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April 6, 2013
The recent epidemic of sudden or sudden-appearing deaths among friends, acquaintances, fellow writers, and revered celebrities (of whom legendary film critic Roger Ebert is only the latest), has set off another bout of depressing thought patterns, self-doubt, and contemplation of mortality. As I approach a telling milestone in age (and the one you're thinking of I've already passed), I find myself once again nervously watching the sands running all too smoothly, all too quickly through the hourglass. I find myself once again questioning, wondering, criticizing… trying to understand just what it is I've done with my life.
We all do it, don't we? Come on, fess up. As you get older, don't you look around and see what you've built, check to see whether it'll withstand the passage of time and carry your name forward into the future? Of course, if you've had children, you can make a checkmark on the plus-list. If, like me, you haven't brought anyone into the world, then you have little choice but to look at what else you've done and, much more uncomfortably, what you might have done.
I've brought some words into the world, not all of them great or memorable, most of them probably not memorable, really, some bound up in covers and called books. Others called stories and articles and book reviews. Some of them are even good, maybe one or two I'd consider great by some arcane standard. Most are passable, worthy of a satisfied "huh!" and not much else. Some of the fiction may be briefly interesting, though memorable is probably a stretch. But ultimately, the dead-bottom assessment is that all of it might as well not exist, that its lack of being in the world would not be missed pretty much by anyone. Perhaps if movies and television had been birthed from it, there would be more of what one could self-servingly call a "legacy," but without this form of immortalization, it's safe to say the words I've put into order (even those that make some sense and evoke some emotion or response besides unintentional humor) are all rather pedestrian and disposable.
While others were out in the world helping fight hunger and disease, or building homes for refugees, or trying to stop wars and tribal conflicts, or handing out meals to the homeless, or trying to educate those starving for knowledge, or trying to keep kids safe from violence and drugs, or attempting to provide for humans in need… while all that was going on, what I chose to do with my life was to put some words together so they could be read and forgotten, disposed of, consumed. Maybe enjoyed, I hope they've been enjoyable. Maybe they've brought some small measure of happiness or pleasure, or a laugh, or a smirk and a curse, maybe they've disturbed and offended. All those responses are acceptable, even desirable, for a writer of what is essentially a luxury – a small modicum of fantasy in an increasingly negative, predatory, and uncaring world.
Upon hearing the news of Roger Ebert's death, something attributed to him found its way to me through Facebook or maybe Goodreads, I'm not sure, and gave me a way to perhaps look in a more positive light upon the choice of what I chose to do in life.
Roger Ebert wrote: “I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.”
Well, I have tried, and I continue to try, and that is the best I can do. If entertaining others to distract them from the realities of their own lives is a noble pursuit, then at least I've nobly attempted to do so – no matter how narrow the audience or small the appreciation. And on wrap-up day, that'll have to be sufficient.
Thanks, Roger Ebert, for the many years of entertaining reviews. I remember the earliest days on local public television. I watched, on and off, for decades. When renting tapes became all the rage, I had two books to consult, Roger Ebert's and Leonard Maltin's. I usually went with Roger. As much as I liked both him and Siskel, I usually agreed with Roger (with some notable exceptions). And when I discovered him on-line, Roger's Facebook and Twitter feeds became routine must-reads. I loved checking out his New Yorker cartoon caption entries and comparing them with mine. And now he's given me something positive to latch onto. Farewell, Roger Ebert.
The balcony is closed.
June 16, 2012
I read things, whether in print or with my Kindle. I always have and I always will. I love books and read 3-5 of them a week if I have time, and can't go to sleep unless I've read for at least an hour a night no matter how late and no matter where I am.
Before last February I swore I'd never buy a Kindle and had no desire to read inferior eBooks. I was old school, damnit, and I'm in my forties and too old to change now. Then Kim bought me a Kindle and I fell in love and can't imagine life without it.
I swore I'd never listen to an audio book as well. What use was that when I still had good eyes to relax and read with? I didn't want to hear some strange voice reading to me. I wasn't four anymore and needing mommy to read me a bedtime story. I was a big boy and could now read to myself.
But, as an author, I'm always looking for new ways to connect with readers. It seemed like every eBook I added to Kindle someone wanted the link for the B&N version or SmashWords or Lulu. So I spread my work around to appease the masses (said tongue in cheek, I promise).
Then someone asked if I had any of my books available on audio. I answered, truthfully, not yet, but I was working on it. As in, as soon as you asked me the question I started working on it.
I spent days and nights researching the various ways to get a quality audio book together, and decided right away I had neither the voice nor the equipment to do it myself. I needed a… wait, what did they call them again? Oh, yeah, a Narrator.
So I signed up on a site and posted a sample chapter of my Dying Days zombie novella, figuring it would be a perfect place to start. Besides, that was the book the reader asked about, so I was hoping I'd have one sale from it.
I also put out a blanket call on Facebook and Twitter in case anyone was interested in narrating it and had a good voice. If I could throw some work at someone I already knew, so much the better, right?
Then I started getting narrators interested and sending me samples of the work. As soon as I started listening I realized something: I had no idea if they were good or not. I'd never listened to a book in my life.
So I bought three of the cheapest horror and/or thriller audio books I could find and listened to them and heard what I liked and hated about the narrators and style.
I decided what made sense for Dying Days would be a female narrator since our main character, Darlene Bobich, is a female. That made sense. I had several to choose from and a couple narrators were pretty good, but one above all else intrigued me.
Amanda Lehman. I loved her sample and knew her voice well. The reason? I grew up across the street from her. How weird is that? We both grew up on Orchard Avenue in Belford, New Jersey, directly across the street. I hung out with her older brother as a kid and we all played kickball and football and manhunt at night.
I hadn't seen or spoken to her in probably twenty years. She'd married a guy I knew that was always cool, played bass, had long hair, a crazy dry sense of humor and loved Queensryche as much as I did. Alexis was the man, and the handful of times we hung out we had some fun. Heck, somewhere is a demo tape of me screaming into a mic doing Metal/hardcore crap with Alexis putting it all together musically.
Amanda was a few years younger than me, and I even remember her parents bringing her home from the hospital when she was born. Now, here she was, dropping the F bomb reading my story and making it come to life.
Out of everyone in the world who could potentially read Dying Days, she'd grown up a kickball throw away. And I couldn’t be happier with her reading and look forward to her diving into Dying Days 2 at some point as well.
Funny how life is sometimes stranger than fiction.
All six of us - Todd Brown, Mark Tufo, Ian Woodhead, Armand Rosamilia, John O'Brien and Dave Jeffery - hope you'll keep following us on the Summer of Zombie blog tour, and comment as we go along.
And… one lucky commenter for each blog will receive a Free eBook or Print book from one of the authors! Simply leave a comment with your e-mail address and we'll pick a random winner each day! Simple as that!
May 12, 2012
By Kristopher Rufty
Other than being asked where my ideas come from, one thing I’m asked a lot is: “Am I in your book?” or “Was the character ________ based off of you?” Most of the time the answer is No, but there have been instances where I’ve borrowed from real life and turned them into fantasy. I’m sure I’ll do it again, many times, as well.
Back when I penned the first draft of Angel Board I was working as a manager for Office Depot. So, during the plotting stages I decided early on that David, the main character, would also be an office supply manager for a chain of stores known as Office Warehouse. While working for the Depot we hired an employee by the name of Dane, who later became a dear friend of mine, and also made his way into the book as the character of Martin. The baler wire incident that occurs in the book was a sensationalized account of what happened to me while making a cardboard bale. The wire snapped and lashed at my face, and if I wouldn’t have jumped backwards, the tip might have gotten me. I felt the wind on my eye as the wire just missed plucking it right out of my head.
Actually, the baler incident was what inspired all of Angel Board. It started with that one scene and everything else branched from there.
My recent release, PillowFace, is also very loosely based on fact. I took myself as a twelve year old kid and put him in today’s world. It was kind of fun imagining me as a kid and being surrounded by the technology we have today. When I was growing up, Cable TV and VHS were changing the world. Watching horror movies on Cinemax during their Full Moon Fridays series was a crucial part of my growing up, and as I began writing the book, I learned there is nothing like that out there now. The closest we have to Full Moon Friday today is Fearnet and Chiller. VHS has already become American nostalgia and Cable TV is ridiculously priced.
But, growing up in the sticks, and without internet, what I didn’t have in technology, I made for with imagination. My friends Chad and Eric (two guys that lived in the same vicinity as me) and I would spend our summers in the woods, hiking to a public pool that was located two roads over from my house. Instead of having our parents drive us, we walked on our own, and the best part was our parents didn’t mind. We were so isolated that the fear someone might be lurking in the shadows, waiting to snatch up your kids was absent. We stuck to the trail. It was an hour or more hike but we enjoyed every step of it.
The biggest worry we had were snakes. There were a lot of snakes where I grew up.
On our trips to the pool, and just our time spent in the woods riding dirt bikes, hiking the trails, and just being kids, we’d have some of the goofiest conversations, much like the trio of kids in PillowFace. Talking about horror movies, girls, and porno mags that we one day wanted to score, we’d travel the woods, searching for whatever we might find. The scarier, the better. And of course, we were not above the secluded wood nymph that might be hiding in the trees. In fact, we were driven by the possibility of finding some kind of beautiful forest woman who may be able to grant our wishes.
Well…I was anyway. I don’t believe I ever shared that vision with my friends.
So, taking such aspects of my childhood, the character Joel Olsen was born. A twelve year old horror fan with the dream of one day being a special effects artist. Although I was raised with two parents for the majority of my childhood, they did eventually divorce in my early teenage years. And while they were together, they both worked when I was old enough to be left home alone during the summers until around four o’clock. I’d have the whole day to myself while my sister was at summer daycare. In the book, Joel has lost his parents in a car accident and is being raised by Haley, his twenty-three year old sister. She’s just starting her career path and is now forced to become not just Joel’s older sister, but also his parent. She doesn’t cope well, and Joel spends a lot of time home alone as well.
And for Joel…that isn’t a good thing.
While my parents would be working I’d spend the majority of my time playing guitar or clacking away on a typewriter that weighed close to forty pounds (no lie) the adventures I wished I could take in real life.
And as grotesque as it is, PillowFace is one of those adventures. When I set out to write the book I asked myself: “What would have happened if I would have discovered someone like PillowFace when I was twelve years old?”
Not knowing the answer, I sat down to write PillowFace, and the book escalated from there. What I learned is a twelve year old can make awful decisions on his own.
Kristopher Rufty wrote and directed the movies Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood, and is also the author of Angel Board, PillowFace and The Lurkers. He also hosts Diabolical Radio, an internet radio show devoted to horror fiction and film. The show has been online for nearly five years now and has developed quite an archive list and following. He is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of two insane children that he loves dearly, and together they reside in North Carolina with their 120 pound dog Thor and a horde of cats. He is currently working on his next novel, script, or movie.
April 18, 2012
I live with a cold blooded killer. I haven’t turned him in to the cops because he’s my cat, Tegan.
He’s on a roll at the moment. It’s spring and that means young and inexperienced creatures are poking their heads from their protective homes and Tegan is there to bite them off. I spent last week picking up the chewed remains of mice, rats, birds and a lizard. As soon as I’d drop a carcass in the trash, he’d have the remains of something else dangling from his jaws.
“Tegan, you git. Stop killing things.”
He’d look at me with a typical cat arrogance that said, “Yeah, right.”
After I’d dealt with his latest trophy and sat down, he joined me on the couch for cuddle and a purr (okay, I purr. It’s what I do). I stared into his big eyes and I looked for a sign of remorse and obviously saw none. Morally, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He’s an animal and his genetic code is programmed with the need to hunt and kill—irrespective of how much kibble I give him. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. But he takes lives on a pretty regular basis without a hint of killer’s repentance.
That chilled my human sensibilities.
Transpose Tegan’s killer instinct to a person and that person wouldn’t be a cute, furry companion, that person would be a psychopath, no ifs or buts. Tegan can wander in from a kill, snuggle up to me for companionship then clean up the two kittens he’s rearing. Sounds cool for a cat, because we accept this as cat behavior, but we don’t accept this behavior in all things. Substitute a person for Tegan and Tegan’s behavior would present a very different picture. Imagine a father like any other caring for his family while there is still blood under his fingernails. This is serial killer country.
People always ask, ‘where do you get your ideas?’ I don’t have to trawl through the aisles of the true crime section to learn about killers, or even experience terrible events. Sometimes, I don’t have to leave the house.
Stories are out there waiting to be discovered. Anything and everything can be the ignition source for a story. It’s all about watching the world around me and seeing how things interact and what everyone else misses. Usually, it’s the little things that people miss that make for the best stories. With a little ingenuity, the mundane can become the extraordinary.
So Tegan could be the genesis for a very nasty killer. All it takes is a little imagination and a dash of transposition. :-)
Yours on golden pondering,
Simon Wood is an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. Simon has had over 150 stories and articles published. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and has garnered him an Anthony Award and a CWA Dagger Award nomination, as well as several readers’ choice awards. He’s a frequent contributor to Writer’s Digest. He’s the author of WORKING STIFFS, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, PAYING THE PIPER, WE ALL FALL DOWN, TERMINATED and ASKING FOR TROUBLE. As Simon Janus, he’s the author of THE SCRUBS and ROAD RASH. Curious people can learn more at http://www.simonwood.net