Category Archives: horror writing

Writing the Critical Scene

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It is a novel I started writing in 1998 with an idea I first got in 1976. So I have been working on this book for either 20 years, or 32 years, depending on when you want to credit the actual work to have started.

It got it’s theme from the fact that I was sexually assaulted when I was ten in 1966, and the feeling the repressed memory of the trauma caused in me whenever I asked myself the question, “Am I a monster?”

Unfortunately the answer to that question, for practically everybody, is, “Sometimes yes.”

Psychological damage sticks with you for the rest of your life.  It makes you flinch at things that other people don’t.  More than once I must have confused both my mother and old girlfriends when I was compelled to wriggle out of hugs and physical contacts by panic.  I felt unlovable.  I felt like a monster.  And for a lot of that time, I didn’t know why.  But it is a novel critical for me to write.  Pain needs to become art in order to completely go away.  I need to imprison the feelings and ideas in a book.

I am now at the point in that novel where I must write the scenes at the crisis point, the high point of the action, and I have to control the flinching.  I have to control the reactions I could so easily fall into.  It is critical that I get the scene right.  The success or failure of the whole novel is at stake.

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I have played it over and over in the cinema in my head a thousand times… several thousand times.  It is difficult.  But it is there.  Soon I will have it down, crystallized in words.  It make take considerable time to publish it, though, because editing it will be at least as hard as writing it.  And I seriously have to get it right.

 

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Filed under commentary, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, horror writing, monsters, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Totally Terribly Bankrupt

Disney recently unveiled the new President Pumpkinhead animatronic doll that they are putting into the Hall of Presidents at their theme parks.  Scary thing, that.  Scarier still, it would probably make a better President than the one currently in the White House.

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Can you tell from this picture which one is the animated lump of unnatural doll parts and metal wires, and which one is the Disney animatronic President?

And in the Congress, the House and Senate each passed a tax reform bill that will reverse-Robin Hood money away from the poor and middle class to feed the never-ending greed of the top one per cent.

Tax Plan

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And a third thing that is now revealed this week, devastating for me personally, is my Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, signed and finalized on Monday.  My bankruptcy, unlike Trump’s many Chapter 11’s, does not cancel any debt.  I must pay 100% of the money won by Bank of America in their lawsuit against me and 100% of the rest of my unsecured debt with all of my other credit cards like Discover that had to be canceled out.  The only break a personal bankruptcy affords a retired teacher like me is that I no longer have to pay any interest on any unsecured debt.  And Bank of America does not get to take away my house and car and dog and light bulb out of my refrigerator.  They are most certainly disappointed by that last thing.

So, now we get to see the suffering actually come to an end.  Yes, no one must any longer worry about going to Disneyland and being bored by stuffy politician robots in the Hall of Presidents.  Instead the Hall of Presidents will now be one of the scariest horror shows in theme park entertainment history.  A robot Cheeto Man will be horrifically disemboweling and eviscerating the Constitution and portions of the English language on stage in front of children, grandmothers, and everybody.  Rich people will no longer have to suffer the discomfort of knowing that other people have any money at all, or are entitled to any of the wonderful things that only ultra-rich people are supposed to enjoy, like Disneyland, for example.

And Bank of America and its merry band of blood-sucking pirates can rest easy in the knowledge that Mickey no longer has any money to fund undeserved privileges like the ability to think for himself.

Paul Ryan and Donald J. Trump can now sit smugly satisfied and glory in the fact that Mickey’s losses guarantees them a Mickey-less world.

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Filed under angry rant, cartoons, horror writing, humor, Pirates, politics, satire, self pity

The Creature I Have Become

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I identify as a humorist, writer, cartoonist, and certified fool (Yes, I have a certificate from the Children’s Writer Institute that proves I once foolishly believed I could learn how to make money as a writer).  But my current novel project is a horror novel, The Baby Werewolf, which I twice before tried to turn into a completed rough draft novel. This time I mean to follow through to the bitter end.

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Torrie Brownfield, hypertrichosis sufferer and possible werewolf.

In order to reign in the goofiness enough to deal with the issues in this novel I have been doing a lot of horror reading. I have also undertaken the reading of a very good author examination of the life of Edgar Allen Poe.

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Poe’s life was highly instructive.  You may not have realized this, but most of the giants of American Literature prior to and contemporary with Poe did not make most of their money as writers.  Emerson was a clergyman.  Nathaniel Hawthorne worked as a customs clerk. Poe, the first to try to make a living solely on work as a writer, editor, critic, and poet, was subjected to the horrors of poverty, illness, and want.  His wife was chronically tubercular and ill.  He never made the money he was obviously worth as a creator of popular horror fiction, poetry, critical essays about other authors, and as an editor for profitable magazines of the day.  Other people made loads of money from his work.  Poe, not so much.

It is instructive to a writer like me who can’t seem to land any sort of income from my own creations.  There is no demand because there is no recognition of my work.  I have come close, having my work praised by editors and fellow authors, and being a finalist in novel writing contests twice.  The goal is good writing.  I will probably never see a return on my investment in my lifetime.  My children may not acquire anything by it unless one of them really devotes a lot of effort to it.  Like Poe with his drinking problem, chronic depression, and ill wife, I face physical limitations and poor health, grinding financial issues, and family factors that make it near impossible to put marketing effort into my literary career.

And this novel is a hard journey for me.  I was sexually assaulted by an older boy when I was ten.  A lot of the fears outlined and elucidated in this particular story leap right out of that iron cage in my psyche where they have been contained for fifty years.  Fear of nakedness.  Fear of sex.  Fear of being attacked.  Fear of the secret motivations in others.  Fear of the dark.  And, most of all, fear of what fear can make me become.  Fear of being a monster.

But I have not become any of the dark and terrible things that fear can make me into.  Instead I became a school teacher, mentor to many.  I became a family man, father of three children.  I became a nudist, hopefully not a dark and terrible thing in itself.  I became Mickey.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, horror writing, humor, monsters, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing

Novel Nudists

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I have known nudists for a long time, since the 1980’s in fact.  I have recently dabbled my toes in the cold waters of being a nudist myself.  I did work on pool cracks this past summer while naked.  I made one visit to a nudist park and actually got naked in front of strangers who were also naked.  It is a certain kind of crazy connection to nature, my self, and the bare selves of others to be a nudist, even if it is for only a few hours.  I used to think nudists were crazy people.  But I have begun to understand in ways that are hard to understand.  And being a novelist, that was bound to creep into the piles of supposedly wise understanding that goes into the creation of novels.  I say “supposedly wise” because wisdom is simply the lipstick on the pig of ridiculous human experiences.

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The Cobble family appeared first in my novel, Superchicken.  It is a semi-autobiographical novel that uses some of my real life experiences and the real life experiences of boys I either grew up with or taught, mixed in with bizarre fantasy adventures that came from my perceptions of life as an adult.  So the Cobble family really represent my encounters with nudism and the semi-sane people known as nudists.  Particularly important to the story are the Cobble Sisters, twins Sherry and Shelly, who fully embrace the idea of being nudists and try to get other characters to not only approve of the behavior, but share in it.  Sherry is the more forward of the two, more willing to be seen naked by the boys in her school and in her little Iowa farm town.  Shelly is the quieter of the two, a bit more shy and a lot more focused on the love of one particular boy.

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In fact, the Cobble Sisters are based on real life twin blond girls from my recollections of the past.  The Cobble farm is out along the Iowa River and just north of Highway Three in Iowa.  It is a real place where real twin girls lived when I was a boy.  They were blond and pretty and outgoing.  But they were not actually nudists.  There was another pair of twin blond girls from my first two years of teaching who actually provided the somewhat aggressively sensual personalities of the Cobble Sisters.  The real nudists I knew were mostly in Texas.

The sisters appear in more than one of the novels I have written or am in the process of writing.  They appear for the second time in the novel Recipes for Gingerbread Children which I finished writing in 2016.  They are also a part of the novel I am working on now, The Baby Werewolf.   That last is probably the main reason they are on my mind this morning.  Writing a humorous horror story about werewolves, nudists, pornographers, and real wolves is a lot more complex and difficult than it sounds.  But it is hopefully doable.  And my nudist characters are all basically representative of the idea that all honest and straight-forward people are metaphorically naked all the time.  That’s the thing about those nudist twins.  They don’t hide anything.  Not their most private bits, and certainly not what they are thinking at any given time.

So as I continue to struggle with revealing myself as a writer… and possibly as a nudist as well, I will count on the Cobble Sisters to make certain important points about life and love and laughter… and how you can have all three while walking around naked.

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Filed under doll collecting, foolishness, horror writing, humor, NOVEL WRITING, nudes, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Books That Make You Hurt

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Yes, I read this book.  Yes, it scared the poop out of me.  Yes, it made me cry.  This is a uniquely horrific horror story that is so realistic that you know that it has actually happened in real life somewhere, sometime.  Only the names of the characters would be different.

I have a deep abiding respect for Richard Peck as a writer.  He earned that with his books A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago.  Those books made me laugh so hard it blew chocolate milk out of my nose.  And, yes, I was drinking chocolate milk at the time.  They are so realistic because the people in those stories are real people.  I know those people personally.  Of course, they have different names in real life.

But Are You In the House Alone? is a very different book from those other two masterpieces.  It tears your heart out and eats your liver because it is a first person narrative in the voice of a high school girl being stalked by a sexual predator.  Everything that happens to Gail in the high school, at home, and at the house where she babysits is hyper-real with horror movie levels of attention to detail.  I don’t wish to be a spoiler for this well-written book, but the narrator does not die in the book and it definitely does not have a happy ending.  For anyone who has the amount of empathy I do, and in many ways becomes the narrator-character by reading, reading a book like this can physically hurt.  A teacher like me has lived through horrible things like this happening to students before, it even happened to me as a boy, and it adds the slings and arrows of those things being re-lived as you read.

This is not the only book that has ever done this sort of damage to my heart strings.  I remember the pain from the conclusion of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop.  You root for Little Nell and boo Daniel Quilp.  But the bad guy wins.  No happy ending can linger in the harp-strings of your memory-feeling song as long as a tragic outcome does.  I was there with Scout in that ridiculous costume in the dark when Bob Ewell was attacking her brother Jem in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  That story was filled with wise and laughable things, but the stark horror of that climactic moment nearly wiped all the good feelings away, if not for the heroics of ghostly Boo Radley whose timely intervention brings it all back before the novel ends.  It horrifies me to admit it, but I was there, too, in the moment when the boys all turn on Simon on the beach with their sharpened sticks in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.  They mistook him for the monster.  I still haven’t fully recovered from that reading trauma.

The thing about books that hurt to read which makes it essential that I never try to avoid them, is that they can add more depth and resonance to your soul than any light and fluffy piece ever could.  Life is much more like Lord of the Flies than it is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  I am sadder but wiser for having read Are You In the House Alone?  I am recommending it to other readers like me who don’t so much live to read as they read in order to live.  Not because it is easy and good to read, but because it is hard and essential to read.  It will hurt you.  But it will leave you like it leaves its narrator, damaged, but both alive and purely resolved to carry on.

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Filed under book reports, book review, horror writing, insight, inspiration, irony, old books, reading

Dutiful Dad

Today I go to pick up the family at the airport before noon. They have been visiting my oldest son in Virginia since last Wednesday.  Not exactly a larkish vacation in the middle of the school year, they went there to be with him while he had surgery on Thursday.  The trip caught me at a time when I am simply not well enough to travel, even by airplane.  My arthritic back problem doesn’t allow for long periods of sitting.  So I got to stay at home and take care of the dog and do what housework I could…  You know, the stuff dads are expected to do when they get left out of a family vacation… again.  So, I washed some dishes… but not all of them.  I laundered some bedding… but only my own.  I cut some grass… but only the tall stuff behind the house.  I did enough work that the boss shouldn’t be too mad at me when she returns home.  I did get her car’s oil changed, though I don’t do that myself any more.

But while the cat’s away…

It’s not what you are thinking…

And why are you thinking THAT?

I broke out the paints and HO Model train stuff that needed painting, updating, and repair.

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Fun for me may be defined differently than it is for you.

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I put snow on buildings with white puff paint where there was never snow before.

A real whee of a time, I know.  But it’s not like I could go out dancing… or singing in the rain.  My life and my jollies are a bit slower and more sedate than they used to be.

I also wrote a bit more of my werewolf novel re-write.  And soon I must go to the airport, so enough of fast and silly Paffooney-making for me.

(**Note**  Paffooney is artwork made by my hand and connected to writing.  It’s not what you were thinking.  And why were you thinking THAT?)

 

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, being alone, feeling sorry for myself, horror writing, humor, illness, photo paffoonies, playing with toys, strange and wonderful ideas about life

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