Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

WHO STALKS THE STALKERS?

April 28th, 2008 Comments off

OK. I have no idea what that means. I just want to get this thing rolling. Somehow, in some way, I am writing this at 11 PM on Sunday the 27th because I worked today at the plant. For eleven hours. Go figure. I went to bed last night expecting to dream of Erica the blonde pharmacist at Walgreen’s who makes certain I’m not skipping my bipolar meds (and maybe that’s a hint for me to ask her out, the fact that I’m taking my meds in a timely way). Thinking to myself, yea, rainy day Sunday, write the essay, work on the comic, nap, dream of Erica ,alternate between reading George Pelecanos and Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space…then the phone rang at 7 AM. And that was that. I’m going to get through this now, then flop down and most likely dream the entire 108 minutes of CARNIVAL OF SOULS within an hour of waking up (all the better to feel like complete roadkill when I dream that early in the morning; I can’t have dreams about zombies that make me get up at 3 AM and urinate like the average person…)

Stalkers. A few weeks back, I mentioned to the SU group that I received an odd comment on one of my SU entries from 2007. I good-naturedly asked if anyone in the group had ever dealt with stalkers, or, what years ago might have been called “hangers on.” Well, one person I had never heard of was mentioned, and I again realized how out of the loop I am these days. I never even heard of the individual. I won’t mention her/his name because I am told she/he Googles her/himself regularly. I do the same, and somehow when I hit page 73, my name shows up alongside the phrase “sailor moon hentai penguins,” but there you have it. But there are many different ways to encounter the crazies that are crazier than we are, and I’m here to recount several instances of people who spend too much time up on Hard Rock Candy Mountain.

I have participated in book signings at several locations here, the Printers Row Book Fair, the TwilightTales readings at the Red Lion, and at the late, lamented The Stars, Our Destination. Before I tell you about the “it doesn’t matter” girl, I will say that I once had a man come up to me at Stars to have me sign a copy of SPLATTERPUNKS. The guy showed interest in wanting to co-write a story with me, then told me he had never read a story of mine and did not know who I was. All this before I even finished signing the book or spoke a single word. The kicker is that the guy had an old-timey plaster cast on his arm, the fuzz was coming out of the thumb area, and this oozy stuff like melted mac and cheese was caking to the book as I handed it to him. He tried to make further conversation in the cramped book aisles, and I recall sticking my finger in my ear and pretending to be receiving messages from the mother ship. Never saw the guy again, but I still recall that mac and cheese, which is why I likely will eat a bug before I open up macaroni.

The “it doesn’t matter” girl is another Stars story, though the origins starts about a year earlier. My chapbook PAINGRIN was published in 1993, and one night I received a call from *ahem* Stanislaus Darnbrook Colson Tal Emerson Lake & Palmer. He wanted to pass on the contents of a letter from some woman who lived in nearby Skokie, was deeply moved by my diary entries, and he gave me her phone number. Well, I had seen Griffin Dunne in AFTER HOURS, I should have known better. We talked a bit, she wanted to have lunch, it was a Friday during the summer, I thought what, I mean, WHAT could it hurt to meet her? She gave me an address off Clark and Kinzie. I’m thinking its that German restaurant now demolished. I see a big green building with no sign, no windows. Maybe it’s a trendy place with a side door, a back entrance. The sign to be read from the bridge or the elevated train. It was a methadone clinic. She comes out with this giant-size sippy cup of, I guess, methadone, and we go off jauntily to have lunch and run into her drug-addled friends. I’m thinking, boy, I am screwed. She is introducing me like I’m Jeremy Piven and she’s Drew Barrymore, only more like if her eyes were made of glass and made me think of John Barrymore, lying in a coffin with a sippy cup stuck to his embalmed lip. At one point, she went on the nod and I blew town.

She found me. Hell, she knew my name. It’s not like I use the name Vinnie Cthulhu or Mitchum Marlboro Spartacus. So I’m at Stars signing YEAR’S BEST HORROR:XX, and I’m sitting next to my artist friend H. E. Fassl. She waves, Harry says “who she?” and I mutter “it doesn’t matter it doesn’t matter it doesn’t matter” before she shows up and slurs surprisingly coherent sentences to me. She started attending conventions, mostly hanging out with the goth crowd, and ended up becoming good friends with Karl Edward Wagner that last year of his life. I was at Yvonne Navarro’s house, one of her VonCons, when she called to tell me Karl had died. Then she went to live with R. Chetwynd-Hayes.

But there is one guy I have never been able to shake, going on twenty years now. He has three names, as most serial killers do, and, well, yea, me, too. I first met him when I worked at a comics shop on Archer Avenue, and he was all into MK-ULTRA and mind control–the in thing for the summer of 1991, evidently–and he also told me that he worked on computer programs overseas. Being 1991, and being me, I thought he was designing the new Ms. Pac-Man. Then he started showing up at, yes, Stars Our Destination, and, yes, Printers Row, and then I’d get off the subway and walk above ground and he’d be riding by on his bicycle, fer cry-eye! This last did indeed happen, and I began to question my very reality. Phil Dick was alive and well and was writing about my life.

I didn’t see him for months, and then he showed up at a TwilightTales reading. He explained in whispers that he had not been around because he had been working as a military contractor in Iraq. I couldn’t pretend I was getting transmissions from the mother ship with this guy, because he was piloting the damn mother ship! I sent Mort Castle a photo of this guy, who is in the background off a photo of Mort and I at World Horror 02 here in Chicago. Remind Mort it’s the guy in the bright green lei, trying desperately to get in on our conversation.

I saw him two summers ago at Clark and Belmont simply because I chose to walk on the wrong side of the street, or so Phil Dick would want me to believe, and I was able to brush him off fairly quickly, as he did know I had a certain time frame to get my last el train home. Oh, I forgot to mention the time he walked into The Gallery Bookstore and I hid behind the stack of recent acquisitions until he passed by and I could sneak out.

So those are my tales, my anecdotes, what have you. I’m certain there are other tales to be told, by some of you reading this, hopefully by nobody Googling this. Hell, someone might come across this entry simply by typing in ‘hentai penguins.’

Until next time.

Wayne Allen Sallee
Burbank, Illinois 28 April 2008

I NAME THEE SIR BRYLCREEM

February 28th, 2008 Comments off

Wayne Allen Sallee

I had thought about calling this month’s entry “Butcher’s Raindance.” Sounds like a good story title, right? Even though I have no idea what it might be about…yet. Is it a ritual done by a serial killer, the dance being the way he sanitizes his crime scenes? Is it a song by an emo band (or whatever kind of music genre my oldest niece listens to these days), which, now that I’ve typed that, I realize I’d give up that route right now.

Butcher’s Raindance is the name of the floor-cleaning product used by Cardinal Cleaning twice a week at the printing plant where I work. A splash of blue in the mop bucket. There’s a Sundance product, I assume more of a disinfectant, but I’m really not keen on writing Butcher Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Call my silly. But the other product gave me two words that are enigmatic when slapped together, and I have it set aside in my commonplace book to use one day. The title above it is “The Brides of Science.”

Back in the day, Mort Castle offered me a chance to write a chapter for the Writer’s Digest book ON WRITING HORROR. It was already titled “Mirror, Mirror” and the point of discussion was where does a writer NOT get his ideas? Mort, being the wandering sage he is, had chosen me because I could come up with anything from that day’s news to simple scenes of the different levels of hierarchy in the citizens of Chicago, chain smoking executives bumping past the accordion man wearing shorts in November, or the preacher talking about the evils of tobacco and trying to convert shoppers at Old Navy on Washington Boulevard. I also added to the images, taking the “mirror” to be the bus or elevated train window, or even one’s own mirror seen first thing in the morning or the last thing at night.

Well, I’ve got this thing about my story titles. Certainly some images such as I describe above get my mind thinking, but I always, always, need a title before I write a story. I might know the ending line, but I cannot truly squeeze out a good opening line unless I have that title. One of most well-received cop stories, “In The Shank Of The Night,” is an example of where I had the title in my journal. When asked about it, I refer people to an overlooked Dean Martin song, “In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening.” In the shank of the night, if the doin’s are right, you can tell them I’ll be there. Yet “The Brides of Science” has been around for longer than “Shank”, which was published in 2005 in SEX CRIMES. I wrote a story called “Bumpy Face,” after learning it was slang for a cheap of cheap booze in a beveled pint bottle sold in the Loop. It took me five years to realize what or who Bumpy Face was, at times I even sunk to the point of thinking it might be a mutated hamster. Instead it became a story about an alcoholic and his daughter and statements given to the police. Looks like I’m ready to beat that gap in time with “Brides.” Hell, even my novel, THE HOLY TERROR, was a short story, a nice polack phrase from my childhood was that a kid could be a real holy terror. Peggy Nadramia from GRUE magazine sent it back, telling me that the story had all the elements for a novel. “For You, The Living” by Roadkill Press. A line from “Monster Mash.”

I’m a big short fiction reader, I suspicion it is more because I commute by bus or train instead of the fact that I write short fiction. So, if I have a collection by various authors, I will choose by title than by author or page length. Next to me on my desk, I have a copy of HELL IN THE HEARTLAND, which has stories, including one by me with a title I truly dislike, all written by Illinois authors and set in our state of five month long winters. Looking at the table of contents, I’d likely read “Wet Dog Perfume” by Michael Penkas first. The title stands out. The next book I have here is HIGH COTTON, a collection by Joe R. Lansdale, his ownself. How the hell to choose, right? Mind you, I’ve read many of these stories over the past decade, but sometimes you gotta re-read something simply because you need a reminder of how screwed up the world is through another writer’s eyes. I’d choose “Not From Detroit” right off the bat, just for the quickness of the title, followed by “Tight Little Stitches On A Dead Man’s Back,” because that story could mean so many different things.

Do any of the collected authors here have similar problems with titles? I don’t always use a title that comes back to be a phrase in the story, such as I did with the Bumpy Face image. I have a story about a nice doctor in my old polack neighborhood of Humboldt Park who becomes a vampire, and he chooses to end the suffering of many of his patients by biting them in turn. Most were invalids, or in wheelchairs, and I played on their chronic pain being gone in their new lives, therefore keeping Chicago–or at least the Polish neighborhoods–free from a plague of vampires. The story is called “Skin of My Birthright,” and I simply despise it! I could think of nothing better, nothing that wouldn’t smack of yet another typical vampire story, and, frankly, I have no freaking idea what the title even means!

But where the hell does the title of my essay figure into things, you say? Well, recently someone was screwing around at my parents’ 49th anniversary party and was going to beknight my father. In doing so, he sniffed the familiar odor of my father’s hair, and there you have it, Sir Brylcreem.

I’ll eventually write something using that title, possibly a nonfiction piece for KENTUCKY EXPLORER, my father’s home state. Until that time, I need to figure out what “Butcher’s Raindance” will be about…

Your chattel,

Wayne

Storytellers Unplugged 01.28.07: Mid-Life Heebie-Jeebies

January 28th, 2007 Comments off

by Wayne Allen Sallee

Hello to everyone at the Round Table and in the audience. I’m making a late entrance here, thanks to David Niall Wilson and Stephen Mark Rainey, the Dukes Of Hazzard in modern horror. Dave has kindly offered to cut and paste what I write here and post it on the blog, as I am, and always will be, computerally inept. And yes, I made that phrase up years ago; use it as you see fit. I have read past entries, but still would like to jump in cold, by describing the last year of my life and how it changed the way I had to market myself as a writer.

First off, much of the reason for the sporadic manner of my writing has to do with my cerebral palsy. I type with only one finger and, even though I am in much better health overall since the days of Beth Massie’s Pseudocon’s a decade ago, thanks to the non-addictive beta-blocker Gabapentin, my strength still ebbs and flows, changing with the weather (currently with below zero wind chills) and my mental state ( I started taking Lamictal this past summer, which is primarily prescribed for those with seizures and/or bipolar disorder). The slowness of my typing keeps me from writing novels and longer stories like, say, Brian Hodge, whose novel PROTOTYPE stands as the finest, yet most dismal, novel I read in the 1990s.

I had the security of a day job in the Loop for twenty-three years, until I learned the real truths of job security in this new century. The company was bought out, and the only employees kept on were older than me yet making half my hourly wage. I received unemployment, which basically covered my rent and the cost of my pain medication without insurance. I found myself looking for writing assignments in places I never thought to look before, because of the immediacy of the situation, not just the joy of receiving a contributor’s copy of a book and forty dollar royalty checks fifteen years after the fact. (I’d bargain that Brian Hodge and I share the most appearances in the same book, starting with NIGHTMARES ON ELM STREET and LOVE IN VEIN).

While still looking for gainful employment in any way possible, even as a birthday party clown named Slappy for Clowns2Go, I discovered various writing jobs through Craigslist. (I also had more time to type; back when Rainey and James Robert Smith requested me to write a story for Arkham House’s EVERMORE, I declined as much because of my illnesses as to the few hours per day I had to type). This type of literary whoring I had not done since going to the first World Horror Cons, the equivalent of what they call at City Hall the “grip-and-grin” handshakes and introductions. Only now, just as in the case of the majority of my job applications, I was forced to contact people via emails and feeble attempts at drawing on sending an attachment of a shorter piece of fiction that might show my writing skills. As should be apparent here, whereas I am fairly decent with my stream–of-consciousness big, bad city fiction, my nonfiction still needs help. But, as with the late Karl Edward Wagner and Dennis Etchison and Ed Gorman, I found some very patient editors. I contacted Jeff Pierce at www.JanuaryMagazine.com about writing a tribute to the late Evan Hunter, who, as Ed McBain, wrote the 87th Precinct novels. No money changed hands, and Jeff had me rewrite several sections, but I ended up with an article on a website that is a stepping stone for many who break into the mystery genre. And, face it, how I survive each day in a city like Chicago is still a mystery. Larry Santoro and Marty Mundt, two local writers who started a website, www.FeralFiction.com, had me write an article about the history of Block 37, a long demolished piece of land in the new theater district that was the setting for many portions of my only novel, THE HOLY TERROR, set in the skid row era of the 1980s. That one paid me $75.00 and covered my expenses for a few weeks, though a follow-up on our infamous Fullerton Avenue Underpass Salt Stain Virgin Mary never materialized because I had yet to start taking the bipolar meds. The biggest boon of my time writing nonfiction was when I literally shoved my full leg in the door of BenBella Books, writing a 56 page, 650 entry glossary on the television show LOST, for a book entitled GETTING LOST, edited by Orson Scott Card. At this time a year ago, I was likely poring over index cards, writing the four hundred something entry.

I found a job I was thoroughly unqualified for, working at a graphics shop in suburban Alsip, with the gracious help of fellow horror writer Joe Curtain, writer of DAUGHTERS OF THE MOON and a fantastic werewolf novel, MONSTERA. At about the same time, I was putting the finishing touches on putting together a collection for Annihilation Press, FIENDS BY TORCHLIGHT. Because of my new job, Marty Mundt and another Chicago writer, Martel Sardina, helped proofread the book for me. While my new job provides me with more time to write as I have the complacency of a twenty-minute commute by bus as opposed to two hours when I worked downtown, I make ten dollars an hour and have now been without health insurance for just under two years. But, hey, I’m employed. Because I’ve always known that I’d never make a true living from my writing. My joy is the printed word, the idea that others can be inspired by what I have written, not having a pocket full of bills like Tony Soprano. People have encouraged me to try a voice-activated system, so I could write without having to chomp on toothpicks or chew on my shirt collar for inner strength, but I’d like to be remembered as someone who wanted to be in charge of at least some part of his body, choosing my left forefinger over my nasally Midwestern voice. (Also, to be honest, that stream-of-consciousness I mentioned earlier might easily lose its edge if I relied on “typing” faster.) I even harbor the delusion that I will even be more well known more after my eventual demise, when I wave to the Grim Reaper and tell everyone who might be with me at the time, “Hey, there’s my ride!”

—- Wayne