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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

TAKE THIS JOB AND…

July 28th, 2007 Comments off

Wayne Allen Sallee

Brian Knight’s comment about his coworker in his entry of a few days back got me to thinking. No one at my job really brought up the process of how, say, WITH WOUNDS STILL WET, was published when I had paraded copies around. Certainly, I had back-up to my writing credentials, having been interviewed by CHICAGO magazine, the Daily Southtown, and the Chicago Sun-Times–the latter as I stood naked outside my basement shower on Memorial Day, it must’ve been a slow news day–as I learned from Yvonne Navarro how to send out press releases with my name as point of contact beneath my then-agent’s number in Manhattan. Need a quick column to fill, call the local number. Sadly, the reason I was even interviewed by the Southtown, our south suburban paper, was because when I got called at my job downtown, the guy was killing time because everyone else was in Grant Park watching the Bull’s Three-Peat trophy celebration. He was rummaging through open mail on the desk and thought my odd little announcement about my new collection being nominated for a Stoker award might make for a decent article.

Its my family that stretches my brain like, well, my atrophied muscles I sometimes mention, more than anyone I’ve ever worked with. (But I do think that we should all consider putting Brian’s coworker on every mailing list available, from Chick religious tracts to the Ron Jeremy and David Niall Wilson Mutual Fan Club…hell, give me the address and I’ll send the guy a photo of me in my blood-stained clown suit handing out copies of CAT FANCY in a city park that shall remain nameless.)

My daddy’s family all live within thirty miles of Louisville, Kentucky, and most of my cousins grew up expecting to work for General Electric or on the assembly line at Ford, which they do, while others work at Wal-Mart or Moby Dick’s. I have an auntie who was in several television commercials for Dentyne and Coca-Cola in the 70s, other than that, I’m what passes for someone who made it big, someone who is “the writer.” Something that is known but not readily mentioned by my mother’s family, all in the ever growing northern Illinois suburbs, because they are too busy discussing real estate or high-tech hoobajoobs. I’m not one to talk much about writing with either side, unless asked, but its my cousins with the million dollar homes that will just be completely befuddled even after twenty years of knowing what I do. I’m always a horror writer, to them I can’t possibly have written another blessed thing without stigmata appearing on my palms (which might be how my clown suit got stained, you think?). And they can’t seem to get a handle on how I can be in 173 anthologies and not be loaded with dough. When I’m in Kentucky, I’m a writer, pure and simple. That’s all that matters, its not about money. The only time its about money is when EVERYTHING is about money.

There are times that I think one reason that my creative output, at least towards paying markets, has ebbed more than flowed lies in the simple fact that, even though I am living paycheck to paycheck and haven’t had health insurance in almost three years, I’m pretty much content with my day job. I’m not like my relatives here in Illinois, but I can say that I am lucky enough as a writer that I can usually place a story I write to the first place I send it, and that many editors are kind enough to wait on my submission. I don’t know that my relatives who sell security equipment or retirement condos would have their money if they kept the erratic schedule I do.

I worked downtown for twenty years and change, and I wrote every single night as much because I despised the job I had as because it was an outlet for me to forget the job I despised. I needn’t go what I did for a living, but if any of you ever asked just where the eff I came up with jonalgiers as my screen name, I’d have to explain why I answered my phone at work as Jonny Algiers. Or Henry Desmond. Or Tony Mitchum. Depending on which light was blinking. (Brian Hodge won’t spill the beans; I still have the negatives from my Kodak Disk camera).

In my very first entry here at SU, I gave everyone the dilly-o on what I did to eat during my months of unemployment. I have now been with this printing plant just over a year, getting paid ten dollars an hour through a temp agency (with a pre-existing health condition, I’m not ending up on the company payroll; even if they didn’t offer me insurance, I assume their way of thinking is that I’d make a legal thing out of it if I injured myself. They’ve done the same with a guy with a heart condition and another who has pain in his arm similar to like what I have in my back. America, home of the free).

But I love the job. Everyone looks out for each other, things can get tense but nothing boils over, and best of all, I’ve learned to despise the boss and his son as much as everybody else. Several of my coworkers are closet anarchists like myself, others are potential characters in stories. I did actually write a story involving one guy who supervised me the first few months on the job, a true bastard to everyone, and not long after he ended up in jail facing twenty years, sadly, for killing a man in a three car pile-up a few blocks and a few bars from work.

If a new collection comes out, such as Midnight Library’s DOWNWARD SPIRAL, a four-author collection I am in, or my glossary in GETTING LOST, and makes the rounds, its more a novelty to see each person examining the stitching or running their fingertips over the glossy or matte cover. One guy in bindery knew about the article in which I was present at John Wayne Gacy’s execution, and told me how he had worked for the guy back in the day. His mother called him to tell him to turn on the television when the live feed of the body bags were being placed on the snow back in 1979.

And I come home and am not stressed out and write whatever the hell I feel like, be it blog entries, or helpful nudges to new writers, or just lines of a story that has no real direction yet. Several people have been nudging me to write a memoir, of sorts, and I am Martin Mulling that over, just because it can be about only a portion of my life. (Years ago, I thought of a set of self-help books centered around my butt, e.g., IDIOT’S GUIDE TO MY ASS, MY ASS FOR DUMMIES, Oprah MY ASS, with Mr. Hodge delivering the best of all, MARTHA STEWART’S LIVING UP MY ASS). So, no, it would not be self-help. Unless it taught the reader how to NOT ping pong around a Storytellers Unplugged entry like I do. One last paragraph, I promise. Well, two. OK, a few more.

A friend of mine, who I shall call Williams SidneyStone, has mentioned several times that he wished he could discuss several melodramas in the workplace on his own blog. I suggested we do a variation of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, and he gives me incidents to write about on my blog and I do the same for his, such as how every Friday–because I work the late shift– I print up five thousand flyers for a prominent black reverend who tells his flock to boycott white businesses, ours being oh so bright, and how the flyers get picked up by guys in do-rags and gang tats and payment is handed off with sweaty, crumpled bills.

So you see, I’m having more fun in my lab on a Friday night listening to Sandy Nelson’s LET THERE BE DRUMS cd and yapping your ear off than working on my story about gang revenge called “Proactive Contrition,” or trying to come up with an angle for a story title I’ve had floating around for awhile, “Jenna, A Drink Before”.

Yes, I am lucky in that I do not have to write under the stress of being a total unknown, but I also revel in the fact that I no longer wake up every day dreading seeing people who look like they envy the dead staring across the el car at me as it heads northward into the Loop.

Your chattel,
Wayne Allen Sallee
Burbank, Illinois: 28 July 2007

OLD HAUNTS

June 28th, 2007 Comments off

by Wayne Allen Sallee

You can thank Mr. Wilson for reeling me back in from the troposphere. Last month I had fully intended to do an entry about how writers, at times, have to write on the holidays–May 28th was Memorial Day–but I was in the middle of a private meltdown. Almost all my stories are thinly-veiled autobiograhical, so one day I’ll email everyone a nice story about a crazy bald guy blah blah blah.

Needless to say, Dave told me not to bail on SU, that I had something to bring to the table each month like everyone else, and to not think of the 28th as my day to write an essay, but to think of it as another blog entry. You know this guy was in the military, he would not let me leave this place. (Not saying its Iraq or anything, of course). So here goes:

I had to put on my Robert Mitchum CD to get settled after coming in from work. I couldn’t get Rascal Flatt’s “Life Is A Highway” out of my head for hours. I didn’t hear it on the radio today, I didn’t watch CARS with my nieces, I DON’T DRIVE, so why its in my head (or was, until Bobby the Mitch started singing “Thunder Road”) is beyond me.

Most of what I’m typing here was written down while I worked at the graphics shop this afternoon. Call me Jonny Analog, I still write things down as my first draft. After I fill a notebook, I send it to someone. Once I sent a journal to Peggy Nadramia (editor of GRUE) and she called me, thinking I was going to jump off a bridge because I had parted with something so important. Its almost funny, because now I can write my deepest thoughts (or my purpleist prose, and there I go making up yet another new word, recognized only by me), and “burn” them on a disk or simply email them to several dozen people. Or post them as a blog entry. This is my brain. This is my brain online. Any questions?

I had a specific topic in mind when I titled this post. I’ve been proofreading my past. I wrote a novel back in 1992, THE HOLY TERROR. Later this year, Midnight Library will publish a mass market 15th Anniversary edition of the book, with a new Forward by me relating how page 243 languished in my word processor for 68 days because I was hit by a car after leaving my doctor’s office, and how I wrote in snippets between operations on the mangled bones in my only good limb, my left arm, and when I couldn’t write, Yvonne Navarro received the supreme pleasure of typing chapters after deciphering my Demerol-slurred voice on an old-timey cassette recorder.

The book is set in downtown Chicago during the winter of 1989–I was hit by the car on March 18th of that year–and so many of the buildings and local iconography like Gold Coast Dogs that I mentioned are gone, replaced by parking garages for the high-rise condos next door. Its not like rereading, say, PROTOTYPE by the illustrious Brian Hodge. There is nothing directly definable within those pages as, say, the city streets in my book, but I remember Brian as he was writing the book, hell, I knew him before his second novel saw print.

But there is a weird sensation to again read a book by someone you know closely, as I do Brian and Beth. I look back to the early to mid-90s when there were no computers or dozens of area codes, and I’d receive letters from other Brian, Beth, and other writers on dot-matrix printers. Then the Pentium chip came along and I started falling behind everyone else in the sense of keeping in touch. Technology is my worst enemy. One of my stories, “Mitch,” is available as a podcast and I barely know what a podcast is. I’ve never seen one, except when someone burns one for me on a CD. However one burns a CD (just kidding, I’m not the Unabomber when it comes to these contraptions).

One of the extra AOL screen names I have is DrMilesBennel, after the main character in Jack Finney’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. One by one, my friends became sucked into cyberspace, pods pulsating as they grew beneath the computer desk in each home. I was no longer in the race, keeping pace with handwritten script, rather moving along with one typing finger, two on a good day. Never mind the pain caused by the fine motor function of touching the keys. (I can lift an eighty pound box, as I did earlier this afternoon at work, with no problem whatsoever, yet typing a word with three syllables–for example, syllables, ha ha–sends shards of glass into my neck and back).

I’m an old coot nearing the age of 48 and don’t care to use voice activation software because, well, because I tried and the damn program still isn’t that big a help (it can’t quite grasp my stuttering words which I do when spasming), and also because after I’m dead I’d like whoever is left reading my work realizes I never tried to do things the easy way. Mind you, I’m not pissing and moaning now. Certainly, I wish it was fifteen years ago and the world itself was a little bit simpler, conventions were a hell of a lot cheaper to attend, not just me trying to type and sell my stories to print magazines not e-zines or whatever they were called when this whole internet thing started.

I finally got a new friend of mine to submit a story for some werewolf anthology (online, of course, not an actual #%$#%$ book). She emailed me back all worried that she hadn’t heard anything back and was certain that her story was reviled. This was TWO DAYS LATER. I explained how it was Back In The Day, feeling increasingly older with every sentence. Sure, it was the first time she had sent out a story, but it shows the immediacy of everything now. If I am writing a new story, I’m not looking at my email for at least a week, never mind answering any of it. Its not that I can’t multi-task, its that I’m too damn slooowwww at doing more than one thing at the same time.

Oh, gee, look at the time. I suppose I’ve taken up enough of yours for this month. I don’t think I’ve written anything that the collective readership can learn from, I just did what Dave said and approached this as if there were a bunch of us sitting around a table in between panels at some unnamed convention.

Though its OK with me if someone starts the legend of a bent over bald guy named Jonny Analog, an urban myth who shambled from town to town, babbling odd stories about having to use self-addressed stamped envelopes and ink pens and other things from the dark ages.

Wayne Allen Sallee
jonalgiers@aol.com

I’d Walk A Mile For Bicameral

April 28th, 2007 Comments off

Wayne Allen Sallee
04.28.07

Okay, bad pun. I’ll admit it. But at least a large amount of the SU group will get the reference; I used this as an entry title on my blog, and I know the cigarette slogan went right over the head of most of my readers. (I digress, as usual, but that advertisement had to be meant for people who drove cars. How the hell FAR is a mile that makes Camels so special? I’d walk a mile for a damn Butterfinger). But my attempt was to find a witty way to throw a new word I’d learned into my title.

I am sometimes amazed at how long it takes me to read up on certain things. In my twenties I learned about solipsism from reading Philip K. Dick. Ten years after that, I learned about vestigial twins–too much, actually–from researching a story for one of Ellen Datlow’s anthologies, LITTLE DEATHS. (A cousin in Kentucky that I use as the Cook County Medical Examiner in my stories because of her medical knowledge mailed me a packet of photos from a manual that would make pictures of suicide bombers on Rotten.com seem tame).

And a week ago, while reading a website about the tv show LOST, of all things, I learned about Julian Jaynes and his theory about the bicameral mind. Right now, this aspect of my thought process is at work; I am thinking in my head as if I were talking out loud, hesitating as I choose words to make each paragraph into its’ separate brick.

Jaynes was a professor in Princeton who wrote a book in 1976 entitled THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL BRAIN. The simplest way to explain his ideas are to compare modern-day schizophrenics with ancient cultures who believed that the “other voice” in their head, i.e., the one I’m using now, was a religious vision. He gives a literary example in Homer’s THE ILIAD, stating that “there is in general no consciousness” in the tale. There is no subjectivity, the heroes of the book heard voices from various gods whom pushed the men about like robots. The men from The Iliad had no internal mind-space to provide for introspection. An argument could be made for, say, the Epic of Gilgamish, a tale from out of Mesopotamia which predates Homer’s work and illustrates the ideas of individual volition and emotions. The flip side of that is that the original writer is unknown and changes could have been made as the story was told repeatedly over centuries, a retroactive continuity of sorts.

Some brief brain biology here: there are three speech areas in our grey matter, the supplemental motor cortex, Broca’s area, and Wernicke’s area, the last of which is responsible for human speech. Jaynes focused on the corpus callosum, that little bridge as narrow and curved as one of Homer Simpson’s two remaining head hairs, that collects information from the temporal lobe cortex, but also the middle gyrus of the temporal lobe in Wernicke’s area.. If I think to myself how I’d like to walk a mile for a Camel, one of my ancestors might be hearing a voice he thought was God, possibly a benevolent one who thought that all tobacco lobbyists should burn in Hell.

I do my best writing when I am using first-person narrative, I write a bit faster and more excitedly, the atmosphere of Chicago–its’ smells, sounds, its’ entire being– is lost if I try and write something descriptive without it meaning something to the person describing it. As another example, it would take me much longer to write this if I was asked to write an article without the use of first-person. (Yea, yea, I can hear Dave from here, saying, if you’re so fast, why am I getting this in my email basket when I wake up on Saturday morning?!!!). Blame my bicameral mind, I think too much in my narrator voice–tonight I “sound” like William Demerast, Uncle Charlie, from MY THREE SONS, frazzled as I try to squeak this out before Dave wakes up at the crack of dawn– before actually writing, and then typing, it down.

My first published story, “Rapid Transit,” is the personal albatross around my neck. A lot of people seem to like it, and it has been reprinted seven times in four languages (Brian Hodge and I share having our stories reprinted in a Danish book, along with Joe R. Lansdale’s “Bubba Ho-Tep,” God help those throughout Finland). But there is not one shred of dialogue in the story, about a man who witnesses a murder from the elevated train platform and is too cowardly to do anything to stop the deed. But there is a huge sensory overload, a heaping helping of the intersection of 23rd and Western on a warm October Chicago night in Sallee-o-Vision.

Compared to my later work, I see that very few of those sights and sounds came from Dennis Cassady’s mind; it was me describing the area in photographic detail– I still take photos for later reference–tossing in a few nuggets about the smells of certain restaurants and fast food chains. But it wasn’t cowardly Cassady using his five senses; he only accomplishes this later in the story when he has nightmares about what he saw. My next published story, “Heartless,” about–get this–a guy who doesn’t get a Valentine and wakes up after a drunk night out to find a human heart in the mail slot of an apartment, at least had a sense of the main character initiating the descriptions of the bar scenes and the, um, gooey mess that dripped from…well, enough said already.

Years ago, as I waited on downtown train platforms in weather too cold to scribble in, I would talk into a small cassette recorder, much to the disdain of people who most likely now are carrying on conversations wearing one of those cell phone things that fits in your ear like a piece of designer shrapnel. Back in the eighties, I might have been a lunatic when it came to seeming one-sided conversation. I despise technology, as most of you know, but I found a battered cell phone a few months back; I carry it with me to pretend I’m getting a call to avoid having conversations with opinionated buffoons who seem to populate only the bus stops where I am waiting each day and evening.

There are still times that I will talk out loud, just to hear myself say something that I will then understand to be foolish or wrong to write in some certain passage. More often, it is that inner voice that sounds it out, which might be a lot easier if my consciousness sounded like Robert Mitchum and not Phyllis Diller after smoking a blunt.

My inner voice is now asking Dave if it is time for me to climb back in off the window ledge and let the next guy have some room. If you need me, I’ll be somewhere out in back.

Of my skull.

—-Wayne Allen Sallee
jonalgiers@aol.com

We Are Our Parents Now

March 28th, 2007 Comments off

By Wayne Allen Sallee

In the spring of 1996, at my granddaddy Grover’s funeral, I turned to my cousin Denise and said “We are our parents now.” My grandmother had died in 1992, and my point was that the generations had shifted. In an abstract way, we were now older and more mature, within four short years. Denise recalled my words when we spoke a few days ago.

I’ve been selling my stories for over two decades now, I was selling to GRUE at the same time Beth and Brian were two of the “rising stars” on the cover of THE HORROR SHOW. I had yet to meet some of you on this list, to others I am still an enigma. But as far as I am concerned, I am no longer part of the current generation of horror, indeed probably have not been since the last century. Some of our grandfathers, such as Richard Matheson, are still around stirring trouble, while most–Karl Edward Wagner, Robert Bloch, Evan Hunter (Ed McBain), and Charles Grant–have passed on to that great spinning rack in Heaven-Eleven, where we all expect to be one day, sharing shelf space with Slim Jims and Johnny Paycheck cassettes.

Pretty damn scary, when I think about how many people I have come to know over the years, since my first convention in Providence in 1986, some who gave up on writing too soon, out of frustration or simply because of family concerns, others who kept punching and kicking through all the necessary doors. And here we all are, most of us hovering around either side of the half century mark.

I find myself being a parent. As often as I can, when I am not trying to struggle with my own writing (I didn’t say I was a great parent!), I will provide moral support to new writers who really do not know anything about the publishing field, never even having been hurt by receiving their first rejection slip via email. (For those who didn’t catch it, I replied on Janet’s entry that I once received a handwritten rejection note dated 1956, three years before my birth. Maybe they were trying to tell me something and it wasn’t a misprint at all).

I work with a guy named Barton Fanning, about ten years my junior, who has a fantastic grasp of Lovecraftian prose. We work at separate computers in the middle of a press room, looking like Emeril and The Iron Chef at our huge flat box-like work stations, talking about everything from Cthulhu to Chick Tracts. His wife, Deb, is a pretty decent poetry writer, too. Even though I am not in any way a literary role model, having chosen my own Sallee patois over actual sentence structure, I have encouraged Bart over the last few months to truly follow his desire to write. He has nearly completed a story that fits right in with any Innsmouth nightmare, “The Drudgery of Abner Bode.” Here in Chicago, the Red Lion Pub hosts the TwilightTales reading group every Monday night (I was the first reader, back in November of 1993; a pall was cast over my reading by the announcement that Bill Bixby had died of prostate cancer). The first Monday of every month is open mike night; writers are encouraged to read novels- or stories- in progress, flash fiction, any genre. Before summer arrives, this Fanning guy will be reading about Mr. Bode in front of a drunken and well-fed crowd on Lincoln Avenue, across the street from where John Dillinger was shot to death. (The Biograph Theater is changing to the Victory Gardens, whatever the crap that is, but the double feature on that November night thirteen years ago was emblazoned on the marquee A PERFECT WORLD WAYNE’S WORLD. I still have the photo). Hopefully, I’ll also have a photo of Bart Fanning reading that story damn soon. Reading it to aloud to people is the first step towards sending it out to strangers.

At my job, I have no access to email but I can access blogs and comment on them. Long story short, I have been talking with a woman in Johannesburg, Drizel Burger, who is a big fan of Roald Dahl, and has posted many short vignettes that, to me, resemble the kind of writing one would see in Ben Hecht’s 1001 AFTERNOON IN CHICAGO, in which he took the task of putting something down on paper in the Chicago Daily News from 1921 to 1923. A few of her blog entries, particularly “My Pet Heart,” shows the gallows humor that deserves a wider audience.

Last week, she wrote her first long fiction story, involving werewolves and past lives, and she submitted it to an online magazine. Drizel is ready to accept a possible rejection notice, and I have taught her what the old-fashioned–is it perhaps considered obsolete now?–phrase ‘slush pile’ means.

It is a joy for me to see people going through those first stages I went through back in the days of new wave music and Miami Vice sportswear. Writing fragments and setting them aside, finally getting the encouragement from others to put something into what is now called snail mail with about seventeen stamps plastered over the envelope. I myself have now written for an online magazine, JanuaryMagazine, and my story “Mitch” is a podcast through the TwilightTales website. I see nothing wrong with Drizel or Bart wanting to have their stories in print online instead of in a magazine or paperback, at least until their careers get rolling.

Does anybody else here in the realm of Storytellers Unplugged feel like a parent? Just curious. With every new fragment I might read at work or through gmail, I feel like a proud daddy seeing a passing grade on some piece of homework. I revel in recalling that same feeling I had back in the 80s, unlettered, finally helped along and eventually making what amounted to me as the big time.

—-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