Monster of the Week

The Camazotz. The “bat of death.” I think the name says it all, but it’s even more terrifying than just the name. Considered a god by the Mayans, Camazotz was so evil that it had been imprisoned by the other gods. However, as is the case with many deities of myth, the Mayan gods were a capricious bunch and released Camazotz to wreak destruction on humankind.

Myths about the creature are few and far between. The main source of information comes from the Popol Vuh, a traditional “Book of the People.” It contains many myths, including the most famous one about the Camazotz. The Maya told of hero twins (similar in nature to the Monster Slayer twins in the Diné or Navajo) who went in search of adventure, but found more than their match with the “bat of death.” The pair found themselves under intense attack by the creature and hid within their own blowguns. After hours of hiding, one of the brothers peeks out, hoping the sun had risen, which meant the Camazotz would go back in its cave. Unfortunately, the sun was just on the edge of the horizon, giving the monster time for one more attack. As the man poked his head out he was decapitated by the Camazotz’s razor-sharp nose; it typical mode of attack. Thus ended the adventure.

As with much of Central and South American mythology, the Mayan legends have great potential for writers. I hope to see more coming from these cultures by way of horror, science fiction, and fantasy novels/series. The richness of the cultures provide great soil for the imagination.

Monster of the Week

Japan has some of the most unique monsters in world mythology. The creativity and creepiness of these creature should provide fodder for many a horror writer. One of the more intriguing creatures, though not the one of focus today, is the Gashadokuro. This giant skeleton is made from the bones of those who starved to death. And guess what? If you are caught by the Gashadokuro, you get your head bitten off, blood drained, and skeleton added to its frame. Yay.

The monster I’d like to introduce today is the ushi-oni. Depending on the region of Japan, the creature can be human-shaped, sea creaturesque, or dragon-like. One of the weirder appearances has it compared to the size of an ox, with crab/spider-like legs, tusks, and has loose skin used for gliding. The ushi-oni can be a protection from evil spirit or terrorize fisherman and other innocents. In a lot of ways, these ushi-oni are like the trolls of Japan: often living in seclusion, terrorizing those who come near them, and defeated by a hero/warrior.

If you’d like more, Wikipedia has a great deal of information about the creature as well as some regional legend synopses.

Source Page
Source Page

Thief of the Dead Synopsis

A blend of Supernatural meets Goosebumps with a little Scooby-Doo thrown in the mix.

For as long as twelve-year-old Braden Jacobs can remember, his hometown of Odland has had a supernatural creature problem. That’s why in third grade he and his best friend Daya Cortez formed Kids Investigating the Paranormal (KIP). They, along with the plucky Sumiko “Smooki” Hikari and the brilliant Bridgette Mandela, hunt the most dangerous ghosts and monsters.

When disturbing news comes that the souls of elderly citizens are being taken by an unknown creature, KIP investigates. Eyewitness accounts tell of a large, possibly feathered being (weird), perhaps riding a horse (not so bad), maybe headless (oh crap…), and sprays victims with blood (gross!).

It isn’t until the mysterious monster takes Braden’s ailing grandmother that the case turns personal. With no reliable clues followed by the recent death of a young police officer at the hands of the creature, KIP makes a decision against their better judgment—search the forest where it and other monsters roam. Armed with years of paranormal experiences and an alliance with a Japanese trickster fox named Yoshito—Daya, Smooki, Bridgette, and Braden may have found what threatens everyone in Odland, and it’s more terrible than they could’ve imagined.

Mixing horror and mystery, KIDS INVESTIGATING THE PARANORMAL: THIEF OF THE DEAD is a completed 51,000-word middle grade novel and the first in a series.

Damn, It’s Been a While

Life, work, family, laziness. It all contributed to my absence from this webpage. Excuses aplenty, but it is time to set those aside and focus on writing again.

Since I last posted, I’ve completed a second novel and am currently working on a third. My first one, Sideshow Summer, a.k.a. Freak Show Summer, has been sidelined for now. I attempted to find an agent for that novel, but I don’t feel it is up to what it should be. I love that story and the characters, but it needs revisions–tightening. Once those have been finished, I will look for a publisher rather than an agent, just to get my foot in the door. For synopsis you can visit here.

In doing so, I need to make a presence, and coming back to this site and blog I think is a logical step in that direction. I tried creating another webpage with another web building platform, but the steps to create said webpage were cumbersome and not to my liking or perhaps my skill. Nevertheless, I persisted but have since found that WordPress is a better platform for me.

With help from a Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation grant, my writing group–San Juan Writers–published a themed anthology called Into the West. I have two horror/paranormal stories in it, “A Spiritual Rebirth” and “La Marcha de los Muertos.” It is only $3.99 on Amazon Kindle.

The completed novel? It will be the first in a series called Kids Investigating the Paranormal. The working title for this new story is Thief of the Dead. I will have a follow up post about the story.

The novel in the works? Also the first in a series called Monster in a Box, which is in the very early stages with only eight chapters and roughly 50 pages completed. Perhaps in later posts, I can provide more information.

The earlier themes of this blog dealt with the themes found in Sideshow Summer. However, I plan on moving away from that to some degree into the realm of monsters, the paranormal, and horror. I wish to build an audience for not only my writing, but also for the content I’ve loved as a child, scary stuff.

Enjoy.

#TwitterFiction

Check out my twitter account @TonyinNM for some of my twitter fiction. Hope you enjoy it and follow. Here are a couple samples:

-When the geneticist cut his finger, the shark-human hybrids smiled, showing their great, white teeth.

-“What’s black & white & red all over?” rolled into her mind as she gazed upon the bloody newspaper & the hand lying beneath.

I do tweet out other things, but nothing polemical or divisive. Plus, I follow back.

Thanks!

Tony

Tis Done!

Summer has always been time to write on the novel, but most summers are spent teaching summer school or being otherwise preoccupied with responsibilities to my young family. After three summers of trudging along on my young adult novel, I have finally FINISHED it. Of course, to say it is finished is rather a relative term seeing how I have weeks and probably months of revisions to go through before I begin the arduous process of finding representation.

There is, however, a great sense of accomplishment to say and write that I have finished writing a novel. I have created characters, caused them joy and hardship, changed them, and made a world for them to live in. The process has also changed me as a writer and an individual. Though it took me a lot of time to do this task, I have in fact written a novel. A literal frickin’ novel!

As a kid, I was a struggling reader and writer. In fact, when I was in third grade and moved to a new state and new school (1979), I was placed in a special education reading class because I was behind where the other students were. Even though I think I was misdiagnosed, I nonetheless struggled with classwork and, to be honest, cheated a lot. My failings as a student (though I only earned one F and two D’s throughout my entire public education) stemmed from other outside influences. Partially, I was lazy and partially I longed for escape. I didn’t have that great of a home life and sought escapist activities as often as I could. Going to school and being with friends was one of those escapist activities, but schoolwork was not.

My first year (1989) of college was similar, but as I grew in years and experience I found that I actually enjoyed learning. I also found that I had a marginal talent as a writer. This grew as I began writing short stories. They weren’t that great, but it was a start.

It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I really started pursuing my writing and looking for markets for publication. I had a few success and even made a few bucks in the process. I had quite a few rejections along the way, as well.

When my third child was born, life grew a little too hectic to continue with my writing as devoutly as I had before. I had to make more money to support my family by teaching night classes, which in turn took a good deal of my time and energy. However, over the last couple years, my kids have grown and are able to entertain themselves to a large extent and this gave me time to sit back in the writer’s chair and do something I forgot I loved to do.

I don’t know if this book is any good let alone publishable. Nevertheless, I finished it. My kids know I’ve finished it, and it may be something they can look back on and say, “My dad wrote this. It’s kind of weird, but he wrote a full novel.”

My long-suffering wife, who has supported me throughout the process, is just as excited and proud of my accomplishment. She has often pushed me to go find a quiet corner and write. Sometimes her encouragement has bordered harassment, but it made me see that my accomplishments are just as important to her as they are to me.

Ultimately, I fulfilled a goal. I wrote a book. I made my family proud. That’s not a bad start to a potential writing career.

To This Day

One of the most stirring videos and poems I’ve seen in a long time. I know it has been around a while, but it is always worth promoting that which is good and inspiring. Shane Koyczan has become one of my favorite poets and ranks right up there with the other poetic legends in my book. If you haven’t seen this before, I highly recommend you watch it. He hits on one of my themes I use in my novel Freak Show Summer.

The Beauty of Being Different (Part 1)

In this modern world, beauty has developed very confined parameters.  Most often it is seen on the covers of magazines or on the view screen of television and theaters.  Yet, I find beauty in diversity.  Sure, I won’t turn away and gag at the sight of scantily clad Victoria Secrets model, but after seeing it so often, it can almost become mundane.  Below, I have chosen several individuals who, I believe, have a nontraditional beauty.  These again relate to the novel I am writing, so be prepared.

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The wonderful Schlitze with Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) star Wallace Ford.  I love how happy Schlitze looks in all his photos.  He is the inspiration for my character Beep the Pinheadded Ballerina.

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One of the great names in sideshow history, Jo-Jo the Dog-faced Boy.  His face has become the model of werewolves and Wookies.  What a great face for shampoo and conditioner commercials!

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These were some of the inspirations for my little people family, the Lepozzi family (stage named the Leprechauns), in my novel.  Here are Count  Phillipe and Countess Nicol with their son Phillipe, Jr.  Unrelated to the counts is Princess Lorena.

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The incredible Annie Jones, who was an inspiration for my bearded woman, Harriet. Another candidate for the shampoo and conditioner commercial!

This is part one of my entry.  Stay tuned for the next section!

Thanks for reading,

NM Tony

Schlitze photo: http://popcultureaddict.com/miscellaneous/schlitze/

The others: http://www.phreeque.com/index.html?

To Tolerate or not to Tolerate

I have been working on my novel, current working title Freak Show Summer, and should finish it by the end of the summer (my God, will it ever be finished!) Afterwards, it is the long job of editing, revising, and trimming (a never-ending task it seems).  I have to say that I have really enjoyed the process of creating these characters.  With this being based on a Depression Era sideshow with “human oddities,” I have been able to explore what it might have been like for the people who had physical deformities during a time of freak shows.  I have included a beard woman, an alligator man, a family of little people, a “pinhead” (a person who has microcephaly), a “dog-faced” boy, conjoined twins, and several others.  I hope you get a chance to read about them someday.

As I’ve researched these freak shows through both the written word and documentaries, the one big thing I keep coming away with is the idea that these people considered their “freak show” a large family.  A famous chant from the cult classic movie Freaks (1932) and a mantra from the Ramones song “Pinhead” is “Gabba gabba hey, we accept you, we accept you, one of us, one of us!”  Quite a motto for tolerance and, even more importantly, acceptance.

The thing I most wanted to push in my novel about a young boy growing up with carnival performers is the fact that these “freaks” were human beings with love in their hearts, sadness in their lives, and anger toward their mistreatment.  Though in this day and age most of us find it abhorrent to make fun of those with physical deformities, many have no compunction in making judgments and criticisms about those who may have a different outlook on life or love someone of whom we may disapprove.  We would call out anyone who dares to mock a child with Down Syndrome or cerebral palsy.  But would we stand up for the transgendered? What about the heavily tattooed or pierced?  Would we defend a gay couple being harassed?  Or how about the homeless schizophrenic man? How many would defend an atheist being ridiculed for her lack of belief?  It is easy to defend those that have been socially accepted,  but I believe it is quite another thing when society hasn’t yet deemed certain individuals with acceptance or even tolerance.  Notwithstanding, we are getting better on certain fronts, and more awareness is happening.  For that, I am grateful.

One of the great ironies that has come from our progressive, politically-correct world, especially with regards to those with debilitating physical deformities is the fact that back in the day many were able to join these freak shows and make quite a living and earn some national fame.  Sure, they had to be subjugated to stares and sometimes to jeers, but they faced that reality whether or not they were going to be paid for it or not.  Now, it is un-pc to have an audience pay to gaze upon “the amazing, the incredible, the fantastic, the horrifying human oddities!” Although a few modern freak shows have made it to the mainstream due to media exposure–such as AMC’s Freakshow set in Venice Beach, the Jim Rose Circus, and Coney Island Circus Sideshow–most have been banned and are considered to be in poor taste.  Perhaps, a new found tolerance is slowly re-emerging and will allow the legless and armless wonders to display their talents.  Maybe, leopard boys and girls will be able to embrace their spots and exhibit them to an eager audience.  How about a geek act that truly terrifies and yet fun to behold?  Hell, TLC and Discovery Channel have all kinds of shows about physical “abnormalities,” not to mention the train wreck that is “reality television.”

Certainly, there are those who do not want to be gawked at or put on display.  That is their right and privilege, and they should have their privacy honored.  But what about those who, like the human oddities of yesteryear, figure if people are going to stare, why not capitalize on the fact?  Isn’t it also their right to make an honest living on a talent with which they were born?

Society should, of course, protect those with a diminished mental capacity, but also remember that Schlitzie the Pinhead had a fruitful career and was taken care of by his fellow carnies.  It is also important to note that Schlitzie was sold by his parents to a carnival proprietor, who in turn became his guardian.  He was traded to several different shows, but by most accounts he was well treated by all.  He was even featured in the aforementioned film Freaks.  Was this the best life for one like Schlitzie?  Perhaps not, but also consider the fact that most like him were placed in asylums where conditions were horrendous.  Schlitzie had a long and prosperous life as a sideshow performer.  When in later years he was turned over to a county hospital, Schlitzie became depressed and missed his public life.  If it weren’t for a carnival performer who worked at the hospital during his off season, Schlitzie would have likely died in that hospital in a miserable state.  Instead, this carnie told his boss, who then took Schlitzie into his care.  At the age of 70 years, Schlitzie passed away.

I don’t want to give a romanticized version of Schlitzie’s life.  Eventhough he is one of the most famous historical sideshow performers, he was also often viewed as a money-maker for the carny bosses.  He was cared for but by no means was he pampered.  In fact, after his death, Schlitzie was buried in an unmarked grave and it wasn’t until over thirty years later that fans found his grave and gave it a headstone.  He most assuredly, however, had a better life as a performer than he ever would have had as a patient.  By all accounts, he loved performing and showing off.  He loved making people smile and loved smiling himself.  In nearly every scene he has in Freaks, he is smiling or laughing.  No, Schlitzie didn’t have an ideal life and was put on display, but he was happy, made a decent living, and has some unknown blogger remembering his life forty-two years after his death.

We are far from being an accepting or even tolerant society, but we are making strides.  I hope that if my book is ever published, it will help kids understand the humanity in those we view as different.  I hope the book can be used as a tool to teach tolerance and empathy.  I know it is a lot to ask and rather grandiose, but it is what I hope.

Thanks for reading.

Want more?  Check out below:

The first season of AMC’s Freakshow is now available on Netflix or visit their site:

http://www.amctv.com/shows/freakshow

Check out the great Coney Island Circus Sideshow:

http://www.coneyisland.com/programs/coney-island-circus-sideshow

Or the great Jim Rose Circus and Sideshow:

http://www.jimrosecircus.com

The wonderful Schlizie (Schlitzy, Schlitze or Shlitze):

http://www.quasi-modo.net/Schlitze.html

OR

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schlitzy

Where’s the Rest of the Story?

The “news”.  Really?  The stories the corporate media comes up with is redundant, monotonous, and insulting.  Now, I am not a journalist nor do I pretend to be one (like those on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc.).  These “journalists” only play one on TV and do very little work.  The term “reporter” is apropos to the job they really do: regurgitate a list of story lines and ask Little League t-ball questions that have been scrutinized and vetted by the interviewee’s publicist/lawyer/agent.  I think most people agree that what we see on major networks is emulsified news with little to no substance.  Heck, they run the same five stories for a week, which overlap with the next “top five” for the following.  

Breaking news, especially on tragedy, is generally wrong and fear-mongering, then replayed ad nauseam.  These reporters provide details at the scene and ask people how they feel (a ridiculous question!).  Rarely, if ever, do these media outlets ever investigate why things happen.  For example, the weather is always a big topic of discussion, yet hardly ever are the words “climate change” or “global warming” mentioned.  Little is said of the fact that the warming phenomenon has been responsible for some of the most expensive catastrophes in recent years and continues to cost us more and more money each year as more and more weather-related phenomena wreak havoc and destruction.  To make it worse, they give equal time to deniers as if they’re position is at all credible at this stage of the game.

Another example is gun violence.  Caveat: I am not an NRA member, but I do own a firearm.  I do not support lax gun laws, but I support laws that work. The media fixation on gun laws completely negates the culture surrounding gun violence.  It will continuously report on the mass shooter, giving enormous amounts of information about the murderer and his motives, and thereby giving notoriety and infamy to this sick individual.  How can this not encourage other deranged individuals to commit crimes, especially when they are disgruntled and feel like they have no voice?  We learn all about this Santa Barbara shooter, his problems, links to his videos, and give this mentally-ill individual all the attention he was seeking.  I refuse to provide the name of this murderer for that very reason.  Yet the victims are merely listed with hardly any information about them other than what the families provided in their thirty-second clip, if they’re even given that much.  Do we really need to know the intimate details of these murderers?  How are we benefited by this information other than that it prods our sick curiosity to know why murderers do what murderers do?

The news media feeds this behavior.  They fan the flames for those seeking notoriety.  They are not alone, however.  How often are song lyrics glorifying the “glock,” “street justice,” or “busting a cap” (an antiquated phrase, I’m sure)?  How often are shootings glorified whether in music, movies, or television? Vendettas, vengeance, vigilante: glorified.  Rappers and rockers (or their entourage) packing are hip and on the edge. 

I do not want to give the impression that guns should be ubiquitous, but there are enough laws in place.  The only thing that could stem the tide is upping the sentence for those prosecuted in committing a crime with a firearm; an automatic 25+ year sentence for offenders.  Furthermore, decriminalizing certain drugs could also alleviate so much of the violence as well as the number of incarcerated (but that is an entirely different blog post).  

I can’t imagine being the parent of a child who has been senselessly killed by a firearm, so my view would likely change as a result.  I certainly don’t fault those who have been affected by gun violence wanting stricter laws.  I would love to see stricter laws, but only laws that would work and not ones that merely placate.  When Sandy Hook happened, I wanted stricter law: an assault rifle ban, loopholes closed, etc.  But as I separated myself from the sorrow of what happened and really looked at what was being proposed, I saw it as merely a political game to pacify the mournful voices.  Not to mention that the libertarian in me fears allowing only the state/government to have the weapons.  In a perfect world, guns would be non-existent, but the feasibility of that statement is obvious.  There are no easy solutions to this problem.  Whatever is done, a large number of people will be deeply disappointed.  

Nontraditional News Outlets:

Dan Carlin’s fantastic podcast Common Sense: http://www.dancarlin.com/disp.php/csarchive

http://www.tytnetwork.com

http://www.theonion.com

Newspapers/Magazines Worth Looking At:

http://www.independent.co.uk

http://www.reuters.com

http://www.alternet.org 

http://www.motherjones.com

Global Warming:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/12/1206_041206_global_warming.html

http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus

Gun Control:

http://www.dancarlin.com/blog.php

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map