W. P. Johnson

Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

I’m Too Sexy For This Blog

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm

     Recently I had the displeasure of looking at fifty or so pictures of myself in various poses wherein I discovered how many bad sides a person can have if they’re willing to look and keep count. Rather than rate each one individually on a sliding scale of one to ten, I quickly voted each picture as either “good”, “bad” or “I fucking look like that?” until the painful process was over. What’s left over after all the blemishes have been photo shopped out and the greasy gleam of my forehead has been darkened to show that I’m not a sweating nervous mess, are, dum dum dum dum…

AUTHOR PICTURES!

This one was a “no”.

How mysterious!

Yes dear reader, I, W. P. Johnson, aka Bill, went and put on his big boy pants and got himself some pictures taken by a professional photographer so he has something to send magazines other than the renowned pumpkin head picture used on my twitter, or old pictures my ex-girlfriend took of me off my phone.

Sorry ex, but this too must be cast aside.

Sure, they served a purpose and got the job done, but over the course of the passing months, it struck me how serious I need to start taking this whole business of being a “writer” and start doing some of the things that the pros have been doing all along.

Remember my cynical post on social networking and pimping your shit out? Well this post is the flip side of that coin. Right now I’ve got a lot of decisions to make regarding my image and how I would like my peers to perceive me as a writer separate from his work.

Look how happy!

If you’ve read previous blog entries, you already know that I like to try to keep things humorous, a muscle I don’t flex often in my stories (I just now became comfortable using pop culture). I suppose that’s why I write this in the first place; I’d like to show you a different side to me so you know I’m not all doom and gloom despite all the evidence my work yields on the matter. Secondly, this blog serves as something of a definitive statement on who I am, whereas fiction can be a bit tricky when it comes to figuring someone out.

In looking over previous entries, I’ve decided to resign myself to being perceived as the tattooed hipster from Philadelphia that I am, and like all hipsters, I am loathe to admit to any hipster-like behavior despite constantly engaging in it. I like the way records sound more than CDs, have an ironic love for bad action movies, I wear a scarf when it’s cold, and I still have a pair of chucks lying around somewhere. Also I think the following 90s bands stink: Pearl Jam, Staind, Tool, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, Sublime, The Offspring, Bush, Green Day, No Doubt.

More like “Hurl” Jam. GET IT?!

When it came time to take these pictures there were a lot of questions I asked myself, and for those of you that are creative in some respects and taking those next steps, you’ll ask yourself these same questions. Do I dress up and wear fancy clothes? Business casual? Normal clothes? Do I smoke a cigarette and drink a glass of scotch by an old type writer despite the fact that I don’t smoke, don’t really drink scotch, and loathe the idea of using a machine that goes CLACK CLACK CLACK for every fucking letter I type?

Jesus King, did you even know they were gonna take a picture?

Do I wear a band tee-shirt and try to look rock and roll?

Horror writer Joe Hill

Aging Dork Bill Johnson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I smile? Or maybe look brooding?

Richard Thomas: ex-cop/junkie turned writer who can’t sleep at night because the voices won’t stop. PS- he told me this was chosen out of THREE HUNDRED pictures.

Richard Thomas: official nice guy and hater of all things Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or maybe I should portray myself as the atypical drunken writer, like Hemingway or Bukowski.

Getting wasted to keep the demons away.

Rebecca Jones-Howe “passed out” on the couch. She told me it was just ice tea in that martini glass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or maybe I should act like a crazy person…

BUY MY BOOK YUPPIE SCUM!

If you go to the about page, you’ll see that I just showed up in the same kind of clothes I’d wear if I was going out for a beer (also this was chosen out of like fifty shots or so). Point is, I’m starting to slowly fill in all the gaps in this career I’ve been cultivating for myself, and as I do this I’m also becoming more comfortable exposing myself as a writer as opposed to just shyly shrugging it off as “no big deal” or something I just do “for fun”. Well, it’s not just “for fun” mother fuckers. I’m trying to make a living off of this. See the amazon page bitch? Pretty soon they’ll be a Wikipedia page too.

As soon as I stop feeling like a dork for writing it myself…

When I was in a band I NEVER talked about it. It always seemed lame, like I was bragging, showing off. I always hated it when other guys talked too much about the band they were in so they could get some pussy. Same goes for writing in some weird way (sans pussy). There’s this hyper awareness in promoting myself to other people and whenever I tell someone that I got a story published I feel I just asked a girl out and she said, “let me think about it?” Then I start to wonder if they’ll actually read it, if they care, and if I should bother following up to see if they enjoyed the story after a week has gone by. Or maybe I should wait a month, just to be safe.

So, did you like it?

Another “no”.

But now, fuck it. Buy my book. Here’s my amazon page, my blog, my twitter, my facebook page (actually I don’t have a facebook page because I don’t think they’ll be around that much longer, ala myspace). And pretty soon I’ll be getting business cards made so the next time someone asks me what I do I can tell them I’m a writer and give them something to remember me by besides an awkward conversation.

Of course, I didn’t take these pictures myself. I had to employ a friend of mine, employ being the word of the day here. Couple of blog posts past I mentioned the idea of getting paid for your work and it should be noted that if you want professional pictures taken, you should expect to pay professional rates, or at the very least, token rates if you’re friends with the photographer. Most people probably just assume that when it comes to photography it’s a simple matter of point and click, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those good looking pictures you see of yours truly took a lot of time and it’s the product of years of study, not something she just “does for fun” (sound familiar?).

This shot was after like twenty minutes of set up time.

You can check out her website here to see her resume and portfolio, as well as her twitter and instagram. In fact, I’m also collaborating with JJo and her husband Sean on my business cards (you can check out his website here). It’s another thing I’m paying to have done because I’m not talented enough to do it myself and it’s something I believe I’ll really benefit from. When the card is finished I’ll be sure to post the results here as well as links for contacting them in case you’re interested in getting any work done by them. Obviously, if you don’t live in Philadelphia you probably don’t want to schedule a photo shoot unless you’re willing to pay for travel expenses, but if you like the job they end up doing with my business cards you can certainly communicate with them through emails to employ them for similar jobs. Just tell them that Bill sent you.

But don’t tell them you want it for free.

Until next time, here’ to being scary.

Werewolf Gangbang

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2012 at 10:25 pm

     I love comedy almost as much as I love horror. I don’t know when it happened exactly when I went from casually watching Saturday Night Live with only a vague understanding of what these people do to actually shelling out the cash to see a comedian perform, knowing with certainty that the one hour I was seeing probably took a year to write. Mr. Show was probably my first introduction to viewing comedy as an art form and following that I began seeing all comedy in such a light, even if I didn’t necessarily like it or find it very funny. Even SNL, which is sometimes panned by your typical snooty hipster fan of funny things, became an institution I’ve grown to respect despite all the catch phrases, overused characters, and occasional bombs. My appreciation and respect for comedians grew to the point that years ago when I played a show in Williamsburg New York and my friends and I went to a record shop, the prized find was not a rare Misfits print of Bullet or an old David Bowie record. It was Andrew Dice Clay’s Dice.

     It was as offensive as anything he ever did. And while it wasn’t his best stuff it was, in a weird way, smart. I’d even go as far to say that it was art in the sense that comedy can be art the same way music and writing is art. Is he a genius? Nooooooo. but when I hear the word genius I think of Albert Einstein, not someone that tells dick jokes. Then again, what genius ever sold out Madison Square Garden? Yet Dice, the hickory dickory dock guy, managed to sell it out two nights in a row. I’d like to know how many Harvard grads can say that…

Many people find his humor offensive, particularly GLADD, LGBT, and feminists. However, I won’t pin the prize on Dice for being the most offensive comedian out there any more than I’ll limit the scope of offended parties to those three groups. The NAACP jumps at any opportunity to label someone a racist, as do groups representing Asians, Mexicans, Indians, Native Americans, Italians, and a slew of other races. The Catholic Church is frequently offended by the arts, as are Muslims, Mormons, atheists, conservatives, liberals, libertarians, anarchists, dwarfs, retards, dog lovers, the KKK, the Black Panthers, the New Black Panthers, cab drivers, rednecks, Canadians, white trash, whiggers, juggalos, the NRA, and… who else is left? Did I name all the groups that are out there that can get a person fired if they don’t grovel and apologize for what they said?

Some people offended by boredom and living in their parents’ basement.

Comedy in particular is an easy target when it comes to being offended for the simple reason that comics often times make fun of the things that are troubling. Since laughter is a positive reaction, some people construe the attempt of getting a laugh as an endorsement of the subject being joked about. Take for instance, the most recent controversy of Daniel Tosh and his jokes about rape. I won’t go into every detail (you can read the full story here), but basically what happened was that Daniel Tosh was performing a set at the Laugh Factory in California, made some jokes about how funny rape is and a woman in the audience shouted, “Actually, rape jokes aren’t ever funny.”

To which Daniel Tosh paused for a few seconds and responded, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now?”

He later twittered, “the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies”

Of course, the girl was livid, shocked, appalled (pick your favorite word for being offended). She proceeded to write about it in her own blog, stating that rape isn’t funny, an idea that I feel is incredulous to endorse for the simple reason that it’s such a commonly understood fact in human nature (unless you’re a savage). Of course rape isn’t funny. Death isn’t funny, and cancer isn’t funny.

However, jokes about rape are funny. But only if the joke is a good one. Let me clarify…

Last year Tracy Morgan came under fire for making homophobic jokes, during which he said that if his son came home acting like a homosexual he would “stab that little nigga to death”. I’m hard pressed to think of a context in which this would be considered funny, however I’m willing to at least give Morgan the benefit of the doubt that he was trying something and that it didn’t really work. I don’t even really blame him for apologizing despite my own disinterest in whether or not he’s sorry for what he said. Don’t be mistaken: I’m pro-gay marriage, have gay friends, all of that. But the comedy stage is like this blank word file I’m typing on now: it’s a place where an artist expresses himself and an artist should never ever be expected to apologize for what they create. Ever.

However, I will admit that there should be some kind of punishment for a bad joke. In fact, this punishment already exists. It’s called “bombing”.

Here’s da thing…

Take Michael Richards racial outburst during which he shouted the word “nigger” a dozen times because people wouldn’t stop talking during his set. Obviously he was punished by having his career and reputation severely damaged by the incident made public, but within the context of that particular set, he was directly and immediately punished for his actions by not getting a laugh. And quite frankly, that should be the beginning and the end of it.

Disagree? Well, if you objectively assess what it was about Richards’ set that was offensive, it would be his usage of the word “nigger”. But if using the word “nigger” is the reason Richards had to apologize for his “art”, then why aren’t other white comics being crucified for the same thing? For instance there’s David Cross, Louis CK, Patton Oswald, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, George Carlin RIP (and this is just naming the ones I know off the top of my head). Louis CK in particular, whose act I posted at the bottom of this, not only joked about the word “nigger” but he also joked about the word “faggot” and “cunt” back to back all within the span of ten minutes.

So why isn’t he being crucified by all the groups of people that love being offended? My personal opinion is that we don’t punish comics for being offensive, we punish comics when they’re not getting laughs when joking about offensive things. The reason it’s troubling though, and why I believe they shouldn’t have to apologize, is that an artist has the right to expression as well as the poorly executed expression of an idea. In addition to this, the heckler in interrupting a performance is disregarding the rest of the audience and ignoring what others find offensive because they assume or believe that everyone should agree with him/her. Well, I don’t agree. In fact, I really wish you’d just shut the fuck up and leave already.

Okay, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have reacted so harshly. Thing is… I really need those laughs.

Given my own experience in the realm of offensive humor, I’m sympathetic to comedians when they’re caught in this type of situation because I know what it’s like to joke and laugh about something while getting scolded for being distasteful or inconsiderate. Years ago I dated a girl whose niece had been molested by her grandfather and prior to learning this fact there was a running gag amongst my friends about the topic of baby fucking. But when I say baby fucking, I mean is babies fucking me, a group of babies cornering me in some dark alley way, hitting me over the head, ripping my clothes off, and riding my slide as I scream out, “Help! There’s a group of infants raping me! They’re making me go ass to mouth!”

Keep screaming and I’ll gag your mouth with my pampers! Hold him down boys!

Of course, my girlfriend at the time didn’t like these jokes and during one night of drinking she proceeded to break down, cry, and tell me that her niece had been molested and that every time I made a joke about baby fucking it made her think of it. I quickly apologized, consoled her, and told her I wouldn’t make those types of jokes anymore.

That lasted for about a week.

I can’t force someone to disassociate an absurd idea from something tragic in their own lives, but I can argue that this association is unfair. After all, baby fucking, aka, the circumstances under which I’m raped by children still too old to walk, is an impossibility! It would be like joking about getting gang raped by a group of werewolves. Both scenarios are ludicrous and, for whatever reason, make me laugh. I mean, just imagine if I was at a party and someone pulled me aside and said, “Hey Bill, I know you like to make offensive jokes, but maybe you could just cool it on the whole baby fucking thing? Jerry got raped by a group of children a couple years ago.”

“Aw dude, I’m sorry, I had no idea.”

Still, even if we exclude absurdist humor, we’re left with a wealth of comedy fodder, things that do happen to the common man, such as death, rape and cancer. In fact, someone very close to me had a brush with cancer and after a tumor was discovered I remember being at the dinner table with him and joking about how he was “eating for two now”, followed by the clanging of silverware and the gasp of shocked family members. The only person that laughed was the one who had a tumor. Why? Because for just a moment, one single moment, someone wasn’t talking to him like he had a death sentence and was making light of what could possible kill him.

Don’t be mistaken dear reader. When I heard the news of his tumor I felt the wind knocked out of me and nearly fell over. And when I heard the news of another person close to me developing manic bipolar disorder, that too proved to be devastating and led to one of the most emotionally exhausting weeks of my entire life. I sobbed for the first time in years and nothing about life seemed fair to me, nor did it seem like things would ever get better.

Still… I laughed. I cried, but I joked. I joked about all the things that were hurting me and the things that were hurting the people I cared about. I don’t know why, only that it helped me get through it. I guess laughter is somewhat disarming, and cancer was just another ticking bomb in my head.

Or bipolar disorder. (PS, I got him a tee-shirt with this on it after he got better)

The disarming nature of comedy is also the same reason I write horror fiction. I’m afraid, but somehow running towards that fear, grabbing it by the neck and ripping it apart so I can understand every nook and cranny… for some reason it helps me sleep at night. There’s an emotional sense of survival in experiencing horror, a strength I derive from the fictional portrayal of all the things that can truly hurt us. Comedy, in some respects, is the same thing in that it asks that we, for just a moment, take all the stuff that can hurt us and just point and laugh at it.

So, bloggers, offended parties, I would ask of you a favor:  if you’re at a club and a comic jokes about something that makes you upset, just leave. If you’re reading a horror book and it becomes too violent for your tastes, stop reading. And if you’re watching a show on TV and yadda yadda yadda, you get the picture.

What I’m asking of you stop protesting, stop trying to get people fired, stop demanding apologies. I’m asking that you stop trying to take all of these great things away from me. And if you’re right and they don’t have any intellectual value, eventually these things will go away on their own the same way many injustices have fizzled out over the years since this country was born.

But please… don’t take away the right to be offended. I need those laughs and all those horror novels. Life would be truly boring without them, wouldn’t you agree?

Until next time, here’s to being scary.

Got Ghost?

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      Months ago I went to Gettysburg Pennsylvania and spent the weekend at a haunted bed and breakfast. There were ghost tours, haunted bridges, ice cream, and nearly a hundred taverns where wenches dressed in the period’s garb put down their cell phones so they could serve you ale, tons of carbs, and cleverly named cocktails (I had the Robert E. Lee Cooler and my girl had the Sharp Shooter). Everything had a ghost slapped on it. The slug line for most shirts was Got Ghosts? Yes my friends, it was surely paradise.

     Well, not quite.

I won’t go into every detail of me weekend there because it would be boring. But I will say this: on that very weekend, I learned that there are no such thing as ghosts.

That’s right people. I, horror writer W. P. Johnson, aka Bill, aka Billy Sprinkles (don’t ask), do not believe in ghosts. I mean, I tried to find them, I really did. I went to, supposedly, the most haunted place in America and spent a weekend at a bed and breakfast riddled with bullet holes. I set out pennies on the floor Lincoln side up in hopes that they’d be moved around come morning only to accidentally brush them aside when I took a piss in the middle of the night. Hardly the activity of specters unless said specters were squeezing my bladder.

I even took a ghost tour. I later learned while talking to a traveler stopping by on his drive through Pennsylvania that you don’t even have to pay for a ghost tour in Gettysburg. Just find one walking around and tag along at the end of the line, you’ll get it all for free. It’s kind of like every horror convention I’ve been to; walk around like you belong there and no one will ask you where your wristband is (I’ve done this four times and have only gotten caught once, after which I just played dumb).

However, on the ghost tour in question there were many obstacles in tagging along for free. For one, we were all given glow in the dark wristbands in order to clearly mark us and we met at a nearby McDonald’s at a predetermined time where we would receive our ghost hunting doo-dads; heat detector, tape recorder, digital camera, and some other thing that measures ghost cum, I don’t remember.

Millie with her ghost hunting tools.

At first we were the only members of the tour and I was half tempted to bail altogether. How else would we be able to snicker and make smart ass remarks if there weren’t other people to hide among? But then our tour guide, a man I’ll call Elmer Fudd due to the fact that he talked like him, got a call on his ghost protected walkie talkie that two more flesh bags had signed up and shelled out twenty dollars for this giant pile of horseshit.

We waited for the other two to arrive, Elmer couldn’t help but notice my tattoos (by the way, as I mentioned in One Lonely Story, I ended up getting a Cthulhu/rat hybrid on my inner arm, which is, to date, the most painful part to get tattooed).

     Anyway, Elmer, like every person with shitty tattoos, couldn’t help but notice mine and preceded to lift up his own shirt to show me his hairy back where some guy living in his basement drew a bunch of lizards blowing fire over the high school doodle of a naked woman.

“It’s a dwagon,” he said.

“Oh, cool…” I said. I thought to myself, aren’t you someone’s employee?

He put his shirt back down. “Okay, they’ll be here in a couple of minutes.”

They arrived and were summarily given their glowing wristbands, ghost cum detectors, etc. Afterwards, Elmer proceeded to play us his tape player, which had recorded a montage of spooky sounding voices hissing hey, get out, and I’m right behind you. Then there was his camera which had recorded a montage of blurry white orbs that I can only assume were ghosts jerking off in to his face. After all, what else is there to do in the afterlife but masturbate and randomly open and shut doors?

But enough jokes about sexually frustrated ghosts (I know, we get it Bill, ghosts love to jerk off, alright already!). I was skeptical, as is the case with anything I do. However I was willing to go along with this. I wanted to believe, I wanted to see something. I really wanted to be scared and was summarily delivered the first scare of the night moments before we left the McDonald’s parking lot when I heard the voice of a girl.

“Whoa…” I said.

“What was that?” someone else said.

“Let’s get out of here!”

Of course, when the voice spoke to us again, it was a girl’s voice saying, “Can I take your order?” and we discovered that it was only the take out window responding to Elmer Fudd’s voice as he instructed us on tonight’s ghost tour. We all gave a sigh of relief. All except for me. Because, you see, I was really hoping it would be a ghost.

But the night was young! We set out on our way to the haunted bridge and during the drive, my girlfriend Millie read the two page dossier on the ghost we would try to contact that night, a man only known as Tennessee who was a supposed deserter of the Confederate army and was hung for said desertion.

The dossier.

There were many stories about him, one being that if you lit a cigarette and set it on a railing, he would move it for you or smoke it. Another being that he could contact you through various forms of modern technology, such as our tape recorders, cameras, as well as something as simple as a flashlight.

It was pitch black outside and the surrounding fields were filled with an eerie fog. Perfect for ghost hunting (though if I were dead, I’d just hang out at beaches and other tropical paradises). We pulled up to the bridge, parking alongside Elmer’s truck. Already present at the bridge were a dozen college kids, drinking beer.

“Shit,” I said.

“Oh no!” my girlfriend added.

We both slowly exited the car and walked towards the mouth of the bridge with our hands full of ghost equipment, our wrists glowing. As we passed the crowd, someone shouted that we should ask Tennessee to jerk us off. Elmer, ever the professional ghost hunter, merely ignored the group and carried onward through the bridge to the other side, his arms full of ghost hunting doo dads. We tried our best to hide the glowing wristbands.

First demonstration of how full of shit ghost hunters are was the flash light experiment, during which Elmer set up a flash light on a rock, turned it on, and began asking Tennessee to turn it off if he was there.

“Turn the fwashlight off Tennessee…. if you’re here, turn off the fwashlight.”

Nothing.

“Are you confedewat Tennessee? If you’re a confedewat, turn off the fwashlight.”

“Hey Tennessee,” I said, “if you don’t like our current president, turn off the flashlight.”

Nothing.

“Um… how about a beer Tennessee,” I added. “Do you like beer?”

“Nah,” Elmer said. “Wasn’t any beer during the Civil War, but he might come out for whiskey.”

The flashlight slowly flickered off. Everyone went bananas. I was sort of weirded out at first. Following this, we asked it more questions during which it would occasionally correspond with the flashlight fluctuating between on and off. Afterwards, we left the flashlight to go do other ghost stuff, however it continued to flicker on and off regardless, which thinking on it now seemed pretty lazy of Elmer to not just place the flashlight in his pocket so as not to attract attention to the randomness of it turning on and off.

Second in the list of tricks was having Tennessee smoke the cigarette, which was easy considering there’s always at least some kind of wind if you’re outside. Hence another freak out by our companions as the embers slowly glowed from the cigarette when Tennessee “took a puff”.

Smoke the cigawette Tennessee.

I was severely non-plussed. In addition to these two dorky parlor tricks, there was the matter of the tape recorder, which seemingly played back ghastly audio of a ghost whispering, aka, Elmber’s thumb rubbing across the microphone. Then there were the glowing orbs found in all the digital photographs, and if I seriously have to explain to you why/how these aren’t ghosts, I don’t know how you made it this far in the blog post (or life).

Orbs. Yup… fucking orbs.

Okay, so you don’t have to google it: IT’S LIGHT REFLECTING OFF OF DUST!

But I digress. For all the searching I did for ghosts, I found none. I kept thinking to myself, “my entire life could change right now,” only to have some college kid shout at me that I should ask Tennessee for a blow job. Things couldn’t get worse.

Eat my ass Tennessee.

Of course, they did get worse. Allow me one last anecdote about my ghastly trip to Gettysburg? I’ll make it a short one.

The bed and breakfast we stayed at hosted a nightly séance. I had never been to a séance before, so of course I wanted to go if only to be scared. By this point I knew that it was all in good fun and that it was just a bunch of parlor tricks. But that’s okay. I just wanted someone to put on a show.

Like my ghost hunting trip, I won’t give you all the details. Only the one that ruined the séance. You see, during the introduction, a contact form was passed around and I put my girlfriend’s name in there in the event that something happened to me and they needed to call someone. That an emergency contact was needed made me excited; there was probably a history of panic attacks, heart attacks, and all other order of attacks fear can give a person. Maybe it was all fake, but it was scary enough that they needed a phone number just in case. In short, I was pumped.

However, I was wrong in my assessment. Yes, it was a contact list, but not an emergency contact list. It was, in fact, a deceased contact list. And so, without thinking twice about it, I wrote my girlfriend’s name and her phone number among a list of dead people. And yes, what followed is exactly what you thought would happen.

The medium closed his eyes at one point and said he felt a lot of friendly spirits in the room.

“There’s a girl here… a Mollie, no… Millie. Yes, Millie is among us right now, protecting us from evil spirits.”

My girlfriend stared at me. I thought to myself, “this weekend wasn’t such a bust after all.”

But enough about ghosts, or lack thereof. What about demons? Or aliens? Well, truth is, I don’t believe in them either. Nor do I believe in big foot, or vampires or werewolves. It’s weird though, isn’t it? To write so much about things I don’t believe in? You were probably wondering when I bring this around to the subject of writing…

However, I must confess that if there’s any big lesson I’ve learned in the past few years of writing it’s that genre and concepts don’t really matter. What matters are good characters. And if this is the case, why put a succubus in the story? Why not just write it straight?

I don’t have an answer. I just know that monsters are fun.

Which brings me to the second half of this blog post, that of hosting a genre writer who will be going on a “blog tour” in promotion of his next novel, something I first did years ago for Caleb J Ross when he was promoting Stranger Will. Today, I am hosting Dan O’Brien, a writer who seems intent on dipping his toe in every genre that exists (ala China Mieville)  and posted below is an excerpt from his horror novel Bitten, which a few reviewers have labeled as “genre-bending”. Sometime in the future he’ll be coming back to do a guest post. So check out the excerpt and if you like it, buy his book and check out his author blog. The guy is a beast when it comes to writing books and I have a feeling that in the years to come he’ll be a heavy hitter in this genre of speculative fiction.

In other random news, Pulp Modern III got a review on amazon and someone said something nice about my short story “White Light, White Heat”: In W.P. Johnson’s “White Light, White Heat,” a couple of college kids in Philadelphia are trapped in an apartment while a zombie apocalypse consumes the city. With its abundant pop culture references that drive the story forward, this is a horror mash-up that fits this magazine perfectly.

Not too shabby.

My second bit of news regards Mr. X. Remember the last blog post where I trashed him? Well, turns out he might have had a good excuse for not being so thorough in our correspondence. Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t say what that reason is, only that I don’t blame him for not reading my stories under the circumstances. Truth is, after we last spoke he told me he seriously wanted to get together outside of my work environment for a drink to talk about my stories and possibly collaborate on a film project. Is he sincere? Or is it just more smoke up my ass? Time will tell and I’m most likely sabotaging any chance of an actual friendship by writing about it here.

But whatever. I gotta fill these pages up somehow, right?

And now, an excerpt from Bitten by Dan O’Brien. Enjoy.

Chapter 1

     Madeline Leftwich sat at the train station every day at exactly thirteen minutes past midnight. The faded brown bench on which she sat did not often have consistent occupants as transients and hobos were sparse this far north.

But there she sat, hands crossed over her lap. The floral pattern of the thick skirt she wore was hand-made, buckles and clasps galore adorned the uneven cut and fold of the garment. Her face possessed an absent quality, not that characteristics were missing, but instead a vacancy of spirit. That bench meant a great deal to her. This was the very place that childhood was left behind.

It had been exactly thirty-nine years since her mother had placed her on that very bench, brushed back her hair and told her everything was going to be alright. She had said she would be right back. A promise to a child is a sacred thing. Even as an adult, Madeline could not tear herself away from the compulsion to come wait for her mother every day at that exact moment she had left her. The whistle blew each night as the passenger train rolled into town.

Cold air rained down upon the open station. Often, there would be sheets of ice that would expel from the track, lining the waiting area just beside the tracks on the concrete platform. Attendants had grown accustomed to her presence. Some even offered her coffee in the wee hours of the morning when they had no other friend. This night, however, she was quite alone.

Heavy bleating of the distant train horn filled the night, filtering through a cloudy fog. The susceptible and otherwise occupied Ms. Leftwich was not yet privy to the gossip of the town. Murder, a topic of great concern no matter the venue, would be especially virulent in such a small community. Distance revealed a dark object hurdling through the night, steam and precipitation sluicing from the heavy and hot steel that cascaded across the hours of darkness.

The station was empty. A half-lit banister showed the narrow, icy path that crawled back out to the blacktop just outside the front of the station. She watched the train collide with the open air of the darkness, the squeal of the tight brakes announcing its arrival with startling clarity. Heavy doors opened; artificial light spilled from the side of the train.

Madeline watched the open door carefully – waiting. Seconds passed into minutes, yet there was no sound external to the cold nature of Minnesota. Winter had a feeling, a symphony all its own. Groaning trees fought against the arctic grip of snow and ice. Lakes moving in the distance, far beneath the heavy weight of the ice that had taken residence upon them, filled the night.

Someone stepped out. Her coat was wrapped tightly around her lithe frame, her sandy blonde hair tucked beneath a brown wool cap. The scarf around her neck was braided and frayed; as though it were sewn by someone she knew well, not the simple manufacture of mass production. Brown eyes watched the empty train station with great interest and a precision that marked her immediately as more than a mere observer.

A bulge at her side revealed a weapon. The simple black bag that was slung over the shoulder of the long brown trench coat made her appear to be a woman on the run, or perhaps one who simply liked to travel light.

Seeing the frail form of Madeline, this sole occupant of the midnight train station, she made her way toward the sitting woman. Her voice was sweet, her tone full of purpose. “Excuse me, ma’am. Is this Locke? Locke, Minnesota?”

Ms. Leftwich watched the woman with wide eyes, pooling with tears. She was severely confused. Was this her mother? Had this been the person she had waited so long to see? She hesitated. This woman was younger, younger than she was. Was this possible: a mother who was younger than you?

“Ma’am, I…”

“Mother?” queried Madeline Leftwich, her voice rising shrilly.

“Pardon me?”

Madeline did not stand, but instead shuffled her purse at her waist. “Are you my mother? You left me here a long time ago. Said you would be back, said you would be back soon.”

Staring into the vacant eyes of Madeline Leftwich, it took the woman a moment of complete incomprehensibility to see that there was not much left. Where there might have once been potential for a woman, were the remnants of some sad description of what could laughingly be called life.

“No. I am very sorry. I’m not…”

Madeline stood now, her features scrunching in anger. “Why would you lie to me? Why would you leave me here? Why?”

“Ma’am, my name is Lauren. Lauren Westlake. And I am neither your mother nor a trained therapist. Can you tell me if this is Locke?”

Madeline interrupted, her face flush. Her words were filled with venomous rage. “Don’t pretend I’m a child. I know where I am. I know who I am. Just because you are my mother, doesn’t mean you can leave me behind.”

Lauren Westlake looked at the woman in a mixture of shock and horror. She resisted the urge to physically restrain the woman, concerned about the reaction she might have. “What is your name?”

Madeline’s face was the very picture of surprise. “You don’t remember your daughter’s name?”

Lauren was uncertain how much further this charade should be carried, whether or not disengaging from the woman would be simpler. Looking at the woman carefully, she noticed that her clothing was handmade. The name Madeline was sewn carefully into the breast of her outmost jacket. Stifling an irritated sigh, she continued. “Madeline. Your name is Madeline.”

And then as quickly as the madness had come, it dissipated. “Why are you talking to me?”

“Excuse me. I…”

Madeline looked at Lauren strangely and stood, gathering her belongings. She moved past Lauren and out into the night as though the interaction did not even happen. Lauren watched her go, scrutinizing the entire exchange in her own mind. Shaking her head, she adjusted the bag at her back and moved forward past the dock of the train station and into the cold area just above it.

Ms. Leftwich was nowhere to be seen. As far as Lauren was concerned, that was for the best.

The night was cold. A heavy veil of fog seemed to grow like a behemoth. She looked down the lane and saw only two endless views of darkness. The blacktop was crystalline, frozen precipitation having created a surreal sheet that seemed as though it would be better suited for ice skating than vehicular travel.

“Not exactly a warm welcome,” she muttered, drawing the top of her coat closer to her face. There were muffled sounds in the distance, voices that were muted; sounds that could originate from only one kind of establishment: a bar. Lowering her head and pulling the strap of her bag tight, she soldiered on.

* * * * *

      Madeline had made a mistake that night that would cost her life. Each night that she sat alone at that train station, she would wait for the sun to rise and then scamper home, ashamed. This night, however, her emotions had gotten the better of her. And it was in these woods that she would now find herself in the presence of a particular creature of the night, one that would come to haunt and terrorize the inhabitants of the small town of Locke.

The moon overhead stung the fog, driving the ethereal wisps from its view. Wide and threatening, it looked peaceful when viewed in the company of others, in the arms of a lover perhaps. To Madeline Leftwich, a woman lost in her own mind, it was a portent of doom.

Thick branches grew over the sorry excuse for a path that she walked each day. By daylight the intricacies could be gleaned, but at night it was a haunted maze littered with obstructions and potential trip falls.

Her shoes were a dark fabric. Not the kind of material used when hiking through the woods at breakneck speeds, though that is what Madeline would need that night. When she paused at the center of the trail to make sure she wasn’t being followed, the dead silence of the night became a far more frightening sound.

“Who is there…” she half-whispered, her voice cracking.

A branch snapped, frost claiming yet another soldier. Crack. Another sound echoed in the night; this time much heavier, like weight lingering as a fledging branch gasps for its last breath before being trampled. She pulled her bag close to her chest, her face twisting in fear. Her eyes were wide as she searched the night frantically. “There is nothing there,” she whispered, tearing her eyes from the tree line.

Continuing forward, her steps were quicker, more deliberate. The woods around her thinned the faster she walked, white speckled pines giving way to broken branches along a road of depreciating value. The trail widened in places, enough that little pockets of dirt and soil were pushed up from use.

As if something were urging her forward, she began to run slightly, her breath expelled in heavy puffs of condensed air. She wheezed then, a panicked, hiccupping sound that erupted deep from within her chest.

And that was when she heard the first growl.

There was something wrong with it. It sounded like an animal, the guttural low pitches. However, there was something human to it, a strange gargling sound. Rising in pitch, it sunk again disappearing into the fog.

Her feet were not as sure beneath her as she thought. The tips of the fabric shoes dug into the hard soil, making her wince in pain. Biting her lip hard, she forged forward, stumbling into an open area of the trail.

Trees crowded the edges of her vision and the clearing. The trail continued on the way she had been trampling and then split into two smaller trails yet. The fog hung ahead of her, pulling away as though it were an entity all its own.

Silence permeated the area, there was low rustling. And then the growl came again. It sounded hungry, desperate, the pinnacle of auditory fear. “Who is there? What? Why are you hiding…” she whimpered. “Please…please.”

It seemed to come from all around her, enveloping the cold night air. The fog stirred, deep in its belly a shadow formed. Tall and hunched, it was a mass of darkness shaped like a man. Heavy in the shoulders, spines seemed to rise unevenly from the arms and body. The head was lowered and the knees bowed as though it were ready to pounce.

Yet it did not. It stood, chest heaving, safely veiled by the fog bank. Hands that seemed to melt into long thin claws were obscured by the swirling mass of miasma ebbing and flowing within.

She was speechless.

Her mouth opened: no words.

Her mind raced. Panicked thoughts flooded her mind, erasing judgment and reason. Muscles constrained, joints locked, she watched helplessly. It took a single step forward, the heave of its heavy chest frightening.

Madeline Leftwich was not a god-fearing woman. In point of fact, until that moment she had not given much thought about death. Never had she thought about whether she wished to stay in this world: alive, mortal. Now, when confronted with something drawn from nightmares, her pulse raced and she realized, with a desperate certainty, that she did indeed wish to live.

The rain trickled then, a fat droplet striking her across her hair. Her feet hit the ground hard, her pulse racing as she abandoned her bag. Churning, her feet dug into the hard winter earth. Her breath sputtered in front of her in rapid fits of exploding clouds. She whimpered as she ran, tears running down her face as trees slapped her hard across her cold, sensitive features; some left bruises, others broke skin.

The forest was alive with sound.

Creatures hooted and hollered in the night.

They knew something was happening.

She could hear herself breathing heavily.

She would not last much longer.

Her foot caught something lodged deeper into the frozen ground, the world spun in circles as her back collided with the unforgiving earth. The groan that escaped her lips was foreign.

Frightened and defeated, she kept very still. Where she had landed proved defensible, high brush bristling with heavy branches and evergreen leaves that hid her partly from view.

The forest beat a heavy drum.

Footfalls of animals loose in the night filled the air. There was one set of footsteps that rung above the others: something primal, something large. She covered her mouth with her hand. Pressing it tightly, a shadow crept across her vision.

She peered out the side of the brush.

It stood like a man.

Up close the fur was matted, uneven, missing in some places. The legs were muscular and covered in fabrics that seemed to sluice fluid. Hemorrhaging from the torso, it moved with a predator’s grace.

Its face was covered in shadow.

Madeline felt a scream rise from deep in her chest and she pressed her hand harder against her mouth. Closing her eyes, tears streamed from them. Her chest heaved, but she tried not to move, locking her body into a paralysis.

She could not tear her eyes away from it.

Turning, the face was still well-hidden.

Long slender fingers, like dull blades, bounced against the creature’s legs. The clothing was torn and dirty. A smell emanated from it that could only be described as nausea in the depths of a septic tank. Lifting its head, it sniffed the air, a hood pressing against its mangled hair.

Her breath caught in her throat.

The slow turn of the creature and the bend of its legs as it lowered closer to the ground was more than Madeline could take. And before she could even remove her hand from her mouth to scream, it was upon her.

 

That’s it for today people. Hope you enjoyed my little story about Gettysburg, Dan O’Brien’s excerpt, and all the goofy pictures. Until then, here’s to being scary.

The Man From La La Land and Comrades

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2012 at 5:44 pm

     For those of you who don’t know, I bartend for a living. I know! You probably assumed I was living off the royalties from Pulp Modern III, well guess again scum. And I’ll be fucked if I hold my breath waiting to see another royalty check from Kzine for their second issue, featuring my story “The Stench”.

But enough hidden plugs. Today I’d like to talk about one of my regulars at the bar I work at. I have quite a few regulars and as is the case with anyone you get to know in such respects, the question always come about as to what it is I do outside of bartending, if I’m in school, went to school, do I plan on going to school. The short answer is that I went to Temple University and I want to be a writer.

One man in particular, who I’ll call Mr. X, can’t seem to get enough of asking me about my work. Originally he lived in LA and worked in the “business” of making dreams come alive in tinsel town. Now he runs a family business in Philadelphia and frequents my establishment at least once a week. He always over tips and is easily one of the nicest people on planet earth. Seriously, this guy can talk to ANYONE. I once witnessed him have an hour long conversation with a stranger across the bar. By the time they were done talking they were sitting next to each other, exchanging numbers.

I was pretty dumb founded by this. After all, writers tend to be moody cunts and I’m no exception to the rule of thumb that the reason we do what we do is because A, we love the work, and the magic of story, and blah blah blah. And B, we’re antisocial and would sooner have a conversation with a cat than another human being.

But I digress on making generalizations on writers that are only partially true. Point is, after seeing this particular display, I told him how strange I thought it was (Philadelphia is not known for its Brotherly Love despite what you may have heard). He laughed it off, and said to me, “You think I’m really gonna call that guy? Dude, I was just being nice.” Sensing my own skepticism about our relationship, he added, “It’s not like you and me… I really do enjoy your work,” he said while deleting the stranger’s number on his phone and presumably keeping mine.

Funny though, having emailed Mr. X nearly four or five stories and the first quarter of an ongoing screen play that I hope to finish by the end of the summer, he never had anything more to say than, “Dude… you’re really twisted,” while making a sly grin. “I love it!”

Of course I’m really twisted Mr. X. I’m a horror writer. You knew that because I told you. But I don’t think you really read any of those stories. In fact, I think you’re completely full of shit, just another LA jerk off making nice with everyone just in case you might need something from them in the future, albeit a friendly jerk off, but disingenuous non the less. Doesn’t matter how much sugar you pour on bullshit, it’s STILL bullshit when all is said and done.

It brings to mind the networking/promotional side of writing, a thing I truly despise. Truth is I LOVE to write. I didn’t always like to. For a time it was just something I thought maybe I’d be good at, but nowadays when I sit down to work on something, I get excited. But when I do finish that story and its accepted somewhere, now comes the work of begging people to read it and what follows is a surreal puzzle of facebook posts and tweets that Philip K. Dick would’ve found weird.

For instance, I’ve got friends on facebook that are writers and when they publish a new story they post it on their facebook, twitter, myspace, tumblr, youtube, picasso, instagram, wordpress, google+, podcast, as well as a plethora of message boards (that’s the first and last time I’ll ever use the word plethora, I promise). In addition to this there are sub categories within certain social media venues, sub groups for anthologies, books, author pages, prompting identical posts from the same person in different places. Even more surreal is when said post is incidental, having nothing to do with promoting ones work. After all, if you post something on your facebook page and then again on your author page, what’s the point of splitting it in two? In other words, what friend isn’t already following your professional life to the extent that they would know about your accomplishments without having to post it again within the realm of your personal social media universe?

In the age of smart phones letting me know when someone is speaking to me or posting something, you’d think my phone has Parkinson’s, it vibrates so goddamn much from all the tweets, posts, updates, pms, dms, invites, save the dates, profile changes, responses, tagged pictures. One starts to feel like they just got hired for a data entry job and sometimes when I sit down to cipher through all the drek, I begin to feel a bit manic and overwhelmed by it all.

I just want someone to read my story…

I’d assume my writer friends feel the same way. In a recent rant by up and coming Richard Thomas on facebook (which I feel comfortable posting here considering he has nearly 5,000 friends, so how private could it be?), he asked that anyone who had never actually read any of his work or wasn’t at least vaguely familiar with what he does to unfollow him. I found that to be very interesting considering the supposed value of social media. Then again, if I gain ten twitter followers on follow Friday, are they really reading my tweets? After all, they have a couple thousand people they’re following and are followed by equally as many, so let’s be real: no one has the time to be that supportive of so many people.

In the context of the writer’s world, I find it incredulous and disingenuous the way certain people pimp out so many projects, stories, and novels. There’s just no way they could be reading that much! In fact, when Pulp Modern III was published I even had a couple friends of mine promote the story without even having read it first, a thing that made me feel very conflicted. What does it matter if someone likes your status or retweets you if that’s the extent of their interest? It’s like that old saying, if a trees falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Today it would seem that it does make a sound and someone filmed it and put it on youtube! Share it! Like my page! And after you’re done pretending that you care, carry on with liking other pages and following people on twitter in hopes of getting a follow back (check out Slacktivism for a more in depth, and hilarious description of such behavior).

The title of this entry is Men from La La Land (Mr. X from LA), and Other Comrades. So then, dear reader, who are the comrades in all of this? Who, when all the likes and retweets are said and done, really gives a shit whether I write another word?

     I don’t know to be honest. I can guess at a few. For instance, last Friday Booked Podcast did a review of the new anthology by Solarcide, which features my story “Cold Heart”. Not only that, they actually read the whole thing and talked about enough of it to prove that this was the case. I was kind of blown away… someone was asked to promote something and not only did they agree, they actually read it and talked about it for an hour. In retrospect, that truly kicks the shit out of a dozen likes on facebook.

And so, as an experiment, I’m going to ask you to do me a favor (yes, you, the person reading this blog right now). If you read this blog, specifically this entry, let me know somehow. Don’t just like it on facebook. Tell me that you read it. Post something on my wall, or tweet me, or text me personally. But if I catch you liking my status and not commenting afterwards, so help me god…

Alright, alright, I won’t do anything crazy. I’ll just be slightly annoyed and cynical about whether or not you actually care. You’re busy. So am I. But just know that when I promote someone else’s work, it’s because I actually read it and liked it. I don’t do favors, only because I don’t want favors. I work too hard to have someone humor me.

And Mr. X, I don’t think you’re really reading my work. In fact, I’m willing to bet my personal embarrassment by writing about it on this blog that you’ve never read anything by me. However, if I’m wrong and you do follow what it is that I do, I’m sure you’ll confront me about it the next time I see you. If so, then I’m truly sorry for what I said. A thousand apologies in fact. I was completely wrong about you and shouldn’t have been so cynical. Next round is on me buddy.

But if I’m right, you’ll just smile and ask me when my next story is going to print. And I’ll just smile and say, “You can check out my blog for updates.”

     Speaking of updates, Solarcide’s Nova Parade goes live today and features a ton of writers. Newly added to the set list is Jeremy Robert Johnson, a weird fiction/horror writer I can’t believe I slept on. Years ago I had stumbled upon his first collection of stories, Angel Dust Apocalypse, a collection of weird fiction that I didn’t think much of if I can be honest (I don’t pull punches around here people). However, his new collection of short stories, We Live Inside You, is some of the best new horror/weird fiction I’ve read in years. It came out last October and his short story “A Brilliant Idea” from said collection is featured on Nova Parade for free. This is a horror writer that’s really on his game and is gonna keep getting better.

As mentioned earlier, Nova Parade was reviewed by Booked Podcast, a podcast that is starting to slowly grow on me. These guys are the real deal- they care, and they really do read everything they can get their hands on. The guys at Solarcide care too. I know this because occasionally they let me know how much they liked one of my stories. Sometimes its nice to hear that from someone other than your mother (no offense mom, hearts, kisses). PS mom and dad- you shouldn’t read “Cold Heart”. It’ll make you upset that your son could dream up something so horrific. Everyone else though, have at it. It’s not like I have to have thanksgiving dinner with you come November.

In other news… well there is no other fucking news. I’m just waiting around on six submissions and polishing another two to send out with plans of writing at least three more before sitting down to the script again. What do you want from me people? I’m not a machine. But if I can be so bold, I’d like to take a short moment to mention my sister’s blog on running for charity and celiac disease.

That’s it. What? Were you expecting me to pontificate on what it is she does and writes about? Well, I don’t know because I haven’t read it yet. I’m busy. Just go and like her page already. She needs the hits god damn it!

All kidding aside, she’s a better person than I am (plus she earns points for liking horror almost as much as I do). She runs marathons to earn money for the sick (if you don’t think celiac is a disease, just imagine whatever allergy you have being in nearly every food item ever). Meanwhile, I’m writing monster stories that I doubt will help anyone, but I do hope when they’re finished, some of you read and enjoy them.

Even you, Mr. X.

Until then, here’s to being scary.