Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This made my whole day.

I got to meet one of my heroes last night.

Joe R Lansdale did a reading at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. He was funny and engaging and a blast to talk with. In addition to signing my copy of The Thicket, which totally rocks so far, he was nice enough to take a copy of Infernal Machines.

Then I saw this on my Twitter feed this morning...

So, I'm just going to bask in that for a few minutes before I go off to work. Later y'all.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Archive Stuff - Anatomical Nomenclature of a 4-Horned Goat, plus That Time I had my Identity Stolen

I've seen some variations of this idea on a few Tumblr sites and liked it enough to repost ...

Anyway, now that I got that out of my system, this is something that actually happened to me a couple of months back. After the conversation with a well-meaning but somewhat slow on the uptake customer service rep from my bank, I made some notes and here's the result.

The Identity Thief Who wasn't Very Good at his Job

So, somebody got a hold of my Visa card this past June and ran amok with it.

Well, they tried to, anyway. The problem is I think I might have had about 17 dollars in the account, and so what could have been a magnificent crime-spree for this young go-getter turned into a somewhat sad, tawdry affair.

I got the e-mail from my bank and started going through what some folks have described as an absolute nightmare. For me though, it amounted to a 15 minute phone call, followed by several hours of metacognitive contemplation on my part about the man who led some alternate version of my life for about 72 hours.

Here’s some of how it went down, as depicted in the conversation I had with the nice lady who helped me sort the whole thing out.
Operator: (redacted) Bank, How may I help you?

Me: I think somebody hacked my account.

(A bunch of personal questions followed this initial exchange that I won’t get into, as they were totally fucking boring. The 1st operator puts me through to the Fraud Department, where I get asked variations of the same set of questions, which I answer while wishing I had thought to call from a landline, so I could play Angry Birds or something while I do this. Finally we come to this …)

Operator: Okay Mr Millar, it looks as if your account has indeed been compromised. We’re going to have to go down the list of recent transactions to figure out where to apply your Fraud Protection.

Me: Umm, okay.

Operator: Now it looks like you spent $11.37 at a Quik Trip in Tempe AZ at 9:34am on Thursday, is that correct?

Me: That sounds about right.

Operator: Followed by another charge for $6.77 at a Walgreen’s in … that’s also Tempe Arizona, this one was at 1:55pm on Thursday as well.

Me: I’m pretty sure that’s correct also.

Operator: It looks like the next charge was for $232.47, this one was for Safe-T Transmissions in Park City, Utah at 2:43pm. Is that correct?

Me: I’m sorry?

Operator: (Repeats the charge and then adds) Shall I apply this charge sir?

Me: Are you asking me if I somehow traveled 600 miles and got somebody to change out my transmission in less than an hour?

Operator (Totally unfazed): Shall I apply the charge, sir.

Me: No, that wasn’t me.

Operator: Okay then. I also have a charge for $32.33 for, the gold membership.

Me: What’s that?

Operator: I don’t know sir, it’s a website.

Me: I didn’t do that either.

Operator: Okay, it looks like there’s another one for, this one was for -

Me: Nope

Operator: Okay, and another charge for NoStringsAttache-

Me: Nooope.

Operator: That’s fine sir. There’s a charge on Friday for 47 dollars for the Starlite Motel in Washington Terrace.

Me: Awesome.

Operator: I’m sorry, sir?

Me: It sounds like he met somebody, maybe on one of those websites.

Operator: Oh …

Me: Yeah.

(Long pause)

Operator: Shall I apply the charge-

Me: No.

Operator: Okay, it looks like there were a couple more online purchases made (She goes on to name three more dating sites and 2 porn sites. Who pays for porn?)

Me: Okay maybe we can just speed this up by bumping off all of the online purchases.

Operator: Okay, it looks like 2 weeks ago you made a purchase at -

Me: All the online purchases from this weekend, then.

Operator: Okay. Also it looks like a donation was made for 5 dollars to the United Way just outside Ogden Utah on Saturday morning.

Me: Nope, I didn’t do that one, either.

Operator: Shall I apply the charge, sir?

Me: Nah, fuck those guys.

(Long pause)

Me: Hello?

Operator: Just dropping the charge, sir.

There was about 5 minutes more that I won’t get into, because they were boring. I cancelled the account and hung up. This sort of thing can probably be a real pain in the ass for some people and I guess I got off easy.
It kills me that the dude who stole my card donated some of the stolen money to a charity fund. I wonder if that’s just how identity thieves roll in Utah, though.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Notes from the Refractory Zone, Revisited

So, by my count it's been approximately 15 years since I actually posted anything here. Most of the entries past January or so have been guest posts of some sort. If you've been checking for actual new content, please allow me to formally apologize for my truancy.

Here's some stuff that I've been up to lately, for those of you who are stil following along. There was this article I wrote for Cracked in July ...

Along with this one that was published in August ...

I'm going to really try harder to stay on top of this blog, I figure if nothing else I'll use it as a means to keep folks aware of the different projects I have coming up, for example, this anthology that's coming out in early 2014 ...

And finally in the interest of putting some sort of actual content on this page today, here's a joke I wrote:

A horse walks into a bar.

The bartender asks: “What’ll you have?”

The horse says: “Jack Daniels. Double. No ice.”

The bartender: “I don’t get it.”

The horse: “Get what?”

They size each other up. A long, uncomfortable silence ensues.

Finally the bartender shrugs and wanders off to get the drink. The horse swivels in his stool and surveys the place. It’s a smoke-filled wreck of a dive, the kind of place where trouble comes to you even if you’re doing you’re damndest to just mind your own business. The bartender lays a tumbler of bourbon onto a napkin. The horse raises the glass to his nose and sniffs, nods approvingly and slaps a 5 dollar bill on to the bar.

From behind a voice says, “It’s you.”

The horse turns around. Sure enough, trouble has found him. In this case trouble is a tall 30-ish redhead. Tattooed, muscular shoulders and improbably high tits. Fake no doubt - the tits, not the tattoos. She must have turned her fair share of heads back in the day but a lifetime of bad choices has a way of aging some folks prematurely, and this particular filly looks as if she’s been rode hard and hung up wet just a few times too many. It’s the corners of her mouth, mostly. The way they turn down as if a pair of invisible filaments are tugging on them have a way of making her look more than a little unsympathetic.

She raises her eyebrows at him. The horse realizes she’s asked him a question.

The horse says: “I’m sorry?”

She says: “I’m sorry, too.” A pair of tears slide down her leathery cheeks, dragging a couple of ounces of black mascara with them as they join together at a point just below her chin. She wipes them away absentmindedly and pulls out a yellow manilla envelope.

She leans in close, and her full red lips brush the horse's ear. She whispers “Make it look like an accident, okay?”

She slaps the envelope down on the bar right next to his drink and then turns and storms out of the bar. A second later, the sound of tires screeching outside undercuts the tinny jukebox music as a pair of bikers push through the saloon style doors.

The horse tucks the envelope away as the bikers sit down about 3 stools down. He stands up and finishes his drink and walks outside. He is trying not to tremble. Later on he’ll open it up and find $5,000 has been stuffed inside. He has no idea who the woman is, and he doesn’t care, either. As far as the horse is concerned, it’s time to mosey on to the next town.

Some time later, an undercover cop walks into the bar. He orders a drink, checks his watch, and curses under his breath. He finishes his drink and checks his watch again.

He says to the bartender: “Another round.”

The bartender nods, draws him a beer and asks: “So why the long face?”

A Guest Post from S.M. Boyce - Book Nerds, Don't Miss Out on This, Noveltunity Book Club and Giveaway

NoveltunityI have to talk to you about Noveltunity. I don't usually get excited about websites, but this one looks fantastic. It's all about putting power in the hands of the readers. Noveltunity is going to make it so much more fun to be in a book club.

To keep things interesting, he and I put together a really fun giveaway. That's at the bottom, but I want you to learn more about what Noveltunity is going to do for you. It's really cool. I've spoken multiple times with Rick Karlsruher, President of Noveltunity®, and the info he's given me on his new website is going to make life easier for both readers and writers on a global scale.


About Noveltunity

Noveltunity® will be a worldwide ebook/audiobook club that will feature and promote new and undiscovered writers. Members will also have classes and meetings with fellow writers and readers from around the world.


If you are a reader, you get the chance to create the next Stephanie Meyer, JK Rowling or John Grisham. You’ll also be able to meet the writers in meetings as well create friendship with other readers from around the world. In the past two months people from thirty countries have expressed interest in joining.

Seriously. How FUN is that? You get to meet with the chosen authors every month. Just talk to them, like they're normal or something.

So here's the skinny: Noveltunity® launched a crowdfunding campaign on on September 9.

As part of the crowd funding campaign, there are lots of ways to donate. However, one sticks out most to me: the $50 contribution. The bonuses that come with this are ridiculously top-notich. Almost every writer in our group will use this.

You will receive:
  • A state-of-the-art multi-media ebook conversion from eBooks In Motion. This program will allow audio, video and other media to be included in your work. This could separate your book from others and would normally cost over $200.
  • 2 one-year memberships for Noveltunity®. Each will include 36 ebooks and 12 of which will be made into audio books.
  • Audiobooks - included. Yes - they will make audiobooks for you. Sorry. I just wanted to make sure that was pointed out.
When you do the $50 option, you get a "one for a friend" sort of deal, which I love. I like the idea of donating one of the memberships to a public library, but you're welcome to give it to another author friend. If you do donate it to a library, it helps others and puts the club’s book selections on their shelves. This will help dozens of authors every year.

Just for following my blog, Rick has offered our group the ability to use his meeting rooms for classes when we need them. His mission is to help writers succeed. We share that goal.

Let’s all participate! Boyce's Books can put Noveltunity® on the map, and I want you to share in this with me. I'm excited to be with Noveltunity from the beginning, and I want you to be there with me.

So how about it? Are you in?

[button link="" size="medium" target="_blank" color="blue"]Grab Your Spot @ Noveltunity![/button]

If you have any questions, email Rick directly (Rick [at] noveltunity [dot] com) or me.


The Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Exciting YA Fantasy Cover Reveal for Illusion (Grimoire Saga #4) a Guest Post by S.M. Boyce

The Grimoire Saga is an Amazon bestselling series by fantasy author S. M. Boyce. Boyce has been designing and outlining this series since 2006, and the final book is nearly here. The cover for Illusion (Grimoire Saga #4) was formally released by Caffeinated Books Publishing. And because I’m awesome, I got you a sneak peek.

Illusion eBook Cover (Silver)

Available Fall 2014

In 2014, the Grimoire Saga ends with Illusion. Blood is spilled. Love is tested. Loyalty fades. Peace will come at a hefty cost. And in the final moments of the war, both Braeden and Kara must make a heartbreaking sacrifice to win. (Set to release in Fall 2014.)
Gorgeous, right? Want to get an advance review copy (ARC) of Illusion? Sign up for email notifications of when all Boyce's ARCs become available.


About S. M. Boyce

S. M. BoyceInternational Amazon Bestseller. Fantasy Author. Twitter addict. Book Blogger. Geek. Sarcastic. Gooey. Odd. Author of the action-packed Grimoire Saga.

S.M. Boyce is a novelist who loves ghosts, magic, and spooky things. She prefers loose-leaf tea, reads far too many books, and is always cold. She’s married to her soul mate and couldn’t be happier. Her B.A. in Creative Writing qualifies her to serve you french fries.

Boyce likes to update her blog a few times each week so that you have something to wake you up in the morning.

For those of you new to the series, here’s the first book, Lichgates. Make sure you get your free copy (links are below).



“The writing is flawless. The kingdoms and surrounding landscapes breathtaking. The Grimoire is a piece of imaginative genius that bedazzles from the moment Kara falls into the land of Ourea.

Nikki Jefford, author of the Spellbound Trilogy


Spring 2013 Rankings

#6 Kindle Store | #1 Science Fiction & Fantasy | #1 Epic Fantasy | #1 Sword & Sorcery | #1 Teens


Fans of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Eragon will enjoy this contemporary remix of the classic epic fantasy genre.


Grimoire SagaKara Magari is about to discover a beautiful world full of terrifying things—Ourea.

Kara, a college student still reeling from her mother’s recent death, has no idea the hidden world of Ourea even exists until a freak storm traps her in a sunken library. With nothing to do, she opens an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire and unwittingly becomes its master, which means Kara now wields the cursed book’s untamed power. Discovered by Ourea's royalty, she becomes an unwilling pawn in a generations-old conflict—a war intensified by her arrival. In this world of chilling creatures and betrayal, Kara shouldn’t trust anyone… but she’s being hunted and can’t survive on her own. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn’t know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing.

For twelve years, Braeden Drakonin has lived a lie. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. Though he begins to care for this human girl, there is something he wants more. He wants the Grimoire.

Welcome to Ourea, where only the cunning survive.


Note: All eBook copies of Lichgates are free

Amazon: USA | UK | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Buy the Paperback

Kobo | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Add to Goodreads | Watch the Trailer | VIP List

Learn More (free chapters and excerpts)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Old People, True Crime, and Nature Taking its Course

I met Helena a few months ago when she needed somebody to install a new fountain in her front yard. She's at least 90 years old, has one of those big-ass humps on her back and a wispy white goatee. She also talks in a child-like, sing-song voice about (at least to the casual observer) seemingly whatever pops into her head. You would think she was losing her marbles at first glance.

If you look carefully though, you see it's all an act. The fact is, she's a whole lot smarter than she lets on to most people and the whole senility thing is a put-on she does to amuse herself. I figured this out after spending a couple of afternoons doing odd jobs at her house, which I guess could be described as a "McMansion" in one of those sprawling, super-expensive golf course communities in North Scottsdale.

Anyway, ever since I figured out her act she's been a blast to talk to, and I try to stop by at least once a month or so to shoot the shit with her. This past week, I walked into her living room and the Jodi Arias trial was on TV. So, we talked about her for a few minutes.

Here's a few things she actually said over the course of our conversation, so you can get a sense of why I always make it a point to seek her company.

Her: What do you think about this awful Jodi Aryan Nation business?

Me: Arias

Her: What's that?

Me: It's 'Arias' Helena. She's not in the Aryan Nation, her last name is Arias.

Her: Nuts to that. The girl's a lunatic.

Me: She certainly seems that way.

Her: Not to mention a big old liar.

Me: Well, to be fair I don't think the guy she killed was a very nice man, either. I'm not saying he deserved to die or anything, but ...

(Long pause)

Her: I think in a way, all the lying was worse than the murder. Don't you think so?

Me: I don't know. Murder's pretty bad. I guess lying's bad, but you definitely shouldn't going around murdering folks.

Her: My sister's a great big liar.

Me: Oh yeah?

Her: I bet if she murdered somebody she'd get away with it. She's such a liar that she could probably get rid of a body and meet you for lunch and you would have no idea.

Me: (Stunned silence)

Her: (Speaking slowly, for emphasis) No. Idea. (Then, as if I had just walked into the room she brightens up) Will! Would you like a coke? It must be almost a hundred degrees outside!

Helena and I actually talk about murder a lot. She's a big Ann Rule fan, she's gone and had several books signed by Ann Rule at appearances and stuff, and she knows I write horror stories so it's kind of a conversational tent-pole between the two of us. The truth is, I hate doing research on criminals, especially serial killers. It's the one subject that generally scares the shit out of me. Throw me a copy of anything by Jack Ketchum or Edward Lee and I can usually burn through it in a single afternoon, while eating, no problem.

But a hundred or so pages on somebody like Richard Speck or Ted Bundy and I'm taking an extra Xanax that night, on account of that stuff is real. It doesn't even have to be serial killers, either. I had a spate of horrible nightmares after spending a few weeks researching some of the more prominent Mafia families in NY in the late 60's. (Possibly on account of a lot of that stuff happened where I grew up, but who knows?)

Anyway, Helena's made of tougher stuff than I am. She doesn't read true crime so much as devour it. One of our favorite subjects to bat back and forth is H.H. Holmes and the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. We talk about the Murder-Castle Holmes built and speculate on how many women he managed to actually trap in that thing. That usually leads us to the fact that the thing burnt to the ground, before investigators were able to really figure out how a lot of the traps worked, while Holmes was incarcerated in another state.

By the way, soon after that, the entire World's Fair White City burned to the ground, too ...

Such talk will eventually bring us around to "The Curse" , referring of course to the startling number of Holmes's prosecutors who came to mysterious ends after Holmes was sentenced to death.

This past week, the talk of Jodi Arias naturally brought us around to H.H. Holmes. I love shooting the shit with Helena, but whenever we start really stirring up Holmes's bones I spend the rest of the day in a state of low-grade freakout, and read ominous intent into whatever other events may occur.

Case in point, that afternoon's job at another nearby client's house - we'll call them the Baxters. The Baxters are a totally normal, well-to-do family. If there's anything odd about them, it's that they have more pets than most families. I've seen at least four dogs and a half dozen cats patrolling their yard. An unknown number of parrots, cockatoos and budgies squawk and chirp from various windows, and there's a koi pond the size of a truck trailer in the back of their yard as well. The Baxters are constantly adding to their menagerie as well, although most of the time if I'm doing any work in their yard they're pretty good about penning up the larger, more aggressive animals.

Most of the time.

Like I said earlier, my hackles were kind of up by the time I got to the Baxter's and as I was crossing the back yard (which is set up like a miniature rain-forest) I heard a series of low, persistent grunts. Aware that one of the Baxter dogs is a Doberman that I'm pretty sure was either cross-bred with a Clydesdale or part of some bizarre military growth hormone experiment, I hurried back to their front door and confirmed that yes, the Hound of the Baskervilles was safely inside. So I went back around and heard it again.


With thoughts of a mustachioed demon armed with a flit-gun full of knockout gas fully ready to attack, I steeled myself and pushed some brush aside in order to face whatever lay in wait. And saw ...


Now, this is a stock photo I pulled from Google, but it's a fairly accurate representation of what I stumbled upon. If you've never seen two giant desert tortoises getting it on, let me just tell you, it's quite a sight. Turtles are normally slow, deliberate creatures, but when it's time to get their rut on, they can thrust just as fast as, well rabbits, I guess. And they're loud.

If you're wondering why I didn't try to take a picture while I was there, congratulations. You've just asked the same question that my girlfriend, parents, co-workers and everybody else I've told this story to. And the answer is two-fold:

1 - As I said earlier, I'd spent the better part of the morning discussing murder most foul and was already pretty much bent out of sorts, so ...

2 - If while snapping a photo, one of the turtles looked up and made eye contact with me, I'm pretty sure I would have totally lost my shit that day.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy and Squid Pots

So I guess getting scared to death is an actual thing. There's a statistic for it, both global and nationwide but I didn't feel like looking it up as I am battling a cold, and usually statistics are some pretty cooked up bullshit anyway.

But it happens.

They call it Taktsubo Cardiomyopathy, or sometimes Transient Apical Ballooning Syndrome, on account of how the human heart takes on a pretty messed up deformation after the killer adrenaline dump. Here's a side by side of how your heart looks when it swells up to the point of bursting, as opposed to how a normal ticker is supposed to look:

Fear isn't the only emotion that can cause the human heart to get all swollen and bursty-like, sometimes TC can be caused by a sudden onslaught of depression and stress. There was a huge spike of TC-related deaths after 9/11, and cases of it are common in old married couples where one of them kicks the bucket all of a sudden and then the other one pops off a few months, or sometimes weeks later.

It's sometimes called "Broken Heart Syndrome", although having typed that I suddenly worry that I've now given some serious ammunition to any angry spurned lover who decides that not only is it okay to drunk dial their ex at 3 o'clock in the morning but it's absolutely imperative to do so because This is a life-threatening situation. That's not how it works, okay? (DO YOU HEAR ME SHEILA, GET OVER IT! THAT WAS SUMMER CAMP AND WE'RE BOTH ALMOST 40!)

Sorry, that was a sidebar for my next column, "Why I'm no longer on Facebook" followed by "Why Photoshop can be an absolute mothefucker sometimes".

Anyway, the term Takotsubo Syndrome actually comes from the ancient Japanese practice of trapping octopuses octopeese octopi squids in ceramic pots and then hauling them onshore. Here's a shot of the pots:

This actually spawned a semi-hilarious awareness campaign about TC and the whole stress-management-to-avoid-having-a-heart-attack thing called the "Keep Your Octopus in its Pot" campaign.

Of course this image - which was quite popular for a brief period in Asian Hospitals - of an angry cephalopod attacking vital internal organs led some folks to believe that there was some sort of horrendous octopus uprising, causing widespread panic and another temporary spike in the very disease that Doctors were trying to prevent.

The 2nd campaign poster was a little more vague, but (in my opinion) somewhat more menacing ...

I often wonder about the likelihood that a westerner will come across one of these pots washed onshore, maybe like somewhere in Hawaii or something. I picture an older guy, a tourist from the Midwest in his late 50's who has no idea what it could be. He wanders across the sand and spots it rolling up out of the surf.

"Ho! A souvenir," he thinks, and then hurries up to grab it before the waves snatch his newfound treasure away from him. As he grips the rim of the pot, an errant tentacle lashes him by the wrist and the next thing he knows he's wrestling with a half-mad octopus desparate to escape its imprisonment.


Naturally this sort of madness would cause his heart to explode in sheer terror, causing the first ever case of a Takotsubo actually causing a Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

It Means "Strangle-Face"

The witch-light rocketed across the sky, crashing into a patch at the edge of Barrett’s field, where the kudzu had overtaken a 1940 Ford Tractor so completely that its chassis was merely the suggestion of a hump buried under a sea of ravenous and otherwise useless vegetation. Useless, except for the fact that it hid – up until that moment – a twenty square foot victory garden where I grow a few small marijuana plants on account of my, um, eczema.

Tendrils of greenish-white fire began to lick up from the border, and somewhere dogs began barking. Of course this had to happen, and just when I had settled in for the night. I cursed under my breath and rose up from the porch to grab my shotgun.

I had no idea of what that strange light could have been, but ever since the neighbor down the road experienced some unpleasantness vis a vis stepping outside one morning and finding a half dozen cows, his blue-ribbon prize winning sow and a German Shepherd all burnt up and turned inside out amidst some kind of looney-tunes crop circles I make it a point to carry the heater with me everywhere. It pays to be prepared. As my victory garden sits about a quarter-mile from the front porch as the crow flies, I elected to forgo shank’s mare in lieu of the pick-up truck. I ain’t a young man anymore.

2 minutes later I was stumbling and cursing through the tall weeds like an idiot. At the center of where my poor, harmless crops used to soak up rays there was now a large, smoky crater. And at the center of the crater was a smooth, egg-shaped bit of technology no bigger than a Frigidaire. A hatch popped open at the top and I made a bit of a show of racking that scattergun and hoisting it at said hatch.

“You’ll want to come out nice and slow,” I said, sounding a whole lot more confident than I felt.

The voice that came back sounded a bit like that Stephen Hawking feller – the smart little guy in the wheelchair. He’s always going on about things like space-time and black holes from what I’ve seen in the papers; maybe he got it in his mind to try launching himself up there. People are always getting funny ideas.

The voice could have been Stephen Hawking’s, but he wasn’t speaking any English that I knew of. “Dos vedanya,” I think he said. And: “Tovarisch.”

“Never mind all that,” I said. “Get to where I can see you.”

“Da, da…” Two furry little paws popped out, followed by a furry little face. It looked at the shotgun barrel and ducked back down for a minute. Then it came out slowly, hands held high, grinning.

It was a capuchin monkey, wearing an orange jumpsuit. Slung around its neck was a contraption that looked a bit like a “Speak and Spell.”

I lowered the gun, and the monkey hopped down, still grinning. It gestured at the gadget and shrugged. May I? I suppose it meant.

I nodded, and it tapped a few more keys.

That Hawking voice chirped again: “Dos vedanya, tovarisch.”

“Shoot,” I said. “Is that Russian?”

The monkey stood up a little straighter, and tipped me a salute.

“Well I’ll be. Do you speak any English?”

The monkey seemed to consider this for a minute, and then tapped a few more keys. “American?”

I nodded.

The monkey went back to typing. A few seconds later Hawking chirped “Three. Blind. Mice.” The monkey grinned so wide I thought the top of its head was going to slide off.

“Not bad,” I said.

Just then a second foo-lite streaked overhead and exploded somewhere up the road. The monkey screeched and jumped onto my shoulder before I even knew what was happening.

“Friend of yours?” I asked.

He tapped a few more keys, and what came out sounded like “Zadushit Litso.” He was trembling.

“Should we go check it out?”

He paused, and then typed again. “Da.”

___ ___ ___

Whatever it was had smashed into the trailer that used to be Ma Barrett’s Fresh Sushi and Fireworks Stand. It must have torched the fish something awful, either that or Ma Barrett was taking a bit too much creative license with that whole “Fresh” angle.

“Zadushit Litso,” the monkey typed.

“I don’t know what that is,” I said.

He typed some more. “Three blind mice.”

“That’s not helping, either.”

We hopped out of the truck, and my eyes started watering. The rotten fish smell was like a punch in the face. “Ma?” I called out. “Doc?”

“Three. Blind. Mice.”

“Cool it with that.”

From the wreckage of the trailer, I saw something emerge that hurt my head to look at. Imagine what’d happen if a tarantula got an octopus pregnant and then took it to Chernobyl for the “baby-moon”. That’d give you an inkling, but it wouldn’t do this sonofawhore justice. It was wearing something like a fish bowl on something like a head. These aren’t the right words, just something that’ll have to do. One horrible not-yellow not-eye was fixed on me. “Zadushit Litso?” I said.

The monkey nodded. For some reason, he was frantically stripping out of his jumpsuit as this thing scuttled out of the wreckage, advancing on us. It was waving what I’d originally thought was an oversized turkey drumstick, until I saw the fuzzy slipper at the bottom end, and I realized it was the lower half of Ma Barrett’s leg. I racked the shotgun and centered the sight on that eye and pulled the trigger.


I may have forgotten something at the house.

The creature made an awful sound that was a chuckle but nothing like a chuckle. It slithered at us with sickening speed. From the corner of my eye I saw the monkey hurl something. A split second later, a sodden diaper struck the creature in the head, stunning it. Without thinking, I reversed the grip on the shotgun and swung it like a baseball bat.

The not-fishbowl encased not-head exploded, showering us in space-glass, ichor, and monkey-piss. We did a little victory dance, my new friend and I.

Then, a dozen more of those foo-lights ripped across the sky. We stopped dancing. “Zadushit Litso?” I asked.

He didn’t have to type anything. I saw the answer in his eyes.

Notes on 'It Means "Strangle-Face"'

So this is the unedited version of the story that I wrote for The Iron Writer Challenge last week. Some folks complained that the story was already too long, but fuck those guys. As it is, I like this original, even longer version of the story better. I hope you guys do, too. Cheers - Will

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How I spent my Vacation, Part 2

(Notes: This is the 2nd essay I wrote as part of the Infernal Machines blog tour, in its earliest form.)

5 Horror Novels that Directly Inspired Infernal Machines by Will Millar

I originally wanted to do kind of a top 5 list, but there’s so much incredible stuff out there that I would be doing the Horror world a disservice even trying to quantify what’s what. So instead, I want to simply focus on some great works that directly inspired my story.

#5: Off Season by Jack Ketchum

About halfway through Infernal Machines, there’s an indirect reference to the Sawney Beane clan, which some folks may recognize as the very real band of Scottish cannibals that Ketchum’s seminal masterpiece was based upon. I put the reference in there on purpose, as kind of an “Easter Egg” for hardcore horror fans. Also, while his brand of super-realistic (and unflinchingly graphic) horror is different to my own approach to the genre, Ketchum is one of those people who I’ve not only read, but out-and-out studied.
I believe the genius of Jack Ketchum is not so much in his ability to paint completely real, fucking absolutely terrifying pictures of humanity at its worst, but in the way he draws you in to the world he’s describing. You root for his more sympathetic characters, even as you know the best they can usually hope for is a quick death. And while his villains are more, well, fucking villain-y than anything this side of Edward Lee’s City Infernal, they are nonetheless compelling in all of their 3-dimensional, fully realized glory.

#4: Ghost Story by Peter Straub

“Start at the beginning” is something you hear a lot when it comes to the basic structure of telling a story, but in most cases with a story as large and complex as your average novel, that’s a whole lot easier said than done. Straub, who is out-and-out my favorite writer by far, took this axiom for Ghost Story, and he beat the hell out of it, stole its lunch money, and then kicked it in the balls a few more times for good measure.
Ghost Story actually starts about 30 pages before the novel’s chronological conclusion and then tells a story through a series of flashbacks, half-remembered fables, and jarring cuts in perspective, piecing together a series of events that stretches across the span of almost a century, with no fewer than 5 protagonists sharing the spotlight. There’s absolutely no reason you should have a clue what’s going on, and yet Straub manages to make the whole thing work.

#3: Salem’s Lot/Jerusalem’s Lot/One for the Road by Stephen King

While I realize that some folks who are regular readers of my blog are probably rolling their eyes at this point and wishing I would stop talking about Salem’s Lot, all I can say in response is this: Someday I will be dead, and it’s more likely than not that on that day I won’t have anything more to say about the subject.
It was the first real horror story that ever captured my interest, and while my earliest exposure to the tale was through Tobe Hooper’s excellent screen adaptation, a few years later I read the novel and it was all I could do to keep my head from exploding from the sheer awesomeness of it all. Not only that, but SL led me to Night Shift & Jerusalem’s Lot, which of course led me to H.P Lovecraft, and you can pretty much take it from there. 30 years later, I still read the book and its related shorts about once a year and find new things to marvel at.

#2: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

If Salem’s Lot took over the reins of my imagination from any other work of fiction, it was Ray Bradbury’s dark masterpiece. These two books could represent the Yin and Yang of my subconscious mind, with Barlow and Straker occupying the dark end, and Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show taking up the… uh, other dark end, I guess.
In all seriousness, I owe a lot of the language and imagery of the Arthur Cardiff character and his Emporium of Majick and Wonder to that traveling circus, and I’d be lying if Stoner and Paulie didn’t bear even the slightest resemblance to Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway.

#1: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

About 7 or 8 years ago I tried (and failed) to write the Great American Vampire Novel. Having grown up with my Salem’s Lot obsession, and logging enough hours watching the Hammer vampire classics to recite at whim long lines of dialogue from Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, or Captain Motherfucking Kronos himself, I figured I had the chops. And so, after 2 and a half years of writing and re-writing, and peer editing and re-rewriting, and everything else that goes into the harrowing process of sculpting a huge mound of bullshit into some semblance of a coherent narrative, I was ready to show the world my work!
To say that it sucked would be paying it a complement. I called it Hell’s Deliverance, which makes about as much sense as the story itself – which was kind of a mash-up of bad Lovecraftian pastiches and Breaking Bad fan fiction, minus Walter and Pinkman, with some vampires thrown in almost as an afterthought. If that sounds cool to you, it’s only because I boiled it down to about 40 words, as opposed to the original 350 pages.
But I learned a lot about what goes into writing a semi-decent novel by writing the dreaded 1st novel. For my second attempt, I figured I would ditch the vampires and do an homage to Frankenstein instead. Infernal Machines, for better or worse, is what came out of that attempt.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

How I Spent my Vacation

Greetings and Salutations y'all...

So for the last 6 weeks or so I've been doing a bunch of guest blogging on other sites in order to promote Infernal Machines. I'm very grateful to all the people who've lent their support, whether it was through reading and reviewing the book or simply leting me come by and shoot the shit for a while. For those of you who were unaware of the tour, here's a link to the sites that took part in the tour.

As a means of wrapping the whole thing up, I'm going to be spending the next few days posting some of the material from the tour, starting with the folowing essay. Oh, and Happy Easter everybody - Will

A lot of people who read my stuff end up asking me why I write Horror. It’s a question that’s asked of Horror writers more than most genres, when you run into somebody who pens, let’s say Westerns, or Sci-Fi the question is usually “Where do you get your ideas?”

But for Horror it’s more often than not the Why, rather than the How. I think a lot of the time this question is a politely worded variation on What the hell is wrong with your brain? While I can’t answer for other writers, the answer in my case is: I don’t know, but this might have something to do with it…

When I was a kid, on holidays my Mom and Dad would pack me and my little brother into their 1983 Buick Roadmaster station wagon — you’re probably imagining one with wood paneling and that weird roof rack thingie that served no ostensible purpose whatsoever, and you’re totally right — and drive us the 7 or so hours from Long island to New Rochelle to our Aunt Abbey’s house. I say house, but manse is probably closer to it. It was one of these sprawling 200 year old numbers with a basement that looked like a set piece straight out of one of the Saw flicks.

No matter which holiday it was there would be several traditions we would perform each time we went. For example, the dinner served was always turkey, no matter what. Easter — turkey. Christmas — turkey. Thanksgiving — well, you get the picture. A lot of families get together and gossip about each other, and I guess we were no different, but I’ve noticed looking back it wasn’t quite gossiping so much as it was story-telling. The difference may be marginal, or a matter of semantics, but here it is, anyway:

The stories were usually the same, and they involved the people who were already there, usually they were the butt of some joke or other due to either too much alcohol, or having had some sort of emotional outburst, and the stories got better the more times they were told due to various embellishments or tweaks, which I now think of as “edits”. Whoever told each story over and over had a way of refining them over the years until they had the oratory command of a field general and the timing of a stand-up comic.

Of all the story-tellers in my family, the most gifted was my Uncle Robert. He was also the one who got me to love Horror without ever once taking me to a movie or even telling me a ghost story, that I can remember.

There’s other stuff, too — if I’m going to look back and try to find whatever drove me into my life’s work, I’ve got to be at least somewhat fair about it. I saw Salem’s Lot when I was 5 years old, and to say that it had an effect on me is like saying Georgia O’ Keefe might have had an interest in flowers that looked kind of like vaginas. I used to tape crucifixes to my windows and sleep with a stuffed snake wrapped around my neck as some sort of fang shield. I broke into abandoned buildings in my neighborhood and searched for “Evidence of the Paranormal”. (What that evidence might have looked like, who’s to say, but I always envisioned some crudely spray-painted message, like: “Vampyres Here!” with a downward slanting arrow pointing to an otherwise hidden root cellar.)

I watched movies like Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when I was probably way too young to process them in a healthy way, but I loved every minute of them. I dug the classics, too — everything from the 1950’s BEM movies like This Island Earth and The Angry Red Planet to the Atomic Age cautionary tales like Them. I watched the Howard Hawkes version of The Thing at least a dozen times before John Carpenter’s masterful remake even existed. I dug, even at a young age, the moody surreal tension in Fritz Lang’s M, and don’t even get me started on the Universal Pictures classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, or The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

You’ll notice I’m just talking about movies here, and not books. That’s because I saw all this crazy shit when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. Which leads us to the question why would I have started watching horror flicks — at least that many horror flicks — when I was that young? Again, we’ve got to go back to my Uncle Robert, and that fucking basement.
Man, I loved that guy. He passed away about 3 days before my 22nd birthday. I was still in the Marine Corps at the time, and I didn’t hear about it until the whole thing was over and he was buried. I never got a chance to tell him how much he meant to me…

The basement was scary enough without any of his help. The house was built on a tract of land right next to a power plant, and there was a rail station less than a quarter mile away, so it always seemed like that basement was breathing. There was a central hallway painted an institutional green with crimson trim, and it hadn’t been cleaned up since god only knows when. The house itself had been built some time at the turn of the 20th Century. There may have been 6 rooms, or 8 — three or four on either side of the Hallway from Hell. To my 4 year-old eyes, it looked about as long as a fucking football field.

This was the other holiday tradition — exploring Aunt Abbey’s basement — it was like a rite of passage for us kids to go down there, usually at some fabricated request the first few times and then as we got older, just because.

The bloody axe is the one that I remember, even if it was the tamest by later standards. This was when we were still so young that Uncle Robert had to escort us down there. I don’t know how much time he spent thinking up new ways to scare the shit out of us, and maybe the axe was the 1st stunt he ever pulled. I don’t remember a single thing I got for Christmas when I was that young the way I remember that axe.

Robert was leading us — me, my little brother and my cousin Michael — down Bram Stoker’s favorite hallway, opening up each doorway like one of those chicks on The Price is Right, saying in a low, sing-song voice “Nope, it’s not he-ere…”

Each room proved to be empty until the very last one, and I saw that axe. Laying in a single strip of muted lamplight, covered in blood, Uncle Robert screaming at all of us “Run!!!” and I don’t even think my feet hit a single step on the way back up the stairs, I swear all of us kids fucking levitated our way out of the basement by sheer force of will only to see our parents actually chuckling at our expense in the living room.

A few minutes later, Robert calmed down our hysterics by showing us the ketchup bottle, and my Mom and Dad confirming that it was in fact, a prank. Okay, so you might be thinking that’s kind of a fucked up prank to pull on a bunch of kids, but from then on every time we went to Aunt Abbey’s house the trip to the basement was as integral a part of the whole thing as the turkey dinner.
The reason I write the stories I do is because my family taught me that, sometimes, love means scaring the shit out of little kids and then having a good laugh about it afterwards.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

External Links... plus Sulawesi, Isle of Nightmares


It's been kind of a busy month. I participated in Kayla Curry's Blogger Book Fair this weekend, and so most of my extra-curricular focus has been on doing some stuff on other blog sites. To be more specific I wrote a flash fiction piece for Thomas Winship's Vaempires site, which you can check here... Along with my own humble effort, there's a couple of real doozeys by some other, very talented writers.

I also did two interviews, one with Beck Sherman at Dying To Write and another with Brandon R Luffman at his site on Wordpress.

Last week I wrote a guest post for the excellent Armand Rosamilia, but I'm having some trouble linking to it currently. So instead, I'll just throw up some of it here. If you get a chance, definitely check out some of Armand's work. I'm a big fan of his Miami Spy Games zombie series.

So without further ado, here's an excerpt from the post I did for him: Sulawesi,Isle of Nightmares

It’s quite obvious that Mother Nature hates us. And I’m not talking about that quiet seething hatred you may encounter from time to time when you crash a dinner party and everybody is just too gosh-darned polite to ask you to leave (or is that just me?). No, this is the crazy, jabbering breed of hatred that a homeless lunatic might have for the guy who stole his imaginary pet dragon. If you have any doubts about this, look no further than the Indonesian Isle of Sulawesi, where scientists have recently discovered some new and objectively terrifying level-ups to some of the most common animals on earth.

For example, the Sulawesi Babirusa is a wild pig that is fairly common in this region. While the males tend to travel solo, the wimmin’ and chillun’ will sometimes travel in packs numbering close to 100. The males can grow up to 100 kilograms (that’s 220 lbs for us non-communists) and run at a top speed of 35 mph.
Oh and there’s this:

That second pair of tusks is not only the most WTF set of secondary teeth you’ll see outside of the Alien franchise; if left unchecked, they will curve right back into the boar’s skull, pierce his brain and kill him. So, to recap, they are a massive, fast-as-hell breed of omnivore with a built-in biological imperative to destroy as much stuff as possible, as often as possible.

If pigs aren’t your thing, that’s okay. Say hi to the Garuda Wasp –

About roughly the size of a small hummingbird, these fellows are characterized by an unusually thick, armor-like exoskeleton rendering them almost impossible to squoosh. Also, their massive mandibles - which they tend to wrap around their heads when not in use - are twice as long as their front forelegs. There’s just something a little too horrifying for words about a species that will wear its own jaws as some sort of jaunty scarf, but then again what can you say about an animal whose venom is well-documented at turning some of its victims into zombies?

But, for me at least, this is the true face of horror:

That’s not a snake, it’s one of 9 species of fanged frogs that scientists have found recently around Sulawesi. Or, to be more accurate, one of 9 species of rapidly adapting fanged frogs that are taking over the island. This is, and has been the stuff of my nightmares ever since I saw this as a kid:

At least in the movie, they had the decency to not give the things goddamn fangs, but Mother Nature has no such compunctions, on account of – like I said earlier – she totally hates us.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More Notes from the Refractory Zone

Greetings and Salutations, y'all...

I realize I've been kinda quiet so far this month. To be fair, there's been a lot going on as I am getting ready to do a bit of guest blogging for some really excellent people in the next few weeks. Here's a quick shout out with some links to their stuff:

Thomas Winship is the author of the Vaempires series. I'm currenty reading the 1st one of the bunch, and it's a lot of fun. Think post-dystopian/neo-splatterpunk/dark fantasy with some vampires thrown in for good measure. Within the 1st half dozen pages of the story there's enough bloodshed to cover a small stadium, and it's very well written. You can check out more about his work here.

Armand Rosamilia is the creator of the Miami Spy Games: Russian Zombie Gun series, as well as the Keyport Cthulhu anthology and more short stories than you could hurl a chainsaw at. Here's a link to his website.

Also, Brandon Luffman and Beck Sherman will both be doing interviews with me in the next couple of weeks, so by all means please check them out as well. I really can't thank all of these very talented and hard working people enough for their time and effort in helping me to promote Infernal Machines

This week I've been doing a lot of research on the Densus Church, which is one of the oldest churches still standing in Romania. Portions of the church date back to the 2nd century AD - it is believed that these earliest parts of the building started out in life as either a fortress or an early Pagan temple. Pagan, in this case at least, is kind of a catch-all label for the Dacians; a Proto-Romanian tribe of Indo-Europeans who roamed the Carpathian Mountains several thousand years ago. Many Dacians and Thracians were at least henotheists, of not outright monotheists; they worshipped a god by the name of Zalmoxis. It is believed that when the Romans conquered this region, they converted what is now known as the Densus Church into a temple for Mars, the God of War.

Later portions of the Densus Church were built in the 7th Century, with further additions added in the 13th century. It is believed that the Christian Frescoes that adorn the interior of the church were painted sometime in the 1500s over older, pagan-themed murals. Most of them depict Jesus Christ in traditional Romanian garb.

The dominant feature is a large, monolithic stone tower built right above the naos of the Church. Over the altar is a massive stone carving of two lions with their backs to each other, with their tails entwined. It is believed that this part of the church was built as a mausoleum to the Roman General Longinus Maximus, who once governed the territory now known as Romania.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

And Now, an Update from the Good Folks at Immortal Ink Publishing...

(Will's notes: I'd like to take a moment to publicly thank the creative and talented S.M. Boyce. Her tireless efforts are a large reason that Infernal Machines is doing as well as it is. She's also a fantastic author herself - if any of you are into the Fantasy Genre, check out Litchgates and Treason, which are books 1 & 2 of the Grimoire Fantasy Trilogy.

Anyway, IIP is putting together a promotional tour for the release of my book, and I am grateful to all of them for doing so. Click here for the latest info on said tour. Cheers, Will)

The London Aquarium Part 1 - Zazel and The Great Farini

To understand, to properly appreciate what this 13 year old girl actually did, one needs to find a regulation size football field, and on a clear spring day just stand under one of the goalposts. It’s not enough to just envision this - one night be able to get the gist of what 300 linear feet might look like, he or she can easily enough intellectualize the distance from goalpost to goalpost. You can imagine, or put the right hemisphere of your brain to good use and mathematically postulate the height required for a mass of 90 lbs of screaming, bent for oblivion, human tissue and hair and bones to sail from end to end in a single pass – but nobody of sound mind can equivocate the arithmetic involved with the sheer blind terror that begins to boil in the base of the genitalia and diffuses through the guts and into the bone marrow at the prospect of such a hell trip until you actually meditate on the distance with your eyeballs. And that distance you’re looking at, that’s just blank space. If you fail to hit that dismayingly small safety net on the other side, there’s nothing but grass. When Zazel made her first jump in 1878, it was over a sweaty, filthy mosh pit of gamblers and drunks and prostitutes, over a couple of elephants and a brackish tank wherein floated the bloated corpse of a dead whale.

And maybe, just maybe, she sailed in a perfect single arc over His Satanic Majesty himself, Jack the Motherfucking Ripper, as the voices began to set in on him, whispering.

The London Royal Aquarium opened on January 22nd, 1876 among much fanfare and the absolute noblest of intensions. A massive, lushly appointed hall capped with a multifaceted crystal dome that dazzled on a sunny day like a jewel visible from space, it sat immediately to the west of Westminster Abbey with the intended purpose of being a gathering mecca for the highest minds of the Free World, a sort of cognoscenti mecca for the Pre-Mensa world. Displays of fine art and exhibits of the latest developments in modern science were to stand hand in hand like none had ever seen since the very height of Athens itself, heralding a New Golden Age.

Only, nobody really gave a shit. They’d tried this sort of thing earlier in London at the Crystal Palace Assembly in 1851, and even with the urgency of the 6-month expiration date that had been attached to it, the thing barely broke even. The Royal Aquarium had been built as a sort of permanent structure, and yet within the first few months, it was already hemorrhaging money like a big fleshy sieve.
Part of the problem was that it tried to be too many things to too many people. Imagine if the biggest frigging Wal-Mart you ever saw suddenly sprouted caterpillar legs, high-tailed it to Las Vegas and grudgefucked the Circus-Circus. The demon baby that would result from such an act would no doubt resemble the Royal Aquarium, which boasted among other things, 16 massive fish tanks, a skating rink, symphony hall, art gallery, hair-dressers shop and never you bloody mind the cacophonous myriad of kiosks, each with a different set of wares to hawk, many of them competing side by side, with the mindset of whoever could shout just a little bit louder would edge out their competition.

How on earth anybody thought that the Arts and Sciences might have a chance of flourishing under such conditions is a mystery, and yet some of the most successful minds in Victorian England were backing this endeavor, folks like Henry Labouchere and Arthur Sullivan (he of the Gilbert and Sullivan composing duo) were on the goddamn board of directors.

An expensive system of moving and filtering fresh and sea water through the massive tanks built into the floors had been completed, and yet none of them ever became the teeming houses of sea life that had been the LRA’s original intent. The dead whale, however was on full display by the spring of 1877, floating in a brackish hell of ichor and eels that were ever feasting and gorging and fattening themselves on the great hulking pile of rotten flesh, as an endless looping circle of carrion flies lit and took off from the bubbling surface.

Enter William Leonard Hunt, A.K.A. the Great Farini. Hunt was born in 1938 in New York to a pair of 2nd generation working class parents. From an early age, he knew he was born to be a circus performer. Against all odds, he put together street performances. As early as the age of 8 years old, Hunt began staging impromptu street performances in his transplanted hometown of Bowmanville, Canada. More often than not, these acts would end up with Hunt’s father breaking the show up and literally chasing young William down the street and lashing the shit out of his back as they ran with a beefy leather belt.

The man who would become The Great Farini took these public beatings in stride, going on to become an accomplished swimmer, diver and gymnast. He moved on to weightlifting and kettle bells and began staging much larger strongman acts later on as a teenager. In 1859, he performed his first high-wire act, tiptoeing his way across a tight rope suspended above the Ganaraska River in Port Hope. He called himself “Signor Farini.” Less than a year later, he would cement his reputation as a major player in the Circus business when he took his tightrope act to a slightly larger venue, that being Niagara Falls. Yes, that Niagara Falls.

Not only is Niagara Falls the tallest waterfall in all of North America, the vertical drop being over 165 feet from the top of the Horseshoe Falls into the basin, but its combined flow, dumping the water from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario via the Niagara River, it is the largest and most powerful in the world. It will kill the fuck out of you.

And yet in 1860, Hunt not only crossed the thing on a tightrope, but did so while wearing a hand-cranked washing machine strapped to his fucking back. This became a weekly performance for the man who would become The Great Farini, and then twice a week, upping the ante on his stunts by performing somersaults and flips on the tightrope, or wearing a blindfold, or even carrying the occasional volunteer across the gulf. In 1864, as Hunt/Farini was attempting to cross the tightrope while wearing a pair of stilts, the Law of Averages decided it had just about enough of his antics and flicked him into the white foaming abyss.

Somehow the Great Farini survived. Once he recovered from getting his ass kicked by Poseidon, he decided to travel the world. He took his act to Europe and then the Middle East. According to some sources, he may have also crossed the Kalahari Desert on foot. In 1866, he moved to London and quickly gained fame as being one of the greatest circus performers in Europe.

However, kicking the Grim Reaper in the balls and stealing his lunch money is a young man’s game, and by 1869 The Great Farini moved from being the performer to training and managing circus talent. Farini has been credited with inventing the trick known as the “Human Cannonball,” but it was a 14 year old girl named Rossa Matilda Richter who took that 1st flight across the London Royal Aquarium.