Category Archives: My world


Yeah, I know. Haven’t got much writing accomplished since August. We traded Anthony for Trump and I guess it’s fair to say that confluence left me in quite a stupor. But it’s a New Year, and I’m back now. At least one book out this year, maybe two – each written from a place of fear and anger so I guess whichever topic pisses me off the most gets their story finished first. LOL

2017. Let’s dance, and not get vaporized.


Hope you watched Rogue One.

Happy Birthday, Mr. King!

Today is Stephen King’s birthday. It’s hard to overstate his influence on publishing and popular culture; if you grew up in the ’80s, his work was all around you. A new book was an event. Seemed like there was a movie or TV adaptation every few months.
I read his work for the first time when I was in 2nd grade – a few short stories from NIGHT SHIFT. The Bogeyman” really left a mark, and “The Mangler,”  and “The Lawnmower Man,” which was a great title and absolutely nothing like the garbage movie that took its name.

Every now and then this subject comes up, and I’ll tell somebody I was that young when I got introduced to the writing of Stephen King, and they’ll look at me like I just told them I used to murder dogs and cats for fun. I think that’s such a weird reaction. It’s just bizarre to me that people think any work of fiction could be “too scary” for kids. I mean, it’s fiction.

After that, I read PET SEMATARY. I was surely too young to grasp a lot of what the book was really about, but on a purely primal level, it scared the absolute shit out of me, in particular the part about Timmy Baterman, killed in WWII then resurrected by his father in the pet cemetery, and also poor Zelda, the ill sister of the protagonist’s wife who wasted away in her bedroom. Those two sections stick with me to this day. They still send a chill up the back of my neck, just thinking about them.

From there I went on to THE STAND, and CHRISTINE, and FIRESTARTER. By the time EYES OF THE DRAGON came out in my 6th grade year, I had caught up on all the novels to that point and I stayed caught up for a few years (except for THE TOMMYKNOCKERS, which I haven’t read to this day, though not for any particular reason). After NEEDFUL THINGS came out, I just kind of stopped. Again, not for any particular reason. But I just stopped, and I didn’t really pick back up until 2008, by which time I was behind a ton. The man is prolific to an amazing degree.

His books scared me, but they didn’t scar me. I don’t think he’s the best writer of our time but I do think he’s the most significant and I know he’s the reason I got started. There’s a whole hell of a lot of writers that would tell you the same if they were being honest – that he’s the reason they got started.

I started reading Stephen King when I was 7 or 8 years old. I didn’t go crazy. I didn’t grow up to be a serial killer. I didn’t turn out anything other than just fine. And that, probably more than anything, is why I think kids ought to read whatever they want, ask questions, and figure it all out from there. A little intellectual curiosity never hurt anybody and it’s a damn shame too many people don’t encourage more of it.

A few words that don’t really express what I am thinking right now.

Anthony and Chelsea

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”

Just a little meme floating in a sea of a thousand other memes across my Facebook feed, but it caught my eye and I’ve thought about it every day since then. I realize it’s not exactly a novel concept, but I like the way it’s worded.


A couple of weekends ago, we were at a friend’s house in Stanton. Anthony and I were talking about growing older, one of our favorite topics. (For the record, I do not consider us old at all.) He had buried his beloved dog earlier that day – Lobo was either 18 or 19, Anthony wasn’t completely sure – and I think he was just feeling a little philosophical at that moment, which was certainly understandable.

Everything was pretty good, we agreed. Life is probably never all you want, but still, not bad at all.

After a little while we hit a lull in the conversation. I could tell he had something on his mind. “You know,” he said quietly, “we’re at that age now where people are going to start droppin’ around us.” We laughed. Of course we laughed. We had talked about this before, about realizing that middle age is not hard because you start realizing you’re getting old, it’s hard because you start losing things around you that you’ve known your entire life, and as the losses mount, they take a hellacious toll on your psyche. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, mentors. Rock stars, movie stars, professional wrestlers. All the special markers in your life that you thought would always be with you and then one by one, they aren’t. They just aren’t. Little assaults on your immortality: Ms. Howell your sixth-grade English teacher, then Robin Williams, then Prince.  Then your dog. Before long it’s all your aunts and uncles and somewhere in there, your parents, and then everybody that helped raise you is gone. And that’s when the generational torch is truly passed and it’s just you and your friends sitting around the card table, growing old together, looking to pass the torch yourselves.

At some point in there I told Anthony about the quote I had read on Facebook. “The trouble is, you think you have time.”

I asked if he’d seen it, since it had been shared by a mutual friend. He didn’t think he had. I looked it up, I said. It was attributed to Fake Buddha, whatever that means. It’s still a good quote, he said. Mmmm-hmmm.

I don’t remember who else was there when we were talking. Maybe my wife, Leslie. I’m not sure I have related that conversation to anybody before now but it hasn’t been far from my mind since Sunday morning, when I got the ol’ one-two taint punch that Anthony was gone.

Man, it was hard to write that just now.

It might take both hands for me to count all the friends I have today that I have known as long as Anthony Gabbard, but I don’t need one finger to count the number of friends that I have loved more.


I’ll just be honest, I’m not 100% sure on the cause of death because when the coroner called Ramona (Anthony’s wife) with the autopsy results, my mind was somewhere else. We were at the funeral home and after she hung up the phone, she announced, “That was the coroner. Anthony had an enlarged heart…” but then for me, everything just kind of faded into noise. A couple of people have asked me what happened since then and that’s all I’ve been able to tell them. He had an enlarged heart.

That’s been happening to me a lot lately, losing track of my surroundings. Is that common in stressful times like this? Probably so. Everything starts off clear but then quickly just kind of fades into noise. I have been in a roomful of people for most of the last few days, with lots of conversations going on at once, but at some point I always lose track of what we’re talking about and fall back into my own thoughts. There have been a lot of times where I’ve found myself staring off into space, thinking about some memory or another and feeling tears in my eyes, then I’ll snap back into the moment and realize that somebody is sitting there, watching me. I’m sure it’s awkward. I’m really sorry.

It’s only when I’m one on one with my wife, or Brinton, or Cory, that I can think straight and have a coherent conversation. At least I think it’s coherent — they might tell you otherwise.

I’ve also noticed that right now, I can’t recall a lot of little stuff. I’m sure it’s only temporary but it’s still strange to me. For example: just a bit ago, I was writing about Anthony’s dog but it took me a good four or five minutes to remember his name was Lobo. I’ve known that dog as long as Anthony has, could see him as clear as anything, but I couldn’t remember his name to save my life. Or, yesterday I needed to forward an e-mail to somebody at work and couldn’t remember their name, either.

Another thing: I keep asking everybody what day it is. Not so much because I can’t remember but because I forget that I just asked them the same thing an hour ago. I’ll say, “Is today Monday?” and then it will occur to me, I just asked that question. It’s still Monday. Besides, I am well aware of what day it is, anyway. I don’t even know why I asked in the first place. Maybe I just like to hear words come out of my mouth because the act of talking keeps my mind busy.

So yeah, I am pretty much in a fog still. I’m sorry if that’s awkward but it’s kind of the way it is right now. Today is a little better than yesterday, though.


For a long time, it’s been me, Brinton, and Anthony. Wives, kids, dogs, whatever. But me, Brinton, and Anthony.

OK, I don’t really know what else I can say about that right now.

Wait, how about this: we’ve had an off and on discussion for a few years now. If there are a finite amount of genes in the human body, does that mean that on an infinite timeline, eventually the same combination will hit again and there will be another someone exactly like you? What do you think? Discuss amongst yourselves.


Anthony Gabbard knew everything. I’m sure he wouldn’t disagree.

For years now, if I needed help with something no matter how random or off the wall, I would call him and he would have the answer. “When is the best time to plant grass?” “How much will it cost to finish my basement?” “What kind of poker table should I get?” “What’s the best way to put up a backsplash?” “What’s wrong with this lawnmower?” “What kind of computer do I need?” “Where is the best place to buy steaks?” “Do you know how to replace a lower radiator hose?” Whatever.

As you might surmise from the questions above, I am not the handiest of handymen. For all I know, he made most of his answers up. But, I can tell you, I did take his advice a lot and most of the time it worked out for me. So there’s that.

Google is fine but it means more when it comes from someone you trust. Remember that.


Very private moment here. Probably too much information but I’m going to share it anyway, because what the hell?

After we left the hospital Sunday we all went back to Anthony and Ramona’s house. We were there maybe ten hours, but eventually left around midnight. At least I think it was around midnight.

Our house is in Lexington, about forty minutes away. Leslie drove. I expected I would have some major trouble going to sleep but I guess I was just so mentally out of it that I went down pretty quickly right after we got home (had another good cry first, though).

It wasn’t exactly a comfortable sleep, I can say. Not surprisingly, I dreamed about Anthony. Of all the damned things, I dreamed Anthony found out he had cancer. We were standing on his porch talking, then he just walked away. Went out to his truck, climbed behind the wheel, then pulled out a gun and shot himself.

When I woke up, I think it was the single lowest moment I have had in all of this. So far, anyway. Because the first thought I had was, yep, he’s still dead. Goddammit.

Then yesterday, after we went to the funeral home with Ramona and Anthony’s dad and stepmother, Brinton and I went to get something to eat. He told me that the night before, he’d also dreamed about Anthony. I doubt that surprises you, either – like I said, it was always Anthony and Brinton and me.

He said there was a guy standing in his yard, and he looked like Anthony, except Brinton knew it couldn’t possibly be Anthony really, because Anthony was dead. “You’re not Anthony!” he said to the man in his yard. “What are you doing here?” The man wouldn’t answer. Just kept standing there, looking at Brinton. Brinton kept yelling at him, “You’re not Anthony!” until finally, after some long undetermined amount of time, the guy in the yard shrugged his shoulders and said, “Yeah, you’re right. I’m not Anthony. I’m from the government.” Then he walked away.

In honor of Anthony, I would like to think that the government man in Brinton’s yard was absolutely not a Republican.

And now you know what we dreamed about the night he died.


Speaking of the funeral home. This was the first time I have ever been present for a funeral arrangement. I wasn’t there to make any decisions, just to lend support, but still I had never seen the process until now. I have been very lucky (“lucky”) in that, I suppose.

It’s such a weird deal. What color coffin? Where is the grave site? Do you want silver or gold handles? What color for the lining? Blue? What shade of blue? I know it’s just part of it and I have to say, the funeral directors were incredibly nice and outstanding professionals, and I would recommend them to anybody.

I guess it’s my own defense mechanisms kicking in, but in that moment I kept thinking about that scene at the end of The Big Lebowski where Walter and the Dude go to pick up Donnie’s ashes. Just because we’re bereaved, that doesn’t make us saps!  Inappropriate? Yes? Funny? Yes. I know Anthony would appreciate that.


I could write about this all day and all night. I know I will write and talk more in the coming days, about Anthony and our time together, but I wanted to start getting it out of my system. I have been so glad to see the outpouring of love for him and Ramona in the last few days, all the tributes people have written. He touched a lot of lives and brought a lot of people together.

I still can’t believe it. I don’t know that I will ever believe it. It will get easier to handle but right now I just kind of feel like, okay, what the hell do we do now?

I was tracking back through the memories and it seems like the earliest specific memory I have of Gabbard is from sixth grade. I knew him for a few months prior to this, but this is the first real story I have about our friendship. Me, him, Brinton, and Daylan Kinser all got in trouble at school for gambling, for what the old-timers called “flipping quarters.” Now this is ironic as hell because we have been gamblers for a very long time and were in fact gamblers even in sixth grade, but in that moment, when Principal Billy Rose came over and jumped down our throats for flipping quarters, we weren’t gambling at all. We were flipping coins to determine outcomes for a way scaled-down version of Dungeons & Dragons that Anthony and Brinton were making up. We still laugh about that to this day.




A last couple of things – here is a good remembrance of Anthony Gabbard, by our longtime friend Kevin Hall. And if you would like to contribute something to his family, please do so by clicking here.

a tribute

In the last few hours, I’ve read several posts about Bobby Coffey and the impact he had on my hometown. Today is tinged with sadness, but it’s also a day for  fond memories.

Here’s a little something about Bobby Coffey, the Movie Place, and the escape I found in that video store when I was a kid growing up in rural Kentucky. It’s about as thinly-veiled fiction as I can probably get by with – we might as well call it “fiction” — and I enjoyed the absolute shit out of writing it. And living it, too.

I just want to say, thank you.

*   *   *   *   *

The end actually began at the Movie Place.

Before I get into all of this, let me explain the importance of videotape during my most formative years.

As I’ve made plain, me and Jasper watched a ton of movies, considered them among the thicker fibers of our being. Most of those movies, we watched on videotape. End of story. There was a drive-in movie theater in Sewardville, at the other end of the county. The Mountain View Drive-in Theater. We’d get out there a few times a year for a double-bill of new releases, especially if they were playing on the main screen. (The second screen was mostly the domain of lesser releases, Burt Reynolds and Rodney Dangerfield vehicles that didn’t do much for us at all.) Suck down a couple buckets of hot buttered popcorn, a gallon of Coca-Cola each, maybe even a pepperoni and sausage pizza if we were extra hungry.

Cable and satellite TV weren’t widespread in those days, but we’d catch whatever science fiction film happened across the networks. Mostly Star Wars and Star Trek, or the occasional kid flick like The Neverending Story or The Dark Crystal. In the early eighties, ABC showed a few horror movies as part of their “Sunday Night Movie,” series – that was the first place I ever saw Alligator, Jaws 2, and Alien – but by the end of the decade, the only place you could find any horror was after midnight on the local channels, where they’d show scary stuff just because they figured the only people watching that late were those looking for a little bit of a creep up the back of their necks.  I saw Friday the 13th Part 3 and Wolfen that way, along with some obscure Italian zombie movies.

But for the most part, our movie viewing took place via the magic of half-inch VHS tape.

Being that this was the 1980s, video rental stores were at the unquestioned apex of their Golden Age. Seemed like when Mom took me to Lexington, you couldn’t travel a half mile without passing one, with its windows full of fading movie posters that were framed by light bulbs in a particular way meant to remind folks of movie theater displays, even though it always seemed to me that they never looked like anything other than video store displays. I gave them credit for trying.

Our little town of Whistle Mill might not have had much, but in those days, through some manner of odd magic, we somehow were blessed with two video rental stores to call our own. (Sewardville could only claim one. Ha!) One of the stores was actually just a section in the front of the I.G.A., next to the cigarette counter. The pickings were .slim there: one copy each of all the new releases and a few holdover action movies that maintained popularity with the local clientele. (Chuck Norris movies like Invasion U.S.A. and Code of Silence were particular favorites.) I couldn’t put up much of a fight if you allowed that wasn’t a real store, just a few shelves with movie boxes stacked on them. But at least it was something.

Yet the I.G.A.’s best efforts were no match for the Movie Place.

The Movie Place, indeed. Folks who concerned themselves with such things universally agreed that in Whistle Mill, Kentucky the Movie Place was the store in town for video rentals. Let me tell you what, that little shop was bona fide – they may not have had the same light-up poster frames as the bigger, fancier stores up in Lexington, but they had more than enough legit movie goods to make up for it. At the Movie Place, they loved the product as much as the customers did. You could tell that as soon as you walked through the door.

Fresh popcorn steamed in a glass case on the front counter. If you wanted, you could get a handful and watch a few minutes of whatever was playing on nearby big-screen TV. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian. The walls were real wood, and the drywall ceiling sloped down at the sides to just a couple feet above an average heighted human’s head, The lack of overhead space lent the room a boxed-in sort of feeling that some people might have found uncomfortable, but I loved. Movie posters covered every square inch of wall and ceiling from the baseboards to the room’s apex. The triple threat aromas of popcorn butter, poster paper, and treated wood lingered together in the nostrils, welcome and sweet, the way I imagined fine wine lingered on the palates of ancient Romans.

The store’s owner – a slight, good humored man named Bobby – was smart about how he arranged their posters in a way that reflected the movie sections underneath. NEW RELEASES and DRAMA up front, COMEDY in the middle of the store, all the way back to ACTION and SCIENCE FICTION and HORROR. (These last three sections were the three ones where I pretty much stayed on my visits.) Some of the posters overlapped, but not so much that one title obscured any other; all were treated with respect. I appreciated that. A lot of video stores slung their posters on the wall like dirty towels, not giving two shits where they landed or what happened to them after they got there. Not the Movie Place – every one of theirs was free of rips and wrinkles, and perfectly flat as if ironed like a dress shirt on Easter Sunday. I’m telling you, those posters were so clean you could admire your bangs in their paper reflections if you wanted, and I saw more than one middle school-aged girl doing just that.

I found it interesting, too, how legitimate cinema classics rubbed elbows with the decidedly less legitimate and less classic direct-to-video cheesefests that dominated shops of the era. Alien, The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan hung adjacent to Trancers and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn in SCIENCE FICTION, while a few feet down the wall in HORROR, one-sheets announcing The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby and Black Sunday hung right beside the displays for Aliens Deadly Spawn, Blood Beach, and The Dorm that Dripped Blood.

Every weekend, I walked those wine-colored industrial carpet aisles, searching for VHS magic among row after row of video boxes. I was such a regular that I memorized the order of the titles on the shelves from the front door to the far corner. If they dropped a new one in, I simply slid it into my catalog and went on. If they got rid of one title or another… actually, it seemed like they never did got rid of anything. Another reason I loved the Movie Place.

Most Friday nights, Mom would take me down there, in the days before me and Jasper could drive ourselves. I rarely had to ask – it just got to the point where she penciled it in as a regularly scheduled stop. We’d arrive and Bobby (I didn’t know his last name then and still don’t to this day) would have a stack of two or three movies waiting at the front counter. He’d pick them from his latest arrivals, knowing the type of movies that I preferred. Usually, he picked well; I’d take his selections off the counter, then start my tour through the shelves and add a couple more. Then we’d head home, I’d watch them all night, and come back the next Saturday for more.

That Friday night – the night that I started along a path to almost being murdered – started out like any other Friday night. Me and Jasper planned to drop by the Seward County Fair the next day for a few spins on what we felt must be the world’s most rickety – and therefore exciting – carnie rides: the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Scrambler, and the Kick Booty. (I bring them up now because they play an important role in this story and I just figured it’d be good to go ahead and plant that seed in your brain.) He’d stay at my house the night before, we’d take in a few horror movies, then go to the Fair the next morning before the lines started getting too thick.

On our way to pick up Jasper, Mom stopped at the Movie Place. Bobby had the usual stack of new movies waiting. But as I stepped forward to take them off his hands, I noticed something didn’t seem right. Bobby looked a little green around the girls.

Before I could say anything myself, Mom asked, “Something wrong, Bobby?”

He nodded, slowly, and his mouth soon opened into a broad beam that turned his eyes into playful slits. His thin, friendly face was topped off by a thick mop of prematurely gray hair but that impish grin made him look always young. I’d seen that sunny expression a lot, including a lot of times when even as a kid I knew it was covering a snide comment about something Bobby didn’t feel like bringing out into the open. This was one of those times, though I didn’t yet know what had set the torch to his

Friday evening.

Mom raised an eyebrow, not sure what was going on, either. Rather than say another word, he motioned towards the HORROR area, where a shriveled old woman was standing underneath a poster for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the famous one showing Jason’s hockey mask laying in a pool of blood, with a knife jabbed through one of the eyeholes.

I recognized the lady’s drawn-in hamster face immediately. It belonged to Ethel Stanton, the middle school librarian. She had to be seventy-five years old if she was past puberty, and there she was, standing in the HORROR section with her eyes closed, silent. She had one arm raised over head just as far as she could raise it. In that high hand she held a book. And I could make out that book clear enough, even from twenty-five feet away. It was a Bible.

A Bible, all right.

I’ll give her credit for one thing: she wielded that book with the conviction of a true believer. That black King James rested above her head like a mighty talisman, like she was a wizard lighting a righteous signal fire amidst the blackness of some infernal heathen land. I’d had enough run-ins with her at the middle school to know that she thought of herself pretty much the same way, too. The way she saw it, most of the people of Whistle Mill were wayward mules, and she had just the mighty whip to crack us back inside the fence.

The way I saw it, she was a borderline mental patient. But that’s neither here nor there. Not yet, anyway.

Mom watched Ms. Stanton for a couple seconds, but nothing happened. The old librarian just stood there, holding that good book aloft, keeping her eyes closed, saying nothing. With her free hand, she stabbed a bony finger in my direction, like that finger was a magic wand and she was casting lightning bolts at demons.

I thought I heard a faint tune in the room, as though she was humming a little hymn to herself, but I wasn’t for certain. It could have been the TV.

“Is that Ethel Stanton?” Mom asked Bobby.

“Yeah, he said. “It sure is.”

“What’s she doing back there?”

He just smiled.

“Is that… has she got a Bible?”

He just smiled.

“Oh-KAY then,” Mom said. I felt her hand on my shoulder, gently pulling me in the direction of the exit. “Let’s come back another time, Grady –”

I stepped forward, away from Mom’s grip. She snapped for me to come back but I acted like I didn’t hear and kept right on going. Friday night was my night to get movies and nothing was gonna keep me from that. Least of all, Ethel Marie Stanton. Period. End of story.

I eased towards the HORROR section. Before I could get too far, Ms. Stanton opened her eyes, lowered her Bible just enough that she could point it squarely in my direction, and said, “I should have known you’d come here for this filth, young man!”

That stopped me cold.

“Grady Strange Claremont, you got a soul that needs to be saved. And you –”

She pointed her book straight at my Mom.

“You! I can’t believe you bring a child into this smut house. Look around! These walls are covered with smut! All this smut on a child’s mind, it’ll turn him to the devil, I tell you what! The devil!”

I heard Mom let out a sharp gasp and thought for sure she was going after the crazy woman. Before she could make a move, Bobby rushed around from behind the counter and headed towards Ms. Stanton himself.

“All right. That’s enough, Ethel,” he snapped. His impish grin was gone now. “It was funny when you started and I was the only one to see it. Now there’s customers here. It ain’t funny no more.”

“I’m not here to please you!” she shot back, whipping her Bible around in his direction. “You’re a corruptor. A peddler of filth. I know what you’re doing, you hear me? You got the Devil in you. The Devil, that’s what, you been watching this filth and now you’re trying to spread it around, trying to spread that ol’ Devil around –”

“Now, Ethel, just calm down a minute –”

Filth, you hear!” The words were sudden, sharp, like they’d been shot out of a rifle. “It’s gone on long enough. Long enough!”

The hate and insults didn’t faze Bobby. He kept his head down and moved around to her back side, then put one hand on each of the librarian’s shoulders, and pushed her out of the horror section, back towards the front of the store. The whole way, she never shut up for a second. Just yammered about God and the Devil and the eternal battle between the two of them, and of course her pivotal role in saving the human race from being spit roast in the fires of hell. Bobby shook his head, rolled his eyes a couple of times. By the time they got close to where we were standing, his wry countenance returned.

I watched the whole scene with little more than amused curiosity. As she went past Ethel stared at Mom, and Mom stared back, but neither one of them said anything. It seemed like the moment was almost over and I could get back to my regularly scheduled trip to through the Movie Place.

Then, on her way out the door, Ms. Stanton lifted her Bible into the air one last time. She muttered some to the sky that I couldn’t quite hear, then cast a final glance at me. For ten long seconds she stood stare, watching me. She didn’t say anything but by that point she didn’t have to say anything. I knew what she was thinking.

Then Bobby smacked the window in front of her face, and she stalked away. I figured she was pretty pissed as she left, but as I would come to find out, I didn’t know the half of it.



I just posted this on another page, but it seems relevant as I sit here working on Sewerville II. It’s my response to one of those forlorn “writer questions”: Do you ever want to give up? And my answer is yes. Everybody wants to give up. But the thing is, you can’t. You can’t give up.

I know it sounds simple, but I think you just have to ask yourself, what do you want to get out of this?

I don’t sell millions. I barely sell thousands. Right now I am selling way more in the UK than the US, but they both pay so I don’t sweat it. I only know one language and I’m grateful people read it in whatever country.  I’m proud of what I’ve written and I’ll put my work up against any million seller or indie out there.

I’ll probably never give it up on a permanent basis, but I may take an occasional break to recharge my batteries. I think you have to do that, if sanity and balance are important in your life, anyway.

As long as I like what I’m writing, that really is all I care about. Sure, it’s gratifying when other people like the work, too, but more than anything it’s important that I enjoy the stories and the way they’re told. Otherwise, it’s grinding wheels and swinging pickaxes and that’s no damn fun.

The marketing is it’s own beast, too. A necessary evil. But, the marketing is the cart and books are the horse and I’m not about to let the cart control me. When that gets to be too much of a slog I just take a break from it. But I always come back to writing.

Steven Goldmann

I – and so many others – lost my friend Steven Goldmann today, following his long battle with cancer. We knew it was coming but then again, you never really know it’s coming. Until it does. If you look up “Steven Goldmann” in the little search box at the top of Facebook, you will see how much he meant to the world. I’d like to take a few minutes to add to those sentiments.


We always joked about how crazy it was that a Jewish guy from Montreal and a heathen from the hills of Eastern Kentucky could think so much alike, but we did. We really did. Politics, movies, music, FANGORIA magazine. Whatever. We weren’t 100% on everything – he used to marvel at how much Ale-8 I drank and I used to marvel at how much time it must have taken him to get his hair ready in the morning – but we shared way more interests than you’d ever guess from our backgrounds. He was the first person outside of “back home” that ever stood up for my writing; I sold him the screenplay for THE RASSLER and even though that story like so many other great stories has never quite made it to the lighted screen, it was validation for me. It brought reassurance that I knew what I was doing. That meant a lot.

I worked for Steven for a year, and then I worked with him on myriad projects for 15 years after that, right up until his battle took its final turn in these last few months. He did so much great work. He was a real artist. He made movies (TRAILER PARK OF TERROR, BROKEN BRIDGES), music videos (Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, among many, many others), and commercials. He loved stories and he’d do everything he could to tell them, in whatever medium would let him through the door just long enough to get a good hold. I’ve lost count of how many different ideas we kicked around, and I was just one person that he kicked them around with. There were so many others besides me, and I’m sure that’s because no one person could hope to catch all of the man’s creative energy in one basket.

But he wasn’t just a professional, and he wasn’t just an artist. He was a kind, intelligent, and generous man. He dreamed Big and he believed Big – I think I appreciated that about Steven Goldmann more than anything else – and when he talked about his dreams he had a way of making you believe Big, too. One of the last conversations we had, he wanted to take another run at a SEWERVILLE television series with me and Alan Brewer. Giving me more script notes, talking up the idea, lending it all hope. Of course he was.

Super stuff.

Here’s my last Super Bowl post, and then I’ll go back to talking about writing and books and movies and other things you love.

1) After a day’s reflection, that last play by Seattle remains a joke. Some folks can try to justify it (okay, a small handful of folks) , but the undeniable truth is that in that spectacular, singular situation – a minute to go, ball inside the 1 yard line, and the effin’ Super Bowl on the line, and FOUR TRIES AT IT – if you give Marshawn Lynch the football, he scores a touchdown 100 times out of a 100. 1000 out of a 1000. He can’t be stopped. Beast Mode. It happens, he scores, game over. He scores against a goal line defense, he scores against three cornerbacks, he scores against the ’85 Bears, he scores against the Steel Curtain, he scores if there are 20 Patriots on defense, he scores if Brady and Belichick and Rodney Harrison and Teddy Bruschi and Mark Wahlberg and Optimus Prime and Giselle and Katy Perry and that kid from the Nationwide commercial all run on the field and jump on his back together. He scores. He scores. It’s not a secret and I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, I’m just using funny language to say again: he scores.

2) I pretty much despise both of those teams, but I must admit, I’ve kind of become a fan of Belichick and Lynch. They ain’t changin’ for anybody. It’s admirable. No matter how much people rip them, no matter how un-telegenic and un-media friendly they are, what you see is what you get and what you’re always gonna get. The ESPN empty heads don’t like it, the NBC Pro Football Talk empty heads don’t like it, the whole world of empty head sports media babies don’t like it. I like it.

3) I still can’t stand Tom Brady, though. And I never realized Robert Kraft was such a tool until this year.

4) Al Michaels, best play by play announcer in sports, end of story.

5) I deeply regret missing the Doug Baldwin TD celebration where he pretended to shit on the ball.

6) it was hard not to feel good for that New England cornerback (Malcolm Butler) who came up with the interception after he’d been victimized by that miracle Seattle catch two plays earlier. Dude sounds like he’s going to cry every time I’ve heard him speak since the game ended.

7) I bet on Seattle and for a minute I was aggravated that I lost, but that feeling went away. What a game.

College basketball and baseball, here we come.

Dogwoods vs. dog shit.

OK, folks. I meant to tell you this earlier. As you may have noticed, Adventures in Terror with Jasper Bohanon: Book One didn’t come out in December, even though it’s actually finished. Here’s why.

As the book came down the homestretch, I began wondering if it was really the best idea to split it into Book I and Book II. After much consideration, I have decided against that. Sometimes it seems important to have a lot of different titles out there, the notion being that there are a lot of bottles floating in the sea and the more bottles that have your name on them, the better chance that you’ll get lucky and somebody will actually pluck one out of the water, like what they find, then go diving for more bottles with your name on them.

But really, this goes against my most basic philosophy, which is that QUALITY RULES ALL. Or how about this: dogwoods are great year ’round, but dog shit sticks around for only a few days before the bugs eat it. Better to write and release one strong piece of work than rush out several mediocre ones just for the sake of having a longer list of search results under “Aaron Saylor.” I have to remember why I am doing this: not to make money, not to get Facebook likes, not to have Twitter followers. I’m doing this for the stories. I think they are worth sharing.

The truth is, Adventures in Terror was originally conceived as one book, then later split to A) allow me to release it sooner because I love it that much, and can’t wait to get it to you, and B) have two separate titles. In hindsight, that was a bad choice. But I’m fixing it.

The story was first plotted as one book, and I know – I guess I’ve always known – that as one book it should remain. Trying to make it something it isn’t will only hurt. It’ll hurt the book, it’ll hurt Grady and Jasper, and worst of all, it’ll hurt me. The publishing world is tough enough as it is, cluttered with mediocrity if not outright garbage, and I’d prefer to put out the very best book I can. If it takes a few more weeks, so be it.

I promise, the world will get Adventures in Terror later this year. If the wait breaks your heart, I’m sorry. I truly am. Just know that that we’ll both be the better for it, okay?

RIP, Ms. Howell.

Fold your paper to the margin one last time. RIP, Ms. Howell. (Borrowed that from April Dawn, but it seems like the best line to say.)

My 6th grade English teacher passed away yesterday. She was from a different part of the world – the northeastern U. S., I think, Massachusetts or New York maybe, although I really can’t remember for certain and anyway, it might as well have been the planet Saturn to a 12-year-old from Eastern Kentucky . She favored Hush Puppies shoes and horn-rimmed eyeglasses that were a few years out of style, and never could quite get her pants long enough. Maybe that was because she was eight feet tall. She looked eight feet tall to me at the time. I still remember her looking like that, too; isn’t it funny, how we move along in our lives, but we think of people as they looked when we first knew them, as though they looked that way for the rest of their lives?

Also, Ms. Howell drove a dark green Volkswagen. It was an older model, a little beat up, and there were places where the paint peeled and you could see the primer underneath. I doubt she cared much, though; she never seemed like the type to be bothered by something as small as that. I’d rather believe she drove that car for her entire life and I suppose that’s just something else she will always have in my mind. Right now, I can’t remember if it was a Rabbit or a Beetle but I’m pretty sure it was one or the other.

Oh. I do remember that she taught in a Vietnamese village during the War. I remember that clearly because she talked about it sometimes in class. Even as a kid, I thought teaching Vietnamese villagers was a pretty damn brave thing to do; I hate to go outside in the rain, much less halfway around the world where it rains artillery shells and napalm.

In sixth grade, most of the kids thought Ms. Howell was pretty weird, and I’d be lying if I said I was any different. But looking back on it through the years, I started thinking of her as one of the coolest teachers I ever had. I don’t know how much she might have changed over the years, but I don’t need to know. Sometimes I just prefer to keep people the way they were.



I posted this on Facebook yesterday, but have now added the link to Ms. Howell’s obituary. There’s a picture, and it looks exactly how I remember her, except with bigger eyeglasses. Also, the obit confirms that she was born in Queens, New York (not Massachusetts), on Christmas Day. How about that.

A little bit…

I already shared this on Facebook (although I’ve edited a little since then), but not everybody follows me on Facebook (please change that) or Twitter (please change that, too). So, I decided to share a little bit from my new work here on this very blog.

I am sure we will discuss at greater length, but the quick version is that I just decided to write something about all the things I loved when I was in elementary school, and follow that through to all the things I love now, and hopefully will still love when I am Old, which is much less further away now than it used to be. This book has taken over my whole writing life, but quick.

Also — I’ll be giving away 10 e-book copies of Sewerville and publishing a new short story called “Me and Jasper Down at the Meth Shack” (which actually turned out to be a part of the same new book that is excerpted below) as soon as the Facebook page hits 1,000 “like”s. Just a handful away right now – help make a child’s dream come true!

So, here’s the new stuff:


“Where’d you get those?” I gasped, pointin at the Fangorias like they was a sack full of hundred dollar bills.

“One place or another. Places where I get stuff. You know.” Jasper shrugged. As I’d soon find out, he shrugged at most matters in life. He could shrug to put a teenage girl to shame. He was a world renowned shrugger.

I stared at Jasper’s magazines for what felt like three days. Ain’t ashamed to say, I’d have given everything I had and half of what I didn’t to find out where he got them. It looked to my eyes like he might have every issue of Fangoria ever printed. Far as I was concerned, this was something like lookin at a unicorn.

Then… BOOM.

Buried in his collection, with just one dog-eared corner stickin out, was the Fangoria that ruled all other Fangorias. The one I desired like man desired to reach the stars, like Romeo desired Juliet, like Johnny Cash desired June Carter, like Roscoe P. Coletrain and Boss Hogg desired to one day run down them Dukes, them Dukes. At that point, I’d been tryin to get my hands on this particular issue for a good three or four years, or I should say, get my hands on it again.

Issue Number Nine.

Folks, we are talkin about the Ark of the Covenant here. Ask anybody that knows anything about Fangoria and scary flicks and bad ass stuff in general and they’ll back me up on this.


Actually you don’t need to ask, because I’m tellin you right now: issue number nine – Issue Number Nine, it needs all capital letters – featured the infamous Motel Hell cover. You probably heard about it: that farmer dude in denim overalls and red flannel shirt, wearin a severed pig head for a helmet, wieldin a bloody chainsaw like it was the mighty Excalibur or somethin. Far as I was concerned, human hands wasn’t capable of creatin a more bad ass cover. Probably they still aren’t.

The sad part is, though, that cover was so bad ass, it didn’t take too long before a few so-called “adult” peckerwoods jumped up on their high horses and got it banned from every drugstore and supermarket in the country. Let me say that again: that cover was so bad ass, the peckerwoods got it declared unfit for human consumption. Pulled from stores. Burnt up on the sacrificial fires of common decency, as some folks say.

So yeah. Apparently a few grannies stumbled across that particular Fangoria down at the Piggly Wiggly or the beauty shop or wherever old grannies stumbled across things, and this indeed caused their plastic panties to get all wadded up in such a manner that I had never experienced (up to that point, anyway). And if you know anything, you know how the story goes whenever grannies get their panties in a wad. Things get escalated. The  righteous grannies pitched a fit to their preacher, a man of great wisdom and humility who immediately got on the line to the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart. Jimmy Swaggart had a few friends in high places – this was back in the days when some people actually gave a rip what Jimmy Swaggart had to say about anything – and the good Reverend called his coonskin-hat buddy Pat Buchanan (look it up), who was workin in the White House up in Washington at the time. Of course back then, the White House was occupied – some would say graced by the presence of – one Ronald Wilson Reagan, otherwise known as the Gipper, otherwise known as He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Soon enough Pat bent the blessed ear of the almighty President Reagan, and then Reagan bent down and kissed the ground and farted and declared that Issue Number Nine of Fangoria was inflictin evil on the minds of innocent little Ronnies all throughout the golden land, and therefore must be yanked off every shelf in the country, if not the world, if not the whole trickle down damn universe.

Well, that’s the story I always heard, at least. I can’t swear to it, but that’s what I heard.

Anyway, despite the Reaganistas’ efforts, a few hundred copies escaped. Somehow one of them ended up at Comic Book Land in Lexington, Kentucky, and miraculous as it may seem, happened to be sittin on the shelf one of the rare Saturdays that I visited the store. I was headed for the back issue bins when I glanced over at the New Arrivals rack and saw it gleamin.

I couldn’t get my hands on it fast enough, let me just tell you. And soon as I did, I took it back to Mom and said, “Mom, this is what I’m gettin. No X-Men. No Captain America. No Spider-man. This was a couple of years before ROM and G.I. Joe came out, but I would have walked away from them that day, too.

All I wanted was that one issue of Fangoria, Issue Number Nine, with the chainsaw dude in overalls and a dead pig mask.

So I said, “Mom, this is what I’m gettin.”

She studied the cover for a few seconds, looked over bloody pig head guy real good, and said, “No sir, you most certainly are not.”

“But mom, he’s got overalls and a dead pig head and his chainsaw’s got blood on it –”

“I said you’re not gettin it.”

“No, Mom, you’re the one not gettin it

Put it back.”

“Come on, Mom –”

“Put it back. Now.”

Good thing I had a backup plan. One rule I always follow  is, never give up hope. If you ain’t got hope you might as well lay down in the street and wait for the ice cream truck to run over your sorry ass. I took that Fangoria and stuck it in the middle of some Wonder Woman back issues, figurin it would be safe there since Wonder Woman sucks and nobody was gonna be lookin in that box any time soon. That would give me a few weeks to convince Mom that I really should get that Fangoria, and when I did convince her I could just pluck it out of the Wonder Womans on the next trip.

But it wasn’t meant to be. The next time I visited Comic Book Land, the Wonder Womans were still there but my Fangoria was long gone. I still ain’t figured out how that happened, but it did. And in the meantime, Jimmy Swaggart and Ronald Reagan ruined the fun for everybody.