Wednesday, March 16, 2016


COSMIC BONES


Beyond the misty forgotten past


and beyond the future of galactic death

the end of the universe was just cinders and ash

 

About the past so much destroyed

infinite bleakness in a howling void

 

About the future only misery and dread

brutality and embers a universe dead  

 

Then something appeared vast and unknown

colossal and craggy nebulas long

 

A gargantuan bone fell into space

a gruesome puzzle from some disant place

 

Then more came too galactic and white

twisting and tumbling into sight

 

They were the jagged bones of a cosmic carcass

spinning and floating through the endless darkness 

 

There was nothing left except death and rot

the memory of blazing battles and wars fought

 

There was only a final travesty to consider

about these celestial bones of God

 

Who was the killer?

 


Sunday, October 18, 2015



THE HALLOWEEN HOUSE

     Their house was always draped in shadows from the bushy black trees huddled around it, and when a blustery wind or breeze swirled past, it sounded like the wails of howling ghosts. They’d always shunned visitors of any kind, but this night was different, the sacred ritual called Hallows Eve, when they’d finally unlock their bolted front door.
     They’d been dreaming about it all year, a nocturnal reverie that was finally here. A blood red sun had just died outside, and a shimmering full moon was carving its way into the sky. Their front yard was mostly craggy black dirt, but tonight that was the look people preferred. Pumpkins glowed with fiery eyes and skeletons dangled from all the trees. Gravestones were scattered about, crooked and crumbling, smelling of death.
     Every year, for far longer than it was safe to admit, they’d made their home a Halloween house. They’d moved around a lot, but it was the one constant they’d clung to wherever they’d lived, a creepy calling card to summon visitors on this sacred night.
     Outside, giggling voices could already be heard, tiny ghouls and goblins clutching bags that would soon be filled with sugary treats. This was always a part of their dreams too, the excited flurry of padding feet, the chorus of high pitched laughter and squeals, all of it coming their
way. They hobbled down the stairs in their candle-lit house, holding wrinkled old hands, their ancient hearts thumping. They hadn’t talked about it, but they both knew this might be their last Halloween, and their shared sadness was darker than anything else. Their memories were all they had left of the way it used to be, way back in the forgotten past when fear and horror were real.
     There had always been monsters, but they’d had the good sense to stay where they belonged, hiding in the darkness and shadows until it was time to strike. But when you spend so much time hiding, you eventually lose your claim to be real, and that’s when all the myths and legends about their existence came into being. Make-believe stories replaced the terrifying reality of what was really there.  And now this was all they had left, just a single October eve when giggling children mimicked them for sugary treats.
     They’d spent the last hour putting on their costumes too, the bland and boring human disguises they wore only when absolutely necessary. Covering up their true form was a shameful process, but the world had become a very different place, and that’s what hurt most of all.
     The world had forgotten what a glorious creation a real monster was, a crusty and wicked apparition with misbegotten parts. A real monster had blood red eyes and spewed hot billows of ashen black smoke.
     But at least for tonight, they could imagine a different world that existed only in the howling nightscape of their dreams. They could pretend they didn’t have to hide anymore and were free to roam the human world as they pleased.
     And that’s what they did, as the giggling make-believe monsters banged their fists on their grimy front door. When they peered outside into the night, there were more scary creatures than horrible humans, and that warmed their black hearts.
     They looked like a tired old couple who should have stayed in bed on this Halloween night. Their hair was grey and stringy, their clothes dirty and drab, smelling faintly like smoke. But they handed out candy with their wrinkled old hands, because they didn’t want to miss the best part of the night. If this was going to be their last Halloween, they wanted it to be extra special. They waited until the very end, when there were just a few children left padding up to their door without any parents.
     Because the best part of Halloween was always when they squeaked the door open and showed one of the giggling make-believe monsters what a real monster was.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015






MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
     This is without a doubt the greatest drive-in movie of all time, even though drive-ins are pretty much gone. But someone should find an abandoned drive-in somewhere and restore it, just so people can watch this movie.  I’d love to be in a car on a hot summer night, the smell of exhaust swirling through the air, and watch this movie glowing on one of those giant screens.  I’d crank up the volume and strap myself in for two hours of amazing movie mayhem.
         What this movie does so well is strip away all the clutter and only focus on the hardcore essentials, because action fans don’t like anything slowing things down. This is a road trip movie where the only law is to keep going faster and faster, because a fiery death is charging through the gloom right behind you.  Every element is riveting and raw, stripped down to its most essential core. 
         There’s the brooding anti-hero with a haunted past, a beautiful but disfigured heroine with her own anger issues, and a messianic bad guy with a rictus grin that’s even worse than the Joker’s, all of it taking place in a post-apocalyptic landscape that’s a ravaged warning about what will happen if we don’t take care of our planet in the proper way. This warning is posed in the same brutal terms. If we screw things up, then the search for the staples needed to survive – food, water, gas – will be all that’s left of life itself.
         The color palette is stripped away too, everything is parched and grimy, dirty and decayed, except for the pristine whiteness of the young women who represent hope for a different kind of future.  This is the plot, stripped down too, to transport this fertile cargo away from the hell of the monstrous Citadel to a remembered oasis.
         It’s a chase movie, but one that’s a visual onslaught in the best possible way of over-the-top action and roaring high speed warfare, a kind of Cirque du Soleil demolition derby.  It’s a delirious mash-up of extreme sports and road kill horror, all of it pumped up by a wild banshee rock star strapped to the front of a barreling big rig slashing at his flame throwing guitar. The dialogue has been whittled down to the bone, because there’s nothing to say that a howling shotgun can’t say a whole lot better.
         But there’s also a message that action fans are always wary of, but this is a good one we haven’t seen as vividly before.  The real kick-ass heroes in the movie aren’t the usual suspects, but some new recruits.  The gruff muscled guy does his part, and the tough chick too, but it’s the seemingly fragile young waifs, a bad boy kid, and a gang of old women on motorcycles who step up and deliver the firepower and courage needed at the end.  And I think this is the message of the movie, to blow up the way action movies have always been done, and show there’s a little bit of madness in all of us.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

 

Here’s a video of the Prologue from my novel
The World on Fire:

 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Here's a dramatic reading of my short story, A Beautiful Horror, from the anthology Cellar Door III:





Thursday, March 6, 2014


Go dark, or go home. 

         Horror short stories are my favorite things to write. The best are 

literary story bombs that go deep and dark without wasting a lot of 

time. They usually start off quiet, but when the bomb goes off it’s not 

like anything else in literature, a heart-pounding ride that will only end 

when boundaries are broken.  They celebrate the mysterious and 

unknown, exposing in eerily subtle or brutally stark ways, that life 

isn’t always neat and tidy.  And that’s always a good lesson to keep 

in mind, because horror stories remind us the cosmos we live in is 

infinitely more complex than that.

         But what horror stories do best, is connect us in an intensely 

visceral way to what we love.  It’s only when you fear you’re going to 

lose something, do you suddenly realize how important it is.  Horror 

stories scare us, but they also remind us to cherish what we have, 

because it can always be snatched away.  At their essence, horror 

stories are a warning to always be careful and not assume what you 

know is the final, unshakable truth.  Because nothing is ever final, 

there is always change and new mysteries ahead.  

     Horror stories are the literary eye-opener that wants you to see 

what can’t be seen. The monster or bogey-man is just a metaphor for 

the uncertainty of life. Horror stories don’t coddle easy assumptions, 

they blow them up, then shine a flashlight on the shadowy, unknown

landscape that lies ahead.

         The other thing I love is the language, because it’s usually 

soaring departure from the everyday.  When describing unknown 

horrors and mysteries, writers have to kick up their descriptive 

game and use language that’s as stunning and unexpected as the 

macabre wonders they’re revealing.  Horror writers tend to use 

language in a more varied and vivid way, creeping into their reader’s 

inner world, word by word, then unleashing their dark surprises.

                 Horror is the removal of masks...

                       -- Robert Bloch





Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Why the movie ALIEN is such a screamer.

          Most of the stuff I write wants to scare the reader or viewer in 

some way, or at least rattle their comfort zone. It’s about revealing 

what’s unknown in the world, both the real and unreal, because we 

can never be sure which is which. Great horror and dark fiction 

stories scare us in a way that forces us to confront how far we’re 

willing to go, and that can be pretty damn scary too.

         Which brings me to the movie ALIEN, because it illustrates 

a couple of key elements that make for a great horror story. 

         The first is that it comes at you from an unexpected place.  

In this case it’s movie’s genre, which is science fiction. While 

there have been a few great science fiction horror movies, like 

John Carpenter’s THE THING, they rarely go for the full-out 

visceral thrills of a horror story. But ALIEN did with a kind of 

searing exuberance that was something brand new.  

         The ads for the movie proclaimed – In space no one can 

hear you scream – and that’s another key element.  In a great 

horror story there should always be a moment when there’s 

feeling of overwhelming helplessness, when the characters 

suddenly realize the forces they are facing are profoundly evil 

and heartless, with no help on the way.  The fact that the alien 

creature was a virtually unstoppable killing machine made it 

the futuristic incarnate of a more traditional horror villain 

like Michael Myers in the HALLOWEEN movies.

         Another element the movie utilized was incorporating 

the fear of the unknown.  The crew of the spaceship Nostromo 

is summoned by a distress call to a nearby planet.  When they 

land, they see decayed evidence of alien life forms (spectacular 

designs by H.R. Giger) that are both colossal and macabre in an 

otherworldly way.

         But the real scares begin when they discover an eerie 

pod field, and one of the crew members is attacked by a face 

hugging alien creature. When they get back to the ship the 

creature is detached, and that’s when one of the great moments 

in scary movie history explosively happens.  Another unknown 

alien creature suddenly erupts through the crew member’s 

stomach and scuttles away.

         The scene is great because it’s the birth of something 

new we haven’t seen before, and that’s what horror is all about. 

And what made it even better was the primal terror of being 

physically invaded by something unknown.  Horror is always 

scariest the closer it gets, and the slimy alien creature splattered 

out from the place where we feel the most vulnerable, our own 

flesh and blood.

         After that, the movie takes us on a thrill ride that honored 

another horror convention. The dark and twisting passageways  

of the creaky spaceship were not that different from the shadowy 

hallways of a haunted house.  The trapped crew desperately tries 

to survive against the terrifying possibility that the deadly alien 

monster can leap out at anytime. 

         The movie ends with a twist that’s another element to keep 

in mind.  We learn that the Company the spaceship works for 

wants the protect the brutal alien creature for its own despicable 

ends.  The reason this is so frightening is because there always 

the possibility that the scariest creature of all is us.