Posts Tagged ‘horror’

Dead Morty opened their only sold-out show with a cover of the Go-Go’s “We Got The Beat”. Interesting choice for a trio whose only female member was a drummer who could neither sing nor drum, although she enthusiastically did both for the entire set. The keyboard player was one-handed; he was stubborn, not disabled, and had to be coerced to perform. The guitar player was a veteran rocker who head banged with the neck-cracking precision of a Pez dispenser. The crowd roared as Dead Morty rocked the stage for nearly three minutes at the end of which the drummer thrust her sticks skyward and screamed, “We love you, Seattle!”

Experience Music Project (EMP) made me a rock god. It can make you one, too.

Swept up from the minute you walk in.

Swept up from the minute you walk in.

EMP is three floors of pure pop culture awesomeness with a two-story tornado of stringed instruments, the massive Sky Church with its 70-foot tall ceiling, and galleries featuring everything from Jimi Hendrix’s smashed guitar to Data’s uniform from Star Trek to special effects props from classic horror movies.

I like museums where you can touch things. This summer a museum guard chastised me for touching the glass over a painting. This fall a museum volunteer pointed me toward a room full of instruments and said “Play!”

EMP’s third floor is home to the Sound Lab and On Stage. The museum’s organizers understood that the best way to experience music is to actually make it. The Sound Lab introduces you to the physical creation of music through interactive displays with electric guitars, keyboards, and mixing consoles. On Stage takes it a step further and invites you to not only create music but to do it under hot spotlights in front of a cheering crowd. The only way it gets more real is if you join an actual band.

Sky Church, where you can worship everything music and movies.

Sky Church, where you can worship everything music and movies.

We wandered over to On Stage with curiosity, not intent. Neal, who has shoulder-length grey hair and started his own rock band after the age of 50, opened the door. “Come check it out,” he invited.

My husband, smiling, shook his head. “We could at least look,” I said.

The door shut behind us. The room was soundproofed and had a stage, spotlights, curtain, instruments, amps and simulated screaming fans. It was a concert waiting to happen, waiting for us to make it happen. Neal gave us the spiel: pick a band name, pick a song, pick an instrument, perform. Be as crazy as you want; nobody can see or hear you.

My husband was not ready to make an ass of himself. I was already sidling over to the drum set while Neal was still convincing Jay that it would be quick, painless and potentially fun. He even offered to sit in and play guitar with us. By then, I had dropped my coat on the floor in the corner and was sitting with my foot on the bass pedal and the drumsticks in my hands.

“What’s your band name?” Neal asked, as he fired up the equipment.

“Dead Morty.” Jay shook his head at me again. Morty is the custom mini-bike he built. It doesn’t run right now. Hence, Dead Morty.

“Right on, I like it,” said Neal. He ran down the short list of songs we could choose from. “We Got The Beat” was the newest addition and also the shortest. Jay acquiesced that two minutes forty seconds probably wouldn’t kill him. Then the lights came up, the music played, and we friggin’ rocked it.

Dead Morty: Live at EMP

Dead Morty: Live at EMP

Neal declined to mention that a video of your On Stage performance plays on two large flatscreens as you exit the room. A family of four was laughing at our footage before they stepped inside for their own three minutes of fame. I consider them groupies.

Our place in rock history was immortalized in a poster of Dead Morty live at EMP and two concert tickets from our one and only sold-out show. Those were crazy times, on stage, living the life. Yeah, I’m thinking reunion tour.

If you had the chance to play rock god, would you take it?

The boneyard

In the Thompson graveyard...

Thanks to horror movies, I avoid cornfields, distrust clowns, and only hang out with people who run slower than me (sometimes they can be really hard to find. Oh, Agnes and the girls at the Senior Center say “Hi“).

Amidst the dismembered body parts, demon-possessed kids‘ toys, and screaming co-eds whose wardrobes apparently consist only of tank tops and shoes they can’t run in, good horror flicks can provide solid, practical advice that you won’t get anywhere else. A few examples…

Looking for a vacation hideaway? Secluded cabins built over Indian burial grounds are never a good deal, no matter how great the price or the view.

Want to know if the hockey-mask-wearing, knife-wielding psycho on your front lawn is really dead? Kick him in the nads. If he curls up in a fetal position and screams, he’s still alive.

Need to find a bathroom on an unfamiliar road in the middle of the night? Avoid deserted amusement parks, drive-ins, gas stations, freak shows, wax museums and funeral homes. Pull over to the side of the road, lean your back against the car, and just go. But stay away from the cornfield.

Packing for a weekend at a rundown summer camp where 19 people have been murdered? Throw in an ax, good running shoes, and a flashlight. Leave the stilettos, Ouija board, and bag of pot at home.

Confronted by zombies and can’t decide whether to hide or run? Make a break for it. They’re the walking dead, not the sprinting dead, so odds are good they can’t catch you. If you hide, they’ll wait for you forever because let’s face it – they’ve got nothing but time to kill.

I’d love to share more, tricksters, but the “Horror Fest” marathon is starting soon and I need to get to class. Happy Halloween!

There are two old houses I pass on my morning walk that fascinate me. Both are big, hulking structures with peeling paint and overgrown trees on corner lots. One has porches jutting out on two sides and tall, skinny windows with sagging frames. The other has crumbling brick walkways and windows so scarce that I imagine it’s dark as a tomb inside. I’ve never been in either one of them but if I ever have that chance, I’ll take it.

These are the kind of places that make me want to write stories. I know what you’re thinking – big scary house, short scary story. Yeah, that’s what you’d expect. But sometimes good stories happen in the least likely of places. Not all ghosts haunt centuries-old castles. The fire of romance doesn’t burn exclusively on Southern plantations. And twenty-something singles don’t have ironic conversations only within the walls of hip, urban apartments.

Last year I wrote a screenplay called “The Courtyard” that’s a tidy mix of horror, science fiction and just a dab of romance. It runs about 110 pages which I’m told equates to roughly the same number of minutes onscreen, making it the perfect length for a SyFy Original Movie except that it isn’t about vampires, dragons, monster fish or a supermodel/rocket scientist trying to save the world.

The idea for the story came from another house I walk by frequently. It’s a neat adobe bungalow nestled in a neighborhood of ranch-style houses, and there’s not another house like it for miles around. It’s a typical hacienda, swirled stucco walls, exposed beams over the arched doorways, and a courtyard in the back. For years, I wondered, “What the hell was a house like that DOING there?”

As a story formed in my head, I knew I had to get into that house, specifically the courtyard. I’m a visual person and to get a sense of “place” when I’m writing a story, it helps for me to actually “see” where I’m writing about. That’s not always possible, as in the time I told my husband I needed to go to France to research apartments for a chef-turned-assassin novel I was writing but getting inside the hacienda six blocks away was certainly feasible.

I knew just knocking on the front door and telling the owner that my muse insisted I see the backyard would most likely land me in the back of a police car or a padded van. So I had to find another way in. And I did.

One Saturday morning, my friend Colette and I were driving from one rummage sale to the next when I spied a neon orange “Garage Sale” sign taped to an adobe wall. I wheeled into the nearest parking space and screeched to a stop. She looked at me over the classified section of the newspaper and said, “Hey, this one’s not on the list.”

“Yes it is,” I said, scrambling out of the car.

I walked rapidly to the open garage door, past the folding tables of outgrown clothes and cracked dishes, tattered paperbacks and outdated home furnishings. I shot through the open door in the back of the garage, Colette close behind, hissing at me, “You can’t go back there – the sale’s in the garage!”

It was too late. I was in the courtyard and it was everything I thought it would be and more. I pulled the little notebook from my pocket and scrawled as fast as I could. Fountain in center. Adobe sidewalls – 5 feet high? Cracked tiles by flower bed. French doors to back of house. Ceramic pots of flowers – dahlias?

“Hurry up,” Colette urged, resigned to her role as reluctant look-out. “God, why do I hang out with you?”

“Because I’m fun,” I replied, snapping the notebook closed. “I’m done. Let’s go.”

We went back into the garage, trying not to look like guilty trespassers, and I was headed towards the sidewalk when Colette smacked me on the shoulder.


She crossed her arms and looked at me. “Well, don’t you think maybe you should BUY something, given the circumstances?”

I rolled my eyes but she did have a point. I grabbed a ratty pair of Keds from the table next to me, paid my quarter and we left. Money well spent because even though they weren’t my size, I got what I went there to get. A good story.

I don’t know if either one of the monster houses will pan out for a story setting but I noticed this morning that the windowless one with the overgrown fruit trees had a “For Sale” sign in the front yard. Maybe the realtor will have an open house. Hmmm, where’s that notebook? And what’s the e-mail address for the SyFy Channel?

Never trust a clown. Always be nice to nerds. Because at your 30-year reunion, the nerds will be saving the world…from a clown.

Loose Morals is an ongoing feature on “Hot off the Wire” that shares the lessons learned from favorite books and stories in 30 seconds or less. Got a Loose Moral – funny, serious, insightful – that you’d like to share from one of your favorites? Post it here as a comment, or message it to me on Twitter (!/Kellyth2011) or Facebook (!/profile.php?id=1397365611&sk=info) and I’ll be happy to post it for all to read. “Hot off the Wire”: where having loose morals won’t get you arrested, put in therapy or sent to the principal’s office…

I’ve long been a reader of stories that scare the hell out of people.  My first horror story was Robert Lory’s “The Beat of Leather Wings”. It had me up all night with the lights on at the age of nine.  It was one of a number of equally scream-inducing short stories in a fantastic 1975 paperback titled “Boris Karloff Presents More Tales of the Frightened” which I checked out one fateful Friday afternoon from the school library. Now, what a book like that was doing in a Catholic elementary school library I have no idea but to the imaginative librarian who decided it belonged on those shelves, sir or madam, whoever you are – I salute you.

From then on, if a book had dismembered limbs, ghostly figures, or an unusually large amount of blood on the cover, I read it. If the title included the words “vampire”, “zombie”, “ghost” or “unholy terror”, it was on my top ten list. Edgar Allan Poe, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, John Saul, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson – my go-to team. 

My fascination with horror stories isn’t based entirely on how MUCH they scare me but more HOW they scare me.  A horror writer takes all the familiar elements of a story – setting, characters, mood, dialogue, plot – and twists and slashes and dumps them in a cauldron, stokes up the brimstone and brings them to a boil. Finding the right ingredients for a blood-curdling brew can be a challenge these days when reality is sometimes scarier than anything a King or a Poe or a Matheson could scream up.  

I’m working on a short horror story myself these days, what I hope will end up to be a delightfully dark little tale called “Jingle”.  While the cauldron’s more on simmer than boil at the moment, now might be the time for my group of readers to catch a few extra Z’s.  Because hopefully after they read it, the lights will be burning all night long.