Escalator to HELL

The Doktor filmed this video on our recent visit to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the World Horror Convention. It’s 1:46 seconds of a slow, steep ride down an escalator which appears to be lit a light green for added eerie effects. Although I do not suffer from escalaphobia or acrophobia (I rather enjoy both escalators and heights), my grip on the handrail was steady and tight the entire time. I may have held my breath as well!

Take a trip with us to the underworld on the escalator to hell, or at least, the bowels of the MARTA system!

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Nightmare #363: Trapped in the Sinking Car

Sinking Car

(Michiganian, 30’s) I’m at my old job, and my co-worker and I are driving somewhere in her car. She’s always pretty nervous and anxious, but today she’s even more nervous than usual. I wonder if someone said something that freaked her out? Or maybe she’s just nervous that I am in the car with her. I have no idea where we’re going.

It’s winter, the roads are a little snowy. We drive over a bridge. Are we crossing a river? a lake? I don’t know. The bridge is very low, very close to the water, and it is very narrow, very much like a pier, actually.

She drives the car off the pier/road into the icy lake, and the car crashes through the ice into the frigid waters beneath. She’s hit her head on the steering wheel, she’s lost consciousness.

I suddenly remember an episode of Mythbusters where they talked about what to do if you are in a sinking car. The water pressure on the outside of the car makes it very difficult to open the doors and get out. So you have to open the windows (ideally before the car has sunk under the waters surface), and let the car fill with water. The pressure equalizes, and you can open the door and swim out. They did their mythbusting in a swimming pool in California, not an icy Michigan lake. I’m not excited about sitting in a car placidly as it fills with icy water, but that may be my only chance to survive if i don’t die of hypothermia first. I try to open the window. The car has power windows, and the system must have shorted out because when I press the button nothing happens.

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DailyNightmare PODCAST – Nicole Cushing Interview

Several works by Nicole Cushing

Several works by Nicole Cushing


The World Horror Convention is a great opportunity to meet authors, publishers and agents from around the world… and from around the corner. I was able to talk with Nicole Cushing, one of my favorite up and coming authors of darkly weird fiction who just happens to live in Indiana. I had only read her novellas, Children of No One (DarkFuse 2013) and I am the New God (DarkFuse 2014) when I interviewed her, but I am currently working through her first collection of short stories, The Mirrors (Cicatrix Press, 2015) which I picked up at World Horror Convention 2015. I also grabbed her Bizarro work, “How to Eat Fried Furries“(Eraserhead Press, 2010). Her novel, Mr Suicide, will be released this July and is already getting some stellar press from folks whose opinion counts.

I am also a member of the Nicole Cushing postcard club which we discuss in the podcast and which is, frankly, a hoot and a half. A selection of these monthly missives can be seen in the photo above.

Nicole’s business card bills her as a “freelance nihilist” which suggests the dark wit that I find so compelling, both in her fiction and in person. I thank her for being so generous with her time for this interview.

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DailyNightmare PODCAST – World Horror Convention 2015

Doktor Leech and Elsa L reminisce about the World Horror Convention 2015 held in Atlanta.

Highlights include:

Lucy Snyder wins as Michael Knost and Michael Arnzen grovel in awe.

Lucy Snyder wins as Michael Knost and Michael Arnzen grovel in awe.


Midwest Shoutout to Lucy Synder who won TWO Bram Stoker Award®
Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide
Soft Apocalypses (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

Linda Addison reading poetry

Linda Addison reading poetry

Dark Poetry Readings
— Linda Addison (Being Full of Light, Insubstantial)
— Mary Turzillo
— James Dorr
— Sydney Leigh
— Stephanie Wytovich (Mourning Jewelry)
— Marge Simon
— Bruce Boston
— Michael Arnzen

Balogun Ojetade, Jeff Carroll, Gerald Coleman and John Edward Lawson

Balogun Ojetade, Jeff Carroll, Gerald Coleman and John Edward Lawson


The “World Horror” programming track

— John Edward Lawson
— Usman T. Malik
— Toni Morrison’s Beloved which came up as a topic on several panels.

Southern Vampires
Charlaine Harris

Good Greens at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails

Good Greens at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails


Good Greens
Sweet Auburn Curb Market
White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails

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Tempest Bradford told me I WILL DIE

I'll likely DIE before I finish reading books like THESE!

I’ll likely DIE before I finish reading books like THESE!

I already own more books than I could possibly read in my lifetime–not that this fact slows the rate at which I buy more books, mind you. Perhaps part of my mind is blissfully unaware of my eventual mortality. Perhaps some scrap of my psyche buried since adolescence thinks I *will* be able to read everything. Thanks a LOT, Tempest Bradford, for reminding me that I’m going to die with most of my books unread.

Seriously, that’s the most controversial, click-bait-y spin I can put on the challenge made last February by K. Tempest Bradford.

To be pedantic, she wasn't the first to make such a suggestion but her challenge managed to poke the bear of white privilege enough to get the attention of the Interwebs. I suspect, it's the photo that accompanies the article that did the trick, more than the rather balanced proposal she advances. Read it, why don’t you? Some of the dust has settled… or maybe it’s just been eclipsed by other, more pointless controversies. I blog about as slowly as I read, so I’m only getting around to boosting this idea now.

Don't be DECEIVED by that smile! Tempest Bradford makes White Men CRY! (pictured here with Chesya Burke, Mary SanGiovanni and Lucy Snyder at MoCon X)

Don’t be DECEIVED by that smile! Tempest Bradford makes White Men CRY! (pictured here with Chesya Burke, Mary SanGiovanni and Lucy Snyder at MoCon X)

TL:DR? To paraphrase, Tempest proposes that readers might construct a self-directed reading list that looks beyond white, straight, cis-gendered male writers. Try it for a year, even if you happen to be non-white, non-straight, non-cis-gendered, non-male yourself. You might learn something.

But I take a different approach to what is, basically, the same point. I know my own experience… and it bores me. I read to extend that experience, to visit the universe next door, to sample what it might be like to be someone else. Reading allows me to bolt on enhancements to my factory-standard life without sutures, scar tissue or electrodes on my neck. I suspect most folks who are drawn to speculative fiction are particularly familiar with this interest in literary transcendence, so to speak. The mainstream world confuses it with “escape.” I prefer to view it as a choice to live more fully and deeply.

And I am particularly susceptible to challenges. (Perhaps the less said about that character trait the better… unless proof surfaces on Youtube.)

After I read her article, I scanned my disheveled shelves and scooped up a tall pile of books that I already own which would satisfy the challenge. Some of these works I had wanted to read for years. Worse, some of these works I had *pretended* to have read. Egad, in at least one case, these authors are my friends. Clearly, following the challenge would allow me to stop this madness, assuage some guilt, in addition to gratifying that weird predilection I have to peer pressure.

This mound of books (only a small portion of which is depicted in the photo above) was far taller than I could realistically read in a year at my current rate of consumption so I made further subdivisions. One stack of “non-male,” another stack of “non-white.” I only balked at the non-cis-gendered category for some really egg-headed theory-licious reasons that I won’t delve into here. The piles were still too high, especially when I factored in the new books that I know are coming out this year that would qualify. So I made another set of subdivisions that are relevant to this blog: I focused on works that were any combination of Midwest + Snob + Horror. Such sub-divisions, I believe, would be cool with Tempest.

Note: these are mostly books I’ve already decided I want to read. I’m just going to, y’know, actually READ them.
Note further: I still plan to BUY books by straight white dudes this year. Woe be to one who tries to stand between me and my occasional retail therapy.

I met Tempest Bradford this weekend at MoCon X and we chatted a bit, once I steeled my courage with alcohol. She’s rather charming in person, despite her big bad reputation for making white men cry.

And even if her post, y’know, reared the dark foreboding of the Grim Reaper over my library, one bony finger pointing to my waiting grave.

Wanna know the specific titles I’ve been reading or the ones that are on my shelf? Stay tuned.

Elsa and I make similar points, though with far fewer words and in a largely caffeine-deprived state in this Podcast.

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DailyNightmare PODCAST: Bradford Challenge

Elsa and the Leech Doktor discuss the challenge issued by K. Tempest Bradford to plan a year of reading focused on expanding one’s experience. Why not take the Bradford Challenge yourself?

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DailyNightmare PODCAST: Penguicon 2015

Doktor Leech and Elsa L. mention some darker highlights from Penguicon 2015, the annual convention that celebrates open source culture. (http://2015.penguicon.org/)

Topics include:

• gelatin prosthetics for costumes. Shout out to Jeannie Arquette of ArtificeFX who makes silicone prosthetics and airbrush stencils (http://www.jeanniearquette.com);

• speculative poetry. Shout out to Matt Betts, novelist and dark poet (http://www.mattbetts.com/) ;

• Michigan cryptids . Shout out to Shetan Noir, paranormal expert (https://www.facebook.com/shetan.noir)

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Gothic/Romance in Nerve’s “The Heights”

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A view from “The Heights”

I’d intended to follow Nelly, to watch her reactions even when the focal action was elsewhere but I lost my way, so to speak, on the urban moors of Nerve’s production of “The Heights.”

Such decisions are encouraged during immersively staged “consensual theatre” which is Nerve’s stock and trade. Audience members mingle around the action and are free to follow their hearts. Going into this production, based on Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, I was oh-so-certain that Nelly would be the linchpin. She tells the tale, after all, this questionable narrator. Marisa Dluge, a Nerve regular, vividly conveyed this mesh of verbiage, modulating between narration and mimickry. My initial hypothesis was that Nelly would present the tale like she was playing with mental dolls, that every detail would be clearest through her perspective. The playbill even asked “Should we do what is right… or real?” and that seemed to be the kind of question that would vex Nelly, that ever vigilant, proper servant.

Nerve’s gritty, visceral production, thankfully, problematized my easy pre-interpretation.

First Obstacle: I found it impossible to ignore Catherine’s very embodied ghost. Just as Rachael Harbert was a revelation as the Red Queen in Nerve’s Alice, her portrayal here was eloquently gestural. Though Catherine never speaks a word during the performance, she and Nelly engage in a near constant dialogue, with Harbert providing physical response and counterpoint to Dluge’s accounts of the story. (If I were smarter, better read and only slightly more pretentious, I might launch some observation involving Sedgwick’s notion of homosociality, that Nelly and Catherine both use Heathcliff as an object of gratification, a token of exchange. But fuck the footnotes, OK?) My favorite moments of “The Heights” involve Harbert’s Catherine. For instance, her unabashed welcome of the returning Heathcliff, played by the handsome and talented Steve Xander Carson, where she fused herself to his body like a tattooed glyph, brought tears to my eyes. In another scene, she struggled palpably beneath the figure of Edgar, who is literally no more than a stuffed shirt, so painfully evocative of the weight of her ill-considered marriage. Her portrayal of that pivotal scene made sense of an enigma I found in the story. Catherine, too, broods on the question of rightness and realness, which honestly, I missed in my quick perusal of Brontë’s novel.

A second obstacle to my facile pre-reading was the evocatively creepy stage design. Full disclosure: I helped build some of the pieces but the way my scant contributions were woven into the complete design was quite remarkable. I particularly liked how the weird assemblages of Book/Trees cast textural shadows around the room. Lines from the text were written in large letters across the floor, some of which were only legible from the balcony. That raised alcove offered other treats for the curious. The set was interesting before the performance but was even more intriguing after the actors had their way with it. While audience members filed out, I wandered the set again, taking in the family grave site that had been erected in one corner during the performance, and in another corner, the site where Heathcliff (nearly) exhumed Catherine’s corpse. It felt appropriate that “The Heights” was staged in Gallery 17, an art gallery in the Russell Industrial Center since the set evolved in respond to the actions of the play, becoming an art installation all its own. In fact, before the final performance this Saturday, Nerve is allowing patrons to tour this installation (3:00 – 4:00 PM, Saturday April 25)

I could quibble about certain infelicities. The echoe-y cement walls swallowed some of the dialogue. Before the show, we were warned about proper behavior, which gave a sense of undue delicacy to this rather rough and tumble ballet. And the audience clumped together at times like they’d been given assigned seats. No matter, the production roared to life subsuming all impediments.

Spring is the time for lovers, and Nelly’s stormy tale of Heathcliff and Catherine is indeed a timeless affair. In proper fairy tales, love ends in happy ever afters, a happiness which apparently relies on rightness and propriety. “The Heights,” however, is no such comforting bedtime story. If you’re fortunate enough to score tickets, this production portrays other passions, ones that leave us breathless, ruined, quite unfit for Heaven, yet darkly fulfilled.

Right or Real? Nerve leaves the choice to you.

Check here for ticket availability.

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“The Heights” — Nerve’s invitation to Wander the Moors

10978521_1571869419721918_1248196256115469464_nExpect to get your hands dirty if you were lucky enough to score tickets to “The Heights,” the latest production by Nerve, the Detroit based performance company. Nerve productions typically immerse audience members inside the playing space, and their adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is no exception. Ticket numbers are limited to allow participants space to roam the “urban moors” that Nerve has constructed at Gallery 17 in the Russell Industrial Complex. The run is extremely limited as well, just four performances, April 17 and 18, 24 and 25. (Tickets might still be available here.)

Any reader of the DailyNightmare really should be familiar with Brontë’s tale of stormy gothic passions, of sex and death and ghosts… though I confess I wasn’t. To prepare for the show, I listened to the free audio version available from Librivox.org. I am also prepared, however, to have a unique experience apart from a “traditional” reading of the text. Nerve has pared the tale down to its most vital spine to sharpen the essential question “…should we do the right thing or the real thing?” The drama is enacted by Steven Xander Carson, Rachael Harbert, and Marisa Dluge.

If you are wondering what to expect from the performance, Nerve’s mission statement provides some hints: “We define success as sensation. We take space and use it. We make consensual art. Our audience is everywhere.” From attendance at previous productions, we know Nerve’s “consensual art” invites but does not require the audience’s participation, yet the magic of the performance is enriched by the attendees’ willingness to play. The final alchemy of the event is more easily experienced in person than explained in abstract.

Nerve is (in)famous for its puppets, and I’m told several constructed actors will appear in this production as well. I’m curious how they will fit into this production– and the only way to find out for sure is to be there, but here are some previews:

Fair warning: all tickets must be purchased in advance, so if you want to wander these urban moors this spring, you’ll need to plan ahead. In fact, act right now.

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Nightmares about Bugs!

bug-47069_1280
If you are looking for bug-related nightmares to inspire 100-word stories, follow the links below. Keep in mind that we’re defining the category broadly, so topics can include insects and arachnids, worms and slugs, ants, bees and creepy crawlies as well as diseases, biological, mental and spiritual.

The March 30 deadline approaches quickly! Submission details can be found here.

Nightmare #249: House Consumed by Bugs and Rats

Nightmare #222: Water Bugs

Nightmare #182: Bugs Everywhere

Nightmare #339: The Needle and the Conqueror Worm

Nightmare #336: Pick on Someone your own size

Nightmare #225: Smothering Humidity and Heat

Nightmare #310: Larval Goddess

Nightmare #75: Snakes and Straw

Nightmare #71: Snakes and Chain Fence

Nightmare #143: The Dark Carnival

Nightmare #84: Bees and Spiders… and Nazis?

Nightmare #26: Monstrous Bees

Nightmare #360: House of 1000 Copses

Nightmare #358: Child Vampire

And to be sure, there are many MORE nightmares about bugs among the collection that would prove suitable for a 100-word prose poem for the Quick Shivers about Bugs anthology. We invite you to explore, to experiment, and frankly to shake up the editors’ mailbox. Be clever, horrific, reflective, playful and wise in your word choice. 100 words allows no time for fillers, dull words, or repetition. Are you ready to try? Good!

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Le Marche du Nain Rouge 2015, Detroit

According to legend, le Nain Rouge, a feisty local demon, cursed Père Cadillac over 300 years ago as he tried to found the city of Detroit. This “red dwarf” has continued to plot Detroit’s demise ever since… until Detroit took action.

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Every year, on the first Sunday after the Spring Equinox, the Nain Rouge re-appears in Midtown to heap scorn and sow discord in the the Motor City. And every year since 2010, Detroit has united to march the troublemaker out of town in grand style.

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Called the “Mardi Gras of the Midwest,” the annual Marche du Nain Rouge is a glorious expression of community pride. Equal parts Carnivale-type floats, home-town parade, semi-pagan rite of spring and old-fashioned Motown party, the Marche has steadily grown in attendance.

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Participants are encouraged to wear costumes so that the vindictive Nain Rouge doesn’t seek retribution. Creative folks live in southeast Michigan, as these photos attest.

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The predominant color is red, fitting both to the Nain Rouge and to local hockey team, the Red Wings.

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The Nain Rouge perched atop a mechanical cockroach that spewed smoke and dour music…

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But the revelers included the Detroit Party Marching band who countered his gloom with butt-shaking jams.
IMG_5668This year, attendees paraded the mean-spirited Dwarf down Second Street, starting by Traffic Jams and ending at the Masonic Theatre, where he was successfully banished for another year.
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A dance party ensued in the sumptuous Fountain Ballroom in the basement of Masonic. If tradition holds, that cantankerous dwarf will return next Spring so why not plan to join the resistance and take your place in the next Marche du Nain Rouge in downtown Detroit, Michigan?

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Long Distance Bromance: Ken MacGregor on Collaboration

I first met Ken MacGregor when his film “The Quirk and the Dead” was under consideration for the 2013 Impy Award. (Watch it on YouTube.) Ken wrote, directed and acted in that short, oddly sweet zombie movie, based on one of his short stories. But I really got know Ken by carpooling to monthly meetings of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. Ken’s relentless drive to keep writing and keep submitting is a source of great personal encouragement. Though he started writing professionally only a couple years ago, Ken’s work has appeared in over 50 publications. His first collection of creepy tales, An Aberrant Mind, came out last year on Siren’s Call Press. I grin whenever I even *think* of his character Gavin the werewolf. I asked Ken to write a bit about the experience of writing a series of novels with Kerry Lipp, a collaboration that was productive long before the two met face to face.
—–

Long Distance Bromance
Ken MacGregor

Writing has been called one of the loneliest jobs in the world. Sometimes, it really is. But, once in a while, if you find the right person, it can kinda be a party.

I write a lot of horror, among other things, and I’ve been picked up by several anthologies. Some of the same names come up over and over in the tables of contents and you start to get to know people. This one writer, Kerry Lipp (middle initials G.S. for Giant Squid – you’ll have to ask him why) wrote in a style I found very entertaining. His characters were people I could imagine drinking beer with. His sense of humor was remarkably similar to mine. His story-telling resonated with me.

So, around the end of 2012, I shot him a note asking if he wanted to try something together. He asked if I had anything in mind. I did.

I sent Kerry the opening to a short story I had started in which a man wakes up one morning physically dead, but still mentally sharp. He liked it, picked up where I left off and sent it back. We went back and forth like that until we had over 4,000 words and a complete story. It was called “Stiffed” and appears in an anthology called “Life of the Dead.” (This is a shameless plug.)

We had so much fun writing together, I asked if he wanted to do it again.

“Sure,” he said, cheerfully (at least, I assume so. It’s hard to tell tone in a Facebook message). So, I sent him another beginning I had. He liked this one, too, and we did the Ping-Pong thing with the words.
Somehow, though, this one got away from us. The story just kept going. Before we know what was happening, we had written a novel.

How cool is that?

So, from a chance meeting of two writers who liked each other’s work came the first of what will likely prove to be a series of books (we’re already 9,000 words into the sequel and have written a 4,000-word origin story of one of the characters).

Kerry and I have become pretty good friends through this process, which is great. The weird thing, though is that I’ve only ever met him once, at ConText in Columbus, Ohio.

I’ll tell you one thing, however: if we manage to sell this novel, we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other. In the meantime, we’ll keep writing, making each other laugh, leaving our characters in the lurch for the other one to deal with and having a hell of a good time doing it.

We’ll keep our long-distance bromance going as long as it keeps working. Though, to tell you the truth, I have been thinking about seeing other writers…

Posted in Fiction, Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers | 1 Comment

Daily Nightmare Interviewed by Little Red Reviewer

We were delighted to meet the Little Red Reviewer at Context this past fall and excited to be interviewed recently by her. You can read all the details on her blog here. We both had a great time answering her questions.

For an impressive 10 years, the Little Red Reviewer has blogged about books, authors, and reading. Her record as reviewer shows serious commitment. If you are looking for reading recommendations, check out her site!

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TREMENDOUS e-book deal — Subterranean Press Humble Bundle

Humbe Bundle Sub PressSubterranean Press publishes gorgeous editions of speculative fiction, and they’re based right here in the Midwest which makes them a special delight to the Midwest Horror Snobs here at the DailyNightmare. To celebrate 20 years of publishing, Subterranean Press is teaming up with the Humble Bundle and WorldBuilders with a great promotion. Hurry over to Humble Books to pickup some choice ebooks at very reasonable prices. BUT HURRY because the offer is only good until March 3rd.

Humble Bundle is a nifty operation which offers bundles of books, games and comics, and splits the proceeds with a charity. For the Subterranean Press promotion, pay WHATEVER you want and you get seven ebooks, DRM-free — (including The Ape’s Wife and other Stories, a collection of dark weird fiction by Caitlin Kiernan who is one the Doktor’s favorite authors.) Pay more than the average price (currently about $13 bucks) to unlock a FULL DOZEN more titles (including Clive Barker‘s Tortured Souls and The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein by Thomas Ligotti) or pay more than $15 to unlock the whole kit and kaboodle.

One slick feature of the Humble Bundle is a set of sliders that allow you the purchaser to decide how much of your contribution goes to Subterranean Press or a charity, in this case WorldBuilders. All, none, little, some, you get to decide. Worldbuilders deserves a plug all on its own. Formed as a registered charity by fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear) Worldbuilders rewards folks who donate to Heifer International. Heifer International is non-profit charity that seems to me is based on the traditional wisdom, “Give someone a fish, feed for a day; teach someone to fish, feed for a lifetime.” Heifer International gives folks the means to change the conditions of poverty and hunger. But if it’s not your jam, you can choose to divert your payments to Subterranean Press or Humble Bundle itself.

At least check out the deal before it closes on March 3rd. And if ebooks aren’t your thing, check out Subterranean Press for gorgeous hardbound editions of speculative fictions.

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Til Death Do Us Part– Films from Three Corpse Circus

Til Death at Corner

If you are among those who need a good mouthful of horror to get rid of the saccharine-sweet taste of Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to attend the Three Corpse Circus‘ upcoming evening of short horror films at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, MI. “Til Death do us part” will bring together a collection of films about love and relationships, but don’t expect all flowers and hearts– at least, not beating hearts. The show runs from 8 – 11pm on Tuesday, February 10, promising an evening of horror, love and beer.

The promo poster features a still from “Dead Hearts” which played at the Three Corpse Circus in October 2014, a movie that incidentally stole my heart. The ending of the film filled my nose with sniffles and eyes with tears– and who would have expected that from a film that included a first kiss in a mortuary, a blind karate expert, and Little Red Riding Hood taking on a werewolf gang? I cannot wait to watch it again.

Also on the docket is “‘Til Death“, a short black comedy from Hands Off Productions, the team behind the fantastic short film “I Owe You,” which won the 2014 Impy Award.

It’s always delightful to see what the Three Corpses provide for an event– and this theme and time of year is rife with possibilities. I’m looking forward to having my heart broken, played with, torn up, and stabbed. It’s Valentine’s Day; who’d want anything less from the movies?

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“I Owe You” – Impy Award Handoff

We got a SURPISE in Columbus…

The Impy chills in the Torpedo Room, Columbus

The Impy chills in the Torpedo Room, Columbus


When Elsa and I traveled to Columbus to award Jason Tostevin this year’s Impy, we weren’t prepared for our reception. The Impy recognizes cinematic achievement in short horror films produced in Midwest, but the rules somewhat jokingly note “with the possible exception of Ohio.” The genuine Buckeye hospitality we were shown made us seriously consider revising that proviso. Honestly. What could (nearly) prompt a change of heart in this second-generation Wolverine? In addition to his artistic skill, Jason Tostevin, producer of “I Owe You” and mastermind of “Hands Off Productions,” also throws a great party.

We convened at the Gateway Film Center, an impressive cinema destination in the heart of Columbus, adjacent to the Ohio State University campus. For this celebration, Tostevin gathered some of the principal talent involved in making “I Owe You” such a dark gem.

Trista Caruso who played “Diane” in “I Owe You” has also appeared in several “Hand Off Productions” including the medical horror short “Room 4C (2011)” and the heart-warming fantasy “Stones, (2010)” both of which were done as part of Columbus 48-hour film festival. (View her other IMDB credits here.)

Elsa happily reports that actor Brian Spangler (who played “Cam”) is as handsome in real life as he is on-screen. She was also not surprised that he fronts a band (Barefoot Swagger.) Brian has also appeared in several previous Hands Off productions, including twisted romantic horror tale “Til Death (2013)” and “Help Wanted” which was produced for the 2013 Columbus 48-hour Film Festival.
(View Brian’s other IMDB credits here.)

I was particularly pleased to meet Randall Greenland whose script provided a tight narrative cohesion. Many short films have a keen visual style and some even feature great acting but Randall’s economical and expressive script pushed “I Owe You” to the winner’s circle. Randall is also a long-time member of the team and has provided many scripts for Hands Off Productions. (View his IMDB credits here.)

Tostevin has assembled a team of folks who enjoy each other’s company and that sense of easy collaboration comes through in their films.

Randall Greenland, Jason Tostevin (with Impy), Brian Spangler and Trista Caruso

Randall Greenland, Jason Tostevin (with Impy), Brian Spangler and Trista Caruso

Jason has also found creative ways to work with other independent filmmakers. While taking his films to festivals, Tostevin encountered many remarkable short films that he knew wouldn’t get screened widely due to their brief running times. Tostevin worked with other award-winning directors to collect seven admirable films in “Seven Hells (2014)” a feature length anthology that premiered at the Gateway Film Center in the fall of 2014. Check out a teaser for Seven Hells here. Included in this collection is his own piece “‘Til Death,” a comedy-horror short about the unintended morning-after consequences that four guys discover after killing their partners. “Til Death” has won over 100 awards in various festivals, making it perhaps the most winning-est short in Ohio film history. Check out the “Til Death” listing at IMDB here. “Seven Hells” was such a success that Tostevin plans another anthology film, this one collecting various romantic-horror films suited particularly well for Valentine’s Day. I like a guy who finds ways to spread horror all around the calendar.

The Torpedo Room, inside the Gateway Film Center, Columbus, Ohio

The Torpedo Room, inside the Gateway Film Center, Columbus, Ohio

Jason chose the perfect location for this award celebration, namely The Torpedo Room, a steampunk-Jules Verne themed restaurant located inside the Gateway Film Center. I immediately fell for the decor of brass portholes, woodcut sea monsters, leaded glass and a view screen that looped classic Verne inspired movies. The Torpedo Room is a fully licensed restaurant featuring fun food and drink. I had a brussel sprout pizza and a blood orange wheat beer. The Torpedo Room’s concept is the design of Columbus restaurant legend Elizabeth Lessner whose other clever eateries include Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace and the Surly Girl Saloon all heavily themed, fun eateries. (Elsa and I added them all to our growing list of Cool Things to Do Next Time in Columbus. Before meeting Jason, I couldn’t have imagined such a list was possible.) One clever way The Torpedo Room partners with the Gateway is in creating special drinks to tie into the current running shows. Elsa and I are always scoping out what we call “Weird Date Nights,” and having the Torpedo Room inside the Gateway makes the traditional dinner and a movie easy and enjoyable.

Jason also arranged a personal tour of the Gateway Film Center. This modern day movie palace features both state of the art digital projection as well as not one but two theaters capable of showing 35mm prints. (Yes, there’s a difference.) While traversing the hidden innards of the building, I asked if the Gateway, like most theatres, was haunted and I learned of “Barry” (named after “Barry Lyndon,” of course) a good-natured spectre who occasionally unplugs devices and moves small objects. The Gateway makes great use of this facility to celebrate film, from independent features to classic gems to contemporary blockbusters. A couple of their on-going programs might particularly appeal to readers of DailyNightmare. The “Nightmares from the Crypt” film series screens lesser seen horror films worthy of a second look while their “Nightmares on High Street” series shows the best independent contemporary horror. I was particularly interested in their monthly “Show us your Shorts” event which is like an open-mike night for film. The first ten participants get to share their short film with the audience who votes for their favorite. Winner takes home the ticket sales for the night. What a great way to inspire filmmakers and foster a sense of camaraderie. The Gateway Film Center seems committed to making film a fun communal event.

Elsa and I chatted, munched and filled our list of cool Columbus must-hit locations, but we had one last question for our gracious host. We at the DailyNightmare believe horror is best seen against a backdrop of hope. What gives Jason Tostevin hope in this world?

My personal relationships make me hopeful. Some of the best, most supportive (and challenging, in the best way) people I’ve met have been on the film festival circuit; we’ve become an international network of indie filmmakers who promote and support and look out for one another. That’s pretty special and makes me optimistic.

In life, my wife and kids make me hopeful. Seeing my girls grow up in a world where there are real social issues being talked about and acted on — where most people agree that my daughters, when they’re grown, should be paid the same as men, that they don’t need to marry (but they can, including if they’re gay), that they should be free from men’s sexual expectations, that bullying is bad — has me optimistic that they’ll live in a world with better men and women than their parents did. And that’s kind of why we do it, right — tell stories and create a new generation. So the world gets better?

On this note, Elsa and I bid adieu to Jason Tostevin and the wonders of Columbus, assured in the fact that this year’s Impy had found a worthy home.

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Krampus Ball Ypsi 2014

A shot early in the evening when the dance floor wasn't packed

A shot early in the evening when the dance floor wasn’t packed

Let purists quibble that 2014 Krampus Ball Ypsi, held last night at the DreamLand Theatre, happened too long after the Feast of St. Nicholaus (December 6th) when the Krampus traditionally run free. There is NO better way to prepare for the shortest day of the year, than to dance the night away at a debauched masquerade. This was the first Krampus Ball that Elsa and I attended, and we were delighted top to bottom, start to finish.

krampsdance
I wish I could say that my dance floor photos were intentionally blurred to protect the naughty from Santa’s wrath, but truth is I couldn’t keep from shaking my ass long enough to take a good shot.

Spanking

As befits the Krampus tradition, dancers took turns getting spanked. Here, a marionette Krampus scourged one of the naughty, which blended a deliciously perverse Punch and Judy element into the already twisted tradition. Throughout the night, the Dreamland Theater’s cast of marionettes performed. Make no mistake: puppets party hard.

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But the highlight of any masquerade is the costumes. I’d worked on my costume all week (as I blogged about here) and Elsa dolled herself up good with her corset and Theatre Bizarre fez.

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I was extremely glad to see others had indulged their creativity.

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The costume contest allowed contestants to shimmy and shake during the judging phase. But in the end, the golden baton went, appropriately enough to a Krampus — complete with basket of bad children.

CarryingaTorch

At midnight, the festivities reconvened outside led by a locally familiar torch-bearer.

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A brass band performed as we paraded to a mystery location, behind a traveling screen of shadow puppets. These monstrous outlines of light and shade seemed particularly appropriate for such near Solstice revels.

FOllowing

On and on, into the night, into the wilds, we danced.

Fire

We arrived at a secondary party location complete with fire barrels, more shadow puppets, and brass band music.

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The party was still going STRONG when Elsa and I strayed back to reality, sure of only one thing: We’ll definitely be back for Krampus Ball 2015.

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Creepy Crafts: Krampus Mask

IMG_4521I’ve loved Krampus — St. Nick’s horned enforcer — for years now. I’ve posted about Krampusläufen (Krampus rampage-parades) books about Krampus and the vindictive Alpine beast nearly topped the list of 10 Best Holiday Monsters a couple years back. Until this year, however, I hadn’t taken the time to make myself a Krampus Mask. My final impetus came from the Krampus Ball 2014 to be held 20 December at the DreamLand Theatre, Ypsilanti. Yes, yes, it’s a bit late. Krampus typically appears around 6 December and St. Nick’s feast day but this event promises to be a Solstice-shindig, a time for monsters to let their hair down and cut loose… as if that would be a problem for Krampus.

The design for my Krampus mask started with a pallette to distinguish it from a mere horned demon (reds) or woodland faun (greens and browns.) I wanted to go COLD and than meant blues and whites. I’m channeling a bit of Cold Miser here (who also made our list of Best Holiday Monsters BTW) White fur, chilly blues… heck I was tempted to try icicles. I knew I’d wear this to a party, so I didn’t want horns that might poke others if I got wild on the dance floor. This meant curled ones. Honestly though, much of this “design” work happened as I started playing around with the materials. I find too much pre-planning can really inhibit my craftiness but your mileage may vary.
Face+Nose
Since I am a hoarder, I next raided my box of failed experiments where I found a forehead mask made of plaster bandages form-fitted to my face (and yes, I happen to have a model of my head made on a previous Weird Date Night with Elsa) and a gritty paper mache nose I’d made atop a commedia d’ellarte mask. The base mask was rigid enough that I thought it could anchor the horns. I also liked how the nose would echo the shapes of the Krampus horns. I glued them together with white glue and clamped them with bull clip style paper clips. The paper clips are incredibly useful tools, second only to my vast collection of brushes. Pro Tip: use a brush to spread the glue then wash the brush out thoroughly.

Horn after crumpling but before twisting

Horn after crumpling but before twisting


The horns started simply enough. I took a sheet of stiff craft paper (11 x 17 but I don’t think that really matters) and made a paper airplane which I crumpled up. It’s easy to overly compress the root part of the horns so I adjusted them after initial formation. Pro Tip: natural horns curl in a particular direction — check out some reference photos if your’e going for realism — but I was really accenting an asymmetrical vibe so I purposefully ignored Mother Nature and made two “right-hand” twisting horns. I’ve read that our brains find asymmetry to be “unnatural” and I wanted to tap into that sense to make my Krampus feel monstrous. For weight and stability concerns, I needed horns that were basically hollow so I added just a thin layer of blue paper towel wetted down with normal white glue. If I was doing this again, I might try applying the cloth layer directly to the crumpled paper airplane but since this was my first time making horns, I’m glad I used an intermediate layer. Dan Reeder of Gourmet Paper Mache.com even removes the interior paper once he’s applied the top coat. Papier-Mâché Monsters“>Reeder’s book Papier Mache Monsters has been a great encouragement in this project and others. His series of Youtube videos is both instructive as well as amusing. Check them out especially if you need to psyche yourself up before getting dirty with the craft gear.
Horns
The tricky part was how to let them dry without deforming them or letting them stick to a surface. Pro Tip: glue is sticky! I used two wire clothes hangers. I twisted them into a rough spiral shape and suspended them from the copper pipes in the basement ceiling. My workspace is quite modest by the way so don’t think you can’t do this because you don’t have a workspace like on FaceOff. My surface is half of a chest type freezer, illuminated by two bare lightbulbs, in a basement that lacks running water. Your most serious limitations often are in your mind… which isn’t to say they aren’t real.
Face+Horns

Face+Horns2

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Once things dried overnight, I attached the horns to the face mask with more white glue (use that brush for an even coat!) held in place with magic duct tape and clamped with more bull clips. At this point the structure is only semi-stable. Again, I suspended the construction with those deformed clothes hangers. (Note: I sprayed the horns with gray primer mostly because I was chickening out and needed to see if they even vaguely looked like actual horns.)
ClothOnHorns
This step is where the magic happens. Seriously. I have to give props again to Dan Reeder. Using cloth and glue instead of newsprint and flour-paste results in creations far superior to the papier-mache I learned in grade school and far cheaper and lighter than the plaster bandages I had been using. I started with the horns. I love the spiraling ridges found on some horns and decided to replicate them with the cloth layer. I wetted down one side of the cloth strip in glue, then rolled the long end to make that ridge. Then I wetted the other side, squeegeed off the excess and applied it to the horn starting at the tip. Again, real horns have a natural twist to them… and I realized too late that one of my horns has ridges going in the opposite direction to the horn’s twist. I let these horns dry while I was at work.
ClothCoatDone
When I got home, I applied the cloth and glue treatment to the face. I rather liked the warty texture of the nose so I focused on the forehead, mostly wanting to add stability to the point where the horns attached. Again, reference photos are your friend. Dig especially this video about how Dan Reeder replicated “Darkness” from the movie Legend (1985) While the glue is still wet, play with the strips. The folds are highly reminiscent of flesh already and with a little finessing using the handle of a paintbrush, they can be manipulated into rather subtle expressions. Don’t worry TOO much at this point. Paint will really help sell the shapes you’ve created at this stage.
BlueBaseCoat
After letting the cloth layer set overnight, the mask was ready for a base coat. I had half a gallon of light blue house paint in my craft hoard so I started there. I wanted tonal variation in the piece, going from nearly white at the tip of the nose to much darker on the horns. The base coat at least finally gave me a sense that the mask was coming together. I had some leftover blue spray paint also in the craft hoard which I used on the horns.
AccentCoat1
But then I realized that same deep purply-blue would be good for the creases of the brow and along the nose so I sprayed a bit on the face as well. I angled the direction of the spray down ward so to hit the crevices of the wrinkles. I figured worse comes to worst, I could paint over it with more blue housepaint.
AccentCoat2

Once the base and accent colors had thoroughly dried, I picked up a 1″ craft brush and started dry brushing more of the blue house paint. Dry brushing is its own kind of magic since the pigment only sticks to the raised textures. The monster was starting to come alive. I then used a bit of ice-blue (extremely pale) craft acrylic on the tip of the nose. I have learned from many bad experiences that it’s easy to ruin something by over-working it so once I got the general sense of color laid in, I let it dry. I got the overly dramatic lighting on this shot by hanging the piece on clothes hanger wire but then turning the picture upside down.

BeforeDetailing

While the paint dried, I took some of craft fur and started fashioning a cowl. I bought WAY too much fur… but it went into my craft hoard for later monsters. The cowl barely used half a yard. I got what was called “Grizzly Bear–White” fur, a name which I found kind of comical. I placed a corner in the center of my forehead and let it drape over my head and down my back. I figured I could get a rough head shape with two cuts radiated from my, ahem, bald spot area. I boldy made a couple snips. I hand stitched the pieces together and cut away the excess. The expert at the fabric store warned me to make cuts from the underside using an exacto blade or else I’d get a faceful of fluff. She was right. This cowl is NOT high couture and if I wasn’t wearing a blue horned demon mask on top of it, I might even be embarrassed to be seen in it. Mostly I wanted something that would read as a full head of hair as well as a bit of weight to help balance the mask.
PaintComplete
I grabbed my detail brush and used more of that ice-blue to accent the wrinkles in the forehead, the ridges of the horns and to add some creepy veins around the eyes. I glued a bit of fur scrap to the face for eyebrows and I was more or less done.
EyeBrows

My secret for keeping a face mask attached to my head is a shoelace. They’re strong, readily available and long enough to wrap around most people’s heads, which is my other secret. Some of the masks I make aren’t overly strong, and I’d hate to tear one in half as I’m tugging on the strings to fasten it around my head. To minimize the force on the mask, I run the shoe string through two holes just around forehead height. The string runs on the inside of the mask’s front.
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The cowl came out better than I feared given that I don’t really sew and I left it to the last minute. I made a tuft in the center of the forehead by cutting a triangle, then hand stitching the edges together to hide the seams and add some loft. Note well, HAND stitched. The expert at the fabric store said I could use a layer of tissue paper to help keep the fluff from mucking up the spindle of my sewing machine… but I decided to save that device for when I need regular, visible seams. I attached this tuft to the mask itself with a medium sized bull clip. I then finished the edged by cutting triangles, sewing together the seams then finger-pressing them flat so the seams were hidden. It’s a bit like a fright wig but it also adds a bit of stability and weight to the mask.
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I’ll complete the look by wearing my neon blue shark-skin tuxedo jacket and my black dancing-jeans. You could argue that this mask isn’t “really” Krampus since it lacks that salacious tongue, and you’d be right. But I’m also not bringing a basket to haul away the naughty nor a bramble of sticks to whip the insolent. But I also won’t be that guy in the low-effort didn’t-even-bother-to-try outfit. There’s satisfaction enough for me in knowing that.

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More Weird and Wonderful Gift Ideas

Doll Arm and Trilobite Beads Necklace by the Dreaming Squid https://www.etsy.com/shop/DreamingSquid

Doll Arm and Trilobite Beads Necklace by the Dreaming Squid https://www.etsy.com/shop/DreamingSquid

Here are a few more suggestions from the denizens of Dailynightmare.com to make your holidays a little brighter. As with our earlier Weird and Wonderful Gift suggestions, the ideas below are fantastic opportunities to show off-the-beaten-path affection for the macabre-lover, horror fan, or creatively dark individual on your shopping list. If you don’t have enough time to bring your gift-giving fantasies to life before your self-imposed or calendar-based deadline next week, keep this list handy for the other gift-giving occasions that arise throughout the year.

Check out the Dreaming Squid Dollworks & Sundries on etsy. You’ll find lovely and original handmade art dolls for display as well as jewelry pieces that combine skeleton keys, doll parts and trilobite beads.

We are big fans of MakerWorks, the local maker-space which sports a host of resources, from woodshop and metal works to fabric design and laser cutters. Regularly scheduled classes and workshops teach new skills to users of all levels. A membership could be the perfect gift for someone on your list. Personally, we are very excited about the new Punch Card program which gives flexibly of use for a busy person.

You never know what you’ll find at Painted Lady Trashions at the fabulous local art resource, the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale. Are you looking for Ouija board necklaces, vintage gas masks, or a frog skeleton? Their curated curiosity cabinets display a fascinating collection of arty oddities. The Rust Belt is offering extended hours for the next few days; see their website for the details. Not within driving distance? Check out the Etsy Shop.

We’ve written previously about discovering 3DKitbash at the Detroit MakerFaire, and we highly recommend their Boneheads skull kits as well as their printable fashion doll Quin. They’ve added additional 3D printer plans for both lines since we met them, so check out their site. This is a forward-thinking business to keep an eye on.

Screamshaw.com is local business with a webstore that creates jewelry with laser etchings on bone. We liked what we have seen and brought home our own souvenir.

Studio FX 101 in Troy, Michigan is a metro-Detroit maker space that emphasizes design, art, and architecture. The Doktor and I enjoyed one of our weirdest date nights ever making face casts under the skillful tutelage of the workshop leaders. Their offerings also include classes in sculpture and candle making and they sell craft supplies as well. Follow them on Facebook or their website for details on upcoming classes and events.

Books from the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers (GLAHW) make great gifts. They have published seven annual anthologies in the last seven years, which are available for purchase through Amazon, including Erie Tales: Omnibus (Volume 1), Erie Tales: Omnibus (Volume 1) or Erie Tales Myths and Mayhem: Erie Tales VII: Myths and Mayhem. A membership in the group could be a great gift for an aspiring horror writer. GLAHW is a pretty wonderful organization of which we are proud to be members. In addition to supporting and promoting horror writers, GLAHW hosts an annual fundraising party to support local literacy efforts.

Finally, our books make a great gifts for the readers on your list as well. 13 Quick Shivers: from Dailynightmare.com and 22 More Quick Shivers: from the Dailynightmare.com (Volume 2) provide novel reading experiences for lovers of poetry, horror, and typography.

Gift giving is a common transaction that can be imbued with extra meaning when the gift shows the thoughtfulness of the giver in knowing and honoring the recipient. Although the largest gift-giving season of the year is upon us, showing affection or appreciation to a friend or loved one is not tied to the calendar. Keep these extraordinary Weird and Wonderful Gifts in mind for year-round occasions to come.

Posted in bones, Book, Elsa, Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers, Toys, Weird and wonderful gifts | Tagged | Comments Off on More Weird and Wonderful Gift Ideas

A Last Minute Guide to Krampus

krampusIf you are a reader of the Dailynightmare.com, you certainly are aware of our fascination with Krampus. We hold such admiration for Holiday Troll that we have named him #2 on the list of scariest Christmas monsters. We’ve watched with interest as Krampus has become more popular in the US, and yet we know there are still some uninformed among the citizenry who could use a bit of background. Whether you’ve been up in the typical holiday rush or have a lingering suspicion about your place on the “Naughty List,” here’s a collection of resources to help you prepare:

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Krampus on Wikipedia

Krampus Los Angeles

Krampus Detroit

Costume Tips

5th Annual Krampus Ball in Ypsilanti, MI

Make a Krampus Mask— maybe next year?

Has Krampus gotten too commercial?

Krampus t-shirts and more

Krampus events listing

Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t made the most of Krampus this season. Like all good holiday traditions, KrampusNacht will come again next year, and with a little advanced planning, you too can celebrate it to the fullest.

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