Monday, October 31, 2016


Happy Halloween WYMOP readers!
It has been a busy month for yours truly, with readings and book sales, because this is every horror writer’s time of year. To celebrate the spookiest day, I’m sharing a little story I wrote a few years ago, when I was writing Friday Frights.
~ ~ * * ~ ~

Rob Smales

“You go in there, I’m telling!”
“You will not!”
“I will!”
“Well.” Benjamin folded his arms over his chest as he spoke. “Then you’ll get in trouble before I do, won’t you?”
William squinted. “What do you mean?”
Benjamin stood tall, as if orating from the stump in the town square on Sunday morning. “I’ll just have to tell Mother how you made us late in the first place, stealing old Mr. Packshaw’s apples. Weren’t for that, we wouldn’t have had to try to go through Chinichak in the first place, now would we?”
“But you were swiping apples too. You’ll be telling on yourself, you do that!”
“Everyone knows you love apples. I just like ’em.” Benjamin shoved his hands deep into his pockets with a wistful expression, stubbing one toe into the ground. “Who are they going to believe when I tell ’em it was your idea, them apples? Me, who just likes ‘em, or you, who loves ’em?”
“But I . . . you . . . but you . . . aw, dangit!”
“That’s right,” Benjamin said, voice suddenly hard. “You just come along with me. I don’t want a whipping for being late, and it’s already dark. You just quit your whining and keep up.” The older boy spun on his heel and headed down into the lowlands known in Virginia Colony as Chinichak swamp. William stood stock still for three heartbeats, staring at the darkness beneath the trees his brother had disappeared into.
Four heartbeats.
“Wait up!” Legs churning, he sped down the trail. He raced along for a few seconds, then slowed to a cautious walk.
He peered left and right through the trees, unable to see very far through the underbrush in the dark. There was no sign of his brother. “Ben?” His voice shook. “You better not be scaring me. I will tell Mother, you do that!”
Bushes beside the trail rustled slightly. The wind? An asinine older brother, perhaps? He scooped a stick from beside the path, hefted it, took a deep breath, then started forward.
“Benjamin Radley, if you’re in there, I’ll make you sorry!”
William jabbed the stick into the bush, intending to poke his smart-alec older brother in the belly—and the bushes exploded right in front of him. Leaves flew this way and that as the fox that had been crouching within them sprinted down the trail. William screamed, turning to flee—and slammed into Benjamin, who was standing close behind him.
“Where you going, scaredycat? That was just a little fox. S’matter? Scared?”
“Yes I’m scared,” said William. “You did that on purpose, Ben Radley!” Benjamin just smiled. “Why do we have to go through the swamp? Can’t we just go around?”
Benjamin snorted. “Not if we don’t want to be too late we can’t. Come on, yellow. Let’s go.”
Benjamin brushed past him and William had no choice but to follow. For a couple of minutes there was no sound but their feet crunching along the leaf-strewn trail. Suddenly, Benjamin stopped, reaching back to place a hand flat on William’s chest.
“What—?” William began.
“SShhh!” hissed Benjamin, without looking back.
William tried to see around his brother but all he could make out was that the narrow trail widened into a clearing ahead. “What’s—” he tried again, but again was shushed by the older boy. William felt his brother’s fingers slowly closing to grip his shirtfront, then Benjamin loosed a mighty gasp.
“If you’re trying to scare me again—”
But that was as far as he got before Benjamin spun about, roughly thrusting his younger brother aside and dashing past him. back the way they had come.
“If you’re trying to scare me again, it’s not working,” William called after the retreating back. “You’re not going to catch me twice, Benjamin! Not gonna catch me twice,” he repeated, turning back toward the clearing, then froze.
They stood waist deep in a moonlit pool of quiet water; two men, perfectly still, glowing slightly in the night. Their outlines shimmered but he could still make out a pair of what looked like his father’s flintlock in their hands, though smaller, like toys. They wore outlandish costume of straps and buckles. Their skin, their faces, were a mottled green-black in the glow they threw out, and one wore something like Mrs. Donovan’s spectacles, but much, much larger, that completely covered the top half of his face. As William stared, part of his mind traced the far shoreline of the pool from their left to their right and noticed that it remained unbroken, a darker line in the night.
Oh, Lord in heaven I’m looking right through them, he thought. They must be gho—
One took a slow step toward William and the boy broke and ran, screaming his brother’s name as he went.
~ ~ * * ~ ~
“Did you see that?”
“See what?”
Will turned back toward Sanchez and the latter reached up to pull the night-vision goggles from his face.
“You didn’t see those two boys? Right over there?” He pointed toward the bank of the pool they were crossing.
“Naw, man, and I was looking over there. With these.” He tapped the goggles now shoved up atop his head. “Wasn’t nobody there. I would’a seen ’em.”
Will usually enjoyed the night maneuvers involved with his SEAL training, but for some reason he was feeling spooked tonight. “You sure?” He stared at the bank where he’d seen the boys glowing slightly in the gloom. “I could’ve sworn . . .
“There’s been ghost stories about Chinichak swamp going back to colonial days.” Sanchez gave Will’s shoulder a friendly smack. “Maybe that’s what you seen, Radley. A ghost!”
“Yeah, right,” grinned corporal Will Radley. “You know I don’t believe in that crap.”
But as he slogged on through the pool toward the spot where the boys had stood, he didn’t feel so sure . . .

Talk to you later!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Take Names, Not Prisoners!

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

A friend of mine was running a sale table at a convention this weekend, and I tried to send him a good luck text. Break a leg, I typed, but then sat there looking at it. Awfully violent, I thought, and backspaced it out. Kick ass and take names, I tried, but still stared at the screen all squinchy faced. “Wow,” I said, “why don’t I just get it over with and tell him to stab someone?” So I sat there and ran through some of the different phrases we use to wish someone success.
My God, we are a head-banging, face-smashing people.
“You have a thing you’re doing? Well, break a leg! Kick ass and take names!”
Seriously? We’re equating success—of any kind—to doing someone (or even ourselves) bodily harm? Look, unless you’re talking to a professional boxer or MMA fighter, personal physical damage shouldn’t be something you’re wishing on anyone. Unless, of course, you’re driving—I am a Masshole, after all. But aside from loudly praying a stroke, internal hemorrhaging, or a blitz-attack myocardial infarction on the driver of the slow-moving car in front of me with the left directional that won’t shut off, what’s with the destructive (and largely illegal) pro-victory expressions?
I’m not saying there aren’t any non-violent ways to wish someone good luck—look, there was one right there, simply saying good luck—but when we see someone beginning an endeavor we’re very likely to tell them to fight the good fight, or maybe take no prisoners. These are, of course, merely gateway sayings for the harder stuff: knock ’em dead, slay ’em, and the ever-popular gun reference, blow ’em away. Would any of these, if taken literally, have been appropriate for my friend, who’s a writer trying to build a fan base? Hmm . . . kind of hard to have repeat customers if everyone you deal with winds up a corpse littering the floor behind you.
Some might argue that you’re really wishing for them to whip some serious ass over their competition, but sometimes our competitors are actually contacts, and it’s called networking, not gravedigging. Also, I don’t know about you, but as a customer I think I’d find it hard to deal with someone who was dripping with the blood of their enemies, Conan the Barbarian-style. Might be just me.
This odd penchant for violent metaphor continues even into success. Someone who has done quite well has hit pay-dirt and made a killing, maybe with a smash hit. Failure is even worse, because the venture might blow up in their face and kill their chances, leaving them dead in the water—and if it was all over a decision they knew might be bad, or that went really wrong, then it might just be said that they cut their own throat.
Slay ’em? Make a killing? You cut their own throat? Jesus Christ!
More than slightly horrified, I tried to text my friend in a different way, tried to counterbalance some of the more traditional—and terrible—wishes for good fortune. I keyed in wishing you fluffy bunny success . . . then backspaced it out. He’d think I’d gone insane. I tried hugs and kisses, dude! Nope. Wrong message. Remember to be kind to the competition! Who was I, Stuart Smalley? Slowly, I keyed in the most basic non-violent wish for success I could think of:
Wishing you success!
My God, that looked like either a fortune cookie or one of those cheap-ass cards you can pick up at CVS at the last minute, when all the really good cards are gone. It wasn’t the kind of message usually sent by someone who claims to have a way with words. I hung my head and gave in, deciding to simply throw a twist into an old standby.
Kick ass, and remember to take names, not prisoners! I hit ꜱᴇɴᴅ. There, a twofer.
I’ve been thinking about it, trying to come up with something along the lines of wishing you fluffy bunny success that wouldn’t have people thinking I’d lost my mind, or were on drugs, or lost my mind on drugs, but I’m coming up dry. Everything either sounds crazy coming from me or has that last-card-on-the-rack blandness that, as a writer, I’d really like to avoid . . . so screw it, I’m going to follow another old standby saying: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. But like some reformed smoker who’s swung completely the other way and can only talk about how bad cigarettes are for you, I want to go at this violent wish thing whole hog.
So I have a reading tomorrow night, and I’m really hoping to talk the colons right out of those people, you know? Just leave body parts everywhere. I’m at a book sale in Salem this weekend as well, and I hope to puree the competition, and then eat them after making sure they’re cooked to a proper, safe temperature, before pooping them into the swamp behind the old power plant while reading reviews of their work.
Yeah. Take that.
What’s your favorite way to wish someone good luck in something? Do you have a creative way to buck someone up for success? If so, tell me about it, I’d love to read it—and it doesn’t have to be violent, though apparently we really don’t mind if it is.

Talk to you later!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Lowest Form

Greetings, WYMOP readers! This one’s short, but sweet.

It was Sunday afternoon, and I was at the New England Horror Writers’ booth at Rock and Shock, the weekend horror/hard rock show at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA.  We’d been selling there since Friday, and Sunday meant day three. Day three meant I was tired. Tired meant I was punchy.
Punchy meant I was punning.
The people I was with did not find this funny. Or punchy. They found it somewhat sad.
“I think I’m the only one here without a novel,” I said. “Well, I did write a vampire novel, but it sucked.”
They stared at me.
A couple walked by the booth dressed as walkers—zombies—from a popular horror show on television. I pointed. 

“Looks dead in here.”

Pinhead (well, a reasonable facsimile with a teenager inside) from the Hellraiser movie series walked past. “Hey,” I said. “That’s a sharp costume.”
I grinned. “Get the point?”

“Look,” one of my companions finally said. “What are you doing?”
“I know that,” he said. “But why? They aren’t funny.”
“Well,” I said, “that depends on your—” My phone buzzed. I looked at the screen. I laughed. Looked again. Laughed again.
My friend was watching me, and eyeballing my phone. “What?”
I held the screen out to him. “Check it out. It’s a text from my son.”
He read, glared at me, read again, then shook his head and walked away.
I looked back at the message:
Dad, be proud of me! Three loud motorcycles just went by,
and I said “Look! The Three Mufflerteers!”

And my heart grew three sizes that day.

Talk to you later!

Monday, October 10, 2016


Greetings, WYMOP readers!
I'm currently working on cleaning up a new novella so I can start shopping it around, and I'd love to tell you about it, but even while I'm working on that I still have this funny kid . . .
“So! What do you think?”
I stood by the foot of my son’s bed in the classic Superman pose: feet spread wide, fists knuckling firmly into hips, chest outthrust, chin up with face turned slightly to the side and a grin; all that was missing was the stray ray of light to glint off my pearly whites with an audible ting. It’s a heroic pose, meant for heroic men. I’m a mailman/writer who’s pushing 48, though I could easily pass for 50. I did my best.
“That’s what I want to know,” I said. “What you think. So?” I shifted slightly, spreading wider, knuckling firmer, and outthrusting, uh, thrustier. I think I even heard a faint ting. “Well?”
“Dad, what are you talking about?”
I deflated somewhat and cast a hand across my body, a self-absorbed Vanna White. Well, even more self-absorbed. “The shirt, man. What do you think?”
I wore a very thin, long-sleeved shirt done in black, gray and off-white, the colors forming a long-toothed skull that covered my torso. Anyone who knows a thing about comics or has even a passing knowledge of NetFlix at the moment knows the image means one thing, and I practically shouted it:
“Punisher, man!”
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “The shirt is cool, but, uh . . .”
“Well, those.” He pointed a finger toward my waist.
“That.” He pointed closer.
“Do you mean—”
The pointing finger actually stabbed me, sinking in past the nail.
“Ow! You mean—dude, I think the phrase you’re looking for is muffin top. You evil ass.”
“Well, yeah,” he said. “But it only shows ’cause you’re wearing a belt and have the shirt tucked in. Why do you have the shirt tucked in?”
“I’m going to put a short-sleeved shirt over it, and I don’t want it to hang out the bottom. But that one will cover.”
“Well . . . well . . .” He waved his arms the gesture encompassing me from head to foot. “If you’re going to wear another shirt over that one, why are you showing me that one?”
“Because dude!” I struck the pose again. Ting. “Punisher!”
He leaned back on his bed again. “Looks like the only punishment is being handed out by that belt.”
First reaction: Ow.
Second reaction: Well, at least I know he inherited my smart-assedness.
Third reaction: Ow!

Final reaction: “You know I want to be mad, but that’s too . . . I just . . . evil ass!”

The moral of the story: I gotta buy some shirts that fit.
Talk to you later!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Great Pumpkin!

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

It’s October, and though for me as a horror writer that means Halloween, it means something a little different to every single food company out there that distributes in the United States.
Pumpkin. Pumpkin everything.

So today was the first time I went food shopping in October 2016, and I was reminded of the Great Pumpkin Takeover just as soon as I pulled into the lot and tried to find a parking space.

There weren’t a lot of options left, but luckily I drive a Mini. I managed to wedge myself into one of the cart corrals, climbed out the sunroof, and made my way past the bulbous orange gourds, kids scrambling about screaming “I want this one! I want the biggest one!” as parents measured trunks to see just what kind of pumpkin poundage they could handle.
As I entered the store, though, I was buoyed up by the thought that yes, one of my favorite things is part of this seasonal pumpkin bullshit: Market Basket Pumpkin Donuts™. Yessiree Bob, just imagining slapping two or three boxes of those babies in the cart and cracking one of them open on the drive home was enough to put a bounce in my step. I wheeled my cart along quickly, deftly avoiding the other pumpkin-crazed shoppers as they stumbled along with glazed eyes, slowly filling their carriages with every pumpkined-up item imaginable.

I, however, resisted the temptation, keeping a sharp focus on the one pumpkiny item I’d set my sights on as I whipped through the shopping list.

In Frozen Foods, I—with difficulty—turned a blind eye.

In the cereal aisle, I breathed deep, and remained calm—though not so calm as the drooling-faced zombie man who was trying to put just one more box of pumpkin Captain Crunch™ into his cart, to give him an even dozen.

I made my way past cookies . . .

 . . . and coffees . . .

 . . . okay, that’s going a bit far.

Thank God I don’t drink.

Seriously? Have you lost your damn mind?

But finally, finally I’d made my way through the whole pumpkin—uh, store, and I was rounding the bend toward the registers. And right there by the registers they had their seasonal display, where I’d be able to give in and shovel in a few boxes of . . . of . . .

What the—?


Son of a bitch.

Talk to you later!