Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jocks That Writers Should Emulate

Certainly there are stigmas with occupations like the socially awkward IT guy, the superficial salesman, engineers who are too literal, and so forth. I'd like to bury the hatchet between two notorious rivals, especially in high school, the dumb jock and the snobby writer.

This shouldn't be hard to do to meet in the middle. After all, Ernest Hemingway was a guy's guy. Not to toot my own horn, but I boxed for a bit. Frank Dorchak, one of my scribe buds, clearly hits the weights. And Jeanne Stein is a black belt!

The athletic organization that I point you to, believe it or not, is the NFL. It seems fitting since, amongst my RMFW and Pike's Peak Pals anyway, that our Broncs bit the dust in the playoffs. We fans twiddling our thumbs now, are looking for a reason to keep watching the grid iron, so why not some literary education from the big oafs in the tight pants? Yes, I'm serious.

First off, there's the running back who just wants to hit the shower, but the reporters hound him with the typical inane questions. Sweating, hobbling, he answers, "Well, you know...we gave it everything know our quarter back was on today...and you know blah blah blah..." This is freakin' gold. Gold I tell ya. That persistent 'you know' typical of lots of sports personalities is called a dialogue marker. You could slap such a verbal crutch on one of your characters and your readers would develop an ear for that person's dialogue. You could even skip the tag 'Evan said,' or 'Roxy smiled,' to identify the talker because the reader knows the speaker by the marker.

Then there are those commentators. Seriously, one of the things that turns me off of a manuscript is the lack of pizazz with word choice. Verbs are a great opportunity for colorful turn of phrase and newscasters like Collinsworth and Aikman are usually pretty good with the action words. On the Cowboys game, a touchdown with some ricocheting off of several blockers summoned, "He spun into the end zone," from the commentator. On an accurate sharp pass, you may hear, "And Manning bullets it to the receiver." Some of these may be a little purple, but at least they boast some know, man?


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

No Matter How Good You Are, This Should Be in Your Writer's Toolbox

If you're serious about writing, meaning observant of grammar, you probably don't make errors with homophones often. Daily, you choke at the struggles that other people have with you're and your on Facebook, but you know better than to correct these pedestrians. Maybe...just maybe...when texting quickly you'll mix one up from time to time. That's understandable, though, and if you don't, kudos!

However, beware! There are those phones that lurk out in shadows, waiting to sneak into your manuscript and expose you as a fraud. I've seen them in the work of good friends who have English MAs, unfinished pieces that they asked me to eyeball. In a recent manuscript of mine, Janet caught that I wrote chalk full when it's supposed to be chock full. I know the definition of passive voice, appositives, can dazzle you with my text book knowledge, but DOH, I missed these. Thanks for the catch, by the way, Janet.

Here is an awesome list. Go figure, it was on Wikipedia, but I like to run through it and recall if I used any of these that might be iffy in my print.

If you're waiting for something a little more snarky and comical from me, I assure you some postings are on the way. You know the story The Emperor's New Clothes? I'm the kid who squeals that the king is naked. I'll be pointing out the obvious yet hidden with some song and dance in 2015.

Gusto Dave

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It Takes Courage to be a Writer

I glory in tales of heroes and heroines, those who risk everything to gain or protect their passion, whether it’s love, conquering new planets, or righting a wrong. These stories resonate in my heart – I pray they always will.

In The Green Hills of Earth, a short story by Robert A. Heinlein, “Noisy” Rhysling, a blind and dying balladeer is catching rides back to Earth where he wants to be laid to rest. Yet he sacrifices himself to repair a malfunctioning space ship. His final song, before he dies…

…harsh bright soil of Luna -
Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet -
Saturn's rainbow rings -
the frozen night of Titan -
We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

Then there are Batty’s final words in Blade Runner:

“I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Yes, Batty is the “bad guy,” but at that moment he’s captured his life as neatly as the pair of doves he holds in his hands. And he is transformed, as is Dekker, the “good guy.” Both want to experience “things you people wouldn’t believe.”

It takes courage to set emotions to paper and perseverance to claim the tale. It takes courage to be a writer. We might not wear armor and carry swords, but then again, I have traveled through space, danced on moons, and won the battle of battles. I’ve traveled back in time and flown P-51s. I've risked my life to save others, and I’ll do it all again tomorrow. I hope you will, too.

Janet Fogg

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Necflix: A Guide for Halloween Cinema 2014 by Gusto Dave

Today, we have a necropolis of film suggestions that are guaranteed to, if not shiver your bones, at least leave you satisfactorily entertained. And I'll throw in a couple of reading suggestions.

I'm going to go with the blue chip, power punch time investment first. King Kong, under Peter Jackson's direction, awed moviegoers. Chances are you've seen it since it's played on one of the thousands of HBO channels daily, but if it never made your rotation, the selling points are many. Great performances alone by Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and horror veteran Thomas Kretschmann will dazzle the first-time watcher. Kyle Chandler nails it, poking fun at stars, too. A very sympathetic monster pays a perfect tribute to the original 1933 version. The graphics are breathtaking. This film is appropriate for all ages, yet is STILL meant to be scary, which is easy to forget amidst all the adventure. One scene--I'll just say insects--crowns it as a horror flick.

His name is synonymous with Hannibal Lecter, but long before Anthony Hopkins made the evil psychiatrist a household name, he shined in a psychological creep fest and masterpiece entitled Magic. There have been a stack of movies which played on the spooky dummy theme (Chucky comes to mind) but most of them fall short of a deep story, or worse, resort to violence to sustain an audience. Magic, however, grabs heartstrings through the very sympathetic main character Corky Withers--sympathetic, but clearly depraved. Thus, an inevitable tragic wreck is coming and the watcher has no choice but to cringe and give in to his curiosity as to how it will play out. The dialogue between Corky and Fats the dummy is chilling. You'll start believing Fats is alive. In praise, Anthony Hopkins IS REALLY A VENTRILOQUIST. It's a complex role enough with the tormented Corky. When one considers that Hopkins is doing the voice of Fats the dummy, you'll see that his performance is actually better than that of the cannibal character. Magic was written by William Goldman of Princess Bride, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame, by the way. This would be a great remake as long as another master actor lives the lead role and the director's helm is betrothed to a lover of the novel and original release. The trailer alone is eerie!

As a strict father--hard to believe, I know, considering my wild streak--I try to find appropriate frightening treats for my kid to watch. The Woman in Black delivered. It has all the right stuff, creaking floors, apparitions, things jumping out to startle you, but doesn't cross over the line. Big thumbs up.

Because I always suggest oldies, I thought I'd at least try to recommend something fresh. Proxy passed the test. This story is out there! For me to plug something that has lots of gore means that it has other merits. Such is the case with Proxy. Warning readers, this is a full tilt boogie splatter film. The main character miscarries due to a violent attack, but the characters are unique and I got to admit that each scene riveted me to the grand finale. Very independent and off the beaten path.

For books, I highly HIGHLY recommend Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted. It's been one of my favorites for years. Got the hardback. Chuck's gritty attitude is not for everyone, but his style is as loud as a punk rock guitar solo. This is a collection of short stories by fictious writers who are trapped.

And you could do much worse than my novel, On a Dark Desert Highway. It's getting rave reviews. Yep, it has a beast, a feast, dancing, sweat, mirrors, champagne, the device, candles, and most importantly, no way to leave. I assure you the ending will be one of the biggest surprises you've ever read.

For film recommendations from previous years, check out:

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Core is Gone

His agony started from a misprint. Devon Jensen observed the copy of his new release Art Tragedy with a glow that only an author can feel when finally seeing the book in hand after 12 months of creating and an additional period of unfathomable edits and marketing preparation. Then his eyes fell upon the typo—a flaw in his perfect, beautiful child. To most, the error would hide behind the context. It screamed at Devon, however, like a lamb being slaughtered.


            The name his parents gave him, botched right on the cover. His homage to Mom and Dad—look at what I did folks!—was defiled.

            How did this blunder pass through all the edits, so many eyes checking it? Devon nearly dropped his coffee cup. He steadied himself by grabbing hold of his desk. Rain pounded the window to his home office. With a vicious urge to slam his mug into the wall, he instead placed the beverage calmly on a coaster. The throbbing in his fingers seemed to be the least of his problems.

            A call to his mentor made him feel only slightly better. Jane, an eternal optimist, and successful author of fiction and non-fiction assured, “The publication process is rarely smooth, Dev. Just take a walk, cool down, drop the editor a note and ask them to change it.”

            “But what about the copies that have already been printed?”

            “They’ll become collector’s items when you’re famous.”

            A smile attempted to break his frown, but came out only half-assed. With the smart phone pressed against his ear, he heard Jane, nonetheless, persevere, “I can tell you’re grinning from that one.”

            Devon paced. “It’s just such a kick in the crotch.”

“You knew this wasn’t going to be easy. So far, you’ve had a sweet ride: Talks of the novel being optioned for film, praise from critics, connections out the wazoo. Not to minimize your disappointment, but later, you’ll see this as a tiny bump in the road.”

            “Okay. I’ll do what you said. Love you. Talk next week.”

            Then, Devon dialed his best friend Rob, a studio musician who’d seen his ups and downs. “Hey dude, you won’t believe this.” He described the fiasco.

            Rob said, “Maybe you should just be happy they didn’t spell your name D-E-V-I-L.”

            Very funny.


            I better have a doctor check this out. With each peck on the keyboard, white-hot pain thrashed up through the fingers on his right hand. It felt like a filthy infection caused by a grubby fishing hook, but his digits looked normal.

He accessed his email. The messages he’d sent to the reporter illuminated the screen. Three memos over five weeks sat unanswered, jolting the fire in his fingertips. The only reply was the first contact from Brian Sloan of Westerly Magazine that read: I’d love to feature your book in my column! When would be a good time?

Excited beyond belief, Devon had answered back immediately with a very open schedule. Days had turned to weeks with lack of response; sent emails became cruel reminders of groveling.

Devon switched the computer off and swore he heard a faint crackling sound in his hand. 


The lumps on the end of his fingers appeared when Devon tried to call the film producer. He’d tried several times over the previous week to get a hold of Joe Scott with Moonlight Pictures and kept getting the recorded message. Now, a different greeting played. This one came from the wireless network. “The person you are trying to reach is unavailable to you. Please remove this number from your contacts.”

Realizing that Scott had blocked him, Devon felt appalled only enough time for the recording to repeat. When the blisters rose on his fingers, he dropped the phone.


Waiting in the emergency room, Devon managed his tablet with his left hand. To his right, a pale child drooled in the arms of his mother. She rocked the kid back and forth. The boy looked to be about six and watched Devon with keen interest. Across the room, an elderly man with thick glasses patted a bandage around his leg. Blood stained the gauze. The two other patients were ahead of Devon in waiting and he was good with that. Yeah, his fingers felt like they were going to explode and every time he sat down to clack out some prose, not only did the pain deter him, the words just didn’t flow either, but he could be worse off. He wanted the boy to get attention pronto. He winked at the kiddo. The little dude scratched through his blond hair and waved back.

Devon clumsily logged into the Good Books website, to track the giveaway of Art Tragedy. Four hundred and two readers had signed up for a chance of a free copy. Probably because of the nausea he’d been feeling, he’d lost track of time and didn’t realize that a winner had been crowned. The recipient only had the book for one day, but offered a review. One star. In the remarks, this gracious winner, Sylvia McGrath wrote: I didn’t really want it. I just sign up for all the giveaways. The cover looks kind of cheesy, so I evaluated it on that.

If augers were to have drilled out of his fingers, it couldn’t have hurt worse. Fighting the urge to throw up, Devon swiped the Good Books window to the side and tapped his email. A message at the top from his agent read: Royalty Check. He opened the message, expecting a shot in the arm.


He reread it.

Sure enough, three months of ‘the new exciting release’ yielded only enough for a fast food meal.

It sounded like someone eating with their mouth open. Devon felt a new pain at the same time. Right hand lifted to his inspection, he watched the skin caving in on his fingers. As excruciating as it was, he could only remain frozen in horror. Little beady eyed things like mosquito-sized porcupines chewed out holes where his prints used to be.

The boy who had been looking as well might have had his eyes bulge out of their sockets had his mother not fled to the other side of the room with him. She shrieked.

The porcupine things retreated back into his fingers and darkened by shadows, peeped at him like curious neighbors. No bone could be seen to speak of. Just pink chambers framed with walls of chunky white flesh and critters smirking at him. All Devon could think was: I understand now. He stood. Zero strength remained in his arm, so it fell to his side like the blob of skin that it now was. He allowed the tablet to fall and kicked it away. Then, making eye contact with the old man and the boy, he said, “I hope they get you two fixed up.” Out the door Devon strolled.


Other business contacts shunned Devon over the next few weeks which came as no surprise. He’d received the message loud and clear when the creatures made their presence known. It didn’t bother him so much that he’d been cursed not to write anymore. He’d accepted as much like one who comes to terms with having a disease. But as he regarded his rotting, flaccid arm and teased the prose-stealing gremlins in their burrows which were once his typing pokers, the torture was knowing he wouldn’t ever be able to explain articulately how he’d lost the ability.
And he sure the hell couldn’t write it.

By Gusto Dave Jackson
My thanks to the anonymous creator of that photo. I've scoured the internet to find out who it was with no luck. Whoever you are, at a time when I felt much pain, your picture inspired even more fiction which I didn't think was going to be possible.
Also by Gusto Dave: On a Dark Desert Highway.

"Eerie like The Shining with the allure of Fantasy Island. The novel packs a curve that will both impress and shock the reader."  -- Julie Luek, author in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide
"Great premise!" -- Esri Allbritten, author of Chihuahua of the Baskervilles

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Elvis in the CIA, Zombies, and Stephen King Movie Factoids - Welcome to the World of Writer Andrew Rausch

"There are questions in this book about my movies even I couldn't answer! A nice, well-researched quiz book written with obvious affection for its subject." -- Mick Garris, director of The Stand on The Stephen King Movie Quiz Book by Andrew Rausch and Ronald Riley.

Andrew Rausch first got my attention in a Facebook group led by my publisher. His novel Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin piqued my curiosity next. Then when he mentioned that it was in film production, I had to learn more about this imaginative author and was pleased to find that he has an extensive background in horror. With Halloween (my favorite time of year) creeping up, what a perfect writer to profile!

The Godfather of Gore Speaks (with prolific filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis*), and the screenplay for Dahmer vs. Gacy are but a couple of his credits.

With obvious savvy, Andrew optimizes his creativity to the max.

CIR: Thank you for joining us on the Rock, Andrew. What constitutes good horror in your opinion?

AR: Everything is subjective, but horror is probably the most subjective. I know adults who are terrified of The Exorcist, and then there are my kids who are not only not afraid of it, but bored by it. But I like The Exorcist a lot. I think maybe it's the parental thing—you know, that it's happening to a child—that makes that movie so frightening. That would also explain why my kids aren't afraid of it...

To me, the scariest films are the ones with story lines that could actually happen. Funny Games is the movie that scares me the most. That movie scared the living shit out of me! Another movie that really creeps me out is the original Kubrick version of The Shining. But then again, I know people who say that movie isn't scary either. It's all very subjective. One man's trash is another man's treasure, and one man's frightening film is another man's tedium.

CIR: Dahmer vs. Gacy boasts some impressive acting credits: Harland Williams (being that I fiddle with stand-up comedy, his name sprang out) and Ethan Phillips has been in tons of things! The movie introduces a unique premise to say the least. Was that your brain child?

AR: My old writing partner Chris Watson called me up one day when I was working as a manager in a video store. He said, “I've got a brilliant idea for an exploitation movie!” I said, “What is it?” And he says, “Dahmer vs. Gacy.” The original plan was to shoot the thing on the cheap for a thousand bucks or so, but we wound up selling it off to Angry Baby Monkey Productions. The final budget for the film was only about $30,000, I think, but it was so much higher than it had been written to be. Seriously, we were gonna shoot the thing with no stars on a budget of what basically amounts to a bus pass and some Kool-Aid points.

CIR: Is Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin being produced by the same talents behind Dahmer vs. Gacy?

AR: It is. Ford Austin is producing. We don't have a director yet. And Ford, who viewers will remember played Jeffrey Dahmer in Dahmer vs. Gacy, is playing Elvis. I, for one, can't wait. And like Dahmer vs. Gacy, the screenplay will be written by yours truly.

CIR: How did you slip into the indie film business?

AR: I helped my friend Chris Watson on a film about eleven or twelve years ago called Zombiegeddon. That film had a great horror movie cast (with Tom Savini as Jesus Christ!) and wound up getting picked up by Troma Video. I've since worked on a number of indie films, some good and some as terrible as you can imagine, and it's been a lot of fun. But Dahmer vs. Gacy is my favorite. When it showed up on Maxim's list of horror movies you haven't seen but need to, I almost had a heart attack. I know the reviews aren't great, but who gives a shit? How many horror movies get really good grades? Not many. And second, how many exploitation horror movies get good reviews? Next to zero. We knew what we were doing when we made that movie, and it is exactly what it was intended to be. If you get the joke, good for you; if you don't, well then, it wasn't made for you. The beauty of Dahmer vs. Gacy is that it features two known entities in its main characters that were “characters” which could be used without permission. So it already had a name recognition factor; it was like a low-budget Freddy vs. Jason in a way. And we had a great cast. It was just remarkable.

CIR: Any reads or films you’d like to recommend for the season. Please feel free to include any of yours.

AR: My favorite horror novels are I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Pet Sematary by Stephen King, and Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. I absolutely adore all three of those novels. I also like King's early short stories. Those are great.

I might point out that I recently had my own short story collection published. It's called Death Rattles, and it's heavily influenced by King. It was published by Burning Bulb Publishing. I was rather thrilled with the blurbs I got for that one; if you look, there are blurbs by John Russo (Night of the Living Dead), H.G. Lewis (Two Thousand Maniacs!), and Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger). It's gonna be difficult to top those. So I would say definitely pick that one up. You can get it on Kindle for 99 cents, so what do you have to lose?

CIR: What kind of frights are you working on for your next publications?

AR: I'm working on a new novel with William Vitka entitled Monsters vs. Nazis. That one's going to be published by Curiosity Quills. It imagines that the U.S. government established a secret squadron in World War II consisting of the likes of Dracula, the Wolf Man, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein's monster, and lots of others. It's gonna be a blast. I can't wait for people to read that one.

I'm also working on an anthology for Burning Bulb Publishing entitled Rise of the Zombies: An Anthology of Zombie Terror, which will feature stories by many talented writers, including Night of the Living Dead screenwriter John Russo. The idea is that all the stories will take place in 1968 during the same time as Night of the Living Dead.

CIR: Impressive! Thanks, Andrew!

Interview by Gusto Dave

*Herschell Gordon Lewis is widely considered the father of a horror sub-genre which employed lots of ‘campy’ fun, probably best known for the movie Blood Feast.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bring On the Ghouls! Pictured (a horror short by David Sandberg)

'Tis the season to get scared. Praise to David F. Sandberg. Let's follow this guy and see to it that he makes his mark...and the film industry.


See more of his work at

Gusto Dave