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First Time at Scarefest

I took off from my day job last Friday so I could meet up with a wrestler named Gregory Iron in Lexington, Kentucky. Greg and I are working on his autobiography, and he was planning to hit Scarefest that night to meet Robert England. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned, and Greg couldn’t make the drive. We did a Zoom call so we could still get more audio recorded for his book. After we hung up, I drove to Lexington and went to Scarefest because… well, I had already bought a ticket!

Scarefest is definitely one of the most organized events I’ve ever attended. Admittedly, some events have set that bar really low, but they clearly have a good handle on what they’re doing. The “Staph,” as they call them, do an outstanding job.

I got to see some old friends Friday. The lovely couple that runs Karnivorous Creations had a booth, and it was great catching up with them. I saw the cryptid artist Holly Wholahan too, and I picked up some 5 x 7 pieces of the Grafton Monster and the Kentucky Goblins.

I stopped by the Blood Moon Pictures booth and spoke with P.J. Starks, whom I haven’t seen in forever. P.J. and company are doing some cool things in indie horror, and their latest feature is nearly funded on Indie Go-Go.

While waiting to talk to P.J., I got to meet Rob Mello, who was on a panel about indie horror with P.J. Rob played John Tombs in one of my favorite horror series, Happy Death Day. Of course Rob called me a liar for saying it was one of my favorites, but it’s the truth. I’m a horror-comedy guy. I adore those two movies, and I put them right up there with several other horror-comedy favorites: Ready or Not, Cabin in the Woods, and the Babysitter movies from Netflix.

I got to meet a Facebook friend, Christina Cannon, who was working the sound board on the main stage. Christina and I became acquainted when I cast her in the teaser trailer for Dead Park Plaza, and we’ve become buds over the last year. She’s also become one of my beta readers, which means any fiction of mine you read going forward, she’s read it first. And you’ll see her on the cover of the next Dead Park book as her character from the trailer takes center stage in a brand new story from the halls of that evil office building.

I just happened to find the main stage right at the time when Aidan Fisher was taking the stage. Aidan was the hands ‘stand in’ for Eddie Munson in season four of Stranger Things during that awesome “Master of Puppets” scene. He played the song from the show, and then he followed it up with his rendition of “Eruption.”

I said hello to Roni Jonah and gave her a copy of Zombies of Oz. Roni was part of a creative team that attempted to get a movie of that story off the ground years ago. She was going to be Dorothy, so if you’re wondering why Dorothy is a redhead in the book, wonder no more.

I had a backpack full of books that I brought to network and give away, and I handed a few of those out to some podcasters. Hack from Hack’s Horror Show was one, and the guys from We Watched A Movie were another. Super nice folks all around.

There were some cool cars and photos ops at the show, including the Jeepers Creepers truck and one of the original Christine’s from the movie. I was a bit more drawn to the oddities from a creepy museum in Knoxville, especially the two headed lamb that was once part of P.T. Barnum’s traveling show.

Oh yeah, I also saw Mad Man Pondo walking around. No surprise there. The man is the biggest horror fanatic I’ve ever known. He got some face time with Robert England that night, his co-star in the underrated 2001 Maniacs.

I didn’t get to meet Robert in person, though all accounts I’ve read said that he’s one of the nicest folks you’d ever want to meet. I did experience a cool “Freddy” moment, though. I was walking past the curtains blocking off the professional photo ops area while they were doing group pics with the Nightmare on Elm Street 4 cast. I heard a very familiar face shout out, “SMILE FOR THE BIRDIE, BITCH!” That alone was worth the price of admission.

I picked up some other cool things from vendors before I headed home.  Can’t post some of them here since they are family Christmas presents but… I got a really cool Addams Family pillow for ten bucks.

I’m admittedly late to the party in becoming a horror fan, but I certainly enjoyed Scarefest. I may look into attending as a vendor next year, when I will have at least two more Dead Park books on the table. If you’re within driving distance of Lexington and you like the scary movies, this is an event well worth your time!

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From Script to Text: A Tale of Two Stories

A year ago, these two stories were sitting in mothballs. Virtual mothballs, but mothballs nonetheless.

I began writing Girl Most Likely to Kill You around 2004. It was originally titled High School Sweetheart, and it went through multiple drafts. It once made the finals in a screenplay competition. I got a very nice consolation call from the contest runner when it fell short of winning.

Zombies of Oz isn’t quite as old, but it passed through many creative hands on the local indie film scene. It started with me simply sharing an idea as a Facebook post, and it went further when one of those local filmmakers suggested I write it.

A year ago, I decided to turn both of these scripts into novels. They’re short novels, but they received raves from the beta readers who gave them a look. Now both are in print and in my hands, which is just amazing to me.

Right now, I’m offering a special on the website. Order direct, and you can save 20% on your entire order. If you’re a buy local/ buy direct person, you know that’s the best way to support me and other creative artists you like. We get more money, and a major website owner takes less. Plus, I’ll sign them for you, something that big web store can’t offer.

One final note to the story: there’s a third screenplay that will soon be in print as a novel. Not just a novel, but the third part of the Dead Park series. Look for it in November!

Click here to shop now, and don’t forget the coupon code fall.

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Scary Movies I Made With My Kid

During the 2020 Summer of Covid, my son Sam and I started a weekly tradition. We’d go out every Saturday morning to have breakfast and play tennis. We still have breakfast every Saturday, but in deference to our being artsy types and not athletes, we no longer play tennis. The rackets are still in my car should we ever get the urge, but it’s been a good while. And it’s winter now, so…

Sorry, I digress.

One morning over a round of badly played tennis, we started spitballing ideas for short horror films. Not the kind you normally see at film fest, mind you, but the kind you’d see if people on horror films had something called Common Sense. You know. Common Sense  tells you not to open doors that say, “Keep out.” Common Sense says, “Don’t hunt vampires during the day.” Common Sense says, “Run out the front door, not upstairs where there’s no escape.”

We had six or seven ideas by the time we left the courts that day. In the coming weeks, we ended up with fifteen. I started reaching out to actors on Facebook, asking folks to film themselves and send us footage. (Covid, remember?) We cut them together on my trusty ol’ MacBook, the one with iMovie HD because I still to this day refuse to learn the newer versions. (It’s just easier, okay?) And we released them one at a time on YouTube.

The World’s Shortest Horror Films is a fifteen part series featuring the talents of many old friends and new. I made a lot of short films in my day, but few make me prouder. I mean, I made them with my kid. We wrote them. We cut them together. We even appear in one. Well, I appear in it; you can hear his voice. (Spoiler alert, I am not opening that door!)

Sam and I went our separate ways creatively after Covid. I’m back to writing, and he’s in a killer school of rock band called Abstract Agenda. He plays keyboard, bass, guitar, and saxophone. As a matter of fact, I was in quarantine with Covid the day he brought home a saxophone for the first time in July. He went from the usual beginner squeaks and squawks to accurately playing the opening solo from “Careless Whisper” in less than two hours. Kinda makes you sick!

Maybe one day we’ll collaborate on another short. Until then, I’m proud of the one series we assembled together.

You can watch the whole series, all 15 short films, in the video below. It’s only an eight minute commitment, so give it a whirl, will you?

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From Facebook Post to Screenplay to Novella

I had no intention of writing Zombies of Oz. For one thing, I’m not exactly an Oz fan. That mean old wicked witch scared me as a child. Sure, I’ve grown to love Margaret Hamilton for her little wink and nod to the camera in William Castle’s 13 Ghosts, but that hasn’t endeared me to the 1939 classic any more.

I haven’t read the Oz books, and the only other Oz story I know is The Patchwork Girl of Oz, thanks to a junior high musical I directed about, oh, 20 years ago. We had a lot of laughs. We didn’t exactly stick to the script. Correction: the delightful young show off I cast as the Glass Cat did not stick to the script. But other than her shenanigans, which unexpectedly went to 11 in front of an actual audience, I remember nothing about it.

A number of years ago, this idea came to me. What if Dorothy didn’t go to Oz? What if there was a storm and a bump on the head, and then a zombie apocalypse? And what if Dorothy was a juvenile delinquent? A rough, inner city kid sent to the farm to chill out? In other words, what if she was fully prepared to kick some zombie butt?

I liked the idea. I didn’t want to write it. So I made it a Facebook post. I posited the questions above and added a few notes about a gun-toting redneck, a cyborg, a shell-shocked soldier, and a pit bull. (You do the math; or better yet, read the story!) I sent it out into the world and told my filmmaker friends, of whom I have many, “Have at it.”

One of those friends, Irv Severs, responded. He loved it, and he said if I wrote it, he’d make it.

I started writing. Irv and I started talking. Then we roped Roni Jonah into the mix, which is how Dorothy became a redhead. You may have seen Roni in some of my films or, more famously, in Shark Exorcist. She’s a delight, and a heck of a muse for a rampaging, redheaded Dorothy Gale.

Long story short, the film never got made. Irv, Roni, and I moved on to other projects, and the script sat in mothballs until about a year ago. That’s when I first converted this story (along with the script that became Girl Most Likely to Kill You and the script that is now the upcoming third Dead Park book) from script to prose.

Zombies of Oz is now available on Amazon, and it will soon be available here. You can pre-order you signed copy from me by clicking here, or you can click here and get it direct from Amazon.

I’d apologize to Frank Baum, but that mean old witch scared me. I think he owes me for that.

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On the Beat with Johngy – September 28, 2022

John Wroblewski and I have become good friends the last few years, even though we’ve never met in person. We have regular visits to talk about writing and pro wrestling. And the Chicago Bears, though we tend to keep our frustrations about the Monsters of the Midway out of the public broadcast.

I’m sharing this visit here because we spent a lot of time talking about Girl Most Likely to Kill You and my soon to be released horror novella, Zombies of Oz. And yes, we talk a little wrestling too.

Enjoy!

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A Story 18 Years in the Writing

It’s kind of fitting the events of my new book Girl Most Likely to Kill You take place over twenty years. It took almost that long to get the story into print.

Girl Most Likely to Kill You didn’t start life as a novel, though. It began as a movie idea. Back in the early 2000s, my prime creative goal was to become a film maker or, at the very least, a screenwriter. I’ve still got a file on my laptop with nearly two dozen screenplays in various stages of completion. White Trash. The World According to Dallas. Must Do No Harm. Grade Expectations. Facade. Beachhead.

Girl Most Likely started out under the title of High School Sweetheart. It’s a love story about a guy who wanted to tell his best friend he was in love with her on prom night. The girl vanished on prom night, and he doesn’t hear a word from her for twenty years. When she comes back into his life, he’s a divorced dad with a teenage girl of her own, and all seems to finally be right in his world.

That is, until a conspiracy theorist student in his class warns him: your girlfriend might be the world’s most wanted assassin.

Girl Most Likely is not the first of my screenplays to transition to a novel. That honor belongs to the sci-fi adventure Martian Queen. It won’t be the last either. I have a second that will be released shortly, and a third is about to become the third book in the Dead Park series.

This is one of my all time favorite stories, combining humor, romance, intrigue, and something I’ve always loved but never written much about: spy stuff.

You can pre-order Girl Most Likely to Kill You now on paperback. All pre-orders include a free copy of the ebook version sent to your email address. And if you prefer to shop Amazon, well, you can buy it at this link.