The Fear is Growing – NaNoWriMo Day 10.

In one week, I have written 19,498 words, which amounts to 70 typed, double-spaced pages of writing. Here are some notes.

1) The scope of this thing is going to kill me. Originally, The Devil’s Spiral Shell was supposed to be a claustrophobic horror tale of a guy coming to terms with the horrors of death and aging. Now, the book has taken place in two major cities and is headed to the third. Characters keep popping in and out. I’m dreading the second draft of this one.

2) The character of Derrick was supposed to be a foil to Eldon, my main character, and not much more. Now he’s competing to become a secondary main character. I just can’t stop writing dialogue for him.

3) I’m working in so many of my own personal phobias of awful things to have happen to you physically. Writing out that kind of nastiness is both relaxing and unnerving.

4) Still not sure how it’s going to end, but I know which characters I wouldn’t trust if I were you.


Stay Sick – NaNoWriMo Day 4.

I won’t bore you with updates on every day of National Novel Writing Month, but I will update when things get interesting.

I try to write 2000 words a day, to finish on the first day I can — November 25th. Yesterday, I put together 3000 words, getting me closer to be being back on track after a wonderful two day vacation delay.

I’d like to put together another 3000 words today, which won’t be hard at all if the Minnesota Vikings decide to play like buffoons again today.

Two more characters showed up yesterday, with brand new problems and backstories. The novel decided it would be set in Minneapolis (the first scene takes place outside of First Avenue. A character has died, and the plot is ensnaring Eldon, my main character.

I’ve imagined enough of the back story that today could be a gentle walk toward confrontation and conclusion, but I want more from this book.

Instead, today is the day I fight to keep the book unsafe, unsettling, and unforgiving. Much of the battle will be fought and (hopefully) won in these 3000 words.


NaNoWriMo Begins.

Two days and around 4000 words behind, I’m finally beginning National Novel Writing Month.

I’ve dreamed up a main character, a basic plot, and something evil to keep them all busy. I know a few elements of style and symbol I plan on tossing into the mix.

I have no idea how it will end, or if there will be romance. I don’t think it will be gory, but I make no promises. This is the least I’ve planned a novel for NaNoWriMo, so we’ll see if that ends in inspiration or embarrassment.

If you’re curious, here is the first sentence:

“When Eldon Andrews saw the girl’s T-shirt, he cranked the steering wheel of his car hard to the left.”

Bad things are in motion for our friend Eldon.


The Walk Home.

“From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties

And things that go bump in the night

Good Lord, deliver us!” – Scottish saying.

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Thirty scary memories from my past have led to this Halloween post. I had to choose one last memory to leave everyone before they set off into the night to celebrate the holiday.

Just remember: No matter where you go, you have to come home at some point. And at some point, you’re going to end up alone in the dark.

In junior high, I remember dreaming I was solving a crime like Sherlock Holmes. I was leaving an investigation with the realization I was dealing with a vampire. At that moment, my dream froze as a beautiful illustration. In the picture, I was walking between two clumps of trees between my house and the neighbors’ house. Hidden in the trees, fangs at the ready, was a vampire. The moment was frozen in time, as was my character’s (my?) doom.

Months later, I had to walk the same path in the dark. I checked carefully and, even though the vampire wasn’t there, the vampire WAS there.

Wherever you go tonight, whoever you’re with, you will be alone in the dark tonight. The things you know are not real will become real again, like it or not.

Be ready.

Happy Halloween.


No One EVER Made It All The Way Through.

You waited outside the door in the middle, and then walked up stairs to get the haunted house. Nope. Not intimidating at all.

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When my parents gave me permission to visit the local Denver Jaycees Haunted House, I was shocked.

Hadn’t they heard the rumors? Supposedly there was a guy throwing around a real chainsaw. Supposedly they made you hold a real cow eye before they let you out. When I waited in line, I prepared myself for the moment when I had to hold the cow eye in my hand. It shook me to my core.

I was a little miffed there was no cow-eye holding anywhere within the haunted house. I didn’t really WANT to hold a cow-eye, but after I spent so long preparing to hold a cow-eye, it seemed anticlimactic that there was no cow-eye to be held.

Also, our pastor was one of the monsters inside the haunted house. Recognizing him removed all fear from the trip as quickly as if they turned on the lights.

At middle school, when kids described the haunted house, it was clear they were more interested in spreading the legend than telling the truth. I enjoyed the haunted house a lot, but I didn’t remember watching a guy shrink and run into a small door on the ceiling.

I think the greatest haunted house would be a haunted house where people were hypnotized right after walking into the darkness and told every horrible thing they heard and every thing they dreaded while waiting in line had already happened to them, just like they knew it would.

It would be the equivalent of the urban legend of the haunted house too scary to survive, documented here on

If you’ve heard a tall tale about a haunted house, why not share it in the comments section of this post? You don’t have to say if you believed the story or not. We’ll make our own assumptions.


You Can Trust GARFIELD, Right?

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In the 80s, we tight-rolled our jeans and we loved us some Garfield. Garfield EVERYWHERE. Garfield in the comics, Garfield on your TV, Garfield stuffed animals on your bed. . . When the book orders came in at school, half of the kids got Garfield books.

When commercials began advertising a Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, well, what could be better than that? Millions of us turned on our televisions to watch our favorite fat cat on our favorite holiday

Years later, we survivors still bear the scars. My wife and I both share this fear. We re-watch the special from bed most Halloweens, with all of the lights out. I may be imagining thing, but I swear she holds me just a little tighter when Garfield reaches the end of his trick-or-treating journey.
The opening moments of Garfield’s Halloween Adventure are bland and corny. Things get creepier when Garfield and Odie start trick-or-treating. When they end up in an old house on an island, things get real. The ghosts who come from them are so clearly bent on serious murderizing they’re ALMOST scarier than the old man who warns the cat and dog about the ghosts’ curse.

When The AV Club listed scary episodes of not-so-scary shows, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure was listed first.

It makes me wish Dora the Explorer would drop the gloves and terrify some children this year.


Slimy Aliens Are NOT Indoor Pets.

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As an adult, imagine being outside at night. A slimy, screaming thing bleats at you and crashes around in the bushes. Does it seem like a good idea to bring this thing into your home?

Now I know, you’ve all seen E.T. and you know Elliott did the right thing by befriending a lost little alien.

This is the exception that proves the rule. Most of the time, bringing slimy beasties into your home results in, at very least, a series of painful, preventative shots. If the odds are not in your favor, something claws its way through your chest.

When I saw E.T., I was very young and I was in the theater. My parents were sympathetic to my fear and suffering, and tried to help me find ways of avoiding a meltdown. At one point, I faced away from the the screen but swore I could still see E.T.’s image reflected on the glass outside the projectionist’s booth (note: I couldn’t).

Somehow, I survived the film. When I figured out how magically wonderfully E.T. really was, I felt ashamed of my earlier fear. I tried to convince my entire family I actually loved E.T. Whenever I saw anything related to the film, and thanks to the power of Spielberg I was always seeing something related to E.T., I would pretend I loved the little bastard.

I didn’t. He’s creepy. And powerful. I’m still cautious.

I met Dee Wallace at a Crypticon and mentioned my fear of E.T. She confirmed other people had shared this fear with her, but she stated she never understood why.

I now suspect E.T. was waiting in her room, hiding in the towels, ready to jump out and bleat while kicking her if she violated the Code of Silence.

Be careful when allowing powerful, slimy things in your house. I stand by this.


Read the Book!

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“I know, I know. Read the book.”

If you picture a person badgering someone with ghost stories and weird facts until the listener simply HAS to go out and order an expensive set of books to satisfy their curiosity, you and I used to watch the same shows.

Each commercial teased viewers with creepy bits of stories. Some involved ancient cultures and their amazing buildings. Some involved psychic connections without scientific explanation. Some of the stories came from beyond the grave.

The Time Life people present their sideshow of oddities as a perfect companion to the sensible world of business and professionalism in the late 80s. The message? Having a little bit of weirdness is a healthy part of life that you’ve been missing out on. Essentially, it’s the same idea used by Playboy and Maxim magazines, but it promotes cheap thrills through spookiness instead of sexiness.

People did buy these books. I know because I would watch for the in friends’ houses with a vigilance other children reserve for finding candy. If I were left alone with any of these books for any length of time, I would ignore whoever I was supposed to be playing with to read them. Then, I would pretend I wasn’t terrified as I stared at their digital clock that night, trying to work up the courage to go to the bathroom.

From what I remember of re-visiting these books in college, they were mostly based on superstitious folklore and friend of a friend stories. Still they were enough to get my imagination churning. I spent one night a little worried an angry Bigfoot might be peeking in my window. In Dinkytown, blocks away from the University of Minnesota Campus.



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Okay, I’m not scared of ALL Muppets or puppets. In fact, I would say I’m not scared of MOST Muppets and puppets.

Just the ones that look a little off in the eyes, like they might be ready to rip your face off.

The King of Scary Puppets is, of course, Sweetums.

Image copyright its owner.

If you read the link above, you’ll kindly note Sweetums was originally a good-guy devouring beast. I discovered Sweetums by listening to The Muppet Frog Prince on my previously-mentioned Dukes of Hazzard record player.

A very helpful coworker of mine, who delighted in tormenting me, discovered the film version of The Muppet Frog Prince was available on YouTube. In the privacy of my own home, I decided to face my fears and watch it.

Thanks to that viewing, I now remember I was just as scared of the witch with the creepy voice as I was Sweetums. Awesome. Good job, me.

Laugh if you like. My wife certainly does. However, remember this. We are all Big People because we were once Little Kids. You were once small, too. And when you were small, some tall thing made you aware of how vulnerable you were to being destroyed by something in the world of the Big People.

Under his big, furry mask, Sweetums is my version of the Bad Big Person, reminding me of the defenseless Little Kid inside me. You’ve got your own Big People fears. The question is: Do you know what mask they wear?


Things Under Logs.

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The happiest playtimes of my childhood were spent in the woods beside our house. If you drove by those woods now, you wouldn’t know all of the wars fought  with boys ducking behind trees for cover before aiming their plastic guns at each other. There are no permanent marks from where sleds raced down slopes and tried to dodge stumps.

There are probably still a few reminders I was there. There are places where the course of the creek changed direction because we dammed it. There are still bits and pieces of forgotten forts.

When we were out there, if we needed to build a structure or just got bored and began investigating, we would pry up logs and rocks.

Underneath, you never knew what you could find. There might be fat old earthworms, or small silver things that darted. There might be webbed fungus or bulging mushrooms. The whole thing might be stained a color of rust.

Trying to break my habit of leaving my lunchbox at school for weeks at a time, my mother assigned me the chore of cleaning out the lunchbox Tupperware after it had been abandoned for far too long. It was a good plan. Opening the small orange container that used to hold applesauce, I was mortified was surprised to find small grey blobs of mold. They looked like a cross between an inner tube and the corpse of a small space alien. It smelled more like the corpse. Years later, when I read the Stephen King short story “Gray Matter,” I pictured the awfulness I found cleaning my lunchbox.

It’s all fun and games until it occurs to you. You’re ALWAYS surrounded by these nasty things. How many more things are out there and growing, slimy and quiet and just out of sight?

I imagine my wife feels the same way when a mouse darts out in front of her. Nothing nastier than small, silent things waiting for you in the dark.