Tuesday, September 23, 2014

At the Anthills of Madness - a drabble

A drabble is a 100-word story, no more or less (though the title and byline don't count). They're a fun exercise to get the creative juices flowing. So here's one I did with my neighbor H.P. Lovecrabbe.

At the Anthills of Madness
By H.P. Lovecrabbe (with Joel Arnold)

Every day, small mounds of sand appear on my driveway.


The ants clutch grains in their ochre mandibles, depositing one atop the other in an eldritch precision.

I sweep the hills away, only to see them return the next day.

I crush the ants with gore-caked sneakers, poison them, set them aflame with a magnifying glass.

But always, the hills return, bigger than before.

Alas, I can no longer take it. I lay on my stomach. Talk.

We reach an agreement, the ants and I; a human sacrifice of a former virgin.

I invite a neighbor over for tea.

# # #

If you'd like to read the other collaboration I did with my esteemed, yet agoraphobic, neighbor, you can check out The Reeking - a short story for your ebook - at the following venues:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Frogs - the Movie

Currently available on Netflix is this early 1970s eco-horror flick. It's notable for starring an older Ray Milland and a young Sam Elliott - when his voice wasn't quite as iconic as it is today.

It's a silly film of a family on a large estate in Florida celebrating their grandfather's birthday (I think) and meanwhile, nature is getting its revenge on them. The funny thing is the way many of the people die in the film, especially when one of the women gets a foot stuck in some shallow mud, and is unable to defend herself against a slow moving snapping turtle. The frogs of the film don't ever actually kill anyone - the killing is done by snakes and tarantulas and alligators. The frogs just hop and croak menacingly.

There are also some good goofs in the film. There's a scene where a snake hangs from a chandelier, and during one of its closeups, you can easily see the hand that is holding the snake in position. There's also a scene of a flock of seagulls (not the band!) and if you watch closely, you can see little bits of bread being tossed into the air. I suppose to keep them in the shot?

Anyway, like I said, it's silly, and the best part about it is probably the tagline of "Cold, green skin against soft, warm flesh!"

Sure, it's on Netflix, but I wouldn't really recommend it, unless you're looking for a good laugh.

Here it is on Amazon, too:

3 Mario Bava Films - Bay of Blood, Black Sunday & Black Sabbath

Presently on Netflix are a bunch of Mario Bava's horror films, each with garish covers. I watched three of them, and here are my thoughts on them. I'll save my favorite for last.

Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve) - 1971:

This is considered one of the main inspirations for the slasher movie genre that became popular in the late 1970s and beyond. It really has no plot, other than a bunch of people killing each other off in order to receive an inheritance. There are a lot of inventive killings here, a few which were even copied in later films (Friday the 13th, pt II in particular) but it's a rather cheesy film. Gruesome, sure, but almost silly in its over-the-top style. And of course it has the required skinny-dipping scene.

The best part of this movie is the ending. I won't spoil it, but it's an awesome come-out-of-nowhere sorta thing that actually makes sense and serves as commentary on the rest of the movie.

Black Sunday - 1960:

Bava had worked on many films before as a cinematographer, and also filled in on the director's chair for a few earlier flicks, but Black Sunday was his first truly solo directing gig. It's shot in black and white, and is about a witch who's put to death, and then comes back for revenge a couple centuries later. There are some truly creepy moments in this one. When she's put to death, they place a mask on her face (the film is also known as Mask of Satan) that have spikes to keep it in place, and this is pounded onto her head with a sledge hammer. When she comes back to life, the spike holes are always present on her face, which adds a real ick factor (in a good way) to the make-up effects.

I thought it was a decent film. Nice atmospheric sets, good use of black and white. A little corny at times, but hey...

Black Sabbath - 1963:

Of the three Bava films, Black Sabbath was by far my favorite. It's actually a trilogy of short horror films, all worthy of watching. Each is introduced by Boris Karloff - in a similar fashion that Hitchcock did for his television series. It's fun to see Karloff sans heavy makeup, and it looks like he's enjoying himself in these introductions. 

In the first of the three, The Drop of Water, a woman steals a ring off of a corpse. She is later haunted by the ghost of the ring's original owner. Heavy creep factor in the makeup job done on the corpse.

Next is The Telephone, about a woman who receives mysterious phone calls from someone who should be dead. This one has a very Twilight Zone feel to it.

The last, and my favorite, was The Wardulak, starring Boris Karloff. A wardulak is an undead creature that attacks those whom it once loved - basically a vampire with family issues. Again, great makeup on Karloff that adds to the creepiness of the piece.

Like I said, all parts of the trilogy are very well done, and the sets, cinematography and acting are much better than in the other two Bava flicks I watched. So if you have to pick just one of Bava's movies, I'd recommend Black Sabbath. And yes, this is the movie that inspired the band Black Sabbath's name.

They're currently on Netflix, so watch 'em while you can!

If you don't have Netflix, here's a link to Black Sabbathon Amazon

Monday, August 4, 2014

Please help identify this pouch!

Does anyone know anything about this type of pouch?

This leather pouch has been in my family a long time, but we're not sure how long. It was most likely passed down from my great-great aunt Emma (Kittle) Mielke. She lived in Kenmare, North Dakota in the early 1900s and also in Paynesville, Minnesota. To me, the pouch looks Native American in design. It's about 7-3/4 inches from the top to the bottom (not counting the pom-pom type thing at the bottom). It appears to be made of 6 separate panels. It could be about 100 years old or even older. I really have no idea.

I'm hoping someone out there might now more about it. I'm just wondering what the design is called. Was it a tobacco pouch? A coin purse? Is the pattern a known motif? Was this typical of a certain Native American group or region? If you know, please let me know, too!
Both front and back have the same bead-work design.

Here's a close-up of the side panels. I'm not sure what kind of beads those are.

Here's how it opens up.

Some more detail - the rope/string is very soft. Not sure what it's made of.
Thanks for looking! I'm sure someone out there knows way more about this kind of thing than I do.

Google Play - ebooks

I'm slowly starting to put some of my ebooks up on Google Play. If you get your ebooks that way, then take a gander here, if you're so inclined.

I don't have all of my work up there, yet, but I'm working on it.

Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota, Author & Artist Expo

I was one of the authors at the Author & Artist Expo at Fort Abercrombie in Abercrombie, ND over the weekend. It's a well-run historical site and museum in a beautiful setting along the twisting and turning Red River. They give tours of the area via golf-cart, which is a nice way to see and learn about the expansive grounds. The fort played a role in the Dakota Uprising of 1862 - under siege for 6 weeks.

There were two other authors, and a handful of crafters - quilters, leather and wood-workers, photographers, etc. There was also a black smith on-site.

The Blacksmith!

Barb Nicholson, a well-known quilter from Kindred, ND, was there with her beautiful quilts and dolls. One of her quilts was even used as a prop in the show Scandal, appearing briefly in the second episode!

Here's me with Barb
Author Candace Simar was also there. One of her books, The Abercrombie Trail, takes place right at the fort! She gave an excellent talk on Sunday. It was great to meet her, and her books are all highly recommended, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.

Candace Simar
The drive was long from Savage to Abercrombie, but I'm glad I went. As always, it's great to meet new readers, authors, artists, and special thanks to site supervisor Lenny Kroeger and his wife Mary!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

White Crosses - a short mystery

My newest story. This one features the same two main characters that first appeared in my story Leave No Wake which was originally published in the Minnesota Crimewave's Resort To Murder anthology.

I got the idea while driving highway 191 between West Yellowstone and Bozeman through the Gallatin Canyon. There are so many white crosses there to indicate where someone died in a car accident. I tried counting them one time, and lost track at some point after fifty. This stuck in my mind for a long time, and finally a grain of an idea started to form. It really started coming together once I decided to use the Dick Varney and Noah Johnson characters from Leave No Wake.

Here's a little about it:

Mr. Varney and Mr. Johnson are on vacation out west, travelling in an old school bus they’ve converted into an RV. When thirteen-year old Kelly befriends them at a campground in Gallatin Canyon, they suspect that her guardian is up to no good. Is she the unwitting victim of a kidnapping? Or is something more sinister going on?

As Varney tries to make peace with a tragedy that happened years before, he and Johnson try to decide just how involved they should get in the suspicious circumstances that surround their new young friend.
The characters of Joel Arnold’s short mystery Leave No Wake are back for another adventure in this latest mystery short, White Crosses.

Available for the Kindle, the Nook, and other ereaders.

Thanks for stopping by!