Another quick review…

This article includes a nice review of “Me and Jasper, Down by the Meth Shack,” my story that appears in this month’s Apex Magazine. The story features the 2 main characters from Adventures in Terror‬: Mostly the 1980s… sort of, anyway.

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The 5-STAR reviews are coming in!

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Got one of my favorite reviews ever today, for ADVENTURES IN TERROR: MOSTLY THE 1980s, which is out now in e-book and paperback. This reader came away with everything I’d hoped from the book. If you’ve read the story by now, you know my little secret: it’s not really a horror story. There are plenty of nods to the horror genre that I love so much, but deep down, this is a story about getting older. (And to the reviewer, I am sorry to leave you hanging but if you liked this one you will love the next one!)
All that being said, here’s this awesome 5-STAR REVIEW:
“Some of the best down to earth descriptions and metaphors I have read in years. ADVENTURES IN TERROR, even though a paranormal horror story, reminded me of A CHRISTMAS STORY that was written by Ray Bradbury.
Hidden subtly beneath the gore and fear is a delightful sense of reality and a sad, understanding humor. Grady Strange Claremont VII, now 100 years old and capable of time travel, tells the story of himself and Jasper Bohanon from when they first meet in elementary school in Whisper Hill, Kentucky until Jasper goes off to college. The next book in the series I understand will continue from this point. They are both loners with a love for scary movies. Grady is down to earth while Jasper’s mind contemplates infinity as every point in time.
The story is far more than banshees, ghosts, walking dead, and witches. It is a comprehensive look at small town rural life, from the controlling families to the modern plague of meth and pills and the erosion of small town values. My only complaint is that the book ended – the ghastly ploy of a book series. As an added bonus there is a list at the end of the book of the author’s all time favorite scary movies. Enjoyable read – great use of words with a touch of colloquialism.”

from the Author’s notes – ADVENTURES IN TERROR

So, my novel Adventures in Terror: Mostly the 1980s finally releases tomorrow (Wednesday, September 3).

Here’s a little introduction:

—–

Allow me to indulge myself with some self-important final discussion. Inside baseball, as they call it. I have always loved those “making of” documentaries that accompany so many movie discs, and I suppose the last few pages of this book are my version of that. If you’re not like me and you don’t care about “that shit,” feel free to close the book now.

But just know, if you do close the book right this very second, it’s your loss, not mine.

*

First off, a few words about my dear friend Steven Goldmann, to whom Adventures in Terror: Mostly the 1980s is dedicated, and who departed this Earth after a long fight against multiple myeloma on April 30, 2015 – just as I was finishing up the story you’re reading now.

From where I stand, he fought like a motherfucker. He told me enough stories about his battles with cancer to prove beyond all doubt that he was a numero uno badass. Steven would have made Jasper Bohanon and Grady Claremont oh so proud. He made a lot of people proud, I’ll tell you that much, which you can see for yourself through a quick search of the various Googles and Facebooks and Yahoos and whatever other mystical interwebs exist out there.

I’m sorry that he never got to read this book. He would have loved it. I held out hope that I could send him these adventures of Jasper and Grady and that it would cheer him up just a little, and I was writing hard in those last days for that reason if nothing else, but I came up short. Alas.

The day Steven died, I posted a short tribute on my website. It’s not likely that I could say anything better about my friend than what I said that day, so I’ll say it again here:

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, like Trailer Park of Terror and Broken Bridges). He made music videos – at his peak, he made some of the biggest in the biz, for superstars like Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, and the Mavericks, among many, many others. One of our great unfulfilled projects was a movie starring the Mavericks, meant for release with their first greatest hits package and based on the Coen Brothers’ absolute masterpiece The Big Lebowski. (If you don’t know the Mavericks or The Big Lebowski, all I can say is obviously, you’re not a golfer.)

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.

*

There are a few times that Adventures in Terror references Ray Bradbury’s classic Something Wicked This Way Comes, starting with the quote that opens the proceedings. (“It was in their friendship they just wanted to run forever, shadow and shadow.”)

I’m telling you that right now, so those who are familiar with Bradbury’s story of fantasy and friendship don’t think I was trying to slip a few fast ones by you fine folks. Bradbury is a bit of a jumping off point for Adventures in Terror and it’s not unintentional.

Jasper and Grady’s birthdays – born in the same year, one a few minutes before Halloween midnight, one just a few minutes after – are shared with Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, the two friends in Bradbury’s book.

The “book” where Grady read that “no carnival comes after Labor Day… the carnival comes when it wants. On its own clock, at its own speed” and which also says that carnivals only come at dawn is, of course, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Actually the entire chapter “The Carnival” is partially a tribute to that great book and author. I could never equal or even approach that masterwork and would never even try. What I can do is pay my respects and encourage everyone reading these words to put down this book immediately, go find a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes, and enjoy. Read it for the first time. Read it for the hundredth time. Just read it. You’re welcome.

*

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing this first volume of Adventures in Terror is that it’s engaged me in a bit of universe building.

Obviously, the story is almost entirely set in fictional Seward County, Kentucky, the same Seward County where my first novel Sewerville takes place. Where Sewerville is real-world darkness and takes on topics that interest (and worry) me about this crazy little Planet Earth that certain members (?) of our dear human race have managed to turn into such a giant fiasco, it was always my intention that Adventures in Terror be the horror/sci-fi/fantasy flip side of that world. Grady and Jasper live on the “other” end of Seward County, and that’s no accident.

Just like the boys in this story, I spent my school years on the “other” end of my county (Powell County, Kentucky). There wasn’t any Whistle Mill-like town on our end, though – just some houses, farms, and the occasional country store all scattered about the wooded hills and hollows, with only a single two-lane (that sometimes was really only wide enough for one lane) highway snaking through to connect them. It wasn’t really that far from the county seat of Stanton – maybe six or seven miles – but to a little kid with no sense of the world’s true size, it felt like we lived in the hinterlands.

My friend Brinton Epperson and I grew up together out there. We hiked the hills from as long ago as I can remember. When we were second graders, we tore through the underbrush, swinging tobacco sticks as swords, pretending we were Greek gods. We spent most every weekend from elementary through high school at each other’s houses. There were countless conversations about philosophy and science, history and politics, the Beatles and Twisted Sister. (Brinton is a Beatles man. I’ll always be a hard rock guy.) Both of us even had the same car as Evie Fallon – the dreaded Olds Firenza. His was green, mine was brown. He got his a few years before I got mine but I don’t think either one of us would claim we drove a sex machine.

There’s an awful lot of Brinton in Jasper Bohanon, and when he reads this book I have to think he’ll recognize himself.

But, there are a few other people in Jasper too, and I want to make sure they know that. Michael Saylor (my brother), David Rogers, Daylan Kinser, Anthony Gabbard, Daxon Caudill, Kevin Hall, Cory Graham, Kelly Hobbs.

*

Yes, I am well aware that “me and Jasper” is not correct, grammatically speaking. But it’s the way I wanted it, it’s the way I wrote it, and it’s the way it stays until Jasper finally reaches the edge of infinity that intrigues him so.

Nyah nyah nya-nyah yahhhhhhhhh, grammar police. It’s how the characters talk. Leave us the hell alone.

*

Randall, in “Me and Jasper and the Little Red Pills”? You either get it or you don’t.

*

Back to the universe building.

There are several direct references to Sewerville – at least the town of Sewardville – which readers of that novel will recognize. It makes sense to me; the towns are in same county and I own all the real estate there.

In addition to those references, Adventures in Terror also exists at a crossroads with some other work that will be coming down the parkway soon enough. An older Jasper Bohanon appears in the second Sewerville book, The Gentleman from Kentucky. And the Peak family from “Me and Jasper and the Little Red Pills” are significant players in the novel Lords of the Dark. Both those books will likely be out within the next couple of years.

Why am I telling you this? ‘Cause I want to. I enjoy it. Plenty of writers cross-pollinate their different works; I’m doing the same. Maybe it just comes down to the fact that it’s plain old fun, having your own world in which to play. If you don’t believe me, give it a try sometime.

Anyway, the aforementioned books will be out before you know it, and when they’re all out there for your reading pleasure, please feel free to judge my little universe for yourself.

The next volume of Adventures in Terror is subtitled Mostly the 21st Century. It continues the story of Jasper and Grady in some ways you might expect and others that I am thinking you probably won’t. Time will tell. I expect the book will see release a year or so from now and then everyone can find out together. Until then…

Me and Jasper and the 1980s!

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I’ve been up to my nostrils in 1980s culture while writing Adventures in Terror: 1975-2015 (coming next month). Many of you have probably noticed, assuming at least some of my posts have made their way across your Facebook or Twitter feeds at any point in the last 18 months.

Much of the novel takes place in that decade, which not at all coincidentally happens to be the decade between my 5th and 15th birthdays – my most formative years, I’ve always believed. I’ll share more about the book later, but right now, I wanted to tell you some truths that I’ve come to accept about music, movies and books in the decade of the Reaganistas.

So, here goes:

– First off, the ’80s actually weren’t a complete cultural wastelandI’d long believed they were, but I was wrong.

– Music wasn’t just techno garbage in the beginning of the decade and hair metal at the end. If you’re like me and you forgot that , check out this Spotify playlist compiled by yours truly. You shan’t be disappointed – follow the list if you like because I will be adding to it for a while.

– One thing we don’t talk much about anymore is that the Georgia Satellites rocked in a serious way. They weren’t big players in the decade except for a song or two (certainly the immortal “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”) but by hell, they might have rocked harder than anybody this side of AC/DC and Van Halen. Also, for what it’s worth, “KYHTY” barely makes their top ten.

– Bon Jovi had to have known they were about to become millionaires tens of times over while they were recording Slippery When Wet.

On a side note, somebody smart should have built a panty factory and set up a table backstage at every single Bon Jovi/Poison/Motley Crue/whoever concert. Mega $$$.

– The horror-in-print BOOM. Something else that is not arguable. Clive Barker, John Saul, Dan Simmons, Joe Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson,  Robert McCammon. Peter Straub. Dean Koontz (whose writing I’ve never liked, but hey, he was still part of that boom). Also, some guy named Stephen King, who got a few decent notices in the ’80s after also being somewhat popular in the ’70s.

– Stephen King directed an actual movie. Maximum Overdrive. AC/DC did the soundtrack. The movie itself sucks but who gives a damn? Stephen King directed a horror movie and AC/DC did the entire soundtrack. I am pretty sure my family was appalled when I talked them into taking me to watch it at the drive-in when I was 11.

– Fangoria.

KISS without makeup: an abomination.

– I didn’t watch much TV besides MTV at the time, so I can’t really vouch for the quality of 1980s television. Well, I did watch Diff’rent Strokes and Dukes of Hazzard. I watched those a lot. Like I said, I can’t really vouch for quality in the decade.

– For the general populace, movies in the decade may have been a little sub-par (Raging Bull is the exception), but for horror and science fiction fans, the decade was sheer gold. I would even say that along with the Universal Age of the ’30s and ’40s, the 1980s are the other golden age of movie horror.

John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Wes Craven, George Romero, Tobe Hooper, Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon, and Lucio Fulci at their peaks (with only Romero even arguable). Brian DePalma, too, although he’s had a schizo career from trashy pseudo-horror like CarrieDressed to Kill, and Body Double to the glitzier Mission:Impossible and The Untouchables.

Spielberg’s been great throughout his career but he had many of his highest highs in the Reagan decade as both director (Raiders, E.T., Temple of Doom, Last Crusade) and producer (Poltergeist, Gremlins, Goonies). James Cameron gave us The Terminator and Aliens. John McTiernan gave us Predator and Die Hard. Divine intervention gave us Robocop

I also sort of liked a couple of other movies in those days: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

What I’m saying is, they were heady times.

– At the end of Adventures in Terror: 1975-2015 are a couple of appendices, listing several books and movies that were important in the youth of Jasper and Grady. The movie list is five pages long.

– So I know some of you are saying, “There were plenty of great non-sci fi, non-horror movies in the 80s!” Well, what were they? Top Gun? Weekend at Bernie’s? Amadeus? OK, I’ll give you Amadeus. Raging Bull and Amadeus.

– Don’t forget: Stephen King.

– Madonna had two songs that I actually liked. Cyndi Lauper had three. Wang Chung had four. No joke.

– Michael Jackson had one (“Billie Jean”).

One of my favorite stories about growing up was that on my ninth birthday, I got my first two cassette tapes: Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and Metal Health by Quiet Riot. I listened to Thriller all the way through onceand that was it. I listened to Metal Health until the tape wore out, then I got another one and wore it out, too. Then I did it again. I still listen to that album all the time.

Mostly I lean towards the “rock” side when it comes to music, but there was some decent pop once you got away from that Flock of Seagulls-Culture Club-Kajagoogoo-Wham! crap.

– Also no joke: Poison > Motley Crue. And I’d listen to Sammy Hagar over David Lee Roth any day.

*  *  *  *

Gotta go for now. Adventures in Terror: 1975-2015 sees the light of day in August. It’s about monsters, ghosts, and infnite space and darkness, and not really about the things I’ve been talking about here. But, I don’t think the book would exist without them, either. I know it wouldn’t exist without horror movies and Fangoria magazine.

We’ll talk more – you’ll see.

Aaron

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.

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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.

Closer…

The last week was just impossible. I wasn’t able to get much writing/editing done. Putting the finishing touches on this edition of Adventures in Terror, then on to a few weeks’ worth of editing, cover selection, etc. Hopefully not too many weeks though. Maybe I’ll give this book to myself as a birthday present. It’d be fitting, given the subject matter. You’ll see.

I actually just added this paragraph to the beginning. Explains a lot.

—–

“My name is Grady Strange Claremont VII. That’s right, the seventh. You don’t see that much anymore, the seventh in a line. Hell, you barely see a third. Much as I hate to say it, there’s just nowhere near the same level of respect for tradition with folks these days as there was when I was growin up almost a hundred years ago, in the gauzy old days of the 1980s and ‘90s. Or, as I like to refer to that period, the death rattle of the twentieth century.”

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.