Talking shop

1June2018-w|MaximLoskutoff

Recently had the chance to host the first of the newly returned Brown Bag Lunch events at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island. That’s yours truly talking with author Maxim Loskutoff, whose debut short story collection “Come West and See” has been highly praised.

I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend the book – especially “Prey,” probably my fave of the bunch. He’s one to watch, that’s of sure.

Thanks to EHBC for asking me to host, and thanks to everyone who turned up to spend their lunch break with us. It was a great time, hope to do it again soon.

Thanks also to my buddy Nick Twietmeyer for the photo, I appreciate it.

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Recent developments and ‘Hardcore’ good news

Wow, what a great few weeks it’s been for me. I want to thank all the readers/listeners who took the time to leave such nice comments about “Storybook Gothic,” recently featured on Season 1, Episode 9 of “Horror Hill.” 

Producer/narrator Jason did such a great job, I’m honored to be a part of the show. Clearly, the story resonated with people, which is the best feeling for any writer.

From YouTube:
“I LOVED STORYBOOK GOTHIC!”
“Dude, ‘Storybook Gothic’ was the best story I’ve heard in awhile! More of that please!”
“I was equally amused and disturbed by storybook gothic.”
“[Storybook Gothic] is absolutely INCREDIBLE!! So creative and fun, I’d love that to be a series.”

I even got a few emails from people who enjoyed the story:
“I have just finished listening to the Horror Hill Podcast featuring your story ‘Storybook Gothic” and WOW! I have listened to 100s of hours of horror fiction podcasts and I can easily say that this was my favorite story of all time. Original, engaging, super clever and so much fun. I really cant say enough good things about it. Please write more!” – Bruce

Thanks, Bruce. And thanks to everyone for the kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

As a matter of fact, it is the first in a planned series of stories featuring Grizz and Pixie. Check back soon for more info on where to find the latest installments (I’m finalizing the next 3-4 stories now; shout out to all my fellow procrastinators!).


In other news:

YBHH-3

Yes! “Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Vol. 3” is out now and it is awesome! I’m so privileged to be among the contributors to this stellar story collection. Thanks to editors Randy and Cheryl for letting me chip in.

“Burnt” was actually the first short story I ever sold (first appeared in “DOA III” in May 2017) and I’m humbled by the response it has received. It’s so surreal to see my name in a TOC among so many genre icons.

If you’ve got the guts, you can get a copy in paperback or e-book right now — and I understand there’s an audiobook version on the way, too.

That’s all for now, folks. Thanks again to everybody for their encouragement and support. It really means a lot. I’ve got a few new stories on the way in a few exciting places, and I’ll be posting that info as soon as I can.

Take care!

 

‘Storybook Gothic’ comes to Horror Hill

 

Storybook Gothic Illustration-JasonHill

Image courtesy of Jason Hill – The Simply Scary Podcast Network

I had some work featured on tonight’s episode of Horror Hill, a dark fiction audio show, part of The Simply Scary Podcast Network.

“Storybook Gothic” is a horror/noir/fairy tale, the debut appearance of homicide detectives Papa Grizzloski and Pixie Emberlight who, faced with solving a brutal murder, must seek the advice of a notorious criminal to bring a mad killer to justice before he strikes again. It’s a pulpy mashup love letter to two of my favorite authors: Neil Gaiman and Thomas Harris. I hope you enjoy it.

Check out that awesome original art too, courtesy of host / narrator Jason Hill. So cool!

He previously did an amazing job reading my story “‘Till the Road Runs Out,” and this is another stellar performance. I’m very thankful and flattered to be able to contribute a story to such a great show.

As if that were not enough, my story was featured as part of a double feature alongside “Please Subscribe” by Adam Cesare — he of “Video Night,” “Exponential” and “The Con Season” fame. Are you kidding? I love that guy’s stuff. To see my name up there next to his? It’s unreal.

Thanks again to everybody at the Simply Scary Podcast Network, especially Jason and executive producer Craig Groshek. I’m so thrilled to be a part of things.

You can find Horror Hill via the above link, on YouTube and just about anywhere else you find quality podcasts.

Stay scared!

Hardcore horror best of collection boasts scary good roster

“Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Vol. 3” (from Comet Press) is available now for pre-order. The TOC is awesome and I’m truly honored to be among the contributors.

My story “Burnt,” which first appeared in the third anthology in the “DOA” series from Blood Bound Books last year, was chosen for inclusion — and I still can’t believe it.

To see my name listed among such awesome talents as Nathan Ballingrud, Brian Hodge, Bracket MacLeod and Scott Smith, to name but a few? Are you kidding?

I can’t wait for this collection, and I can’t adquetly thank all the people who helped me finish and polish up “Burnt,” including the wonderful editors at BBB, who were so helpful and encouraging, and also the folks at Comet Press, for giving my stuff a look.

I’m truly stoked for this. Brace yourself, people.

 

Love, life and landscaping: Timeless troubles get a fresh face in ‘Lawn Boy’

I recently got to chat with Jonathan Evison about his new novel — “Lawn Boy,” out April 3 from Algonquin Books — and write a story for the Bainbridge Island Review.

Evison is a great writer, and I really enjoy his work. We had a great talk — about writing and underappreciated books and class and culture.

You can read the full story here. 

And be sure to check out “Lawn Boy” next month. I enjoyed it immensely.

 

Five (more) books deserving big screen adaptations

Last year, I singled out six terrific tomes deserving of the red-carpet treatment, beseeching any bored Hollywood execs who happened to be browsing the internet and stumble upon my writing to seek out the rights to those stories ASAP and get them before the public.

In today’s mixed bag world of big screen stock: prequels, sequels, shared universes and reboots/remakes/reimaginings, some say that Hollywood is out of ideas. Others, however, say that the derivativedream machine simply gives us what we want. After all, even the most unnecessary “Transformers” sequel raked inbig bucks, right?

Still, recent game changers in even so overplayed a genre as the superhero flick (“Wonder Woman,” “Black Panther”)show what can be done with the right treatment of the right source material. So, it seems to me that what we need now is the best of both: an innovative story with proven appeal.

There are so many great books deserving of cinematic adaptations that have gone overlooked, some for far too long.Here are a few more I’d like to see up in lights, great reads all and well worth your time  whether Hollywood comescalling or not.

1 “By Reason of Insanity” by Shane Stevens

Described by no less an authority than Stephen King himself as “One of the finest novels ever written about perfectevil,” the human-faced monster of this electrifying crime story predates Dexter and Hannibal Lecter by years  andstill outshines them in sheer malignancy.

At the center of this tale of mass murder, pursuit, and psychological terror is Thomas Bishop, a psychotic killer whobelieves he is the son of Caryl Chessman, who was executed for rape in California amid intense controversy. Subjected to unmerciful physical and mental torture by his mother from the day he’s born, Bishop eventually snaps, kills mommy dearest when he’s just 10 and winds up in an institution for the criminally insane. But that’s just thestart.

He grows up knowing the outside world only through TV, all the while learning to model normal behavior. Then, at25, he succeeds in a brilliant escape, changes his identity and begins to wander the country, murdering womenrandomly along the way.

Pursued by reporters, police, and the mob, Bishop manages to elude them all, and the search for him becomes thegreatest manhunt in U.S. history, the story of which remains one of the most vital, underrated crime novels of alltime.

Ideal director: David Fincher. This story has the sprawling timeline and vast cast of characters of “Zodiac,” thegruesome bloody horrors of “Seven,” and the twists and turns of “Gone Girl.” He’s the only man for the job.

2 “Ride a Cockhorse” by Raymond Kennedy

This story could not be more timely.

At times horrifying and simultaneously hilarious, Kennedy’s prescient prose foretold the dangers of manifest destinyand the consequences of an egomaniacal populist leader in this story of small town demagoguery.

A revolution is under way at a once sleepy New England bank as 45-year-old Frances Fitzgibbons has inexplicablygone from sweet-tempered loan officer to insatiable force of nature almost overnight. Suddenly, she’s brazenlyseducing the high school drum major, taking over her boss’s office, firing anyone who crosses her, inspiring populistfervor and publicly announcing plans to crush her local rivals en route to dominating the entire regional bankingindustry.

The terrifying new order instituted by Frankie and her offbeat goon squad (led by her devoted hairdresser) is anawesome spectacle. The novel overflows with snappy dialogue, gleeful obscenity, and more vivid characterizationthan a whole season of quality TV could handle.

Ideal director: I’d have liked to see Ted Demme get a shot at this one, as I envision it having a similar vibe as “Blow,”but since he’s deceased I suggest John Dahl, he of “Red Rock West” (1993) and “Rounders” (1998) give it a go. Toplay the leading lady, I’d ideally go with Jodie Foster, though I know she’s been more active behind the camera lately.If she’s not into it, I gotta go with Jessica Chastain.

3 “Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine” by CristinO’Keefe Aptowicz

Here’s something for the “based on a true story” fans: The life of the man behind the most gruesome museum inAmerica.

Once described as the “P.T. Barnum of the surgery room,” Thomas Dent Mütter was far more than a collector ofcuriosities, and he remains one of the lesser known titans of American medicine. The book is a mesmerizingbiography of the brilliant and eccentric medical innovator, who revolutionized surgery and founded the country’smost famous museum of medical oddities. The film could be one of the all time great biopics.

Imagine undergoing an operation without anesthesia, performed by a surgeon who refuses to sterilize his tools—oreven wash his hands. This was the world of medicine when Mütter began his trailblazing career as a plastic surgeonin Philadelphia during the middle of the nineteenth century. Although he died at just 48, Mütter was an audaciousmedical innovator who pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools and a compassion-based vision for helping the severely deformed, which clashed spectacularly with the sentiments of his time.

Brilliant, outspoken, brazen and handsome, Mütter was flamboyant in every aspect of his life. He wore pink silk suitsto perform surgery, added an umlaut to his last name just because he could, and amassed an immense collection ofmedical oddities that would later form the basis of the Philadelphia museum that bears his name today.

Ideal director: James Mangold. He can do emotional drama, coach great performances and handle authentic action:“Cop Land” (1997), “Girl, Interrupted” (1999), “Identity” (2003) and “Logan” (2017). Also, he’s worked in both biopicsand period pieces before: “Walk the Line” (2003) and “3:10 to Yuma“ (2007), respectively. To portray the gooddoctor, I cast my vote for Taylor Kitsch.

4 “In the Valley of the Sun” by Andy Davidson

If Cormac McCarthy wrote a vampire novel, it would be this vampire novel. Suck it, “Twilight!” This is what horrorstories should be.

Troubled (to say the least) loner Travis Stillwell spends his nights searching out women in West Texas honkytonks.What he does with them doesn’t make him proud, but it does quiet the demons in his head for a little while. Hispredatory routine soon takes a terrifying turn though, when, in a desert cantina, Travis crosses paths with amysterious pale girl in red boots. Seems she’s been hunting him, and in the morning he wakes weak and bloodied inhis cabover camper, no sign of a girl, no memory of the night before.

Annabelle Gaskin spies that same camper parked behind her rundown motel and offers the pathetic, disheveledcowboy inside a few odd jobs.

By day, Travis mends the old motel, insinuating himself into the lives of Annabelle and her 10-year-old son.

By night, in the cave of his camper, he fights an unspeakable hunger.

Meanwhile, half a state away, a grizzled Texas ranger is hunting Travis down for his past misdeeds, but what hefinds will lead him to a revelation far more monstrous than he could ever imagine.

When these lives converge on a dusty autumn night, an old evil will find new life  and new blood.

Ideal director: Joel and Ethan Coen. No question.

5 “The Between” by Tananarive Due

Described by the New York Times as “part horror novel, part detective story and part speculative fiction,” the debutnovel by Due was nominated for the 1996 Bram Stoker Award and is well past due for a big screen adaptation.

When Hilton was just a boy, his grandmother sacrificed her life to save him from drowning. Now, 30 years later, hebegins to suspect that he was never meant to survive that accident and that dark forces are working to rectify themistake. When Hilton’s wife, the only elected African American judge in Dade County, Florida, begins to receive racisthate mail, he becomes obsessed with protecting his family.

Soon, however, he starts to have horrible nightmares, more intense and disturbing than any he has ever experienced.Are the strange dreams trying to tell him something? His sense of reality begins to slip away as he battles both thepsycho threatening to destroy his family  and the even more terrifying enemy stalking his sleep.

Ideal director: Karyn Kusama. She excels at quiet, nuanced horror (“The Invitation”) and she can work in gritty realism(“Girlfight”) just as well. This story requires both, and it deserves to be done well.

Bainbridge Review wins 22 awards in statewide newspaper contest

The staff here at the Review – including yours truly – cleaned up again at this year’s WNPA awards event. Check out our awesome haul …

Originally published in the Bainbridge Island Review

The Bainbridge Island Review earned 22 awards for outstanding news and advertising in the 2017 Better Newspaper Contest, presented by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

The honors included awards for the newspaper’s photography, crime and courts coverage, sportswriting, news writing, arts coverage, business features and page design, as well as advertising.

The competition included more than 1,600 entries from 59 Washington newspapers and was judged by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. The Review was judged on work published from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.

The newspaper won 15 awards for editorial coverage, and seven advertising awards.

In all, the Review brought home seven first-place awards.

The island’s longtime weekly was also honored as one of Washington state’s best newspapers for its size. The Review earned second place in the General Excellence competition.

The Bainbridge Review also took second place for in two of the contest’s most coveted prizes: “Feature Writer of the Year” and “Ad of the Year.”

Jessica Shelton was honored with second place for her feature writing; a first time the Review has posted a top finisher. (The top award going to Bob Smith, editor of the Review’s sister paper, the Port Orchard Independent.)

The Review won second place in the Ad of the Year category, for Ace Hardware’s “Spring is Here” promotion by Vanessa Calverley and Marleen Martinez.

Calverley and Martinez also won another second place award for their “Customer Appreciation Day” ad for Ace Hardware.

The pair also won five other awards in advertising for the Review:

First place in Best Single Ad for Single Advertiser — John L. Scott Eileen Black;

First place, Half Page Color – “Beyond the Report Card”;

Second place, Smaller than Half Page Color – Peacock Family Services

Second place, Best Branding Ad; and

Third place, Full Page Color Ad — Happy Thanksgiving promotion.

In the news category, Shelton won second place for best short news story for the article about Lukas Anderson of Bainbridge Island, a winner in a nationwide recipe contest designed by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Shelton also placed second in the Best Business Feature Story for the story, “Tuesdays with Melinda.”

She also won third place in long-form feature writing for her story, “Good Grief.”

Nick Twietmeyer won second place for Best Health or Medical Story for his coverage of health concerns about rubber-infused field turf.

Luciano Marano was presented with a third-place award in the Best Story on the Arts category for “Drawn From History,” a story of a graphic novel about six Nisei soldiers.

Brian Kelly won second place for crime and court reporting for his coverage of the gun scare at Bainbridge High.

Kelly also won first and second place in Best Feature Page Design.

He also was awarded the first-place prize for Best Sports News Story, for his coverage of the state champion Spartan boys swimming and diving team.

Marano also added to the honors in sportswriting for the Review, winning the Best Sports Personality Profile category with his story about BHS athletic trainer Amanda Sageser.

In photography, Marano and Kelly both brought home first-place awards.

Marano won first place in the color sports action category, while Kelly received top honors for color portraits.

Kelly also won a third-place award in black-and-white sports photography.

All told, the Kitsap News Group — which includes the Bainbridge Review, the Port Orchard Independent, Central Kitsap Reporter (and the Bremerton Patriot, which was folded into the CKR earlier this year), and the North Kitsap Herald won 74 awards, including three community service awards and three general excellence awards.

“I continue to be extremely pleased with our outstanding team of news and marketing professionals,” said Kitsap News Group Publisher Terry R. Ward.

“It’s great to see them recognized for their excellent work serving our communities,” he said.

If you liked ‘It,’ you’ll love …

Having heard from several of my friends (even several of my non-horror fan friends) how much they loved the new “It” movie, I thought I’d take a moment to celebrate the strange but wonderful “kids-coming-of-age-while-battling-evil” sub-genre in horror literature. It’s always been a favorite of mine, like a beloved spooky path branching off from the main horror highway into a dark — but also pleasantly nostalgic — neighborhood that I just can’t help but get out and take a stroll through now and then.

Yes, the new “It” movie is great. Yes, the old “It” miniseries was great. I highly recommend both. Yes, you absolutely should read the novel. If you’re willing to put in the time, it’s rewarding and thrilling in an altogether different way. It’s weird and difficult to explain and … uncomfortable for reasons that have been explored well elsewhere. It is undeniably a titan among horror novels of the 20th century, and certainly in this specific sub-genre, too.

But “It” is not an anomaly.

Other writers besides King have explored the kids-coming-of-age-while-battling-evil theme. I think it works so well because, as it’s so often been said, we enjoy horror stories in part as a way to safely rehearse death, to emerge from the darkness of the story to better appreciate our time on this planet and our own lives.

What more basic tenet of adulthood is there than the realization of one’s own mortality? As the young protagonists of these stories come together to battle the overt evil, they also learn the importance of self-reliance and friendship and all those things that will get one through the formidable thicket of the real world. It’s a perfect union.

Plus, on the very face of it, you’re immediately invested when bad things are happening to kids. Horror stories often hinge on said horror happening to those who deserve it least.

All these stories could be traced, I submit, to Ray Bradbury’s incomparable classic “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (1962), which is actually my favorite book of all time. I’ve read it, well, maybe not every October. But almost every one since I first read it when I was 14-years-old.

You should start there. If you liked “It,” read “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and experience the paterfamilias of the sub-genre. It’s the perfect time of year for that book anyway. And check out the Disney movie too, if you’re in the mood for something dark to watch that won’t scare your kids/skittish friends too badly. It’s family friendly fright fare.

And, if you’re looking still more — or maybe something a little more intense — here is my list of favorite kids-coming-of-age-while-battling-evil novels. Read them, if you will, and grow the hell up.

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There’s a more complete list at goodreads.com, but these are ones I can personally vouch for as being well worth your time.

‘Straight Into Darkness’ – One fan remembers Tom Petty

I wrote recently, in a tribute to my favorite filmmaker George Romero, how I was typically unaffected emotionally by celebrity deaths. Even when the bell tolls for artists whose work I really enjoy, I just don’t get swept up in the communal mourning that’s so embedded in fandom. Romero, I said, like Robin Williams before him, was an anomaly.

Then Tom Petty died.

*Nods to the sky…
“Well played, Universe. I didn’t see that one coming. Almost had myself a not sucky Monday there for a second. As if the news wasn’t bad enough already. Guess you win again.”

Side note: If anything happens to Stephen King anytime soon it’s going to be all but impossible for me avoid the need to seek professional help … and/or medication. Somebody please check up on that guy.

Tom Petty has been my favorite musician for as long as I can remember. My parents tell stories of me as a young child wandering the house with a robot-looking cassette player in tow — the kind with the blue feet as the base, the mouth into which you’d insert the tape, and a microphone on the side, attached with a twirled yellow cord — blasting the “Full Moon Fever” album continuously. I wore that tape out.

I learned all the words to Free Falling right about at the same time I learned the Pledge of Allegiance. Or my home phone number. It was that essential to my life.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were the first real concert I ever saw, too. It was Pittsburgh, 2006. A friend of mine got tickets for a show — the Allman Brothers Band was the opening act — as a high school graduation present and invited me along. It was a transformative experience.

I was fortunate enough to see them live again just recently, when the 40th anniversary tour came to Seattle. They were great. He was still amazing, a flawless entertainer and a consummate showman.

One thing in particular that struck me back in ’06, and which did again here in 2017, is the diversity of the man’s fan base. At the Seattle show, I sat in front of a middle-aged Latino-looking guy, there by himself, who screamed and squealed like a teenage girl at a One Direction concert three summers ago. He talked loudly to anybody who would listen about how much he loved Tom Petty, that he always had, and how he’d never had the chance to see him live before. It was nothing short of a pilgrimage for this guy. I shared his joy. We were fellow true believers.

There were teenagers — there alone, there with their families. There were older folks, too, and a whole swath of my fellow late 20s/early 30-ites. There were stoners and there were drunks, and many more clear-headed rock lovers, too. Some danced. Some didn’t. But everybody cheered. 

That’s what I love most about the man. He was the people’s rock star. He was never unnecessarily political. It was never more about him than it was about the music. He just rocked. For 40 years, he rocked in an undeniably awesome, wholly American way.

The world needs more Tom Petty.

My phone was flooded with texts when the news broke. Apparently, it’s one of the only things everybody who has ever met me knows — “Hey, isn’t Luke like a huge Tom Petty fan? Better give him the bad news right away!”

Thanks, all.

One such buddy o’ mine said: “It’s been 40 years since he started, right? He got out there, took a look around the country circa 2017 and said, ‘Nope. No thanks. I’m out.’”

Ouch.

Well, we are living in undeniably strange and trying times. But I don’t think tough times ever got Tom Petty down. He had his share of bad days, and a childhood that would have broken a man of lesser spirit, and he never seemed anything but resolute. Even his sad songs, they’re indomitable. They’re edged with hope.

The man was also a master lyricist. In fact, I submit that his work stands, not just as great song lyrics, but as some of the finest flash fiction of the 20th century. He was a peerless storyteller. So, I guess every fan probably has their own favorite lines that they’ll inscribe on their personal mental Tom Petty memorial.

I’ve been thinking about it, and I believe I’ve got mine picked out:

“I don’t believe the good times are over

I don’t believe the thrill is all gone

Real love is a man’s salvation

The weak ones fall, the strong carry on” 

-Straight Into Darkness