An Open Letter by Jessica Leonard

While I might not have anything new to say, Jessica Leonard, my awesome wife, does, and I want to share it with you. She puts into words what so many of us wish we could, and she does it so smoothly. Enjoy.

ladyboxbooks.com

An Open Letter
By Jessica Leonard

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Isabel Allende said, “Write what should not be forgotten,” so I am writing you.

We all live with regret. Once you reach a certain age, it becomes inevitable. It moves with you, becomes part of you. It is your experience. It shapes you.

I regret most the time I have not taken. I regret not taking more time to be openly grateful. I’ve lost family and loved ones, and while I am sure they passed knowing they were loved, did they know they were appreciated?

The good thing about regret is that you can learn from it.

Before it becomes another chain of regret, I must tell you how grateful I am.

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Some things

First off, I’m not going to promise anyone who reads this blog (i.e. me, myself, and I) that I will be doing a better job of keeping this site updated, because every time I do that, it turns out to be a lie. But I do have a couple things I wanted to bring to your (i.e. my own) attention (just in case I forget them later).

A while back, I wrote a story called “To Hell With the Metal” about how much I despise a lot of the music on the radio that is called “metal.” It’s about a killer on the loose, killing off bad metal bands, and two detectives who try and figure out what the hell is going on. I used fake band names, but you can tell very easily who I’m referring to. I wrote that story for a book dealing with horror and heavy metal. I was super excited about it. It came out in April. This is the very first time I’m promoting it in any way.

Axes of Evil is a huge book with way too many pages in which horror stories were written around/about heavy metal. A handful of good folks can be found in there along with me: MP Johnson, G Arthur Brown, Chris Kelso, Grant Wamack, among others. I don’t really know who put it out (a whole ton of garbage came along with the book, garbage that can be found discussed various other places around the interwebs that I will not be delving into here), but it does exist and can be purchased. I owe a bit of thanks (as well as a copy of the book) to my friend Ranae Hummel, who let me use some of her comedic genius from a discussion a while ago to name some bands.

The very same detectives made another appearance in a story that I just got published today. “Welcome to Chicago, Asshole” is a story about frat boys in Chicago who do some bad things and have to answer for their crimes. Kind of. This story was rejected by some quality places before the awesome people over at Verbicide decided to give it a shot. It’s an honor to join the limited ranks of folks who have been published over there, folks I read and look up to as writers (Cameron Pierce, D Harlan Wilson, J David Osborne, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Gabino Iglesias, Chris Kelso, to name drop a few greats). 

Over at Horrornews.net, with summer happening and the boss moving, I’ve had a bit of a break from reviewing horror movies. But reviews are not all I do over there. Every once in a while, when the urge hits me, I have done some interviews. Now, I’m no journalism major (nor am I any kind of major, seeing as how I never got a 4-year degree), but I do my best, asking the most softball of questions. I’ve been lucky enough to talk with some genuinely awesome people.

Hannah Neurotica is the creator of the feminist horror zine Ax Wound as well as the head of the Women in Horror Month. She is also a super nice human being, and she gave me a ton of awesome info.

Erin Russ is an actress who can be seen in the film Porkchop as well as the upcoming William Hellfire release, Upsidedown Cross (also starring David Yow from The Jesus Lizard). She is an awesome human being as well, and got me a bunch of exclusive shots from the upcoming film, too.

Vincenzo Bilof has become a friend and co-worker (he’s the editor over at Bizarro Pulp Press) since our interview, but a while back he released a book called Confessions of the Impaler and we talked a bit about that. I had previously read and reviewed his book Gravity Comics Massacre and enjoyed his writing, so we talked more.

Stephen Graham Jones is one of my favorite writers around. His wealth of knowledge about the horror genre is something I both envy and aspire to. So, when he agreed to an interview with me for a different website that shall not be named, I was super excited to pick his brain. When said previous website proved it’s incompetence, I pulled the interview and presented it to HorrorNews, a place that welcomed it with open arms. Granted, this is an older interview and much of the “upcoming” stuff has been released by now, there is still so much awesome in here, I feel a wave of pride being able to share it.

And there will be more…very soon, in fact, as I’ve already submitted one and am just waiting for it’s publication on the site. I don’t want to give it away, but I can tell you there’s no happy ending to it (actually, there is. It’s a super awesome one).

 

The Gang Reviews House of Whipcord

Back in October, you may remember that I had a guest spot over at The Moon is a Dead World where myself and webmaster (and fellow HorrorNews.net movie reviewer) Ryne Barber took a look at Mario Bava’s Hatchet For the Honeymoon. Well, we’re teaming up again (along with a few other reviewers), and this time we’re taking on Pete Walker’s 1974 gem House of Whipcord.

Below you’ll find my review, but make sure to go over here to find Ryne’s take on the movie, along with a couple others.

Enjoy!

House of Whipcord

Pete Walker’s House of Whipcord is another entry into that especially dirty tradition of exploitation films in the 1970’s, the women in prison film. While this particular one doesn’t even come close to the violence level of, say, any of the Ilsa films, and the gratuitous, skin-for-skin’s-sake nudity is kept at a minimum, there is still a very strange perverseness running just under the surface of this film. Whereas, say, The Big Bird Cage finds women behind bars due to some revolutionary activities, or Wanda/Greta/Ilsa holds girls captive so as to keep her underground porn ring working smoothly (see Wanda the Wicked Warden, or whatever title you happen to find it under), House of Whipcord finds our antagonists jailing young ladies because, in according to their Crucible-esque moral system, they have been behaving badly.

Walker treats us to a bit of in medias res, starting the movie with a badly beaten girl running through the rain before finding help and collapsing. While this story-telling technique is a great way to get things off on the right action-packed foot, all too often they also hurt the suspense factor by showing us a point near the conclusion of the story. Not so with House of Whipcord, as Walker starts us in what we find out to be the middle of the story, leaving plenty of unexpected action still to come. So, the question is, who is she and who/where is she running from?

After the girl finds help in the form of a napping trucker, she passes out on the way to the hospital. In what appears to be her dream (?), we watch as a flashback unfolds. Meet Ann-Marie (played by Penny Irving, a role that is not her first but in which she is still given an “Introducing” credit; a couple years later, Irving would be known as Miss Bakewell in the British comedy series Are You Being Served?), a young French model who recently ran into a bit of trouble with the law for public exposure during a photo shoot. At a swanky, ultra-1970’s party, she meets a young man named Mark. Mark Desade. Can you guess what his middle initial is? I’ll give you a clue: “E.” Get it? Mark E. Desade? (Mark is played by Robert Tayman, whose character name in this movie is almost as awesome as the name of a character he played on The New Avengers, Dick Palmer). She falls for his lame parlor tricks and air of mystery, so they go on a couple of dates, then he asks her to go away for the weekend and meet his mother. They drive out to a large, dreary, ominous building where he drops her off and drives away. Strangely trusting, Ann-Marie is led into the building by a stern woman, then locked in a room and told to undress. She is then brought by Mrs. Wakehurst (Barbara Markham, in a more sadistic, and somewhat mentally disturbed, Nurse Ratched role) to a court room/cafeteria where she is “charged” with exposing herself in public to a photographer for profit. An old blind man judge tells her this is a private court which passes “proper sentences on depraved females,” at which point we’re pretty sure she realizes she’s not at Mark’s mom’s place.

House of Whipcord is not a bad movie, nor is it boring in the least. But if you’re expecting constant scenes of groups of naked girls being tortured and beaten (when they’re not all showering together), then 1) you’re a pervert, and 2) you’re watching the wrong movie. Director Pete Walker opts for a slightly more mentally-engaging approach to the women in prison tradition. There is violence, don’t get me wrong, but it is more subtle, leaving more to the imagination, in that Texas Chainsaw Massacre kind of way (note: that will be the only time I compare this movie to TCM; it’s not that good). What we have is more of a bit of a mystery; why are these people holding these women prisoner? Who is Mark, and why did he do this? Will Ann-Marie’s friends eventually get worried when they realize she’s been gone for over a week? These questions, and more, will all be answered by the end.

I’m not only interested in seeing more of Pete Walker’s movies (Cover Up, Schizo, and House of the Long Shadows (featuring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing) to name a few of his horror films) after having watched House of Whipcord, but I’d even go so far as to recommend it to fans of 1970’s exploitation and horror films. The acting isn’t amazing, but it’s good enough. It has a bit of a Franz Kafka’s The Trial feel to it for about the first half, then more of a hopeful jailbreak vibe as it continues on. The film has a nice look to it, an interesting message, and a somewhat surprising end. Sure, there’s a bit of cheese-factor to it, but that’s part of the reason it’s so much fun. I give it 3.5 flogs out of 5.

2013 is dead…long live 2013

In 2013, I vowed to update this blog regularly. It appears I lied.

It also appears I can’t think of a more original intro to a new post than resorting to cliches about a new year dawning upon us, so let’s skip all pretenses here and be honest…

I want you to buy my books.

Two books came out in 2013 that I had stories in, both well worth your time and money.

Flash Me! The first, “Blame It On the Reign (In Blood),” came out in Solarcide‘s Flash Me! The Sinthology collection. In an awesome twist of events, my awesome wife also had a story appear in the same collection.

As the year came to a close, another story of mine, “Dope-elganger,” ended up finding it’s way into Bizarro Pulp Press‘s collection Bizarro Bizarro: An Anthology.

bizarro bizarro

This is in addition to two stories appearing over at Cease, Cows, an awesome new online fiction magazine that just keeps getting better and better (see LINKS section for direct links to both of those stories).

All of this is well and good, Sean, but you seem to be living in the past. What will 2014 bring from you? no one asked.

Thanks for not asking, I’ve actually got a handful of things coming up, some of them very soon.

I will have a story in Diabolus in Musica/Chupa Cabra House Press‘s upcoming Axes of Evil collection, a story where I not only give a huge nod to the Godfather of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis, as well as steal borrow a little of my friend Ranae Hummel’s genius, but I also get to register my opinion of a lot of today’s popular music.Axes of Evil

(I don’t know that girl, but she seems angry)

I hope to write some more of my own stories, but the path has been rough lately. Or I’ve been lazy…

I’m still reviewing movies and books over at HorrorNews.net as well, and I am currently working on a handful of exciting interviews to feature on the site as well. I have a couple other horror-related projects that I may become a part of as well, but I’m going to hold off on any official announcements until I am 100% on them.

I sincerely do plan to utilize this blog more often. Feature some author/musician friends every now and again, talk about some horror movies, maybe spin some old yarns about the days of yore.

My first post back (after this one) will be a joint effort with a friend in horror, Ryne Barber, and his way-better-than-mine site, The Moon is a Dead World. Stay tuned in the next few days for that one…

Contest Time!!!

I made it into print. A story I wrote was deemed good enough and ended up printed onto paper in a book that looks like this:

Image

So, of course, I bought five copies.

Then I realized I only needed one. Okay, maybe two. What I’m saying is I have an extra, so I decided that it might be nice to give it away. 

Click my “Facebook is Fun” button at the right of my page for all the details on how you could be a proud owner of the above-mentioned book.

 

Today Is More Sweet Than Bitter

I was going to make my next post about how much of a bl’ast I had in St Louis for the first official Books & Booze reading/get-together/keg party, but then something crazy happened. I got my first story published. Not that this was a surprise, mind you, as I had already gotten my acceptance e-mail, but until today my genius/nonsense has never graced any pages anywhere except in my own imagination where I just keep putting out short story collection after short story collection, all with the title “Greatest Hits.” But today, I officially saw a story I created on a webpage that someone else runs. And it felt really weird.

A while back, I saw an online literary zine was putting on a writing challenge where you take the last line of a favorite story and use it as your first line, expanding into your own story in 500 or so words. Seeing as how I can’t write anything without a prompt, I jumped in and started looking through Vonnegut, Selby, and Algren, searching for the best last line to make the best first line of a short story. They didn’t do it for me. Instead, I found the perfect starting point at the end of Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Extinction Journals, a post-apocalyptic story about a guy who survives “the end” by wearing a suit made of cockroaches.

My story met all of my qualifications for a good story (I laughed while writing it and said out loud “this is so stupid”) but none of theirs, and it got politely rejected. Luckily, the folks over at Cease, Cows thought differently and gave me my day in the sun. And so my first published story, “What Child Is This?” has had life breathed into it and been read by more people than just my amazingly patient girlfriend Jessica, who somehow still thinks that my writing, which in reality is the equivalent of literary fart jokes, is worth a shit.

It is super exciting for me to have a story “out there,” to have people see that I’m more than just “the dude who hangs out with a bunch of writers,” to see something I wrote actually out in the world for everyone else to see as well.

I used to be a musician. Well, to be fair, I used to be a drummer in a bunch of bands. The very first thing I ever recorded, two songs for a hardcore/punk compilation called “Area 847,” seemed so exciting. I was about to be on a cd for the first time ever, something not recorded in my basement during band practice and never shared with anyone. Then I got my copy of the cd, and my name was misspelled. It read “Dan.” I found out shortly after that it wasn’t misspelled at all, but the singer had decided to kick me out in favor of his friend Dan, so submitted our info with the new guy’s name, then found out Dan didn’t want to do it. I guess it could have been worse…

…and then it got worse.

THREE different records by THREE different bands that I have been a part of have come out AFTER I was out of the band (whether I was kicked out or quit is often a topic of passive contention). The last record of the three even still kept the title that I came up with based on an insult thrown my way years before. So I’m super excited and happy with myself that I have neither broken up with myself or kicked myself out of my self yet, and instead can enjoy this moment.

 

What is equally exciting to see is people caring enough to share my story with others. Again, when I was playing music (which was all of my life up until now really), I was that guy. I promoted everyone else’s band more than my own. I tried to go to every show I could to support my friends, not expecting anything in return, just doing it because I loved it and I loved my friends and what they were doing. I wanted to share the amazing people and music that I knew, hoping it would enrich other lives as it had mine.

When I first really jumped in to the world of “writers,” I brought this approach with me. And I was nervous. I hadn’t done this writing thing in so long, and had torn up, burned, shredded, or otherwise thrown out EVERYTHING that I had written in the past. Within my first few footsteps in this new world, I encountered some enormous egos that were hard to get around, some “your opinion means nothing to me because I don’t know you” people, some “every time I talk, I relate everything back to me me me me” people. But after walking a few more blocks, I managed to find the good folks, the ones who are sincere and accepting and remind me of why I commit myself to thankless tasks like writing short stories or playing drums in punk bands.

This now comes full circle to my original topic choice. I had the honor and privilege of spending this past weekend in St. Louis at the very first Books & Booze event. I met some awesome people for the first time face to face, I got to hang out with some people who I don’t get to see on a regular basis, and I got to see/hear some amazing authors who I look up to and respect read some amazing stories. I stood there among published writers of all varieties, and not once felt like I was just “the dude who hangs out with a bunch of writers.” It was a great time among seemingly old friends who I was just meeting for the very first time.

Where am I trying to go with all this, what am I trying to say? Just a big thank you to a lot of people. I’m that guy who stays at home a lot, who often feels like a stranger at a party full of people I know, who could make a list of things that anxiety has kept me away from. The guy who sometimes looks back at life and says “what happened?” But today, I feel happy.

here’s that first story, I hope you like it: http://ceasecows.com/2013/06/25/896/

 

 

Fresh Fruit and Evacuated Bowels

I’ve never pretended to know what I was doing in any aspect of my life. So the fact that I now have an “official” blog really just means I’ll be spending less time playing games on facebook and more time staring at a blank computer screen, mad at myself for not knowing what to type.

The odds are I’ll use this to promote friends whose stories and books and bands I am jealous of and want demand more people know about. Some time will no doubt be spent on horror movies. A nostalgic story about my days in punk bands will find its way on screen. And I can almost guarantee a drunk rant about some poor bastard that pissed me off now and again.

I’ve sat in the back all this time, unsure if the crowd in front of me could even see me waving for help, my voice drowned out without a microphone. After much deliberation, I’ve decided that maybe I am good enough, smart enough, and…okay, let’s not push it. But I do have something to say, sometimes something new and sometimes something that’s been building up inside. And I’m going to twist your ear to make sure you listen this time.

So it goes… “Fresh Fruit and Evacuated Bowels.” Not to be confused with “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.” But, like the Dead Kennedys, I, too, am old and hoping to rise from obscurity. And I also hope you get drafted.

Editor’s note: “Hope You Get Drafted” was by the Dicks, not the Dead Kennedys. However, the sentiment remains.