“Ding Dong”

I most likely won’t be giving out candy this Halloween; even without the looming threat of Pandemic few children come to our apartment block unless we have a massive display on the lawn.

The least I can portion out from the blue pumpkin for all my followers is this little bit of flash fiction apropos of the season. It’s short & it’s sweet, & you won’t have to burn off the calories afterwards. A bonus for me, the character is named for my troublesome baby brother. There are some rewards to being an unknown author.

Ding Dong

Josef Matulich

Matthew tensed in his recliner as he heard the sound of the doorbell.  His ongoing feud with the neighborhood kids had started with doorbells, the old “ring and dash”.  Things escalated to toilet paper, eggs and finally a picture of a penis etched into his lawn with bleach.  He wouldn’t think the little monsters would go back to small potatoes now.

He extricated himself from his chair, grabbed his cane and made it to the front door as swiftly as his knees would allow.  He had a hopeful thought that it might be the cops with the kids held up by the scruff of the neck on his front porch.

No such luck.

Matthew opened the front door to find a burning brown paper bag on his welcome mat. 

He sighed.  This trick had been old when Truman had been President: the flaming bag of dog poop.  The victim was supposed to panic and stomp out the fire, splattering hot dog excrement all over their shoes and front step. 

This wasn’t Matthew’s first rodeo.

He set the cane against the doorframe and bent over to grab both ends of the mat.  Holding it in a gentle curve to contain the flaming package, he gently lobbed it onto the front sidewalk where it could burn down harmlessly.  In the morning, he could hose off the walk without having to deal with any of the crap these kids had given him.

Matthew was feeling pretty satisfied about how this latest engagement had turned out until he noticed the black tripwire dangling from the underside and the metal ring from a grenade at its end.

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Funny/Scary Proposition

You all need something to cheer you up while giving you the tiniest chill of terror. Something besides the news, that is.

I need new readers. An author without readers is like a dog without a bone, an actor out alone… Anyway, you get my point without further copyright infringement.

Starting October 15th, all three of my Arcanum Faire ebooks (Camp Arcanum, Power Tools in the Sacred Grove, & The Ren Faire at the End of the World) will be on sale for 99 cents each. In proper Amazon Countdown fashion, they will go up to $1.99 in a few days and return to full price on the 22nd.

I hope this will in some small way entertain the world at least as much as my experiments with the radio control fly during the Vice Presidential debate.

Weirdmaste.

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We were boys. We had cows…

I caught some grief from my baby brother a decade ago about my hat.

“What’s with the cowboy hat?” he asked. He went on to imply that men from Columbus Ohio looked like idiots in cowboy hats, in the rudest terms.

I could have given him my standard explanation: that the hat was actually a gambler style, a slouch hat, an author’s hat, but he was hardly worth the effort. I simply replied:

“We were boys. We had cows…”

Matthew is my youngest brother, the only one of us to inherit all of my father’s worst personality traits without making an effort to ameliorate. Decorum prevents me from sharing why we haven’t spoken since then.

Anyway, back to cows…

Growing up on a farm taught several important life lessons: hard work and responsibility; empathy in action; problem-solving with heavy equipment; what food looks like before it’s put in little styrofoam trays.

The lessons garnered from cows are particularly helpful for the current social environment. On average, they are ten times your mass and one quarter of your IQ. They are sensitive and may react radically at any moment. Sort of like your average FB thread.

There was one incident that I always look back upon with pride. I was helping out my sister in harness-breaking her show calf. At five-hundred pounds, the bovine still had the advantage. I was walking the calf on a long lead up and down our recently expanded pasture when she decided she wanted to live wild and free.

Suddenly, I was sprinting along at the end of my rope while trying to avoid holes in the ground and the stout wooden poles from the fence just brought down between the two fields. I could have let go, but I was responsible for this cow. It is not pretty to see what happens to an animal that hits a wire mesh fence at full speed.

I couldn’t dig in my heels and stop her or even slow her down, but I could vector off to one side and slowly adjust her path. I moved to my left and picked up my speed so I was running nearly parallel with her. The next wooden post from the old fence line was coming up fast between us.

I ran up to the post and looped the rope around it once. I tied a quick hitch knot and stepped back, wanting to keep all my fingers. I let the animal’s temperament and the laws of physics take over.

Good news, she didn’t break her neck.

The calf’s head did stop suddenly when the rope attached to her harness went taut. Her beefy hindquarters, subject to Newton’s Laws of Motion, continued in their original path. She achieved a moment of stillness where she hung backwards and upside down in mid-air until she crashed to the grass.

She slowly got to her feet and shook herself back up to the level of what a cow calls consciousness. I untied her lead and we continued our walk up and down the pasture until our time was up.

This lesson in cow jitsu taught me to use an opponent’s strength and speed against them. I could tell you how I applied the concept to my previous problems with producers, agents, and publishers, but I’ve signed a paper…

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Virtual Convention Reality

Coming up this week, I will be participating in my first virtual convention, Imaginarium 2020, September 21-27. The link is here: https://www.entertheimaginarium.com/

This has been a good convention for me, where I’ve been able to connect up with fans and other writers. The panels have consistently been engaging and I’ve had the opportunity to do some really fun readings. Sales and reviews usually got a bump afterwards, always a big plus for an indie author.

Three panels are on my schedule for this year. See below. My latest novel, “Squirrel Apocalypse” from Hydra Publications, is a finalist for an Imadjinn award. The winners will be announced at the end of the convention September 27th. I will be doing an awful lot without having to change out of my pajama pants.

My panels:

Cosplay, Friday, September 25th, 4 pm

Full Steam Ahead, (Steampunk) Friday, September 25th, 5 pm

Game Design, Saturday, September 26th, 5 pm

Though there are no official links for author readings, but we recorded this for the Ohioiana Book Festival. Close your eyes and pretend we are all socially distanced in a hotel function space.

As a last bit of Nerd Fan Service, here is the link to the animated video of my 3D Halloween Advent Calendar I’ve been teasing the last few weeks.

Weirdmaste!

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Happy Autumnal Equinox

Just a quick greeting to remind you all that this is the first day of Fall. Though the nights will be getting longer, the moon is waxing and gaining her powers. In a world where everything seems to be some kind of horrible, change is something to be looked forward to.

Weirdmaste.

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The World is on Fire

This should come as no surprise to those of you not living beneath a rock. I used it as a metaphor for the first seven months of 2020 until California, Washington, Oregon, and Lebanon decided to pile on and make it literal statement.

Thanx guys. Didn’t need the help.

Now, my speech normally goes something like:

The world is on fire. It’s not your fault, and there is no shame in occasionally being overwhelmed. Nothing like this has happened in over a century. You don’t need to leap into the fray. You don’t need to save the world. You don’t even need to make sourdough. Just do your best.

Now, there are a lot of people who look to be riding the storm out a lot better than you are. Some own bigger and better boats. Some have a natural ability to swim in the tides of chaos.

And some, if you look closely, are just trying to use your resources to repair their own boats. Sign you up for virtual classes. Sell you editing, publishing, & publicity services for all those books you now have time to write. There’s been no evidence of an increase of “make a living from stuffing envelopes at home” rackets, but I haven’t been looking that hard.

To repeat, no-one alive has ever faced something like this. There’s no sin in not knowing what to do. Though you’ve been given a smothering mass of free time, you don’t have to come out the other side with proof that you were productive.

But you might want to stock up on some marshmallows to toast as you decide what to do when you have your feet underneath you.

Weirdmaste.

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Enough with the Dead Kids Already…

Long ago in my writers’ group, I was asked what was the most horrifying scenario imaginable. The worst I could come up with is to have children that you knew had to die.

This was before we had Alyssa, who was born dead and took twelve minutes of resuscitation. Before we spent five year fighting to squeeze out every drop of life for her from a world that assumed that she was little more than a vegetable. Before we lost her.

There is no greater horror than a parent losing their child and the emotional minefield of carrying on without them.

Hollywood, apparently, agrees.

If you need to give a character a tragic backstory, kill their child. If you need to crank a drama’s emotions to eleven, kill a child. If you really want to get the audience twisting in their seats with anguish and moral ambiguity, have another child do the deed. No matter the form, it is a tragedy that strikes close to our core, negating ancient genetic imperatives. It’s a guaranteed hot button.

On the other hand, people who’ve lost loved ones to murder usually don’t enjoy “Murder She Wrote”. Woman with a history of assault are not the best demographic for “I Spit on Your Grave”, no matter what the execs say. People who have lost a child don’t enjoy going over this again and again.

We lost our daughter Alyssa just before her fifth birthday. She was medically fragile and passed in her sleep. That was still traumatic enough. For the next couple of years, my wife Kit and I nearly lost ourselves, or each other. It was a Hellish gauntlet we didn’t want to revisit every time we turned on the TV.

I eventually was to dissociate from the pain. As a writer, I began recognizing them as  elements in storytelling used to manipulate an audience’s emotions. Even when the elements made appearances in my writers’ group— a murderer of deformed children, a sorcerer with a dead fetus in a cask of salt, or a chemically damaged embryo maintained outside the womb— I laughed at them as failed attempts on my sanity.

But after twenty-some years, it’s starting to get hard. The frequency of the trope’s appearance and the intensity of the images both are accelerating.  Those of you that thought Hereditary was a great horror film, you understand.

Obviously, this trope can’t be eliminated. It happens in real life, it’ll happen on the screen. Maybe you all could mix it up. Kill some Hollywood execs every once in a while…

Weirdmaste.

***

As a public service, here is an over-long list of movies with dead kids in them.  Just in case you might have forgotten how pervasive this is:

A Quiet Place

Arrival

Box Trolls

Bridge to Terabithia

Child of Glass

Children of the Corn

Coraline

Deadpool 2

Death Wish

Demon Seed

Doctor Sleep

Don’t Breathe

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald

Frankenstein

Godsend

Hereditary

Interview with the Vampire

IT

Law Abiding Citizen

Leon – The Professional

Lord of the Flies

My Girl

Nightmare on Elm Street

Pan’s Labyrinth

ParaNorman

Peppermint

Pet Sematary

Pumpkinhead

Rabbit Hole

Rage

Resident Evil

Salem’s Lot

San Andreas

Shutter Island

Stand by Me

Stargate

Stranger Things

Sucker Punch

Tag

The Bad Seed

The Boy

The Changeling

The Good Son

The Haunting of Julia

The House with a Clock in the Walls

The Invitation

The Other

The Others

The Punisher

The Ring

The Shining

The Sixth Sense

The Stone Boy

The Turn of the Screw

The Uninvited

The World According to Garp

The Lovely Bones

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If you haven’t heard from me in a while…

I have perhaps blocked less than ten people in my twenty years on social media. I am up over a dozen this week. It is not that I cannot stand contrary opinions on my feeds. There are several people that I try to argue facts over their reactionary memes. A lot of these folk are my age and succumbed to the accumulation of life’s injuries to make them injured conservatives. As Winston Churchill said: “If you’re under 30 and you aren’t a liberal, you don’t have a heart. If you’re over 30 and you aren’t a conservative, you don’t have a brain.” I have an equally long list of life experiences that make me a dyed in the wool Libtard.

For those of you who might be wondering: The past few weeks I have both been recovering from APR surgery to deal with rectal cancer and been on withdrawal from antidepressants. This makes for a period of emotional agitation. The nerve endings in my abdomen reconnect one by one; each time the signal transmits as an ice pick shoved suddenly where the sun don’t shine. My gut, replumbed for a colostomy, is still tender and complaining about the mugging it got. The combined side effects and withdrawal effects make my brain feel like a hedgehog being batted around with flamingos.

The good news is that this is all transitory. The bad news for some of you is that I don’t have the energy to put up with your shit anymore.

And that is the point. The people I’ve been removing (oddly, almost all middle-aged white men) are not engaging in spirited debate. They are counting coup in the Culture Wars, finding ways to pown the wet-assed pussies with each meme and TL:DR posting, and then soak up their tears to store in a jar beside their computers. Keyboard picadors. One old friend complained because I actually sank to personal insults after one long fact-free exchange. I told him: “When you abandon facts, it’s surprising how low social discourse can sink.”

I don’t want to be that guy, hurling back grenades at once bosom buddies. Even passing acquaintances that have self-radicalized in the last 3+ years. I want to concentrate on repairing my body & soul so that I might be of some use to my family when they need me the most. The temptation to count coup myself is sometimes too much to bear.

That is why I am not responding to your memes that demonstrate nothing more than your grievous lack of critical thinking skills. I do not see them. You have been given a time out.

If we all live until 2021, I may be switching you back on.

Weirdmaste.

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The (virtual) Ohioana Book Festival

Covid-19 doesn’t always keep us from having nice things. This year’s OBF was scheduled for April 25th, but got closed down with the rest of the planet. The kindly librarians who ran the event knuckled down and created a completely on-line version. there are several live ZOOM panels on various aspects of writing. Those and pre-recorded events, like previous out-reach events and my reading from Squirrel Apocalypse, will all be posted on the website later this evening.

You can also check out the roster of authors & illustrators or buy autographed copies of their featured books on the site. Helpful link dropped below:

Ohioana Book Festival

or

Schedule

My reading is here:

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Butt of All Jokes

I am almost a month out of the hospital and feeling perky enough to do some serious blogging. For those of you that have not been keeping up on the misadventures of my gastrointestinal tract, a summary:

On July 29th of last year, I went in for a routine colonoscopy. As per usual, the prep to cleanse my system of any obscuring solids was lengthy and unpleasant. Imagine connecting a high-pressure nozzle to your rectum for the later stages of the process. Being routine, we expected it to show up nothing.

Instead, the doctor found a 2.5 centimeter white spot low in my colon, an adenocarcinoma. We named the malignant little tumor Tommy and plotted his demise.

First came the round of radiation and chemo intended to render the little fellow extra crispy. As I pooped out assorted pink squiggly things at that time, it seemed to be working. Most of my circle of acquaintances did not want to hear those progress reports.

Another invasive examination with a Hasselblad large format camera indicated that there was no evidence of disease. My surgeon was apparently of the “we must destroy the village to save it” temperament. He wanted to do a permanent colostomy and remove and sew up my anus.

My anus is not my favorite organ, but I was attached to it. We fired that doctor and put the chemo-oncologist in charge. She put me on a regimen of infusion chemo that made colonoscopy prep seem like a tea party. The drugs made me feel like I was going through a Timelord regeneration: my voice grew hoarse, my limbs shaked, my tolerances for cold temperatures plummeted. and nothing tasted right

I made a lot of fish custard jokes that no-one seemed to get.

In the end, I had roughly three months of chemo followed by three months of being cancer free. Then the cancer came back. Tommy the Zombie Tumor was to be dealt with severely.

A new surgeon was recruited to do what the original surgeon wanted. On July 20th, the anniversary of the moon landing, they removed the largest crater in my moon. I was discharged July 29th, exactly one year after my initial diagnosis.

Though it all sounds a bit grim, there was a rich vein of awkward new jokes to be made:

The first thing I said when discussing my colostomy was “Papa’s got a brand new bag.”

When faced with overwhelming odds in battle, I will no longer need brown pants.

I have literally become the guy who can’t find his ass with both hands & a road map. I have no idea where it wound up. It either went to the medical incinerator or is in a little jar of Formalin marked “asshole”.

When some jackass parks their expensive car in four parking spaces to avoid scratches, I can poop all over the windshield and doorknobs without dropping trou.

Common parlance describes what I have as a Barbie Butt: a crack, but no hole. I would like to think I more manly than that. Maybe a GI Joe Butt. We could never peel off Major Matt Mason’s pressure suit to see what his butt looked like.

Finally, I’d like to think that I would be infinitely frustrating to aliens. They would abduct me in my sleep per their protocols. With me laid out face-down on the examination couch, they’d pull down my pyjama shorts and find… nothing. I imagine their high-pitched alien voices: “Aw come on! Not another one!”

Weirdmaste!

 

 

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