Tag Archives: Halloween

Kickstarter Announcement: Horror, Podcasts, and Serial Storytelling

For the past few months, I’ve been busy scrambling about Central and North Georgia making people scream and cry. 

Don’t worry. There was a microphone involved. You’ll ALL hear their screams soon enough. 


Let me start over. 

Since June I’ve been recording vocals for a podcast project of mine, a horror series currently titled “Fire Call” In it, an agoraphobic woman reaches out for help against an obsessive serial arsonist with a mysterious connection to her past. In her efforts to reach beyond the bounds of her own doorway, she forges a bond with the 911 operator who takes her calls…and who has his own bizarre connection with the psychotic firebug terrorizing our heroine. 

The series was written to be intentionally short and simple. The entire plot unfolds as a series of phone calls, and involves only a small handful of actors. But, despite my efforts to keep the need for a budget to a minimum, production costs have arisen. 

Not exorbitantly, mind you, but still beyond my current capability of covering. Unless I, you know, decide to cut out nonessentials like food, water, and shelter. 

The biggest cost for the project is probably the biggest cost every online creative effort faces: server costs. While I had budgeted for the cover of these costs, the costs of filing LLC paperwork, and the costs of acquiring domain names has really built up, and there is little room for error should an unexpected curve ball, like (more) equipment or software malfunction, be thrown our way.

So to help with these costs, my production team and I have decided to do what all the cool kids are doing: beg for money from strangers on Kickstarter. 

We’re looking at a small goal – $500 to $1,000 – but we’re also looking to the success of the Kickstarter campaign to gauge the viability of this project and another we have in preproduction. Should we meet our goal – or, dare I hope, surpass it – the success will go a long way toward boosting our confidence in our project, and in encouraging us to follow through with producing its sister series, currently titled “Shadow House.”

Since “Fire Call” is a horror serial, I figured there was no better time to announce the upcoming crowdfunding effort than on Halloween. In two weeks, the campaign will launch, with plenty of perks for those lovely and generous souls who contribute, including a special holiday season token of appreciation come the campaign’s conclusion. I’ll announce its launch in a pleading, pitiful blog post, and we’ll see where things go from there.

Either way, this series WILL get made, but a successful funding effort will ensure it will be produced a lot sooner. Otherwise, look for the debut of “Fire Call” on iTunes in spring of the year 3179.


– The Awful Writer 


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Filed under Horror, Miscellaneous, The Podcast


old truck


The sign by the highway read: “HALLOWEEN IS THE ROAD DOWN WHICH SATAN WALKS.”

The sign a half-mile down added: “BY WHICH SIN WILL YOU TURN YOUR BACK ON GOD ALMIGHTY?”

Roadside Evangelical was little more than a white clapboard shack, too small now to hold the congregation it had grown. Most sermons these days were held in the field out back, beneath a blue tarp, in folding chairs that tested your faith. Today the chairs were replaced with plastic tables loaded with food. Children and their parents ran across the grass, alternately laughing and singing hymns. Short hayrides were punctuated with scripture quoted by those in the truck bed. Children bobbed for apples and were awarded pocket Bibles.

The door was open to Reverend Howell’s office, really just a trailer parked behind the church. The lights were off, and with the growing clouds it was hard to see inside. Scattered across the carpet were crudely scribbled Bible tracts, condemning the lust of homosexuals for God’s precious children and the urges of cross-dressers to peek into women’s toilets. In the far corner, the reverend’s chair was overturned.

They’d walked to the woods at such an angle that the church blocked them from the congregants’ view. Howell didn’t try to scream anymore for fear of choking on the torn shirt Lacey had jammed into his mouth. He could feel the fabric a hair away from creeping into his throat, and while the boys held his arms and legs he had no means of pulling the gag free.

They were strong, athletic kids, so they carried him a good ways through the pine trees. An old pickup, license plate removed, was parked about a couple miles in.

They threw Howell down, then picked him up on his feet and wrapped a heavy chrome chain tight around and between his wrists. Colt fastened one end to the truck bumper while Lacey and her brother pulled down his pants. Clint tore away at the reverend’s coat and shirt, utility knife in hand to sever the threads too thick and stubborn to yield to the tugs. Lacey pulled Howell’s pants so that his ankles were snatched from under him. He felt them pull his shoes away before finally pulling his pants loose. Someone snatched away his socks.

The rag had crept a little deeper down Howell’s mouth, and coughed as he fought his urge to gag. He was barely able to mumble “What are you all doing?”

Colt shrugged. “God’s work, I guess.”

“God’s work?” And Howell gagged again as the rag crept deeper down his throat. “How could this be God’s work?” he groaned, nearly unintelligible.

But Colt seemed to hear him. “You know about how my granddaddy was a code breaker after he got drafted? He always used to tell me that the secret of any code was figuring out what it was folks was trying not to say.”

Lacey propped herself up on the pickup’s tailgate. It was late October and cloudy, but the humidity was high and the temperature was in the low eighties. She was in small denim shorts, and she wore boots that hugged her calves. Howell looked away when he caught her catching him.

“Please!” he murmured. He tried to cough some of the rag clear, and felt bile rising in his throat. “There’s nothing Godly in this action!” Then he fell on back on the standby defense: “Look to His Word!”

“Codes always say one thing and mean another. And it’s not even so obvious as just sayin’ the opposite of what ya mean.” Colt flipped a pocket Bible through the air, one of a couple thousand Howell kept in boxes in his office. “You say He’s a God of love. If that’s the case, I ain’t so sure He’s the author.”

Howell’s blood was racing hot, and he tensed to keep from voiding his bladder. The pressure began to stiffen his prick. Lacey noticed and barked a little laugh, then reached out a leg and nudged it with the toe of her boot.

“Damn, reverend,” Clint said off to the side, “you sure have timing, don’t ya?”

A blond-headed boy Howell knew as Zach came out from behind him, stuffing Howell’s clothes into a nylon bag. He threw the torn suit into the truck bed before climbing into the cab and slamming the door shut. After a couple minutes Howell could hear the tinny sounds of country music from the radio.

“When you have us testify in town, you tell folks we’re witnessing before the Lord. I remember a lot of my granddaddy’s stories. That sounded a lot like code to me.”

“What…?” And Howell had to stop and fight back a convulsion in his stomach. He bit down on the shirt to keep from swallowing it. He felt his prick spasm and leap. Lacey watched it and laughed.

“My leg feels a lot better,” she told him then. “Nurse at school says I just strained it a little. Should be running track again in no time. I palmed one of them relaxers you said would help me and gave it to my sister. Put that little girl right to sleep.” She smirked and tossed her honey blond hair over one shoulder. “Just how relaxed were you wanting me to be that day, reverend?”

“They…they’re gonna find you!” Howell gagged.

“Maybe.” Colt shrugged. “Maybe not. If they do I guess that’s His will. Or, you know, somebody’s anyway.

Clint slapped the side of the truck. There was a clang from under the hood, and it lurched as Zach shifted gears. He opened the door and stuck a foot out, his boot digging into the dirt.

Colt clapped Howell’s shoulder. The sound of flesh smacking against flesh was intimate, violating.

“We’re just doing the best we can with what we can figure out.” He squeezed the pale skin of the man’s shoulder in an obscene gesture of comfort. “Plenty of snakes out here. You get a chance, let ’em tell ya a story.”

Zach stepped out, and the truck began to roll. It hit a sharp drop in the soil, and just as it began its descent its tires met an exposed oak root. The truck bucked and lurched, and Howell’s slow march turned to flight. He was slung through the air like the tip of a bullwhip. For a second the kids could hear his screams through the shirt, but he was quickly drowned out by the screeching of smashed steel and shattered glass.

When it was quiet they looked over the edge, and saw Howell lying fifty feet down. The truck he was still chained to stood on its nose, its roof propped against a pine sporting fresh scars. The old bald tires in back were still spinning.

Howell’s body jerked. None of them could tell if he was fighting to breathe or if it was just a muscle spasm. It wouldn’t matter soon.

“You all best get back to where you ought to be,” Colt told the others. “I’ll stick around to make sure it’s finished.”

They disappeared to the crunch of green twigs and the rustling of dry pine needles. Colt dipped some chew, and for good measure lit a cigarette. He sat on the edge of the drop-off, kicking down loose dirt with his boot heels. There was a faint pulse of light, and the distant growl of thunder. A few cool drops of water hit the back of Colt’s neck. He sat waiting until the rain came in force. Once he was cleansed, he would start the work again.

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Filed under Fiction, Horror, Miscellaneous

After Halloween


When he wakes up he can feel with his nose the faint moisture of his breath against her shoulder. They’re both naked and face down. He turns his head and takes in the smell of her hair. It’s sweet from product but there’s a light, clean musk from sweat and oil. It’d been a muggy Halloween.

The vague, clammy heat around his groin reminds him they’d had sex before passing out. They hadn’t blacked out, but the memory was definitely coming back to him in slow motion. Them walking to the spare bedroom to find some smokes he could give her. Putting his arm around her waist without thinking about how close he was holding her. The surprise that flowed through him like warm liquid when she’d kissed him.

Reaching below her Little Bo Peep skirt, hands traveling past the little red bows on her stockings. Feeling cool skin, the curve of her ass against his squeezing palms. Her undoing his belt with one hand, reaching into his fly with the other.

Kissing from one shoulder to the other across her bare back. Her arching her head and running her tongue against his ear.

The recollection is priming him to go again. Pressed against her as he is, he’s quickly growing hard. With anyone else, the idea of wake-up sex would be a more he’d never cross. But they used to do it all the time before she’d move out.

This isn’t her costume’s maiden voyage. It’s seen more use outside of Halloween than on it.

He rolls off her, and as the sheet falls away he takes in the sight of her. Muscled from college lacrosse, and long. She drapes so easily across the length of this bed. Tan skin and bronze hair. With the heat he feels coming off her while she sleeps, he thinks of her as an errant stream of molten gold.

The urge to lie back down and hold her pulses through him. He feels the familiar urge to want to keep her safe from harm. It’s an awkward thought; she’s taller than him by an inch, and though she’s slimmer he’d bet she’s a good deal stronger. If anything, all he could ever do is serve as a human shield. He thinks that maybe that’s what lovers are once the sex runs out.

Then he shakes the silly melancholia out of his head and slides his ass to the edge of the mattress, letting the sheet slip off and land on her in a heap. He grabs his boxers, shaking them free of the red lace panties they’re somehow tangled with. He sees the whiskey he carried in here last night. Somehow, despite the stumbling and rattling, the bottle had sat upright all night, uncorked. Wasn’t there a patron saint for alcohol?

He thinks of pouring a hair-of-the-dog shot, but he’s clearheaded and doesn’t have a hangover. He’d cut most of his drinks last night with tap water, so when the drunk hit it hit smooth. He picks up the open bottle and smells it, huffing the robust malted odor. It almost smells like molasses.

He doesn’t want to leave the bottle behind, but he also doesn’t feel like searching through a house full of sleeping people for the cork. Bad enough he has to make it to the bathroom to flush the condom. He looks back to the bed, lifting the sheet. It’s sitting between her legs, a few inches from her pussy. Condoms are so sad once they’ve been used. This one looks deflated, like someone’s gutted it. The wetness around it gives him the impression it’s bleeding out.

Jesus, was he always this depressing? He shakes his head again and runs a hand across his face, blinking and taking deep, deep breaths to wake up. He sweeps dark curls out of his eyes, takes a couple tissues from the desk, and uses them to grab the condom, then chucks it to the floor to pick up later. He pulls on his clothes and tosses the Hannibal Lector mask he wore by the door.

She sighs, turning her head, and snuggles deeper against her pillow. She twists her hips, and curls her legs – still in those striped stockings – almost to her stomach. She’s one of those people who look like they’re smiling when they sleep.

He walks down the hall to the toilet and flushes the condom, and on his way back he finds the cork for the whiskey. He stuffs the mask in his back pocket, grabs his wallet, phone, and keys, and totes the booze with him when he leaves. He takes a moment to look at her before setting the lock on the knob and closing the door, pulling until he hears the clang of the latch in the frame.

He checks the time on his phone. Three missed calls from her. The other her. The one who’d had plans across town last night. One text: “Hey, I miss you! <3”

He leans against the wall for a moment. Goddamn. He considers deleting the text. He needs a shower. He needs to watch his drinking. He needs to watch his hands.

The jack-o’-lantern on the counter is dark and cold, but it smiles warmly in the dim light of the early, cloudy morning. The kitchen window behind it ticks with streams of rainwater funneling off the roof. A few empty plastic cups crowd the pumpkin to the right. He pops the cork and pours a shot into one.

“Have one on me,” he says, looking past the triangle eyes to the lumpy, melted candle. “You’ve seen more than your fair share.”

He stoppers the bottle and heads out. The whiskey goes in the trunk, the clapping of the lid echoing through the quiet neighborhood when he closes it. The engine starts with a smooth grunt, and it’s the only noise he hears the entire drive back to his apartment.

The jack-o’-lantern sits vigilant by the sink. Steam from the whiskey continually builds and then fades against its rind. A single gnat buzzes around its nose. It sits, the steward of those sleeping in these dead moments when the living know they’re alive.

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Filed under Fiction, Miscellaneous

Pumpkin Grins


It’s cool tonight, and I light a cigarette and sit down among the leaves. The pine trees rustle from a breeze that doesn’t quite make it to where I’m sitting. The dim sodium light by the road outlines the bare branches above the house. Candles flicker in the laughing faces I’ve carved.

My earliest memory of Halloween involves my sister and I dressing up in stuffed costumes and going to our grandparents’ houses for candy. There is little memory beyond those vague recollections. The clearest image I have is of walking to the car, the streetlight having flickered out. I remember the comfort I took in holding my parents’ hands as we moved through chilly darkness.

A stray cat is walking along when it takes notice of me. It’s clearly nervous, and stands completely still while I smoke. I don’t move except to breathe. The cat looks off to the side, and something startles it enough so that it breaks into a run. I look where it looked. There isn’t anything there. I tell myself it’s the wind I hear sighing.

When I was about five, there was a Halloween when I was left alone in the living room. Not really alone, mind you. My parents were less than half a dozen steps away. But when you’re that small a shadow is an impassable divide. I sat beside the electric jack o’lantern, dressed in my plastic vampire costume, and listened to a battery operated ghost moan in the window whenever someone walked by. I became aware that I was alive on a magic night.

A light comes on inside the house. A shadow moves across the curtains. I’m apprehensive even though I know it’s just my sister. The light goes off. The shadow I saw won’t leave my vision.

When I was ten I rode through a spook house at the city fair. It was one of the better ones, before traveling dark rides let themselves get irredeemably cheap. I screamed when a rotting corpse hanging from the wall waved us by. I had never felt more miserable and scared than I did then, cowering in that electric car, my father’s arm around me. When it was over, I begged my dad to take me through again.

I carved three jack o’lanterns, even though Halloween is over a month away. They all have triangle eyes and triangle noses. Two laugh with square teeth. One screams with hastily carved fangs. The dark swirls like floodwater when the candles inside threaten to flicker out. The backyard is deathly quiet, and the streetlights do not reach where I sit.

Halloween when I was twelve was unusually robust. Every other yard was flooded with fake spider webs and plastic zombies. Three haunted houses left eager lines of giggling children trailing into the sidewalks. I filled two pumpkin pails with candy, and stayed up till two watching scary movies because it was a Friday. The next morning the decorations hung like crumbling ruins, and the city was quieter than it should have been for Saturday morning. It occurred to me that November 1st is the saddest day of the year. I consoled myself that weekend with a private marathon of old Hammer horror movies.

I lie back in the leaves, and watch the orange grins shimmer across the walls of the shed. At this angle I can hear the wafting of the candle flames. They each have a secret story they will only share with each other.

One Halloween, when I was nineteen or twenty, I met a girl at a party. We were probably both a little too drunk for it, but we ended up in a back bedroom. We kept our costumes on…mostly…and when we were done she was the first to leave. I dozed off for less than ten minutes, but it felt like I’d been out for hours. Before going back to the party I watched the shadows the tree branches made against the streetlight, and listened to the moan of the air as it rushed through a crack in the windowsill.

There are footsteps in the leaves around me. I tense up, until a telltale rustle tells me it’s a squirrel, out late to forage. It breaks away when an owl calls into the night. I hear movement in the trees.

I felt bad for eating the last of the candy. The last trick-or-treater had gone all-out, giving herself bloody makeup worthy of a Jason flick. I made up for my transgression by breaking into my secret stash, the cupboard where I stored my Lindt chocolate and my Ghirardelli bars. It was either that or give her a bottle of Maker’s Mark, so I erred on the side of caution. When they saw the fancy candy, her parents told me lightheartedly that I take Halloween too seriously. I told them earnestly that that was impossible. Later my roommate and I navigated our way through a haunted house, a warehouse to be exact. A rainstorm screamed against the tin roof while we scrambled through the dark. We were soaked to the bone when we made it to the car. The rain kept coming when we entered a haunted trail off a nearby mountain. I screamed and cowered as we went through cabins and actors whispered in my ears. Usually the performers went after my roommate. She’s five feet tall and petite, but between us I’m the coward. One actress picked up on this and terrorized me brilliantly. By two a.m. I was in my underwear and drinking beer, watching a horror movie while a strobe light flickered through my window. The light from the television imparted an eerie quality to the ventriloquist’s dummy sitting on my bookcase. I didn’t remember it facing me when I first lied down.

The cigarette has gone cold. I need to get up for work in the morning. I lean forward and blow out each of the pumpkin’s candles. For a moment I sit there. I let the chill in the air soak into my clothes. I can smell burned candle wax. The wind has picked up a little. It tells me a story, but only in whispers. I stand up, walking carefully through the leaves. Something instinctive tells me not to make too much noise. Even if I can’t hear it, something hears me.

I go inside, I lock the door, and I go to bed. Halloween comes every night, but only for the diligent.

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Filed under Non-Fiction

Halloween Twitter Serial – Reflections

It’s both weird and a relief that I’m not trying to do #thenightshift anymore. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the experience handily, and even though the finished project was a bit Roland Emmerich-y of me, I honestly came away with a little growth as a writer. So maybe it was worth it.

I never had much use for Twitter beforehand; most of my acquaintances weren’t on it, and any creative impulses I felt were either channeled into attempts at professional-level writing efforts, or through postings here on WordPress. However, I was drawn to what I perceived Twitter to fundamentally be: a collection of stories, pieced together through flickering glimpses into minds and events. I liked that a lot, and wanted somehow to indulge myself in this perception.

With October, and thus Halloween, approaching, I wanted to do something that would properly honor my favorite holiday, while also stimulating me creatively. And even though I had no idea what it would be about, one week before the month actually began, I announced I would start telling a story through a series of rushed, half-assed tweets. The announcement was small: to the few who followed me on WordPress, and to the acquaintances I keep in contact with on Facebook.

Luckily I was starting to gain an understanding of the importance of tags and hashtags on here and Twitter, respectively, and some fortunate combination of terms drew the attention of Emma Audsley from the Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog. Emma was kind enough to reblog my little update, and though I’ve hardly swept the online world, the increased exposure certainly encouraged me to keep up with the effort, even though for a good week I had no idea where the fuck I was going with it.

Ultimately, I’m glad I did it. There may be many things I’m disappointed with about it, such as

– the lack of thorough characterization

– an over-emphasis on action when I should have realized the format lent itself more to mood and atmosphere

– the transparently off-the-cuff style

…but there were also several things I took away that I think will help me as a writer, like

– recognizing that every line needs to count

– realizing every sentence can tell its own story

– understanding that a truly massive amount of information can be shared with surprisingly few words.

I value #thenightshift for what it is: as both a simple-minded little story about giant bugs, and as an experiment from which other, richer efforts can grow. I’m already considering another serial, tentatively called #novembernightmares, which will be a much shorter but hopefully much richer effort. Whether it’s wanted, or even if it’s rejected, is irrelevant. I liked what #thenightshift gave me, and if there’s more to learn from the effort, I want to know it. We’ll see how things go.

– The Awful Writer


Filed under Halloween Twitter Serial, The Book

Halloween Twitter Serial – November Nightmares

It’s done. #thenightshift is finished. It’s a terrible story, but it’s wrapped up, so it can’t hurt you anymore.

Should I carry another one for November, or should I let my friend’s misadventures at @TweetTheHaunt take over for me? I’m sure his feed will fill the void my horrible writing failed to satisfy.

Hope you all had a marvelous Halloween. I’m off to ogle trampy college girls.

– The Awful Writer

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Filed under Halloween Twitter Serial

Halloween Twitter Serial – When All is Said and Done

Halloween’s approaching, which means I gotta step up my game with #thenightshift if I wanna explain where the fuck the giant-ass bedbugs came from.

Oh. Uh, spoiler alert. There’s giant bedbugs in #thenightshift. Sorry ’bout that.

So, yeah, gotta explain the jokers somehow, though by “explain” I really mean “pull something out of my toned, dimpled ass.” We’ll see what kind of horrible quality I can achieve soon enough.

Original story to be posted as soon as I can fit in one last proofread, which will be a miracle, considering I’m working literally every waking minute until tomorrow night.

In other news, a guy I know just landed a job at a creepy old hotel, similar to #thenightshift but without the inexplicable mutant bugs. The place has got some…queasy history, is the best way I can put it, and unsavory stories abound about it.

I bring this up because, for better or worse, he wants to share his experience with you. Despite strict employee guidelines to the contrary, he’s going to be tweeting any and all experiences on the job, from the most mundane to the most extraordinary. Follow @TweetTheHaunt to see how (NAME WITHHELD FOR PURPOSES OF JOB SECURITY) handles the overnight shift in Nashville’s oldest, and most infamous, hotel.

Me, I got a cushy, corporate, chain hotel gig to get to, so for now my hainted buddy can suck it. For the conclusion of my terrible, horrible, no-good, seriously-this-is-really-bad, it’s-like-Michael-Bay-is-having-a-stroke Halloween serial, follow @SeanGanus. I promise it’ll be a letdown. Wait, no, I mean it won’t be a letdown.

Ah, I can’t lie to ya. It’ll be like I gave your intellect an immunity disorder. Don’t say I ever gave ya any wooden nickels.

– The Awful Writer


Filed under Halloween Twitter Serial