I recently got to have the fun of desecrating some of my own books for the cause of creating some artwork for a flier for an upcoming event. I really had fun with it, despite having to sacrifice some books for the project. I took a bunch of pics but here are a few of the fun ones.
Hey, I am part of a podcast!
I have wanted to try my hand at the casting of pods for some time now but wasn’t sure how or what or any of that stuff. A friend and I made a dry run at it once but we never posted it, and this was YEARS ago. recently some horror con friends and I decided that we should try our hand at a ‘cast and we finally got together this past Friday to give it a whirl.Our podcast is called The Ghoul Cast and we had an utter blast doing it. It was fun to nerd out with friends and, for our first one together, we did really well. There’s a lot I want to do with the ‘cast, like getting more of the convention Ghoul Crew involved, changing our format around from time to time, and just keeping things fun and different, but we’ll see where this goes.
So far, so fun.
Hope you enjoy it too.
The Ghoul Cast
This is my Christmas story. You can take it as real, or fake, or a mix of both.
Most stories are that way.
True and false.
Because the truth is sometimes scarier.
And a lie offers more warmth than the cold, hard truth.
I was ten when it happened. It was Christmas Eve and we had just gotten home from my aunt’s Christmas party. The family always got together on Christmas Eve and put away the bickering and the spite, or tried to, to celebrate the holidays together. When I was ten these were still fun, but then I also still got presents from everyone. Once I hit my teen years the novelty and presents were gone and so were everyone’s filters. Such is life, I guess. That night though had been another fun one full of ethnic food from family recipes, stories about past Christmases, and presents, presents, presents. We left at eleven, two hours after dad had wanted to leave but mom was aglow from Fuzzy Navels and I was stuffed with food and pop and other than dad’s complaining all was well with the world. When we had first headed over the landscape had still been green but things were now covered with a thin layer of snow and more was falling. Dad insisted that we’d get four inches if we got anything and mom, feeling warm, told him four inches sounded good and told him it was good cuddling weather and then they started to laugh. I fell into dreams after that and was asleep until we were home and dad was shaking me back to wakefulness. I stumbled into the house, barely made it to my room, undressed then redressed for bed and was asleep before my folks could even say goodnight. All night I had strange dreams but I can’t tell you what they were about, and won’t dare to now that I know certain things.
I will say they were weird.
Because they were.
Eerie I guess is a better word.
I woke up at four in the morning, my heart racing, my mind spinning, and every muscle in me twitching. Christmas. CHRISTMAS! I knew I was the first up and would remain the first up for a few hours so I made sure that everything I did, every movement I made was as quiet as possible. I slid out of bed and almost let out a cry at how cold the floor was on my bare feet so I stepped into my slippers and slowly moved towards my door. I could hear dad snoring so I knew I was safe and I pulled my bedroom door open inch by and when it was wide enough I slipped through the opening and crept down the hallway. There, at the top of the stairs was my stocking, full to overflow with candy and small wrapped presents. My face almost split from the grin I had. I loved stockings but didn’t have time for it now.
I had other business in mind.
I looked down the stairs and saw the twinkling of the Christmas lights and put caution out of my mind and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time and almost falling as I went. The downstairs world was a rainbow of magic – red, blue, green, yellow, white, and orange lights and variations of all of them. The tree was lit up, a miniature 19th Century village my mom collected was lit, and so were the snowmen my dad collected. It looked right out of a painting. And presents. So many presents. Everywhere I looked. It had been a good year for dad at work, the last good year it’d turn out, and they had gone overboard and I loved it. It seemed like every present I saw had my name on it. I spun around and did a dance in the middle of the room.
Oh, the snow!
I ran to the window to check how much snow had fallen – and secretly look for any signs of Santa and as soon as I looked outside the day changed.
My life changed.
My world changed.
It had snowed. Not a lot, just enough to blanket the world and a little more. Certainly not the four inches dad predicted. The world was a clean, white slate. A beautiful white space ready to be discovered except…except someone had already been out in the snow. Someone had already been by the house. I looked outside the window and saw that in the middle of all that unbroken snow though were footprints, one pair, coming from the woods in back of our property and heading straight to the house. They came to the window I was looking out of, the bay window, then cut to the left and towards the side of the house. I ran from the window and went from window to window checking the trajectory of the traveler and found they had stopped outside the back corner of that window, near fireplace. I put my head against the cold glass and looked down and screamed. The person who had come to the house last night had come barefoot and their footprints didn’t leave, they just…arrived. Suddenly I realized that whoever had come here was still here.
They were still here.
I screamed again and ran away from the window. I heard a loud clatter above me and dad stumbled to the stairs and yelled down to me, then started down the stairs when I screamed a third time.
“They’re still here. THEY’RE STILL HERE!” Was all I could say. I was in shock and it took hours to come down from it.
Mom was on the stairs now and when dad looked outside he immediately turned and told mom to go back upstairs and call the police.
I screamed again.
The police were there in about half an hour and I was immediately taken upstairs by mom while dad spoke to the officers. Dad got very upset at one point as he was speaking to one officer, the main one, and then more officers came inside, out of breath, and very loud about how they didn’t know where the ‘weirdo’ had gone. The first officer in charge told them to watch their volume and they weer suddenly quiet. I had heard them say – how is that even possible? – but never heard an answer. A few minutes later dad came up to get me because the police wanted to speak to me. While two of them spoke to me three other officers went upstairs and searched the rest of the house for the fourth time. The officers made their time with me short but wanted to know exactly what had happened this morning – what time I had gotten up, what time I went downstairs, if I had heard or seen anything out of the ordinary, and what time I had looked outside the first time. I didn’t tell them about the dreams. It just didn’t seem like a good idea so I didn’t. I dunno why. I just, I just knew that they’d tell me I was being silly so I didn’t say anything. Afterwards the lead officer patted me on the head and then all of the police people told dad they’d be in touch and they left.
We tried to do Christmas after they left but I was inconsolable. I just kept seeing those footprints (even after dad had gone out and kicked snow over them) and I wanted to know was who had made them, why they had come to our house, and more than anything…where they had gone. We didn’t end up celebrating Christmas until three days after and while I got spoiled Christmas just wasn’t the same and never was. Every Christmas after that I would have nightmares about the footprints and who, or what they belonged too. Even into my twenties.
They never did find out who had made the tracks, though the police said it was either a local kid playing a prank – those were some big feet for a kid – or it was someone from one of the elderly care homes in the area. We have a lot of those so that made sense, though there was no answer as to how they left without making footprints and where they went to. If they ever discovered who it was that left the tracks I never heard and mom and dad never brought it up again if they could avoid it. We actually ended up moving the next Summer. Dad said it was time to downsize, and that was probably true with the cuts to his and mom’s jobs but I also think my night terrors and maybe their own fears were a part of it as well.
After we moved we thought we were done with all of that.
The worst part came after we had moved though.
The footsteps never returned after that night but then, we weren’t there for the next Christmas, either.
The following Christmas my dad got a call from the owner of the old house wanting to know if the local kids would keep up the gag every year or if the gag would stop now. I had overheard dad tell mom about the conversation and knew dad had answered – what gag? You know, the walking around the house barefoot gag. Dad had stopped then. I peeked around the corner and saw that mom was crying. He began again. They did it at Halloween and at Christmas. It’s a real barn burner. These kids are a real gas but the gag is old. Hell, I wish you had mentioned it so I could have had some ice water ready to return the welcome. Dad stopped again. I peeked around the corner and saw him grab mom’s hand. There’s one other thing, something we need to talk about. I am not sure how to say this but I’d appreciate it if you would cover the cost of cleaning out the chimney. Dad had gotten a little angry being asked to do something after the house was sold. Look, if you don’t want to, it’s fine, I guess. I just, well, I dunno how the inspector missed it but it is a damn miracle you folks didn’t smoke yourselves to death with all that stuff stuck in the chimney. What stuff, dad had asked. The presents. They’re all old and burned now but gosh, prolly fifteen to twenty presents dropped from the top and into the fireplace. No idea why you did it but man, I am just saying, it was a health hazard and the least you should do is pay for it to be handled. It’s lucky I had the chimney cleaned or WE mighta been the ones that paid for your weird Santa fetish. Dad stopped one last time. He had never dropped presents into the fireplace. Never. Dad hated messing with the roof. And if he hadn’t no one else had that he had known about. It’s stupid and dangerous to do that sort of thing but, he asked my mom, do I tell this guy that and scare him to death? Dad didn’t. After what happened there the next winter he’ll be damned for not telling the man but he didn’t. Dad apologized, told him he’d forgotten all about that, said he’d pay for all the costs, and asked, as an aside, if the man could make out what any of the gifts were. Dad told him they’d hired someone to drop them down there but had never gotten them and had forgotten all about them until the new owner had called. The man had been quiet a few moments and then told dad that in all of the boxes, as far as he could tell, were the same thing. Dad got quiet and leaned in and told mom what was in the boxes and she started to cry again. I never heard what was in them but I think I know. I think I know. After that phone call I can only assume dad sent the man the money because for the next six months we were really tight with money.
But we had Christmas that year.
And Christmas was good. It wasn’t big, it wasn’t lavish, but it was Ok. It was safe.
We didn’t learn about the family in our old house until three days later, when the story hit the news. After that we didn’t really celebrate Christmas or Halloween. We went on vacations for those holidays and that was that.
We were the lucky ones.
Family of five disappears on Christmas.
All five members of the family that had moved into our house had disappeared on Christmas morning some time. No note. No cars or money taken. No one dressed for the weather. Just six sets of footprints heading out into a bad snow storm towards the woods. One set approaching the house and six leaving. No sign of the family anywhere. No answer as to who had come to the house to begin with. There was nothing. The area was swept again and again and there was nothing. The only evidence found was a gift opened early, a gift opened and dropped on the floor. The gift of a calendar with this year’s Christmas day circled in red paint.
I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore and I live in an apartment. The nightmares have receded but I still think about that family and our old house and those footprints in the snow.
c – 1.15
Sometimes we need to fight. Not out of anger, or against some grand enemy but for what we are passionate about. We need to fight because sometimes we’re the only one that will and because if it’s our passion and our dream it’s worth fighting for.
Too often we hit road blocks, drop our heads, and wander off to something else. That’s fine…but there has to come a day when you are willing to fight for something you are passionate about or you’ll be left with nothing but regrets.
That’s a hell of a way to live.
It’s an empty way to live.
One of the things I am willing to fight for are small shows. As you know, I guess, I created and was part of the Flint Horror Con, a one day show here in Flint that brought horror and fun to folks for a low price. We created the show knowing that we were doing something most folks don’t do – a convention – in a place they don’t do them, and as a one day show and not a weekend. The odds were against us but we did it. We lived our dream. It didn’t last forever but nothing does and we ended things on our terms. Not many can do that. One of the things I loved about our show was that we knew what we were and were OK with it. We weren’t a mega show and we didn’t try to be. We grew when it made sense but stayed true to what we were – an intimate show about the fans and put on by fans.
Our show folded but there is still a place for shows like that.
There is still a place for small shows.
I believe this.
I believe it but not many do.
We are in the era of the super-con and that means that the smaller shows are losing interest, funding, and hope.
But hope isn’t lost.
Hope is never lost.
I get the interest in super cons because as a vendor and fan I like them too. From a vending standpoint you see big cons as a chance to potentially sell to a LOT of fans. Makes sense. As a fan you see all the guests, the dozens of guests in most cases, and think it’s a perfect chance to load up on autographs, pictures, and casual celeb encounters.
Alas, life is not as we usually think it will be.
Mega conventions bring in a lot of people but they also cost a lot to get in, to park, to stay near, and the celebrities and the photo ops eat up most of the spending cash people have leaving vendors to fight over the few people who still have money left over. It would seem as if the mega con would be one of those Oh My God sort of shows that you attend once a year but there are so many big shows now that they are starting to feed on one another. This one has THAT guy, that one has THIS guy, this one has THAT exclusive, that one has THIS exclusive and each show is billed as a can’t miss event. Which is what you’re supposed to do if you run those shows. Except, with so many huge shows, and all of them with huge guests you get two things – a plethora of lower rung guests who end up not drawing attention and vendors who don’t make their table fees back. The economics of the large shows has created a killing field where shows are dying left and right because they can’t compete. This is a war that is only going to harm fandom.
But fans are partially to blame.
And so are vendors.
Naturally I am both.
I LOVE big shows but the fact is that I don’t really go but to one or two celebs, and maybe one or two vendors. I just don’t have the money to do more than that. So it ends up being huge costs for everyone when I don’t even take advantage of it all. At the big FLASHBACK show in Chicago I ‘met’ Robert Englund and my wife and I got our pic taken with him in makeup and I did the whole package so that was great. After that I met Robert Kerman from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and talked with him for a bit, and I met and we got our picture with Lance Henriksen and got an autograph but that was it. There were about, well, twenty guests I didn’t even say hello to. Which is not to say they didn’t do anything, as I am sure fans turned out to some degree for everyone, but the fact is that these shows are so big and so expensive that many of the guests end up as little more than filler. The bigger problem is that the shows are so pricey to attend and the guests so expensive that fans can’t keep up and vendors don’t have people with money to spend on their stuff. When everyone is a mega show the whole eco-system suffers. Every other week is another ‘CANNOT MISS’ show and eventually fans will have seen all the big names and won’t care enough about the smaller names and then even the big shows will start to falter.
This dragon will eat its own tail.
There are ways to make the big shows work but the way they are growing, and with as many as there are it just doesn’t feel like this is something that can sustain itself.
There is a charm to a small show that is desperately absent in the large shows. An opportunity to chat with fans, to meet and speak, even for a moment, the guests, and opportunities to not feel rushed from here to there to get this or that. I have vended at big horror shows and comic shows and everyone seems rushed and not relaxed. With small shows you don’t feel that same push, push, push. Which isn’t to say that the small shows can’t get good guests, they just get different guests. We focused on more cult personalities and props, things that created moments for people. You can still get ‘big’ names, you just don’t populate your show with so many people that they are the only draw. You also can’t create a show so big, so costly that it collapses in on itself. That’s something a lot of people forget – the show has to continue so don’t break the bank. And then there’s the shows that WAY over-extend themselves and harm not just themselves but the whole convention circuit. Shows that want to be too big, too much, and want to compete on a national level with other shows when this ISN’T A COMPETITION. If you do it right you don’t compete, you accentuate. You can’t always avoid other shows but if you can you should. There’s no reason to compete when there’s an entire calendar to use. There’s no reason to be snotty and snippy and childish, as many promoters can get.
This is supposed to be about the fans and guests.
The one thing that sets horror apart is that we’re all family, of a strange kind.
The more we fight amongst ourselves, the more we harm one another the worse the scene gets.
We need big shows. We need the shows that can afford to bring in the superstar guests that make your mouth drop and eyes go wide. Only at genre shows do you get the biggest names making time to meet fans. Only at these shows do they want to meet the fans. But not all the shows can or should be mega cons. As soon as that happens fans get unrealistic expectations – Why isn’t THAT person at the show? How lame? – the vendors get unrealistic expectations – I paid that much money for THIS sort of show – and the fun factor falls.
The fun of a convention is in discovery as much as it is in going in with a plan. I have made so many friends at shows, and have met so many incredible people and the bigger the show the less that tends to happen. Not every show should be small, and not every show CAN be small, but they can be intimate, they can be fan-focused, and they can be fun.
And that’s the key, fun.
Cons are not as fun anymore.
They feel bulky, expensive, and jaded.
We need the small shows to bring back the wonder and fun of conventions and to remind fans that it’s an honor and privilege to be able to meet these people, to have merch like we have now, and the acces to indie horror like we have now. This is a special time to be a horror fan. Let’s not screw things up.
Keep it small and let the big boys fight amongst themselves.
And YOU CAN DO IT!
If I can put on a small show with friends so can you. With careful planning, favors, and a great concept anyone can do it.
Pulling Down The Tents
The thing you never think about when you do your little dreaming is – what happens if you get to live that dream? What then?
Though first, let’s take a moment and appreciate the dreams when we can live them. It’s not all the time, unless you have very narrow focus and dream small, which is fine, but sometimes, SOMETIMES it’s the big dreams that really push you. Sometimes it’s the big dreams that make you stretch. If nothing else it’s the big dreams that keep our hope alive. Even if it’s a dim and distant hope. Hope’s what drives us through life, and without it things get awful bleak.
We recently decided to put an end to my baby, the Flint Horror Con. This was a decision made for many reasons but for now, and maybe for good, it seems that it’s an idea that has run its course.
I have had many dreams throughout my life but as an adult one of the ones I had was to see a horror convention in Downtown Flint. This is a story that anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows so I won’t go into it again. It was thanks to some amazing friends, the trust of some great folks, and a lot of hard work but we pulled it off and the Flint Horror Convention had four fantastic years. We had our bumps and bruises, we had our stress, but we did what very few manage to. We did it our way, and we did it following our rules.
For me, and for the group that did the show, we started things as fans and remained fans throughout. And as such, it was about the fans. Too many conventions focus on hanging out with the celebs or on everything but the fans. It’s the fans that are the reason to DO a show. It’s the fans that make horror so special. And in Flint, there are a lot of fans. The thing is, we were a one day show, with a limited budget, and we weren’t going to try to drain every last dime from those fans. I figured ten bucks was a good price to get in. It is low enough for casual attendees to try and leaves people money for celebrities and vendors. And the thing is that you can do as well as you want at the gate but if the celebs and vendors don’t do well you’re screwed and the show was a bust. It’s a hard line to walk. But if you don’t walk it you don’t do future shows. I am sure we could have charged more, but I am glad we didn’t. Same goes for vendor tables. I have vended shows for twenty years and the costs are outrageous. I get that most shows are huge these days and that you have to charge according to cost of the show and the size of the guest roster but for smaller folks like me there was just no way I could make the table cost back. I would love to say I could but two hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars for a small writer like me is a LOT of money. I still did the shows, so I am not complaining that loudly but I also was keen to that when we did our show. For many vendors this is their livelihood and they have to be able to make money. For us, by treating the vendors well we got a LOT of good will from them and in earning their trust and respect we earned a lot of allies. That’s worth much more than money. Each of the four years we had to turn vendors away, something you hate to do but which happens…if you are lucky.
We built a community, and I am happy about that.
Not everyone loved us. Not everyone was happy with us. But that’s the way of the world. We did things our way and we stuck to it.
We built a show that we hoped was family friendly and tried to stick to that because every monster kid has to get their inspiration from somewhere and from something and we hoped we’d be part of that inspiration for some kids.
I am really happy at the work we did in the community. From the start we wanted to partner with charities and people in need to help as much as we were able. I am not sure what kind of impact we made but for four years we did the best we were able to bring in some extra funds. We tried not to beat that drum too loudly because charity shouldn’t be about taking credit but about helping people in need. We tried our best.
Unfortunately in the kind of business like cons you have to beat the drum a little because you need the attention and the exposure. You need the help. We had a LOT of help from people. From fans, to celebrities, to vendors, to friends, and to some local sponsors we had a LOT of help. We were never able to bring in much sponsor money but that’s blame I’ll take because I am sure there’s more I could have done. What, I am not sure, but there had to be something. As it stands we had more support than I could ever have dreamed of having. This began as my dream and became a dream a lot of people began to share. That’s what’s so humbling to me – that so many people believed in what we were doing and supported it. We had never put anything on of that scale, I know I never had, and we did it. For four years.
For four years we put together shows large and small where were able to showcase artists, musicians, and movies many would never have seen. We had an outdoor movie night at a local park. We helped other events with their shows. More than anything we tried to create fun, inexpensive things for fans to do.
Doing the convention I learned a lot. We all did. Sometimes you can build it and ‘they’ don’t come. Just how it goes. Sometimes people don’t care, don’t have time, and don’t have the information they need to come out. Sometimes things don’t work. All you can do is learn, learn, learn and move forward.
I believe in conventions and more than that I believe in doing small shows like we did. Shows that can be intimate and affordable and fun and family friendly. I believe that you can do some amazing things with shows that size. I think the super shows have their place and have their importance but not everyone can make it to those, or afford them, and those fans still deserve to get the benefits of going to a show on a budget. Heck, small shows can build a love for conventions that makes them want to go to bigger shows. Sadly, I think the days of DIY shows like ours are coming to an end but if we can do it, anyone can do it. All it takes is a little money, a lot of heart, and a lot of trust.
I am honored that we got the opportunity to do our show for four years. I cannot believe we did it. It’s sad to let it go, but we’re not letting go completely.
We still plan to do locally produced shows focused on horror that will be smaller but just as fun and just as passionate. This will allow us to be more experimental and still remain active. We are no longer the Flint Horror Con but are the Flint Horror Collective and we aren’t done, not hardly.
If you supported our show, or me, or us, or even gave half of a damn about any of it we thank you. We truly couldn’t have done it without you.
Every year I try, try, try to write a story that fits the holidays. I try to write a Halloween story and try to write a Christmas story. The follow is the 2014 Holiday Story. It’s set in the world of CEMETERY EARTH but it works on it’s own. It’s very brief but I like it. It fills in gaps that were in my mind. Here it is, rough as heck and still pipin’ fresh…like entrails.
The First Frost
It was the first winter after the dead had returned and it seemed as if Christmas had come early. With the colder temperatures the dead slowed, slowed, and stopped. Not all, but most. The freshest of them still prowled and hunted but many of the things went into a sort of hibernation that allowed the human race a slight reprieve. A chance to re-group, dig in, re-supply, and for some, to turn their dark intentions towards one another. As the first snowflakes fell the flies that feasted on the dead, crawling all over them, burrowing into them, and make them mobile feeding grounds began to die off themselves, leaving behind colonies of children that would hatch into maggots come the first thaw. The dead were gathered in fields, in neighborhoods, in cities, one by one their engines stopping and their bodies ceasing activity as they all went into their own sort of hibernation, the cold too much to fight as it took hold of the earth. Even Mother cannot fight her own nature.
Winter descended on the Americas and as it ran rampant humanity first began to realize that this was a war it may not win. The industries it had relied on were halted, the government was gone, and even the last vestiges of electricity began to finally dim. The winter storms were the worst seen in generations and without a plan on how to survive many were lost that first year. It would take time for Man to adapt to the Dead Age.
As for the dead themselves Mother left them and turned her attentions to the rest of the world, where the war was in full swing and humanity was valiantly making a stand against an enemy it could not even hope to understand. Mother was angry. The dead of the winter regions though waited until Mother was ready for them once more. Waiting for spring. Waited for thaw. Deep within them though, deep, deep in the darkest parts of what they once were they remembered. they remembered what they once had been. They remembered who they once had been.
They remembered and tried to fight it, tried to stop it, and tried to scream against the things they now were but nothing happened. It seemed that Santa truly was dead because the age of miracles was over. This was now an age for the dead.
And down fell the snow.
Like what you read?
Try the whole book – CEMETERY EARTH