Friday, September 25, 2015

GUEST POST: Mark Allan Gunnells

And now a rare guest post by my pal Mark Allan Gunnells . . . be sure to pick up a copy of his new book!  You won't be disappointed.

I turn 41 years old this year, the day before Halloween in fact, which puts me squarely in the world of adulthood.  And yet in some respects, I still feel like a kid.

One of the things that makes me feel most like a kid is Halloween.  I’ve never outgrown the holiday’s dark charms.

The entire season of autumn, in fact, has the power to bring out the kid in me.  There’s a magic in the air I can’t really explain…but I’ll try.

The crispness in the air, the shortening days, the blazing color of the leaves—it all combines to cast a spell over me.  If I had to pick one thing I love best about the fall, it would have to be the leaves.  Even now, I will stop to just marvel in wonder at a shower of autumn leaves raining down around me.  The scratch-scratch sound as they scuttled along pavement is probably my favorite sound in the world.

And of course, autumn contains my favorite holiday—Halloween. 

As a lifelong fan of the horror genre (and I mean fan in the literal “fanatic” sense), I love the fact that we have a holiday focused on the dark and ghoulish.  Granted, Halloween has been scrubbed clean of some of that darkness in modern times.  It was definitely more horror-focused when I was a kid, though if you go back even further it truly embraced the macabre.  (If you’re not sure what I mean, check out the Halloween sequence in the film Meet Me in Saint Louis.)  Still, I love that at this time of year almost any store I go into is going to have displays of skeletons and ravens and black cats and witches and mummies and vampires.  It’s like for a brief instant, the world at large acknowledges and gives its stamp of approval to what I love year round.

When I was a kid, I never wanted to be a prince or a cowboy or a fireman for Halloween.  I always wanted to be monsters.  Dracula, Frankenstein, the devil, one year I remember going as the Hulk, which I think semi-qualifies.  From a young age, I was embracing the darker side of Halloween, and even though I no longer dress up in costume, I still celebrate.

Every Halloween season my fiancĂ© and I try to find fun and inventive things to do for the holiday.  We’ve visited our share of haunted houses and trails, both good and bad.  One year we attended a murder mystery dinner, all done up in tuxedos and everything.  Last Halloween we visited a supposedly haunted cemetery well after dark and wandered around.  This year we’ll be attending a live theatrical version of Night of the Living Dead (my host for this guest blog, James Newman, is the AD of said play).

I also celebrate in the entertainment I seek out during the month of October.  I always make a point of reading Halloween-themed books every October, and there are certain seasonal movies I watch every year at this time.  And my writing always takes on a seasonal bent as well.  Every October, without fail, I write Halloween-themed short stories.  It’s a tradition I’ve established that I very much enjoy.  Over the years, I’ve built up quite an arsenal of these tales.

Which is why this year it was possible for Great Old Ones Publishing to release a 19 story collection of my Halloween-themed stories.  I’m always excited when I have a new book out, but because of my unending love affair with Halloween, this one particularly thrills me.  I think I’ve provided an eclectic mix of fiction.  There’s horror both supernatural and psychological; I have a handful of non-horror stories; there’s even one children’s story.  There are some tales that are on the longish side, and several flash pieces of 1000 words or less.  The oldest story in the collection dates back to 1998, the most recent are from just last year.

As different as the stories are, they have one thing in common—they aim to entertain.  Halloween for all its sinister trappings is a holiday that is all about fun, and that’s what I hope I delivered with the collection.  I hope people sit back and get caught up in the stories and just have a good time.  I want my love of this time of year to translate to the reader so that they fall in love with Halloween as well.

Halloween House of Horrors can be purchased here:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Free Flash Piece: "Walkers"

A free story.  Granted, it's only 100 words, but hey -- what's better than something FREE?

     You know those “mall walkers” who spend their golden years doing stiff-legged laps past the Old Navy and the Cinnabon like they’re on some sort of mission?
     “They creep me out,” a friend once joked.  “Something in their eyes, if you cut them off.”
     My pal and his imagination, I thought at the time.
     But then I looked closer . . . . 
     I recognized in the faces of that silver-haired assemblage the men, women, and children gone missing in my city.
     Lollygaggers.  Window-shoppers.  Those who got in the way.
     They’re doomed to walk now, too. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What I'm Doing This Fall . . . .

     Long story short, I've been asked to play Assistant Director for a stage adaptation of Night of the Living Dead.  I'm really excited about this!  I've worked with the BRCC Drama Club before, they're an incredibly talented group of people, and I'm confident that this is gonna be one hell of a Halloween show.  Last night, the Director hosted a screening of George Romero's original film, invited anyone interested in participating to come out and talk about our plans for the play.  She asked me to give a brief introduction, maybe speak about the historical significance and subtext. 
     So I did.
     I thought my readers might enjoy hearing what I had to say, since you couldn't be there.
     So here you go. 

           First off, I should probably take a moment to tell you about myself, because I don’t blame any of you for thinking, “Who the hell is this guy and why should we care what he has to say?  Bring on the zombies!”

I’ve loved this stuff since before I could READ.  My parents saw Night of the Living Dead at the drive-in on one of their very first dates, I’m told, and maybe that had something to do with my infatuation with the horror genre.  According to an old urban legend, the Elephant Man’s mother was startled by a pissed-off elephant in a parade a few months before he was born . . . so there’s a weird sort of logic to my theory, I suppose.  All joking aside, I’m not only a big fat fanboy, I’ve published a number of scary stories and novels as well.  I wrote a book called 666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions, so I guess I know a little about horror films.  I co-wrote a novel a few years ago called Night of the LOVING Dead.  It’s demented.  Exactly what you think it is.  The only story I’ve ever written that I won’t let my mama read, put it that way.

Anyway, pull me aside later if you wanna know more, and I’ll gladly try to sell you a book.  Enough about me.

These days, zombies are EVERYWHERE, a part of pop culture as much as Doctor Who, Candy Crush, and Donald Trump’s hair.  It’s hard to imagine a world without them.  Before 1968, however, the only zombies on film were those of the traditional Haitian variety; essentially nothing more than slack-jawed sleepwalkers, they mostly just staggered around and did their master’s bidding because of some old voodoo curse.  Keep in mind, this was nearly a HALF-CENTURY before The Walking Dead was the #1 show in America . . . before teenagers spent all their free time machine-gunning undead Nazis in the latest violent video game . . . back when you could walk into bookstores without seeing titles like Zen and the Art of Zombie-Killing on the shelves.  From out of nowhere, here came this little low-budget black-and-white indie film, ushering in a new breed of movie monster.  That once-iconic image of the bug-eyed fiend stealing off with the damsel in distress had become about as threatening as a groom carrying his new bride across the threshold.  Night of the Living Dead showed audiences a world in which WE were the thing to be feared, a terrifying scenario in which our loved ones rise from the grave to feast on the flesh of the living.  Hard to believe this was five years before the sacrilege of The Exorcist, before the exploitation films of the ‘70s supplied barf-bags to movie-goers along with their popcorn and Twizzlers.  Audiences couldn’t believe what they were seeing.  Of course, there are always those who will try to take away someone else’s right to enjoy something just because they find it distasteful.  During its initial theatrical run, none other than Reader's Digest urged everyone to avoid Night of the Living Dead, suggesting that the film would inspire RAMPANT CANNIBALISM!

But, seminal horror film aside, was Night of the Living Dead more than just another gruesome drive-in feature?  Director George Romero has called his movie a metaphor for America’s collapsing social order (while at the same time insisting that he didn’t purposefully cast a black man in the lead role; Duane Jones simply gave the best audition).  Night of the Living Dead was filmed during a decade when thousands of young people were sent fresh out of high school to die in Viet Nam . . . when a good man was murdered for daring to preach his dream of equality . . . and when the age of peace, love, and flower-power perished at the hands of a hippie cult whose leader claimed to be both Christ and Satan in human form.  It is nearly impossible to watch this movie now and not think about was going on in our world at the time:  the middle-class fought to survive while those in charge pretended to have it all under control . . . only to throw the remains of everything we held sacred onto the fires of discontent.  

Then again, maybe Night of the Living Dead was just a movie about corpses walkin’ around chompin’ on guts.  Romero’s co-screenwriter, John Russo, once said, “The film was an attempt to make money.”  Personally, I have a hard time NOT believing him, as Mr. Russo once charged me $20 to sign my copy of his book – something that’s unheard of among writers, as most of us are overjoyed knowing someone cared enough to buy a copy in the first place!  Russo went on to say, “A lot of the critics have likened the (zombies) to Nixon’s silent majority.  They’re full of shit.”

Maybe it was intentional, maybe it wasn’t, but you can’t help but see the subtext, and without searching too deeply for it.  It worked in 1968, and perhaps this film with its doomed black hero is just as timely now, in an era when every other week there’s another Trayvon Martin in the news, another Michael Brown, another Eric Garner, another Sandra Bland . . . .

When all is said and done, read into the movie whatever you want, as you should with any great work of art.  Or read into it nothing at all.

In my opinion, Night of the Living Dead is one of the most disturbing films in the history of horror cinema.  Is it perfect?  Nope.  Is it dated?  Sure is.  But, whether you’re watching it tonight for the first time or the three-hundred-and-first -- imagine yourself in a time when audiences had seen NOTHING like this before.  Try to forget all the zombie movies you’ve seen – the good, the bad, the remakes and the rip-offs and the countless parodies -- and ponder for the next 96 minutes:  What if something like this REALLY HAPPENED?

I am so proud to be a part of this project.  At the risk of getting on her nerves, I’d like to thank Jennifer  Treadway, once again, for inviting me on as her Assistant Director.

We’re gonna create something special here, I have no doubt.

Ladies and gentlemen . . . Night of the Living Dead.


Friday, March 27, 2015


Thanks to everyone who submitted a question (or several) for this fun lil' project!

Without further ado, here's my son interviewing the main character of my novel UGLY AS SIN . . . ,


Sunday, March 15, 2015


Fans of my novel UGLY AS SIN, I'm talkin' to you.  If you could ask Nick "The Widowmaker" Bullman anything, what would you ask him?

     Leave a comment.  Let's have some fun with this.  Who knows, the big guy might just answer . . . .

Meanwhile, if you haven't read UGLY AS SIN, what in the world are you waiting for?  Do you really wanna piss this guy off?!
(acrylic, watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil)

Friday, March 13, 2015

150 Words About . . . "HONEYMOON"

Honeymoon holds few surprises if you know what it's about going in. But that's OK, because it does what it does extremely well. When our newly-married protagonists arrive at a remote cabin for their titular getaway, everything's sickeningly-sweet pet names and makin' love . . . until one night when the groom finds his bride in the woods wearing nothing but a dazed look on her face. Her nightgown turns up soon after, and it's covered in what looks like the slimy evidence of an illicit romp. In the days following her midnight stroll, the young lady starts acting more and more bizarre, and before long it seems she might no longer be the person her husband married. Something got inside of her out there in the woods. Now it wants out. Hubby's screwed. Honeymoon disturbed me to such an extent I'm calling it my favorite horror film of 2014.

LEMME READ TO YOU? ("The Hunted")

Enjoy this short-short, read by yours truly.

   * this is an older tale that a few of you may recognize but under a different title; I've changed it today 'cause I was never too crazy about that title     :)