Category Archives: horror writing

Call of Cthulhu

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I feel the need to take up the subject of a role playing game that I planned for and played to a limited degree, but explored to the point of insanity.


But I am recovering now from the double-danged downers of taking care of my bankruptcy case and paying off a surprise new tax penalty that nearly sank my little boat. Therefore, I can’t go into this in depth until my mind is more fortified against the depredations of Yog Sothoth.
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So, next week I will begin talking endlessly and listlessly about the infinite insanity of Call of Cthulhu, the role-playing game. In a gibbering, half-insane manner, I will describe the playing of a game where you confront the depths of human darkness in an indifferent and terrifying world. And I will attempt to explain why a school teacher in his right mind (as much as a middle school teacher can be in his right mind) would ever take up such a game. So, stay tuned to Mickey the Dungeon Master’s silly little Saturday D&D blog.

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Is Mickey Icky?


This post is about writer doubt. And Stephen King. Do those two things go together? If they don’t then Mickey is an awful writer and does not know how to do what he does. It would mean Mickey is icky.
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I used to think Stephen King was a totally over-rated writer. Back in the early eighties I read Carrie, King’s first novel, and got halfway through Firestarter, and had to give up. Partly because the book was overdue at the library, and also because I found the books mechanical and somewhat joyless in the writing. I thought he suffered greatly in comparison to writers I was in love with at the time like Ray Bradbury and Thomas Mann. I began to tell others that King was somewhat icky.
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But King was obviously also somewhat successful. He began to get his books made into movies and people who don’t read discovered the evil genius of a man who tells stories to scare them and laces them with a bit of real humanity, real human feeling, and love.
I saw it first in Stand by Me. That movie, starring young Wil Wheaton as the Steven King autobiographical character, really touched my heart and really made for me a deep psyche-to-psyche connection to somebody who wasn’t just a filmmaker, but somebody who was, at heart, a real human being, a real story-teller.

Now, the psyche I was connecting to may very well have been Rob Reiner, a gifted story-teller and film-maker. But it wasn’t the only King movie that reached me. The television mini-series made from It touched a lot more than just the fear centers of my brain as well. And people whose opinions I respect began telling me that the books The Dark Tower Trilogy and Misery were also amazing pieces of literature.
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So I picked up a copy of Hearts in Atlantis at Half-Price Books and began reading a Stephen King novel for the first time since the 80’s. MY HOLY GOD! King is not a little bit icky. He is so NOT ICKY that it makes Mickey sicky to have ever thought King was even a little bit icky! Here is a writer who loves to write. He whirls through pages with the writer’s equivalent of ballet moves, pirouettes of prose, grand jetés of character building, and thematic arabesque penchées on every side of the stage. I love what I have discovered in a writer I thought was somewhat icky. Growth and power, passion and precision, a real love of both the words and the story. He may not know what he is doing. But I know. And I love it.
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And so, while I have been editing the first novel I ever wrote, Superchicken, to make it ready for self-publishing, I have begun to ask myself the self-critical question, “Is Mickey really icky when he writes?” My first novel is full of winces and blunders and head-banging wonders that make me want to throw the whole thing out. But I can’t throw it out. It is the baby in the first bathwater that I ever drew from the tap. The answer to the questions of Micky ickiness have yet to be determined, and not by me. I guess I have to leave it up to you.

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Werewolf Writing

dscn5093 (640x480)I am now in that period of deflation after having finished a draft of a novel.  My brain is drained and mostly empty.  I am left with leftover piles of stupid words and guileless thoughts that I didn’t use in the book and none of that is good fuel for thinking.

But I can tell you a few things about my novel.

First of all, the werewolf of the title is not really a werewolf.  He is instead a boy afflicted with a genetic hair-growth disorder called hypertrichosis.  It is genetic in nature and runs in families.  It may skip generations.  But it is a hard thing to deal with in terms of self image for the sufferer.  Once the wearers of werewolf hair were treated as circus freaks, to be marveled at, pitied, and sometimes reviled.

 

But this is a horror novel of sorts, not really about the hypertrichosis sufferer, but more about another member of the family who has become abusive in increasingly horrible ways.  And the murders in the book are committed using canines as weapons.

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The wolfishness is not located in the animals, but in the heart of a man.

There is a lot of Saturday night black and white horror movie watching in the 70’s that went into this book.  It also comes to fruition by way of my own experience being sexually assaulted at the age of ten.  The fear and self-loathing that this story has to tell about are metaphorically very real things.  I was not myself a monsterous-looking creature in my youth, but I felt the same feelings of isolation and rejection that one of the main characters, the boy with werewolf hair feels in this book.  Part of why it took me twenty years to write this tale is my own personal struggle to overcome my own fear and self-loathing.

But even though this book comes to its conclusion with silver bullets and death by wolf fang, it is basically a comedy.  Comedy, in the Shakespearean sense, always ends with the hero getting the girl and the monsters defeated.  And it has a few laughs that not even the death-by-teeth parts can overturn.

So, I am glad I am finally finished with this book.  Not edited and published, but finished as an exercise in wringing things out of the terrible nightmares and monstrous memories buried in my cluttered old brain.

 

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A Perfect Old Book… The Distant Hours

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This book, purchased for two dollars off the sale cart at Half-Price Books, was one of the most pleasant surprises I have ever had in my reading life. I knew when I picked it up that it was not a perfect fit for me. It is a Gothic romance tragedy, possible even in a black-and-white-movie sense a horror story. It is a story for women, written by a woman, and all the most important characters, except the man who is murdered, are women. It is definitely not a story for crotchety old men like me, even though the Mud-man is a classic Gothic horror tale monster.  I can relate to that.

But I will not give away any of the convoluted plot. No spoilers here. For it is not the plot that makes this a truly great read. It is the language, the beautiful, insightful, passionate language that links my very soul to the souls of the characters in this story. Three elderly sisters live in a rotting old English castle that once belonged to their father, a famous author who created the novel The True History of the Mud Man. A much younger woman comes along and discovers she has a secret relationship to the castle through her mother who was sent to live in the castle as a child during the London Blitz in World War Two. The characters are so well developed, you can see them breathe. They are real people in a way that real people, especially mysterious real people, always present you with a mystery to be solved. Who are they really? What did they actually do? Which part of what they said to you is true? And which are the lies? And there was a murder? It happened in the past? We didn’t even know he was missing. Where is he now? And what did a monster character in a beloved old book have to do with it? Okay, I promised you no answers to any of those questions. But if you feel already like you simply have to know, well, that’s the magic in this story. You will fall in love with Edie Burchill and her mother. And also the Blythe sisters, Percy, Saffy, and Juniper. And the story will leave you devastated, the way it did me. Test me and see if I’m merely telling hoo-haws. You will not regret it.

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Writing Myself To Life

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I have been working on my novel The Baby Werewolf, and I am now in the final phase, working on the climax and crisis point.  And I surprised myself.  The killer monologues to the main characters who have now become his intended next victims.  I have played this out over and over in the twenty-two years I have been writing this book.  Last night, for the first time ever, the hero character laughs in this scene instead of the cringing fear that had always been there before.

How is such a thing possible?  What changed?  I have been writing and rewriting this story since 1996.  But it goes much deeper and darker than that.  This story went on my have-to-write list in 1966 when an older, stronger boy who lived near my home trapped me in a place out-of-sight of others and stripped me, gaining some horrible kind of pleasure by inflicting pain on my private parts.  Recovery from that has taken half a century.  The recovery itself probably explains why I struggled so long to pull this story together in a finished form.

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There are things about my writing life that are undeniable.  First of all, I have to write.  There is really no other choice for me.  My mind will never know rest or peace without being able to spin out the paragraphs and essays and stories that make it possible to know those things.  Nothing is real if I can’t write it out.  Secondly, I am a humorist.  If I can never be funny at all, can never write a joke, then I will descend into madness.  My sense of humor not only shields me and serves as my suit of armor, it heals me when I suffer psychic wounds.  This book is a horror story, but like many of the best horror stories, it relies on humor to drive every scene and knit the plot together.  And it was a breakthrough for me to have the hero character laugh instead of cringe in the critical scene.  It allows me to live again.  And love again.  And the real monster that caused this book to be, is now forgiven.  The world continues to turn.  The picture is now complete.  And soon, the novel will be too.

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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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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.

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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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