Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Costumes

     (This is also a reprinted post—it first appeared on the Book Lovers Hideaway blog for their Halloween Spooktacular.  However, it’s still topical, and probably new to most readers, especially the Coffin Hoppers.)

     Today, I thought I’d discuss costumes, mostly some highlights (and lowlights) from my personal history.
     I’ll start with one of my first costumes, as a skeleton, when I was four years old.  From a very young age I loved skeletons, so it was an obvious choice.  (The fighting skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts made a huge impression on me, to cite one example.)  My mother deserves the lion’s share of the credit, of course, as she dyed a pair of my pajamas black, and then painstakingly cut out “bones” from a white sheet and sewed these on the pajamas.  I did, though, serve as a technical advisor—I instructed my mom on how each bone was supposed to look.  This was then topped off with a great mask.  I can recall being semi-obsessed with wearing this mask, and my parents confirmed that I wore it weeks before and weeks after October 31st. 
     Over the next several Halloweens I began to develop personal theories about costumes.  Specifically I got sick of getting overheated, and tired of tripping down steps.  I blamed overly elaborate getups, and poor range of vision due to looking out through small eyeholes.  (My overall clumsiness surely was a contributer also, and independent of whatever type of costume I was wearing.)  Therefore, masks were out, as were trailing ghost sheets, etc.  Being a hobo was a good example of this opinion—a mask wasn’t needed, and you could essentially wear a regular outfit, as long as the garments were suitably ragged and dirty (or at least dirty looking).
     I should also mention a definite prejudice that I and most of my peers shared; disdain against kids who wore store-bought costumes.  It was okay to buy a mask, or props, such as a fake weapon, stage blood, vampire fangs, etc., but if you didn’t assemble most of your costume (or more accurately, in most cases, get a parent to help you) you were considered lazy, lame, and unimaginative.  Store bought costumes never won prizes, either, which at this age was extremely important.
     The fun went on hiatus at the end of elementary school or so (about ages 11-12).  Dressing up was babyish, and those who still did faced social suicide almost as badly as kids who still believed in Santa Claus.  Adam Sandler did a bit about trick or treating as an older teen or adult with an absurdly minimal costume, like holding a pickle, but in my town junior high or high school students didn’t get into a costume.  The only acceptable way to get trick or treating candy at these ages was to steal it from younger kids’ Halloween bags (probably after beating the kids up).
     Flash forward to college, my senior year.  I was living off campus in a house with several friends, and it was decided to hold a joint party with the ladies from the German House at our place.  They told us it was for a German holiday called “Fasching” (“Fashen”?  Both of these are almost certainly spelled wrong), which was essentially a version of Halloween, so it became a costume party.  My friends and I had rediscovered a guilty childhood pleasure (The 70’s disco group The Village People) and we decided to go as them.  (As an aside, to show how poorly attuned my “gaydar” was at age 9 or so, as well as demonstrating my ludicrously backward/stereotypical views of homosexuality, I actually argued with my father that The Village People weren’t gay, because they were so manly and macho.  I know, I know.)  Or I thought we were.  There was some miscommunication, and/or changed minds, as in the end only myself (the cowboy) and my friend Mike (the construction worker) dressed as the group.  Undaunted, we told everyone we were one-third of The Village People.  Alas, the dressing up was kind of awkward, for reasons you may not expect.  Either the German ladies and we housemates were remiss in mentioning that it was a costume party, or else our friends were not fun, because as I recall, only about eight to ten people total were in costume, and the other forty to fifty weren’t.  In fact, the more I think about it, I don’t think most of the German House women even dressed up—maybe “Faschen” was a prank, and we fell for it.  (Because of my righteous indignation, and my laziness I’m not going to look it up and find out.)  Whatever the case, I still had a good time, and being a college party probably half the guest were too drunk to notice that a few of us were dressed kind of strangely anyway.
     Again, there was a long break, and I didn’t dress up for another seven or eight years.  By this time I was employed as a field archaeologist, and working in central Iowa.  At the last minute some of my coworkers and I decided to attend a Halloween bar crawl in Des Moines, which obviously required costumes.  With only a few days to spare, and being in a hotel (and yeah, lazy again), we went to a costume store (Eight year old Paul would probably have kicked twenty-eight year old Paul square in the nuts for this etiquette breach).  I went as a Civil War soldier, the joke being it was the one day ever that my pork chop sideburns made sense.  It turned out to be a fine night.  While on the crawl I saw perhaps the weirdest, most disturbing, (and in some ways the best) costume I’ve ever viewed in person.  A guy in an old man mask, wearing pants with missing butt cheeks (a la  1990’s Prince) was pushing a wheelbarrow filled with fake puke (at least I think it was fake puke—alternately he could have been a very self-aware, oddly prepared, lightweight drinker).
     Also, I’ve noticed a definite trend in Halloween costumes for women in the past decade or so.  That is, many women seem to use it as an excuse to dress scantily.  I’m not complaining, mind you, it just has struck me, only in a purely sociological way, of course.  There are times when it gets a little strange, though.  The Cracked humor website (which I highly recommend— had an article a couple of years ago detailing some of these.  Sexy nurse—cool.  Sexy (female) Darth Vader, though?!  Or kinky witch—awesome.  Adult woman barely dressed as Pebbles from “The Flintstones” (in case you forgot, that character is an infant)—pretty disturbing.
     The final stop on memory lane is Halloween 2009.  I was working on a large cemetery removal job, and the thirty or so crew decided to have a dress up party for it.  I opted to be topical and went as a poorly-exhumed grave.  To explain, when we were finished with a grave, we would place a garbage bag on the bottom, so the monitoring crew wouldn’t get confused and think it was another, non-exhumed grave shaft when the backhoe stripped the soil back over the same area again.  Also, obviously, we had to remove all of the coffin parts from the grave shaft, and clearly all of the human remains, too.  So my costume was me wearing a garbage bag, with pieces of (fake) coffin wood and (false) bones stuck to it.  Each grave also had a thick wooden hub stake at the head, with the grave shaft number on a tag nailed to it, so I put an unused one on a baseball cap (with appropriately blasphemous/obscene/hopefully funny information on its tag) and wore that.  There’s a photo of this included to the side of this post, one with me next to “Slave Leia.”  Unfortunately, my friend Mike (not the one from college) and I did quite well at Beer Pong (we won 7 straight games at one point, as I recall), which left me the worst for wear, and Princess Organa had to help me back into my apartment.  Good times.
     So there’s a brief(ish) history of my costumes.  If history holds up, look for me to be dressed up at a Halloween party in about 2017.  I’ll be the guy not wearing a mask (unless I can find that sweet skeleton one in my parent’s attic).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Titles--Part 2

     In Part 1 of this post, printed here yesterday, I explained some of my issues with titles in general, and how they pertained to my recent release, Kaishaku.  This part contains the same subject categories, but with new examples.

More Original Titles of Famous Books:
1)      The Chronic Argonauts became The Time Machine (1895) H. G. Wells.  I actually kind of like this original title.
2)      Bar-B-Q was changed to The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) James M. Cain.  Haven’t read this, but the original title seems dull and meaningless.
3)      The Dead Un-Dead became Dracula (1897) Bram Stoker.
4)      Come and Go was changed to The Happy Hooker (1972) Xaviera Hollander with Robin Moore and Yvonne Dunleavy.  Funny how the title with “Hooker” in it seems less sleazy.
5)      Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and Then a Captain of Several Ships became Gulliver’s Travels (1726) Jonathan Swift.  I think it was the style of the time to have long titles which were almost blurbs.  I much prefer the shorter, punchier name.
6)      Catch 22 (1961) by Joseph Heller, has a long, tortured, title history.  First it was Catch 18, but it was thought that would be confused with Leon Uris’s World War 2-set Mila 18 (also out in 1961), so it was changed to Catch 11.  Then people thought this might be too close to the recent movie Ocean’s 11 so it became Catch 17.  This, in turn was thought too similar to World War 2 movie Stalag 17, so it became Catch 14.  The publisher thought this number “wasn’t funny” so it became Catch 22.
7)      The title of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake (1939) was known only to himself and his wife until publication.  To others it was Work in Progress.  Don’t know if this is the source for the common acronym “WIP” used by writers.  (Off the topic, but with my love of horror/exploitation movies “WIP” makes me think of the Women In Prison subgenre first.)
8)      A Jewish Patient Begins His Analysis became Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) Phillip Roth.

Another Amusingly Bitter Author’s Quote About Titles:  “I’m trying to think up a good title for you to want me to change” by Raymond Chandler to his publisher.

Shortest Book Titles Used:  This is a huge tie, as many authors have used one letter titles.  Some of the more famous examples are A by Andy Warhol, G by John Berger, S by John Updike, and V by Thomas Pynchon.  In case anyone’s interested, the letters B, D, F, I, J, L, R, T, and U are still available.

More Titles Taken From Other Literature:
1)      As I Lay Dying (1936) by William Faulkner, was taken from Homer’s The Odyssey.
2)      No Country For Old Men (2005) by Cormac McCarthy, was taken from Sailing to Byzantium (1928) William Butler Yeats.
3)      Of Human Bondage (1915) by W. Somerset Maugham, was taken from Ethics (1677) Baruch (or Benedict) Spinoza.
4)      A Passage to India (1924) by E. M. Forster, was taken from Leaves of Grass (1855) Walt Whitman.
5)      Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert Heinlein, was inspired by the Bible, Exodus 2:22.

More Funny And/Or Strange Book Titles:  Once again, these are all real!
1)      How to Shit in the Woods:  An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art (3rd Edition, 2004) by Kathleen Meyer.  I’m surprised by the multiple editions—has that much changed over the years about dropping a deuce on camping trips?  Also, I enjoy the fact that’s it referred to as an “art.”
2)      The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2002) by Alisa Surkis and Monica Nolan.  I’m a little disappointed—I thought this was the equine version of “Brokeback Mountain,” but it’s actually stories about human lesbians in equestrian/Western settings.
3)      People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead:  How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About it (2005) by Gary Leon Hill.  Truly, the worst zombies are those that lack self-awareness.  (This is a sincere book, written by a psychic.)
4)      Be Bold with Bananas (early 1970’s) by authors unknown.  Good advice for everyone.  (Not just in the kitchen, either.)
5)      Across Europe by Kangaroo (2003) by Joseph R. Barry.  Sadly, this travelogue’s title is just an expression, as they cheated and used a van.
6)      The Holy Spirit of My Uncle’s Cojones (1999) by Marcos McPeek Villantoro.  It’s a fictional memoir/coming of age novel, and well reviewed.
7)      Excrement in the Late Middle Ages (2006) by Susan Signe Morrison.  Unfortunately I’m most interested in the excrement of the Early Middle Ages, so I’ll pass.  (Also, it’s over $80!)
8)      Living With Crazy Buttocks (2002) by Kaz Cooke.  I wasn’t aware that body parts beside your brain could go insane, but I can see how this would pose a serious problem.
9)      Is the Rectum a Grave? (2009) by Leo Bersani.  I’m not a proctologist, or a cemetery sexton, but I’m going to answer, “Good God, I hope not.”
10)  Peek-a-Poo What’s in Your Diaper? (2010) by Guido van Genechten.  Spoiler Alert—it’s always urine and/or feces.  (Serious essays on adult incontinence—no, just kidding, kid’s book.)
11)  Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves (2009) by Duncan Birmingham.  Unless your pet is a parrot or a signing ape, how do you gauge clinical depression in animals?  I guess I should read this.  (In reality it’s a humor book, making fun of people who dress up their pets in embarrassing costumes.)
12)  Ragnar’s Guide to Home and Recreational Use of High Explosives (1999) by Ragnar Benson.  Amazon says this is “unavailable.”  I wonder why.  (Seriously, ordering this one might get you on some government watch lists.)
13)  Squids Will Be Squids (2003) by Jon Scieszka.  It’s true.  How zen.
14)  Sun Beams May Be Extracted From Cucumbers, But the Process is Tedious (2010 printing of a 1799 oration in New Haven) compiled by David Daggett.  Hopefully extraction equipment has advanced over the past 200 years, and my jar of Vlasic Dills can power my solar panels.
15)  Popular History of British Seaweeds (1849) by Rev. D. Landsborough.  Sounds like a real page-turner, doesn’t it?
16)  Lizard Social Behavior (2003) edited by Stanley F. Fox, J. Kelly McCoy, and Troy A. Baird.  Given my personal habits, I don’t like to tell others to get a life very often, but come on!
17)  The Radiation Recipe Book (1939, 1945) by anonymous.  It’s not a microwave cooking manual, which therefore makes it both awesome and monumentally irresponsible.
18)  The Humanure Handbook:  A Guide to Composting Human Manure (1995) by Joseph C. Jenkins.  For that fecalphiliac/ ridiculously environmentally conscious friend in your life.
19)  Games You Can Play With Your Pussy (1985) by Ira Alterman.  Winner of the Least Sophisticated Double Entendre Title Ever.  (It’s a cat owner’s handbook, obviously.)
20)  Castration:  The Advantages and the Disadvantages (2003) by Victor T. Cheney.  I’m assuming the former part of this is two sentences—“Keep that lovely soprano singing voice,” and “No more pesky paternity suits!”—and the latter part is the other 300 pages.
21)  Fart Proudly:  Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School (2003) by Carl Japikse.  No mocking here—this actually sounds very entertaining.
22)  Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land) (2011) by Laura Schlessinger.  Wasn’t this a funny 1970’s “Saturday Night Live” skit?  (“No, Ma’am, I’m just a dolphin.”)
23)  How to Tell if Your Boyfriend is the Antichrist, and if He is, Should You Break up with Him? (2007) by Patricia Carlin.  Because you shouldn’t be hasty—you should weigh all the good and bad points about dating The Prince of Darkness before acting.  Example—“Pro:  Has a cute smile.  Con:  Has a tendency to flay, kill, and steal the souls from all of my friends and family.”
24)  Cooking With Poo (2011) by Saiyuud Diwong.  The ladies from 2 Girls, 1 Cup have branched out and written a cookbook!  (No, not really (yet)).  “Poo” is Thai for “crab,” and correspondingly the nickname of a famous Thai chef.  I’m sure this type of linguistic coincidence works both ways—maybe “pork and beans” means something like “mucus-hugger” in some other group’s language, and they’re laughing at us.
25)  Highlights in the History of Concrete (1994) by C. C. Stanley.  Alas, the serious concrete researcher must continue to wait for the complete, unexpurgated story.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Titles--Part 1

    (This article was previously posted on Musa Publishing's blog, as well as on Sloane Taylor's blog.  I'm reprinting it because it will be new to most of the Coffin Hoppers.  Also, this version is slightly longer than the previous posted one, mostly more example of Funny and/or Strange Book Titles--kind of a writing version of deleted scenes, I suppose.)

     Like probably a lot of authors, I sometimes have problems coming up with titles for my stories.  Often I complete the tale first, then give it a title.  It’s a tricky thing—you don’t want to use a name that’s too obvious, or too boring, or too obscure, or too pretentious.  It can be an awfully fine line sometimes.  For my previous ebook (Dead Reckoning), I made another mistake—I chose an extremely common title.  A check on Amazon reveals dozens of other books by this name.  For this release, then, I chose a much rarer name—I couldn’t find any other books called Kaishaku, at least in English.  Kaishaku is the historic Japanese practice of a friend mercy-killing another friend who’s committing ritual suicide, or seppuku.
     Anyway, because of all this, today I’d like to post about titles.  Due to space issues this will broken up into two parts, with Part 2 being posted tomorrow. 

Original Titles of Famous Books:  It’s weird to see these, as we’re so used to the eventual titles, but it’s a reminder that even great, successful books went through some revisions.  In most case I think changing the title was the right choice.  Thanks in particular to The New Book of Lists, (2005) by David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace.

1)      All’s Well That End Well—better known as War and Peace (1866) by Leo Tolstoy.
2)      Among Ash Heaps and Millionaires and Trimalchio in West Egg became The Great Gatsby (1925) F. Scott Fitzgerald.
3)      Twilight became The Sound and the Fury (1929) William Faulkner.  (Insert your own sparkly vampire joke here.)
4)      Jettison, Tote the Weary Load, and Mules in Horse Houses became Gone With the Wind (1936) Margaret Mitchell.
5)      Something That Happened was changed to Of Mice and Men (1937) John Steinbeck.  How generic!
6)      Before This Anger eventually was retitled, Roots (1972) Alex Haley.
7)      First Impressions became Pride and Prejudice (1813) Jane Austen.
8)      The Tree and the Blossom was changed to Peyton Place (1956) Grace Metalious.

An Amusingly Bitter Author’s Quote About Titles:
     “A writer who does cherish his title would probably do well to hold it in reserve and not present it until two or three others, all duds, have been duly rejected, leaving the editor with his editorial honor intact.”  Charles Portis.

     As my first ebook’s “relatives” were evidence for, you can’t copyright a single title.  The very rare exceptions to this are if it can be shown that an author is intentionally tricking the public into buying a book under false pretenses (i.e., another famous book).  You can, however, trademark a series of books, and this is recommended.  So give up your plans to put out your own Chicken Soup for the Soul or (Blank) for Dummies opus.

Longest Book Titles:
1)      670 words, or 3999 characters with spaces, for Nigel Tomm’s Selected Works of Nigel Tomm…. (2007).  Kind of a cheat, since this was obviously contrived.  Mr. Tomm also had a novel consisting of one 400,000 plus word sentence, so he has a pattern.  Even Fiona Apple thinks this title is a little much.
2)      290 words, or 1443 characters with spaces, for Davide Ciliberti.  Didn’t find much detail on this, but he might be the Italian version of Nigel Tomm.  (Also, the title was in Italian).

Titles Taken from Other Literature:  Some authors actually use passages from other books for their titles, which I guess is considered a homage (if folks like the book) or a shameless ripoff (if they don’t).
1)      Absalom, Absalom (1936) by William Faulkner, was taken from the Bible, 2 Samuel 19:4.
2)      The Waste Land (1922) by T.S. Eliot, was taken from Jessie L. Weston’s From Ritual to Romance (1920).
3)      A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) John Kennedy Toole, was taken from Jonathan Swift’s Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting (1706).
4)      East of Eden (1952) by John Steinbeck, was also from the Bible, Genesis 4:16.
5)      I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) by Maya Angelou, was taken from Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, Sympathy (Couldn’t determine exact publication date, but between 1895-1905).
6)      Remembrance of Things Past (Put out in seven parts, between 1913-27) by Marcel Proust, was taken from William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30 (1609).  (This was the title given to the English translation—the French title was (translated again) In Search of Lost Time.)

Funny and/or Strange Book Titles:  Incredibly, these titles are all real.  And sure, some of them are intentionally humorous, but quite a few aren’t.  The British magazine, “Bookseller” has given out the Diagram Prize annually since 1978 to the strangest book titles.  Many of these were past winners.

1)      Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice.  Authors not listed, but published in 1978 by the University of Tokyo Press.  Not a bestiality treatise, but a medical study on mice with inhibited immune systems.
2)      Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality (1987) edited by Glen C. Ellenbogen.  Intentionally funny, it’s a book of humor/parody for psychiatrists.
3)      The Book of Marmalade:  Its Antecedents, Its History, and Its Role in the World Today (1986) by C. Anne Wilson.  This is a sincere, nonfiction book.  And here I was just spreading it on my breakfast toast, not considering its precursors, evolution, and how it shapes our politics.
4)      The Joy of Sex:  Pocket Edition (30th Anniversary Edition, 2003) by Alex Comfort.   Because Pocket Books reprinted this.  What did you think, pervert?
5)      Bombproof Your Horse (most recent edition, 2004) by Rick Pelicano and Lauren Tjaden.  Finally an end to those constant barn explosions!  (Actually the title is misleading, it’s about calming your horse down, and it apparently well respected.)
6)      How to Make Love While Conscious (1993) by Guy Kettelhack.  Wait, you can do that while you’re awake?  Who knew?  (Really it’s quite serious, it’s geared toward recovering alcoholics, and how to have sex while sober.)
7)      How to be Pope:  What to Do and Where to Go Once You’re in the Vatican (2005) by Piers Marchant.  I’m no marketing expert, but I have to figure that even if this book is awesome, there’s still kind of a limited market for it.
8)      The Novel (1992) by James Michener.  Jeez, James, show a little creativity, huh?
9)      Curbside Consultation of the Colon (2008) edited by Brookes D. Cash.  Call me a prude, but I think this should be done in a doctor’s office.  (It’s a serious reference book.)
10)  Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich (2009) by James A. Yannes.  You don’t often see such a weird mix of incredibly specific, lame, and yet bordering on the offensive all at the same time.
11)  Father Christmas Needs a Wee (2011) by Nicholas Allen.  Great Yuletide gift for the child who loved “Everyone Poops.”
12)  C is for Chafing (2011) by Mark Remy.  I’ll bet Sue Grafton is pissed.  (It’s a running book for kids and parents.)
13)  Smocks (1983, 2008) by Maggie Hall.  Am I missing something—aren’t smocks the aprons kids wear in art class and such?  There’s actually an entire book on this incredibly limited topic?  Really?
14)  English Smocks (1961) by Alice Armes.  Well, that shut me up.
15)  Your Three-Year-Old:  Friend or Enemy? (1980) by Louise Bates Ames and Francis L. Ilg.  Only by reading this book can you achieve dĂ©tente with your toddler.
16)  Giraffes?  Giraffes! (2004) by Dr. and Mrs. Doris Haggis-on-Whey.  Love this one.  The title asks a (ridiculous) question, then answers it.  Plus the authors might have my favorite name ever.  I’m tempted to go to…Scotland, presumably, and get adopted by them so I can be Paul Haggis-on-Whey.
17)  Teach Your Wife to be a Widow (1959) by Donald I . Rogers.  So it’s a suicide manual for married men?
18)  All About Scabs (1998) by Genichiro Yagyu and Amanda Mayer Stinchecum.  Strong candidate for Grossest Book I’ve Ever Heard Of.  Hopefully it’s a coffee table book with plenty of color pictures.  (Really it’s a kid’s book.)
19)  The Joy of Uncircumsizing! (1994) by Jim Bigelow.  Remember how I said that How to be Pope book probably wouldn’t sell well?  I think it would still beat this.
20)  The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America:  A Guide to Field Identification (2006) by Julian Montague.  Is this like the book version of The Producers?  Otherwise, why would anyone, anywhere, and at any period in time ever want to read this?
21)  Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All (2008) by Christina Thompson.  Not really that funny, I guess, but as a horror fan I think it’s badass.  (Really a history/memoir detailing Maori/Westerner interactions.)
22)  Cheese Problems Solved (2007) edited by Paul McSweeney.  Maybe I’ve led a sheltered life, but all of my cheese problems have been solved by simply buying more.
23)  Do Dead People Watch You Shower?:  Questions for Mediums (2007) Concetta Bertoldi.  If the answer is “yes,” I don’t know whether to be terrified or really turned on.  Or both.
24)  Natural Harvest—A Collection of Semen-Based recipes (2011) by Paul “Fotie” Photenhauer.  Forget the scab book, we have a “Grossest” winner.
25)  My Duodenal Ulcer and I (1955) by Dr. Stuart Morton.  Not any info about this, so I’m going to choose to believe that it’s a sweet memoir, with lots of pictures of the author and his duodenal ulcer on vacation, having a romantic dinner together, etc.
26)  My Prostate and Me (1994) by William Martin.  Okay, ulcers and prostate have been done, but there are plenty of other body parts available to write books about.

That’s it for now.  Also, I should probably mention that I intentionally left off subtitles and didn’t reveal some books’actual topics for comedic reasons.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blog Hop Contest Rules and "Halloween" Series Trivia

     Welcome to another blog hop, this one sponsored by Coffin Hop.  As in the previous hops, I’m including a contest.  Like before, you can enter simply by leaving a comment on any of the posts, from this one through October 31st.  You can also enter multiple times, although once per post, meaning if I have five posts during the blog hop, you could potentially have five entries.  The winner will be drawn randomly and will get a free copy of either of my ebooks, Dead Reckoning or Kaishaku.  I’ll announce the winner on my blog on November 1st or 2nd.  And please don’t forget to check out the many other authors’ blogs—the last time I checked it was over ninety participants.
     Given that the holiday is coming soon, and this is a horror-themed blog hop, I thought I’d go into some trivia about the Halloween film series.  The little indie 1978 film grew into a series of ten movies, spanning over thirty years.  While it wasn’t the first slasher movie (Black Christmas, among other possible candidates, predated it by four years), it was the most influential, spawning the 1980’s slasher craze, for better and for worse.  Without further ado, then…

1) Michael Myers’ plain mask is a modified Captain Kirk (played by, of course, William Shatner) mask, purchased for $1.98.  It was modified by widening the eye holes, and by adding a coat of bluish-white paint.

2) At least eighteen different actors have portrayed Michael.  I say at least eighteen because more uncredited stuntmen may have played The Shape for brief stunt scenes.  However, most of the guys who played adult Michael were stuntmen, so they may have done most or all of the stunt scenes. 
     a) Will Sandin—played six-year-old, clown-costumed Michael in Halloween.
     b) Nick Castle—played adult Michael, for most of the original film.
     c) Tony Moran—portrayed adult Michael at the end of the original movie, including his face during the brief unmasking scene.  He’s also the brother of “Happy Days” actress Erin Moran (Joanie Cunningham).
     d) Tommy Lee Wallace—the production designer/co-editor for the first film, and creator of the mask, played The Shape during the closet scene. 
     e)  James Winburn—stuntman who played Michael for the scene where he falls out of the window after being shot by Dr. Loomis in the original movie.
     f)  Unnamed dog trainer—is Michael during the scene in which he kills Lester the dog in the original film.  (Couldn’t find out this man’s name.  Anyone out there know?)
    g)  Dick Warlock—adult Michael in Halloween 2.
    h)  Adam Gunn—Michael as a child in Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, in the flashback scenes in Halloween 2.
    i)  George Wilbur—adult Michael in Halloween 4 and Halloween:  The Curse of Michael Myers (6th film in series).
    j)  Don Shanks—adult Michael in Halloween 5.
    k)  Chris Durand—adult Myers in Halloween: H20 (7th in series).
    l)  Brad Loree—adult Michael in Halloween: Resurrection (8th in series).
   m)  Daeg Faerch—played ten-year-old Michael in Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake (9th in series).
   n)  Tyler Mane—portrayed adult Michael in Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween II (9th and 10th films in series).
   o)  Chase Wright Vanek—played child Myers in Halloween II remake.
   p) (Just rewatched movie, and forgot one)  Debra Hill--in additon to producing and co-writing Halloween, she played 6 year old Michael during the stalking and stabbing his sister scenes, where it's his POV and you only see "his" hands and arms.  This was due to difficulties with child actor rules about working long hours into the night.
   q) (Another late addition) Tom Morga--adult Michael in some scenes at the beginning of Halloween 4.
   r) (And yet another) A. Michael Lerner--played adult Michael in some scenes in Curse of Michael Myers (#6 in series), especially during the reshoots.
(And in case you’re wondering, “What about Halloween 3?”, remember that one, inexplicably, didn’t have Michael Myers in it—instead there was a goofy plot about an evil company marketing masks to kids which somehow caused snakes and bugs to come out and kill them.)

3) Director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill used places from their past in the screenplay to the original movie.  The name of the town Halloween is set in, Haddonfield IL, is taken from Hill’s childhood home of Haddonfield, NJ.  Similarly, many of the street names are taken from actual ones in Carpenter’s hometown of Bowling Green, KY, and Smith’s Grove (where the sanitarium is) is a neighboring town of Bowling Green, too.

4) Sadly, the Laurie Strode/Ben Tramer romance was not to be.  He’s supposed to be the red herring “Michael” accidently hit and killed by the police car in Halloween 2.  He’s not immediately identified, but later it’s mentioned that a drunken Ben is missing.

5) When Halloween was first shown on television, the network wanted a longer movie to flesh out the two hour time slot (minus commercials).  Therefore Carpenter got Curtis and  Donald Pleasence, among others, to shoot twelve more minutes of scenes.  Some DVD copies incorporate these extra minutes of screen time.

6) Aside from Jamie Lee Curtis, a couple of other, unlikely actors made their debuts in a Halloween movie.  Comedian Dana Carvey has a bit part in Halloween 2, playing a TV crew assistant in the beginning of the film.  Comic actor Paul Rudd has a starring role as the grown up Tommy Doyle in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

7) Danielle Harris and Jamie Lee Curtis have appeared in the most Halloween movies, none with each other.  Danielle played Jamie Lloyd in Halloweens 4 and 5, and then Annie Brackett in both of Zombie’s remakes.  Curtis was Laurie Strode in Halloweens 1,2, H20, and Resurrection.  Oops, obvious mistake here--Donald Pleasence played Dr. Loomis in five films--1,2,4,5, and The Curse of Michael Myers (#6).

8) According to an Entertainment Weekly article on drugs and Hollywood in the early 1990’s, Halloween 3 was notorious for its illegal chemical use.  A source claimed that all but a handful of the people involved in the movie were using cocaine.

9) Carpenter and Hill also used character names based on real life friends, or as homages to movies they liked.  Laurie Strode was the name of one of Carpenter’s former girlfriends, and Michael Myers was an English producer who helped Carpenter enter an earlier film of his, Assault on Precinct 13, into some European film festivals.  Tommy Doyle is the name of the lieutenant in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and (Dr.) Sam Loomis is the name of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh—Curtis’s mother)’s boyfriend in Psycho.

10) The 1979 novelization of Halloween by Curtis Richards gives a surprisingly clear explanation for Michael Myers’ nature.  (Spoilers ahead, obviously)  A prologue tells of a disfigured boy named Enda, who lives in northern Ireland at the dawn of the Celtic race.  He’s in love with King Gwynwyll’s daughter Deidre, but she rejects him in a humiliating way.  Embittered, he publicly kills her and her fiancĂ© during the Halloween-precursor holiday of Samhain.  In turn, he’s immediately killed by the festival-goers, but his soul is cursed to walk the earth, recreating the events of that night.  In another scene, Michael’s grandmother discusses how Michael is behaving uncomfortably close to his great-grandfather, who committed an unspecified violent act.  Therefore, the book suggests that Michael is possessed by Enda, and slaughters those who remind him of his spurned crush, her lover, and anyone who gets in his way.  (The fact that his main targets appear to be female family members also suggests some disturbing incestuous yearnings.)  Obviously the movies didn’t include these scenes, or put out alternate theories (especially The Curse of Michael Myers, and Zombie’s remakes).

     If any readers have any other interesting bits of Halloween trivia, or corrections, please don’t hesitate to post them.
     Coffin Hop link is below:

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Various Strange Chocolate Combos

     Since Halloween is fast approaching, I thought I'd return to a post on candy, specifically exotic chocolates.  A friend who knows my interest in weird foods picked me up one (chocolate with bacon), and he reported that the store he got it at had several other odd chocolates, too.  I wasted little time in checking out the place myself.  The store was World Market, which as the name suggests stocks all sorts of foreign imports--mostly furniture and housewares, but they do also have a food section.  (Word of warning, though.  World Market is a decent store, with an admirable selection, but I would advise against giving them an email address to get "information and coupons."  Spam-wise I've known Nigerian princes and penis-enlarger companies that show more restraint.)
     All in all, I tried four new unusual chocolate combos--with sea salt, with bacon, with beef jerky, and with pomegranate.  Going in I figured that the pomegranate one would be good, the sea salt one might be okay, and the meat ones I thought might be risky--either great or awful.  The results were somewhat surprising.  The pomegranate/chocolate baby was dreadful--I had problems choking it down.  The mixing of the sweetness/tartness of the fruit with the chocolate created a hideous abomination.  The sea salt and the bacon were underwhelming.  Both of these didn't taste much different than regular chocolate--only tinges of salt, and bacon, respectively.  Meaning that they didn't taste bad at all, but if I'm paying extra for exotic fare, I expect it to actually taste like the different ingredients in some significant way.  The beef jerky/chocolate was my favorite of the bunch.  I could taste the beef, and the resulting hybrid was oddly palatable.  It probably sounds like a questionable flavor, but it really works well.
     If anyone's interested in giving any of these a try, the chocolate/bacon and the chocolate/beef jerky were both made by Vosges Haut-Chocolat, out of Chicago.  The chocolate with sea salt is made by Lindt & Sprungli, the same Swiss company that makes the delicious chocolate/chili pepper mashup I posted about previously.  The chocolate with pomegranate is put out by World Market itself.
     If you hand these out to kids on October 31st, they  might be unsure whether or not you're turning the tables and are playing a trick on them, which they may later consider a special treat, depending on their individual palates.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Buffalo, Elk, and Quail

     Today I’d like to talk about several exotic meats that I recently had at a single sitting; quail, buffalo (bison), and elk.  I had this meal at the Bald Headed Bistro in Cleveland, Tennessee, which is an oddly named but good, slightly upscale restaurant.  The name of this particular order was the Game Platter.
     To be accurate, I’ve actually had bison and a form of quail before—raw quail eggs at sushi restaurants and bison several times, most often as a burger.  I found both of these to be quite tasty, although I have to admit that I didn’t find the bison to taste much different than beef.
     And, as usual, I did my half-assed research on the food(s) of the post in question.  Bison meat is healthier than beef, being higher in protein and lower in fat and cholesterol.  Also, adventurous but strict practicing Jews can partake, as a few butchers produce kosher bison meat.  I was surprised to learn that true bison are becoming increasingly rare—due to frequent inbreeding with cattle, all but an estimated 12,000-15,000 of “bison” are really beefalo hybrids.  It’s tough to tell which are which without genetic testing, as the beefalo usually resemble bison.
     Elk is a very healthy food as well.  It does bison a couple better, as it has more protein and less fat and cholesterol than beef, pork, and chicken.  Eastern medicine also considers the powdered antlers (referred to as “velvet,” but actually meaning the antler itself, and not the velvet-like skin on young, growing, antlers) to have useful effects, capable of stimulating the immune system, acting as an anticancer agent, and even serving as an aphrodisiac (these claims haven’t been proven scientifically).  The only downside to elk is their propensity to disease, especially one major one—chronic wasting disease.  As I mentioned in my venison post (elk are members of the deer family), this is another nasty prion ailment similar to mad cow.  So hunters need to be very careful, and aware of the signs of this disease.
     But back to the Game Platter, which consisted of fried quail with a sauce, jalapeno bacon-wrapped Kentucky Bison, and elk tenderloin.  The quail was good—reminiscent of other small game birds I’ve had such as Cornish Game Hen.  The bison was a tad disappointing—okay, but not spectacular.  I’ve enjoyed it more in burger form.  The elk, though, was the pick of the litter—absolutely fantastic.  As the cut’s name suggested, it was nice and tender, and it had the noticeable but not overpowering gamey taste I’m a huge fan of.  I would recommend any of these to omnivores or carnivores, with the elk being my obvious favorite.  As far as availability goes, unless you’re a hunter or live near a restaurant/butcher shop/grocery store with an unusually good variety, getting quail or elk might be kind of challenging.  But buffalo burgers, while uncommon, are still easier to find.
     And if you’re in the southeast Tennessee area, I would certainly recommend checking out the Bald Headed Bistro.  It’s on the pricey side, but I think it’s worth it, whether you get the exotics or just stick with regular fare.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Halloween Spooktacular Blog Post Contest Winner

      Thanks to everyone who visited my guest post at the Halloween Spooktacular on October 7th  (  I'd like to announce the winner of my contest--June M.  June, please email me at: and I'll get that free copy of "Kaishaku" out to you.  Hope everyone enjoys the rest of the Spooktacular, which runs all month.  And thanks once again to Donna at Book Lovers Hideaway for giving me the guest spot.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Musa Anniversary Blog Hop Contest Results

      I'd like to once again thank all the people who stopped by and read my blog during the blog hop.  I hope everyone had fun, and also enjoyed reading the posts at all of my fellow authors' blogs.  Happy birthday to Musa Publishing, and I'm already looking forward to the coming year.
     As for my contest results, the two winners were latishajean and Mary Jo Burke.  Congratulations!  Like I mentioned before, each of you gets a free copy of one of my books, either "Dead Reckoning" or "Kaishaku"-- it's up to you.  Please contact me at this email address:  and I'll send you the ebook of your choice.
     To help you decide, I've reprinted both book's blurbs and excerpts below.

 Kaishaku blurb:

     After receiving a DUI, Dustin Dempster is working off some community service hours at a hospital.  While there he’s asked to do some amateur counseling of sometimes difficult patients.  He thinks this a waste of time, but he reluctantly agrees.
     One of these difficult patients is Levon Howard, a man paralyzed from the neck down because of a car accident.  He’s initially uncooperative, but after being charmed by Dustin’s brutal honesty and willingness to break some small hospital rules, he agrees to participate.  Soon he’s revealing his biggest secrets to Dustin…
     For Levon is an obsessed and unrepentant killer of the worst sort, only with a personal quirk.  Despite his revulsion, Dustin finds himself intrigued by Levon’s story.  Soon he finds himself doing what was once unthinkable, and realizes that he’s being affected by what he’s learned.  Will Howard’s madness claim yet another victim, or even another perpetuator?

Kaishaku excerpt:

     Dustin pulled up his chair, and listened intently.
     “For starters, my name is Levon, so call me that.  Not big on ‘Mr. Howard.’  Fort is right in a way—I do want to talk.  Just not to someone like him, or his flunkies, or a nurse.  What I’m going to tell you I’ve never told anyone—but I figure, why not?  My life—my real life—is over.
     “You never told anyone?  Why not?”
     “Shut up and listen!  You’ll see.  But anyway, the most important thing in my life is that I’m obsessed with killing.  With a catch—I’m not a murderer.  I’ve never been arrested, never went to jail, and never even broke the law.”
     Levon paused to catch his breath, and Dustin just stared at him, and resisted the urge to laugh.  Come on!  This guy’s gotta be fucking with me!  Or was he?  He looked pretty sincere—could he be serious?  Maybe he would have been better off not talking to him.  But, on the other hand, Levon could hardly attack him even if he wanted to, and besides, Dustin was a little curious.  So he waited for the paralyzed man to resume.

      Dead Reckoning blurb:

      Kurt Minnifield is a fledging actor playing a zombie in a low budget horror movie.  The director and crew decide to move their shooting to lovely and isolated Watkins State Park… only they don’t get proper permission.
     Victor Newsome is a thirteen year old trying to both shed his nerdy image and learn outdoor skills at a special survival camp.  After teaching the boys how to make shelter and kill their own food, the counselors decide to take a day trip to the neighboring state park—Watkins.
     A series of ethical lapses, poor decisions, and bad luck lead to a colossal misunderstanding.  Violence erupts as both sides fight desperately against a dangerous set of foes.  Who will be more savage—the literal “monsters,” or the boys equipped with deadly weapons, and the knowledge of how to use them?

Dead Reckoning excerpt:

     Kurt struggled to catch up as the unknown actor continued to track the other zombies.  Now he saw that the other actors must have seen or heard the guy—they’d turned around and were advancing on him.  The guy wasn’t Chris, or Rickey, or Gene, either, this was definitely some new actor.  So what happens now?  No one had any special effects things on that he could see, so unless this man ran away the unscripted, natural shooting was over.
     The actor wasn’t fleeing.  He raised his gun and aimed it at the zombie in front, Will.  His hand shook for a second, and then he fired.
     The crack of the shot was loud, and Kurt nearly fell over in shock.  That was no blank!  That sounded real!  What the fuck?  And then he turned his head to look at Will.  Blood was running from a hole in his chest.  Kurt gasped.  Will had been the last zombie to be made up before Kurt—he was positive that T.J. hadn’t put any squibs on him.
     Will had stopped, and his zombie claws went to the wound, and he stared at the hole wonderingly.  The zombies nearest him—Tabby, Henry, and Ed, all dropped their arms down and were staring at Will too, and then back at the mystery man with astonished expressions on their faces.
     The guy hesitated, and then raised his gun a little, and fired again.  There was a second boom, and then Will’s eye broke up, followed almost immediately by the back of his head.  Blood, and pieces of whitish skull and grayish brains splattered out, onto the forest floor, and even slightly on Tabby’s arm.  Will fell on his side with a strange gurgling sound.
     Holy Shit! thought Kurt.  That was no squib either.  This was real!  This guy is psycho!  He watched as Tabby took off, into the bushes to the side of the clearing.  Henry and Ed crouched by Will’s body, and struggled to communicate with the alien assassin.  They waved their arms wildly, trying to signal “Stop” with their palms held up.  Their grunting was noticeably louder, but still inarticulate.  Kurt started to walk across the clearing to join the group.
     The armed man paused a moment more, and then aimed once again.  The two zombies tried to duck behind Will’s slumped corpse.  Two shots whined past, and then a third hit Henry in the shoulder.  Just then he whirled in Kurt’s direction and fired again, just as Kurt threw up his hands.  As soon as the gunman turned, Ed and Henry were in the bushes right behind Tabby.
     Fire rushed through Kurt’s left hand, just above the wrist.  He groaned as he saw blood, and tendons, and even bone through the hole in his mangled hand.  He dove to the ground, just as another bullet hit a tree right where his head had been.  And then he was gone, tearing through the bushes and trees almost without looking.
     The man trotted up to Will’s body, and kicked at it curiously.  He looked briefly at the spot where the hand-shot zombie had disappeared, and then he turned back and went after the first three zombies.
     It hadn’t been thirty seconds when the first fly landed on Will’s destroyed head, took off, and then landed again.  Soon a large crowd of them was jockeying for a prime position.