preview ADVENTURES IN TERROR!

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You can now read a preview of Adventures in Terror with Jasper Bohanon, an 11,000-word story called Me and Jasper and the Summer of ’86.” It’s an e-book exclusive, but never fear — if you can read this post, then there’s also a free Kindle app for whatever device you’re using.

The story will give you a good idea of the novel’s nostalgic flavor, which draws heavily on horror, science fiction, and other popular media from the ’80s and ’90s. (For some of you, the cover above is a dead give-away about that.) But don’t just take my word for it – click on the story link and see for yourself. And if you enjoy “Me and Jasper and the Summer of ’86” (like I think you will), feel free to spread the word and leave your review on Amazon and Goodreads!

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.

Aaron

P.S.

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.

ADVENTURES IN TERROR… coming soon.

I want to share something with you, just because I’m excited about this book. Here is the complete chapter listing for ADVENTURES IN TERROR WITH JASPER BOHANON, BOOK ONE: 1975-1996. And to quote a refrain from the book, maybe you know what’s comin’, and maybe you don’t.

– Home
– Jasper
– Me and Jasper in the Summer of ’86
– Infinity
– Me and Jasper and the Lady in the Woods
– Me and Jasper Save Evie from the Dead
– Banshee
– Church Ladies
– Me and Jasper and the Satanic Panic
– Darkness
– Midnight
– Me and Jasper and the Big Damn Skeeters
– Graduation Day
– Me and Jasper and the Return of the Hopkinsville Goblins
– Harbingers

Some Tips And Tricks For Writing Good Horror Fiction

Some folks out there could really use this advice.

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2013 Artwork horror writing sketch

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I really discovered horror fiction, but it was probably when I was about thirteen or so and happened to discover a copy of “Assassin” by Shaun Hutson on a market stall.

The cover art was wonderfully grotesque and vaguely reminiscent of the old 1980s video nasties with “PREVIOUSLY BANNED” stamped on the cover which I used to notice in video/DVD shops but, unfortunately, looked far too young to actually buy. Of course, after noticing the thankful lack of an “18 certificate” on the cover of “Assassin”, I bought it immediately.

It was nothing like any of the watered-down Young Adult “horror” stories I’d read before and it seemed exactly like what I imagined the “PREVIOUSLY BANNED” horror movies would be like (of course, when I eventually bought a few of these, I was actually kind of disappointed…) It was gruesome…

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Album review: Josh Nolan, FAIR CITY LIGHTS

Fair City Lights, the debut album of Kentuckian Josh Nolan, wears its influences the way an old man wears his jailhouse tats — the jagged ink not only sits there on the surface for everyone to see, it also burns in the skin, through the layers, into the marrow. It’s not just part of the old man; in a lot of ways, it’s who he is.

I’m guessing music is that tattoo for singer-songwriter Josh Nolan. It’s not just a part of him; it’s who he is. 

The classic bloodlines come through clean when you listen to Fair City Lights – bits of Springsteen there, Ryan Adams over here, John Prine and Neil Young, and Tom Waits over there, with lesser gods like Colin Linden, Loudon Wainright III lurking around the edges. But really, that’s all you hear – bits of the classics. Tributes, really. The rest is absolute, pure Josh Nolan, running his influences through a cement mixer, creating something unquestionably his own, singing about small town hearts and big-city dreams in a way that I haven’t heard in a long time.

In a world filled to the point of bursting with ironic songwriters and cookie cutter folk acts, it’s good to hear some straight up rock music again.

Though Nolan’s influences are apparent, he’s not running away from them. At times he even seems to be playing a game with his audience, tossing in the occasional ‘70s songwriter lyric or musical reference, just to see if we’re paying attention. “Between the Lights,” the album’s Mellencampesque finisher (Mellencampesque? Has that word been used before?), features an extended, rapid-fire string of references that start with Springsteen’s “Mary’s dress sways as the screen door slams” then rolls on through Bob Seger, (“way out past where the woods got heavy”), Don Maclean (it all dried up, but we made it to the levy”), and more.

In a lot of ways, Fair City Lights isn’t just a throwback, it’s a time capsule. These songs feel right at home in the rotation with the aforementioned Prine, Waits, et. al.. And let’s not forget Springsteen. Above all, Springsteen floats above this record like a favorite uncle looking down from Heaven – and not the bombastic, quasi-religious, borderline self-parody Springsteen that’s roamed the earth since he got the E-Streeters back together in the early 2000s, either. No, Josh Nolan has more in common with the early Springsteen, the Greetings from Asbury Park/Born to Run/Darkness on the Edge of Town/The River Springsteen, in no small part because his own natural voice sounds not just a little like the Boss of that era. Songs like“Come Mornin’”and “Do It Right” echo folky Bruce perfectly, while the screeching guitar (and accompanying glockenspiel) that opens “Waitin’ on the Night” proudly gives a shout out to Born To Run in a way that few folks even attempt these days.

That’s not to say that Fair City Lights is some shallow whipped-cream imitation of the real thing. Truth be told, it’s far from that. As any drink snob can tell you, the best wine or bourbon is so much more than the sum of its ingredients. I’m no alcohol connoisseur – I’ve never been able to taste plums or currants in my cabernet no matter how much the label says they’re in there –  but I damn sure know great music when I hear it. Josh Nolan and Fair City Lights fit the bill.

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Fair City Lights hits itunes, Amazon.com, and Spotify, among others, on April 4. Visit Josh Nolan at joshnolanmusic.com

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So long, True Detective. We will miss you.

My thought about the True Detective finale: as a season ender, greatness. Moody, haunting, and thought provoking, just like we all wanted. But as a series ender — and let’s face it, this series is over, with brand new characters and storyline for next year — it didn’t quite fulfill the promise of what came before. Too many threads and allusions left unattended. I’ll take this back if they pick up the storyline next season, using different main characters to attack it from another angle, but I haven’t seen any suggestion that’s happening.

And here’s one SPOILER ALERT: that spinning blue vortex at the end could work so much better if they would just stop saying it was one of Rust’s drug flashback hallucinations. (Or so I have read in a few reviews and interviews today.) Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if they left it open to interpretation?

ROBOCOP does it right.

Let me make this quick. Has nothing to do with writing but as you know, I like to post about my favorite movies and television shows on here as much as I do about my books, because I think it’s all intertwined in the total package of Me. And dammit, this is My blog.

The new Robocop is without question one of the best – if not the best – of all the science fiction and horror remakes/reboots we’ve gotten in the last decade or so. I had expectations going in based on the many trailers that were released, and I did not walk out disappointed.

I consider myself a connoisseur of the original Robocop. It’s one of my favorite movies and I’ve seen it way more times than I could ever count. I usually write to movies playing in the background, and it’s high in the rotation, right up there with the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Alien, and Friday the 13th series(es?). Never cared much for the Paul Verhoeven-less Robocop sequels, but still, I love the first one.

I put the 2014 version right up there with it.

Now, these are two different types of films. No question. And for me, each version is superior to the other in some areas. The best way I can describe it is to say that the 1987 version was perfect for the 12-year old Aaron, and the 2014 version is perfect for the 38 year old Aaron:

1987 ROBOCOP strengths: social satire, cartoon violence, theme music, classic lines, (“Can you flyyyyyyyy, Bobby?,” “BITCHES LEAVE.”), the characters of Bob Morton and Clarence Boddicker. The 2014 version never even attempts a Clarence Boddicker-type character, which is a smart move, since there can be only one Clarence J. Boddicker.

2014 ROBOCOP strengths: political satire, human drama, action, special effects, Gary Oldman as Dr. Dennett Norton, and most surprisingly for me, Joel Kinnaman in the Alex Murphy/Robocop role. He’s better than Peter Weller. I hate to admit that, but he just is.

Robocop is in theaters right now. Go see it, okay?

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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.

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A quick thought on The Wolf of Wall Street

On the eve of this year’s Academy Award nominations, I wanted to take a sec to discuss something that’s been bugging me for a while now.

I’ve read so many articles that cry foul at The Wolf of Wall Street, saying the film glorifies the drugged-out hedonism of its multimillionaire (and decidedly amoral) protagonist, Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Right here is one such article, and here is an even stupider one. To them I say, bullshit. Sure, he screws the system and his clients out of billions, makes liberal use of midgets as party favors, and at one point snorts drugs out of a naked lady’s butt. Saying Jordan Belfort behaved badly is like saying Sarah Palin slept through Geography class: you ain’t kidding.

But saying The Wolf of Wall Street glorifies that behavior? No way. If you think that’s the case, you either a) haven’t seen the movie or b) are already inclined to glorify that behavior yourself and really need to look in the mirror. (Quick question: do you think Gordon “Greed… is good” Gecko was a hero in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street?)

***SPOILER*** 

The Wolf of Wall Street ends with Jordan Belfort talking about going to jail, but not really worrying about it because after all, he’s rich, and rich people don’t go to jail, they go to country club jail and chop garlic with razor blades and put too much onion in the tomato sauce. That’s a statement about a fucked up society, not a statement about how cool jail can be for people with extra cash.  Then, after he gets out of jail, the very last shot of the movie takes place at a seminar in a hotel, where Jordan — a convicted felon well known by that time for defrauding investors out of tens of millions of dollars – is giving sales advice to an enraptured audience, a roomful of people willing to listen to this man – willing to do exactly what a convicted felon/drug addict  tells them – because by hell, he made a few million dollars so he sure must know something, right? As the sales pitch flies, the camera drifts away from Leo, and the very last shot of the movie is on his audience — the people lapping it up. The people willing to listen to anything if it means they could get rich. So, guess what that shot’s all about?

*** END SPOILERS ***

It sure ain’t glorifying Jordan Belfort’s wicked ways. It’s making a point about our society. More exactly, it’s asking a question: in what kind of society do people pay money to take the advice of an idiot like that?

Anyway, like I said, it’s been bugging me.

And I don’t know if it’s even going to get nominated, but The Wolf of Wall Street is your Best Picture of 2013. By ten miles.

Back to your regular programming.