Monthly Archives: December 2011

Little Fish Gets Schooled

It’s tough being a little fish.

I’ve always written. I remember my public school having their own “book binding” (Grade Eights with glue and sewing machines), and how thrilled I was to see my “books” after completion. I wrote little stories all the time. And I read like I breathed, every single day, no matter what. I used to read as my Mom drove me home from the library because I couldn’t wait the ten minutes before starting a new book.

It’s been a dream of mine, always, to one day join the secret tribe of Authors. To know their secrets and learn their magic. I wanted to be a famous writer the way other kids wanted to be rock stars. It felt like the same thing.

I grew up just knowing that someday it would happen. Of course it would. I’d have a study, and a pot of tea, and I’d dash off bestseller after bestseller. It seemed formulaic: read the books, learn the nuance, then…fame. Easy.

I somehow, in my child-fantasies, completely missed reality.

I neglected to understand that I had to put in the work. It’s not glamorous to think that a good portion of what you write will be garbage, and it’s hard as hell to accept that and still come back the next day. I refused to accept anything less than perfection. Instead I dabbled, kicking ass at English and penning little stories here and there, just enough for the occasional ego boost. I was sure that some day the gate would be opened and I’d somehow just stumble upon The Truth.

I have, now.

Authors are people who buckle down and actually write. They’re (WE’RE) “Writers” because that’s what we do. We write. There is no secret. You don’t need permission, or approval. Anyone can do it, to some varying degree. Pick up a pen, open a laptop, and spill your story. It’s not mystical, or arcane.

It’s work. It’s the potential for rejection. It’s the sobering reality that I may never make a living at this. It’s the fact that the thing won’t write itself, and it’s up to me to carve out the time to make it happen. It’s knowing that I’m surrounded by peers who have been in the publishing game already for years. It’s reading articles by and about people who make enough to get by, by their words alone, and feeling hopeful and distraught at the same time.

It’s coming to terms with the fact that it seems like everyone is writing these days, and I’m a tiny fish in their immense pond. There’s no real path to take, no markers that show me what to do next. But I’ll keep swimming against the current, working harder, so someday, someday I might reach my goal.


Santa – Horror Style


Movie Monday: Don’t Open Till Christmas

I thought I’d get a little festive.

This came from one of my Mill Creek collections (Drive In Movie Classics) and is presented in glorious VHS-redubbed quality. There will be spoilers in this review, so if you want to keep this magnificent film’s artistic integrity intact, you might want to come back another day.

Let’s start from the beginning: creepy mouth-breather sneaking up on a couple making out in a car. The male of the pair has just gotten off his job as a back-alley Santa, which seems to be the schtick in this movie. I’ve never been to England, but here in Canada our Santas sit in malls instead of roasting chestnuts in dank cobbled laneways.

Anyway, our mouth-breathing friend goes all stabby, then suddenly we’re at a costume party (?) where the next Santa gets shanked with what amounts to a homemade javelin.

The news reports on the trend of Santa-murder, but that doesn’t stop anyone from wearing the exact same bad Santa costume and parading through circuses and weird sex dungeons. Yep, you read that right.

There follow a series of murders, and mandatory female nudity, including one woman who goes outside wearing nothing but a Santa cape. Our villain finds her, but upon discovering she’s female, leaves her.

I mean, he has standards.

Our Santas run around being drunk and getting up to debauchery.

This one’s at a peepshow: “I’d like to have you sitting on my knee.”

Then one stumbles into a music video? I don’t even know.

Meanwhile, our heroine (whose name I don’t recall, because I was simultaneously reading Memebase so enthralled with the plot) is trying to get over the murder of her father. She accomplishes this by busking in the street with her asshole boyfriend, who seems remarkably unphased by the murders. Ooooh, is he the killer? Wait for what feels like ten more years to find out!

Blah blah more murders, more nudity, then BAM! Knife in a shoe!

Crafty.

Yet men still keep dressing up in the same horrible Santa costume, and keep getting picked off.

It’s exactly what you think it is.

Our psycho goes slinking around acting generally sketchy.

He looks perfectly sane. Really.

Pretty well everyone dies, which is about right for a schlocky horror. But what, might you ask, made our psycho hate Christmas so much? Could it have been, say, a traumatic childhood incident?

Oh.

The dialogue is alright, it’s the plot and the wooden acting that make it awful.

I haven’t determined a ratings-system for these yet, because frankly I’m hoping all the movies I review will be terrifically cheesy. However:

Watch for: the surprisingly clever killer-killer

Cringe at: the awful soundtrack that plays over every. single. scene.

Guess: what’s in the box. Dun-dun-dunnn…


The Future is Here and I’m Spooked


Artist Danny Quirk: Self-Dissections – Revealing the Inner Self

“Aspiring to become a medical illustrator, these works were done in my senior year at Pratt Institute. Always having been interested in anatomy/the body, decided to do a series of paintings combining Classical aesthetics with a surreal approach. I plan to work on this series for about another 6 months while I am taking prerequisite courses for graduate school requirements, where I intend to become a medical illustrator.”

-Danny Quirk

"Self Dissection" ©Danny Quirk

Click the painting for more. (One contains artistic female nudity).

Via Fuck Yeah Illustration


Dump Room

This one’s silly and gross, and I had a blast writing it. Enjoy! -Stefanie

Dump Room

Melissa pried back the white plastic lid and tipped the bucket unceremoniously over a large sieve.

A hand flopped out and lay there in the plastic mesh, palm up, fingers curled.

She leaned over to get a better angle through her thick plastic mask. Female, looks like. Huh.

Once the hand had drained, she lifted the sieve and flipped it over into a lined container marked BIOHAZARD. The hand fell wetly on top of the sundry pieces already laying there; a gallbladder, a kidney, a tumour with the eye and lid still attached.

The mask she wore was chafing again. She scrunched her cheeks, trying to unstick the rubber gasket that was gouging a raw red ring into her skin. It wouldn’t budge, stuck slick against the sweat beading on her face. She sighed, the sound amplified oddly behind the industrial mask.

Better get a couple more done before break, she thought.

Sighing inwardly, she reached for the next bucket. The shelves were full this time; it would take her the rest of the day, easily, and maybe some of the next.

It hadn’t been her first choice, this job. It wouldn’t be anyone’s. But it was necessary.

An overtired supervisor had shown her to the dim room. It was cramped, tucked in behind the Pathology labs, and even through the door Melissa could smell the chemicals inside.

“This is the dump room,” the woman, Cheryl, had said. “Anything comes offa you or outta you, we keep it here in case someone decides they want to sue us. After six months, everything in here’s gotta be thrown out.” She’d swung the door wide and swept Melissa inside.

“Masks, here.” She pointed as she spoke. “Gowns, gloves, shoe covers. Buckets. If you can’t get them open, I can get you a pry tool, but I don’t like to use them. More chance of a splash.”

Melissa had hoped her grimace wasn’t obvious.

“Now, you need to know that these containers might hold anything. Breasts, feet, products of conception.” She’d looked at Melissa, her eyes softening a little. “That’s babies. Miscarriages, abortions. If you can’t deal with that we can find someone else.”

“No, I’ll be fine,” Melissa said, her voice cheerful, wanting so badly to make a good impression. Anything to get a job here. Anything.

Cheryl had nodded curtly and slipped out, leaving Melissa alone with pieces of strangers.

That first time the job had been half done already; Cheryl said the intern before her had moved on suddenly. Melissa had made short work of the dumping, and had been given the dubious honour of “Disposal Attendant”. The job paid next to nothing, but her internship was unpaid altogether and she was nearing the end of her loan.

Now she peeled back the opaque plastic lid.

Weird, she thought, there’s nothing in this one.

She swirled the murky preservative around; still nothing surfaced. She shrugged and poured the liquid out in the dump sink beside the sieve.

An ear, badly burnt, plopped into the shiny steel sink. It lay there, shrivelled and raw.

“Gross,” she said to the empty room. She flexed one gloved hand and reached down to pick it up. Her fingers stopped just shy of the lobe; for a second she thought of what it might feel like and almost didn’t touch it at all.

She’d imagined hard brittleness, but what she felt when she plucked it from the sink was warm soft flesh.

Reflex made her fling it away; it stuck to the back wall of the sink and began, before her horrified eyes, to slide back down.

She gagged a little.

Finally it flipped end over end and came to rest again by the drain.

Melissa looked around for tongs, pliers, anything so she wouldn’t have to feel it’s warmth against her glove. She found a pencil lying along the back of the counter, but couldn’t bring herself to pierce the tissue.

Reluctantly, she extended her hand again. She exhaled, steeled herself, and scooped the offending organ up. She tossed it into the waste box, where it vanished down the side.

Melissa shuddered. Screw this. I’m taking my break.

She shucked her gown off and turned to hang it on the hook.

A sound, a very, very quiet sound, came from behind her.

She stopped, held her breath, waited.

It was muffled, but it was there. The crackle of shifting plastic.

She knew right away, but she turned to be sure: it was coming from the box on the floor. The big yellow one with all the…parts.

She moved closer, shoved the box with the toe of her sneaker.

Waited.

Nothing. Stop being a dumbass.

She peeled the thick rubber gloves down and flung them onto the counter. The booties could wait—they were a pain in the ass anyway.

She nudged the lid into place with one denim-clad knee and turned to leave.

Wait.

The lid had been on, firmly, before she took her gown off. Cheryl had stressed the importance of covering the…waste…as a personal safety precaution. Melissa had clamped the lid down, she was sure of it.

But then it had been open, just a little, tilted back on an angle.

You’re losing it. Get out of the fumes.

She turned

then

a long, slick piece of intestine coiled its way up her leg. Melissa shrieked and kicked, trying to dislodge the thing. It only snugged tighter, climbing higher until it reached her thigh. One end swung itself across her and wrapped around her other leg, rendering her immobile. The other end was still pinched in the lid of the hazard container.

She screamed then, the shrill sound dead against the insulating rows of plastic.

Her hands shook; her body shuddered. This isn’t happening.

She forced a quivering hand down and pulled at the ropey gore, but it was steadfast. And the lid was sliding back again…

Melissa tried to scissor her legs apart; to force enough slack to run.

A fingertip appeared. Two. The hand gripped the lip of the waste box and tensed, trying to pull itself over. Suddenly it fell, pushed by a blob of amorphous meat that splatted down beside it.

The intestine was squeezing harder, made stronger by the chemicals that preserved it. It was up to her stomach now. She gaped down in horror. Dark blue veins pulsed with hideous life. A wet trail of chemical fixative marked its ascent. The pockets in the intestine contracted and expanded, propelling it as it slithered up toward her chest.

Bits of gore rained down from the yellow bucket on the floor and began inching closer. The errant ear from earlier rode perched atop the gnarled hand, whose cracked and blackened nails clicked on the tile as it approached.

The hand reached her in seconds, it seemed, and began tugging on her pant leg. Its fingertips clenched the fabric, urging her back towards the spreading pool of excised tissue. The grisly stump at the wrist thumped against the floor as it pulled.

The intestines were almost at her neck now, cuddled into the hot pulse at her throat. The severed end reached up and lovingly stroked her face—

The door behind her swung open.

Instantly the undead tissue fell to the floor, harmless again.

Cheryl stood in the doorway, mouth open in shock as she surveyed the scene. Bits and pieces lay scattered around the floor. Melissa stood stiff at the centre of the carnage.

“What the hell are you doing in here?” Cheryl demanded.

“It…they…attacked me!”

“They who?”

Melissa struggled to speak. The open end of intestine lying across her shoe burped, releasing a mouthful of fixative.

She ran, screaming, from the room. Cheryl watched her go with open disgust.

“They think they’ll handle it, but they never do.” She sighed, grabbed some gloves from her pocket, and set about cleaning the glistening mess.


I’m Not Going to Stop Writing. Period.

‘All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?’
-Philip Pullman

I had a bad day today. A nasty, wrenching, frustrating day where all I could think about was getting home and hiding from the world. It was the type of day where the kindest words actually hurt you further, because you’re so far gone by then that you’ve forgotten momentarily about kindness and it startles you to hear.

It was, in short, pretty fucking shitty.

And what did I do? I came home and instead of banging out some words and finishing the story I’m working on, I sat like a mopey lump and did nothing. When I finally came to the story, the cursor sat there flashing at me and taunting me for having nothing to say.

I was going to shut the laptop and go sleep it off.

But if I’m ever going to get anywhere with this writing thing, I can’t let stupid garbage distract me. This is what I have, what I’m good at, and I can’t afford to let it slip out of my control.

So: a pledge. I’ll have the damned thing finished and available for public consumption, in one form or another, by midnight EST tomorrow (Friday December 16th). It’s got guts and gore, all that good stuff (though I won’t say whose).

After all, you can’t take writing from me.


Hilarious 1970s Horror Movie Trailers


Writer’s Rooms

After yesterday’s Bag of Bones post, I got to thinking about the act of writing. It thrills me to see a character who is a writer, because other than the people pecking away at their laptops in coffee shops all over, writing is a very private act. It’s not featured much at all in movies or on tv. It happens behind the scenes. You’d no more stumble on a writer at work than you’d walk into someone’s house uninvited.

But what if you were invited, welcomed even, to see the spaces where writers tuck themselves away? Would you notice some common link, some talisman that summons the Muses?

I’m not the only one hoping to tap the magic (and be a nosy little snoop while I’m at it); The Guardian offers a whole series of peeks into the most private spaces of authors.

Have a look.


Movie Monday: Bag of Bones

For my first Movie Monday I decided to review Stephen King’s Bag of Bones. I expected it to be middling-to-fine, the same way most of his movies have been (notable exception: Pet Sematary, which still scares the bejesus out of me). A solid B-movie.

Okay, maybe I expected a little more from this one, because it’s got Pierce Brosnan, and he’s good, right?

I ended up enjoying this movie a lot more than I thought I would.

I love seeing other writers at work, even if they’re only characters. I like all the little industry tidbits King throws in (are there really such things as “trunk novels”? I like to think there are.) It’s like he’s sharing little in-jokes, leaving breadcrumbs for hungry writers like me.

Sure, I noticed that Jo’s eyes rolled after she was dead, and the glaring continuity error in part one that puts glasses on Brosnan in the blink of an eye, and I’m not even going to dignify the tree branch bitch-slap, but overall there was a surprising amount of good.

I love an emotional performance, which I have to admit Pierce Brosnan delivered well in his widower role. His intensity was startling. The emotional scenes in Bag of Bones were heart-wrenching (Sara Tidwell in the woods, good God). Although King’s story isn’t “scary” to me, it’s deeply unsettling.

King himself has said that he’s not trying to write high literature, calling himself the “the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries”. You can see it in this movie. It’s a made-for-tv. It looks and feels like an extended episode of American Horror Story. There’s not much in the way of depth or symbolism, unless that ringing moose bell is supposed to stand for God or something. Every emotion, every scare, is laid bare on the surface. The audience is able to sit back and let it happen, without much interaction at all.

And you know what?

Maybe that’s okay.

I’ve tried and tried to write my literary opus. Something that explores the intensity of human relationships, something that tells a meaningful story that teaches the reader about life. And maybe it’s because I’m not yet 30 (yay!) or because literature just ain’t my thang, but whenever I set out to write Life’s Truth it comes off hackneyed and ridiculous. I find it tedious, and would never want someone else to have to sit through it. I don’t have any more answers than anyone else, and I don’t have a beautiful story to tell. Maybe in time, I will.

But in the meantime, the stories I love best are the ones that might not be high art, but are just plain interesting. The little thrills, the anticipation and sometimes the oogy-boogy surprise. So for now, if I can be even a tenth as good as Mr Mac-And-Fries, and have fun doing it, maybe that’s where I need to be.


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