Monthly Archives: October 2012

Two Strange and Unrelated Movie Experiences…

So, tonight my friend Randy and I went to a dry run of a new AMC Dine-In Theatre.  The chain took one of its existing buildings here in St. Louis and totally remodeled it so that patrons can now, in every one of its theatres in this particular location, order and eat dinner and view, say, The Avengers, which is what we chose to watch tonight.  Sound interesting?

Well, it was…kind of.  First off, AMC has put some money into this endeavor.  The place was totally renovated and looked nice.  Inside each theatre, the chairs have been replaced with lush, comfortable rocker/recliner things, each with a little sidetable and a swing out tray, for your plates and flatware and stuff.  There are, because of this, a lot fewer seats in the auditorium.  And you have to reserve seats, when you buy the tickets in advance, 0r choose from what’s left if you buy at the box office.

The service was great–attentive and friendly–if a little annoying.  I mean, I get frustrated when ordinary people get up and move around during a movie.  So, magnify this by about 20, and count on it going on throughout the movie as waiters bring drinks, entrees, desserts, carry away plates, bring the bill, etc.  It’s all too distracting.  If I hadn’t seen the movie already(about six times), I’d be a little miffed. For a movie that you really want to watch–or a movie that really demands your attention–this could be problematic.

And then there’s the food.  It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong.  It’s about the level of an Applebee’s or TGIFs, which is edible…if just.  But the prices were a little steep, especially since everything is basically ala carte.  I ordered the beef tips, which came with broccoli and mashed potatoes (I think…more on that in a minute), and it was ambitiously priced at $15.99.  No salad, no nothing.  Appetizers were all on the small side and generally about $10.  Drinks were ridiculously priced, too, and I’m only talking about the sodas.  $4.50 a pop…literally.  Dinner here is an expensive proposition, for food you can get just about anywhere else for a helluva lot cheaper.

Let’s not forget, also, that you’ll be eating in the dark.  In. The. Dark.  They have some discrete lights to the sides of the seats, but these do nothing to illuminate your dining experience.  To compound this, the meals we were served were atop black plastic dinnerware.  Black.  My meal was literally so dark that I never really got a glimpse of it at all, and was constantly surprised by what I put into my mouth each time I speared the fork down into the bowl.  Oh, a piece of…broccoli…I think.  Mashed potatoes….no, no steak!  It was all a bit disconcerting.

As an experience, sure, why not.  Once.  Maybe twice.  Or if you’re rushed some evening and want to grab dinner and a movie.  But this experience would have set us back probably $60, and that’s without the cost of the movie.  (We were guests for the trial run through an invitation Randy received.)  So, with the movie–which we weren’t told whether or not you’d also have to  pay for…but I mean, come on, I expect that–this would have been an $80+ night for two people.  That’s a little steep for average food eaten in the dark and a distracting movie experience.

We left this movie and rushed to another theatre to see the movie that we wanted to see in the first place…Sinister. Even though I am a horror writer, I am not, generally, a fan of horror movies.  And this one didn’t change that one bit.  The movie was tedious in its build-up, with dozens of minutes of Ethan Hawke walking through darkened hallways and endlessly threading film into his 8mm projector.  Honestly, Mr. Director, show the dude threading the projector once.  That’s enough.  You don’t have to show the projector being threaded each and every time the bloody thing is turned on.  We get it.

Anyway, the movie was dull, tedious, not very gory (thankfully, but that at least would have been something).  And, like most horror movies (and gymnasts!) it screws the pooch on the dismount.  The last five or ten minutes of the movie unrolled exactly as expected from the set up, and was ridiculously, shamefully lame.  It was one of those “Ahh, shit, we ran out of money/ideas, so…(SPOILER ALERT!!!)….let’s just kill everybody.  Everybody.  The end.”

Why can’t anyone seem to make a decent horror movie?  Sheesh.

Support the Petition to Stop Amazon from Removing Reviews!

Amazon, I Love You, But You’re Frakked Up.

I woke up the other morning, and like I do on some mornings, I went to check and see how my book, Little Deaths, is doing at Amazon.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that, instead of the 15 great reviews I had previously, I now only had 14.  No explanation, no note from the big A, nothing.  Just no 15th review.

So imagine my compounded surprise, and growing anger, when I woke up this morning and saw that I was now missing another review.  In two days, down to 13 reviews from 15, and still nothing from Amazon.

I wrote a little note to Amazon Author Central Customer Support noting these two deletions and asking what the problem was.  The Amazon Customer Support guy wrote me back rather quickly (so quickly, in fact, that it set off alarm bells; i.e., there was no time spent researching these deletions and why.  This was, instead, just a canned response.) telling me that, hey, you know, sometimes Amazon does this, don’t know why in either of these two cases, but let me refer you to our policy regarding reviews.

In other words, not an answer at all.  A corporate non-answer.  Now, I know what both of these two reviews were, and I know who wrote them.  One was a review written and posted by John Milton from, a great, legitimate horror website.  John gave me a great review on the AndyErupts site, and was gracious enough to post this also on Amazon US and Amazon UK.  The review met all of Amazon’s criteria, as far as I can tell.  John didn’t request that it be removed, and, in fact, it is still up here on the Amazon UK site.  So WTF?

I learned, stumbled upon really, that this isn’t an isolated problem.  Evidently hundreds of other authors (mostly small press and independent) are having reviews yanked by Amazon without so much as a by-your-leave.  Amazon isn’t offering any explanations, either, to the poster or the author.  Just yanking the reviews.

I understand that there is a wide gray area as far as these reviews go.  People–authors, fans and even enemies–misuse the Amazon review system, not just for books, but for plenty of products.  There are a huge amount of bad reviews (and by bad, I mean false or damaging or just downright lies.  Or even just ridiculous 5-star reviews from robo-posters and the like), but this seems an awful draconian way of addressing the problem.  Really, it’s a kindergarten way of dealing with it, as if Amazon is the adult and the rest of us are children.  “OK,” Amazon seems to be saying to us with the administration of this system, “since some of you can’t play nice, then we’re going to punish all of you.”  In the end, it’s dealing with the problem by not dealing with it; or, rather, dealing with the problem by causing another, bigger one.

There’s been an attempt to start a petition to get Amazon to reconsider its ill-thought-out position on the subject.  I signed up for it, and if you’re an author or even a reader/reviewer who spends time BUYING books from Amazon, reading them, then offering a well-thought-out review, you might want to sign the petition, too.

Go here:  Amazon Review Petition.

Honestly, I love Amazon.  I spend a lot of what little money I have with them, and they’re usually a pretty cool, forward-thinking company.  Not with this, though.  I work hard to get legitimate reviews for my books, and I am insulted and infuriated that they would decide, through some process that is not transparent, that the readers of my books are leaving reviews that don’t somehow quite measure up.

And Now More than a Few Words About Author Erik T. Johnson

Occasionally in this crazy writing world, you stumble upon someone who is kind of a kindred spirit.  That person might be younger or older, close to home or halfway around the world.  Their writing styles might be similar to yours or a stark contrast.  Or there might just be some kind of spark that you recognize in the person or his writing that says,
“Hey this person sees the world similarly and approaches his writing kind of like I do.”

Such a person is Erik T. Johnson.  We connected about a year and a half ago because both of us had stories that had appeared in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it anthology called The Zombie Chronicles Vol. 1.  Erik’s story was “The Purple Word,” about zombies and cats…but not what you think.  I had one in this anthology called “Love in the Time of Zombies,” which also isn’t probably what you think it’s about.  Anyway, I remember liking Erik’s story.

So a while after this antho appeared, Erik looked me up and sent me an email asking if I’d heard anything or received a contributor copy.  We struck up a conversation, and we’ve been pen-palling it ever since.  We recently exchanged signed copies of our books–five titles, variously engraved, from him; one book (Little Deaths) from me.  I got the better deal.

Let me share some words about his work.

Shimmer No. 13

His story in this issue, “Labrusca Cognatus,” is a short one, but it’s filled with what I love about Erik’s work…namely his ability to turn a phrase that is so surreal and so lovely that it makes you want to go back and reread it.  For example:

“My father spent his life trying to commit suicide in various unconventional ways in the belief that certain specific forms of death would lead to corresponding reincarnations.  He was often unsuccessful.”

“Next he tried to be struck on the head by the last drop of rain in a thunderstorm, which he believed was the heaviest, but that last drop landed elsewhere, for he passed these events soggy but alive.”

It’s a short story with a nice jab to it.
WTF! An Anthology

Published by Pink Narcissus Press in 2011, WTF! features a cover with rat flipping you off.  How can you go wrong with that?  It’s a varied collection, with an emphasis on the surreal.  Erik’s story, “The Red Jumpsuit Conspiracy,” is one of his stories featuring the detective Martin Box.  It’s got dead professors, brownies with exactly three nuts, and yeah, red jumpsuits.  He’s got several Martin Box stories and they’re, at turns, funny, weird, unsettling and filled with the most outrageous images.

Pellucid Lunacy

This antho is more of a psychological horror collection, and Erik’s story here “The Inconsolable Key Co.,” doesn’t disappoint.  (I love his titles, too.  I’m very big on titles.  They’re important.)  This little gem lets you know that keys sometimes open the least desirable of places.


“The Ballad of the Bullet Holes” is another Martin Box story, and it’s about as surreal as a detective story can get, but again filled with Erik’s humor and his great lines.  “His nails were long and dirty and his sparse hair unwashed.  He reeked of bladder failure.”  Or how about, “Quid lifted the body and placed it sitting upright on a chair to examine the sucker marks, which he repeatedly traced with long fingers as though playing the rims of crystal glasses.”  Those kinds of lines make me smile.

The Shadow of the Unknown

This one is a Lovecraftian collection and Erik’s story, “Blumenkrank,” centers on a strange boarder in a bleak house and what goes on in his rented room.  It’s very reminiscent of Jeff VanderMeer, and I mean that in an entirely great way.  It’s creepy and atmospheric and extremely otherworldly.

Well, at any rate, I hope I’ve convinced you to take a look at Erik’s work.  It’s fantastic, and I am a big fan.  I know he’s working on some new stuff, and I can’t wait to read it!

Visit Erik here.

10,000 Hits & 3,100 Followers!

My blog just surpassed 10,000 hits and 3,100 followers in less than two years.

Thanks to everyone who subscribes and follows to see what’s going on with me and my writing!

Stay tuned…more cool stuff to follow!

Read “Darkness Upon the Void” and Enter to Win a Copy of Little Deaths!

The 18 days 0f Halloween start today at Author Karen Heard’s Hell House Hotel Halloween Calendar.  And to kick it off, one of my stories from Little Deaths is available to read or download for FREE!  Absolutely free.  The story is “Darkness Upon the Void,” and it’s hands-down the most gruesome story in the collection.

You can also register to win a signed copy of Little Deaths.

Go here, and click on the lit window in the Hell House Hotel.

Of course, go here to get your own copy of Little Deaths!

I’m on Flashes in the Dark Radio With Two Hot Chicks!

I am featured in the new episode of Flashes in the Dark Radio, a podcast done by two lovely lady authors, Lori Titus and Tonia Brown.   I had a blast doing it, and we talked about all sorts of stuff–my book Little Deaths, horror in general.  It was a wide-ranging and generally funny conversation, and I think you’ll enjoy it!

Head over and take a listen here.


I’m Part of Karen Heard’s Halloween Countdown Calendar!

Karen Heard, a British author of Gothic fiction, mysteries and ghost stories, has undertaken a cool idea to promote Halloween.  She’s got a site that’s a sort of Halloween Advent calendar, where each day from Oct. 18th through Halloween, a new story and/or giveaway will be available each day.  Our Halloween countdown is soon approaching, so I thought I’d just confirm what is happening, when, and how you can help promote your page and the calendar in general.

The url of the calendar page is:

When the countdown starts, the lights in the hotel will start to go on, and the rooms will start to open up to reveal the free downloads.

The countdown begins on the 18th October. Bookmark the page now at, or sign up for the newsletter to be reminded when the countdown begins.

I’ve got a story from Little Deaths appearing on the calendar for free.  Can’t ruin the surprise and tell you which day it appears, but it’s called “Darkness Upon the Void,” and it’s a doozy, grisly short story that’s not for the faint of heart. Check back each day between Oct. 18th and Halloween, because there’s new stuff each day, including some contests for some free things, including:

  •     Win a signed copy ofLittle Deaths by John F D Taff
  •     Win a digital copy of Scared: Ten Tales of Horror edited by Rayne Hall
  •     Win a digital copy of ‘It’s Dark Inside by Karen Heard.
  •     Free subscription to Haunted magazine offer
So head on over and take a look.  You can also follow Karen’s blog here or on Twitter @MisHeardFiction.

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