"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cleanup on Aisle Five

Geepers, I'm a mess today.

Here it is, Halloween at last, and I should be giving you all a blog about how scary and fun it all is. I was all set to dress up my life-sized, cardboard Dean Martin in my feathery, sequined Mardi Gras mask and pose in my very own costume (a T-shirt that says "Drop Dead" and a witches hat), and give you a visual you'd never forget.

But then last night, Dale ran over one of the cables that feed the TV from the satellite. Sorry, did I mention he ran over it with the lawnmower? Yeah, sliced that puppy in two, instantly cutting off the signal and my regularly scheduled programming. He got it mostly working with the remaining cable, but he needs to purchase a new cable in order for us to DVR one channel and watch another. I predict much fighting over the remote until he gets this done.

To distract myself from Dale's attempts to fix the cable, I went to the store to buy our pumpkin to carve. We always decorate the house and carve a pumpkin. Unfortunately, all of the Albertson's pumpkins were warty. I mean look at these things. Our jack-o-lanterns are going to look like they've got acne.

But he's my baby!
Also, last night Marcus went to a Halloween party. I don't know any of the particulars, except that he came home to get his Renaissance costume to wear. Marcus is a 19-year old college student living in the dorms at CSU Long Beach; he could be going to a party every night of the week, drinking heavily and trying every drug on the planet. I have no idea what he does. I only know that when I know he's at a party, I have a rather fitful night's sleep and look around the next morning for some reassurance that he's okay.

Today I saw a post from him on Facebook, so I can relax. He at least made it back to his computer.

To top everything off, I can't find my Mardi Gras mask. I honestly can't remember where I put it, but two months from now, I'll be walking through the house and the image of where it is will hit my brain like a locomotive. It's how things work with me.

So today, I'm not going to give you my planned post about Halloween at the Carline house and how it has changed over the years and ask if you decorate your house and dress up and ask you to reminisce about your kids and the night the dog ate the pumpkin, etc. Instead, I'm going to ask a question that's been bugging me all night:

Why aren't there horror films about big, dangerous animals?

We have horror films about mutant small animals, like ants and lizards and octopi and even rabbits.

We have horror films about possibly dangerous, yet smallish creatures that attack in numbers, like bees and pirranha and spiders and rats. But how about lions and tigers? And bears? They're pretty nasty when they're just starved for a couple of days and then turned loose. What if they were starved and mutant? Why doesn't anyone ever make a horror movie about that?

If I made a horror movie, I'd make it about bears. Mutant teddy bears that all turn into large, slobbering, real grizzlies and eat all the parents, and no one would know how to stop them because we don't hunt bears in New York City, for Pete's sake. The mayor would have to call in some old, lonely, misogynistic guy from northern Alaska who hates the city and would just as soon see all these miscreants eaten by the rampaging teddy-grizzlies, but they give him enough money for booze  and a plane ticket home, and he hunts the bears down. All except the last one, who is a very smart she-bear, and she is shot by the plucky female sheriff's deputy, who has been dogging Grizzly Man's steps from the beginning. And then, they'd have an awkward moment, where Grizzly Man would like to like Plucky Female, except it's against his religion so he mumbles some kind of "Gee if you're ever in the Arctic Circle, come by and I'll defrost your mukluks," invitation. And as he gets on the plane, you see a little teddy bear has somehow made its way into his duffle bag, and it has the weirdest little grin.

And this would be its theme song.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

As Pooh would say, "Think think think."

I've been thinking about this a lot. I've been threatening it. But now I'm going to do it, Dagnabbit.

There's been a lot of discussion on the Amazon boards about e-books and Indie authors. A lot of people seem to think we all write like we've got boxing gloves on and the I.Q. of a stick. Then there are a group of people who are willing to wade through the Amazonian slush pile to find those rare gems of good books written by good writers. In between those two tribes, is a big fat group of Skeptics.

The Skeptics aren't afraid of Indie authors or their books, with one caveat: a low price means low quality. Where I've been swimming around in the pool of people who think 99 cents is a great price, there is a growing contingent of readers who won't touch a 99 cent book because it's like putting a big GARBAGE HERE stamp on the story.

Personally, I'm not convinced that a low price means low quality. I have a hard time, philosophically, in loading a book onto the internet for an infinite length of time and selling it over and over and over, for more than 99 cents. I mean, it's a marathon, right?

My sales of What Would Erma Do? are pretty brisk. I'd like to say it's because WWED is a good book (which I think it is), but I think the real reason is that it has shown up on the Top 20 of Amazon's Humor for Parenting and Families. When people go looking for humor, it's easier to find.

My sales of my mysteries are a little slower. Okay, a lot slower. I still believe in Hit or Missus (as I do Freezer Burn), but the mystery genre is a large ocean. Even when you narrow it down to Women Sleuths, my books are a small drop in the waters. It's harder to climb up the list, and therefore harder to get discovered, no matter what the price.

So, beginning November 1, I am raising the price of Hit or Missus to $2.99, which is the same price as Freezer Burn. If you want it at the 99 cent price, get it this weekend. As they say, move it or lose it.

I'm keeping my humor books at 99 cents, at least until I'm shown a good reason to raise their prices. If you can think of a good reason for me to hike my humor prices, by all means, let me know.

In the meantime, the mysteries are on the rise.

P.S. Please check out the Crime Fiction Collection blog. It's good. Trust me.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

So much time and so few brains

It's a short post today. My mind is all kerfuffled because my new book is finally available for sale on Amazon, in paperback and Kindle. It's another humor collection: two more years of merriment, punctuated by editorial quirks and readers' opinions. It will also be available on Barnes & Noble, on e-reader stores everywhere, and you can order it from any bookstore.

I thought I knew what I was doing with this book, having released two others through Createspace, Kindle Direct, and Smashwords. And yet... once I pressed the magic buttons, I've been obsessed with whether my book is available so I can put a Media Release on the website and talk about it on Facebook and Twitter and yadda yadda, none of which I could do until the book was available for purchase.

I'm also doing a giveaway on Goodreads, which starts on Halloween, if you want to get in on that. I'll be offering autographed copies via Paypal, too, as soon as I get my copies, which should be next week at the latest.

This craziness has made me forget a few things, like posting the essay I had written for the Crime Fiction Collective. Oopsie. LJ Sellers was a doll about it and tossed up a post about what we're all looking forward to reading. Check it out and try to forgive me for being the little eclectic redheaded stepchild. My post will be up on Saturday for your enjoyment.

In the meantime - check out the new book!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The heart of fear

Horror, much like humor, is subjective. What makes one person's hair stand on end and do a little dance can make the person sitting next to him say, "But when does it get scary?"

Some people are frightened by extrasensory "talents" of others. I suppose they are afraid of being inferior to, or under the influence of, someone with special powers. I mean, do you want to piss off Carrie White and have her pick you up and slam you through a window?

Me neither.

For some, it's all about monsters. Even though the Alien doesn't exist in reality, monsters touch those people (like me) who have a feeling there ARE things that go bump in the night. Or maybe they're people who demonize the worst in humanity and give it form. Whatever the psychological reason, either he scares you or he doesn't.

Let's face it - all of these stories frighten me. I'm a big scaredy cat. But nothing scares me as much as...

(Insert dramatic Ta-Da-Daaaaa music.)

Self doubt.

Humility is fine, and I don't like to spend a lot of time with those Human Peacocks who like to strut and talk about what They've Created, as if they directed the Hand of God. There is a line to walk, though, and when I fall too far to the back side, I'm capable of stopping my creativity.

Bette Midler has a wonderful example of this in her book A View from A Broad. She included a letter she wrote to her sister, in which she is expressing a hesitancy to end her tour in Hawaii, her childhood home. "If a prophet is without honor in his own country, what about a loudmouth like me?" she writes. "I'm always afraid Mrs. Burke (her hula teacher) will suddenly appear, and picking me up by the back of the neck like some great tabby, announce to one and all, 'This hussy is a fraud.'"

This hussy is a fraud. (Insert screeching violins here.)

So is it just me and the Divine Miss M who work hard to the point of madness, to overcome our feelings that we are really bulls**tting our way through the universe? Or do you feel it and fear it, too?

If so, what are some of the things you do to convince yourself that, while you may not be a Most Brightly Plumaged Genius, you are still a helluva creative force?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

We have a winner!

First of all, to keep this post even mildly related to October and All Hallows Eve and Dias de los Muertos and all things macabre and chilling, I've had a few fun Halloween costumes, but there's one I've always wanted to wear. You could say it's on my bucket list, to dress like Carmen Miranda.

Isn't she fabulous? Check out the shoes - who wouldn't want to dress up like her? There are only two problems. One is I don't have the time, or possibly the ability to MAKE a costume like this, and I don't know where I'd rent one. The other is, at my age, I don't have the abs to make it fab. But if given the opportunity, I'd make it work.

Maybe I should just stick with this one. I could probably whip up an adult-sized version of this without too much trouble. (In case you don't know, I'm a horse. My Aunt Ardell made this for me, and was my idol forever after.)

Now then, to more pressing, non-scary matters:


Remember last month when I was trying to goad you all into helping me chose a name for my next humor book? Remember the rules, where you could vote for one, or come up with a new one, and that I'd either pick the one with the most votes or the suggestion that was so freakin' brilliant it made every other title hide in shame?

That last thing happened. A title was submitted that was P.E.R.F.E.C.T. Perfect, I tell you. When I turned it in to Joe Felipe, my cover designer, he designed the P.E.R.F.E.C.T. cover for it. It's kErma, I tell you. Karmic Erma.

Ta Da!

Title submitted by Tameri Etherton, who will receive a free, autographed copy.


When Gayle Carline clawed her way into her local newspaper office and groveled until they gave her a weekly humor column, she worried about not having enough material. Then she took a look at her life. Nearly every week something in her house or car needs repair, her son doesn't know why being able to see his carpet is a big deal, and her husband believes less is more, especially when it comes to communication. In What Would Erma Do, she chronicled her first two years as a paid exaggerator. Now she's back with two more years of merriment, along with editorial high jinks and readers' opinions. It's the most fun she's ever had without a credit card.

Quotes from World Famous Reviewers: 
"This is off the record, right, Mom?" - Marcus Carline

"When I retire, I'm writing some rebuttals." - Dale Carline
Are You There Erma? It's Me, Gayle will be released within the next two weeks (I still want to give it one more read-through). As always, it will be available as a paperback for $12.99, as well as an e-reader through Kindle, Nook, Sony, Apple, Kobo, you name it, I'll sell it there for the low-low price of 99 cents.
I'll, of course, announce its availability on Facebook, Twitter, and the 6 o'clock news, if I can figure out a way to get their attention without being arrested. But if you want to just be told, ship me your email and you'll be the first to receive the announcement. I promise, PROMISE, not to email you anything else, unless you request it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We break for this emergency broadcast

I know this isn't a horror post, and yet, it is.

Every second Saturday in October, my town has a festival to honor its heritage and its community. We start with a pancake breakfast, then a parade, and finally, a festival in the park with music, crafts, food, and more. Hit or Missus actually has a scene set in the midst of the merriment.

When Freezer Burn first came out, I had an author booth at the festival. I skipped last year, because my next book hadn't quite hit the shelves yet, but I was really looking forward to this year, when I would have three (3) THREE books to sell!

Enter Life.

We have dear friends, a large extended family whom we see every Christmas and every Easter. When we can get together in between, it's the icing on the cake. They hosted our wedding reception. We've seen them through all their children's marriages, and their grandchildren.

One of their sons was found in his apartment this week, dead. He was, I believe, in his early thirties. No one knows anything about anything. There was, of course, an autopsy.

This is a horror. JJ was too young, and too lively, and too funny and too everything to suddenly be taken away from his family and friends. You are not supposed to outlive your children. It's not natural.

The memorial service for our friend is, of course, tomorrow. The second Saturday of October, when I'm supposed to be at my booth.

So, I ripped myself inside out trying to figure out what to do. The festival is from 10 to 6. The service is at 11 a.m. in Temecula, which is about 60 miles away. Gaaaa-AAAAHHHH.

It took me two days, but I found a plan that worked. My darling sonny-boy, Marcus, is going to be at the booth. I will attend the service with Dale, then at least I will drive home to take over the booth. If Dale can get a ride home with someone, he'll stay in Temecula; otherwise, he'll come home with me.

I can live with this, and honor my friend, JJ. When I was agonizing about this, someone asked, what would JJ want me to do? Frankly, he'd want me to turn up the music and hit the dance floor. JJ was that kind of guy.

P.S. If you're at the Heritage Festival tomorrow, could you stop by and say hello to Marcus? I don't want him to be lonely. Maybe feed him? Thanks.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We might as well talk about "him"


I first read the novel when I was 23 years old. Despite its archaic language, it scared the pants off me. Even now, I think of Lucy becoming a vampire and seeking out the small children of the village, and Van Helsing cutting her head off and stuffing her mouth with garlic, and it's all so real. Apparently, Stoker's inspiration was from a Count Vlad of Romania.

Looks pretty colorful, but I'm not certain I'm afraid of him drinking my blood. Looks more like he'd like to do my nails. Is it just me, or does he have Marty Feldman eyes?

This guy doesn't give me the willies, either.

How does he get his fingers to bend backward like that? That's creepy.

On the other hand, Nosferatu makes me do the icky-shudder dance. Eeew, get away from me, you freak!

Then we went through a plethora of Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing vampire movies, full of buxom virgins and bloody action sequences. Scary, not because they were undead, but because they were ungood.

Nowadays, vampires are sexy. We have glittery teenaged vampires, full of angst and hormones, or drop-dead, morally upright vampires who get their meals from the blood bank. It's a long way from Bram Stoker, and I can pinpoint who is to blame for this:

Frank Langella made it cool to give hickies. Plus, for the first time, the vampire wins. WTF?

I would be remiss not to mention Anne Rice and her interviews with vampires, but quite honestly, I didn't care for the books. I couldn't find anything sexy or compelling about her Undead cast of characters. They were just pretty sad. Actually, Anne Rice gives me one more reason to use the word 'nihilistic' in a sentence, as in, "I don't care for Interview with the Vampire, as it is much too nihiistic for my tastes." Pink Floyd is the only other reason for me to use that word, which is a shame, because I like the way it sounds.

Who is your favorite vampire? Do you like the dead-on, scary? Or the semi-campy 60s? Or do you like your bloodsuckers to be sexy? It's okay. There's no wrong answer here.

This is my personal favorite:

I think I know who next season's Dancing with the Stars contestants should be.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ah, the horror!

"So, Gayle, ever watch anything from OUR century?"

Yes, you little Smarty Pantsers. My first horror movie was in 1976. A friend and I worked together at a corn company in the middle of a farm, and had to run reports that took two-and-a-half hours (ah, early, single processing computers), and typically didn't end until after 10 p.m. With nothing else to do, we thought we'd run into town and catch a movie.

Let me just start out by saying, I probably wouldn't have gone to see this movie if I'd seen the trailer. I mean, why don't you just show us the ending, too, Mr. Movie Announcer Voice? You've shown us everything else.

We left the theater laughing, as in, "HA HA THAT WAS SCARY, HUH? WOW, HA HA, COOL." You know. A little too loud. A little too hard. We drove back to the very dark farm, unlocked the office, and turned on the first set of lights. It was about 11:00 p.m.

"We don't need to lock the door behind us, do we?" my friend asked.

"No," I replied.

We both looked back at the darkness outside. Then we locked the door, and turned on every light in the building.

Carrie was my first residual-terror, nightmare-inducing movie, and I wasn't gung ho to see another one.

I was moved to go buy the book, though. I ended up reading a lot of Stephen King's books. I loved his interview in Playboy (I'm a girl, 'K? I do read the interviews), especially when he said (paraphrasing), "It would be a great tragedy, but I would consider it the highest compliment of my work if I actually scared someone to death."

That's a writer's perspective.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Honest it's not my fault

I was supposed to post something today to talk about horror, but I'm horribly, horribly late. My only excuse is...


No, not that Zombie.

These zombies:

This is arguably one of the worst trailers in history. It starts out well enough, and then the announcer says, "... and all the weird black magic that the white man seldom sees." First of all, the whole thing sounds racist. Second, the word 'weird' doesn't fit in at all here. Then it goes into a litany of "it's a tale of" this and "it's a tale of" that.

But it 's a fun movie. Because it's a tale of bad actors chewing the Hollywood scenery that's been decorated to look like the Caribbean.

Monday, October 10, 2011


When you say something like that, it'd better be in all caps. It'd also better be one of these:

That's right. I'm talking about all those B-movies that were made around a single idea: Let's take something small and make it BIG and terrorize all humanity with it. We'll blame it on atomic mutation. It'll be great - boffo at the box office!

I can just picture a bunch of closeted geeks jumping for joy because now they get to build teeny little sets and film ants and rodents and even women stomping on the cars and pulling out power lines.


I actually have a few favorites, not because they're scary, but because they're campy. Everyone seems to know about Them! but did you know they turned out a movie called Night of the Lepus about gigantic, and apparently carnivorous rabbits. Oh, yeah, Monty Python had it right, with their big nasty teeth. Those ranchers could have used the Holy Hand Grenade.

My absolute favorite is The Giant Gila Monster (1959). I like it for a number of reasons:

1. When I saw it as a kid (TV, the Saturday Matinee), it really did scare me to see a giant lizard walking down a teeny little paved highway. Scared me so much I had a nightmare about fighting a gila monster that was the size of a German Shepherd, and I woke up sitting on my knees in the middle of the bed, wrestling my sheets. I've never had a nightmare THAT vivid before or since.

2. Speaking of nightmares and monsters, the term "gila monster" was something my mother and I always argued about. She was rather proud of her two years of high school Spanish and insisted it was pronounced "Gee-la", with a hard G. I showed her every text that proved it was pronounced "Hee-la", but she wouldn't budge. Moms - just think of them as giant, festering splinters under your fingernails.

3. The "giant gila monster" was not a gila monster at all. This is a picture of a gila monster.

This is the trailer for the movie.

Notice any differences? Yes, the movie is using something called a Mexican beaded lizard. I can only assume, since gila monsters are indeed poisonous, they couldn't get the proper permits (or lizard trainers) for wrangling a real one. But truly, would it have broken the bank to paint some stripes on the thing? Even in black and white, I can tell, and I'm not a herpetologist.

Got any giant, atomically mutated movies you'd like to share?

Sunday, October 9, 2011


This is my kind of horror. I like my monsters in the shadows. I like the way the suspense builds up to a full, throaty, movie-actress scream. Let's face it: when it comes to horror, I'm all about the foreplay.

Plus, I love Simone Simon. Her teeny little voice is right on the edge of charming and seductive. If you don't fall for her, she's only being charming. If you recognize what she's about, you'd better watch your back - she's dangerous.

Even Katy gives it Two Paws Up, and she's a harsh critic.

Want to watch the whole thing? Seriously, for $2.99 on YouTube, you can have your way with the movie for 24 hours. Go here and see for yourself.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A stitch in time

Of all the literary and movie monsters, this guy never frightened me.

First of all, it's not like he could sneak up on you. Not only is he bigger than Andre the Giant, he wears hobnail boots. Do you know how noisy those things are?

Secondly, I could totally outrun him, even in my highest heels.

I did love the book, however, for its unflinching view of scientists who rush forward to prove their theory, without thinking whether it is the good and moral thing to do. The consequences in the book serve as testament to how much we can screw up this life by trying to 'improve' upon it.

If Frankenstein wasn't scary to me, at least he was useful to my funny bone.

Yeah, I love me some Mel Brooks. Gene Wilder was simply adorable in this movie, and everyone else played their parts so well. This movie deserved an Oscar, dammit!

I'm throwing in one more character, just as a counterpoint to Mary Shelley's bleak vision. Sometimes scientists get it right - if they happen to live in Halloweentown.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A split personality

As a young girl, I loved reading Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. My favorite was My Shadow ("I have a littel shadow that goes in and out with me/And what can be the use of him is more than I can see"). I had heard he wrote other things, books, but they did not sound interesting to me because 1) I was not into pirates, and 2) I was not allowed to read scary things any more than I could watch them.

For all their hovering, however, my parents let me watch their TV unsupervised in their bedroom. Which is why, in 1968, I tuned in to a TV movie, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring Jack Palance. I've since seen several versions of the story, and I finally read the book sometime in the 1970's, when I bought a used copy at a bookstore in Chicago.

The book is actually no more than a novella, and of course told in that very proper English of the 1880's ("Mr. Utterson had already quailed at the name of Hyde, but when the stick was laid before him, he could doubt no longer"). By today's standards, it's a slog, and yet, once you get into the rhythm of the language and stick your head fully into the past, it's as frightening and sad as Stevenson's children's verses are light and happy.

My favorite version of the book is the 1941 movie with Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, and Ingrid Bergman as the hopeless tavern maid. Tracy shows no fear as Hyde, only sadistic joy. Even as Jekyll, he is only afraid of society might judge him, but he doesn't seem to feel any guilt at what he has unleashed.

The Jack Palance version, however, has a special place in my heart, for two reasons. One is the memory of sitting alone and watching something that was verboten to me. The other was Palance's performance as Jekyll. The more Hyde emerges, and the worse he behaves, the more guilt-ridden, and even docile Palance plays the doctor.

Even at 14, I could see the emotional distinctions.

What's your favorite rendition of this classic? You can name one of the more literal translations (Frederic March?), the comedies (Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), or the homages (Mary Reilly).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A *shudder*shudder*EEW show

Twilight Zone was the gold standard of storytelling. The writers (mostly Rod Serling) managed to put an allegorical spin on many of the tales, to talk about war and censorship and the evil that men do. A few years after the Twilight Zone came a TV show that was just as weird, except there was no attempt at teaching a lesson. Humans fought against monsters, scientifically, and sometimes against their own weaknesses.

It was next on my list of Things That Make Me Go *shudder*shudder*EEW.

My favorite episode was The Sixth Finger. Frightening, gloomy, and yet with such campy lines as, "Your ignorance makes me ill and angry." Yes, Gwyllm, I agree.

The fun part about this particular episode is that Gwyllm, the miner who is scientifically evolved into the Big Brain, was played by David McCallum. From childhood, I've had a major crush on him. Now that he's Ducky on NCIS, he's still crush-worthy to me.

This isn't his best look.

Any of you ever watch this show? How about Twilight Zone?

Compare and contrast, please, Class.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A good scare is good for you

As I said in yesterday's post, my early contact with Tennessee Ernie Ford was so frightening beyond all reason, my mother decided I was to never be exposed to anything that would scare me.

Good luck with that.

The result was that a lot of things scared me because everyone was fixated on not scaring me. Our house was always full of sound, either from the TV or the radio, so there was always something to avert my eyes from, or some big brassy music to startle me. Although, this guy didn't scare me at all:

When I was four and saw Harry Belafonte on TV, I said (paraphrasing), "That is the most beautiful man I've ever seen."

My mom was scared then.

There was a particular scare every weeknight, when the Late Movie would come on. If I wasn't in bed before 10:30 (our household was a little lax about bedtime, among other things), the opening credits of the Late Movie would show a sort of "lazy susan" with characters, while the announcer listed the kind of genres you might see tonight. Romance, comedy, drama and ...

Yep. Horror, with this guy as their model. It was my singular motivation for getting to bed early, although, since my bedroom shared a wall with the living room, I could still hear the eerie organ music they played while Lon Chaney menaced the screen. It didn't help that the TV set was on that wall.

But a funny thing happened when I was 8 years old.

The Twilight Zone had been on for three or four years by then, but I managed to walk into the living room and catch an episode called "Little Girl Lost." A little girl falls through an interdimensional portal behind her bed and gets lost, along with a dog, in some kind of alternate universe. Good thing her dad has an astro-physicist as a friend!

The show totally creeped me out. I went to my room and checked the walls and floor. No portals, but I still found myself thinking about the episode, getting chills, and enjoying it. Wow, scares could be fun. I tuned in to every episode after that.

What could possibly be better? Tune in tomorrow and find out.

In the meantime, when was your first good scare? You know, the one that made you jump or creeped you out, but you laughed and went back for more?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tell me about your first time

The first time you were scared. Geesh, what did you think I meant?

I was frightened at an early age, and I actually remember it. I don't recall my exact age (it was a rather moving target, since everyone kept measuring it in months), but I was still in a crib. My mom had a 45 record of Tennessee Ernie Ford. One side had, I think, John Henry on it. The other side was 16 Tons.

John Henry I could take. 16 Tons made me want to leap from my skin and run to safety. I still don't know why.

It convinced my mom that I was a rather fragile thing, emotionally, so she never allowed me to watch horror movies, which only perpetuated my fear of being frightened. Tomorrow I'll tell you of the first time I enjoyed the thrill of fear, or at least of being creeped out.

In the meantime, what was your first scare? Tell me in the comments. I promise I won't use it for evil. Only good.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's October - let the scares begin.

Tonight I went to see Pride and Prejudice at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. It was a fun play, and I had a great time with my friend Sylvia, who had invited me (she has season tickets), but it got me to thinking: Hey, it's October. What a perfect time to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

This is how my mind works.

I thought it might be fun to devote October's blogs to Halloween, with all its thrills and chills and even a touch of macabre. So I'm going to try to come up with a month's worth of scares, just for you.

'Cause I'm a giver.

Today's story is about the Not-So-Itsy-Bitsy Spider.

When I was oh-so-much younger, in my early thirties, I lived in a two-story condo in one of those uber-designed developments that had lush tropical landscape and streams running through the whole property (Placentia Lakes, for those of you who live in the neighborhood). My condo had been professionally decorated to reflect the outdoors: beautiful green carpet, pale peach wallpaper with vines, and a gorgeous wool rug that echoed the color scheme.

I came home from work after dark one night, and turned on a few of the lights. It was still a little dim in the room. My dog, Tyler, went over and started sniffing at a dark spot on the carpet. I went over to take a look, and possibly scold him for creating whatever was on the pretty new carpet, and saw it was a spider.

Not just any spider, but a Spider - big and black and at least the size of a silver dollar. We're talking huge, like that spider in Lord of the Rings. Mammoth.

Being an idiot, but a very stubborn one, I went to the kitchen and got the Raid. For the record, Raid does not work on spiders. I kind of knew that. I am, however, the Eternal Optimist, who believes that this once, the poison will kill something that usually doesn't succumb to it. I leaned over Shelob, pointed my weapon and pressed the button. I planned to keep spraying until either she asphyxiated or drowned.

At the first impact of spray, I discovered something about my giant spider. It wasn't a giant spider at all. It was a smaller spider with hundreds of babies riding on her back. Hundreds of babies that immediately scattered in every direction, including my feet.

I believe I screamed like a girl before I ran to the dining area to regroup.

Plan A didn't work. What was Plan B?  After I shuddered the "ick" out of me a couple of times, I went to the hall closet and got the vacuum out, then I reached under the kitchen sink and pulled out the duct tape. I plugged vacuum in, turned it on, and sucked all those little eight-legged freaks up into the bag. Then I quickly removed the bag, covered the opening with duct tape, and took it outside, to the dumpster.

I came back in and washed my hands a few (thousand) times, while I repeated, "Ew. Ew. Ew," at intervals. Spiders had never given me the willies before.

They do now.

How about you? Got any good spider tales?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The book-naming contest takes a turn.

Last Saturday night at the Southern California Writer's Conference, I was sitting at a table with Jean Jenkins, waiting for the Agents and Editors Panel to start (which ended up being the Agents Panel, but that was okay - it was interesting, listening to them try to justify their relevance), and I told her about how my sales were going and what else I was writing. I said I had pushed my third mystery aside ever so briefly in order to put out another book of columns, but I was having a devil of a time coming up with a title.

Insightful as always, Jean said, "Why don't you just call it Erma Two?"

That was the missing link. For better or worse (I believe for better), my first book is titled "What Would Erma Do?" I still love the title, because it sums up how I ended up with my newspaper column. After all, Erma Bombeck and I share a birthday, February 21. It's karma. Or maybe it's kErma.

I'm now thinking of a title that begins, "Dear Erma, *fill in the blank*"

Here are my ideas:

"Dear Erma, It's me, Gayle"
"Dear Erma, Now What?"
"Dear Erma, Am I Doing It Right?"

Via Facebook, Marlyn Beebe suggested, "Dear Erma, where did I go wrong?"
Jean offered, "Dear Erma, how do I know when to stop?"
My buddy Jenny Hilborne gave me, "Dear Erma, why are people so mean?" (Jen was obviously having a bad day.)
And my friend Brian Eng said, "Dear Erma, why do some people still think that Columbus discovered America?" (Brian is just one of the reasons I don't let the inmates run the asylum.)

Okay, my Minions, it's your turn. Give me your best shot, or vote for one of these.

P.S. I know you sillies love a good joke, but no voting for Brian. It only encourages him.

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