Thursday, April 28, 2016

My Stuff: Those Big Mushrooms You Could Write On

When I was a kid, Dad showed us how to write on mushrooms. Ever go walking in the woods and see those big white mushrooms growing on the bases of trees? If you're careful when you break them off, you can write in the spongy underside with a stick. Dad did that a lot when he took a roll of film of our vacations, the introductory picture in that roll was a mushroom with the date and location of said vacation.
I still have this one, from September 2nd, 1986. Growing up, we discovered a HUGE blackberry patch about a mile or so up a hill, in the middle of the forest past the train tracks behind our house. We unofficially named it Blackberry Hill. We picked bucket loads of blackberries there for several years. One summer, I decided to commemorate one of our trips with a mushroom. Apparently, that day, according to my inscription, it was "Great picking."
It's a now calcified mushroom sitting on my stuff shelf. But it represents a significant portion of my childhood, the marking of important moments which pale in comparison to graduation, or getting a job, or buying a car, or a promotion, or whatever. In some ways, though, it's far more important. It represents an Indian Summer day of perfection: a morning of ease, no cares, a morning of childhood, carved into a mushroom.
The neat part is we've passed along this tradition to my daughter Madi, as you can see below. She has her own mushrooms now. Hopefully, she'll come to treasure these days as much as I do mine.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Stuff: Rocket Man

One of the best things about seventh grade was Shop Class. Two of the best things about Shop Class were CO2 race cars, and solid stage rockets. We made them from scratch (parachutes too) and launched them suckers. Probably seems silly, but it was quite a rush to press the button on the electrical ignition system and light something into the air, something YOU built.
Years later, in college, when I was working at a youth program, I remembered those rockets when I was planning for projects. I went scouting at our local hobby store, and sure enough, they had engines, parachutes, and ignition systems. You could buy pre-made rockets too, but seeing as how I was planning the rockets for a sorta science/crafting unit, I figured out how to make them from scratch, and taught kids how to make them. They were a big hit. The kids got the same charge I did at building something, then launching it into the sky. A couple years later, I adapted the rockets to make ignitable RACE cars. They failed, but they failed in spectacular fashion, which was almost as fun.
A few years ago, Madi and I made these rockets over the summer. We never got to launch them, however, because my ignition system was old, and the fuses old, so the rockets didn't fire, and we really didn't have the cash to splurge on a new ignition system. This summer, however? WE'RE GO FOR LAUNCH, MISSION CONTROL....

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Stuff: A Long Time Ago....

One of my treasured possessions (unfortunately, as you'll soon see, I didn't treat them that way) growing up was a series of limited edition, collectible STAR WARS glasses Burger King produced during the run of RETURN OF THE JEDI. They were possibly the first things I owned which could be considered collectibles, and therefore something of value past nostalgic or their "neat factor." Unfortunately as a kid, I didn't understand their worth, and it wasn't long before I managed to break both of them. At the time, I pretended it was no big deal when my parents mildly admonished me that I'd just broken something I couldn't replace, but inside, I felt a little twinge of loss, realizing they were right, and not knowing what to do with the idea that I HAD foolishly treated something of value poorly.
Recently, in cleaning out some stuff at home, Dad presented me with these collectible glasses, which they had purchased back then and had wisely squirreled away for a time when I WOULD appreciate them. You can imagine how I felt, having this come full circle, that my parents had the foresight to buy extras, knowing ahead of time that, as a kid, I probably wouldn't understand the value (both actual and nostalgic) of those glasses.
And, though we live in a culture in which you can buy specialty glasses at the local dollar store, it's neat to see Rey's glass next to Luke's, all these years later. I can only hope I'll have the wisdom to teach my kids to value such things, as my parents taught me.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Horror 101 - "The Ghost and the Ghostly" and "The Monster and the Monstrous"

A double issue of Lamplight Magazine is live on Kindle today, featuring my continuing series of columns on the horror genre, "The Ghost and the  Ghostly" and "The Monster and the Monstrous." It's also on Smashwords, too. 
Print, Kindle, Smashwords and Nook copies of Issue 1, featuring my first Horror 101 column "The House, the Gothic and the Bad Place" is available. An introduction to my series can be read free here:

Friday, April 15, 2016

My Stuff: Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned In Universal Monster Picture Books


I find it eternally intriguing that, even though I had very little concept of what the "horror" genre was as a kid, I was always drawn to the strange and fantastic. I loved the Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark series,  original Scooby-Doo, I loved comic books, ghost stories, alternate dimensions, time travel, weird stories about real life unexplainable things, and The Hardy Boys which, believe it or not, I found several to be kinda creepy.

I also adored these Universal Monster books - again, having no understanding of what the Universal Monster Movies were, other than old black and white movies. Anyway, I read them all: the Frankenstein books, the Wolfman books, this Mummy book (found last year at the library's used book sale) and of course, Dracula.

They summarized the movies, with black and white stills from the film. I liked those pictures the best, but I must've read the stories over and over too, because when I flipped through The Mummy upon finding it last year, I recognized nearly every word immediately.

Funny, how I was always interested in this stuff, even before I knew what the "horror" genre was...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Stuff: A Study in Pulp

Never seems to fail, when I decide to start a new blog series, life intervenes and said blog series disappears for about a week until I get my feet under me again. In any case, here's another installment of My Stuff, a detailing of all the miscellany crowding my "stuff" shelf, important to me and no one else...

Like many writers, I figure, I was a rabid reader growing up. I didn't read one genre in particular, I kinda wanted to read ALL THE THINGS. So, it was only a matter of time before the shelves of hardcover pulp novels in my great grandmother's trailer caught my eye. She knew of my love for reading, and she started giving me one novel every month, which turned into a novel a week, with the promise that, when she passed, I'd get the rest.

When she did pass they came into my possession, and they were marked by an amazing diversity. Classics such as Mysterious Island by Jules Verne, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Riders of the Purple Sage, a collection of Ellery Queen short stories, mixed in with forgettable titles such as The Nursing Home Murder and Crimson Ice, also along with several John Carter novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. My father said my great grandmother went through a period in which she collected these book club editions indiscriminately, for no other reason than she wanted a collection a books. The romantic in me, of course, likes to think she was collecting them for her yet to be born great-grandson who would entertain fantasies of being a writer someday.

These books line the back of my "Stuff Shelf." I read them all, loved them, only remember a quarter of the plots, but they helped introduce me to weird and strange stories, and I hope to pass them on someday, myself.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Devourer of Souls Re-Release Freebies

Friday, April 1st is the re-release day for Devourer of Souls, a novella duet set in the small Adirondack town of Clifton Heights, New York. In celebration, as always, especially for folks who haven't yet visited the humble town of Clifton Heights, I offer you the following titles free on Kindle for the next three days. Also, I chat some today on the Crystal Lake blog about the inspiration for "Sophan," the first novella from Devourer of Souls.

Clifton Heights Tales:

Strange Days
The Way of Ah-Tzenul
The Gate and the Way
Bassler Road 
Way Station
The Sliding
A Brother's Keeper

Hiram Grange & The Chosen One
American Horror Cinema