Crypticon’s Campfire Ashes.

Another Crypticon in the books. Now, the work begins.

I always come home from Crypticon loaded up with homework. Movies to watch, music to listen t0, and books to read. What lessons am I now learning? I’m studying the works of Joe Knetter and MP Johnson. Drink Blood Records gave me discs from They Live and The Funeral and the Twilight. I have In Harm’s Way and Potpourri (for the second time) to watch, from the dependable folks at Restraining Hollywood.

Add to this the fliers and memorized suggestions and you’ve got months worth of scary entertainment. This is a very good thing. Watch and listen to the Crypticon crowds and you know the Minnesotan winter is already on their mind. We have to load up to get through.

Crypticon is Minnesota’s last great bonfire before winter. Ask anyone who attends and they’ll comment on the warmth and familial nature of the convention. Whether you’re standing by a stranger or a friend, you’re only a short greeting away from a friendly conversation about the beloved creatures and mesmerizing maniacs they’re dying to discuss.

When the Crypticon campfire is reduced to ashes, waiting to be lit again in another year, we all head home with new stories to tell, and new stories to watch and learn. It’s the stories that bring us out in the first place, the scarier the better.

So I’ll catch up on my reading and survive the winter. Next year, I want to bring a few stories of my own the ‘con.

– Axel

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Crypticonnecting.

Day One of Crypticon is in the books, and I can’t wait to start Day Two later today. Especially excited to see Mitch and Nicole of TriWar pictures. Their film After the Dawn is getting huge, and success couldn’t happen to two nicer people. Also had a great time catching up with the gang at Zombie Ammo, who always have the situation fully under control. And I finally picked up a copy of Potpourri from Restraining Hollywood, which has an underground Bill and Ted feel about it and is a whole lotta fun to watch.

It’s the easiest place in the world to get to know people, and it’s great to immerse myself in creepiness. It helps motivate me to stay on top of my writing projects, so I can be the one scaring the folks at the ‘con. A question I asked at the Friday the 13th panel, with Melanie Kinnaman and Richard Brooker, re-ignited an idea I’ve had for a horror novel/screenplay that would be The Maltese Falcon meets Chainsaw 2. May have to spend some time with that one.

-Axel

New Series – Pegged-Jean Nightmares.

The author at 12 years old.

On Monday 2012 reaches October, and we all count down to the grinning Jack O’Lantern waiting for us on the 31st.

I wanted my site to have some sort of countdown toward Halloween, and I decided to make this one personal.

Every day in October, I will be posting a short piece about one thing that scared me as I was growing up. As a child of the late 80s/early 90s, I’m naming this piece “Pegged Jean Nightmares” in honor of the way we tight-rolled our jeans back in the day.

If you can remember pegged jeans, you might have been scared by a lot of the same things that scared me. Some of them are specific TV shows, films, stories, and books. Others are experiences or stories you probably remember, too. A few of them I’ve never heard anyone else talk about. Some of them had everyone spooked, and some seemed to only scare me.

Hopefully, Pegged Jean Nightmares will be a month-long Halloween party of memories, embarrassments, and laughs. In other words, I hope you enjoy reading these entries half as much as I will enjoy writing them. Comments encouraged!

– Axel

Mo is for Momentum.

I’ll be busy this year and will start National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a few days later. I’ve decided to take this as a challenge instead of a setback. You get 30 days to write 50,000 words of novel.  You can do it, but you have to start strong and keep going.

This will be my third year of spending November with my brain completely captivated with one story, and I couldn’t be happier. I recently re-read the first novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo, currently titled “Orphans,” and think it has serious potential as a “small town evil” thrill ride. With a little gussying up, second NaNoWriMo novel “Perfect Hair” (and that could change at any time) could make it as a young adult novel.

With both of these books, I took chances I wouldn’t have the guts to spend a year or two writing about. In both cases, I added range to my writing and surprised myself. Which means this year I’m researching for The Big Fear. That’s not a title; that’s how I want to feel when I’m writing it. I’m going to gamble on writing something so scary I use a nightlight when I go to bed. And then I want to get up and do it again, every day, for most of November.

After all, that’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo. It’s only one month, and you have to write so fast you don’t have time to rethink anything. The momentum carries you through your own anxieties.

Which is probably why you should try it too, if you’ve got a story you’ve been chickening out of writing.

-Axel

The Ghosts in the Room

Not pictured: Terrifying skeletal woman, encased in mud, reaching it to pull me into the closet when I head to the bathroom.

Whenever I’m in a group of people talking about weekend plans or weekday evenings, I’m scared to tell the truth.

Sometimes when I get a free evening, I like to think of fates worse than death. Then I write those fates up in stories, novels, and screenplays and hope they scare someone else as much as they scare me. I usually eat snacks when I do this.”

I don’t know why I worry, to be honest. When I do tell people I write, I always get support. When I tell people I write horror stories, people who don’t like horror are still happy to be excited for me, in the same way I’m happy for people who “craft.”

I think I’m surprised that, at 35, I’m still trying to write stories as scary as anything I read or was too scared to read when I was a kid. As a freshman in high school, I was referred to as the horror-loving weird kid. Years later, I would use “MrHorrorpants” as my Twitter handle as a way of keeping that child-like spirit alive. I would be the first one to sit down in an elementary library to hear a scary story and the last one to leave the horror movie on opening night.
Truth be told, I thought someone would force me to grow out of this years ago. Since no one has yet, I’m starting to think no one ever will. Yesterday, I wrote a piece on an influential horror movie for Slasher Studios, and I’ll be at Crypticon this weekend to immerse myself in Monster Kid fandom. I have submitted one novel for publication, and I have a reserve corps of novels, short stories, and screenplays waiting for their chance to come into your living room and scare you senseless.

I thought life would be less scary when I was an adult and knew everything. I think most of us are still as scared as we were as kids. You might not believe in ghosts and monsters, but it doesn’t really matter what you believe in. You just need to get frightened sometimes. Maybe sometimes you still get a little scared when you’re alone in the dark, too.

Once, on a long night of being scared after lights out, my big brother convinced me to pretend the monsters were my friends. This relaxed me and I was able to get to sleep, and my brother was able to do the same without me bothering him about monsters. It still makes sense to me. Why not get to know the things that go bump in the night?

As an adult, why wouldn’t I spend time with the creepy stuff? It’s out there. You can leave the lights on and pretend the room isn’t filled with ghosts, but isn’t that scarier?

I still write the scary stuff so I can be my own big brother, holding my own hand through the bad parts of life. If I’m really good at writing (and lucky), I can find bits of beauty in the midst of our terrifying realities.

So on weekday nights and weekends, I’ll still turn the lights out and spend some time with the ghosts in the room. When you think about it, it’s safer that way.
– Axel

September Stuff.

  • Wrote one new story. I’m leaning toward titling it . . . okay, I got nothing. It’s the workplace horror tale. So far, it passed the “Creepy” test. That’s where I tell the wife what the story is about and wait. If she says “creepy,” it has a shot.
  • After sending out another batch of stories in the next few weeks, I will probably start revising my Halloween-themed romantic comedy. I’m considering self-publishing it. Those who have read it tell me I pulled off a good love story. When people add new books to their Kindles after Christmas, why shouldn’t they add a lovely tale of love at a small-town haunted attraction?
  •  Still no word on The Hoosecows. Not saying I’m excited and anxious, but I check my email and spam folder three times a day.
  •  I will probably do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again this year, but I won’t be publishing it online. My goal is to write something raw, uncensored, and very scary. Even if I never publish the book, I’d like to see what such a beast looks like.

— Axel