Mid-July is when the Halloween nightmares start. The recurring dream is that it’s 6 P.M. on Halloween night, kids are walking toward my house, and I totally forgot to decorate. I haven’t put out one goddamn thing. My body is frozen in place, so I can’t even get a pumpkin in position. I’ve failed as a scare-master.
I’m not joking; I have these dreams.
I usually start thinking of a plan for my Halloween staging in early July. We usually get 300-400 trick or treaters, so expectations are always high. This year, I’m drawing a blank. Complete zeros. Blank paper. Nil.
This is my plea for help. Give me ideas. And here’s the kicker: If you give me a good theme along with practical ideas for its execution and I end up using it this year, I will acknowledge you in my next book. I will also sing your praises in my November newsletter.
Some ground rules and context:
- It has to be a theme, not just a collection of random ideas. Recent past themes include: snakes, spiders, clowns, The Shining, Psycho, The Exorcist, Walking Dead, pirates, LOST, and a haunted attic.
- I have a fairly large front porch that I encase in burlap, and the props are hidden inside.
- I stray away from gore. Creativity rules, not blood.
- I have a motion sensor, speakers, and pneumatic pistons, so I can create a simple prop that activates when someone walks by. I need an idea for at least one primary jump-scare within the context of the theme.
- I have multiple fog machines.
- I’m willing to spend money to get the right props, but don’t bankrupt me.
- Be specific. Be detailed.
- Bonus points given to a costume idea that would accompany the theme.
- I want screams. Screams feed my soul. To give you an example, take a look at my 2018 highlight reel.
The Dead Girl in 2A is now out in the wild (and has already gone to a second printing!). The release coincided with Thrillerfest, the annual conference of global thriller and suspense writers held in New York City. Add on top of that a slew of bookstore events and it’s been a whirlwind of a month. It’s too much to breakdown, so here are the highlights of my July:
- The book was released on July 2 and I had a very successful launch event at the Tattered Cover in Denver, where I was interviewed by my friend and brilliant mystery writer Barbara Nickless. My daughter took a picture of me, in which the taco-themed socks she gave me for Father’s Day were in full view. That photo made Publishers Weekly pic of the day.
- Went to Thrillerfest in NYC. Man, this is a cool conference. Thriller and suspense writers from around the world converged on the Grand Hyatt New York City for three days of panels about writing point-of-view, how to best create tension in your books, and which types of household cleaners make the most effective poisons. The event culminated in the grand awards banquet, and yours truly was nominated for Best Paperback Original with Mister Tender’s Girl. It was amazing to be nominated from hundreds of submissions, and life was great up until the point WHEN I LOST. Then, I’m like, screw you guys, I’m going home. (In all seriousness, getting nominated for that award has been one of the highlights of my writing career, and I’m so insanely thankful for the recognition. Huge congrats to Jane Harper who won Best Paperback Original with The Lost Man.)
Oh, and at the conference I got a fanboy pic with Harlan Coben.
- Whilst in NYC, I got a chance to go to a James concert. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you might know James is my favorite band of all time. I’ve written about them, and have included their lyrics as epigraphs in my last two novels. Because I’ve had to contact the lead singer to get permission to re-print their lyrics, I’ve had enough contact with him that he invited me backstage at their New York show (making this more unlikely: they hadn’t played in the States in five years). So I got to meet the band and the lead singer hugged me. TWICE.
- Oh my god, the dead girl is alive! If you remember my story about meeting the real Dead Girl in 2A, it ended with me never hearing from her again. But a week after the newsletter with that story came out, she contacted me through Instagram. She told me she’d lost (i.e. thrown out) my business card, then was recently taking that same flight and thought of my book, so she Googled it and saw it had just come out. I shared my newsletter about her, then sent her a signed copy.
Bitcoin Billionaires, A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption, Ben Mezrich (Macmillan, 2019). I’m still on my non-fiction kick, and I just finished up this invigorating read about the inception and meteoric rise of crypto-currency, told from the point of view of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. You might know their names as the foils to Mark Zuckerberg during the birth of Facebook. The Winklevoss twins settled a lawsuit with Facebook and began investing into Bitcoin in its early days. A compelling story, though I’d like to know more about the workings of crypto-currency itself, into which the author only dwells lightly. What I’m Watching
Bathtubs Over Broadway (Directed by Dava Whisenant, 2018, Available for streaming). Cancel your plans this evening and watch this hysterical/fascinating/mind-boggling/tinge-of-depressing documentary. This is (brace yourself, it sounds terrible but it isn’t) a documentary about a man on a quest to collect audio and video footage of old industrial musicals. What’s an industrial musical, you ask? Think of a large corporation holding an annual sales convention for all their reps, and they hire a troupe to perform an entire original musical centered on the company’s products. Yes, these existed. Just one example: The American Standard Company had a musical in the 1960’s featuring such numbers as “The Bathrooms are Coming” and “My Bathroom.” This movie is fascinating, partly because of subject Steve Young’s quixotic journey to possess all things industrial-musical, but mostly because of the nature of the musicals themselves. Words won’t do justice here. Just see it.
Photo of the Month
I’m featuring one image a month of a recent or favorite shot I’ve taken (you can check out more of my work here).
This photo of a Wyoming windmill farm was taken on a drive from Denver to Salt Lake City back in 2012.
Last Few Words I’ve Written
Apropos of nothing, I’m sharing a passage from my work-in-progress.
The kids and I went miniature golfing the other day, and since we’re not just content being in each other’s company we had to make it a fierce competition. We decided the loser had to clean up all the dishes from dinner that night and also be the one to put the cat to bed (why the cat gets put to bed is a whole other story. But he does).
Of course, I decimated both of them, and Ili had a 10-stroke lead over Sawyer going into the last 18 holes (we played 56 total). And then she choked. Really choked. On the final hole, she was one shot ahead of Sawyer and just had to sink an easy putt to win. Not only didn’t she do that, but then she missed the shot after that and lost the whole thing. Fortunately, I was there to capture it all on video.
Update From My Cat
Kitty wants ice cream.
What’s In My Backyard?
Back in May I told you about the skunk living behind the playhouse in my backyard. The kids named him Silas. Well, Silas was around for awhile, then disappeared, and I thought that was the end of that relationship. Well, Silas is back…and has babies! Silas (who is apparently a she) has three little skunk-kids, which the kids have termed Si-littles. And they all now live under the playhouse in the backyard.