2018 things I liked and did

Favorite books I read this year

How to Set Yourself on Fire聽by Julia Dixon Evans

A Light No More聽by Robert Kloss

How to be Safe聽by Tom McAllister

The Electric Woman聽by Tessa Fontaine

Meet Me in the Bathroom聽by Lizzy Goodman

Job of the Wasp聽by Colin Winnette

The Third Hotel聽by Laura van den Berg

Favorite albums/music I heard this year

boygeniuswas my favorite album

Here are my favorite songs:


Favorite movies I watched this year:聽







Favorite TV shows

The Terror

Channel Zero: The Dream Door


Sharp Objects聽

Favorite things that I wrote this year


路聽“Baby’s first nuclear scare” for聽SD CityBeat –聽I was in Hawaii when we all got alerts on our phones about impending ballistic missiles. It sucked.

“Swallow the pain away’聽for聽SD CityBeat聽– A love letter to anti-anxiety meds.

路 “The unfunny origin story of my Woody” for聽SD CityBeat –聽I won a nice humor-writing award from Society of Professional Journalists (yay), but the path to get it has been kinda sad.

“This machine kills fascists” for聽SD CityBeat –聽interview with Tristan Shone from Author & Punisher, who makes insanely punishing and challenging music.

“The Haunting (and Civically Responsible) Beauty of Halloween Stores” for聽Medium – Stoked to have sold this one to Medium. Feels like I’ve had an essay about Spirit Halloween stores in me for years, and finally had the opportunity to write it.

“I Want Your Skull When You Die” for Wohe – Collab story with Julia Dixon Evans. Really loved how this turned out.

“Terrifying Family Trauma Is the New Thing in Horror” for聽Vice –聽Got to dive into 2018’s best horror trend, analyzing聽House on Haunted Hill, Hereditary聽and聽Channel Zero.聽

“Croc Farm” for Monkeybicycle – Didn’t publish a lot of fiction this year, but I’m really glad I found a home for this one. Crocs, fragile masculinity, large knives.

“The Husband Doll” for Paper Darts – PD is the best lit magazine and I’m always so honored to write their Halloween story.

“TFW you may bought a haunted cassette tape” for this blog – Found a spooky tape and documented the strange occurrences that started happening when I brought it home.

Favorite horror anthology that I co-edited this year

I co-edited The Eighties聽with Julia Dixon Evans. Highly suggest you check it out.

Favorite band I played drums in this year

(I also directed this video to our song “Skull Drive”)





Whoa oh here we come鈥攚atch out CA we’ll chew you up: The Black Candies tour diaries

The following is a chronicle of the Black Candies tour, which took place from March 15 – March 19, 2018. Please support cool art and literature聽by purchasing聽Black Candies: The Eighties. Thank you.


Julia Dixon Evans:聽All you need to know about the San Diego show is that it was in a bar, our home bar, with our hometown crowd, late at night. 聽

Ryan Bradford:聽It was a great reading. Really varied. Drew Andrews set up a telephone mic and got to yell in it. (Future note: use the telephone mic at every reading.)

JDE: Future note: use the telephone mic just for everyday life.

RB:聽We showed movie clips. Future note: show movie clips at every reading. Nobody likes readings. Just movie clips.

JDE: I especially loved having Carrie Anne Hudson write a little piece about her artistic process and read it. I think it might have been the first time she鈥檇 read anything she鈥檇 written, and it was great to hear. She talked about illustrating Tiffany Scandal鈥檚 鈥淏lack Balloon.鈥 I loved having an artist鈥檚 perspective in this show, particularly because the art show was such a cool element of the night.

The Black Candies art show.

RB: Yeah, the art is always a huge part of BC. Nothing secondary about it. And I was stoked that Carrie was willing to go up and talk about it. It鈥檚 hard enough for writers to get in front of mic… but a lot of the artists were there nonetheless. Everyone was just so stoked to be part of this project, which is like, oh thank god. As a word guy,聽I’m always yearning for approval from artists.

JDE: Remember that one guy? The one who made comments.

RB: Oh yeah, some drunk guy who loudly said 鈥淲HAT鈥橲 THAT ONE?鈥 after the It Follows clip.

JDE: Ooh but then I got to talk about It Follows.

RB: Jim Ruland later said the 45-second clip we showed of It Follows completely sold him on watching that movie. So he did, and then he sent an email that just said 鈥淥h jeez.鈥

JDE: Future note: get Jim Ruland to email oh jeez about every reading.

RB: The first thing anyone said to me after the show was over was not 鈥済ood job!鈥 or 鈥済reat book!鈥 It was my landscaper approaching me on stage and telling me to spray my weeds. 鈥淵ou gotta spray.鈥

JDE: He鈥檚 my landscaper, too. Not even 鈥渢oo.鈥 He was my landscaper first. We can call him 鈥淛ulia鈥檚 landscaper.鈥 You don鈥檛 own him.

RB: Oh yeah.

JDE: Anyway, we drank a lot and stayed out late and sold some books. Ryan Hicks, Craig Oliver, Carrie, Drew, and Jim, plus all the artists who came out, we were all buzzing with delight and all sorts of afterglow about such a fun party and reading and YAY MORE TOMORROW. End scene鈥?

Clockwise from left: Ryan Hicks, Ryan Bradford, Carrie Anne Hudson, Jim Ruland, Craig Oliver, Drew Andrews



JDE: So I have this car, and it鈥檚 quite small actually but it has sliding back doors and everyone seems to think it鈥檚 a fuckin minivan but it鈥檚 actually more of a station wagon? I just call it the Mazda. But Ryan calls it my 鈥渕inivan.鈥 Anyway, that鈥檚 the car we decided to take.

RB: It totally is a minivan.

JDE: It鈥檚 not a minivan my friend.

RB: So we left San Diego around noon and drove Julia鈥檚 minivan up to LA.

JDE: Oh, Los Angeles in the rain is lovely. We went straight to The Pop-Hop and dropped off the books there. Everyone at The Pop-Hop is exactly how I wanted them to be. I walked in and asked someone working there if he was Robbie, my contact there. He said, 鈥渋t鈥檚 pronounced Roby,鈥 and I said, 鈥淥h, sorry.鈥 Then a full minute later Roby told me that there is in fact another worker there called Robbie, and he is in fact there that day, but is in the bathroom.

We left the books there and asked Roby to let Robbie know, so we could go and get a stiff drink.

RB: Watching you try to get info out of Roby was like watching a Monty Python bit. Really nice fella though.

JDE: Really nice fellas all around. Actually, I think The Real Robbie is probably one of my favorite venue/event persons I鈥檝e worked with at a show. He was game for anything, ran all of our last-minute movie clips, and such a delight. How many times will I say 鈥渄elight鈥 in this diary?

RB: Not enough 鈥渄elights鈥 imo. Anyway, we went to The York鈥

JDE: Wait! The donuts. I think the donut situation begins now. We have to mention Donut Friend right now. It just was so attractive on the outside that I knew in my heart if I googled it I鈥檇 find vegan donuts there, and sure enough, all the donuts were vegan! But we didn鈥檛 get one right then, figuring we鈥檇 save it for later. And this was my grave mistake.

RB: OH MAN, THE DONUT FIASCO. I feel like we could spend 2000 words on talking about Donut Friend, the politics behind Donut Friend, Todd Taylor鈥檚 complicated relationship with Donut Friend and鈥

JDE: You mean how, when pressed, he鈥檒l confess to liking the lavender one.

RB: All this to say we never actually had a donut from there. I ain鈥檛 no donut boi.

JDE: Don鈥檛 remind me. Okay, but The York was good and nice and cheap and I had an old fashioned. I think for a bar with TVs (this is a genre for me) it ended up being really nice. This, though, was where we learned the incredibly sad news about the death of Zach Doss, a writer friend based in L.A. And I think I will always remember that bar and that drink and this tour when thinking about him.

RB: Oh God, yeah, I was just gonna mention Zach. That was a super gut-punch. Totally unbelievable, and gave the whole night a strange, somber feeling.

JDE: Yeah, I felt that too. The rain, and that sadness, made this LA show feel unreal. Hazy/dream sort of unreal. I think in my head I offered up the reading to him. His work was so beautiful and absurd; it seemed fitting. I read on twitter later that Jan Stinchcomb, a contributor and reader at LA had also dedicated her reading to Zach.

After drinks we met up with Todd from Razorcake and Jim Ruland for soup. Soup made me feel like I was just going through some motions of rain+shock management but it was delicious! I am not a food spiller, like, ever, even though Ryan is a total spiller. I spilled soup on my skirt so I spent a lot of time scrubbing it clean because, being a non-spiller, I didn鈥檛 plan for spilling.

Jim Ruland not spilling pho

RB: I had a chicken banh mi (<— good addition to this diary)

JDE: And overall I think I was getting to the event much later than I鈥檇 normally want, but Robbie not Roby had everything set up so I was trying to not make a scene of being stressed out or type-A about being prepared, especially hanging out with these three nice punk fellas. Just focus on cleaning up the spilled soup, Jules.

RB: Standing around The Pop-Hop, the rain really started pouring down. I asked Jim if he thought this was going to affect the attendance. 鈥淵ep,鈥 he said. No sugarcoating from Jim. Our good friend and talented writer Meredith Alling showed up and God bless her. But like Julia said, the rain, the news of Zach鈥檚 passing鈥 it made made it feel um… intimate? Like, we were all writers, just being together, doing what we do in spite of the world. Ugh. Cheesy. I don鈥檛 know.

JDE: That鈥檚 not cheesy. I felt that too. And then we鈥檙e like [HORROR].

RB: Friday鈥檚 reading was really rad. Again, the stories were all varied and every reader killed it. I loved everyone for different reasons, and was super stoked that Jan Stinchcomb read something dirty.

Clockwise from left: Jan Stinchcomb, Henry Hoke, Jim Ruland, Sarah LaBrie

JDE: Yeah! It was the first time I鈥檇 met Jan, despite us existing in similar writerly circles, like Paper Darts, and you know, like, Twitter. Henry Hoke was up next, and everything Henry writes is devastating. He crushed the reading of his story, like, absolutely flawless. Even if I practice every day for hours I鈥檒l still flub a word or two but Henry never flubbed. And what I loved most about Henry was that we could all laugh with him, even amidst the dark shit in his story.

RB: After Henry, Sarah LaBrie went up, and she knocked it out of the park. Her story is super funny on page, but she really played up the voice and got some serious belly-laughs鈥 both from how dark it is and just genuinely funny. It was also the first time she she saw the butt in her illustration, and I felt real proud when she gave it props. We did a good job with matching her with her illustrator, I thought. A proud moment all around.

JDE: Yes! And unbeknownst to us at the time, Bryan Tipton (the illustrator for 鈥淪urvivor鈥) was watching the The Pop-Hop鈥檚 live Instagram story feed. He saw her turn to look at the art. It was amazing.

Up next was Jim Ruland, and at this point I think you and I both had settled into this feeling of relief and AHHH THE WARM GLOVE of a successful reading, especially after the unsettled stuff we were faced with earlier in the day: the rain, the bookstore-not-a-bar-crowd, the Zach. Jim鈥檚 piece is a crowd pleaser. Robbie, our hero, cued up the Neon Maniacs trailer and we could just sit back and relax. I鈥檒l let you talk about Jim.

RB: Yeah, Jim鈥檚 piece is the first non-fiction thing we鈥檝e ever published in Black Candies, and it鈥檚 a 6,000-word long stunner, but it鈥檚 not like he can really read from it, so for these readings he just ends up talking about the essay. People like hearing Jim get real. Getting a little unscripted. It adds a certain je nes se quois veritas to the evening.

JDE: Did you do a little French hand motion when you said that y/n.

RB: Oui oui.

JDE:聽And I think one thing I might love more than people reading horror is listening to people talk about what it means to them.

RB: True. That鈥檚 my bread and butter, so it鈥檚 really cool to hear from Jim. And he鈥檚 since told me that he鈥檚 really been touched at the immediate response he鈥檚 gotten after doing these readings. Also, I hope that it drives people to watch Neon Maniacs, which is a national treasure.

JDE: National treasures are my bread and butter. Also, the person I didn鈥檛 quite realize I was most interested in pleasing with this reading was Robbie, and he ended up being SO delighted by it; it was really fulfilling to me. I think it made me realize, hey, we do a good thing, this is an amazing project, and bookstores want it. Robbie was happy to have us leave a bunch of books there, so if you鈥檙e in LA, head to The Pop-Hop and ask Robbie, or perhaps Roby, to sell you a copy of Black Candies.

RB: After the reading, we went to… some bar? Meredith, Julia, Henry, Sarah and I talked about literary nemeses, and I admitted that mine was [redacted].


Meredith Alling and Ryan

JDE:聽Instead of talking about enemies I will change the subject here to remind you that I wanted a donut! But everyone was like, I鈥檓 not getting a fuckin $4 donut. So I figured I鈥檇 get one later when they weren鈥檛 paying attention and soon it became this Thing and I ended up promising Jim I鈥檇 buy him one so he wouldn鈥檛 have to pay that $4.

But then there was a line鈥

RB: It was a line of donut bois.

JDE: And after a full afternoon of me stubbornly loving the vegan donut place despite everyone鈥檚 shit-talking, I said 鈥淚 hate this place and their $4 donuts.鈥

RB: Then we went to Todd鈥檚 house (also Razorcake HQ).

JDE: Where he promised us oatmeal for breakfast and arranged a wake-up time for us and I felt like he was our dad. It was a really nice place to come home to.

RB: Jim and I slept downstairs in the Razorcake offices. Slumber party with Jim Ruland = a dream come true. It was super warm down there, and I ended up farting a lot (sorry Todd, sorry Jim, sorry everyone).

JDE: I was just going to talk about the farting but I see you鈥檙e on it.


JDE: The next day (post amazing dad oatmeal) we hit the road in the station wagon for San Francisco.

RB: Driving around LA in a minivan is great. But yeah, we drove a lot that day.

JDE: It鈥檚 not a minivan but yes, I think we had this back and forth about who was going to drive, and I kept reminding you that I have a history of falling asleep at the wheel so…

RB: You kept reminding me of your narcolepsy, putting the fear of death into me. So I drove a lot.

JDE:聽That day was long and lots of hours with weirdly frequent stops for a road trip without children where frequent stops are expected.

RB: Two highlights of the drive through the central valley (which, honestly: leave it for the cows) is 1) Blaze pizza (the Subway of pizza!) and 2) Bravoland, which is this roadside attraction that was advertised as 鈥淎 cool place!鈥

JDE: IDK, I liked the bleakness of the central valley. Blaze pizza is also pretty bleak to me. Suburban pizza. Bravoland, though, now that was a bonanza. Cool place!

RB: Never underestimate my power to enjoy bleak pizza.

JDE: Another highlight for me was when I retrieved a copy of Gross and Unlikeable from the back of the car so I could read Madeline Gobbo鈥檚 (amazing) story. I really love reading stories out loud on road trips.

RB:聽You have an amazing ability to read in the car. If it were me, I’d be puking after the first sentence. But that story was great. I hadn’t read it since the editing stages of聽Gross and Unlikeable, two years ago.

JDE: Also by this point I think we had exhausted our Black Candies: The Eighties playlist but still kept on listening to it.

RB: I鈥檒l never get sick of Hall and Oates. We arrived at Jake Arky鈥檚 house in Oakland (co-founder of So Say We All) around dinner time.

Julia Sam DiSalvo and Jake Arky

JDE: Jake is [drumroll] a delight.

RB: Same with his gf Sam.

JDE: Yes! And I loved presenting them with Jake鈥檚 contributor copy. He has a story in The Eighties and it was the first time he鈥檇 seen the book. Their apartment was very clean and tidy and Oakland and I immediately just wanted to move in with them.

RB: I actually did move in with them. They don鈥檛 know it but I鈥檓 writing this from underneath their bed.

JDE: I鈥檓 happy for you. We went out for Oakland drinks and Oakland food, which is to say, hip and expensive but also cozy and somewhat old-feeling. I think that鈥檚 my experience with Oakland now that I鈥檓 an expert after 2 days.

RB: I had a burger (<—- another great contribution to this diary)

JDE: Good job. Oooh and then we went to that spooky dive bar. Tell us about the bar Ryan.

RB: Oh yeah. The Avenue. Definitely my style. It was like a year-round haunted house. Skulls and goth shit everywhere. Coffee tables shaped like coffins (coffin tables!). And pretty cheap drinks. Loved it.

JDE: And the ladies room had porn posters plastered all around, so I took a video to show you guys. I think I must have been two drinks into things at this point. I posted the video on Instagram stories and later saw that my mother watched the story. Black Candies forever.

RB: Moms are always into porn.


JDE: I went running.

RB: Can鈥檛 believe you did that.

JDE: By that point it was stubbornness of having packed my running stuff and all that wasted space in my suitcase. But I like seeing other cities that way, so I toughed it out and went out for a quickie. It was cloudy and dreary and everywhere was green: lush gardens and moss in the cracks in the sidewalk.聽

Julia’s bag

RB: I think I looked at Instagram while you did that.

JDE: Then I think I had these conflicting ideas vs. actual plans. I wanted to see the city, San Francisco, but I also just wanted to go see some of our friends and sit in their houses. I鈥檓 glad that won out overall, because those were some of my favorite parts of this trip, seeing people and telling them about this book and the tour. The next event was that evening, in the city, at Green Apple Books on the Park, so we knew we just had to end up there by 7 or so. Again, this sort of set-up time frame stresses me out but I guess bookstore workers have their act together?

RB: Green Apple Books was a… DELIGHT!

JDE: Yes. First we went to visit my friends Katie and Jay in their gorgeous house in Fruitvale where they fed us gorgeous food and you can no longer say that you eat junk on vacations.

RB: Right, yeah, it was green beans, tahini, quinoa, and a poached egg…? [chef kiss]

JDE: Remember watching Katie poach the eggs?

RB: I鈥檒l never forget it as long as I live.

Katie and Julia

JDE: Then we crossed the bridge and dropped off books. It was cool to see you carrying this box of Black Candies on your shoulder, boombox-style, walking through the streets of San Francisco to a bookstore where you were gonna have a reading. I felt very proud of you, and also glad you were the one carrying the big box, thx.

RB: Yeah, it was like five blocks with a heavy box of books. NBD. I do burpees, so whatev.

JDE: Overall, it was a total jock day. Was there literary stuff happening too IDEK.

RB: But yeah, after we dropped the books off, we went to see my good friends Lindsey and Jalal, and chatted with them for an hour or so. They gave us beer and cider and I got to talk about 聽Pearl Izumi sportswear with Jalal (he鈥檚 not a fan).

JDE: Also, seeing these people reminded us that the Bay Area is so huge, and us having a reading in one tiny corner of the city doesn鈥檛 mean everyone in the Bay Area can come and everyone had legitimate reasons to not make a super-long trek into a hard-to-get-to part of town. I think I learned that maybe Oakland might be a better location to pull off an event, or maybe if you鈥檙e going to be doing readings in the Bay Area, do two. And must you always bring up Pearl Azumi!

RB: Well, also their dog Aldente was sick, so they told us they couldn鈥檛 come. Poor Aldente. Such a sweet pup.

JDE: Oh that sweet hound <3. Okay, back to eating and drinking. I had been thinking about mezcal ever since Katie recommended a restaurant because of their mezcal cocktails.

RB: Oh yeah, we went back to that area with the bookstore (Sunset?) and had mezcal cocktails before the show. There was also a magic shop in the neighborhood, but it was closed. I was bummed because in the window, there was a fake dirty diaper that was so gross and so funny.

JDE:聽I was starting to get really excited, not even for the actual act of people reading in this bookstore, but for finally meeting them. Besides Jake, I鈥檇 never met any of the other SF contributors, including someone who we had been working with and suuuuuper internet crushing over for years, since Surveillance: mmgutz.

RB: Yes, I鈥檝e 鈥渒nown鈥 Melissa 鈥渕mgutz鈥 Hinshaw for years but have never met her in person. And I鈥檓 happy to say that she鈥檚 exactly how I imagined. Just a joy. I was also excited to see a former co-worker, Dave Maass. Maddie Gobbo, our other reader, was also A+ human being. Lots of good eggs all around.

JDE: Maddie, after the reading, gushed and said it was a longtime dream of hers to read at Green Apple Books and I thought about all the cogs that had clicked into place to make this whole tour happen, and make that moment happen for her, and I just felt really glad to have been part of it. Writing has such a slow-burn pay off, and I think that as editors and publishers the best we can really do is work as hard as humanly possible to take care of the writers.

RB:聽And another great, varied reading. I feel like this tour has showed me that fiction readings can be way more than just stoic, poet-voice slogs. Everyone brought it at Green Apple Books. And they were kind enough to take books to sell. If you鈥檙e in the Bay Area visit Green Apple Books on the Park and get your own copy of Black Candies.

JDE: Oh, remember how it was in the kiddie section?

RB: YES! It was rad to hear Jake read his filthy story there, especially when he used the term 鈥渉airy pussy bush.鈥

JDE: Noah at GAB on the Park (also a delight, also like Robbie) bought us beer too. Thanks Noah. He introduced the reading as something like 鈥減robably the weirdest thing we鈥檝e ever done in the children鈥檚 section,鈥 so we were all quite proud to deliver on that.

RB: In a nutshell: Melissa was gross and amazing, Jake was gross and perverted, Madeline was gross and haunting, and Dave was pure savage. Everyone killed it.

JDE: When can we skip ahead and talk about karaoke.

RB: Oh god, right now.

JDE: WAIT! The marquee! Remember how when we drove by at first that afternoon, trying to find parking to deliver the box, you noticed 鈥淏LACK CANDIES: A night of literary horror鈥 on the shop marquee? That was amazing.

RB: Yeah, I just about married that sign. Okay, karaoke: we went back to Oakland to Starline, a cool, fancyish, but kinda lowbrow place?

JDE: It was like the diviest karaoke room tucked behind some swanky bar. Also, I loved driving at night in the tunnel on the underside of the Oakland Bay Bridge, listening to Chromatics sing 鈥淕irls Just Wanna Have Fun,鈥 and practicing 鈥80s karaoke, let鈥檚 not forget that part of the drive.

RB: There seemed to be a lot of regulars there, which kinda sucked because they get priority with their KJ buddy. But I also know how it is being a regular at a karaoke bar and having strangers arrive and being like, [Seinfeld voice] what鈥檚 the deal with them?


mmgutz on the mic

JDE: But our karaoke host has integrity and makes us go in order. Anyway this place had amazing drinks and having Jake and Melissa and their friends in one place doing 鈥80s karaoke was just like: dream state.

RB: Melissa sang 鈥淓verybody Wants to Rule the World,鈥 like, right after I signed up for that, but she did a way better job than I could鈥檝e. Jake did a Jay Z song (non 鈥80s song, but I forgive him). It was about midnight before they called Julia鈥檚 name, and she sang Pat Benatar鈥檚 鈥淲e Belong.鈥 Oh, and by this point, we had had some of Jake鈥檚 gummies and they were kicking in and Julia kept talking about how amazing she sounded (I mean, she did, but c鈥檓on)

JDE: I mean, I think I was just saying 鈥淚 am sure I didn鈥檛 sound as amazing as I thought I sounded but I sure thought I sounded amazing up there.鈥 Also, speak for yourself, drugs are federally illegal.

RB: I finished up with REO Speedwagon鈥檚 鈥淜eep On Loving You.鈥

JDE: All-time top karaoke highlight was when you got out your phone during an instrumental break and read the wikipedia entry for REO Speedwagon on stage.

RB: Seemed like a good idea on those gummies.


Ryan, Julia and Melissa Hinshaw

JDE: Okay, Sam had given you her keys earlier in the day. Remember her keys.

RB: Oh we forgot to mention Sam鈥檚 Beastie Boys karaoke. It fuckin knocked our socks off.

JDE: We all wanted to have Sam鈥檚 babies that night. And/or break into her office with her keys she loaned you and鈥 I don鈥檛 know鈥 finish some work for her so she could have a more relaxing monday. She deserved it.

RB: Yes, we were very concerned about Sam鈥檚 state of relaxation and restfulness.

JDE: Jake and Sam were excellent hosts. Remember when we looked in his bookshelf and saw all his Black Candies. 聽



RB: We drove home.

JDE: It took a long time. But remember, I made you take I-5 all the way to North Park instead of the 805 so we could do one of my favorite stretches of highway in the world, that approach to San Diego鈥檚 skyline at night. And we were listening to the 鈥80s playlist again, and it felt good to be almost done driving, great to have done this project, and a little melancholy about it being over.

RB: Long live Black Candies.

The end.



TFW you may have bought a haunted tape

Background info:

Some of you you may know that I鈥檝e spent the last couple of years editing a journal of horror anthology around Black Candies. I try to center each issue around a timely and relevant theme.

The most recent issue is titled 鈥淭he Eighties鈥鈥攁 theme I chose because I dig all the nostalgia-heavy entertainment coming out: Stranger Things, IT, etc.

For design inspiration, I went to a thrift store and bought a couple of old VHS tapes and some audio cassette tapes. I didn鈥檛 really know what I wanted to do with them, or how they were going to fit into the book鈥檚 overall aesthetic, but I鈥檝e always loved how demolished analog stuff looks.

We ultimately didn鈥檛 use any pics of the destroyed tapes, but it sure was fun to destroy them:


The tape:

Among the stack of tapes I got from the thrift store, there was one with a handwritten label that read 鈥80s Dance Party.鈥 Innocuous enough, but at the same time, it was perfect! Just my luck to find (what I assumed was) a genuine, 鈥80s mixtape for my literary project. I was stoked.

I flipped the tape around and in the same handwriting, it said 鈥80s Giggle Party.鈥 Maybe some obscure band? A home recording?聽

So, I didn鈥檛 destroy 鈥80s Dance Party,” and I pulled out my RadioShack cassette player and gave it a listen.

What I heard:

The tape is full little imperfections in the audio make for an unnerving listen. It immediately reminded me of the old mixes I used to make when I was about 11 or 12, recording songs off the radio. Those tapes got so bogged down with recordings over recordings over recordings, that after awhile, it all sounded like an analog nightmare. But in those cases, it was unintentional鈥攅verything on 80s Dance Party feels intentional and malicious.

The quality dips in some spots, like listening to music underwater. It changes pitches and speeds throughout. Sometimes, the music cuts out completely, but the lyrics keep going. I鈥檓 sure some of it鈥檚 standard analog tape deterioration, but other times… I just don鈥檛 know. It gets under your skin.

Here鈥檚 the tracklist:

  1. Til Tuesday 鈥淰oices Carry鈥
  2. INXS 鈥淭he Devil Inside鈥
  3. Missing Persons 鈥淲indows鈥
  4. Echo and the Bunnymen 鈥淯nder the Killing Moon”
  5. Gloria Estefan 鈥淩hythm is Gonna Get You鈥
  6. Rockwell 鈥淪omebody鈥檚 Watching Me鈥
  7. Hall & Oates 鈥淢aneater鈥

There’s also audio of some sort of reporter. It weirded me out so I googled some of the words and they’re straight from a Dateline special on Richard Ramirez. Also what sounds like Macho Man Randy Savage (I think?), as well at least three points that features a man screaming in what sounds like a big, empty space.

I decided to upload the audio to my soundcloud, and you can listen to it if you want.


When I turned the tape over to listen to 鈥80s Giggle Party,鈥 it turned out to be a 30-minute loop of a man giggling. His heavy breathing and relentless laughter… It鈥檚 been a long time since I鈥檝e felt so unnerved. I stopped the tape and pulled it out of the machine.

I鈥檓 not going to post any audio of 鈥80s Giggle Party.鈥

The creepy stuff that鈥檚 been happening:

When I got home the next evening, I found tape player with the 鈥80s Dance Party鈥 inside it. I thought I had taken it out, but maybe, I don鈥檛 know… 聽I haven鈥檛 been sleeping well. I could鈥檝e replaced it without remembering it. I鈥檝e been spacing a lot lately. Been having strange nightmares, too. 聽

I hit play, and it started playing The INXS song 鈥淭he Devil Inside.鈥

But only one part. 鈥淭he devil inside, the devil inside, every single one of us, the devil inside鈥

Over and over, that same lyric. A loop.

The devil inside, the devil inside, every single one of us, the devil inside

I hit stop and took the tape out. It was the correct tape鈥攕ame handwriting. I put it back in. Jumped around with the rewind and fast-forward. The same lyric played at every point checked.

The devil inside

The devil inside

every single one of us

I鈥檓 not naive. I read enough scary stories to know that this is the turning point where idiots try to look for rational explanations. I鈥檓 not like that. My first reaction whenever anything seems spooky is: must be ghosts. I could hear a glass of water get knocked off the kitchen, and my cat could be standing there with water on his paws, and I鈥檇 be like, 鈥淲elp, the house is haunted.鈥



Okay, so keeping the tape might have been a mistake:

I didn鈥檛 get rid of the tape. Thought it could make for a cool story. Plus, who doesn鈥檛 want a haunted artifact? Right?

The next morning, I woke up to a missed call on my phone. An unknown number. When I played the voicemail, it sounded like this:

Is that someone screaming in the background?聽

The next day, I got another voicemail from an unknown number:


Here’s a rough transcription of the message:

…renew one or more products in your account, but we ran into some problems during the renewal process. To complete the renewal and avoid any interruption of your current service, call us at 480463884234628840008842. That is:聽480463884234628840008842. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Daddy appreciates you.聽Daddy appreciates you. Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. [???]


Oh, and also a friend pointed out something weird going on in the INXS vid. (Scroll up if you need to watch it again).聽

Now, look closely at the window behind me between 0:30 and 0:31.


Something聽is definitely at the window. The camera moves so fast that I can’t tell what it is, but it kind of looks like a hand.

And then between 0:43 and 0:44, it’s gone.


I don鈥檛 know what to do. Pretty freaked out. Suppose I could break it, but a little scared what that might do.聽

Edit: I鈥檝e decided to put the tape on eBay. I figure someone with a higher tolerance for spooky stuff can get some enjoyment from it.

Black Candies: The Eighties visual design inspired by… the nineties??

The thematic idea for Black Candies: The Eighties came about more or less as a whim. After Stranger Things came out, I fell down a wormhole of nostalgia-heavy entertainment and ended up rewatching all the horror 鈥80s horror that became intrinsic to my formative years: Evil Dead, The Re-Animator and Romero鈥檚 Day of the Dead.

But when submissions for the issue began to trickle in, I noticed how much seething anger there was among them. Analog deaths, slashers, the past made present, political allegories. Ironically, The Eighties seemed to reflect the horror of our current era with more vehemence than any other issue of Black Candies. 聽

So co-editor Julia Dixon Evans and I wanted The Eighties to reflect this hostility. This is the first issue that I’ve not had the help of a creative director, and it鈥檚 quite different than those that came before it. It鈥檚 purposefully abrasive. Analog-like glitches fill the corners. We didn鈥檛 want blurbs on the cover. We wanted it to feel like a dangerous object that you鈥檇 find tucked away in footlocker. An unmarked VHS; a cursed cassette. We wanted readers to feel like they were reading a book produced by a haunted printing press.

For inspiration, I turned to two well-known albums: Nirvana鈥檚 In Utero and Nine Inch Nails鈥 Broken. Both albums are considered sharp left-turns because they veered deep into abrasive, harsh, alienating waters from artists who experienced commercial success from their previous albums. I always find it fascinating when artists willingly show their ugly side when money鈥檚 on the line.

There was a long period in my life when I stopped listening to Nirvana because I thought 鈥済runge鈥 was a boring genre and鈥攗gh鈥everyone listened to Nirvana. The songs were ubiquitous on the radio, and it came to a point when I didn鈥檛 know if 鈥淪mells Like Teen Spirit鈥 was actually a good song, or if it was just lionized it after Cobain鈥檚 death.

It wasn鈥檛 until the 2013 reissue of In Utero that I decided to give Nirvana another chance. My brother owned that CD when we were young (the Walmart edited version, with 鈥淲aif Me鈥 instead of 鈥淩ape Me鈥), but it had been maybe 15 years since I listened to it. In the intervening years, I had become familiar with In Utero producer Steve Albini鈥檚 other projects (Big Black and Shellac) and considered myself a fan of his curmudgeonly subversiveness and provocation. I was interested in seeing how In Utero held up.

That first dive back in was a jarring experience, especially since I was so used to the radio polish of songs 鈥淐ome As You Are鈥 and 鈥淪mells Like Teen Spirit.鈥 Yes, In Utero has 鈥淗eart-Shaped Box鈥 and 鈥淎ll Apologies,鈥 but the rest of the album is fucking insane. There鈥檚 nothing gentle about it. The vocals sound like they鈥檙e sung into a trashcan, and the drums are relentlessly pummeling (the drum sounds on In Utero, especially on 鈥淪centless Apprentice,鈥 may be my favorite of all time). The corporate hesitancy to release such an abrasive record is well-documented, but I would鈥檝e loved to be a fly on the wall when a record exec鈥攈oping for another 鈥淭een Spirit鈥濃攖urned on 鈥淭ourettes鈥.

Nine Inch Nails鈥 Broken EP, is another one that I wasn鈥檛 really familiar with until recently. I mean, growing up in a Mormon household made all Nine Inch Nails鈥 music inherently scary鈥 it didn鈥檛 matter if it was from Pretty Hate Machine or the Downward Spiral, so I can鈥檛 say I had the mettle to analyze both until later.

But then I read this essay by Aaron Burch, which tackles Broken better and more in-depth than I plan to do here鈥 and again, I was infatuated with the idea of an intentionally-abrasive piece of art. I finally got around to listening to Broken, and, yeah, it鈥檚 harsh. Its predecessor Pretty Hate Machine is not exactly gentle, but it contains nothing as trashy as tracks like 鈥淲ish.鈥 The whole EP, sounds drowned in industrial beats and distortion, but it鈥檚 an obvious keystone to understanding the brilliance of The Downward Spiral and The Fragile that came afterwards.

Plus, according to the wiki: 鈥淩eznor said he wanted the album to be 鈥榓n ultra-fast chunk of death” for the listener, something that would “make your ears a little scratchy鈥.鈥

鈥淎 little scratchy.鈥 I love that. So, if The Eighties can make your eyes a little scratchy as well, then my work is done.


You can order Black Candies: The Eighties here.


EDIT: Donald Trump is still a loser

I was wrong.

It turns out that America wanted 聽a sexist, racist, crude, mean, inept, KKK-supported, fake-wealthy, sexual harassing, sexual assaulting, tiny-handed, thin-skinned, sad, lonely bully as the president of the United States.

But that doesn’t make him any less of a loser.

Donald Trump is a Loser is a a reminder of how we let a clown into office, and hopefully a guidebook on how to prevent it from happening again. It is the phrase “Donald Trump is a loser” typed out 10x times in an effort to SEO that shit IRL. It’s word art, collage, news clips and short fiction, chronicling what will probably be the rise to the darkest time in American history.

I want to keep it in print because the freedom of ideas is still important. Freedom of press is still essential. Just because I was wrong, and he won the election, doesn’t make this book wrong. Donald Trump is a loser and will forever be.










Making No Promises “Politics” music video

Early last year, my band No Promises recorded a couple songs聽with the brilliant Rafter Roberts at Singing Serpent Studios in San Diego. We have a song called “Politics” that, I think, showcases our energy and singer Kipling Mitchell’s knack for songwriting (plus I get to do a drum solo).

As the 2016 presidential election began heating up last year, I聽noted an increasing (and exhausting) vitriol in my social media feeds. It’s been so bad that I’ve pretty much lost interest in who becomes the next president. I decided that whenever I felt compelled to post anything聽denigrating/accusatory on social media, I’d focus that energy on something constructive鈥攎aking聽a video for “Politics” seemed as good of outlet as any.

I’m not an animator by any means, but I’ve dabbled in choppy Python/South Park-style animation before. Here’s a video that I made a couple years ago called “If Cats Directed Tuna Commercials” that showcases the style I wanted for “Politics.”

“Cats” is a little over a minute long, and essentially maybe 7 or 8 scenes of animation, which, at the time, took me about two weeks to complete. The challenge with “Politics” was to be able to sustain that style for over three minutes, but with enough scenes/cuts to match the frantic energy of the song.

The result聽ended up taking close to six months. There are over 200 moving pieces in the video. It’s by far the most involved video I’ve ever created.


Like I said, I’m no animator, but I know my way around the Adobe Cloud.聽The style here was created with聽Photoshop and Premier鈥攁 mixture of stop motion and video motion.

Let’s take a look at when Obama kicks a King Baby Trump’s head off. Here are a few of the images I had to create in Photoshop:


When cut down to single frames and placed together in Premier,聽Baby King Trump like he’s kind of, like, gesticulating madly.

It’s the Video Motion capabilities of Premier that give everything the smooth motion. It’s really a beautiful function and once you play around with it, you realize how much you can do.

Here’s what my Premier timeline looks like聽at that decapitation:

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 10.05.37 AM

Video motion (circled in green) allows you to control position of an object on the screen and the scale at which it appears. And, and! it allows you to keyframe these movements (circled in red). The above example shows the motion of Trump’s head as it moves from the point of impact up into the upper right hand corner. The keyframed scale gives it the impression that it’s flying toward us.


Every stop motion video is going to take time. Manipulating single frames is time-consuming, and there were many points when I would align the clips and then realize I was missing an essential movement. Sigh. Back to Photoshop.

All the images are from Google Image Search.聽I did not create anything for this video鈥攅verything’s found on the Internet. This was a little bit of a problem when I had to find unconventional things like, “Business man in fetal position, cradling skeleton” or “Obama riding drone.”

This project also made me realize the whiteness of Google Image Search. I can’t tell you how something as聽innocuous like “businessman shaking hands”聽turns up only white results.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to make and I hope you enjoy it.


“Mad Inches” in Lockjaw Magazine and other stories set in snow

Stories set in snow are the my favorite:聽The Thing, A Simple Plan, Fargo, etc..聽I’m certain this has something to do with growing up in Park City, Utah, and knowing the simultaneous comfort and claustrophobia that a snowstorm brings.聽I don’t know why it took me forever to write one聽of my own.

Lockjaw Magazine published “Mad Inches” in their third issue yesterday. It’s a long-read (10K words) but it’s definitely one of my favorite things I’ve written. For fans of bleakness.

I wrote it at the beginning of 2014, in an effort to create the most unlikeable characters ever. The end result was: rich, white snowboarder bros who succumb to Lovecraftian madness during a snowstorm. It’s very much based on going to high school聽in Park City and the type of people I’d party with.

Speaking of snow stories:

路 聽I recently read and was blown away by Kathy Fish’s “Snow” 聽in Fictionaut Magazine.

Ottessa Moshfegh’s聽Eileen聽features a cold, barren landscape that benefits the narrative. Highly recommended.

路 Of course there’s Stephen King’s聽The Shining, but I would also recommend聽Blaze (which he wrote under his Richard Bachman pseudonym), a pretty tight thriller.

Horror Business: Craig Oliver

Horror Businessis a novel I that wrote. Horror movies play a huge role in the narrative.

鈥淗orror Business鈥 is a sporadic column where I ask influential/invaluable writers and people of interest the following question:聽What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

Craig Oliver聽has been my go-to person when I need to talk horror. He’s one of the smartest dudes I know when it comes to聽the technical/historical/contextual significance of聽movies, but his聽mutual love of all things dark鈥攁nd that recognition of what it says about us鈥攑rovides a聽base for our close friendship.

For evidence of this darkness, look no farther than his record label,聽Volar Records. Volar, in my opinion, puts out the best, weirdest music聽in San Diego, but there is a biting edge to any Volar band. They feel like they’re creeping up on you.聽They feel dangerous. Weirdo music for weirdo people, and there isn’t enough of that anymore.

(Also, a couple years ago, I went with Craig to SXSW where he was running a bunch of Volar showcases, and we spent a significant amount of the 22-hour drive talking about highway ghosts and aliens.)

What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

I can tell you about nightmares as a kid. About being scared of the covers of horror movies at the video store. About indulging myself in those same movies as a young teen. About sleeplessness and a general fear of the dark that lasted well into my twenties. The need for music or for the TV to be on, some sign of life in the quiet of night. I can tell you about all the things I鈥檝e read over the years about the function of horror movies as a means to confront certain fears and come out victorious. About the cycle of watching these movies for twenty-plus years on end, intentionally unsettling any sort of peace I鈥檝e had without them, of the battle throughout that same period of time with insomnia, only to indulge myself further.

Most of all, I can tell you about a small handful of those movies looking back at me.

It鈥檚 2005. you’re聽at Landmark鈥檚 Ken Cinema, our town鈥檚 only single-screen theater. You’re聽here with your聽girlfriend at the time watching Ju-On: The Grudge, the original Japanese version, the third part in the series that was adapted pretty poorly in the US, and with Ringu (adapted rather well in the US as The Ring), helping to popularize聽the trope of the black-eyed ghost-child.

In Ju-On, a聽family has moved into a house and has become terrorized by two vengeful spirits. A character crawls backwards as one of these black-eyed ghost-boys approaches. The slow dread of certain death goes against the normal American counterpart of the maniacal running and screaming from some hulking danger. Here, there is no use trying to escape. Your fate is inevitable. As the ghost child approaches, the screen goes black, leaving you in the theater in complete darkness. Slowly a faint light fills the screen, and your hands are over your face. You are shivering, and your then-girlfriend is next to you chiding you for all of this. Slowly, ever slowly, a pair of eyes thirty feet high, looking directly at you. In the past you worried about waking up to these eyes, you鈥檝e worried about them staring at you from within the darkness of the closet.


A year or so later, you and your best friend spend Friday nights watching horror flicks, mostly 70s exploitation and cheeseball 80s gorefests. Eventually you run out, and you start watching more serious fare, sometimes foreign. Tonight it鈥檚 the French classic Eyes Without a Face, a weirdly poetic-yet-absurd story of a plastic surgeon father who kills women to steal their faces in an attempt to replace the disfigured face of his daughter, Christine, who stays at home, a prisoner behind a blank white mask. Partway through the film, she鈥檚 a little ways off in a room, without her mask, out of focus. The camera slowly moves in, the focus sharpening. So much dreadful weight is placed on the horror of her real face, staring into the camera, staring at us, and before it is fully revealed, you both shut off the movie and quickly head out for a party. A week later, you鈥檙e both back on the couch, cueing the movie back up to just before that moment.

鈥淪he鈥檚 been staring at me all week,鈥 you both agree.


You are seventeen and finally watching The Exorcist for the first time. You鈥檝e tried doing so at night, which proved to be too much, so now it’s day, sunlight pouring through the windows. The first twenty minutes or so, the movie is well done, claustrophobic. You are not religious, so all the 鈥楪od and the Devil鈥 doesn鈥檛 really hit you, but demons in the dark still nag at you nonetheless. And now the main character, the priest, is dreaming, his mother far off, coming out of a subway, unable to hear his cries. And then a flash, a face:

The rest of the film keeps going with its tale of demonic possession and faith, but it鈥檚 the split-second image of that visage, staring back, not just from the dark but another dimension, that stays in your bones. The face never goes away.


That notion of breaking the fourth wall鈥攆irst addressed in eighteenth-century stage plays and carrying over to movies and film鈥攖he metafictional acknowledgement of the audience鈥攊s generally used in both comedic works to jokingly clue the audience in to some elevated understanding of the circumstances within, to make them feel as if they鈥檙e in on it; in dramatic works, it鈥檚 used for empathetic effect:聽feel what I feel, we are together in this. In the occasion that it鈥檚 used in horror films, the effect is something quite different:


And the first time you are aware of this is the silliest in retrospect. It鈥檚 1984. MTV is relatively new, and your parents are young and watch it quite a bit. You are in a small, unsettling house on the outskirts of Yuma, AZ. You are four years old and easily scared. There is a big premiere of a music video, Michael Jackson鈥檚 鈥淭hriller,鈥 and your parents are excited. The video plays, Michael Jackson and his girlfriend stopped in the woods. Michael turns, violently, into a werewolf and chases her through the woods. You are frightened and try leaving the room, but it鈥檚 difficult not looking back, MJ as werewolf looking directly into the screen, and then, safety. It鈥檚 a movie, it鈥檚 not real. MJ and his girlfriend leave the theater, he dances around, and then they are surrounded by zombies; the nightmare isn鈥檛 over. MJ turns into one of them, and for a few moments, they all look straight through the television and directly at you.


You try to get further out of the room but you don鈥檛 want to be alone, and when you look back, the zombies are all dancing, this has to fun and games, yes? And then it鈥檚 over, and MJ is back to normal, everything is safe, but he looks back to you one last time, his eyes yellow, a grin on his face. 鈥淭here are always monsters underneath,鈥 you鈥檒l always think.


“Animal Control” in Paper Darts


My story “Animal Control,” recently won Paper Darts Short Story Contest. I’m very proud of it, and the聽artwork (GIF!)聽that accompanies it鈥by John Wilinksi鈥攊s great.

It’s an honor to win because I have聽so much love for Paper Darts. I can’t think of a better-looking lit site, and the聽design of聽relaunch is something that everyone should aspire to. Mad props for a literary site that takes聽UX and responsive design into account.

It’s a huge ego boost to win the accolades of Lindsay Hunter, who judged the contest. I’ve been a huge fan of Hunter’s work for a long time (probably an understatement), so to know that she picked mine out of however many blind submissions…聽I felt very legitimized.

Go read her books.

Thanks to everyone who read(s) “Animal Control.” I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback. I like when people say that it makes them feel weird, “but in a good way.”

Black Candies – Surveillance

I’m proud to present the third issue of the literary horror journal which I edit: Black Candies –聽Surveillance.

We’re never alone. Paranoia has replaced privacy. Secrets are the new currency. The strangers who watched from the street now watch from within. For this issue of Black Candies, we found 11 smart, terrifying stories that explore the theme of “Surveillance” in explicit, implicit and abstract ways. These stories not only touch on the contradiction of the securities of our modern era, but unearth the deeper terror, paranoia, and anxiety that results.

There are a lot聽of new things I tried with this issue, including full-bleeds and two-page spreads for the illustrations. This is also the first time that I’ve used Createspace, a decision that I came to after reading Cameron Pierce’s (publisher of Lazy Fascist Press) novella “The Snakes of Boring,”鈥攑rinted with Createspace鈥攁nd being very impressed with the quality.

I also feel like I stretched my editorial muscles with this one. In the past, I’ve had the fortune of falling back on co-editors, and that’s probably made me a little less confident in my editing skills. I was lucky enough to have a group of writers who were very patient and willing to build their pieces where I thought they should be developed, or push back when appropriate. The resulting camaraderie among writers in the book (at least from what I can tell on social media) is pretty amazing鈥攗nlike anything I’ve experienced with a publication.

There’s also a new Facebook page where we’re gonna post info about upcoming issues, ways to submit, etc.

And here’s a rad thing: You can read Angus McIntyre’s “Someone To Watch Over Me” over at Boing Boing!

Here are Black Candies’聽authors:聽

Angus McIntyre
Valerie E. Polichar
Julia Evans
Gabriela Santiago
Melissa Gutierrez
Berit Ellingsen
Jake Arky
Matt Lewis
Chris Curtis
Kevin Sampsell
Ron Gutierrez
Wade Pavlick

Here are the artists:聽

Adam Vieyra
Carabella Sands
Andrew McGranahan
Laura Gwynne
Carrie Anne Hudson
Thanks y’all. I hope you enjoy it.