most of the stories I wrote were too long for the word counts of these publications. Flash fiction was really big at the time and everyone thought that if you couldn’t tell a story in under 1000 words, it wasn’t really a story. I don’t write 1000 word short stories. Hell, I don’t even write 3500 word short stories. My short stories start at 7500 words and usually top out somewhere around 10k.  And the few places that did accept lengthy stories gave me nothing but encouraging rejections. If you’re a writer, you know the kind.

“Great story, but not what we’re looking for right now.”

“Really enjoyed the story, but doesn’t fit our issue. What else do you have?”

And so on and so forth. Over and over again. One rejection after another in a constant flow of bad news. After a while the ego takes a hit. After a while you start asking yourself questions and doubting yourself and your talent.

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One of the stories to come out of this frenzy of writing was the original short story version of, “The Ruined Man.” The story actually followed the events of the upcoming book 2. I sent a copy to my old creative writing professor and he got back to me the same day with, “Turn this into a book! It NEEDS to be a book!” So that’s what I set out to do.

Turning a short story into a full-length novel is no easy feat. I’ve heard it said they are two separate modes of writing. A short story is like a passionate kiss from a stranger. It is fast, unexpected and leaves you breathless and wanting more. Whereas a novel is like a love affair. It’s slow, develops over time and is chock full of emotional highs and lows.  So the trick was how to turn a passionate kiss into a love affair. I decided to start at the beginning, like all good love affairs. I told the story of how Victor Wolf became the Ruined Man—a story that ended up beginning 15 years in the past.  The story, which ended up being book one, “The Ruined Man,” flowed out of me as if Wolf was telling it to me over afternoon coffee.  Before I knew it, I had completed the Purple Gates story and had to move on to the second half which covered the events in the short story.  Turning that into a love affair was difficult and took years. Literally years.  The few query letters I did send out about The Ruined Man were met with rejection (surprise, surprise). Even after the discouragement settled in and I quit writing, I would still go back to Wolf and tinker around with the novel. It soon became a monster. A monster that I loved like a child. A beast I wanted to protect from the slings and arrows of all the nasty assholes rejecting my work and chipping away at my self-esteem.  So I kept the book locked away in the fortress of my hard drive like the electronic manifestation of the Man in the Iron Mask.

Eventually, I quit looking at it altogether. Because I had finally had enough. Enough rejection. Enough criticism. Enough ridicule. Enough hearing loved ones talk about how I needed to “find a real job” and leave this writing thing behind. Those of you who know me know how huge this decision would be for me. All I ever wanted was to be a storyteller. Period. From the time my imagination started imagining I was making up stories. There is nothing I love to do more than get lost in my imagination and find a story there to share with others. I had spent years of my life not listening to all the naysayers. My high school teachers begged me not to be a writer. My college professors begged me not to be a writer. My parents REALLY begged me not to be a writer.

“There’s no money in it.”

“You’ll be poor your whole life!”

“Nobody respects writers! They are slackers and miscreants!”

Ad infimum.

I ignored them all and pursued my dream only to find out they were right. As I said in my last blog, I was one voice in a cacophony of thousands trying to get heard. Few people listened. Fewer cared.  Everybody wants to be a writer but nobody wants to read. I was discouraged, disgusted and frustrated and I was getting real tired of rejection. So I decided to leave it behind and get a job in IT. There is nothing more soul-crushing than giving up on your dreams.  Very little else will take the light from your eyes and the life from your step like losing a piece of who you are. But I had to. I couldn’t take the pain any more. I couldn’t take the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. I couldn’t take the smoldering disappointment I felt radiating from everyone around me. I had been defeated. So I stepped back and “gave it to God.”

I felt it leave in that moment—the fire I had kept stoked for years just didn’t die, it was snuffed out. As my imagination dimmed, a sharp pang stabbed my heart. It felt exactly like breaking up with someone. The loss was immense.

Franz Kafka said a non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. Franz Kafka knew something about it because I learned the truth in that statement pretty quickly. My whole life I used writing to process the world around me. The stories, poems, plays and essays I’d written were fueled by a myriad of emotions. But that was gone now. I didn’t have an outlet for creative expression. Those were dark days.

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During the summer of 2016 I came across Michelkin Publishing’s call for submissions. They were an indie house out of New Mexico and they were seeking local writers with books about New Mexico. Bonus points for magical realism. My thoughts immediately went to The Ruined Man, but I quickly pushed it back. I had quit writing. I didn’t want any more rejection.  I gave it to God and He decided to keep it. All my passion for writing was gone. But I kept going back to it for days. Finally I relented.

“It’s no big deal,” I convinced myself. “You haven’t gotten a rejection in years, you can handle at least one. It doesn’t even matter. It’s not like you’re a writer anymore, anyway. Accepted or rejected, it’s all the same now. Besides, it’ll be rejected for sure. No doubt.”

So I went to Michelkin’s site and filled out the submission form and included a summary of my monstrous word-baby. I clicked send and was hit with a brief spike of excitement that was quickly dulled over. Then I waited. Waited for the rejection I was sure would come.

“Dear Mr. DeGray,

Thank you for your submission but we can’t find room for you right now.

Signed,

Every publisher or agent ever”

The morning I got the email from Michelkin’s publishing department that’s what I expected it to read. But that’s not what it said. They actually said they liked the summary and wanted to see the first 50 pages. I couldn’t believe it. I was shaking as I dove into the electronic dungeon of my hard drive. My heart pumped wildly as I opened the key and let my Monster in the Iron Mask see light for the first time in ages. I spit-shined the manuscript and sent them what they asked for. Then I waited again.

And waited.

And waited.

Months later I got another email. Again, I expected this to be the one where they thanked me for my time but they had decided to pass. Again, not what happened. They felt the first 50 were solid and wanted to see the whole manuscript. I almost cried. No joke. I spent the weekend polishing up my beloved brain-child and sent it off to them. And then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

By this time I was getting anxious. It was December now and I hadn’t heard a thing from them since the end of September. I was convinced they hated it and hadn’t gotten around to sending me the rejection yet. I tried not to care, but the fire had been sparked inside me again. It burned with a tiny flame. Like a tea light–a miniature flicker of light in a sea of dark hopelessness. It was fragile and I knew that this rejection would snuff it out for good. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the cosmic plan behind it, the killing blow that would ensure I would never get back up. And then it came.

December 10, 2016 I was at my niece’s birthday party when I got an email from Michelkin Publishing. My throat instantly dried and I was hit with a rush of excitement. I took three deep breaths and returned to the party. Later, after I had gotten home, I paced around for at least an hour terrified to open the email. Finally, I steeled my resolve and read the email.

They said they’d be happy to publish my manuscript. In two books. I cried. No joke. And that tiny flame suddenly grew into a blazing beacon.

And now, six months later, my first published novel is actually out. It feels great, I can’t lie. It’s blissful to no longer be a monster courting insanity. All dreams are worth living. That’s what I took away from this adventure in publishing. No matter who you are, no matter what your secret dream is—live it. Don’t let the wet blanket of hopelessness put out your fire. Don’t let the criticism and disapproval of others guide the direction you take.  It is YOUR life, after all. You are the one who has to live it, so live it well.

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The Ruined Man is out!

That’s right. My paranormal thriller The Ruined Man is available for early purchase before the official release date on Friday. Get your copy of The Ruined Man paperback!

And check out the trailer up on Youtube. 

The Ruined Man Trailer 

Cover Reveal for upcoming book “Twisted Yarns”

Hello blogoverse! I’ve been away for a while working on my new collection of short stories, Twisted Yarns! I am pleased and more than a little excited to announce that it is now available for sale on the publisher’s site! That’s right. Now is your opportunity to delve into the warped and whimsical worlds that bounce around my imagination. And while you’re there, check out some of my other titles. Amazon and other retailer availability is coming soon. Cover design credit goes to the ever-talented Chris Deichman.

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So what are you waiting for? Open a door to your imagination and get lost in Twisted Yarns!

Short Short: Meeting the Old Man

She met the Old Man when he rescued her from the cult. Well, rescue is such a—what’s the word? Subjective. Yeah. Rescue is a subjective term. She was broke, see? And living on the road like so many were in those days. In those times, right after everybody admitted to themselves that things weren’t going to get better, people finally stopped looking to the governments or corporations to save them and hold civilization intact. Those were dark times. Depressing times. Brutal and terrifying times. Whole cities burned to ash. But they got what was coming to them in the end, I suppose. So it was no big thing for a pretty young girl to be a broke vagrant scamming for a few bucks and a hot meal.

Cults had started popping up in those days like pimples on a fry cook. Something to do with the last cries of the desperate to a deaf and apathetic God, I suppose. Lots of cults offered signing bonuses. $50 dollars and a ham sandwich is what she sold her eternal soul for…or tried to anyway. Before the pen was slapped from her hand and the needle for the blood sample deftly snatched and shoved into the cult nurse’s arm. Howled like a stuck sow, too. This caused the Old Man to chuckle.

The girl wasn’t laughing though. She turned on her would-be savior, eyes blazing like a chemical fire. “What the hellz with you asshole?”

The Old Man shrugged and fished around his patched coat pocket, producing a half-smoked cigarette. “Just saw you about to make a mistake and I couldn’t let you do it. You gotta light?” he begged.

“Fuck off, mister.”

“Ya know what they want your  blood for, right?”

“It’s fifty bucks and a ham sandwich! Who cares why they want my blood? I haven’t eaten in two days!”

He shrugged again, his eyes glinting beneath the wide-brimmed hat that shadowed his face, even in the light. “Suit yourself. I’ll tell ya what. I’ll give ya $100 and a free meal, that’s right a whole meal, if you walk with me to the diner across the way there and let me explain a few things to ya.”

She eyed him warily. Rape and murder were daily threats for any vagrant, much less a 21 year old girl. But it was only across the street and it was in a public place.

“I ain’t gonna do nothin to ya. Hellz, you were about to sell yourself over to this kooky band of bullshit artists.” The cultists grumbled. “What have you got to lose?” He pulled a crumpled hundred dollar bill from his ratty jeans pocket and showed it to her. “See? Got the money. Now let me buy ya dinner, girl.”

She looked to the cultists who began protesting and forcefully urging her to sign. The she looked to the Old Man, eyes glinting and flashing a $100. “Sorry,” she told the cultists and broke from their grip.

They started after her, but a look from the Old Man stopped them in their tracks. “That’s right, you bloodsucking bastards. You see me. Now back off and go find some other vagrants to swindle.”

They backed away slowly, hands raised in surrender.

“Who are you?” wondered the girl.

But the Old Man didn’t respond. He grabbed her by the arm, leading her to the diner. “C’mon. Let’s get some food in our bellies. Could be the last cheeseburgers in the whole damn state.”

This Just In! Pink Slime Attacks

Like a scene from The Blob, Manhattan, Kansas was attacked today by what has been dubbed “The Pink Slime Monster” after it broke out of a secret government laboratory.

It all started when McDonald’s quit using pink slime in their meat. What is pink slime? It’s less than healthy meat that is treated with ammonia and other things in order to make it “edible”.

You may be wondering the fate of all that extra pink slime meat. Well, the USDA purchased some 7 million pounds of it for school lunches. As disgusting as the thought is, TJI uncovered the truth behind the purchase and it’s even more horrific.

“It was all a ruse,” says ex-government official Randy Burke. “They weren’t using it for lunches at all. They were using it for experiments.”

When asked to elaborate, Burke explained, “Well the government plans to move the Plum Island facility to Kansas. Actually, they already did. Just failed to notify people about it.”

“What’s the Plum Island facility, for our readers who may be unaware.”

“It’s this place off the coast of N.Y. where they’ve been studying deadly animal and livestock diseases. Well they moved it inland, to Kanas.”

Burke claims that he, along with a team of scientists, engineers, and military personnel, were stationed at the currently top secret laboratory in Manhattan, Kansas where they were studying the effects and applications of various deadly bovine diseases.

“We figured, with the laboratory in Kansas, we’d have plenty of test subjects close at hand. You know how many cows we lose a year having them shipped to Plum Island?”

“No. How many?”

“17. And that’s a steady number. Anyway, after we heard about McDonald’s, we asked the USDA to purchase us a shit-ton of pink sludge.”

“What for?”

“That’s classified.”

Unfortunately, what happened when the pink slime arrived at the facility was impossible to classify. Combine chemically tainted pink meat-product with several strains of deadly cow diseases and you have a lot of bad beef karma in one place. That bad beef karma manifested as the Pink Slime Monster.

“What happened was Eugene, he’s a good guy, but a bit slow sometimes…Well anyway, Eugene put a bunch of pink slime crates right next to a tray of samples of Nipah Virus and Foot and Mouth Disease we were sending back to Plum Island. Then, Eric, his idiot brother-in-law, went to light up a cigarette and knocked the samples into the pink slime.”

The result was a B-movie nightmare come to life. Unknown chemical reactions animated the pink slime and gave it a voracious appetite.

“It ate Eugene and Eric first,” Burke informed TJI, “Then it went from room to room eating everything in sight. It just kept getting bigger and bigger! I barely made it out alive. You were the first people I called.”

“Thank you. TJI appreciates your loyalty to journalistic integrity and reporting the truth.”

“That isn’t the worst of it though.”

“Oh? What’s the worst of it?”

Note: Unfortunately, the interview was cut short when Burke died of what officials are calling a “spontaneous gunshot wound to the head”. After that things got a little pink and slimey. I barely made it out alive.

As for Manhattan, Kansas, officials at the Census Bureau are claiming no such place ever existed. They are also warning residents in nearby towns that in 1-3 days they too will never have existed. The rest of America is being asked to act as true patriots and reinforce the nonexistence of Kansas. Uncle Sam appreciates your denial.

Anyone for a cheeseburger?

The Book 2

It occurred to me that I don’t have any favorite Joel Olsteen moments. So on with the story!

He dozed off during the next day’s staff meeting. He hated being verbally reprimanded, especially by his principal. The principal, Joseph Eubank, was a handsome bachelor around 45. All the female teachers, married or otherwise, fawned over Eubank, especially Claire Cosca the English teacher.
Dick had harbored an unrequited love for Claire for five years. He’d never had the guts to ask her out. All he could muster was covertly riffling through her things, his rat nose twitching, searching for any sign of her scent. So far, he’d collected an empty perfume bottle, a battered blurry pic of her and some other guy (Dick cut out the other guy’s likeness out and replaced it with his own) and a Kleenex she staunched a bloody nose with which he’d dug out of the trashcan. These treasures he adored and lovingly doted on nightly in his own twisted ritual of zealous devotion. Dick swore he’d have Claire, even if it killed him.

Mr. Eubank did have the balls to ask Claire out and she joyously accepted, thus beginning an ongoing love affair. Richard had watched from afar, the little seed of jealousy growing into a full-fledged hate tree. Dick hated Eubank, more than he hated any other person, living or dead, beside his father.
That night, he dragged his cot downstairs and put it near the front door next to the big window. He decided to drink his beer before he went to bed, hoping to spend the night in alcohol soaked unconsciousness. He almost succeeded. He’d just plopped down on his cot when an audible voice said,

“Richard. Are you there?”

Dick bolted upright. “Who is it? Who’s there?” His face twitched nervously as he listened. He heard the skittering of tiny feet on tile. The roaches! He grabbed a can of spray and sprayed a barrier around the perimeter of his cot. He checked his box to make sure Claire’s things were safe. Satisfied he fell back onto his pillow and closed his eyes.

It was his own screams that woke him. Roaches had breached his poison barrier and were crawling up his arm. He shook them off as he jumped to his feet. The roaches retreated quickly into the room’s darkest corner. There they joined a mass of roaches shaped vaguely human.

“Richard,” said the form in a distinctly masculine voice.

“Dad?”

“God damn, son. You’re a disappointing sight.”

“You should talk. You’re crawling with roaches.”

“I’m dead. And a lot better off than you from the looks of it. What does your mother say?”

“She still loves me more than you ever did. I’m still her favorite.”

“And Charlie?”

“He’s on the East Coast. Doing alright.”

“So what are you doing here, Richard? What do you want?”

“I’m going to sell the place,” said Dick defiantly.

“No! Never! Don’t you see? There are things more precious than money. Idiot!”

“Oh yeah? What kinds of things?”

The roach-ridden spirit refused to answer. “Look, fix the place up. Live here if you must. But never, ever sell the house! And for godsakes, quit flirting with the goddamn ghost!” The mass of roaches dissipated by degrees until only shadows remained.

Dick spent the rest of the night in his beat up Toyota pickup.
*
He took off the next day and drove to the foothills. He hiked for miles, lost in his own thoughts. He hadn’t been especially close to his father. Adam Tortellini was a brutal and distant man. Any doting to be had was had by his older brother Charlie. As a result, Dick had always been a momma’s boy. He was never good enough in his father’s eyes. And as a final insult to Dick, his father had left him nothing but half the house in his will. Charlie had become the executor of the estate and managed the family’s substantial finances. Dick had always wanted to dig his father’s corpse up and kill him all over again for that facetious blow. And now it seemed that Adam’s ghost had come back to haunt him. But that didn’t sit well with him. Dick had never believed in ghosts and didn’t see any reason he should start.

He rationalized that his encounter must have been the result of exhaustion mixed with alcohol. Nothing more. Being alone in the sunlit wilderness restored his energy and whatever gumption he possessed. With his rodent’s features twitching, Dick returned home. And this time, he intended to do damage. He stopped for some heavy-duty roach bombs and spray and prepared for his assault. He figured the best place to start was where the wall was hollow in the hallway. Using a sledgehammer, he knocked holes into the wall, his flimsy muscles quivering from the effort.

Decades-old sheetrock crumbled around him revealing a hidden stairway into a sizeable room furnished with only a desk and chair. In the center of the room was a white circle made of salt and in the center of the circle lay a book. The floor was carpeted with roaches that advanced on Richard with purpose. But he wasn’t unprepared. He lobbed two roach bombs into the room and raced downstairs. He imagined he could hear their collective scream as they choked and died. And he wasn’t disappointed.

The hidden room’s floor was a mass grave of roaches. Their bodies crunched beneath his feet as he descended the stairs. The desk was littered with papers scribbled with strange symbols and formulas. Most of it was gibberish to his untrained eye, written in a language apparently dreamt up by a psychotic. A search of the desk drawers revealed a jeweled dagger and sheath, a stone mortar and pestle, a branch of white oak about 13 inches long, and a hooded robe. Touching these items made Dick uneasy, so he put them back and turned to the book.

“Step lightly. Don’t disturb my circle,” whispered the book.

Though confused about the source of the ethereal voice, Dick did as he was asked and picked up the heavy tome. It was bound in human flesh bleached white. On its cover was a pair of deep red lips with a keyhole in their center.

“The key goes here, Dick,” said the lips and puckered.

Dick squealed and dropped the book. He raced frantically from the room and out the front door.

He returned the next day, against his better judgment, face twitching spastically. It took every ounce of courage he had to descend into the room. As he did, he could feel a negative force trying to stop him.

“It’s not going to work you mean old bastard!” he called aloud.
The presence thickened so much as he entered the secret room he could’ve cut it with a knife. Dick’s face was twitching uncontrollably, messing up his vision, but he pressed onward. He crossed into the circle and the presence ceased.

“Now what are you going to do?” Dick challenged.

In response, roaches poured from the cracks in the wall.

“Take me, Dick,” pleaded the book, “Take me now!”

He snatched the book and bolted from the room.

The Book

This is an excerpt from a short story. If ya’ll like it, I’ll post the rest of it. If not, I can always post my favorite Joel Olsteen moments. Enjoy!

Richard “Dick” Tortellini moved into the house in early August. It was his family home, left to him and his brother, Charlie, by their late father. It was in a prime location in Albuquerque and Charlie had been renting the place out since their father’s death fifteen years ago. But Richard’s time had finally come. He’d gotten a phone call from his mother in May. She said that she wanted him to move back into the family house and fix the place up. “I just don’t think your father would appreciate what’s happening to his house,” she explained. Now Richard’s mother was quite old and not a little senile. But Richard saw the wisdom in this. He could live there rent free, fix the place up and talk Charlie into selling it for a fat profit. He made a modest living as a high school biology teacher and could really use the money to help jumpstart his life. So Dick evicted the tenants and moved in his stuff in one fell swoop.

The house was in shambles and damn near falling down around his head. Fifteen years of renters and a lax landlord had severely depreciated the house’s value. Since his last place was furnished, Dick didn’t have much in the way of furniture. An old table, a chair, a recliner and a cot was all he had to fill a three bedroom, two story house. But Dick was used to this. A lifetime of social ineptitude forced him to spend most of his time away from people. He felt most comfortable camping. In fact, he spent the majority of his summers deep in the woods of northern New Mexico with no one but the old gods to keep him company.
Dick put his cot in the master bedroom upstairs. The carpet was shot, the walls were yellow and the whole room stank like mold from a botched carpet shampooing job.

“Everything has to be redone,” thought Dick angrily, his rodent like nose twitching with disgust. Using a case of beer as a nightstand, he lay down to sleep and was immediately beset by dreams. He dreamt he was in the master bedroom on his cot. A raven-haired woman in a white dress walked toward him, her feet never touching the ground. She stroked Dick with an ethereal hand. He shuddered from the touch, though he was dreaming.

“Richard,” she whispered and ran her ghostly fingers down his chest.

Dick moaned in ecstasy and leaned back. Just as the woman mounted him, a shadow darkened the doorway.

The woman sprang back fearfully. “No! No!” She shook her head vehemently and backed toward the wall. “It’s still not your time!”

The shadow that stepped into the room was very familiar to Dick. “Dad?” he said quizzically and was jolted from his sleep by something tickling his upper lip. It was a cockroach, trying frantically to get the last half of its body into Dick’s nose.

A squeal, more rodent than human, pealed through the air and Dick yanked the intruder from his nostril. He smashed the roach in his fist and stumbled downstairs to the kitchen. The refrigerator held two things: condiments and beer. Dick snatched a beer and guzzled it. He followed it with another and a third for good measure. Hoping to keep the roaches at bay, he spent the rest of the night at the kitchen table with the lights on and the TV. blaring the news in the background.

In other news, Officials at Jemez National Forest received two more reports of campers being attacked and robbed by what one victim described as, ‘wild-eyed mountain men’. Campers and day-trippers headed to the Jemez Mountains are being advised to stay only in designated campgrounds and to avoid camping alone in the forest. We go to Lisa Landry for the report…
*
He awoke stiff and poorly rested from sleeping at the table. It was an uncomfortably long day at work and Dick stayed late to grade papers (but really he was avoiding the house. He wasn’t comfortable in the place.) His brain tried to wrap itself around his supernatural experiences. Who was the woman and why was his father haunting the place? Dick shook the thought away as soon as it crossed his mind. Absurd. He was practically a man of science. Preposterous notions had no place in his worldview. There was no such thing as the supernatural. His real problem lay with the roaches infesting the house. He picked up a can of bugspray on the way home. He used the entire can spraying the perimeter of the room from floor to ceiling. He sat on his cot drinking beer and keeping diligent watch for invading insects. Soon, tiredness and alcohol got the better of him and he drifted into sleep.

Once more he was in the master bedroom. The ghostly woman strode gracefully into the room. “Richard? Are you there?”

“Who are you?” he stammered.

She didn’t answer, only extended her hand. Dick took it and followed the woman out of the room and into the hallway. She walked down the hall and disappeared into the wall next to the stairway.
Dick reached out his shaking hand and it went through the wall. He was just about to step through when the roaches appeared. They swarmed the wall in such great numbers it was obscured beneath their writhing mass. Dick’s screams woke him up.

He was sitting in front of the wall, now devoid of roaches. Closer inspection revealed a hole at the bottom. Intrigued, Dick knock on the wall. It was hollow. He was tempted to tear it down right there, but the skittering sound of countless roaches on the other side deterred him. Instead, he slouched downstairs and spent another night at the table.

Horror Movies and Chick Flicks

B: Call us…cowboys. But not in the genre sense of the word. We don’t wear cowboy hats…well, C does but that’s his thing. Call us…gunslingers. Not that we carry guns around righting wrongs, but there are many different types of bullets. Symbolically speaking. Call us…Worldly Savants. We’ve seen behind the Veil, in front of it and all around it. We’ve seen what’ll happen when that Veil is ripped to shreds and it’s not pretty. In case you haven’t noticed, it has started storming outside.

A: (enters) If this were a horror movie you’d die first.

B: You’re sorely mistaken. I’d be the Alpha Male hero.

A. Bullshit! You don’t even look Alpha Male!

C: (enters) What are you arguing about?

A. Who’d die first in a horror movie.

C: What kind of horror movie? Zombies? Vampires? Psycho killer?

A: Any and all. I’d come out on top.

B: Whatever. I’d outlive you in a zombie apocalypse on my worst day. And a psycho killer would come after you first because you talk the most shit. And the shit talker ALWAYS dies. And as for vampires, you don’t believe in them. You’d die out of rational ignorance. Looks like you suck after all.

A: Well I’d live through an alien invasion. I do believe in aliens.

B: Fine. Whatever. You can have the alien invasion. Take it. It’s yours.

C: Are you two done? I’ve got something important to tell you.

A: By all means, tell us.

C: I’ve met someone.

A: So? You’ve been internet dating for months now.

C: Yeah. Each and every encounter has ended in disaster. But this one was different.

B: How so?

C: Well it all started when I woke up this morning. I told myself, “Self, today you are going to meet someone.” And then I did.

B: Where?

C: The supermarket. We were both reaching for the same carton of organic milk.

A: Wow. We’ve moved from horror movies to chick flicks.

C: I hate you sometimes.

B: So tell us. How was your first date with Ms. Organic Milk?

C: Her name is Samantha. And it was great. If you take all the good traits of my bad girlfriends and put them together, you’d have Samantha.

A: Man, your life really is a chick flick.

C: Like yours isnt?

A: What’s that supposed to mean?

C: When did you take Dani out on your first date?

A: I really don’t see what that has to do with anything…

C: It has everything to do with everything. Now spit it out.

A: You already know this!

C: Yeah, but it means more when you say it.

A: February 14…

C: You asked your girlfriend out on Valentine’s Day and somehow you think your life isn’t a chick flick? C’mon! Christian Slater would play you in the movie!

A: It was a man move! And a smart one. You should always schedule major relationship events around special days. Makes them easier to remember.

C: (turns to B) What do you think? Is that a smart man move?

B: For sure. When I gave Jess’s cat to the pound and told her it got ran over, I did it on St. Patty’s Day. We cried about it for a while then went to the bar and celebrated Kitty’s memory. It was a bonding experience.

C: How could you do somehting like that?

B: Easily. I got tired of being attacked in my sleep by that black fuzzball of pure evil. And Jess’s excuse of, “Oh she just gets like that sometimes,” wasn’t cutting it anymore.

A: Ha! Brilliant!

C: Kinda cold, actually.

B: Cold would’ve been running it over myself, telling her some teenager in a Mustang did it and then showing her the corpse. At least the cat can spend it’s remaining lives in a house with a loving family.

C: Unless it doesn’t get adopted and they have to gas it.

B: I see the PETA sticker on your window wasn’t left there by the previous owners.

This Just In! Pregnant Vampire Applies for WIC

The Seattle Department of Human Services sees its fair share of poor and degenerate. There’s a near constant flow of traffic into and out of the place every day. But last Friday the SDHS got a bit of a surprise when a pregnant woman wrapped from head to toe in blankets entered.

“She just marched right to the front of the line,” said Missy E., an eyewitness of the strange events. “Crazy thing is, it didn’t matter that people had been waiting here for hours, they LET HER GO in front of them! This one crazy bastard even gave her his line number! And he was next! No man ever did that for me, even when I was knocked up.”
The vampire didn’t find such welcoming attitudes at the teller window, however. It was business as usual for the stoic power mongers that work for the government.

“She didn’t have proof of income, residence or anything!” explained Constance who has been working for the SDHS for over 15 years. “She just wanted me to hand everything over to her for free! She thought she’d sparkle her eyes at me and I’d give in. Ha! I’ve never given in! Just ask my husband!”
Constance’s husband wasn’t available for comment.

The mysterious vampire threatened Constance with a display of fangs and promises to, “suck the life from her veins,” if she didn’t sign the young mother up for WIC.

“Not just normal WIC, either,” explained Constance, “She wanted a special ‘modified’ WIC. Said her baby had special needs. Wanted lots of animal blood and raw meat added to the approved items list. I told her that everyone has special needs and she can wait in line with the rest of the bums. I gave her the paperwork then I called the cops. Really. Who asks for blood? Vampires?”

The cops arrived and escorted the vampire mother out amidst heavy protest both from her and the crowd inside the SDHS which seemed to rally behind the blanketed woman. Law enforcement officers managed to wrangle the woman into their cruiser, barely avoiding being mobbed by the agitated crowd.

“Never seen anything like it,” admitted Officer Bob. “It was like she had them under this spell or something.”
Officer Bob’s car was found wrecked and he and his partner, Officer Rob, were found dead with puncture wounds in their necks. The mysterious woman was nowhere to be found.

Constance (and her bad attitude) failed to show up for work Monday morning. Police say there is no connection between the two cases at this point.

Movies I Liked: Fright Night

I thought since I’ve blogged a bit about movies I can’t stand, I’d do a blog about a movie that I thought didn’t completely suck. Though I’m not a fan of the entertainment industry’s obsession with remaking and destroying the formative stories from my childhood, I do have to admit, Fright Night was a good movie. Despite the story being transparent and cheesy to the point of inciting a bout of Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque commentary, I was still caught up in the movie.

It has a retro feel to its newness that I really appreciated from the beginning. In an era where horror movies are:
1. More concerned with gore and shock value than actual acting and storytelling
2. Formulaic to the point of banality
3. All trying to recreate or outdo something that’s already been done

Fright Night is a refreshing beacon in the crap storm of badly acted blood and gore fests that pass themselves off as horror movies today. Even if it does meet most of the criteria in the above list.

Colin Farrell plays an excellent Jerry the Vampire. The scene where he is hovering at the threshold of Charley’s house trying to get the boy to let him in inspired creepy chills in me that made me think, “Tom Cruise wasn’t this good of a vampire. And neither, for that matter, was that weepy Emo kid who played Edward.” I would say that Farrell’s portrayal of a vampire would rank at the top. Underneath Gary Oldman as Dracula and just above Keifer Sutherland as David (in Lost Boys).

I thought David Tennant did a great job as Peter Vincent. As a matter of fact all the non-vampire characters (i.e. the teenage heroes and the local vampire fodder) are portrayed with just enough lightheartedness to take the edge off the horror. Which (in my opinion) is a mark of all great Horror-Comedies.

Don’t get me wrong though, this movie does come with heavy helpings of both blood and cheese. But then again, it IS a vampire movie. Since childhood it has been my understanding of popular vampire lore that blood and cheese are vampires’ two favorite things. Definitely a good movie to dig your fan fangs into.

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