Thursday, June 28, 2012

Notes from the Refractory Zone

I think "Manhole Explosion" would be a pretty kick-ass name for an all-gay funk band.

I'm throwing some stuff up for posterity's sake as I'm experiencing an altogether new form of ennui these days. For anybody who somehow follows this blog and doesn't know, I recently had the good fortune of teaming up with the very talented folks over at Immortal Ink Publishing, for the purposes of putting out Infernal Machines my first full-length novel, out this August."

Did I mention there would be shameless plugging here? I'm sure I did, at some point. Maybe I just thought about mentioning it and then went out for tacos or something. Anyway, so this incredible, life changing news happened, and then as this was happening I got notice from the editors over at that they'd accepted not one, but two articles for their site.

I couldn't be happier about the convergence of these events. That being said, the 1st email came in about 4 days apart from the 3rd, and everything was pretty much due back within a 96 hour period.

So for the last couple of weeks I would get home from my day job (pest control in AZ, in summertime - a topic for a whole 'nuther day), and then square off face to face with the monitor. I'd dive right the fuck in, and in a fury of focus and productivity I'd write and research and edit and re-write until the bells tolled midnight and my fingertips grew too hot to work the touch screen properly. My eyeballs would get this feeling like somebody plucked them out and rolled them around in hot sand and then wedged them back in. And when the cock crowed I'd roll out of bed and slug down some hi-test and get back to squashing bugs again.

Writing is what I do, and I hit all 3 of my deadlines, and the people rejoiced. By people I mean my girlfriend Cassie, and my kids, all of whom have the patience of saints at times when it comes to my work.

As for that ennui thing - You see, while my artistic (read: moody bordering on downright goddamn surly) temperament means I'm never out and out bubbly, when I have stuff to do I'm at least too busy for the weirdness to set in. And this period of industrious freneticism kept me about as close to effervescent as a guy like me gets. All of a sudden, I was in demand, and for me that was pretty new and exciting and awesome and there's probably a word I'm looking for that sums all this stuff up quite nicely but it's late and my thesaurus is at the downstairs computer and the Ambien is starting to kick in and where was I?

I'd better wrap this up before I start to get strange. I'm back to a bit of a lull, which for me means only working on 2 projects at once (one of them is actually a zombie story, for those of you who look at the title of the blog and wonder if I'd ever get around to writing one) and the other a non-fiction article that I'm gonna try for Esquire or The New Yorker or maybe just on a place mat at a diner somewhere. Then I have 2 other stories shortlisted at 2 different anthologies.

So, in so many words it's back to the "wait" portion of the "Hurry Up and Wait Game."

Anyway, good night everybody, and be cool to each other - Will

Sunday, June 24, 2012

William Castle, Part One

So there was this guy named William Castle, who made a bunch of films, starting in the early fifties, all the way into the mid-seventies when he died, presumably as a result of the Rosemary’s Baby curse (don’t worry, we’ll get to that later).

You may have seen one of his movies on the local cable access late show, something with Elvira or one her knock-offs spouting witticisms while flashing some top-boob. You might have seen one of the well-intentioned remakes that cropped up a few years ago – a few Castle films featured Vincent Price, and no actor can fill those shoes no matter how hard they try. But watching the originals at home cannot compare to the thrill of going to see the real thing. You see, Castle the Director was a competent artist, not in the same league as Orson Welles or Eliah Kazan, better than most of the low-budget BEM flicks and teen cautionary tales that were getting cranked out each week for pennies on the dollar…

…But Castle the Promoter was a fucking visionary. Nobody ever pulled the same stunts as William Castle.

His first film was a suspense thriller called Macabre, in which a young woman is kidnapped and buried alive, and her father - a doctor - races against time to find her. Castle, choosing not to go through the typical Hollywood financing channels, decided to mortgage his own house in order to produce the film. If he stopped there, Castle could be set aside as simply another indie director who gambled on his own artistic merit, rather than allowing the machine to compromise his vision.

But Castle pushed it a little bit farther than most. When distributing the film, he saw to it that each viewer received a $1000 insurance certificate from Lloyd’s of London, in case they should die of fright. Then, ushers and assorted theater personnel were issued nurse outfits and surgical garb, and ordered to stand by the audience in case of emergency.

His gambit worked. Macabre, which cost an estimated $90,000 to make and then distribute, ended up earning over 5 million dollars to date.

For his next project, Castle had the good fortune of casting the legendary Vincent Price, who would go on to collaborate with him again. The House on Haunted Hill was released in what Castle dubbed as “Emergo” which apparently is a fancy term for rigging an elaborate pulley system into movie house and then dropping fucking skeletons onto an unsuspecting audience at a key moment in the film. While the idea sounds slightly terrifying in theory, Castle failed to acquire enough real skeletons for nation-wide release and had to settle for using plastic puppets, which quickly drew the ire of audience members and became fodder for target practice.

After failing to literally scare the shit out of his audience (no doubt much to the relief of whoever would have been responsible for the cleanup), a lesser man might have given up on making scary movies, and gone on to more respectable endeavors. But not William Castle. Instead, the man came up with what may have been the most audacious idea in the history of film – attempting to electrocute the viewers.

Less than a year after The House on Haunted Hill, Castle finished production on The Tingler, again working with Vincent Price and writer Robb White. The story is about a doctor (Well, Vincent Price, so read Mad Scientist) who discovers that living inside every human being’s spine is a small parasite that feeds on fear. Naturally, the doctor’s reaction to this discovery is to yank one of the little fuckers out of a dead woman’s spine and grow it large enough to eat people. Also naturally, the thing escapes the doctor’s lab. Cue mayhem.

Not satisfied with simply releasing a horror movie starring the legendary Vincent Price for the 2nd time, Castle decided to release the film in what he dubbed “Percepto”, possibly because he’d already used the made-up word “Emergo” for House on Haunted Hill, and possibly because the word “Percepto” fit more easily on a marquis than what he really had in mind, which was “Jolt the Living Bejesus out of the Audience.”

Arguably, the logistics required to hook thousands of car batteries up to movie theatre seats would have caused ticket prices to skyrocket. This, plus the fact that once his patrons had all died as a result of horribly painful electrical burns he’d have to find a whole new target market forced Castle to think more creatively. He and his and his team instead devised small gadgets similar to joy-buzzers, which were actually retro-fitted surplus vibrators left over from World War II. Just what our brave troops were doing with such things is the topic for a whole ‘nother day…

…But I digress. Anyway, the Percepto-gadgets were then wired to the underside of metal theatre seats. The climax of the movie occurred when the Tingler-monster broke into a crowded theatre, and, you guessed it – military grade vibrator madness. The Tingler also has the distinction of being the first modern horror film to employ LSD as a plot device, which may sound shocking (forgive the pun), but can be only assumed as reasonable for the time, seeing as how in 1959, LSD was still perfectly legal.

In fact, The Tingler actually shows Vincent Price actually taking a hit of acid just after familiarizing himself with it by reading a copy of a book titled “Fright Effects Induced By Injection Of Lysergic Acid LSD 25”, which sounds like a totally good idea on account of how everyone who’s ever taken acid knows, the best thing to do is think really, really hard about how to have a bad trip beforehand, and by all means read a manual on the fucking subject if you have the wherewithal.

After the madness that was The Tingler, Castle demonstrated a marked restraint for his next project, 13 Ghosts. Released a year later, and minus the significant presence of Vincent Price, Castle nonetheless retained Robb White, along with much of the creative team that helmed his earlier projects. This time around, Castle created a device he christened “Illusion-O” which probably could have also been the name of a really disappointing brand of cereal.

“Illusion-O” consisted of a pair of glasses very similar to the type used to view 3-D movies. There was a red lens and a blue lens, only much longer and stacked on top of each other, instead of side by side.

The premise of “Illusion-O’ was simple – the movie was shot in standard black and white, and the eponymous ghosts were filmed with a blue shade superimposed over the image. To see the ghosts, one need only view the film through the red lens. To opt out, watch the film through the blue. Despite the blinding headache one can only assume came from watching a movie like in this manner, the film was a commercial success.

Castle wasn’t satisfied. He’d long since decided that the film medium was lacking, well… something. For his next entry, the following year, Castle apparently lost his shit.

Homicidal was released in 1961, starring a woman named Jean Arless. This was only one of two of Arless’s on-screen appearance, only it wasn’t. The truth is that Jean Arless was actually Joan Marshall, a second tier ancillary television actress who appeared in at least one episode of just about every show you remember, or vaguely remember from that era, from Star Trek to Bat Masterson. Marshall changed her name several times for different roles, and also occasionally used the name “Joan Ashby”.

In retrospect, one can view Homicidal as one of Castle’s more sober-minded and better efforts. He dispenses with the supernatural and tells a fairly compelling story that opens with the murder of a judge in the middle of a court session, and then illustrates’ the history of the assassin’s family.

Oh yeah, that thing about Castle losing his mind over the promotion? That totally happened, or at least that’s how it would have appeared to the outside observer. Truth is, Castle was equal parts entrepreneur and performance artist. He took risks – bizarre, albeit calculated risks. And the promotion surrounding Homicidal was his most daring since The Tingler.

You see, Castle had little to no respect for what people in show business refer to as “The 4th Wall.” His movies were regularly interrupted by messages from the actors to avert their eyes, lest they die of fright, although zero reports exist on such a death ever occurring. More frequently were such messages from Castle himself. He’d tried various forms of film-tricks, he’d dropped puppets on people, and he tickled them with remote operated vibrators. But there was one trick Castle hadn’t tried yet... abject humiliation of his audience.

Here’s how this worked: The movie unfolded pretty normally all the way up to the climax in the 3rd act, at which point the film stops in its tracks. I don’t mean that there’s a cutaway, or anything, I mean the movie actually stops, like an intermission. This was called a “Fright Break.”

Only in the halcyon era of BEM B-movies and zero-budget slasher flicks could anybody ever have pulled this off. The purpose of the “Fright Break” was to give viewers that were too terrified to watch the rest of the movie a chance to back out. Castle offered a full refund to anyone who opted out at this point. About 1 percent of audience members left on the opening night, at which point Castle apparently went bezerk, and the mother of all promotional events / social experiments was born – enter the “Coward’s Corner.”

Imagine how this went down: As you enter the theatre, you see a set of yellow footprints leading up the center aisle to an area behind the back row. A booth is set up there, decked out in the same shade of yellow, manned by pimply teenagers in yellow uniforms. Your mind flashes back to that funny little form that you signed as you purchased your tickets, the ones with the full refund – that in itself seemed a little funny, but this –

“Hey, what’s that all about?” you ask the usher.

The usher smiles ruefully and a deep crimson flush floods his face and neck. He really doesn’t know how to respond, so he checks your tickets and bids you to enjoy the show.

You think, No problem if I don’t, I can get a refund. Right? Right. But even as you’re thinking that, you realize that something here is very, very amiss.
The show begins with a personal message from William Castle himself, warning people how terribly frightening the following movie might be for some. Castle mentions the “Fright Break” which jibes with what you heard. A friend of yours thought the movie was alright, but he left a few minutes early and got his refund just the night before – Opening night.

Oh yeah, on with the show. It’s pretty good, a lot gorier than its contemporaries. Homicidal came out right around the same time as Psycho, and while Castle lacked Hitchcock’s finesse, he made up for it in lurid sensationalism. As the 3rd act commences in the final reel, the film goes black for a moment. Having gotten sucked into the story, you almost forgot about the break. Only now, Castle threw in a new twist.

Several people stand up, no doubt thinking about taking advantage of that refund. As they do, the center aisle is flooded with a bright yellow spotlight, same shade as those glowing footprints. Castle’s voice booms over the sound system: “Look at the chicken! See how he shivers, in Coward’s Corner!!!”

You now see that the yellow uniforms are identical to nurse uniforms. There is a bright yellow line with the words “Cowards keep walking”, with arrows leading all the way to the booth. One of the kids is fiddling with what looks like a blood pressure cuff.

Everybody in the audience turns and stares at the few people who stood up for the Fright Break They sit back down again. For the rest of Homicidal’s run in theatres, not one single person asked for a refund again.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Open Letter to Latin Pop Sensation Shakira

Dear Shakira,

I learned by perusing the news today that lately you have been under attack by Mother Nature. According to several sources, within a 24 hr period you were first terrorized by a pack of wild baboons, and then in Cape Town a sea lion tried to eat your face. I believe that this is in no way hilarious. Nobody deserves to be devoured by wild animals.

Shakira, don’t despair, and don’t think for one moment that the universe has finally had enough of you and your never-ending flow of brain-cell destroying aural pablum like Waka Waka, and that higher powers are now trying to have you killed. The most important thing you can take away from these near brushes with death is that even if there was some sort of cosmic Grim Reaper, and he was in fact throwing blind roundhouse punches at you, the fucker missed. Twice.

What I would do if I were you is skip your plans to check out a bunch of namby-pamby penguins next, grab fate by the balls, and head straight to the nearest hippopotamus dwelling. I feel that facing down an enormous, ill-tempered dung-flinging creature weighing 2 metric tons that has a reputation for killing for more humans than all the other animals in Africa combined is the only way to go from here.

Remember that you’re a star, Shakira, and that Mother Nature is your bitch. This is the same verve you displayed when you got down face-to-face with a sea lion, and I’m confident that you can transcend the same horrific lack of judgment to an art form.
I understand that hippos are fearsome brutes, which is why I’ve enclosed the following as a visual aid to help you overcome any trepidation you might have about hippos:

Oops, that one was a little terrifying, sorry. Here’s a different photo, in which the subject is a bit more endearing:

Not so bad, right? Here is the same photo again, only this time I’ve taken the liberty of drawing in long eyelashes. I encourage you to do the same, only up close and in person.

Okay, so admittedly, I’m not really good at painting. Ignore the black pinwheels of death that are spiraling from the hippo’s abysmal, soulless eyes and concentrate on what I’m saying. You deserve to see some hippopotaumus, Shakira. The world deserves to see you see them, too.


A fan of music

Friday, June 15, 2012

August it is...

So, I figured that today I would take a break from wondering about the Loch Ness Monster's sex life and the other crap that usually runs through my head and instead jot down a few thoughts about the upcoming book.

For those of you who are unaware, the good folks at Immortal Ink Publishing have been good enough to get behind Infernal Machines and we are pushing through with an August release date. So here is the first of many times that I will be linking to their launch page.

At this particular moment in my life it feels like I'm stepping off of a platform into space. I mean that in the very best way, I'm beyond grateful for everything that has happened, and at the same time I have no idea what's going to happen next. It's really pretty crazy.

This is probably the most serious and straightforward that I'm ever going to be on this blog, but I really wanted to get this out, because I get the feeling that more and more people are probably going to be checking this page out as the book gains momentum. So, I just wanted to put out to anyone and everyone that comes here that life is a pretty amazing gift provided that you make sure to take advantage of every day that you get.

The truth about me is that I've had my fair share of bumps in the road. I've worked about every kind of crap job you can imagine, from pest control to telemarketing to bouncing at strip clubs, which might sound kind of fun but it gets tiresome. Trust me. I've been homeless, too. In fact there was a 5 month period where I lived in a pick-up truck with my dog. Anyway, all of this stuff pretty much blew chunks while it was happening, but I wouldn't change it on account of how it got me here.

And here is a pretty good place to be. Like I said, I don't know whats about to happen.Infernal Machines may sell a million copies or I may labor in anonymity for the rest of my life, but I'll never stop writing. And if you're reading this and you have something in your life like that whether it's writing or playing the harp or interpretive dance or even tax accounting then wake up every day and go after that shit. And then go home and give your family a hug.

Later y'all

Friday, June 8, 2012


Life's gotta be pretty awesome if you're a falconer. I don't know whether it's the giant leather gloves or the large, predatory bird that you get to carry around on the glove. I mean, I'm sure it's gotta be the bird, but that glove is pretty cool, too. It's probably like 85% bird, 15% glove.

The great thing about the falconing glove is if some old-timey European guy ever challenged you to a duel, you wouldn't even have to wait until dawn to count paces, turn and fire. All you'd have to do is let that guy come at you with his little lace glove. You've seen that move, right? They do the thing where they slap you in the face with the glove, and then it'd be your turn. You'd just pull out that massive leather monstrosity and then five across the eyes - Bam! I bet you could knock a guy's wisdom teeth right out of his nostrils if you hit him hard enough with a falconing glove.

Don't believe me about how awesome falconers are? I understand. How about some photographic evidence:

That's a pretty compelling argument right there. This is a guy who's ready for anything. Look closer. I'll bet you didn't even notice the fact that he

A: Does not have a mustache

B: Not only is wearing he wearing a man-purse, he's actually wearing two man-purses, and just daring you to say anything about it. I'll bet the first purse is to hold his flint-lock pistols, grapeshot and gun powder, because not reloading after every shot is for nancy-boys. The second man-purse is actually just a containment unit for his massive, brass testacles.

I bet if I was a falconer, I'd never have to worry about a cocktail party pissing contest again. People would know that I mean business if I was a falconer. What could anybody ever say that could trump suck a thing?

"Well, I'm in acquisitions, and last fiscal quarter I managed to-"

And you'd just cut them off like, "Dig dude, I'm a goddamn falconer."

They'd probably try to stutter something back, like "Well, even in a down market my venture captital firm did-"

And you'd be like, "I don't give a fuck what you do man, I call down hot screaming muscular death from the sky at will!"


That'd be pretty awesome.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shepherd's Crossing

Shepherd’s Crossing
By Will Millar

There were beds at the Inn, and he had plenty of coins in his pocket. Red was leaving, nevertheless. The whiskey had fortified him to an agreeable state, and Home was not far off.
“It’s cold out,” said Molly. “Watch you don’t stand still while you’re pissing, lest somebody find you in the morning, frozen to the spot.”
Red grunted. “Mind your business, cooze.” But he said it with a smile, and Molly laughed back and bid him goodnight.
It was colder than he’d expected, but the whiskey and the exercise were good for Red, and he’d known his fair share of cold nights. A fog had settled over the moors, and he cinched his scarf tight around his neck and moved faster than usual, wishing to keep the damp air from winding ‘round his bones.
At Shepherd’s Crossing, he heard boots echoing behind him, and he picked up his pace. A tight heavy band had gripped his chest. The footsteps grew louder. Red was old, but raw-boned and roughly hewn. He stopped to see who followed.
The mist parted for a tall, gaunt man in a black hooded shroud.
“I know you,” said Red.
“Aye,” said the Pale Man.
“I ain’t coming quietly,” he said. “Ye shan’t have me easy.”
The Pale Man’s mouth split into a thin, cruel smile. “If it’s a fight you want then you’ll have it.” He darted forward, and his cloak flapped like the beating of great wings.
Red feinted and threw an overhand right that smashed into the Pale Man’s face with a satisfying crunch. Hot blood slicked Red’s knuckles.
The Pale Man stumbled, and fell on his ass. He was shaking his head and grinning ruefully. He spat. “I haven’t been hit that hard since I don’t know when,” he said.
Red was still circling, when he saw the dead man on the ground. The Pale Man took a knee and stood, dusting himself off. Red lowered his fists. His chest didn’t hurt anymore.
The Pale Man offered Red his hand. Red took it.
___ ___ ___
The elders had long shunned Shepherds Crossing for a ha’ant. Children were warned away, which naturally drew them in greater numbers, and from broader reaches. Abel and May had heard such tales, but it was too bright a day. Sunshine and birdsong polished the trees to a high gloss, and even the leaves in the muck bore a certain delicate grace. May hopped from puddle to puddle and saw what looked like a pearl in the mud.
Her chubby little hand plucked it from ground and May felt a sudden lightness as she heard what sounded like a snowdrift collapsing in the first light of spring. Her brother was already disappearing over the hill, but May didn’t care. There was nothing in Shepherd’s Crossing for her to fear. She was interested in what she had found in the ground; not a pearl but a long, white tooth.
When the Pale Man stepped out of the woods, May held it up to him like a prize. He asked her if she knew how long he’d been searching for that very tooth.
“A long time?” she asked.
“Longer than long.” He took the tooth from her outstretched hand, screwed it into his mouth and grinned for the little girl. She giggled.
Now her mother flew down the hill at a dead run, frightening May with banshee sounds. Her once beautiful face was contorted into a witch-mask of pain and grief.
May instinctively shrank into the man’s black robes, away from her mother and Abel.
“Would you like to come with me?” asked the Pale Man.
May found that she very much did. She took his hand and let him lead her away from the strange screaming hag, the little lost boy, and the tangled pile of spun gold that already, she didn’t recognize.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Greetings and Salutations Pt II

Hi, my name is Will Millar and I wrote a book last year called Infernal Machines. Some people have read it, and they seem to like it, at least enough to bandy about the word "publication" when exchanging e-mails with me. So, it looks like the book will see the light of day shortly, and for that I'm extremely grateful.

I'm reopening this blogsite for people who have either read the book, or some of my other stuff, and I'd like to say hello, and welcome. I'm really glad you stopped by. This site will probably serve as a repository for some of my more bizarre musings that won't fit onto twitter, where I also live under the not-so-original moniker @willmillar1.

At this particular moment, my brain feels kind of mushy, on account of I've been working simultaneously on 2 non-fiction articles, and some final edits on the book. If you're interested in seeing some of my other work, here are the links to some pretty great anthologies that I've been fortunate enough to appear in.

The March 2012 issue of Cover of Darkness

And the Bleeding Heart Cadaver anthology

Anyway, thanks again for stopping by. I'll be back soon.

Bugs and Fishes,