Tommy kept the Christmas tree up several months after the holiday season was over; he thought it made a good nightlight in the living room when the overhead lamp was too much. The soft cozy glow it gave off felt homie. It made it a lot easier to cope with the multiple stab wounds he would puncture into the body of his victims. He just had to find a way to deal with the screams. Stuffing a sock in their mouths did well to muffle the pitch and make it hard for any neighbors to hear them cry out in agony. But, it didn’t stop their shrills from putting him on edge. So, he decided to start playing Bing Crosby albums as loud as he could while he flayed their skin from the bone. Bing’s deep, smooth voice wound its way through his soul, putting him at ease as he cast both sharp and dull objects down into the fragile flesh of his prey. The effect the crooner’s golden tone had on his spirit made his arms move without hesitation, as if they were wings guided by the breeze. Each cut, each carving, each beautifully barbaric strike burst through the bodies like they were water. Often, he watched their glassy eyes swiveling wildly in their blood-soaked faces, and felt comforted by the reflection of the blinking Christmas lights dancing in their watering eyes. Once the life drained away, there was a slight sense of serenity in those dead eyes: a calm beauty, like they had finally gone home and he had been the courageous carrier to convey them there. It was almost heroic.
2017 has arrived and already the old adage is being echoed all over Facebook and other various social media outlets: I sure hope this year is better than the last. A variation of a lyric from “Long December” written by Counting Crows front-man, Adam Duritz, that expression has long escaped the lips of many people when the ball drops and the bullets hit the air to ring in the brand new year.
But, I have to admit that 2016 was a pretty good year for me: my wife and I began our two history and haunts tours; we got a book deal; we began setting up another tour; got some pretty decent press coverage for a debut year; and, we just started getting our lives together, all around. It really was the first year I think I can say was “better than the last.”
But, in all truth, New Year’s Day is just a continuation of the day before, and the years that roll on after each January 1st celebrated often appear no different than its predecessor. Though, sometimes one can’t help but wonder if there really is some sort of alpha and omega point for the passing of time; are there some invisible dividing lines of time that truly are signposts of the coming and passing of eras? If so, is it the line between January 1st and December 31st, or is it much deeper? Much loner? Or, is it all just an illusion?
Often, one can reflect on a year and compare it to the year before and say, “How things have changed.” When juxtaposed, the two years can seem mighty different. I don’t know if this is due to some cosmic balance that makes change occur between the walls of specified moments, or if it is just the basic human psychological ability to categorize events by a chronicled list of dates. I vote the latter. But, in any event, if it gives people hope, motivates them to look forward and head towards better things, letting all the bad fall to the wayside as they just keep on keeping on, then I am willing to promote the idea.
Happy New Year!
Built in 1998, Nationwide Arena in Columbus is said to be haunted by some restless spirits.
Erected on the former grounds of the Ohio State Penitentiary, the arena has a pretty bloated file folder of reported paranormal activity. Before the prison was torn down, it was vacant for twenty years and even then it was claimed that one could hear ominous pacing on death row as well as see the images of former inmates hanging in their cells.
Now, it is said that in the parking garage of the arena there still lingers the sounds of flickering fires, the screams of burning men, and the acrid smell of the inferno that engulfed an area of the old prison long ago, killing 300 inmates.
The fire was one of the worst prison fires in US history, so when you add that to the state of unrest that already exists among the criminally minded while they are cooped up in tiny cells, the ingredients for supernatural residue are quite potent.
As a writer myself, if I had to name the most major influence on my own style of work, Clive Barker would be the one to jump directly into mind. When I first read him, I said to myself, “That’s how I want to write.”
I’ve bounced all around genres trying to find a way to get published, and Barker’s style of internal dialogue is always there; his deep, vivid descriptions of the landscape prevails. I’m not saying I pull it off as well as he does, but I certainly try. Once I went with horror writing, I realized where my home is, and it is due largely in part to the influence of Clive Barker.
Everything that I love about Mr. Barker is contained within the short stories of In the Flesh: the nightmarish horror that bends the very air around it; the surreal mythos that seek no apologies for being morbid and disturbing; the unabashed propensity towards violence and the grotesque; the living breathing characters of both good and evil; the seedy urban backdrops detailed into life by the author; and the entrancing tales of struggles against insurmountable situations written in the prose of someone who sees beauty in agony and poetry in pain. When it comes to horror storytelling, there is no author as masterful as he.
With that said, I loved all four tales in this book. I will offer here a review of each:
“In the Flesh”: Darkness confined to a space no larger than a closet, yet Barker expands it beyond the limits of imagination by creating a harrowing, dream-like city for the damned and the depraved. Here he creates fright on a whole new level with a chilling backdrop to paint his visions of pain and suffering. I wish he would give us more stories from this City of Killers because it is fascinating enough to warrant its own legends and chronicles.
“The Forbidden: This is the origin of the infamous 90’s Hollywood slasher known as the Candyman. Set in the dregs of a rundown London slum, this tale shows Barker’s appreciation for the downtrodden and the decomposing icons of man’s mighty failures, seen through the eyes of a curious woman fixated on the graffiti murals sprayed across the crumbling architecture of a forgotten and partially-abandoned area of town. I find the setting to be one of gorgeous misery and almost folkloric squalor worthy of a horrifying urban epic. It is an ideal place for the supernatural madman with a knack for eviscerating his victims and removing bits of them to leave behind hacked-up husks of their former selves. Although no back-story of the Candyman is offered, it adds a spicy mystique to his being, making him both frightening and fascinating. I certainly wish Barker would have expanded on the character. But, I am happy with the tiny piece of deadly sweetness that he gave us.
“The Madonna”: Undoubtedly my favorite of the collection. The concept contained in the tale’s central narrative is one that is personal to me and my beliefs. It almost makes me feel connected to the author as it appears we may share similar views on such things. The world he creates in this magical tale of fearsome fantasy carries so much depth and potential that I was disappointed when it ended. I wanted to read an entire 600-1000+ page novel on the world and the characters and the myths. What he gives to us is a thought-provoking, enticing scenario of creation and mankind’s role in it. The lure of Feminine Superiority and dominance is a theme that appeals greatly to me, and the play on the fantastical stories about mermaids or Succubae or angels gives an air of classic fairytales, but only told from the shadows: the parts of the stories parents leave out to keep their children from becoming captives to nightmares. I loved this story and was dying to read further.
“Babel’s Children”: This short-fiction stands out from the rest in the sense that it doesn’t delve into the twisted and agonized, or the Hellish or wicked. But, it doesn’t fall short on the bizarre meter as it is actually quite a what-if scenario that is excruciatingly horrifying, but also very plausible. Sometimes, if you really take a look at what goes on in the world, you could honestly see the plot of this story not being far from reality. But, this story begins as more of a suspense-thriller and ends under the guise of government-conspiracy-action novel. Either way, I felt this was a satisfying end to the book considering it ended on a note that felt very satiating and didn’t make the reader pine for the rest of the tale.
So, I continue to thoroughly enjoy Barker’s work, and even more see why he is my favorite author. I look forward to reading more of his stuff as time goes on.
WWE has reinstated Backlash as part of the new Smackdown Live brand, and it will be making its return Sunday night, September 11th. The build-up was rushed as it had to be thrown together in just three weeks following SummerSlam. It seems like they might have been able to stuff together a fairly interesting card. Here are my thoughts on it:
1) THE COWARD AND THE LION: Miz has recently experienced a reemergence as a formidable force in the WWE, riding what is now his longest of 5 IC title runs. With his voice returning and his wife by his side, Miz has now begun to see a bit of that past glory find its way back to him. But, Ziggler’s career is beginning to careen out of control as he keeps finding himself on the short end of every big match opportunity he comes to. Despite being incredibly gifted with a strong fan-base, the hungry lion just can’t seem to win when it really counts. At this point, I think the best angle Dolph has going for him is the fact that he can’t win the big one. Miz has a lot of momentum, especially after the heated lashing he gave to Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack. Where we stand now, having Dolph take the IC belt wouldn’t be as good as having him “go back to the drawing board” and think things through before coming back with a new attitude. I personally think they should, for now, keep this belt with the Miz and all the heat his newfound momentum has brought him.
2) THE VIPER VS. THE MONSTER: Here are two guys who know how to get brutal. Orton just came off his savage beating at the hands of the Beast only to find himself in the sights of a Monster who eats worlds and evokes the Devil. Bray Wyatt has a score to settle with Randy for the death of Husky Harris–which may have been the best thing Orton could have done for Bray–but that death gave rise to a reincarnation of a man with no remorse who walked straight out of the fire. However, Bray seems to have lost his edge of late, but still managed to gain respect. Orton has a lot to lose after being on the shelf for so long with an injury and then the quick KO at the hands of Lesnar. If WWE is really interested in ushering in a new era, their best bet is to punctuate it with the rising serpent striking down the familiar viper with what would be the night’s biggest upset.
3) THE NEW TAG TITLES: Heath and Rhyno have definitely got something together, for sure. I personally think they should call themselves the Two Man Brand. But, I say we can’t let it end here. The Usos, with their recent long-needed heel turn giving them relevance again, stand as the best bet for the titles. While they may not be new era, having them reign as heels would certainly add a different dimension on the newborn division. Meanwhile, what of Heath? Well, they could keep him and Rhyno together and use the time to legitimize them as a formidable tag team, or WWE could set up a Rhyno vs. Slater angle that could see Heath finally winning his contract and calling himself, “The One Man Brand!”
4) SOMETHING NEW AND SOMETHING BLUE: I personally favor the Smackdown Live Women’s division over Raw’s by quite a margin. While I love Bayley and mark-out big time for Charlotte, I really don’t care about anyone else wrestling on that show. I think Nia Jax and Dana Brook both have potential, but we need to see if they can book them correctly. But, I thoroughly enjoy all the styles and attitudes of the SDL superstars (even Lynch, who I used to be not able to stand, has grown on me). I would be okay with any of them winning–especially Bliss because I think she is so solid and so sound in the ring, and has a great character going for her–but, I’ll be objective and admit that Becky Lynch is the primed sure-shot for this belt–or she should be, anyway: she is a hardworking competitor, has taken the bumps and the losses, and really has the crowd behind her. If they want to start the division off right, they need to go with the Lass Kicker.
5) WHO’S THE FACE THAT RUNS THE PLACE?: While I truly like and respect Dean Ambrose, do I even need to explain why allowing him to hold onto the title is not the best idea? Ambrose’s reign has almost felt a little flaccid in comparison to his journey to make it there. But, he has been churning out a lot of subpar matches lately while AJ Styles has been turning in some of the best performances of his career, generating huge crowd reactions as a heel, and somehow learning to be a very good orator–something I thought would never happen. AJ is nowhere near being new era (he is only two months younger than Cena), but his style is what the new era competitors are more in the mold of. For years, WWE’s matches have been set at a pretty predictable, blase, mechanical routine of wrestlers going through the motions each match, performing the same couple of moves in the same order against the same guys for months, over and over and over. However, since the breakout of NXT, things have been on a gradual change: wrestlers are taking risks again, going out of their way to entertain, shaking up their move-sets. WWE has even been guilty of doing things that are somewhat new and surprising lately, qualities they have severely lacked for most of the last ten to fifteen years; and, the new style these wrestlers are wrestling was made popular in America by guys like A.J. Styles. While he cannot take sole credit, he is definitely the Indie guy who’s gained the biggest following, having reached a level of popularity that transcended the need to even sign with WWE, which is evident by the extremely lucrative deal they gave him and by the fact that he was allowed to bypass NXT completely and jump straight into the big time by debuting in a match as significant as the Royal Rumble. Since then, he has delivered 100% all the way through. Both he and the WWE have benefited from his arrival. So, the major investment in him by the WWE along with his exemplary style is why AJ needs to be the man. Ambrose is great–I am a fan–and he served well as the guy to steer the top spot from Roman Reigns, whom the crowd just did not get behind, but it has reached its peak and it’s time to turn that belt over to the man who represents the new style.
Anyway, hope it’s a good show. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Definitely digging the new song. I know there are haters saying it’s not her best or whatever, but it doesn’t have to be. This is Gaga getting real and raw like she hasn’t done since BTW, but keeping the psychedelic dance of Artpop while giving us that open and authentic poetic lyricism she displayed back on The Fame Monster. This feels like 90s dance with Gaga’s own flair for unapologetic emotional vocalism. It stays in the vein with her unbridled let-it-fly attitude when it comes to singing that she’s been displaying for the last three years. Gaga’s still dancing, but she’s ready to rock. I think it’s a damn fine welcome back for the Queen.
And I love the cover art.
MY PERFECT WORLD
On a roll of the dice you left that night
Landing on snake eyes, the throw wasn’t right
You said to me, “Boy, I don’t need you.”
Then all of that love was broken in two
Getting beyond you has always been hard
I’m a Joker chasing the Queen of Hearts card
I’m just a boy but you’re more than a girl
Standing on top of my perfect world.
I thought about leaving but I couldn’t move
You’re a shot through the soul with nothing to lose
You bricked up the walls to my Shangri-La
And blocked out the sun from the Eye of Ra
All truth was revealed upon your arrival
You gave my heart to Anubis to control my revival
And all weaknesses of mine you would find
In my perfect world that you left behind.
Nothing is perfect when time stands still
There is no warmth in a long winter’s chill
Raindrops are gathering on my window sill
Your hands unleash the passions that thrill
Showing me the voids that I need to fill
Until I’m a volcano ready to spill
Your words are the bullets with the power to kill
My perfect world where you shatter my will.
I knew that you always liked to play games
In a castle of cards where royalty reigns
Where you are the bridge as well as the moat
With your skeletal fingers tight on my throat
I can’t resist you or I’ll be devoured
No man can stand up to such Feminine Power
You dealt me bad cards and my deck was hurled
Right out the window of my perfect world.