Monday, October 26, 2015

Stephen Zimmer: The Halloweens I Remember the Most. Plus, a raffle!

Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky.  His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Sawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections. Hellscapes, Volume II, is out this week.

Today, the handsome and prolific Mr. Zimmer shares his favorite memories of Halloween with us. It's a fun read, and don't forget to enter the raffle at the bottom of the page. Top prize is a Kindle Fire HD8!

Halloween is a holiday that brings to mind many great, magical memories from my childhood.  It’s always good to recall those lovely days when the world was a lot simpler, the heart a lot lighter, and everything seemed so full of wonder and adventure.

I remember those crisp fall days at our old house on Plymouth Drive, on Halloween when my mother used to help me and my little sister get ready in our costumes for the evening’s trick-or-treat foray.  My mom was very into sewing and crafts, and this meant that our costumes were made by her each year rather than bought, something I appreciate even more today when I look back upon it.

We always ventured out in groups with our neighborhood playmates and their parents.  For me, that meant an excursion with my two main partners in crime, John and Joey, who lived next door to me.  We were quite the trio then, playing soldiers using whiffle ball bats as our guns, or doing mock Kiss concerts using tennis rackets as guitars. John was always Gene, Joey was Paul, I was Ace, and poor Peter Criss was never represented!

During those Halloween excursions I carried a plastic orange pumpkin as the primary container for my loot. It had a nice handle and a smaller opening so it was easy to keep contents in while racing from one door to the next, while our parents trekked along the sidewalk. It never took all that long until the pumpkin was full, perhaps a few streets altogether. 
Those were truly great days and all the parents knew each other really well. My folks hung out often with John and Joey’s father, as well as the other neighborhood parents.  Looking back I can see where these Halloween adventures represented a time for my folks to spend time with friends in a shared experience with their kids.

When we returned after dark, there was always a tradition of a horror movie down in the den of our house, along with glasses of cool apple cider and glazed doughnuts for all of the neighborhood kids.  I couldn’t access the candy in my pumpkin container immediately. My dad was a stickler when it came to safety and he personally expected the entire pumpkin full of candy treasure, putting aside anything that could be unwrapped easily or had anything about it he thought could be tampered with.  I suspect he took a small cut of the loot to enjoy for himself too! 

Nevertheless, when the pumpkin was returned to me before I went to bed, it had not decreased in its contents by much. I always had plenty to sustain me over the ensuing couple of weeks. I tended to be very strategic as well, eating my less favorite stuff first and saving the things I preferred most for later.  As such, things like rolls of Smarties, Sweet Tarts, anything with caramel and the better chocolate bars tended to grow in concentration in my pumpkin as time went on.

I took on many guises during these Halloween forays, but I have to say my favorite attire was when my mom made me an Ace Frehley costume derived from the Love Gun/Kiss Alive II era.  I had discovered Kiss during the Love Gun album period and the record was the second rock record I ever owned (the first being Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, leading to my young crush on Stevie Nicks!).   They were my favorite thing in the world and Ace, the flashy lead guitar player with his sunburst Gibson Les Paul, was my favorite member of the band.

This has a really cool side note to it as Kiss donned the Love Gun era costumes when they did their 1997 reunion tour.  The Lexington show at Rupp Arena produced one of my most cherished memories as we were able to talk my father into going to the show, so my mother, sister, father and myself were all in attendance to see Ace on stage in the look that served as the costume I wore as a child during that Halloween I shared with all of them many years go.   In many ways, that night brought some of the magic full circle.

Everything about those early Halloweens, whether I was Ace Frehley or a werewolf, carried a real excitement and anticipation to it. I loved all of it, from the marshaling of our pack of friends, to the exploration of the neighborhood houses, some of which invariably had costumed hosts or a theatrical display, to the grand finale with a movie, apple cider, and glazed doughnuts, rounding everything out with an epilogue of receiving my candy loot in the plastic pumpkin before getting tucked in. All of it carried a wonderful magic, of a kind that I still remember the feeling of to this day.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: Crimson Peak

The real reason you're going: Hiddles.

While we were attending Necronomicon Tampa, we got passes for a premiere screening of Crimson Peak. Waiting for the movie itself was a bit of an experience - we got marked on the hand when we entered, just like a bar stamp, and the audience was repeatedly ordered to shut all cell phones off if we wanted the movie to start.

Crimson Peak presents itself as a gothic romance, and it is gothic in the old style - nothing cutesy or Addams-like about the setting or the story. Edith Cushing is a young New York woman who has been able to see ghosts since her mother's death. Her mother has warned her to beware "Crimson Peak".

She has grown into a wannabe author when she meets Thomas Sharpe, baronet of Allerdale Hall, and his beautiful but quiet sister Lucille. Thomas is seeking investors for a machine to harvest the clay at Allerdale, which is coming out of their ears. Edith's father sees the attraction his daughter has for the young lord, and pays Thomas to leave town. Their love seems doomed until Edith's father dies - oh, pardon me, he was brutally murdered. When I say brutal, I mean violent and gory. There is gore in this film, although it only shows up when the story demands it.

Allerdale Hall is no palace. Edith, now Thomas' wife, arrives to find that her cultured and well-dressed love lives in a shambles of a once-great house. The estate is built atop deep red clay, tinting the water in the house red (symbolism, anyone?). The rafters over the great atrium are exposed to the sky, ensuring an esthetic fall of dust in the daylight when the weather is good, and an equally lovely drifting of snow when it isn't. They didn't show what happens when it rains, even though this is supposed to be England.

Red clay even seeps up through the floorboards. Edith learns that, when the hill the manse sits on is covered with snow, the red stains it, earning it the name "Crimson Peak". Yep, this is the place her dead mother warned her about. Thomas spends his days outside, digging up the endless supply of bloody clay. Our heroine spends her days with Lucille, who has a touch (okay, a whopping load) of the crazy. Allerdale Hall is also full of ghosts, disturbing Edith's sleep and drawing her into the mystery of why so many disturbed spirits reside there (beside her sister-in-law).

Because many fangirls will ask: the sex scene between Thomas and Edith is mostly concealed in voluminous petticoats. We do see Loki's naked hiney, although it could have been a butt double. There is other sex in the film, but I will leave that for you to discover.

Crimson Peak is rated R, mostly for the violence. This isn't a splatter film, but some of the fight scenes will make you cringe in sympathetic pain. Overall, I enjoyed it and found it full of atmosphere.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Parnell Hall: A Fool for a Client (Stanley Hastings Mystery #20)

"Tell me about the girl with tits."
"How'd you know about the girl with tits?"
"There's always a girl with tits. She may not have anything to do with the case, but you manage to make her important."
Stanley Hasting's boss, Richard Rosenberg, is in big trouble. Richard's girlfriend, a law clerk, has been murdered and the negligence lawyer is the prime suspect. Richard is the fool because he's decided to represent himself. Why? Because he doesn't trust lawyers: they're sleazy pond scum, and he's proof of that. He wants Stanley's assistance, but it's going to be hard: he was the last person seen with the victim, DNA proves he had sex with her, and his fingerprints are on the murder weapon.

The victim, Jeannie Atkins, was assigned to a global banking trial, which seems unconnected to anything that would have led to murder. She clerked for the judge, and usually judges take a dim view to their assistants being killed. Stanley hopes to find a connection, though, and becomes a regular spectator at the banking trial, which is just as exciting as you think it would be: not at all.

Our hero perseveres through the boredom, though, talking to jurors, alternates, a clerk with romantic ideas of what detectives do, and the long-suffering judge for the trial. He also finds "the girl with tits," Juror Number Twelve. Stanley discovers that she was an alternate promoted after someone else was excused. He procures the address of the excused man and pays a visit - to a dead body.

I've often wanted to see Richard Rosenberg at work, and this book doesn't disappoint. Most of the cases he takes involve trip-and-fall or accidents on city property. Half the people at court are scared of him, and we learn why. He turns down the probable cause hearing and goes straight to trial. He accepts all candidates for the jury without questioning them. He insults the expert witness. He insinuates that no one is telling the truth about when he left the victim's apartment because the security guard slunk off early and his limo driver was padding the time for higher pay. He makes Denny Crane look like a paragon of discretion.

None of this is going to matter, though, because the evidence is against Richard. He was the last person seen with the victim, his bodily fluids were present at the scene, and his fingerprints are on the murder weapon. He has no clue who the murderer is. Stanley's occasional ally, Sergeant MacAuliff, is of the opinion that Richard will only escape jail if he can 'pull an O.J.' and create reasonable doubt.

Will Rosenberg dream up a great strategy, or will he go to prison? Will Stanley find the real killer after all, or go to jail after giving grief to the judge in the banking case one too many times? Read A Fool for a Client to learn the answer to these and other relevant questions, including how often a detective's wife has to explain to her husband what the information he's discovered implies for the case.

I greatly enjoyed the book, but you may need to keep a scorecard for some of the conversations. The repartee zips back and forth very rapidly with few conversation tags. It's still very funny. I was also pleased to see Alice (Stanley's wife) again, who creates order out of her husband's eccentric observations.

Disclosure: I was given an ARC of this book to read and review. You can also see this review at .

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Call for Submissions: What Are You Afraid Of?

Courtesy of T. Fox Dunham:

What Are You Afraid Of?

We’ve all experienced messages from beyond the silver veil, whether we want to admit it or not. Some people take no notice, ignoring these outreaches. Others embrace them, seeing them as evidence of an expanded universe. Whether these stories frighten or comfort, we are reassured.

In my youth, I worked for various museums and gained a passion for the science of collecting folk culture. These personal experiences need to be recorded and added to this rich archive, presented for scholar and seeker. We’ve already established an archive of collected stories that have never been recorded before.

Our intent is to create and promote four podcasts with visual components over the month of October.

The content will be:

The reading of collected personal ghost stories as part of our outreach program to record folklore through social media, email and community events. Horror material including interviews with horror authors, the reading of classic ghost stories and discussions of the industry. And we will be producing interviews with ghost hunting groups. We will be recording this podcast from notoriously haunted locations.

The broadcast will be no longer than an hour, except for the last episode which will be transmitted around Halloween.

So we need true stories. They need to have been personally experienced by the author or someone close. The accounts should be in their own words as if telling the story to a friend or in an email. The stories work best when around 1,000 words, but we have done longer sagas.

We need help gathering stories, spreading the word so people will send us their accounts. We’d also be glad for any ideas for segments or general horror material for the show. We can offer promotion.

Email us your personal true ghost stories at

Twitter: @pfwhatafraidof


Sunday, August 23, 2015

My 10 Unfavorite Songs

Apropos of nothing. There are a lot of cheesy songs out there, but these provoke a strong reaction from me.

1. We Built This City by Starship
Poll after poll says this is the worst song of the Eighties. There's a reason.

2. I've Never Been to Me by Charlene 
Utter dreck by a failed Blossom Dearie. You are not a destination; you are the journey. There's your pop psychology.

3. Mickey by Tony Basil 

4. Hey Jude by The Beatles 
I love The Beatles, but this song is too fucking long.

5. The Girl is Mine by Jackson and McCartney 
I have a story about this one: I was visiting a friend in the dorms at OSU. The guy across the hall played this song six times in a row. When he started the seventh repetition, my friend loaded up some bagpipe music and turned the volume to eleven. Bagpipes FTW.

6. Never Be the Same by Christopher Cross
"It was good for me, it was good for you" is not a good description for a relationship that had any meaning.

7. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham 
I love George Michael... but, gaaaahhhh.

8. Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice 
Stole a riff from Queen and Bowie and denied he'd done it. I hate him for making me turn up the radio only to be disappointed.

9. Sara by Fleetwood Mac
I hate 90% of songs with my name in them. When it's sung by a voice that's always flat, it's going to be 100%. I don't care how much lace you wear.

10. Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears
Sorry, this pair always struck me as pretentious entitled pricks. Instant change of channel.

If you have a song you loathe, feel free to post it in the comments. I've probably heard it.