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Songs to Scare Crows

The Scarecrow is a creature as old as agriculture whose existence is built on fear. What a perfect fiend for Halloween! To honor of these pumpkin-headed kings I hearby offer this harvest of 13 songs to keep the corn swaying at your Halloween party.

The Ballad of Peter Pumpkin Head – XTC

Scarecrow – Beck

Drunk With Fear – Those Poor Bastards

Rain on the Scarecrow – John Cougar Mellencamp

Scarecrow Man – Misfits

Hayloft – Mother Mother

Hymn for a Scarecrow – Tally Hall

Sickle and Hood – Brown Bird

Out With The Crow – The Haunted Windchimes

Murder of Crows – Lindi Ortega

Birds with Broken Wings – Ben Caplan

The Hanging Tree – Angus & Julia Stone

Farmer’s Field – Nicole Dollanganger

You can also get this playlist on Spotify.

Click here for more Halloween Playlists

Click here to get my book ‘We Bleed Orange & Black: 31 Fun-sized Tales for Halloween

Sign up to the mailing list here for more spooky treats

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Puzzling Sounds

My gaming group started during the pandemic, so we’ve never actually played a session in person. We rely on Roll20, Google Meet, and email. These tools affect the quality of the games – we’re not gathered around a table with miniatures, graph paper and chips, but we’re not in a video game either. Much of what I need to run this hybrid sort of game is custom made, and I try to take advantage of anything I can share in an internet browser.

Experiments With Google has a huge, ever-changing variety of things to explore. I was immediately inspired by the Chrome Music Lab. The Spectrogram allows you to play with sound. You can even use the finger button to draw new sound waves with your mouse to see how they looked and sounded.

I decided I would use this to make an original puzzle. It was complicated – so bear with me.

PHASE ONE

I wanted to create a cypher with audio cues. How to best exploit the Spectrogram?

A quick click made a blip and a long click made a beep, but I wanted something more ambitious than Morse Code. I started by making as many distinct shapes as I could with the variables available. I am not an audio engineer, but these were the basic qualities I found:

Pitch: High, Medium, Low 

Vector: Rising, Falling, Flat 

Soundwave Shape: Peak, Valley, Down Slide, Up Slide, Double/Triple/Quadruple etc, Dots, Dashes, Plateaus, Stair Case Up, Stair Case Down, and Ziggurat (stair case up and down).

I marked these down with notation that matched the shapes. Peak = ^ , Valley = V , Down Slide = \ , etc.

Using every possible combination could have generated a very long list, but that would be no fun for my players (“Was that a medium pitch down slide or a low pitch down slide? Fifteen or sixteen dashes?”). I limited my lexicon to one page of distinct sounds and combinations.

Here it is:

Yes:   * *  (2 high pitched dots) 

No:      \     (Down Slide) 

Stop:   V     (Valley) 

Go:      ^  (Peak) 

Sun:    – 

               (1 high pitched dash) 

Moon: – – (2 medium dashes) 

Day:    – – – 

                         (3 high pitched dashes) 

Night:  V V     (2 Valleys) 

Flee:    ^ ^ ^   (3 Peaks) 

Hide:   …….       (7 low dots) 

Door:   ^ * *      (Peak + 2 high pitched dots) 

Sleep:   \  _ _ _   (Down Slide + 3 low pitched dashes) 

Eat:        _      

           /      \      (Plateau) 

Find:    /      (Up Slide) 

Help:   V – V       (Valley + Medium dash + Valley) 

Now I needed to create some simple messages. My grammar was limited, but these were clues for the quest – they could provide some information and still remain cryptic. I composed three messages, starting with a single word to warm up my players, increasing the challenge as I went.

Can you decipher them?

Message 1:      V – V 

Message 2: ^ / – – 

Message 3: V \ _ _ _  

       – – –  ^  * * 

/          

Here are the answers with plain text notation:

Message 1: Help (Valley + Medium Dash + Valley)      V – V 

Message 2: Go Find Moon (Peak, Up Slide, 2 Medium dashes) ^ / – – 

Message 3: Stop Sleep (Valley, Down Slide +3 Low pitched dashes) V \ _ _ _ 

   Find Day Door (Up Slide, 3 High Pitched dashes, Peak + 2 High Pitched Dots)  

       – – –  ^  * * 

/          

Okay, but…how do I make those sounds?

This was the tricky part. During the game session I ‘shared a tab’ in our Google Meet video conference with the Spectrogram in the browser. Then I tried to use the finger button to make the proper sound waves in real time. It took a bit of practice, it wasn’t perfect….but it worked!

My players were able to match what they heard to the lexicon and decipher the messages.

Now it was time to get really ambitious.

PHASE TWO

While experimenting with the sound waves, I wondered if I could draw letters from the alphabet directly into the Spectrogram. It was possible, but there was a catch: The sound waves were constantly moving forward, so I could only render letters that did not turn back on themselves. Things like ‘O’ and ‘T’ were impossible, at least by hand.

Using both capital and lower case letters, here is what I was able to recreate:

Uppercase: A I J L M N U V W 

Lowercase: h , r 

Was that anything? What could I spell in the Spectrogram?

JAIL, rUN, hAIL, rAIL, MAN, LAIr, AIr, WAr…hmm, this could work.

I plugged all the letters into an online Scrabble word finder and came up with a decent list of words.

Drawing lengthy messages one letter at time without making mistakes, however, was not going to be easy. I wanted to break the task into one word at a time. Since I wouldn’t be doing it live during the session, I would have to record the words. Unfortunately, the Chrome Music Lab Spectrogram doesn’t have that function.

Lucikly, there is a Chrome Audio Capture extension. It was free, installed easily, and allowed me to record my best attempts at hand drawing each word right in my browser.

Once I had my word files, I needed to combine them into messages. For that, I used the free audio editing program Audacity. I’m not very good at it, but it wasn’t hard to open the first file, import the next word, copy and paste, and so on.

Now I had three messages that would spell out words inside a spectrogram. Following the pattern, I made the first one simple and made the challenge progressively harder from there.

There was another problem – the Chrome Music Lab Spectrogram doesn’t allow you to plug in your own sound files…but this one at Academo does!

At first glance my messages just looked like the spikes and blips of a random soundwave, but when I clicked the ‘Logarithmic Frequency Scale?’ box my signal was boosted and voila! Scrolling letters in vibrant color! I couldn’t wait to share this tab with my players in our next game session.

My players were stumped.

They listened to the sounds and stared at their old symbolic lexicon, ignoring the words scrolling by on the screen.

It took a few hints, but they eventually looked up and discovered all of the new messages, even the perplexing ‘JAM hAIr IN hUMAN URINAL‘.

Listen to the sound: https://archive.org/download/full-sequence-3/FULL%20SEQUENCE%203.mp3

(Feel free to save the MP3 and try for yourself)

My mistake, of course, was in switching up the cypher. First I gave my players tools and built their competence with them, then I presented a new puzzle that seemed like it would fit the old tools. I believe that a little confusion is okay with puzzles. Sometimes I’ll even let frustration set in, if I think it will payoff with a bigger ‘ah-ha’ moment.

If you are interested in using the Spectrogram puzzles in your own game, I would suggest sticking with just Phase One or Phase Two. If you are going to present them both, you may need to take extra care to signal that the second puzzle works differently.

I hope these on-line tools inspire you to enhance your own distanced gaming sessions!

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Halloween Wrap Up 2021

Here is your one stop trick-or-treat spot for this year’s original Halloween content:

I returned to the parlor for another great conversation with Patrick on The Big Séance Podcast.

I appeared as the character ‘Big Ears’ in the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast’s production of ‘THE COLOSSUS’ and almost had their entire month dedicated to JeffCCartober.

I got a shout out on the Killer Horror Critic Podcast during their episode of HACK-O-LANTERN. You can find my article about the movie on Meghan’s House of Books.

 

My own show, the Six Demon Bag Podcast, celebrated its annual Halloween Spooktacular:

Part One

Part Two

This year’s Halloween playlist theme is Synthwave.

Music Video List

Spotify Playlist

And of course, my book COLD SPELL: The Halloween Curse of Winterhill was released in e-book, print and audiobook format.

Thank you to all the reviewers who were able to cram my book into their busy schedules for spooky season!

Here’s what they’re saying:

Not since Nightmare Before Christmas has there been a better clash of holidays.

-Horror Bookworm Reviews

‘beautiful love letter to Halloween’

-Undead Dad Reads

‘The world building in this story is charming, with great characters and wonderful moments of laughter, fear, and action.’

-Midnight Library Reviews

‘This story had me utterly enchanted’

-Belladonnabooks

“Perfect Companion Book for Every Halloween For All Ages!”

-Everything Horror Podcast

Get your copy here.

Happy Hallowe’en!

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Run the Blades

Call it Synthwave, Darksynth, Darkwave or Retrowave, but you know it when you hear it – that sinister pulsing buzz that powered a generation of horror and science fiction. 

Here are 13 tracks throbbing with electronic menace to set the mood for your Halloween party.

Halloween Theme – John Carpenter

The master who defined the genre.

Stranger Things Theme – Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein

The song that brought the genre back.

Ripped Apart in the Dark – Terrortron

1983 – Main Theme – Sinoia Caves

Star Eater – Daniel Deluxe

Dana’s Vision – Zombie Werewolves

Haunted (Hunted) – Mega Drive

Ripper – GosT

Unface – The Hunt

Fear – Megahit

Wraith– Lazerpunk

Motorcycle Cop – Power Glove

Roadkill – Kn1ght

You can also get this playlist on Spotify.

Click here for more Halloween Playlists

Click here to get my book ‘COLD SPELL: The Halloween Curse of Winterhill’, a spooky adventure filled with ’80s vibes.

Sign up to the mailing list here for more spooky treats

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Happy New Year!


What I’m up to

We traditionally kick off the New Year by listening to Blues music (post-holiday blues) while we take down our Christmas tree and decorations. I found the perfect song for it this year, too: Going Down by Freddie King.

As always, we competed to find the Christmas Pickle*.

*Legend has it that the Christmas Pickle tradition comes from Germany. A pickle was hung in the Christmas tree and the observant child that found it received an extra gift from Santa and a year of good fortune. Apparently that’s bogus, but that doesn’t stop my wife and I from our yearly contest.

I am ‘The Observant Child’ of 2021!

I also combined my two holiday loves, Eggnog Lattes and Boozy Eggnog, for a homemade boozy eggnog latte. It was magnificent, and I am desperately searching for more eggnog as all the stores flip their stocks over to…I dunno, 4th of July stuff?

What I’m watching

I really enjoyed ‘Sweet Home’ and ‘Alice in Borderland’ on Netflix, but felt that they both went off the rails towards the end. They’re based on manga, which probably explains the difficulty in adaptation.

We’ve also started watching ‘Search Party’, and we’re hooked.

What I’m playing

I ran a holiday themed one-shot for my virtual roleplaying group and wrapped up the first story arc for our game. Tonight I’m kicking off the next leg of the journey, and as always I’ve included some riddles and puzzles.

Here’s one of each for you (answers are at the end of the post):

RIDDLE:


Where can you find roads without cars, forests without trees and cities without houses?


PUZZLE:

Which Letter Do You Miss?
BCDGPTV


What I’m working on

Speaking of superhero stuff, I’ve begun outlining a new novel. The ‘high concept’ central to the story prevents it from coinciding with the story universe established in ‘From the Barrel of a Gun’ and ‘Criterion’, but it promises to be just as dark. Fans of my horror work should enjoy it.

I’m in talks with a publisher about a game project that I can’t wait to dive into, and I am nearly done writing for a VR Horror project that should wrap up soon.

The next collection that I have planned will gather my stories set in the Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.

I am looking forward to being a guest on some of my favorite podcasts soon – I’ll post links when those are up.



The State of the Books


I am pleasantly surprised that people are still digging into my holiday book, WE BLEED RED & GREEN: 12 Chilling Tales for Christmas.

Not only that, but WE BLEED ORANGE & BLACK: 31 Fun-sized Tales for Halloween is going strong. It just hit 50 reviews on Amazon, which is a huge milestone for me.

I’m also happy to announce that the audiobook versions for each are now available. The audiobook for my first collection, BETWEEN THE TEETH, should be available soon.  

That’s all for now. I hope to share more exciting news and fun giveaways with you next time.


The answer to the riddle: ‘On a map’
 
The answer to the puzzle: ‘E’, all these letters have a long E sounds.

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X-mas Wrap-up and Huge Giveaway

Happy Holidays!

The best part of 2020 is almost here – the end!

Speaking of gifts, here are two custom ornaments that Samantha Nielsen (aka Samsospooky) made patterned after my holiday books. They will haunt my tree for years to come.

My collection WE BLEED RED & GREEN is still free until Christmas Eve, don’t forget to grab a copy!

Reviews continue to roll in as the Christmas Spirit draws nigh. I especially enjoyed this article at HorrorFuel.com.

PODCASTS

Every year we put out our Christmas Specials, and even though they were virtual this year it was a great boost to my holiday spirits.

Part One of The Six Demon Bag 2020 Christmas Special is up (Part Two drops next week), and we’ve also posted a winter themed episode of Put Up Your Spooks. Click on the pictures to listen!

CHRISTMAS MAGIC

My family checked out the Holiday Road immersive drive-thru light show in Calabasas.

Fun Fact #1: Calabasas, site of the ‘Biggest Loser Ranch’ near Malibu, Ca, was the original location of the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. I was lucky enough to be there both years before they moved to Griffith Park.

Fun Fact #2: ‘Calabasas’ is from the Spanish calabaza for ‘pumpkin’. Legend has it that in 1824, a Basque rancher spilled a wagonload of pumpkins on the road en route to Los Angeles. The following spring, hundreds of pumpkins sprouted alongside the road. The area was named Las Calabasas—the place where the pumpkins fell.

The event was delightful, but I couldn’t help but compare it to the Halloween events from this year and long ago. What winter wonderland wouldn’t be improved with a horde of zombie elves?

We bailed halfway through Netflix’s Jingle Jangle but enjoyed Hulu’s Happiest Season, and have plowed through the holiday episodes of The Great British Bake Off. There is homemade cookie dough in the freezer that we are saving for Christmas Eve.

Speaking of homemade, I ran a special homebrew one-shot RPG for my friends full of zombies, chest-bursting elves, Christmas themed puzzles and a Big Bad from a very obscure holiday horror movie (1983’s Blood Beat).

GIVEAWAYS, RAFFLES, & DEALS

The Holiday Horror Group Promotion is still going on until 12/24 and KJ’s Book Chat still has deals for fans of Urban Fantasy.

If you really want to fill the rest of your year with excitement check out the massive giveaway for The Superhero Mega Anthology.

You can join the email list for 500+ pages of superhero comics and prose, $600+ of art, posters, clothes and tons of free books.

My first superhero short story, From the Barrel of A Gun, is included. I’m also raffling off a signed copy of my follow-up superhero novel CRITERION.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

Now that you have enough free stuff to tide you over well into 2021 I’m going to sign off. I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday and a happy New Year!

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Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! My e-book WE BLEED RED & GREEN will soon be free for a limited time on Amazon. Here is a handy picture you can hang on your fridge as a reminder:

Audiobook News

My Halloween Collection WE BLEED ORANGE & BLACK is now available, the Christmas Collection has been submitted and ‘Between The Teeth’ is in production now.

Podcasts & Interviews
 I have had some great reviews and conversations about the Christmas book, and I’d love you to check out, follow, and subscribe to these fine folks…

Angel interviewed me for the Horror Girl Problems podcast and Youtube channel. She is a contributor for Fangoria magazine, a photographer and sometimes werewolf. 
Patrick Keller runs The Big Seance podcast, your one-stop shop for all things paranormal. He loves the holidays and we always get into creepy historical weirdness.
Mike runs All Hallows Geek, a tremendous resource for the latest and spookiest news on Horror media, trends and live events. His coverage of the Haunt industry and the daily developments of this Halloween season were great. 

Hot Off the Presses

My story ‘Candy Cane’ also appears in A KRAMPUS CAROL: Gothic Blue Book IV from Burial Day Books. This collection is packed full of creepy yuletide tales by amazing authors with a gorgeous cover by Abigail Larson. 

My story ‘Salt & Stampede’ appears in Flash in a Flash’s 5th volume, Worth 1,000 Words: 101 Flash Fiction Stories by 101 Authors, which was successfully kickstarted in just 4 hours. That’s a lot of numbers.

Personal Life

I’ve managed to stay somewhat sane during quarantine by working on a variety of projects which I can’t wait to share with you.

There may be some changes to my household in the near future, we’ll see what 2021 has in store.

This is the year that I started making Egg Nog Lattes at home.

Yesterday, I ordered one at Starbucks and I received a terrible shock – they’re going to permanently discontinue Egg Nog Latte’s nationwide!

Of course, I’ll manage as long as my own Nog rations last (Note to self: throw out earthquake supplies to make room for emergency egg nog storage), but if Starbucks doesn’t give us something comparable, like Figgy Pudding Lattes, there will be trouble.

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Halloween Roundup 2020

Here is my 2020 roundup of original Halloween content

The Music Mix:   Spooky Scary Skele-tunes

The Guest Blog Posts:  

Delirium Tremens – 31 Questions from Ed Erdelac

Horror and Sons – article about the Real Ghostbusters

The Big Séance Podcast with Patrick Keller

A Singular Season – 13 Seasons of Spooky Television for October

The Podcast Spooktaculars:

 The 6 Demon Bag podcast (part 1)

The 6 Demon Bag podcast (part 2)

The 6 Demon Bag podcast (part 3) Story Episode

Put Up Your Spooks – Happy Halloween Show

SpookYou’s Frightening Nights of Halloween – A Youtube special featuring my story ‘Take One‘ read by the haunting Matt Weisgerber

H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast -featuring four of my stories (currently available only to Patreon subscribers)

All Hallow’s Geek – exclusive preview of my story ‘Haunted House – 1 Star’

The Horror Bandwagon podcast read my poem ‘The Collection’

The Gothic Action Banana Puppet Video:

Let The Bodies Hit The Floor

I was also inducted into The Samhain Society !

And of course, there is my book itself,

We Bleed Orange & Black – 31 Fun-sized Tales for Halloween.

Reviewers are saying,

“This book is a MUST READ for Halloween lovers.”

-Jamie, 5 Star Amazon Review

“I LOVED THIS COLLECTION. The stories were well-paced, distinctive, and held my attention throughout. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to keep the spooky spirit alive this year.”

– Briana Morgan Books

“Each tale is unique and transports you to a different place or time, providing the perfect escape during a Halloween season that we will likely need it most.”

-All Hallow’s Geek.com

“I absolutely loved it and it was the perfect way to kick off October! “

Lexi, Goodreads

Get your copy for 99 cents here.

I hope you had a safe and happy halloween!

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Let the bodies hit the floor

I was hanging out with my buddy (mad genius) Ryan Gerossie, eating burritos, when he told me about his dream to make a music video for the song ‘Let the Bodies Hit the Floor’, but with bananas.

Naturally, I was on board.

What began as an innocent lark transformed into a gothic action-horror epic of homemade miniatures, movie making, puppetry and bananas.

Forget pumpkins! If you truly want to celebrate Halloween this year, watch what happen when we carve up these bananas.

It started with the band
and then Dracula showed up
and banana ghosts…
and hordes of rotting banana zombies

Once you’ve filled up on action, comedy and potassium, check out the making-of video and go behind the scenes to see all of the crazy detail that went into bringing this project to life.

From Storyboard
and test shoots
set design
and movie magic!

Fans of the band Drowning Pool eventually found the video and brought it to their attention, where it enjoyed a brief moment of fame with a local radio station.

As for me and Ryan, sometimes we still get together to have burritos, reminisce and ritualistically murder bananas.

Happy Halloweenana!

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A Singular Season

October is the perfect season for horror marathons.

The two are almost synonymous. Not even Christmas, that twinkling 800-pound gorilla, can boast such round-the-clock programming. Of course, wintertime itself is a constant reminder of the year-end holidays, and there is truly no escaping all of the Christmas music, commercials, office parties, decorations, rampaging Krampi, etc.

Horror marathons are important because they set a mood, or what I like to call ‘Halloween Spirit’. Even if you can’t enjoy cascades of brilliant leaves and cozy hayrides, you can always open a portal to the moon-kissed realms on your television.

Here are 13 TV mini-series or single seasons for you to freshen up this year’s marathon.

Ultraviolet – BBC

This stylish techno-thriller is only six episodes long. It stars Idris Elba (!), with an appearance by Stephen Moyer as a vampire (!)

Hemlock Grove – Season 1

The first season of this show has werewolves, vampires, monsters, and mad-science. The cast is great (Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgard, Dougray Scott, Lili Taylor) and so is their chemistry. And it’s DARK.

Werewolf

This sleeper hit from the late 80’s was the most elusive thrill of my childhood. Every rare once in a while I’d manage to catch an episode and watch transfixed as colossal werewolves battled for dominance.

Being Human

This low-key BBC series is about a werewolf, a ghost and a vampire who share a flat. The show runs for several seasons and was adapted in America, but Season One is a strong mix of character and horror.

Juda

This Israeli production is a horror-comedy about a small time criminal who returns from a trip in Romania with new problems, powers and a terrible thirst. It’s suffers from a lower budget but makes up for it with mad-cap performances.

The Frankenstein Chronicles

Also from BBC, this mystery set in the grimdark Victorian era follows Sean Bean(!) as he tracks down the one responsible for a rash of mutilated bodies. Season One is phenomenal – fortunately it is a complete story, so you can avoid Season Two. 

The Passage

This vampire thriller only lasted one season on Fox, but the relationship between leads Mark-Paul Gosselaar and child actress Saniyya Sidney was fantastic. The secret power struggle with the psychic vampire master Jamie McShane is also great – the entire cast kills it in this one. Don’t worry about the show being cancelled – it wraps up at the end.

Dracula

This NBC adaptation starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers is bonkers in a wonderful way. It functions almost like a prequel to the story we know, re-mixing and re-contextualizing the relationships and motivations between all the classic characters.

Forever Knight

The last vampire show on this list is a 90’s gem about a vampire cop. One of the vampires from Forever Knight even made a blink-and-you’ll-miss it cameo on Buffy.

Slasher

The first season of this show was more brutal, clever and fun than I expected it to be. If you like the ‘Scream’ franchise, you’ll like season one of Slasher.

Scream

I’d also recommend MTV’s first season of Scream! A worthy addition to the franchise.

Death Note

The animated adaptation of Death Note floored me, even though I’d already read the manga. This twisty supernatural saga about dueling geniuses and death gods has a global body count.

Death Valley

MTV made a COPS style mockumentary show about an LAPD task force that handled the werewolves, vampires and zombies in the San Fernando Valley. Bizarre, gory, silly, fun.

I hope you found something new on this list. If you’d also like to set the mood for October with a book, check out ‘We Bleed Orange & Black – 31 Fun-sized Tales for Halloween’.

A twisted faerie finds a lost child, a teenage werewolf sneaks out during a full moon, and a legion of monsters begins the downfall of man. Explore Halloween from Appalachia to the Arctic Circle and journey from the Old West to Mars.

This spooktacular goody bag harvests all the joys and terrors of the best night of the year. If you love air crisp as cider and scented with burning leaves, if you greet the darkness with a jack o’lantern grin, and if you yearn for the veil between worlds to grow thin, then you bleed orange & black.

Get 31 stories for .99 cents

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