Friday, May 17, 2019

Who wants Thumb-Loaf? YUM!

As per our agreed upon division of labor, I found myself in the kitchen the other night preparing a turkey-loaf for my lovely wife. My own kitchen-sink recipe, the ingredients called for a pound of turkey, an egg, various spices (whatever I can find; the loaf's never the same twice), catsup (and am I alone in thinking that "catsup" should be spelled the way it's pronounced? I mean, come on!), Worcestershire sauce, blue cheese crumbles, chopped vegetables, and a sliced thumb tip.
Wait...what? 

To quote that great television educator, Ernie, "one of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong."

Yep, my thumb got in the way of chopping vegetables. Just call me "all thumbs." Except, of course, I'm a little less all thumbs now.

Shock's a funny thing. At first when I sliced my thumb, it hurt like crazy. Just for a second, though. I stared at the wounded digit, saw there was inexplicably no blood. Huh. Weird. Then blood started spraying everywhere, a delayed action.

My shock was delayed as well. At first I started giggling. See what I mean about shock being a funny thing? Then crazed panic set in. I wrapped tissue after tissue around my spurting thumb, couldn't quite stem the blood flow. As I debated back and forth about driving myself to the ER (my wife was working late)...

"Stuart, you better go."

"Nah, shut up, Stu, it's just a minor flesh scrape."

"I mean it, you might need stitches, Stuart!"

"Give it a rest, Stu! Do I tell you how to live your life?"

Near hysteria, I thought of the old Saturday Night Live skit with Dan Ackroyd dressed as Julia Child when he cut his finger and arterial blood spattered everywhere. Monty Python and the Holy Grail played out in my mind: "It's just a flesh wound" said the armless and legless knight.
Finally, I let reason guide me. I swathed many bandages around my thumb and finished making my turkey-loaf.

And, lo, it was good.

When my wife came home, she sighed, and said, "Please clean your blood up off the floor." Like it was an every-day occurrence or something.

Speaking of blood, a fair amount of it gets splashed around in my historical tale of horror and hauntings, Ghosts of Gannaway. Loosely based on the events in Picher, Oklahoma, this sucker was a monster to write, but I'm proud of the results. Read it already!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Gone Fishin' (at Arby's)

I should've known something was wrong from the minute we approached the Arby's located in Paola, Kansas (Where? Don't ask, don't tell.). The ominous marquee stood tall against the cloudy skies, an eerie arbiter of an ill wind blowing our way. The sign--more of a threat--read, "Fish is back." Short, ominous, and sharp like a knife.

I didn't want to go to Arby's for lunch, rallied against it. But my daughter insisted, especially since she was gung-ho to try their gyros.

"Fine," I said in my best possible hissy-fit manner with arms crossed and brow thoroughly furrowed. "But I'm not gonna like it. Humph."

I knew this to be the case. I never have, never will like Arby's. Inexplicably my wife loves it. I dunno. Can you really truly trust a place that serves something called "Horsey Sauce." Brrr. (Now I know where all of those broken-legged race horses end up.)
My daughter pulled up to the drive-thru menu. I leaned across to get a better gander. Okay, something called a King's Hawaiian Chicken Bacon (aka, Heart Attack in a Greasy Bag) sandwich looked passable, so I chose that. 

"Squawk, conk, glonk, degga-wat-hey," the speaker box blared after we'd placed the order. I shrugged, nodded to my daughter. Whatever the Arby's employee had said probably didn't matter. Surely, they couldn't mess up that order, right? I mean, right?

Uncertain, my daughter said, "Okay" and we pulled forward. Where we waited. And waited.

A deceptively cheery employee cranked open the window, her smile a flimsy cover for secret evil, leaned out and said, "We've got to grill some fish, so it'll be another minute, okay?"
My daughter, polite and nice, smiled and said, "Okay."

The Arby's troll withdrew back into her secret cavern, all the while plotting against me. (I mean it's not really considered paranoia if Arby's is truly out to get me, right?)

I considered what had just happened. Finally, I asked my daughter, "Why do we have to wait for them to grill fish?"

She stared at me. Blinked. Said, "Good point. Neither of us ordered fish. I just kinda went with it." Then she laughed, man, did she laugh. Along with all of the Arby's employees inside no doubt.

Finally, the sack of doom was thrust through the window. We drove back to my daughter's house, her laughing all the way. "What if they gave you a fish sandwich, Dad? Their fish is the worst. Do you want to check it and go back?"

"Oh, hell no!" I'd had enough Arby's humiliation for one day. Sure enough when I opened my "prize catch," a heaping portion of fried (not grilled, even) fish stared up at me. I felt like Charlie Brown at Halloween.

Heed my tale, oh hungry travelers, and avoid the siren call of Arby's threatening sign, "Fish is back." Because, clearly, they left off the most important part of the message: "...and we don't care if you order it or not, because it's what you're going to get."
You'll find a whopper amount of big fish stories in my horror short story collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley (although, true, none of them are quite as horrifying as our nightmarish excursion into the dreaded landscape of Arby's; thar be rough seas ahead matey, arrrrrr.)

Friday, May 3, 2019

I got hairs in low places...

Now that I've inserted that infernal country song earworm in your head...you're welcome!

Hair's a persnickety beeyotch.

Speaking from a male's perspective, the older you get the more apt it is to vacate premises where you'd like it to be and migrate toward unexpected places. Go figure.

I've been balding for a while. No problem, I own it. But, geeze, who wants hairy ears? It's like the follicles decided to abandon their proper head roost and move a little south, set up camp on my lobes. Crikey, the first time I noticed a long hair jutting from my lobe in the mirror, I shrieked. I looked like I'd stepped straight out of a Dr. Seuss book: the oddly baldly, fully woolly lobe-a-teer, with a long hair from ear to there.
What kinda cosmic joke is this? I don't understand what possible good a long hair sticking out of an earlobe can bring. It's not like it fights off bugs or pests, so eat it, Darwin. Conversely, maybe God's having quite a laugh on us. 

I'm not alone in nature's malicious malady. Some time ago, I had dinner with a friend and I couldn't take my focal point off of his ears. We're talking bushels of bristles. If someone had lit a match near him, the entire restaurant would've gone up in a wildfire. Next time I saw him, he'd performed some much needed spring cleaning. Clearly, his wife finally had "the chat" with him. (It happens; my brother's in-laws gave him a Christmas gift of a nose and ear trimmer. Talk about tough love.)

Likewise, my legs have become as hairless as a French bicyclist. I could be a leg model (except, of course, that people have told me I have the legs of gnarly Ents).

My daughter has buckets of hair. Even though she moved outta the house a couple months ago (and only stayed a couple of months), I'm still finding her hair everywhere. Taunting me. "Nah, nah, you had your day."

It's like that Dashboard Confessional song... "Your hair is everywhere..." Just not in good places, and clearly not what the band meant.

Maybe it's time we follicularly challenged made a stand. Start trending it, become the new too-cool-for-school. #BraidNoseHair. #HairyEarsHaveFeelingsToo. 

Speaking of hairy situations, things couldn't possibly get worse for the unfortunate (and secret-holding) weary winter travelers tucking in for the night at the creepy Dandy Day Inn. If you have hair, it'll stand on end when you read Dread and Breakfast! Hair-raising guaran-damn-tee! 




Friday, April 26, 2019

Rockin' out with Horror author Leo Darke


SRW: I’m stoked to have man of mystery and stellar horror author, Leo Darke, on my blog today, yakking up his new book, Lucifer Sam. It’s a great, potent read about all things demonic and rock ‘n roll. Like the best rock music, it’s daring, edgy, and dangerous. Alright, enough from me, here comes Leo.
Thanks for answering my questions and agreeing to being grilled, Leo.

LD: No worries, Stuart, happy to have my head examined. It might get messy though…

SRW: Okay, Leo, let’s start a little with you. Your bio says you (in)famously were fired for being too scary as an actor. Are we talking Boris Karloff scary or can’t act Keanu Reeves scary? Details, please.

LD: We’re talking the horrible love child of Freddy Krueger and Richard III. I wore an old highwayman coat, noose round my neck, undertaker hat and Alice Cooper make-up. Once the supervisor did a check on me as I ‘entertained’ the crowd in the Guy Fawkes exhibit. He said afterwards he had genuine spine shivers. You see, you were supposed to make light of the horrors of the museum and camp it up in a silly Monty Python way. I was having none of that. My favorite saying was ‘wanna feel the caress of my noose?’  I pretended my neck was broken and I’d freak ‘em out before even entering the exhibit room where the audience were waiting by slowly, slowly creaking the door open and then shuffling inside. You could hear a pin drop. I remember one teenage girl huddled in a corner begging me not to come towards her. They told me to tone it down and when I didn’t, they sacked my ass.

SRW: Good times!

Leo, give everyone a brief synopsis of Lucifer Sam. And make it rawk! (Puts out the sign of the horns).

LD: Cat O’Nine Tails, a mega successful rock band, are flying over the Indian Ocean in their private jet on a world tour when they suddenly drop out of air space completely. Then the jet reappears six months later in exactly the same position. The band are back, but this time they’re different. This time their music really is Killer…

SRW: Clearly, you know a little bit about the rock industry. The writing in your novel is very assured and your descriptions of the music and the industry read like an insider’s P.O.V. Am I onto something or are you just brilliant with research?

LD: Been in a couple of bands but I was sacked from the first one ‘cause I couldn’t play bass (sound familiar, Sid fans?) and the second band I changed up to the front man. It was called Lucifer Sam… we imploded messily before anything really happened for us. Apart from that, I grew up following punk bands. That’s all the insider info I have. I remember Animal from The Anti-Nowhere League loving a book I wrote years ago called Rags for the Doctor Who series of original novels. He was in it described as a complete monster, and the big bugger didn’t mind at all. He sent me a signed T Shirt as a thank you. This time around I name drop the Cockney Rejects and Micky Geggus in particular. Micky helps Kirk to find the ‘hero’ in his old manor in the East End. ‘Manor’ means home streets to Cockneys, by the way, US readers, not a country mansion!! He was pleased as punch to be in it too. Though he hasn’t read it yet!
SRW: Speaking from experience, I was kinda’, sorta’ in a band in my younger days (although of a much different ilk; I guess you’d categorize it as country-funk, improvisational, comedy performance art). But you captured the extreme love/hate relationships that develop between band members based purely on proximity, so close you start despising each others’ body odors. Any band experience in your background?

LD: My first band I wanted to call Lucifer Sam, but the singer wanted it to be a punk covers band, so he invited a prog rock guitarist to join. Makes sense, right? This moron wanted to play all the punk covers note perfectly. Kinda missing the point of punk in the first place. He didn’t like my nascent, clumsy fumblings with the bass so asked for me to be booted. I then formed the proper Lucifer Sam with me as singer, a friend on drums, and two drunks on guitar and bass. We had some great songs which are referenced in the novel, but the guitarist and bass player got very pissed one night before practice and ignited, threatening each other. The band was over.  The members of the fictional Lucifer Sam are nothing like the real ones. They’re a lot worse!

SRW: You name-drop a lotta fairly obscure bands (well, at least obscure here in God-forsaken Kansas), such as The Damned, Motorhead (with Lemmy, natch), and Hawkwind (Hawkwind, for crying out loud! I haven’t given them a second thought since my weed-stoked high school days!), amongst many others. Are these favorites? What is your favorite style of rock? “Non-suckesque” is mine.

LD: Always loved the Damned since I was a kid, though I saw them a year ago and they bored the pants off me. Real shame. They’d gotten old and were just going through well rehearsed paces. Lemmy… what can I say about Lemmy? I saw Motorhead many years back with the original trio when I was a child. Stone Dead Forever still goose bumps me. It’s just the perfect dirty, glorious rock song. I did a pilgrimage to The Rainbow in LA in February and sat in Lemmy’s chair at the bar. Crazy night. The Rainbow is a wild, amazing place where anything can happen…


SRW: Alright, let’s dig into the book. We all know the adage about “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.” In your book, you’ve changed that battle-cry a bit, I think, to “sex, violence, and rock ‘n roll.” You certainly don’t skimp on any of the topics, making for a sobering, shocking, and, at times, grotesque read. (Even the Detective-Sergeant in your book likes her sex on the violent side.) I know it’s a horror book, first and foremost, but do you view rock music as violent? I ask because in your prose, you’re always “shredding” guitars, “beating” drums, “slashing” vocals…the list goes on.

LD: I grew up with punk in the early 80s and it was incredibly violent. There were always fights. Nasty ones. I suppose that became ingrained into me, into my outlook on live music. Even today I’ll go into a gig expecting trouble. Luckily it doesn’t happen so much these days.  I equate punk and some rock music with the violence of slasher films in many ways. The stab of Jason’s machete is like a savage guitar riff in my fiction I guess. Killing Joke were particularly manic back in the day, their hypnotic layers of insane music letting loose all the dogs of hell in my mind. Violence leaped from their records, setting all sorts of wild thoughts free. So yes, all this influenced my take on how brutal music can be and how mesmerizing. I wanted to catch that giddy sense of threat and mayhem in my prose.

SRW: Okay, time to play spot the band! Who is the satanic, past their prime, primping and posing Cat o’ Nine Tails patterned after?

LD: Haha. Couldn’t possibly reveal that. Don’t want Grinning Skull to get sued! Or me for that matter. Despite my piss take, I’m kinda fond of their perseverance and some of their music. Of course, they might not be based on anyone…. Obviously not Motorhead. The music Industry is a lot poorer without Lemmy. Killed by Death indeed.
SRW: I certainly have my suspicions, but I'll likewise keep them to myself. How about the titular punk band, Lucifer Sam?

LD: Definitely my own invention, a stew of different influences from Bauhaus and the Cramps to Lords of the New Church and early Damned, all stirred in one big Voodoo Pot.

SRW: Is “Rock!” magazine meant to be a riff on Rolling Stone or Spin? How about any of the staff?

LD: Never read them. Probably more based on crappy rags like NME. Sounds was a whole lot better.

SRW: So, is anything off-limits with your writing? I mean, that groupie scene was really, really gross. And disturbing (the nature of horror, I know, but...c'mon!).


LD: I thought a lot about deleting that scene, or at least toning it down. It goes horribly too far, but yet seemed perfectly right, too! I knew it would be the scene that made or broke the book. The one plus ultra if you like.  It summed up the nature of the transformed band in a way like no other I guess. The absence of light in them, the void in their souls, the ugly dark they’d let in.  My big worry would be that it would be seen as gross for its own sake, and misogynistic. A risk I had to take to tell the tale as honestly as I could. Some people will hate it. That chapter is my Make them Die Slowly. No animals were killed in the making of this book. Groupies though? Not so sure.

 
SRW: The further I dove into your nightmarish rock ‘n roll world, another theme came into focus: a call for anarchy and upsetting the status quo. Naturally, the satanic Cat of Nine Tails take things too far (it’s horror, folks!), but you seem enamored with punk bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Dead Boys, whose bleak outlook borders on violence for violence’s sake, or at the very least, overturning authority. Even your two heroes, Kirk and Ray, want to drastically change things. Are there deep-rooted issues we need to discuss, Leo? Here, lay down on the sofa, Dr. West is on the clock…

LD: Hmmm, good question again, Stuart. Always hated real violence, and the morons who dish it out mindlessly in the streets, pubs and schools. The Sex Pistols made you feel violent, but I always preferred smashing things not people! I think Johnny Rotten would agree with that. He was always a smart cookie. No fighter. I always remember Captain Sensible of the Damned saying he’d much rather throw an egg than a punch. Happy to go along with that. Egging authority figures seems a good idea to me. Especially in Britain right now…

SRW: Yeesh, I feel your political pain. 

The finale of the book is extraordinarily suspenseful. I particularly loved the slow-burn dread of waiting for the huge-ass venue concert to begin. You reminded me of why I abhor big arena concerts, capturing that sense of claustrophobia and being ripped off while waiting to glimpse an ant-sized view of rock heroes. Like your protagonist, Kirk, I’d much rather watch a band play in a bar. Do you agree with this? C’mon, are you Kirk?

LD:  Absolutely, 100 %. Got no time for big bands in big venues. Never did, never will. There’s zero connection to the audience. I want to be close enough to spit on the buggers 😉 Filthy habit, lot of that went on in the early days.  I dreamed of being someone like Kirk a long time ago I suppose. The dream never came true, so I wrote about him instead.

SRW: Elvis Presley said “Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help move to it. Then there’s the Chuck Berry quote, “If you want to release your aggression, get up and dance. That’s what rock and roll is.” And finally, Pete Wentz said, “What would rock and roll be without ambition, danger, craziness, and fun?” It seems like everyone wants to define rock. In your book, we see both the destructive and transformative power of rock and roll. Which camp do you tend to fall into, Leo?

LD: Well the Pistols had transformative music for sure, and outwardly destructive too, though Lydon was always much cleverer than that. His lyrics were insightful and provocative, while Steve Jones let loose Fall of Empire riffs, so I guess I was hugely influenced by the excitement of their approach. So to answer your question, both! Destructive AND transformative. Destroying the oppressive institutions that surround us while wishing for transformation... For something else, something better, which never comes along.

SRW: What are you working on now? Where can interested parties find more info?

LD: I have a literary agent over here in the UK who wants me to concentrate on Dark Crime. He’s flogging a very dark book around (or is it a dead horse?) to publishers at the moment. I’m keeping the horror for Grinning Skull!
SRW: Alright already! There you have it, folks. If you’re a hardcore horror fan, a rock fan, or just a fan of dang fine prose, be sure to pick up Leo’s masterful book (published by Grinning Skull Press), Lucifer Sam. Thanks for hangin’, Leo. The sign of the horns! Rock and roll!

LD: Been a pleasure, Stuart. Loved hangin’! Feel the caress of my noose…

Friday, April 19, 2019

Girl in a Box (TM)

New from Acme comes the incredible Girl in a Box (TM)! Perfect for the man-on-the-go, now you can take your Girl in a Box on a train, in a plane, with your friend, DeeWayne (laws may differ from state-to-state; Acme assumes no responsibility for legal action)! Call Girl in a Box today! And for a limited time, you can receive a free 16 ounce bottle of chloroform! That's Girl in a Box, 666-666-6666!

Okay, maybe I'd better back up a bit...

A while back my daughter wasn't allowed to drive (that's another horror story for another time, but fret not as I will get to it.). Thankfully, her house was just a mile from her work so she could walk.

Her mother didn't like that idea.

I asked my daughter why not.

"Because no matter what I do," she said, "every scenario from my mom ends with me getting put in a box."

I mulled this over a bit. "What?"

"It's true," she said. "Mom told me I can't walk to work because some guy could come along and put me in a box! Dad, why does someone want to put me in a box? Why would they want to do that?"

Honestly, I couldn't come up with a decent answer. But, man, did we ever have fun with it.

While working on my daughter's house, we left a big box in the living room with a sign that read, "Get in!" On Boxing Day, I called my daughter and in the best slashery voice I could muster, I said, "It's Boxing Day! Mwah, hah, hah, hahhhh!" During Christmas, I told my daughter to look out because I didn't want to find her in a box beneath the Christmas Tree. The sick jokes continued. Still do, for that matter. 

Of all the horrible scenarios I can think of, I don't believe I ever would've landed on The Box Ploy, but hey, whatever, different strokes for different folks. Could make a good book. Maybe.

Speaking of girls in boxes (talk about a clever segue, yeah?), read Dread and Breakfast to find out just how a girl in a box plays into the complex, labyrinthine web of dark secrets and murderous personalities! (Hey, I guess I did come up with that scenario some time ago, after all.)


Friday, April 12, 2019

Tripping the Art Macabre with Karen Ruffles


Something very special this week from my multi-talented artist and writer friend, Karen Ruffles, from across the pond. I'm absolutely stoked for her as she's embarking on an Arts Council sponsored tour, presenting what will surely be a mind-blowing experience. So, without further ado let's check in with Ruffles (and only I get to call her that because this Ruffles has ridges!), the gal of goth, the mistress of the macabre, the artist of darkness... (Just check out those gorgeous illustrations!).

This April sees the launch of Tales in Sombre Tones, a brand new horror anthology featuring short stories by American author Sean Walter and the work of British artist Karen Ruffles of Drawing in Dark. The book is an exciting prospect in itself as fully illustrated editions are a rare treat for adults but the pair have gone one better and created an Arts Council funded touring show that promises to deliver a wealth of sensory experiences.
Dates have been confirmed for the first leg which kicks off in the North East of England and sees Sean flying in to deliver his readings in person. From the former Methodist church that is Whitby's Brunswick Centre to contemporary gallery Vane in the heart of Newcastle, they are bringing not only the original illustrations but stop motion animation sequences from the stories and a hosted evening party led by DJ Jay Sinful.

In addition to tempting art lovers and fans of the darker side of literature, the tour makes sure audiences not normally catered for by exhibitions get a kick out of the show. 3d versions of the illustrations are being created for the blind and partially sighted so they can discover the artwork that accompanies the stories being read aloud. The readings themselves are supported by screened interpretations by BSL professional Sara Mclanaghan.

Once the first leg of the tour is completed, the materials along with footage from the tour are being added to their website so it can be enjoyed worldwide. Prints of the originals are being added to the 3d works and recordings of the readings so the tour can continue nationally and when it's been round the UK, internationally. 

To keep up with developments and grab a copy of the book, visit http://www.talesinsombretones.com of follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TalesinSombreTones

There you have it, folks! Do support this unique and worthy talent. I know I'm gonna get a copy of the book. (I'll return to stoopid rants and what not next week.)

Friday, April 5, 2019

The great bird wall

Well, hell, the birds are back.


As that great forward thinker, Spiderman (or maybe it was President Trump), said, "With great power comes great guns." (Or something like that.)
I don't know why the birds hate me. They do. Constantly bombarding my auto and deck with their waste, it makes me just want to toss up both of my hands. I said, both. It's not gonna be pretty.

We're talking about some bad pajaro's here. Bad thrushes. Muy malo nestlings.
So I'm gonna build a wall. A wall keeping the birds out of my yard. I'm gonna make my yard great again. It's gonna be great. It's gonna be...fantastic. (It's gonna have to be a pretty dang tall wall, though).

And my neighbors are gonna pay for it, too.

Don't ask me how or why they're gonna finance the great bird wall. I just know they will. I can convince them. Just like in the eighth grade when I promised my fellow students if they'd vote for me for student congress, I'd put soda pop in the water fountains. Well, guess what? I won. Sure, sure, the soda didn't pan out, but that's not what matters.


This is all out war! If birds poop on my territory, I say, let's poop right back on them! Let's make pooping great again!*

*This has been a message endorsed by the Anti-Birds Trump Supporter Society.

Now that I'm on the topic of total crap, honestly, you should check out my Zach and Zora comedy/mystery trilogy. Let's start with the first: Bad Day in a Banana Hammock. (Likewise, these books are personally endorsed by the Anti-Birds Trump Supporter Society. Making books great again!).