Ye Olde Razzle Dazzle

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We value entertainment more than anything else in this crazy world, don’t we? Can there be any doubt when musicians, comedians, and sports figures earn ten times as much as learned scientists, teachers, ordained ministers and doctors?
Or when entertainers are elected Presidents of the United States?
Best-selling authors on a keynote panel with me at Magna cum Murder in Indianapolis asked me to name which of my stories and novels I considered most entertaining. I had to think hard to name even one. I’ve never thought of myself as an entertainer. I write cautionary tales intended to help people survive when their worst nightmares prove real. I want my stories to be fascinating, not necessarily entertaining.


My friends on the panel write wonderfully entertaining tales, often with an undercurrent of humor, to help people escape reality.


That’s why they’re best-selling authors and I’m not.


I must admit I do enjoy their writing, even appreciate their humor. I buy all their books.
Highlights of that conference included dog and pony shows, including a bastardized version of Hollywood Squares and deliberately humorous interviews with Guests of Honor. I’ve witnessed similar humorous interviews at Thrillerfest. They’re pure entertainment and lots of fun. They attract huge crowds.


They take our minds off more serious pursuits and help us pass the time. They’re always better attended than any of the panels. I go to as many as I can. Sometimes, I even laugh at the brilliant performances.


Granted, I’m generally much too serious for my own good. My daughter claims I often sound like a professor giving a lecture. I need to loosen up a little, clown around some.
Except I hate clowns. Clowns have orange hair and are pure evil.


In any murder mystery that includes a butler and a clown, I know from the very beginning which is the culprit.


Yet we humans are attracted by razzle-dazzle like bears to honey. We love to be entertained.


We barely notice when we’re badly stung by bees.

 

 

 

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When I was a Witch

 

 

what october brings

 

Among the many reasons I became a board-certified hypnotist, hypnosis instructor, and past-life regression therapist, was a life-long fascination with witches.

I’d always suspected that my grandmother had been a witch, my aunt had been a witch, and my wife was a witch. It wasn’t until I experienced past-life regression that I recalled I, too, had once upon a time been a witch.

Writers, like witches, live most of their creative lives in altered states. We walk between multiple worlds. We bend and shape reality with our imaginations. There is nothing we cannot do when we set our minds to it.

Now, you’re probably saying to yourselves, “Men can’t be witches. Women are witches. Men are wizards or warlocks or alchemists. How dare you call yourself a witch?”

What you learn when you recall past lives is that all men were women at least once. And all women were men at least once. We all possess both animus and anima, as Carl Jung correctly postulated, although the archetypes of the collective unconscious manifest primarily in dream states.

When I was a witch, I was burned at the stake because I happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I don’t often tell people I’m a witch. You see, who and what we are never dies. We are reincarnated in different bodies and in different places and times, but who we really are never changes.

I’m still a witch at heart. And I’m afraid of being burned.

Witches can transform themselves. We can become cats or dogs, wolves or bats. We can be male or female, good or evil or anything in-between. We can hide in shadows or live in the light.

Most of the time, unfortunately, we forget who we are and become what others expect of us.

Each year, at the precise moment brisk October transitions into frigid November and the veils between worlds temporarily part, we’re able to remember who and what we really are without the help of a certified past-life regression therapist. We can recall essential parts of each of our past lives, how events shaped who we are today. Nightmares become dreams peopled with recurrent images of magical beings we recognize as friends and lovers or previous selves long gone.

It is then that we may remove everyday costumes and masks, don the robes of wisdom to parade around in public without fear of being hanged or burned at the stake, and reveal who we really are.

It is only during the rest of the year that we must hide even from ourselves.

I’m a witch. If you believe in magic, you’re a witch, too. It makes no difference if you’re male, female, human or inhuman. Take my word for it, you can be all of those things.

You are all of those things.

What will you reveal about yourself this Halloween? Who are you, really?

I’m a witch. I’m William Butler Yeats’ small slate-colored thing!

 

What’s behind Dean Koontz’ Forbidden Door?

 

The forbidden door kontz

 

The Forbidden Door by Dean Koontz (Bantam, September 11, 2018) darkles with danger from the first page to the last. It’s a fast-paced thrill ride, to say the least, and much of the novel describes exotic vehicles and long motor trips from Texas to Southern California for both the pursued and their demented pursuers.

This is the fourth novel in Dean’s Jane Hawk series. Maintaining tension throughout four consecutive thrillers is difficult for any novelist, even the most experienced, and the plot does drag in places. But Dean keeps me reading because of the continuing supporting characters, especially Cornell, Bernie, Luther, and Travis and his two dogs, Duke and Queenie. Jane can take care of herself, but we come to care deeply about these others because they’re not only vulnerable but surprising. Each has redeeming qualities that make them sympathetic and likable. And dogs, as in all of Dean’s recent novels, are special.

The bad guys have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. None. Dubose, the most ruthless of the lot, is however full of surprises. Egon Gottfrey is as relentless in his pursuit as he is depraved beyond measure. There’s never any doubt in a reader’s mind who the bad guys are, despite valid FBI, NSA, and Homeland Security credentials.

The Forbidden Door opens up new possibilities for future plot twists and, despite vague foreshadowings, we still have no clue who the mastermind—Egon Gottfrey’s Unknown Playwrite—might be. I look forward to learning more in future Jane Hawk novels.

 

 

New stories for Halloween 2018

Halloween_300w 2018

Available now from Celaeno Press

What October Brings: A Lovecraftian Celebration of Halloween

Edited and with an introduction by Doug Draa

Includes my short story “That Small, Furry, Sharp-toothed Thing”.

 

It’s time for me to begin my annual Halloween marketing blitz. I’ve previously Vaguebooked about three dynamite short stories contracted to come out this fall in horror anthologies, and I’ve since received corrected page proofs to send out as ARCs and revealed cover images on FB. I’ll post complete details shortly.

I’m also confirmed to do panels, readings, and autographings at Magna Cum Murder in Indianapolis, October 19 and 20; World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, November 1-4; and Windycon in Lombard,IL, November 9-11. The only other convention I’ve scheduled is Stokercon 2019 in Grand Rapids, MI, May 9-12, 2019. I look forward to seeing everyone there.

I intend to curtail my public appearances next year to concentrate on writing new novels. I have three successful series in print and a fourth series coming out next year. I plan to continue those storylines, and I have new Winds novels coming out early in 2019.

 

Ghosts of Lost Dreams, Lost Innocence, and Lost Loves

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Plague of Shadows: A Written Remains Anthology, edited by J. M. Reinbold and Weldon Burge (Smart Rhino Publications, Fall 2018) is the kind of book writers and readers need. Writers need it because it showcases their work and readers because it offers fresh perspectives on complex subjects.

Plague of Shadows is a theme anthology about ghosts, featuring original stories and poems by the Written Remains Writers Guild, plus a handful of reprints from well-known invited authors.

Starving Time by Jane Miller
Bark of the Dog-Faced Girl by Maria Masington
McMurdo Sound by Billie Sue Mosiman (reprint)
For Number 11 by Carson Buckingham
Powder Burns by J. Gregory Smith
The Bottom of the Hour by Phil Giunta
Neighbors from Hell by Graham Masterton (reprint)
Finding Resolution by Patrick Derrickson
The Fierce Stabbing and Subsequent Post-Death Vengeance of Scooter Brown by Jeff Strand (reprint)
On the House by Jacob Jones-Goldstein
No Good Deed by Gail Husch
Haunting the Past by Jasper Bark (reprint)
To Heart’s Content by Shannon Connor Winward
Twelve Steps by Jeff Markowitz (reprint)
Song of the Shark God by JM Reinbold
Dollhouse by Jennifer Loring
The Black Dog of Cabra by Patrick Conlon
The Angel’s Grave by Chantal Nordeloos (reprint)
Vindictive by Weldon Burge
A Hanger in the World of Dance by Stephanie M. Wytovich

 
Not surprising, two of the best original stories are by the editors: “Song of the Shark God” by JM Reinbbold and “Vindicative” by Weldon Burge. Others that  will haunt you are “Bark of the Dog-Faced Girl” by Maria Masington , a marvelous tale about adolescent angst; “For Number 11”, an ambitious tale that mixes history with the supernatural; and “Bottom of the Hour”, an interesting twist on “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

 
My favorite story is “Finding Resolution” by Patrick Derrickson. It’s more science fiction than pure horror, even if the spacecraft does have a ghost. But not only is it very well-written, the inevitable ending is so fulfilling and satisfying it brought tears to my eyes. Kind of the way Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations” did when I first read it more than half-a-century ago.

 
“To Heart’s Content” by Shannon Connor Winward is my second favorite story in this anthology. It’s  an apocalyptic tale of a lost innocence and a lost love haunting a handful of survivors.

For Family, Friends, and Visions Past and Future

 

 

My heroes have always been smokers: William Faulkner, Raymond Chandler, my grandfather Charlie, my father Paul Anders Anderson, and my uncle Bill. All are dead now. They died a long time ago.

Jack Ketchum and Harlan Ellison, two of the wonderful writer friends I’ve always counted on to join me in the “smoking room” at sf and fantasy cons, died recently. In the “good” old days, of course, one was allowed to smoke inside a room at the con suite and throughout areas of the convention hotel, including sleeping rooms. Those days are gone.

These days, fortunately for non-smokers, those of us with dangerous visions must venture away from the convention itself to feed what is considered our “filthy” and dangerous habits in isolation. Hell, I can remember when reading sf and fantasy was a filthy and dangerous habit, and writing it was the most dangerous habit of all, attested to by the fact that many of us breathed smoke like dragons.

Back in 1966, I wrote an sf tale titled “The Last Wooden Indian” that related the coming-of-age story of a young Native American’s vision quest for the healing herb of his ancestors at a time in the future when “the only good indian is a dead indian” and the herb of the peace pipe is outlawed under penalty of death. I expanded that story into my novel Sidewinder, which saw print under my Dale Anders pseudonym.

Like “The Dead Bard Said”, a story Dale Anders penned in the 60s about a future when books exist only in digital format which can be globally modified for political correctness, the future is now reality.

I smoke this bowl of pipe tobacco in memory of William Faulkner, Raymond Chandler, and Harlan Ellison.

 

 

 

What I learned about writing crime fiction from reading Stephen King’s The Outsider

the outsider

 

 

Adverbs may be our enemies, but adjectives, action verbs, and similes are our friends.

 
Kill off characters we’ve learned to identify with.  I think this is what King really meant when he advocated killing your little darlings.

 
Threaten to kill off other characters we’ve learned to identify with or care about.

 
There’s no end to the universe. It goes on and on forever, much like some Stephen King stories.

 
Generate doubt and suspicion by demonstrating—show, don’t tell—how everything we believe to have happened in the story thus far may be untrue. Only the willing suspension of disbelief can provide the proper perspective to help set things right. There really are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

 

 
Must and can’t are dangerous words. Psychologist Albert Ellis termed internalizing such words “mental musterbation.”

 
Show that kernels of the truth lay buried—hidden amongst all that chaff that mucks up human perception—and would surely have been evident if only we’d paid closer attention from the very beginning, if only we hadn’t allowed personal bias to color our perceptions. If only Terry Maitland hadn’t shown our son how to bunt. If only we’d never loved eating cantaloupe as a child. If only . . .

 
The keys to good story-telling, like the keys to producing memorable poems and songs, are repetition and rhythm.  Play it again, Steve. And again and again and again. For old time’s sake.

 
“He thinks that if we all tell the same story, everything will be okay . . .If we all tell the same story.” King tells the same story over and over again as different viewpoint characters relate events from their own perspectives. Then he repeats, as often as needed. Soon the familiar world disappears, and a fictional world–a world that resembles the real world but isn’t the same–replaces it with a world that feels equally familiar.

 

Now that you’ve willingly suspended disbelief, anything is possible.

 

Getting lost in a King story is sort of like taking drugs. “Everything still hurts, but you don’t give a shit.” All you want is more of that old familiar feeling you know so well.

 

The Outsider by Stephen King (Scribner, May 2018) will give readers a few sleepless nights worth remembering. Highly recommended.