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How I Spent Thanksgiving

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Frightening Scary Terror in the Cave

Last year I wrote a script for Big Spooky Radio Spookytime, which was performed live at the 2015 Twin Cities Horror Festival. It was a very, very silly script. If you’re currently in the mood for something shamelessly silly, here ya go…

“FRIGHTENING SCARY TERROR IN THE CAVE”

by Jeff Strand

YVONNE: All right, everyone! We’re finally here! Our exciting cave exploration adventure begins now! Can I get a “Woo”?

MARK: Woo!

LAURIE: Woo!

CRAIG: Woo!

BRANDI: Woo!

PETER: Woot! Wait, was there supposed to be a “T” at the end? I see a lot of t’s at the end when I see it online. Sorry, I’m not very good at making sounds of enthusiasm.

YVONNE: Is everybody ready? Let’s do this!

PETER: Can I say something before we start?

YVONNE: Sure.

PETER: If there’s a cave-in and we get trapped down there for days, I do not give the rest of you permission to eat my arm.

YVONNE: That’s fine.

PETER: I apologize if that sounds selfish, but it’s just the way I feel. If we’re drawing straws, leave me out of it. I thought I should say that before the situation comes up, so there aren’t any surprises.

YVONNE: All right, Peter.

PETER: And just to clarify, I won’t be asking to eat anybody else’s arm, either. That wouldn’t be fair.

YVONNE: It’s time to head down there! Can I get a–no, wait, I already asked for and received the woo’s. Let’s do this!

LAURIE: Question.

YVONNE: Yes, Laurie?

LAURIE: Isn’t this the supposedly haunted cave where six people died last year?

YVONNE: Yes. I told you that. You had eight hours in the car to come to terms with it.

LAURIE: I guess I didn’t realize until now that it was called Blood Spurt Cave.

YVONNE: It was on the invite.

MARK: In dripping red letters.

BRANDI: With screaming skulls around the border.

CRAIG: And when you opened the card it played scary music and made the sound of maniacal laughter. I’ve got the card right here.

SOUND F/X: SCARY MUSIC, FOLLOWED BY MANIACAL LAUGHTER.

LAURIE: Fair enough. I suppose I could have been more attentive.

YVONNE: Look, if anybody doesn’t want to explore this cave, they can wait in the car.

LAURIE: Nah, I left my iPad at home.

YVONNE: Let’s descend. Make sure you hold on tight to the rope, because…

LAURIE: [Screams as she falls a great distance.]

SOUND F/X: THUMP.

YVONNE: Not gonna lie. I figured one of us was going to plummet to their death, but I thought it would happen later.

MARK: What are we going to do? We can’t just leave Laurie’s splattered body down there!

PETER: How do her arms look?

YVONNE: Everybody stay calm. Her death is a tragedy, but she wouldn’t want it to ruin our vacation.

MARK: She was trying to ruin our vacation while she was still alive!

YVONNE: I promise that we won’t leave her down there for the cave-rats. All I’m saying is that maybe we could scoop her up on the way back.

CRAIG: Even I think you’re being cold-hearted, and we all know that I’m the sociopath of the group.

YVONNE: Fine. We’ll take a vote. All in favor of getting Laurie and then leaving, raise your hands.

SILENCE.

YVONNE: I can’t hear you.

SOUND F/X: SWISH! SWISH! SWISH! SWISH!

YVONNE: All right, that’s four in favor. And, yes, I’ll admit that Laurie’s dying wish was probably that we would treat her corpse with dignity. So who wants to go back to the car and get the plastic baggies?

BRANDI: I’ll do it. Don’t mourn without me.

MARK: While she’s getting the baggies, I’ll climb down there. I’ll focus more closely on safety precautions than she did so that I don’t meet the same grisly fate.

YVONNE: All right, we’re watching you climb down the rope.

CRAIG: You are successfully climbing down the rope.

PETER: You are almost halfway down the rope. Keep up the good work.

YVONNE: I’d estimate that you are three-quarters of the way down the rope. Continue keeping up the good work.

MARK: I believe it’s safe for me to let go now.

CRAIG: Nope, not yet.

MARK: Whoa, thanks for the warning. I almost made a fatal mistake.

YVONNE: You’re at the bottom of the rope now.

MARK: Wow, the floor of this cave is really soft and squishy and spongy and…oh, wait, that’s Laurie. That was kind of disrespectful on my part.

BRANDI: I’m back. I’m tossing the baggies down now.

MARK: Got ’em. Why didn’t you pour out the potato chips first?

BRANDI: If I had, you’d be all like, “Why did you waste the potato chips, Brandi? They were our snack for the drive home. Those things don’t grow on trees, you know. They grow underground. That’s how potatoes are grown, Brandi. They grow them in dirt and then they thinly slice them and then they deep-fry them and then they add salt and other flavoring. You don’t know anything, Brandi. You don’t understand how the world works, Brandi.”

YVONNE: I don’t think any of us would have said that.

MARK: It’s fine. I should be really grossed out right now, since I’m still standing on Brandi’s innards, but actually, I could use a snack.

SOUND F/X: POTATO CHIPS CRUNCHING.

SOUND F/X: FLAPPING WINGS.

SOUND F/X: MORE POTATO CHIPS CRUNCHING.

SOUND F/X: MORE FLAPPING WINGS.

SOUND F/X: MORE POTATO CHIPS CRUNCHING.

SOUND F/X: MORE FLAPPING WINGS.

YVONNE: Does anybody hear something else besides Mark eating potato chips?

CRAIG: It kind of sounds like bats.

MARK: Don’t be ridiculous. There are no bats in caves.

SOUND F/X: FLAPPING WINGS.

MARK: Oh no! My biology was incorrect!

BRANDI: Run, Mark, run!

MARK: They’re all over me! Their teeth and claws are pointy and painful! One of them is draining blood from my left earlobe! One of them is gnawing on the cartilage of my right kneecap! No, no, don’t unspool those! There are now seventeen or eighteen active geysers on my body! Nooooooo!

CRAIG: Mark is dead!

PETER: Maybe he’s not dead!

CRAIG: He’s skeletonized!

PETER: Yeah, you’re right, he’s not coming back from that.

YVONNE: Not gonna lie. I figured one of us was going to get devoured by bats, but I thought we’d get in some spelunking time first.

BRANDI: We have to contact the authorities.

YVONNE: No, they’ll ask too many questions. Don’t forget, our car is stolen and we knocked over a liquor store on our way here.

BRANDI: We can’t just leave them down there to rot! They’ll stink up the cave! It’ll be bad for the ecosystem!

YVONNE: The bats are full now, so I think it’s safe for somebody else to go down there. I nominate Brandi.

CRAIG: Seconded.

PETER: Thirded.

BRANDI: All right, I’ll do it. [She screams.]

YVONNE: What happened to her?

CRAIG: I don’t know! I heard it but I couldn’t see it!

SOUND F/X: THUMP.

PETER: Is that her head?

YVONNE: Well, it’s a head.

PETER: Her head came off! While we were standing here, something happened that caused her head to come off! This is madness!

YVONNE: Not gonna lie. I figured there would be the tragic loss of a head at some point, and, not gonna lie, I thought it would be the third death of the day. [A beat.] I have nothing to add to that.

PETER: I can’t stand this any longer! I was prepared to watch yet not participate in cannibalism, but I never anticipated this level of horror!

YVONNE: If you want to look at it from a “glass is half-full” perspective, fifty percent of us are still alive.

PETER: No, Craig’s dead, too.

YVONNE: Really?

PETER: Yeah. He’s right over there. Dismembered.

YVONNE: When did that happen?

PETER: While you were saying that thing about the glass being half-full.

YVONNE: Wow. Missed it completely.

PETER: We should never have done this on Halloween.

YVONNE: Stop that. They could have died on any major holiday.

PETER: Look! Craig has become a zombie! An admittedly harmless one because he’s dismembered, but still, a zombie!

YVONNE: Perhaps we should leave.

SOUND F/X: SCARY MUSIC, FOLLOWED BY MANIACAL LAUGHTER. (SAME AS BEFORE.)

YVONNE: Leave the card alone, Peter. Peter? Peter? Peeeeeeter? This is awful. I have nobody to interact with. If I don’t talk to myself, it’ll just be an awkward silence.

CRAIG [in a ghostly voice]: Why have you invaded our sanctuary?

YVONNE: Craig? How can you talk? You’re a zombie!

CRAIG: Noooooo. This is a ghoooooost, jiggling Craig’s body parts around so that it kind of looooooooks like he’s a zombie. You were warned not to come heeeeeeere!

YVONNE: No, we weren’t.

CRAIG: Yes, you weeeeeere.

YVONNE: No. You just started killing people for no reason.

CRAIG [normal voice]: You know what, maybe I’m thinking of the last group.

YVONNE: Must be.

CRAIG: You didn’t see the quartet of purple glowing disembodied floating faces warning you to turn back?

YVONNE: Nope.

CRAIG: Are you sure?

YVONNE: Yep.

CRAIG: I think you’re fibbing.

YVONNE: Okay, yes, fine, I saw the floating faces, all right? I ignored the warnings. What did you expect me to do? We drove eight frickin’ hours!

CRAIG: Well, you shouldn’t have done it on Halloween. Because, y’know, zombies.

YVONNE: But you’re not a zombie.

CRAIG: No, but everyone else is.

PETER/BRANDI/MARK/LAURIE: [Zombie-like groans.]

YVONNE: I’m going to leave now. Sorry for disturbing your ancient slumber or whatever it is.

CRAIG: By the way, we totally know that it was you that led the expedition here last year where those six people died. You’ve got some issues, lady. I mean, that is truly messed-up behavior.

YVONNE: What do you want me to say? That I won’t bring another group of friends here to watch them die?

CRAIG: I just want you to know that we know exactly what’s going on. You’re not fooling anybody. Except your doomed friends.

YVONNE: Fair enough. See you next year.

CRAIG: See you next year. Have a good drive home. Don’t forget the body in the trunk.

YVONNE: I won’t. Bye-bye!

The Crazy Stuff You Find On YouTube…

These kids are heroes.

Nightmares Film Festival Recap

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This past weekend, my wife Lynne Hansen and I drove from Tampa, Florida to Columbus, Ohio for the first annual Nightmares Film Festival. Was it worth it? (Spoiler: Yes. It was one of the best film festivals we’ve ever attended.)

Day One, Wednesday, basically just involved getting up ridiculously early and driving all day, with a brief stop for gross barbecue. We made it to Berea, Kentucky, in enough time to watch a candidate for president of the United States say “No puppet! No puppet! You’re the puppet!”

Day Two, Thursday, we finished up the drive and made it to the Gateway Film Center. One of the first things I noticed was that they had a poster for the 1981 obscurity The Pit, possibly my favorite bad horror movie. Then I realized that, next month, they’ll actually be playing The Pit! What kind of mad genius of a programming director goes with The Pit? I quickly began to realize that the Gateway might be the coolest theater ever.

We met Nightmares Film Festival co-director Jason Tostevin, who was enthusiastic and cheerful the entire weekend, despite the fact that he was running a film festival and was thus entitled to be exhausted and filled with rage. Co-director Chris Hamel also seemed to be in ridiculously good spirits the entire time. After a surprisingly good meal in The Torpedo Room (a small bar/restaurant in the theater), the movies began.

The very first film was the one I most wanted to see: Plank Face. This is because it was directed by Scott Schirmer, whose movie Found is one of my favorite horror flicks of the 21st century. And Plank Face did not disappoint. It is one dark, deranged, sick-minded movie that benefitted greatly from me not knowing much about it. It quickly set the tone for this festival; as it turned out, there were PLENTY of dark, deranged, sick-minded movies to come!

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Up next was ABC’s of Death 2.5, a compilation of 26 of the contest entries where filmmakers had the chance to be included in ABC’s of Death 2. I loved almost all of ’em, especially the one that was essentially Mad Max: Fury Road on Big Wheels, and this was apparently the only time 2.5 had been screened in a theater.

And then it was the Horror Comedy Shorts block, which was technically the reason we were there, since “Chomp” was included. I’d seen some of them already, like “Knob Goblins” and “The Barber’s Cut,” but there were plenty of new-to-me winners like “Connie” (an introverted female stand-up comedian becomes a star when she adds a foul-mouthed living ventriloquist doll to her act) and “Death Metal” (essentially just a series of gore moments, but funny as hell).

The night ended with Quad X, a mockumentary about a serial killer going after porn stars. The movie had lots of big laughs, and ironically, a movie about the porn business was one of the least graphic of the festival!

Day Three, Friday. A friend I hadn’t seen since high school, Jennifer Burke, lives in town, so we went out to breakfast. We were in several plays together. Since Jennifer could act, she got large roles. Since I could not act, but an insufficient number of guys auditioned, I usually ended up with 2 or 3 small parts.

I missed #Screamers but was told by multiple sources that it was one of the best found footage movies ever. But I was there for the world premiere of Pitchfork, which starts off as an above-average slasher flick but gets even better as it goes into more demented territory.

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Then it was the first block of Thriller Shorts. It was a consistently strong block of films, though “Monsters” (which I’d already seen) was the standout, with a punch-to-the-gut ending.

Acclaimed horror author Kealan Patrick Burke lives in town, so we met him at World of Beer. I only got to talk to him very briefly the first time I met him, at Necon, so it was great to hang out at length, talk about the world of horror writing and book cover design, and have him be a bad influence.

Andrew Thorne, VP of Marketing at the Junior Library Guild, picked me up and I went with him and his two sons to Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace. Ohhhhh yeah. That’s the stuff. I got the brisket and slaw dog and the Dog From Hell. There were eight or nine others I wanted to try, including the Slappy Pappy’s Super Sloppy, but there are only so many hot dogs one can consume in polite company.

Day Four, Saturday, we arrived bright and early for one of the Horror Shorts blocks. “Happy Birthday, Brenda” was my favorite of the ones I hadn’t seen, although I never get sick of “Night of the Slasher.”

We missed She Was So Pretty in favor of lunch, though people were going nuts for it during the post-screening Q&A, so clearly that was a poor decision. Should’ve just had popcorn.

The first Midnight Shorts block was a great series of films, though not nearly as f**ked up as you’d expect from midnight shorts. (The second block, which I didn’t see, contained the film “Gwilliam,” so maybe they saved the really insane stuff for that one.)

chomp-wins“Chomp” was a finalist for Best Horror Comedy, but was unlikely to win, so we sat near the back for the Nightmares Film Festival Awards. In a shocking twist, “Chomp” did win, so Lynne had a much longer walk up to the front of the theater to deliver her tearful speech. The award was designed by the guy who built the molds for the new Star Wars action figures, so writhe in jealousy!!!

Next was a block of Horror Shorts, including the amazing short “The Babysitter Murders.” It’s basically a slasher flick if you fast-forwarded to the last 15 minutes, with a truly sinister ending.

After that was the feature The Barn, a really fun, gory Halloween flick…and also the last semblance of normalcy left in the evening.

Because next up was Night of the Virgin, a Spanish film that starts off as a funny, quirky, engaging film, but one where you’re not necessarily thinking “The people who made this are out of their freaking minds!!!” By the end, it’s gone from “funny” to “laugh out loud hysterical,” from “quirky” to “unbelievably weird,” and from “engaging” to “you can’t look away because you can’t believe what the hell you’re seeing.” Holy crap, what a movie.

mv5bmtuxmdgxnzm3mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzk5ntg2nte-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_And then Night of Something Strange, which starts with some light necrophilia and builds to…well, not stuff you thought you’d see in a motion picture. Ladies and gentlemen, this movie is unrelentingly, hilariously insane. The back-to-back screenings of Night of the Virgin and Night of Something Strange may be the most over-the-top double feature I’ve ever seen. Kudos to the Nightmares Film Festival for breaking my brain.

My broken brain was not ready for the 2:00 AM Late Night Mind F**k, and the whole experimental film nature of “Law of Sodom” exceeded my threshold for weirdness for the night, so it was back to the hotel…

…to return early on Day Five, Sunday, for the second Thriller Shorts block. It was another consistently strong set of films, especially “Mauvaises Tetes (Bad Heads).”

Next was Diary of a Deadbeat, a fascinating documentary about underground filmmaker Jim Van Bebber. I haven’t seen any of his movies, but that must now be rectified. (“Gator Green” was shot locally, but I was out of town when it screened here.)

Then, Frankenstein Created Bikers, which followed the previous night’s trend of insanely over-the-top features. If the first year is indicative of the kind of programming that we’ll see in years to come, I expect to be a Nightmares Film Festival regular.

Dinner break! I’d done a webinar with Leslie Bermel of Junior Library Guild a couple of weeks ago, but I’d never met her in person, so we chowed down on Mexican food. If there’d been more time, a return trip to Dirty Franks would’ve been in order, but in this cold, cruel world, you can’t always get what you want.

mv5bzdm3zwi0mtctoty0zc00owm5lwfjmwitmmqymjg5njg5nmnjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynty3ndkxmjk-_v1_uy268_cr90182268_al_Then the world premiere of Rhyme Slaya, a wildly entertaining slasher flick in the world of hip-hop, with lots of laughs and one doozy of a body count.

I’d expected the “Who Did Negan Kill?” cliffhanger to be completely spoiled for me, but no, The Walking Dead season premiere was playing on the big screen for free! So I got to watch it with a large crowd, hearing the loud sighs of frustration each time the show went to a commercial break without revealing the answer, and hearing the audience freak out at the moment that Entertainment Weekly is going to spoil right on its cover, because Entertainment Weekly doesn’t give a crap.

And that was it. We said our tearful goodbyes and marveled at the fact that the Nightmares Film Festival HAD NO TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. That almost never happens! Film Festivals are usually jam-packed with technical difficulties. The only other film festival I can think of that didn’t have any glitches was Nevermore at the Carolina Theater. Crazy!!!

The next morning, we got up and drove all the way home. Nightmares Film Festival was worth every one of the 1020 miles it took to get there, even the ones we had to drive with a crack slowly spreading across the windshield after a rock hit it. That part sucked. Everything else was awesome.

 

Tuesday Writers Interview

Stacie Ramey did an interview with me over at Tuesday Writers, where I talk about Cyclops Road, my general lack of involvement in my book covers, and other fun stuff.

Check it out right HERE!

13 Halloween Books

Cultured Vultures has posted an article called “13 Halloween Books You Should Read (If You Dare).”

#6 will SHOCK you!!!

13 Halloween Books You Should Read (If You Dare)

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