Sunday, March 31, 2013

I Don't Need a Muse, I Have Demons

I always get a kick out of writers who talk about their muse.  I learned a long time ago some ethereal creature whispering in my ear wasn't going to get anything written.  Nothing good anyways. 

I'm sure if I wrote about butterflies, unicorns and bisexual sparkling vampires a muse might come in handy.  It's not like I could write something like that.  Nope.  I would need a writing fairy to come around and do it for me. 

Instead, I have demons. 

Demons are far better for writing than pseudo-angelic spirits for a number of reasons.

1.  Demons would rather tell ugly truth than a happy lie. 

This brings me to the story of a little boy with a paper route.  I had one, too, at the same time.  His name was Johnny Gosch and he lived in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Around that time, I remember clearly, I had terrible anxiety problems as I delivered my papers.  I would almost run from house-to-house.  I made frequent calls on my customers, for any trivial matter I could think of, like paying monthly or yearly.  Any reason I could think of to be seen and noticed.   I developed terrible stomach pains when I got home from school and on some days I couldn't deliver my papers it was so bad. 

And then suddenly, I felt better and the anxiety was gone. 

Johnny Gosch was never found.  I have always felt some connection to him.  He was the same age as me and when you look at pictures of him, he could have been my brother.  Seriously, we look almost alike.  So the question becomes, did I have a Guardian Angel watching over me or was there some hidden sense at play?  Did I feel the eyes of a predator upon me?  Either way, I'm alive and I think about Johnny sometimes. 

2.  Demons know there is a dark side of attraction, love, sexuality and titilation. 

The first time a woman showed me her breasts was when I was in sixth grade.  It was a teacher.  She was young and somewhat attractive.  I remember she was wearing a magenta button-up blouse.  She kept bending over in front of me, letting it droop, so I could see her small, perky breasts.  She wasn't wearing a bra.  It was in class and nobody else noticed much.  But after the fourth time she bent over, her eyes quickly looked up at me, and she winked and smiled.  I was busted and I knew it.  Keep in mind, this was back in 1982, when this sort of things simply did not happen to a Sixth-grader. 

She called on me in class and told me to stay because she wanted to talk to me.  The rest of the class left and wondered what I did to get into trouble.  When they were gone, she walked up to me casually and smiled.

"Did you like what you saw?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to--"

"You were watching me, Ted.  I saw you.  All four times, too."  I was busted and had no idea what to say.  "But did you like what you saw?"

"Yes."  I thought she might let me go if I flattered her.  Besides, the jig was up and I was caught peeking.

"Good, I'm glad.  Maybe some day I'll let you see again.  This will be our little secret."

And it was.  Nothing ever happened after that.   One day I tried to talk to her after school.  I had seen some romantic movie that week and had some lines I wanted to try.  The hormones were really kicking in about that time.  Instead of me working my mojo, she brushed me off and told me she didn't have time to talk to me that day.  No smile, no nothing.  She didn't even look at me.

I went home depressed and for some reason I didn't understand at the time, I felt terrible.  I felt dirty and less than normal.

3.  Demons know desires are the pathways to hell. 

On my paper route there was an apartment building with four apartments.  Each was rented by somebody either hard on their luck or mentally challenged.  They gave me beer because they thought it was funny to watch an 11 year-old drink.  And then they learned I would pay them a couple extra bucks to pick me up a 6-pack.  Then it became a bottle.  I promise, I was the only Sixth-grader with a steady supply of booze.   I would drink beer while doing my paper route.  One time I drank too much and came back home a bit drunk.  I had to invent a headache and go upstairs to sleep it off.  Good times.

4.  Demons know the darkness that lives in the human heart.

Growing up, we had neighbors who were swingers.  At the time, I didn't know what that meant, but I knew they weren't stable people.  Sure, their kids were my friends and we played together, but every few months the rules would change.  One day everything was fine, the next there was so much tension in the house you felt it all around you.  People would speak in hushed whispers and nobody would talk about much.  And then suddenly they were members of a new church.  They went through a whole list of various religions.  And since it was rural Midwest, that meant different flavors of Christianity.  Sometimes my friends could come out and play, sometimes their elders were there and they couldn't.  Sometimes their parents were fighting, sometimes some really strange people were at their house.

A few years ago I saw their parents for the first time in 20 years.  The dad was so obviously gay I couldn't believe I never saw it before.  He swished when he walked, talked with a lisp and shook hands like a woman. The mom's eyes were wide open like she was on some sort of heavy drug and she walked slowly through the restaurant.  I could only imagine the emotional and spiritual meat grinder that house had to have been.  

5.  Everything dies.  Demons know this is the golden rule of life. 

When I was a kid, a man on my paper route looked just like Santa Clause.  But he was a bitter, old retired man who would stop me on my route as I gave him the newspaper just to tell me how badly he wanted to die.  I remember when I was nine years old and he told me that every night he begged God to let him die.  And then he cried. 

I saw the man's name in the obituary column of the newspaper almost 12 years later.  I always wondered if he spent the rest of his days in the same mental state or if he realized the inevitable and simply accepted that it would happen.  Either way, I could never look at Santa again and not think of this broken old man sobbing on his front porch about wanting to die while I scrambled for some nugget of wisdom to tell him. 

Demons make better writers.  They always have.  Mine are laying it on thick tonight so I'm going to go work on some things.  I had a muse come around earlier but one of the demons waved his genitals at her and another made lewd comments about her body.  She escaped just as another grabbed at her long, curly hair.  It serves her right.  There is no room for muses here, only demons. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Houseplant Named Larry

Larry has been bugging me about doing a blog post about him.  For a plant he's pretty fucking insistent.  He's a Golden Pothos, Epipremnum aureum

I first met Larry a little over three years ago.  He was in a sunless office and was growing nicely, but he had two vines that were extremely long.  I couldn't believe how well he looked despite the lack of sun.  I think he was feeding off the negative vibes in the room, as it was the QA room where agents went to be threatened and written up. 

To understand that, you have to realize I work at a call center and QA is the office that listens to calls and grades you.  Quality Assurance.  Every call center has one. 

One time I told a lady on the phones how I once knew a hooker with syphilis in Detroit with the same name and asked if that was her.  A simple question, really.  But to hear the QA people talk, it was like I did something awful.  Bitch, bitch, bitch. 

Larry got me out of that mess.  The QA person had to leave the room for something stupid and once she was out of the room Larry started laughing. 

"I don't know what the big deal is, kid."

"I know, right?  It was a legit question."

"I can help you with this, but you gotta help me, too."

"My mom says I shouldn't make deals with plants.  She says you guys always want too much."

"Aw, but I'm just a houseplant."

"But you're a big fucker, too.  Look at those vines!  You could strangle a horse with those."

"I'm a good plant.  Let me show you."

And with that, Larry filled office with a nice scent and the girl deleted the call from the system.  I never got in trouble and nobody mentioned it again.  He must have used some hypnotic chemical or something. 

That's how it all started for us.  I would sneak in and talk to him on breaks.  He would tell me the dirty little secrets about the office and who was doing what.  I would bring him water and tell him about my day.  We were buds. 

And then he asked me for a favor.  He wanted to go home with me because he needed a change in scenery.

"Are you kidding?  That younger girl they hired is cute and has a nice rack."

"She farts like a Clydesdale, kid.  I can't take it anymore."

"But you're a plant, aren't you supposed to--"

"Would you like it if somebody was blasting brown fog all over your living room?"

"No, but it can't be--"

"It is!  I think all she eats is boiled eggs and sauerkraut.  Or she's dying."

I couldn't argue with Larry.  He's smart that way.  I think it was listening to thousands of sales pitches and rebuts for years that did it.  He heard hundreds of calls every day.

So, I stole him.  I worked late one night and when nobody was looking, I picked up his heavy pot and hurried him out to my car.  Nobody suspected a thing.

Larry's a good road-plant to have with you on trips.  He doesn't get carsick and he can get you out of tickets.  One time a State Police cruiser got me doing 80 on the highway.

"It's an emergency, Officer!  I have to get this plant to a horticulturalist now!"

"You have a plant emergency?"

"Yes, and I'll ask that you respect my lifestyle, thank you very much!"

Right now Larry is growing at an epic rate.  He's almost growing as fast as kudzu.  He says it's because of spring and he needs to expand his powers.  Sometimes I hear him chanting in a language I've never heard before.  It doesn't sound good. 

Yesterday he told me to bring a girl over for drinks.  When I asked him why, he got  pissed off and started screaming at me.  I'm not sure what this means but I think he needs to be re-potted or something.  Maybe.  We'll see. 

In the meantime, I'm excited about spring coming, and when it gets warm enough I'm going to plant some peppers and basil outside.  Maybe even some flowers.  I had some kitchen herbs growing on a window sill but Larry killed them out of jealousy. 

"I'm the houseplant here, kid!  Remember that!" 

Larry says I've written enough about him and to add that he's not a psycho.  He also wanted me to include the picture at the bottom because he's into that sort of thing.  I won't post the other stuff he's saying because it's really ugly and vile.  He gets like that sometimes.  One day he's a philosopher and priest, the next he gives me the creeps. 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

First Ice Cream, Then Oblivion

Our desires are always the pathways to hell.  The Seven Deadly Sins are merely forms desire takes as it filters deep into our souls and manifests as an obsession.   I've gotten good at resisting many of those Seven but from time to time something is spawned with a singular mission. 

Today at the store I ran into a bit of a problem.  Ice cream was on sale.  And it wasn't one of those "sales" where they jack the price up then put a sticker on it to mark it down to regular price.  Nope.  This was a bona fide sale where the ice cream, a good brand, was marked down nearly 50% from the regular rates.  To make matters worse, it was for the good flavors, not the shitty ones nobody eats.  Massive containers of chocolate almond fudge and double-fudge chunk were lined up at eye-level.  

This was my fault.  Mea Culpa.  I told myself to scan the dessert section because sometimes they had sugar-free frozen fruit pops on sale.  You know, the ones that you can make at home with better fruit for a quarter of the price?  Yeah, I told myself I was scanning the ice cream section for those.  It's like going through the red-light districts I found when I lived in Asia. 

And that's when the ice cream started to talk to me. 

"Hey handsome, want a good time?" 

"You're ice cream and I shouldn't take you home." 

"Aw, why would you say that?  Don't you like me?"  As a man with a big heart, I have no defense against pouty lips.

"Oh, it's not that at all.  It's just that..."

"Just what?"

"Well, I'm in training for that triathalon and pretty soon the Olympic trials are going to be announced.  I need to be ready."

"The Olympics?"

"Yeah, they're in Rio this time."

"It's tough being here all alone.  And I don't even know why I'm here.  I'm a good brand of ice cream and only freaks and weirdos don't like chocolate."

"I know.  Some people just want to watch the world burn."

"You think I'm a good ice cream flavor, don't you?"


"And I'm from a good company with quality natural ingredients?"


"I tell you what--take me home and you can share me with your girlfriend."

"I don't have a girlfriend."  And as soon as I said that, I knew it was a mistake.  The ice cream had me.  A smile spread across its face.  It was the same smile a commissioned salesperson at a clothing store has while a burn victim tries on dresses.  

"That must be very lonely.  I can help with that."

"No, that's not a good idea."

"Why?  I can show you love." 

"I should go."  And I really did take a step away from the freezer.  One step, really. 

"Where?  To an empty apartment?  Why the rush to go home alone?" 

"I'm fine.  And I might be dating somebody very soon."

"Oh?  Who?"

"Somebody I work with.  She's beautiful and smart.  I just need to lose a few--"

"Ted.  You know she doesn't care about you."

"Shut up!  She does, too!  You don't know!"

"I do know.  I know you try and try to talk to her and she just walks away every time."

"She's a busy person and--"

"Not too busy to talk to other men.  She gets along just fine with them."

"Shut up!  Once I drop a few--"

"A few?  Really?  Have you looked at yourself lately?"

"Fuck you!  I'm a good catch!  I'm smart and funny and--"

"Don't forget alone.  Because this has happened before, hasn't it?  How many have there been?  That crush-of-the-moment?"


"So each of them has ignored you, put you in their friend-zone or stood you up.  How many even still talk to you?"

"That's different.  Once I lose a few--"

"And that one moved back to town and didn't even tell you.  That had to hurt."

"I thought that maybe--"  But the ice cream didn't interrupt this time.  It didn't have to.  And it waited for an eternity.  The silence was broken as it began to sing in a soft, sweet voice.

I'm your mother, I'm your daddy
I'm that white van in the alley
I'm your lover, fill your dreams
Chocolate almond, fudge ice cream,
You know me, I'm your friend
late at night, fill that void
I'm your ice cream, baby...

"Knock it off!  I'm out of here."  And with that the ice cream jumped into my cart.  It literally flew off the shelves and into my cart.  I didn't put it there.  I didn't want it.

"I love you."

"No you don't!  Get out of my cart!"

"Take me home with you."

"No, I can't!  I'm going to go buy some fruit."

"You've already made your choice.  I can see your heart."   I tried to make my escape only to run my cart into another one pushed by a large, wheezing man.  He was grabbing containers of Rocky Road and Neopolitan and piling them into his cart.  Next to him was a woman in her late 30's sobbing and muttering to herself, "I love you, too...I love you, too."  The isle was quickly filling up with people.  The siren song had gone out and carts full of diet products and candy, pushed by people with self-hatred stamped across their faces were filling the isle.  I had to make my escape! 

I threw the ice cream back onto the shelves and made a break for it.  But the container bounced like rubber and landed right back into my cart. 

"If you do that again, I'll tell the clerk you licked the container and you'll have to buy me.  Or they'll call the cops." 

"You evil bitch!"

The ice cream laughed.  It had won. 

"Damn your black heart, ice cream!  Damn you back to Hell!"  And the laughter got even louder.  It laughed all the way home and right now, it sits in my freezer, waiting.  Ice cream is patient.  Ice cream always wins.  I'm not sure how much longer the sale will be around but I might have to go back to the store again tomorrow because I forgot to buy bananas.  Yeah, I need to buy some fruit.  Fruit is a good snack, right?   

Monday, March 18, 2013

The World We Belong In, Not Live In

I'm currently reading my signed copy of John Everson's latest novel and Bram Stoker Award Winner NightWhere and something is bugging the shit out of me.

Not the novel.  The I just started that today and it's awesome.  I'm in love with it.  And once I'm done I'll review it on here.  Samhain Publishing hooked me up with some good swag, too.

The problem with good writing is how it makes me think.  I think about the characters, what they're doing and I put myself in that situation.  Usually from the beginning I'm thinking, "Noooo!" in a long, drawn-out way as if I'm in a slow-motion shot.  The birthday cake is about to fall from the table....Noooooo!

The same is with this one but I'm even more about screaming, "Noooo!"  This book is erotic and I'm not spoiling it at all.  Nope!  But I will say this--the characters have already pissed me off.  They have this kick-ass club and dark, evil magic at their fingertips and they're worried about getting off?

And then it hit me--we create worlds.  This is what a writer does.  We create worlds and we invite people to try them on.  Readers are like tourists.

I'm a tourist in real life.  I'll admit it.  I float from world to world.  I've done politics, BDSM, culinary, etc, etc.  It's all fun to watch but getting wet feels like settling for something almost as good as what I want.  It's like drinking Old Style and telling yourself that will do until the Chimay Blue turns up.  I don't really belong anywhere.

And I think that's the whole point for a lot of us writers.  It is for me.  I don't belong here and I'm not going to set roots in somebody's world as a way of settling for Second Best.  Almost as good, but not quite.

Nope!  I'm making my own.  The second-hand realities just don't do it for me.  I've tried more times than I care to say.  Every time it's like making a foot conform to the shoe.

Now I know why Conan needed to find his own kingdom.  You can't buy in and hope it fits.  You must create your own if you want to feel comfortable inside of it.

This revelation is helping me add dimensions to a couple of flat stories.  I get it now.  Something was always missing and now I realize I was trying to make the shoe fit the foot.  My characters needed their own rules and not to be shoe-horned into an existing world they didn't even like.

I'm going to go make some words now.  In the meantime, I highly suggest you read NightWhere, because even though I just started it I'm in love in an uneasy sort of way.  But that's part of being a tourist.  A dark, creepy tourist looking for something not in the guidebook.    

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rich, Poor and Broke: Our New Reality

I spent most of the weekend totally pissed off over a litany of grievances, injustices and simply because I can see the world around me.  I'm broke, unrequited love, car problems, emotionally fragile people, the weather, etc, etc.  It goes on and on and never seems to change. 

But as I slide down the bannister of life I found another sliver in my ass--I missed the TransWorld Halloween Attractions Show in St. Louis.  No, I don't run a haunted house or haunted attraction.  And truth be told, I was planning on lying and telling folks I represented the Village of Browntown, Wisconsin and some of the folks who wanted to do a Haunted Walk in town.  While that's not total bullshit, it's enough to add more bad karma to my debt. 

Every year, I dream of attending.  I say, "I'm going to put money aside this time.  I'm going to save up and next year, I'll be ready!  I'll get a hotel room and drive down to enjoy the show.  It's Halloween, I belong there!"  And I justify it by saying that because my birthday is on Halloween and I'm a horror writer, then dammit I should be there. 

And once again, I was too broke to attend.  I won't even be able to make the next one in April down in Texas.  HAuNTcon.  Once again I feel I should be there.  Sure, I hate Texas, but I'd swallow my bitterness to attend. 

This brings me to something that has really bothered me--my lack of money.  I'm not poor.  Poor, to me, is a state of mind.  It is depression and sadness.  A poor person sits in a mud puddle and says nothing while people throw rocks at them.  A poor person has to go outside to pee. 

I'm broke.  Very, very broke.  Not quite flat broke, because I did buy a soda today, and I have some gas money that should get me through the rest of the week.  And I don't live in a trailer. 

But my lack of money makes me wonder about being rich.  Not in an envious sort of way but rather more as a curiosity.  I've been around rich people before.  They make me uncomfortable.  Buying whatever they want, not worrying about paying rent or how they're going to keep their old car running.  That's just creepy! 

No, I wonder what it is like to look at the world with that perspective.  Do they get jealous at all?  Do they know what a knock-off soda pop tastes like?  How would they react if their lights were turned off because they couldn't pay the bill?

I've noticed all my characters are broke, too.  In fact, the pursuit of money seems to drive them.  Not in a greedy sort of way, but that is part of their survival.  We write what we know and I've done all kinds of things to pay bills. 

I'm my 41 years on this crazy rock, I've done a very long list of things.  I've bought and sold everything from cars, trucks, vans, a couple of boats, musical instruments, computers, guns, knives, restaurant equipment, merchandise that has fallen from trucks *cough*, herbal remedies for glaucoma *cough*, all sorts of home medicinal treatments *cough*, objects of dubious ownership *cough* and racially-specific flags and apparel. 

I've worked in radio, wrote for newspapers, was a caretaker at a cemetery (loved that job!) and worked on cars.  I've sold mutual funds and investment instruments, brokered loans and spent years slinging pizzas. 

As a result, my characters tend to take a certain, "I have to live, so I don't care where the money comes from" look on life.  I remember when I worked at a gas station.  It was Ted's Trading Post.  Everybody knew when I worked and came around with deals.  I bought cars, car parts, guns and enough illegal things to fill a police cruiser's trunk.  And it all went right back out the door. 

I once got stuck with a box of dildos.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to move a dozen 12-inch purple gel dongs?  And it's not like you can walk around and randomly show them to people.  You can't see some lady at a grocery store, strike up a conversation and say, "you know, I have something you might be interested in..."

Thankfully, I sold the lot on E-bay.  I love that place! 

I've always wanted to attempt to write a wealthy character.  What would they be afraid of?  The only thing you can take from them is their soul (sometimes, ha ha) or a person they love.  And even then it all gets weird.

Broke people like me tend to hold on to what little they have with iron grips and the knowledge that gaining ground is hard.  And as I think about it, I cannot remember a single wealthy character in any horror book I've read, outside of M.R. James.

Would you even sympathize with a rich character?  I once had a richie give me shit because I needed a new pair of shoes and couldn't afford them. 

I remember the first time I ever saw a servant.  I was in high school and our marching band was doing a parade on July 4th in Lake Bluff, Illinois.  That's where all the rich folks live.  It was insane.  The crowd was raucous and young turks dressed in various elephant-themed novelties would run up to hit our drums with their knuckles.  I had some guy wearing nothing but a pair of speedos and sunglasses with elephant ears and nose rock out drunkenly while I marched by with my bass drum.  And old people sat on their lawns in the ugliest golf clothes I'd ever seen while black servants in uniforms served them hors d'oeuvres off silver platters.  It scarred me for life. 

And I swore I'd never be like that no matter how much money I had.  In a way, I'm proud of the fact that I've been in junk yards in bitter sub-zero weather searching for a part for my car because I couldn't afford a new one.  Or that I've worked on my car until 3 o'clock in the morning just so I could get to work the next day. 

I also swore I'd never write characters that were the cliche Poor White Trash.  I can't stand how they are portrayed.  Yet many of my characters are just as broke, just as unemployed, and just as cantankerous.  Which always makes me wonder if I even could be a rich person.  Would it be so uncomfortable that I would instantly have to do something self-destructive just to cope? 

I need to figure this one out.  Somebody is going to have send me a million dollars or so for the purposes of research.  I'm sure it'll be a tax write-off or something.  Lemme know, okay?  Social research is important.  We'll make a reality TV show about it.  We'll call it, "Broke and Fixed."  Somebody call the Discovery Channel, we have their next hit!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Insania Sicut Tropum/Literary Misuse of Mental Illness

I never intended this blog to be about me.  No, this wasn't ever supposed to be a daily ledger of How Ted's Feeling.  Why not?  I'll get to that later.  But for now, I'll say I always wanted this to be something of value to writers and lovers of horror. 

But experience is always powerful and makes for better writing. 

I'm a huge fan of Tom Piccirilli.  His novel A Choir of Ill Children is perhaps one of the most hypnotic works to come out in recent years.  The voice is so beautiful that it slides us through the horror being described.  But for me, something he wrote that stands out currently, is his novella Every Shallow Cut.  It's gut-punch writing where we tag along as the character drifts out of sanity.  Tom makes this character believable and sympathetic, which is hard to do when dealing with breaks from reality. 

This is something that bothers me about fiction.  Not many describe it very well and sort of mumble through it.  I've always hoped I could add something to the genre and I guess this might be it.  

Breaks from reality, psychosis, do not simply happen.  It's not as if the person is walking down the street, sees something bad, and suddenly forgets who they are.  Nope! 

I'm rapidly approaching the 19th anniversary of my dad's suicide.  March 30.  This was not a sudden event that took everybody by surprise.  In fact, for almost a year it seemed like a fate chiseled in hard stone, and inescapable. 

My dad was going to die.  The booze won.

Looking back on it, nobody was really shocked, just disappointed.  Sure, his side of the family was living in such denial that it was a massive blow to them, one they never recovered from.  But for those of us who lived with him and everybody who knew him, there was a large marching band leading him towards this end, and we all saw it.

I stopped thinking about it in terms of retrospect because it always brings about feelings of guilt.  Why didn't I stop it?  If I'm so damned smart and everything was so clear, why didn't I intervene?  Why did I allow him to die? 

The answers are awful, as simple answers tend to be.  I was in my own Hell at the time and incapable of helping.  Just a few months previous I had an extreme and prolonged disassociation event.  In simple terms--I was no longer living in your reality and had created my own for an extended period of time. 

I'm not going to go into the horrid details of this.  Those are mine to keep.  But I will share a few lessons because I've grown tired of the over-use of "insanity" and other various tropes.  Or my personal favorite, "living on the edge." 

Bubba, you don't know what the edge really looks like.  Let me draw you a picture. 

First, it is very true that if you are not sane you don't realize it.  I thought everything was just fine.  In fact, better than fine, I was the happiest I'd ever been.  Stephen King's novel The Dead Zone had a psychic MC connect with somebody's clothing who was slipping away.  He described it as touching a pit of writhing snakes or some shit like that. 


When you break with reality, your brain does something really weird--it releases chemicals that create happiness.  That is the whole point of breaking with reality.  Reality sucks, construct something new and make it a happy place.  I was thrilled!  It felt like I had just discovered what happiness was and for the first time in my life I walked around with a smile on my face.  I felt great.  I laughed and joked, listened to happy music and saw the beauty in the world around me. 

I have a good brain.  Sure, it might not function all that well, but it has good intentions.  It created the happiest place it could for me. 

Second, you isolate.  This is the other part of break from reality.  I've always been a reclusive type of person.  Even at a very early age I spent most of my time alone and inside my own head.  My dad used to make fun of me for it.  At first he said it was because nobody wanted me around.  Then he tried to bait me by saying the reason I didn't have any girlfriends was because I was gay and didn't like women.  My mom cut that one short because she was constantly snooping around my bedroom and found the magazines every 15 year-old boy has.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have filled those searched areas with all kinds of the craziest stuff I could find.  Let her stumble upon that! 
So yes, you isolate yourself from the outside world.  I liken it to an animal going into a cave or crawling under a porch to die.  Because you are indeed dying.  You don't realize it, but the end is coming.  It's like the brain is creating this special shield around you so when you do smack into that brick wall at Mach 1 it feels like walking into a warm hug. 

Just a few months before all this mess went into high gear I had been recruited into an extreme political group by a government COINTELPRO operative on campus.  The day he got me drunk and told me I was a "Good American" I was His and would do anything he said.  Nobody had ever told me I was good at anything and certainly not a person of value or worth.  I had always figured something was intrinsically wrong with me.  And here a man I respected was complimenting me for my character and who I was! 

A few months later, when I broke away, it felt the same way.  I had purpose and I was a good person again.  It didn't matter how many rules of logic were broken.  It didn't matter if the known universe was contrary to what I saw, felt and heard.  I was happy. 

No, when you are gone from the mutually-agreed upon reality, life is good.  But like the cliche catch-phrase goes, it's not the fall that kills you--it's the landing. 

The best way to describe what it feels like to come out of that break and realize that the past few months were not real is to say that it is the most horrific thing I have ever experienced.  That moment when the lights come on and you have that first moment of clarity hurts emotionally and physically.  The physical part is something that never gets addressed.  My brain felt physically different. 

If you can imagine, I could actually feel my brain inside my skull, and it shifted.  It felt like ants had crawled inside my brain pan and pushed things around.  And afterwards, things looked, smelled and tasted different.  Yellows were more vibrant and edges were harder and better defined. 

But the emotional toll was worse.  My spirit was crushed into powder.  I was fractured into a thousand pieces.  The realization that everything had been a lie and the grim reality I had escaped was not only still there but just as bad as I had feared destroyed me.  The best way to describe it is to say I felt like I had died and my soul was gone.  I was a corpse still alive and couldn't figure out why.  I felt forsaken by God and left behind to suffer deathless life.  I couldn't go near a church without breaking down because I thought God was pissed at me.  And I felt so sorry and ashamed for what I had done and become.

These things always seem to be so religious!  Time and again, when talking with others who have had similar things happen, religion and spirituality comes into it somehow.  I think that's because while our brains are splintered off, each piece is scrambling to stay afloat.  One piece takes charge of sounds, while another piece creates a religious storyline.  I always imagined them looking like mini star ships with a crew.  The captain was shouting orders while the crew on the bridge was thrown from side to side as klaxon horns sounded. 

There is a fail-safe deeply rooted in all life that screams out to stay alive despite the horrors around us.   I think that's why I'm still here.

I spent years putting my head back together.  Dad's suicide didn't help much.  But I did it. 

Sort of.  Kinda. 

I'll admit, my head has duct tape on it in a few places.  Some shit just can't be fixed.  You never really recover from those breaks.  There is always a piece missing and you never honestly trust what you see or hear for a very long time.  Everything is suspect.  And when you are in the company of normal people you feel flawed and unnatural.  It's like people see you and know instantly just how far gone you are so they keep wary. 

I didn't really believe I was even a human being for many years before and after this.  I felt like something less-than, beneath the rest of you, subhuman. 

Recently, I've been working on my own gut-punch novella.  I'm using Every Shallow Cut as inspiration.  My character is going to eventually do some bad things and I want to be very careful about how he does it.  I don't want to use insanity as a trope.  It has become duct-tape in the fiction world and especially in the horror genre.  It's important for me this novella is, above all, honest.  I'm striving for more honesty in my writing. 

The other day somebody e-mailed me that folks were worried about me.  It was the third person to contact with me concerns for my well-being.  And my first reaction was to tell them I feel fine. 

Wait a minute...

Now I'm having to re-trace steps and go through all of those self-diagnostics I've learned to do just to make sure I'm still functioning under nominal parameters.  And I guess that is the ultimate lesson in all of this.  You are never fixed.  You are damaged goods and everybody can see it.  It is impossible to hold it all together for an extended period of time and every so often things will begin to fall apart. 

I feel fine.  I'm not overtly happy, but I'm not planning on eating a gun, like Dad.  Reality shifts sometimes.  I know it's perception, but I've learned to accept that.  It's been 20 years and I've gotten used to this reality.  Besides, all the characters, real and imagined know me here and we get along just fine. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Review of Ink by Damien Walters Grintalis

By: Damien Walters Grintalis
Type: Paperback
Genre: Horror
Artist: Scott Carpenter
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Publication Date: 12-04-2012
Length: 312 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-61921-072-1

I was thrilled to find Damien Grintalis was finally getting a novel published as I had read numerous short stories published by her over the recent years.  In this debut novel, her voice really does come through, and it leaves one with a feeling that they've just read what a horror novel is supposed to be. 

Not that this is a conventional novel or story, but that she builds the mood at the right pace--something that seems to lack in a number of novels.  And by the time you realize what is happening, you're emotionally invested in the characters so you'll have to turn the page.  The mood-building and atmosphere reminds me a bit of M.R. James and how the characters find themselves strapped in for the long-haul. 

All told, this was very well executed. 

Something else that needs to be said about Ink:  There is a certain purity about it I appreciate.  All too often I've read novels where the writer wants to tell me about how they voted, or what they think about the environment, or some labor issue.  It's always thinly veiled as if spoken by their characters, but always comes off as a preachy sermon.  Okay, we get it--you have the same opinions as 99% of the writers out there and 80% of your readers.  Fine.  Can we please move the damn story along?  I've gotten tired of it, honestly.  Somebody needs to get the message out that this might have been "brave" in the 60's and 70's but if everybody does it, it becomes mindless.  Thankfully, Ms. Grintalis keeps this story on-target. 

This is a good read and I recommend it to everyone. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wisconsin Rules! Fuck Your State!

My name is G. Ted Theewen and I'm a proud Regionalist and State Supremacist!

Wisconsin Pride, State Wide!

I've noticed that just about everything I've written has taken place in Wisconsin.  Unless, of course, you include that zombie novel.  That took place in Rockford because I really hate that city and thought a dystopian future suited such a manure pit.  Nothing made me happier than to have a bunch of oozing, puss-dripping people mope around in a city commonly called Crackford. 

Sure, I was born and raised in Illinois but it never felt right.  Illinois is a confusing place.  Chicago is full of aggressive, angry people who want to be New Englanders without the high taxes.  They're snooty and arrogant.  They look down at at the rest of the state. 

Except for those goofy assholes in Galena.  General Grant was born there and I can understand his tendencies towards drunken brawling.  Galena would be a pain in the ass to live in if you had to rely on horses.  I hate driving up and down those hills.  Walking?  Forget about it! 

Wisconsin is full of genuine people.  It's beautiful country with excellent lakes and streams.  And the beer is bloody awesome.  I dare anybody to drink New Glarus Brewery's Spotted Cow and not want to dive into a vat of it.  Of course, they don't export out of the state, because it's too good for most of you non-Wisconsin pukes.

I laughed evilly as I wrote that last sentence.  I really did.  And my friends in Wisconsin also laughed as they read it.  Not because it was funny, but because they hate you too.

Wisconsin is clean.  Sure, half the state has been clear-cut at one point and most of the Native tribes are either living off casino money or have to rely on Wikipedia to find out their heritage, but that's not important.

We're more awesomer than you!

I live in a state where a man was caught by Conservation Officers having sex with a dead deer--and they left him alone to do it.  Damned right!  He was legal to hunt it, shoot it and have sex with it afterwards.  None of your uppity moral laws for us, god dammit!

In the movie 2012 we were the last state left standing after the End of the World.  That's right, Bubba--even the apocalypse can't take us out. 

Who is better than us?  Iowa?  They might be the future birthplace of Capt. Kirk, but we have Tookie Wartooth and Dethklok has already outsold William Shatner's and Leonard Nimoy's records combined.

And my former prison, Illinois?  Between the corrupt state cops and their pathological need to lie about everything and the spendthrift government, they have nothing to brag about.  Lincoln?  He's long dead and never went back to Illinois once he left.  Oh, and fewer of Wisconsin's governors have been to prison.

Joe R. Lansdale writes about his native East Texas.  Good, he should.  Texans are silly and fun to write about.  Between H. B. Fox and Mr. Lansdale, I know I never want to go to Texas--ever.  Texan men are pissier than drag queens with a broken heel.  You cannot talk sense with a Texan.  He'll say something stupid, like, "the sun rises in the west and sets in the east."  Now of course, we all know that's wrong, but he doesn't.  And even if you take him outside to show him, he'll still keep arguing the point, until he gets butthurt and stomps off.  I'll avoid Texas unless I'm going to Mexico for some um...well, I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason to go to Mexico but I just can't think of one right now.

Stephen King is famous for writing about Maine.  I didn't even know they were a state until I discovered him in 5th grade.  I always figured Maine was some kind of island that belonged to Canada or was part of the country of Newfoundland.  Seriously.  Has anybody ever met a person from Maine?  I haven't.  I met a Newfie once, though.  Couldn't understand a fucking word he said.  It was like he had a broken jaw and his mouth was full of Saltine crackers.  I've met Cuban boat people who could speak better English.  

And I thank the gods we're not Massholes or Connectcunts.  I've never heard so many people go on and on about how badly they want to be kicked in the face.  Every time I talk to a somebody from one of those states I always imagine a person from a Faulkner novel or short story.  Some old, miserable and partially inbred jerk from a once-proud family living in a derelict house and surrounded by decay.  They want you to respect them but every time they speak the words get clouded by their attitude and it comes out, "kick me in the face, kick me in the face.  Grr, I'm angry and miserable that I can't pronounce the letter 'R' so I'm going to give you attitude."

And at least we're not Minnesotans.  I know some folks who do great impressions of people from Minnesota.  First, you stick something up your backside and clench on it as hard as you can, as if you can make it into a diamond.  Then, you remind yourself of how every one of your professional and college sports teams totally suck ass.  Finally, you realize most of your popular elected officials are little more than circus clowns and you're ready to be a Minnesotan.

Or Ohio.  Let's just leave it that, okay?   I'm sure their envy of Michigan is partially to blame.  Cleveland or Detroit?  Flip a coin and if it lands in shit, you live in either state.  And I just can't seem to respect a state that allows itself to be the dumping ground for Pennsylvania's rejects. 

So yes, I write about Wisconsin.  Glorious, beautiful, majestic Wisconsin.  Land of the best beer and cheese in the world.  Land of great lakes, smart kids and quirky old men who tell surreal jokes that don't offend anybody.  Wisconsin is the land of Sven and Ole, two Norwegians who always seem to get themselves into funny situations.  Birthplace of Georgia O'Keefe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Willem Defoe!

What do Vallentin Blatz, Frederick Pabst and Joseph Schlitz all have in common?  Born in Wisconsin, baby!

Ed Gein set the trend for hundreds like him right here in The Dairy State.  

Hail Wisconsin!  Our state can out-drink your state, our women are better deer hunters than most men, and our teachers are paid like New York Yankees.

Cheese Power!  Cheese Power!  Cheese Power! 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Nature of Humanity

About two months ago I had a maddening conversation with a woman on Twitter about rape.  Her name was #itsmotherswork and it all started with her posting that women shouldn't have to change how they dress to avoid being raped.  Another woman, Melissa BV, was also part of the head-spinning conversation.  I believe it all started with a news article and some official making a comment that women should be careful not to make themselves an easy target.  Itsmotherswork and Melissa BV commented that such statements were insulting. 

They were getting angry because I simply could not understand their point for the life of me.  I tried, too.  I wasn't trolling them.  I wanted to understand what they said.  I wanted to know why they had the opinions they did.  It was like we were telling each other, "the pen is blue," but neither of us understood the sentence.  We heard the words but the meanings were all different. 

"The pen is blue." 

"No, the pen is blue, not blue." 

"Look, the pen is blue.  You keep saying it's blue but the pen is blue." 

It went on and on.  Normally such a miscommunication is comedic but the subject was rape.  And that's only funny if you're raping a clown.  It's hilarious because they make these faces and toot that little horn... 

My whole point was anything that stops a crime is good.  Her point was that it encouraged rapists to move on to the next victim and that was unacceptable. 

And just as I finally understood why she and I were totally misunderstanding each other she blew me off as a troll and said, "Please don't rape anybody."  Then she stopped talking to me. 

But I get it.  After years of wondering why I never understood certain groups of people and why they always looked at me like I was insane, I finally understand, because I had a Moment of Revelation.  It was brilliant and it had been so long since the last one I'd forgotten what they were like. 

Itsmotherswork and Melissa BV's opinions, as they presented them, were that rape was a cultural problem, not a criminal one, and if social and cultural climates were changed rape would stop.  Based on what they said to me, rape was something allowed socially, and these men could be re-educated to understand their behavior was bad. 

My opinion could be summed up simply.  Humanity is shit and most people will do bad things if they know they can get away with it.  If you make it easy for them, they'll do it.  If you make it hard for them, they'll move on to the next easy target.  But they will always find a victim and they will always do evil acts upon others.  It is in their nature to rape, pillage, burn, steal and destroy.  No social rules will prevent this.  No amount of laws will stop it. 

I believe humanity is a crap.  The only reason any of us do anything nice at all is because of social, religious or legal pressures.  Those pressures were designed to protect ourselves--a social truce--from each other.  Or we do something nice in hopes of getting back later on. 

Fear of going to hell, bad karma or social ostracizing keeps us in line.  Nobody wants to go to prison, or live alone. 

Look around you.  Nobody likes to follow laws.  Nobody actually avoids trouble for any kind of moral reason.  The only reason any of our accomplishments have been achieved can be traced back to the 7 Deadly Sins.  Inventions come from greed and sloth and music from pride and lust.  Our entire way of supporting ourselves is based on greed, gluttony, and envy.

Humanity is a two-legged parasite infesting a planet.  We do completely illogical things.  I'm a telemarketer who sells people crap they don't want or need so I can buy food that's unhealthy for me and live in an apartment surrounded by weirdos.  And if I call somebody a weirdo, you can take that to the bank. 

Humanity is the Destroyer of All.  We are Bringers of Death.  Nothing good comes from us showing up in your neighborhood.  Those alien space craft we keep seeing aren't explorers--they are game wardens keeping us from getting off the reservation and polluting the rest of the galaxy.  I can only imagine how they feel it's a shit job and their mothers are very disappointed in them. 

"And what do you do, these days?" 

"I work with humans." 

"Oh, dear.  Medical school didn't pan out?" 

"No.  But this job is okay.  I mean, I get paid and everything." 

"But humans?"

"I know.  Don't tell Uncle Gleep, okay?  He really wanted me to sell insurance with him." 

It's unfortunate there is no God because the apocolypse is really a great idea. Humanity is disgusting and the only reason I wake up in the morning is from morbid curiosity.  Every day I get to see a train wreck.  Then I write about it. 

Most writers are romantic about human beings.  They write grandiose characters with good intentions and deep moral foundations. 

Not me.  I write people as they really are--greedy, violent, opportunistic and mean.  I have reality to back me up on this, too.  What do you have?  A bunch of violated people deluding themselves into following social rules invented by predators while they circle the pack and pick you off one by one.  That's what you have--victims.  Yummy, yummy victims. 

Welcome to Earth, enter at your own risk.  And remember to please flush.