Category Archives: horror writing

Dark Thinking

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On a quiet back street in Toonerville there is a haunted house.  Obviously four meddling kids and their talking dog are looking around inside, but they won’t find anything.  It is my dark place.  I am the only one that can go inside and discover what truly is there, for the dark things inside are all a part of the dark side of Mickey.

But Mickey doesn’t have a dark side, you try and argue.  Micky is all goofy giggles and nerdy Dungeons and Dragons jokes.  Mickey is all cartoons and silly stories and he makes us all guffaw.

But I can assure you, everyone has a dark side.  Without darkness, how can anyone recognize the light?

So, I have to go inside the old Ghost House every now and then and take stock of all the furniture, and make note of everyone… and every thing that has been living there.  I go in there now because I am starting to rewrite a very dark story that I really have to get down on paper in novel form.  It isn’t a true story.  Ghost stories never are.  But it is full of true things… old hurts, old fears, panics, and ghosts of Christmases Past.

There was the night I was stalked by a large black dog when I was nine and walking home from choir practice at the Methodist Church.  We are talking Hound of the Baskervilles sort of big damn dog.  I knew every dog that lived in town in those days, but I didn’t know that one. Maybe it wasn’t actually hunting me, but I ran the last two blocks to my house that night faster than I ever knew I could run before.

There was that cool autumn afternoon when he grabbed me and pushed me down behind a pile of tractor tires in the neighbor’s yard.  He forcibly got my pants down… and what he did to me… It has taken more than forty years to be able to talk about what happened.  I wasn’t able to talk about it until after I learned that he had died.

There were the nights spent in the emergency room.  Severe potassium depletion… chest pains that could’ve been heart trouble but weren’t… The morning when my blood pressure was so high I thought I was going to die in front of my second period seventh grade English class.  And the terrible waits in the emergency room when someone I loved was serious about suicide… that was the most terrible of all.

I am not frightened by the grim reaper in the same way that Shaggy and Scooby are.  I have spent time in his company too many times for that.  I do not fear him.  In some ways he brings welcome relief.  And I do believe I can beat him in chess and at least tie him in checkers.

So, yeah, the dark resources are all still there… still in place at the bottom of a deep, dark well. Bad things do wait in the future… but they are in the present and the past also.  I am not a slave to fear and evil has no power over me.  So, I think I can safely write a horror story.  And I admit I am not Steven King.  But I don’t want to be him.  I want to be Mickey.  And that is certainly scary enough for me.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, ghost stories, horror writing, humor, novel plans, photo paffoonies

H. P. Lovecraft Gaming

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Back in the early 1990’s my little group of game players turned the full power of nerd obsession on the fantasy role-playing game Call of Cthulhu.  It is a totally weird little game based on the novels and short stories of H. P. Lovecraft.   It is a game about solving mysteries that, if successfully solved, will lead you to confrontations with all-powerful ancient evils that you cannot win against.  And you keep playing until your character absorbs so many insanity points that they go completely insane.  Your character then becomes a minion of demonic and irresistible evil that the next player character you roll up will have to hunt and defeat.  It is not a game you ever win.  You merely have to learn to survive and stay sane, things at which the game is set up to make you fail.

In 1991 the television gods took an old vampire soap opera that I had loved in the 60’s and remade it.  Dark Shadows came back to life starring Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins (the Chariots of Fire guy playing the vampire role that would later have a part in the downfall of Johnny Depp.)  The lead player in our group, a kid who was such a nerd that he would go one to be in the intelligence division of the Marine Corps, decided his character would have to be the vampire Barnabas Collins.  He reasoned that the only way to fight big evils was to fight back with evil that had been converted back to goodness.

And his instincts were good.  Barnabas and his lady love, Victoria Winters, were the only player characters not eaten by the minions of Nyarlathotep in the first adventure.  And Victoria had to be raised from the dead by having Barnabas turn her into a Vampire.

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Of course, the very next challenge would be from a white witch voodoo priestess from New Orleans, the Vampire hunter Sofia Jefferson.  (She was an NPC, not Sofie’s player character).  And she had a special potion that, given to a vampire, would restore it to normal human life.

This was a problem for Barnabas, because he really depended on his powers as a vampire and was not willing to go on without those powers.  So the vampire hunter had to be avoided without killing her and putting an end to her good work fighting evil.  If you can’t tell from the picture, Sofia was blind, yet could see with uncanny vision through sightless eyes.

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The next player character added to survive more than one adventure borrowed Luis’s vampire idea by making his character from the movie Darkman, a Liam Neeson movie about a doctor who had burned his face off, but could become other people by wearing their cloned skin.  He was the lead investigator to help solve the werewolf problem in the bayou , and took on the dark circus adventure where the foolish sideshow people were trying to make money exhibiting the captured Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

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There was a lot of death and horrible murders in those game sessions, but not committed by the player characters.  They had to keep good notes and draw conclusions and manage their characters’ powers and assets.  Notes like these;

And so, while the game never ended to my satisfaction, the players did get the feel of acting in a horror movie and fighting on the side of goodness against evil.  It was weird, but definitely worth doing.

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Filed under autobiography, Dungeons and Dragons, horror movie, horror writing, humor, Paffooney

The Wolf in My Dreams

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Rosemary Hood was a bright, blond seventh grader who entered my seventh-grade Gifted English class in September of 1998.  She introduced herself to me before the first bell of her first day.

“I am definitely on your class list because my Mom says I belong in gifted classes.”

“Your name is Rosemary, right?”

“Definitely.  Rosemary Bell Hood, related to the Civil War general John Bell Hood.”

“Um, I don’t see your name on my list.”

“Well, I’m supposed to be there, so check with the attendance secretary.  And I will be making A’s all year because I’m a werewolf and I could eat you during the full moon if you make me mad at you.”

I laughed, thinking that she had a bizarre sense of humor.  I let her enter my class and issued her copies of the books we were reading.  Later I called the office to ask about her enrollment.

“Well, Mr. Beyer,” said the secretary nervously, “the principal is out right now with an animal bite that got infected.  But I can assure you that we must change her schedule and put her in your gifted class.  The principal would really like you to give her A’s too.”

So, I had a good chuckle about that.  I never gave students A’s.  Grades had to be earned.  And one of the first rules of being a good teacher is, “Ignore what the principal says you should do in every situation.”

But I did give her A’s because she was a very bright and creative student (also very blond, but that has nothing to do with being a good student).  She had a good work ethic and a marvelous sense of humor.

She developed a crush on Jose Tannenbaum who sat in the seat across from her in the next row.  He was a football player, as well as an A student.  And by October she was telling him daily, “You need to take to me to the Harvest Festival Dance because I am a werewolf, and if you don’t, I will eat you at the next full moon.”

All the members of the class got a good chuckle out of it.  And it was assumed that he would. of course, take her to the dance because she was the prettiest blond girl in class and he obviously kinda liked her.  But the week of the dance we did find out, to our surprise, that he asked Natasha Garcia to the dance instead.

I didn’t think anything more about it until, the day after the next full moon, Jose didn’t show up for class.  I called the attendance secretary and asked about it.

“Jose is missing, Mr. Beyer,” the attendance secretary said.  “The Sherrif’s office has search parties out looking for him.”  That concerned me because he had a writing project due that day, and I thought he might’ve skipped school because he somehow failed to finish it.  When I saw Rosemary in class, though, I asked her if, by any chance, she knew why Jose wasn’t in class.

“Of course I do,” she said simply.  “I ate him last night.”

“Oh.  Bones and all?”

“Bone marrow is the best-tasting part.”

So, that turned out to be one rough school year.  Silver bullets are extremely expensive for a teacher’s salary.  And I did lose a part of my left ear before the year ended.  But it also taught me valuable lessons about being a teacher.  Truthfully, you can’t be a good teacher if you can’t accept and teach anyone who comes through your door, no matter what kind of unique qualities they bring with them into your classroom.

 

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Up and Over the Hard Hill

I made it there. I voted. I am a pessimist and fully expect the pumpkin-head prexydink to win reelection and then succeed in dooming planet Earth. But I got my one little vote against him cast and counted. I no longer have to feel like our collective ultimate doom is all my fault. And I probably didn’t even catch COVID.

The polling precinct I was assigned to is in the middle of white-racist suburbia where threatening Ilhan Omar with deportation or death is a favorite sport watched nightly on Fox News. I fully expected an hours-long wait to vote, since there are black and Hispanic voters not far from here that have to take a day of work (if they are lucky enough to still have a job) to wait seven to eleven hours just to get in the door. And last time Trump supporters were riotous and jubilant in voting en mass, intent on sticking it to Hillary. It was crowded.

This time… no lines and very subdued. I voted in less than ten minutes after arriving.

I wonder. Are they ashamed to vote for him again? Or are they all on ventilators after the last Trump rally?

I am not gloating. I fully expect to lose again. Nothing gets you a political victory faster than corruptly giving the keys to the kingdom to your rich donors with unlimited dark money. But it is important to be on the right side even if you are doomed to lose the war.

Anyway, I did it. As hard as it was to climb that hill and vote at the top, it was a pleasant stroll on the way back home.

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Filed under horror writing, humor, politics

A Simple Matter of Character (Part 2)

Some characters need to have their story told for reasons that are buried deep in the author’s personal history and damaged psyche. For me, Torrie Brownfield, the Baby Werewolf, was that kind of character.

The book, The Baby Werewolf, is a different kind of horror story. The central question of the book is this, “Am I a monster? And do I know why or why not?” And Torrie has to answer that question because he was born with a rare genetic disorder called hypertrichosis. It is the “werewolf-hair disease” where hair growth happens in unusual places on the body and in Torrie’s case, everywhere but the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet. He is a perfectly normal boy who really only looks like a monster. But how you look can have a profound impact on how people treat you.

And the character of the boy who looks like a werewolf and thinks he is a monster is based entirely on me. Unlike Valerie Clarke whose origins I can pinpoint, I have to honestly admit the way Torrie thinks and feels and acts are all based solely on me and me alone.

You see, when I was a boy of ten I went through a horrible traumatic experience that threw my whole life into darkness. And I kept it secret from everybody. In fact, for a few years, I kept it a secret even from myself.

It is not that I really didn’t remember I had been sexually assaulted by an older boy. The nightmares and remembered pain were a constant even when I couldn’t admit to myself what had happened. I defended myself from it all by burying the knowledge deep, and worrying about things that only sexual-assault victims worried about. I embarrassed myself twice in seventh grade by wetting my pants in class, all because I couldn’t go into the boys’ bathroom at school. Whenever I would have sexual urges of any kind, I would lie down or sit on the heating grate at home, burning scars into my lower back and the back of my lower legs. I fretted about how to fight monsters. And I knew from the movies that if a vampire bit you, you could become a vampire. And if a werewolf bit you, you could become a werewolf. So, if a sexual predator bites you, do you not become a…??

In all honesty I probably became a teacher at least in part to protect other kids from the same kind of thing that happened to me. And I had to write this book to tell the story of how not to be a monster.

The true monster in this monster-movie tale is actually Torrie’s uncle, the person who actually psychologically abuses him. And the villain proves himself to be a sexual deviant, trying to create kiddie porn in his photography studio.

I suppose I just spoiled the whole whodunnit part of the book. But the murder mystery was never the point of the novel. The message of this novel is that no child is ever a monster unless he actually chooses to become one.

And that is the kind of character Torrie Brownfield is. The autobiographical kind. The kind that brings the author’s worst fears about himself to light, and tries to answer the question with… “No, I am not a monster.”

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Filed under autobiography, characters, horror writing, monsters, novel writing, Paffooney

Dibbletey Dobbletey Doo

On Wednesday I subbed again for a science teacher at Long Middle School. They were eighth graders, the chest-thumping apes at the top of the monkey-house food chain. There was an AVID class with too many at-risk and under-disciplined kids in it. And the Long ESL classes contain too many rabid monkeys who don’t understand monkey-English well and are liberally dispersed through-out the harried eighth-grade teachers’ day. In other words, the Wednesday job caused me brain damage from which I haven’t recovered from fully at this writing.

So, today I am obsessed with finding the magic necessary to avoid having any more teacher-meltdowns and brain injuries like that 6th period debacle. (“Debakkil” is a magic word, but it is an evil magic word),

In the Disney animated classic Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother uses a magic spell called (in a song) “Bibbety Bobbity Boo”. In the course of singing the song, the old F-G turns a pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses, the swayback horse into a driver, and the dog into a groom. I need a spell like that to remedy the monkey-house meltdown syndrome that I was victimized by.

So, here is how “Dibbletey Dobbletey Doo” will work.

The spell is cast initially on a male student, a monkey-like being swinging from the light fixtures, but obviously smarter than the other male monkey-students. You could magically turn his raggy clothing into a ball gown and embarrass him completely (which would be true to the metaphor, but would turn him into your worst nightmare)… but don’t. Instead, tell him that he is smart enough to be a leader. Put him in a position of power, making him in charge of a group, and telling him his consequences will be either a reward for good leadership, or the blame for the bad behavior of the group. Remind him that he has natural leadership skills. If he speaks to others respectfully, they will be respectful to everybody. If he shows them how to behave properly, they will use him as a positive example. He will get the credit for the good things they will do.

“Dibbletey Dobbletey Doo!”

It works. We had a poster project to do in groups of four. They were supposed to create a diagram of the mechanics of the four seasons of the year, with a sun and four representations of the earth with its axis and equator tilted properly in relation to the sun. That’s the kind of assignment that can result in the explosion of the science lab or the total cannibalization of the substitute. But I made it successfully work in four out of five classes.

Why did it go wrong in that last period? 1. Classes that are out of control for the regular teacher are impossible for even the best sub to control. 2. Too many students in one classroom are impossible to control when you have more groups than work tables. 3. Supplies run out at the end of the day, and empty pens and markers become projectiles. 4. Eighth graders all need to take mandatory naps in the afternoon (using sedative darts and a dart gun when necessary) but no school or principal is aware of that fact. 5. Cranky afternoon baboons grow longer fangs than they had in the morning.

So, Mickey must revise and rework this particular spell for the afternoons. And he must refuse the next job coming from this particular teacher.

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Filed under education, horror writing, humor, insight, kids, magic, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching

Talking to Nobody

I entered the classroom silently. Death doesn’t have to make any sound when it enters a room, but I remember many times when I entered a classroom in a fully enraged-lion roar. Probably too many times.

This time it was a small lesson to a small class. Little Mickey, ten years old, was sitting there in a front-row desk. He was wearing that stupid purple derby hat that he always wore in his imagination. And he was wearing nothing else besides.

I gave him that old death-eye stare of disapproval. He grinned and shrugged. “Hey, I like to write about nudists, okay? They tell the truth more than most people.”

I simply nodded.

Sitting the next row over, in the front seat also, middle-aged Mickey was slumped in his seat like the cynical, world-weary teacher-thing he actually was. I nodded disapprovingly at him too. “I know, I know,” he said. “My time is running out. I have to get started on my writing plan for real this time. My stories will never get written if I don’t.”

The third seat in the third row contained Old Coot Mickey with his wrinkled clothes, his long Gandalf-hair, and his frizzy author’s beard. He grinned his goofy grin at me and nodded at me cheekily. “I’ve got fourteen novels written and published now. Taint my fault that nobody ever reads ’em. They are mostly good stories, too.”

I rolled my eyes at the dark ceiling.

On the chalkboard I wrote out. Today’s Lesson Is

“I know! I know!” shouted little Mickey, naked except for his purple hat. “The next novel is A Field Guide to Fauns. It is all about nudists in a nudist camp. I am definitely down with that!”

“Is that really a good idea, though?” asked middle-aged Mickey. “I think I was meant to be a writer of Young Adult novels, like the ones I taught so often in class. I know how those books are structured. I know their themes and development inside and out. I know how to write that stuff.”

“But the little naked guy has it right. You have ta be truthful in novels, even as you tell your danged lies.” Old Coot Mickey made his point by punctuating it with a wrinkled hand thumping on the top of his desk. “You have written novels with characters forcing other characters to make porn films in The Baby Werewolf, and sexual assault of a child in Fools and Their Toys, and lots of naked folks, and betrayal and death… All of that is the kinda stuff kids really want ta read. And them stories don’t glorify that stuff neither. Stories can help fight agin that stuff.”

“Remember, that stuff is hard to write about because I actually went through some of that stuff in my own life. It’s possible for even a fiction book to be just too real for a YA novel.” Middle-aged Mickey had entered fighting mode with his fists on his hips.

“But the underlying truth is why you had to write those stories to begin with. You have truth to tell… But in fiction form,” argued little Mickey.

“And horrible experiences turn into beautiful survival stories and heroes’ journeys with time and thoughtfulness and art,” said Old Coot Mickey.

I agreed with all three of me. I nodded and smiled.

“But you are Death, aren’t you?” asked middle-aged Mickey.

“And you’ve come to take away at least Old Coot Mickey!” declared little Mickey.

“You’ve got me all wrong,” I answered all three of me. “I am not Death. I am Nobody.

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Filed under autobiography, homely art, horror writing, humor, irony, kids, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Hawking Books

My book advertised here is the best book I have that hasn’t gotten a single reader yet. I am trying to promote it by giving out free Kindle e-book copies for free this weekend. That tactic is supposed to generate readers and reviews. So far, two days in, only one free book has been selected by anybody on Facebook, Twitter, or here on WordPress. I mean, even clicking on a free book and then never reading it helps me as a marketer. But I am not getting any of that.

I did better with Recipes for Gingerbread Children, especially the first two days. But I admit, even though it shares a time, parts of a plot, and characters with The Baby Werewolf, it is a better book.

But tying the two books together has no visible effect.

I will, however, keep trying. I have other good books to promote as well as this one. Perhaps people are too afraid of werewolves to buy it, even for free.

Click on this if you’d like a free e-book. Every single one clicked on helps.

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Filed under horror writing, humor, novel, novel plans, Paffooney, publishing, Uncategorized

Directions to Be Worried About

The question came up on Twitter. “What things aren’t safe to write about in a Young Adult novel?”

I have personally never questioned myself about that before. The writer asking for input was writing something science-fiction-y about a telepath using telepathy to torture someone. He was apparently worried that a younger audience would be traumatized by that.

Really? Anyone who can ask that has never spent much time talking to young readers.

I base my answer on over thirty years of trying to get kids to read things of literary quality. My very first year of teaching a male student stood up when the literature books were passed out and announced, “I don’t do literature!”

“Really, Ernie? You are going to lay that challenge before me?”

We slogged through The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that year, using and reusing 20 paperback copies of the novel purchased with my own money. Ernie maybe didn’t like it. But he did literature.

And I went on a thirty-four year quest to find out what literature kids really would do and what literature kids really needed to do.

Aquaman saves Aqualad from a shark of evilness.

Here’s a tiny bit of wisdom from Mickey’s small brain and comparatively large experience; Kids are not traumatized by literature in any form. Kids are traumatized by life. They need literature to cope with trauma.

Kids want to read about things that they fear. A book like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card has some graphic violence in it and a war against faceless aliens, but it does an excellent job of teaching how to empathize as well as fight against bullies, and it helps them grapple with the notion that the enemy is never clearly the thing that you thought it was to begin with.

Kids want to read the truth about subjects like love and sex. They are not looking for pornography in YA novels. They get that elsewhere and know a lot more about it than I do. They want to think about what is right and how you deal with things like teen pregnancy, abortion, matters of consent vs. rape and molestation. Judy Blume started being objectively honest with kids about topics like puberty and sex back in the 60’s with books like Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. and Iggie’s House.

If you are writing for young adults, middle grade and high school kids, even kids 5th Grade and below who are high-level readers, it is more important to worry about writing well and writing honestly than it is to worry about whether they can handle the topics and trauma that you wish to present. Write from the heart and write well.

I can honestly say I know these things I have said are true about young readers from having read to them, read with them, and even taught them to read. As an author, my opinion is worth diddly-squoot since I have hardly sold any books, and no kids I know have read them (except for two of my nieces, both of whom are pretty weird and nerdy just like me.)

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, education, empathy, good books, horror writing, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing, writing humor, writing teacher

A Work in Progress

I am now deep into the plot of my novel, The Boy…Forever. How deep you may ask? Well, at least up to my eyeballs.

I am busy looking at the story through the eyes of four characters, each telling their part of the story in a different way, but in first-person narrative.

I should explain that I am writing this novel as an epistolary novel, a novel made up of written artifacts.

So, let me comment on each of the four main narrators.

Anita Jones is telling her views of what happened in a series of letters to her cousin in Dallas, Dottie Jones. She starts off the plot by getting a letter from her cousin in St. Louis, Icarus Jones, that is basically a suicide note. Dottie’s answer letters are included in the novel, but only as commentary on the action, since she is far removed from the events being narrated. Anita is a highly sensible girl who has started a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with Eddie Campbell, and her highly sensible life is thrown into serious disarray by her cousin’s somewhat bizarre plight.

Icky himself is only the author of the suicide note, so his involvement in the story, as the most important character (even mentioned in the title), depends on the narration of others.

…………………………………………………

Sherry Cobble is writing her Nudist’s Diary to chronicle life in the 9th grade in Iowa as a happy and enthusiastic naturist whose main goal is to recruit all of her 9th grade friends to be naturists. Her twin sister Shelly is also a nudist and is supposed to being doing her half of the diary, but her boyfriend has happily accepted the invitation to become a naturist already, and her interest in the diary has waned.

But Sherry’s diary entries soon reveal a serious conflict. Icky Jone’s girlfriend talks her step-father into moving all the way to Norwall, Iowa in order to be near to Icky. And Fiona Long soon becomes interested in Sherry’s boyfriend, Brent Clarke. In fact, she crashes Sherry’s Spring Nude Picnic party so that she can spend time playing football in the nude with Brent. And to make matters worse, Fi turns out to be a red dragon disguised in human form. Fi is obviously not one of the narrators of the book. So, her part in the story depends solely on what Sherry says about her.

Brent Clarke is the third narrator of the book. He is the leader of the local gang of farm kids and 9th graders known as the Norwall Pirated. He’s obsessed with police work and investigating bad guys. He keeps investigator notes in which he sees himself as a great detective. And it is his detective instincts that start him recording what he can learn about Tian Long, Fi’s stepfather. His suspicions lead him to the conclusion that Mr. Long is an evil Chinese dragon in human form.

Milt Morgan is the fourth major narrator of the story. He is a highly imaginative 9th grader who is supposed to be keeping a daily journal for his English teacher (who desperately wants Milt to become a better writer and put his high-powered imagination to better uses than thinking up ways for the Norwall Pirates to get into trouble).

Milt, naturally, hates to write, but does it on a typewriter, mistakes and all, because he is a story-teller at heart. And this story has a potential to stop any and all hearts involved. You see, in some ways, it is a story about a monster. A monster who wants to eat Icky Jones. It wants to eat him because… he is boy who can potentially live forever.

This is the most recent illustration done for the novel. This one above, not the one below.

And, finally, here’s a reminder about my book promotion, beginning today.

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