Friday, April 24, 2020

More Writing Updates

Couple more writing updates... 

COVID-19 and the slow motion apocalypse we find ourselves in aside, it's still been a good couple months in terms of publishable work for me. 

I had the Scary Monsters Magazine article, and I have two stories coming out in the next couple of months in various and sundry anthologies. I had a burst of writing mania back in the fall of last year... and turned the stories around pretty quickly in terms of publishing. 

The first up is progressing pretty well. 

It's an anthology by Transmundane Press entitled On Time. They're publishing a story of mine called 'The Unloved Dead'. We're moving pretty quickly on edits and it should be out within the next couple of months. 

Next up is an  anthology entitled Fearrington Road by Dark House Publishing. Contracts have been signed, and what not... and it was supposed to be published at the end of last year; but I've heard no updates, other than a Facebook post on their authors' page mentioning a hard drive crash. I plan to follow up soon for any kind of an update, but I'm assuming they've pushed production back. This accursed plague has probably not helped with that much either. The story I'm having published in this antho is a Lovecraftian story that I wrote entitled "The Raven's Lookout Regulars". This story was a labor of love from me. I absolutely loved the story and it's characters, and I shopped it for over a year. I knew it was a good story, and I just needed to find someone who loved it as much as I did. Hopefully, Dark House will move on the anthology soon... so I can share it with you, dear readers. 

Working cover for the Dark House anthology

So that's where I'm at. I'm working hard to try writing more (and part of that may be driven by my sudden brush with and glimpse at the mortal existentialism of incurable illness, but, hey... whatever, man. In the meantime, I'm trying to get over the deep, biting disappointment of this apocalypse having exactly zero fucking zombies in it. 

This is the worst. Apocalypse. Ever. 

In the meantime, cover up, shelter in place, and stay healthy! 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Writing Update - My Monster Kid Memories

I had a nonfiction article published back in February in this really cool magazine called Scary Monsters Magazine. 

I met the publisher and editor when I went to the 2019 GhoulardiFest in Berea - which is also home to my undergrad college alma mater, Baldwin-Wallace University. I'd been dying to attend a GhoulardiFest for years, and I finally got the chance in October. GhoulardiFest, for those who don't know, is an annual con dedicated to Cleveland's classic horror hosts - Ernie 'Ghoulardi' Anderson, 'Big Chuck' Schodowski, Bob 'Houlihan' Wells, and 'Lil' John' Rinaldi. These were the horror hosts I grew up watching, and it was a blast to finally meet these guys who were such an indelible part of my growing up. I've written about them before.

As an update - and more background - Ghoulardi was THE original horror host. He started the whole horror host thing and was a genuine super star local celebrity. Unfortunately, Ghoulardi was a little bit before my time, and left Cleveland for Hollywood before I was born. He found fame as an announcer. You might know his voice from numerous 70s and 80s television shows, including The Love Boat and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Interestingly, his son, Paul Thomas Anderson - is the director of films like There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, The Master - and has been nominated for seven Academy Awards. He's also married to Maya Rudolph - who I have a weird celebrity crush on.

Ernie 'Ghoulardi' Anderson - "Turn blue, ya purple knif!"

So that's kind of cool.

After Ghoulardi left, Big Chuck and Houlihan took over the late night show. They eschewed the usual horror host schtick of being creepy - with tons of spiderwebs, coffins, and dry ice fog. Instead, they  did funny skits between the horror movies. This established the tenor of the show. At some point, Hoolie left CLE for Florida and radio work, and Lil' John took his place.

Houlihan and Big Chuck

I remember the Hoolie and Big Chuck era, but not as well as The Big Chuck and Lil' John era. They were my horror hosts, and I watched them every Friday night growing up. It's been said, you never forget your first Doctor - in reference to Doctor Who. I feel it's likely the same with horror hosts.

While Tom Baker will always be my first doctor, Big Chuck and Lil' John will always be my favorite horror hosts.

My personally autographed photo of Big Chuck and Lil' John! 
I also attended GhoulardiFest this year for more pragmatic reasons as Chuck is getting older and not doing any public appearances anymore, except at GhoulardiFest. I figured it would be a prime chance to reconnect with the guys one last time. I should note that, when I was twelve, I went to a taping of the show and it's one of my cherished childhood memories. Seriously.

Cleveland horror host royalty - and Doctor Zombie! 

So, anyway, I've digressed a little bit.

While there, I met and talked to a bunch of people - or as many people as my social anxiety and introversion allowed. I met several new horror hosts, and was a little jealous because - truthfully - my Doctor Zombie alter ego was always intended to be a horror host in his own right. I also met Don Smeraldi - editor for Scary Monsters Magazine. I was immediately struck by how cool his magazine was. It was a throwback to the awesomeness of Forrest Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland. I can't begin to tell you how much I loved that and Fangoria when I was younger. I mentioned to him I was a writer, and he encouraged me to send something along. I repurposed an older piece I'd written and not done much with, and sent it to him. He quickly wrote back, said he loved it, and published it.

It felt like the easiest and most stress-free effort I've ever made to get something published. Seriously. And, it's also admittedly a bit nostalgic and smarmy. You see, I wrote about my late Uncle James. He's who introduced me to my first really bad horror movies, and the wonder of Cleveland's storied horror host history.

So, anyway, I've attached a copy of the cover below, as well as the article. Feel free to check it out.

And, feel free to check out Scary Monsters Magazine on your own. You can get digital copies and physical copies at their website...

Don and his crew are holding up a classic horror tradition with their magazine. If - like me - you're a horror freak like me, you should definitely check it out.  See below for images.

The cover of Scary Monsters 116

My article and tribute to my late Uncle James

Monday, April 06, 2020

Some ridiculously long overdue updates

... so yeah. It's been like years since I've done an update on the blog. That being said - I recently had some short stories published, so I've realized that I need to be better about my social media presence. I've been posting stuff on Insta and Twitter... but I really really need to get better about the old blog.

It's the closest I have to a website now (that will maybe change sometime in the near future, but who knows).

All I known is that - with the COVID-19 apocalypse upon us - I have no excuse to NOT update the old blog-aroo.

So... in that vein...

Old Doctor Zombie will be dusting off the Midnight Theater of Terror and making a bunch of updates. This will include some horror-themed travelogues I've done, some general updates and writerly shenanigans, and some updates on work I've sold and that will be published over the next few months.

All of this, however, has been overshadowed by some pretty big news on my part. It's not the best news (he wrote, with a masterful flourish of understatement).

You see, a few months back (around the middle of November 2019), I realized that I was having trouble catching my wind. About that same time, I pulled a muscle in my side. It was pretty debilitating. After toughing it out for a month or so, I said fuck it and went to the doctor. I used the health services clinic at my workplace. The doctor, at that time, focused an awful lot on the shortness of breath - you see, my dad died of a major heart attack about 3 1/2 years ago. So, the thought was that it might be a heart problem.

So, they did nothing about the stitch in my side, did an x-ray, and saw what might have been pneumonia in my lung. They gave me an antibiotic and wanted me to follow up with a cardiologist and a CT scan. Thing is, I was now getting other 'pulled muscles' in my core - and they were really painful - and the breathlessness was getting worse.

That didn't sit right with me, so I followed up with my regular GP. He didn't think it was my heart at all, but did think I should get a CT. So, at the end of February, he called me back with the bad news.

The CT scan showed my cancer was back.

For those who don't remember - I was diagnosed with male breast cancer in 2009. I was treated surgically, went to the doctor for a couple years afterwards, and was told I was clear.

Unfortunately, cancer sometimes comes back.

I have stage 4 metastasized male breast cancer. It's in my bones and in my lymph nodes. The pulled muscles I was feeling was cancer causing my lymph nodes to swell, and the other general soreness I attributed to arthritis or just middle age, was the bone cancer. The breathing issues was because of swollen lymph nodes as well - they were pressing against my lung and irritating it. This led to a pleural effusion - which is basically fluid on the lungs.

So, I've now - since March 12 - been on chemotherapy. The thing is my oncologist is confident that he has a good course of treatment in order. He has people who live for years on this treatment. And, I've responded really well to it - which is good. The hope is to fight it to a standstill and get at least a few more years under my belt. I've a lot more writing to do. I've got a lot more time I need to spend with my family. I've still got time. So I hope to make the most of it.

And - with the compromised lung, and lowered immune system - this whole COVID-19 is especially terrifying and worrisome. Seriously - a little over five months ago I was strong, healthy, working out several times a week. Now - I've got to worry about getting coronavirus and ending up on a ventilator. This is NOT the apocalypse I was hoping for. Fuck - there's exactly ZERO zombies in this one. COVID-19 is the WORST apocalypse.

Anyway - that's it for now.

Just know - Doctor Zombie is here for the foreseeable future.

I’m young, I’m strong, I have an amazingly supportive family, and I have a great doctor. I will survive this.

As Lord Byron said, “Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey”.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

FrankenJeep III

This brings us up to the present...


"Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave, or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay?" - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

Small update on the nature of 24+ year old Jeep YJs.

So, from the moment I brought FrankenJeep home, he gave me trouble starting. Especially when cold. It improved a little after I tuned him up, went with new plugs and wires, and replaced the idle air control valve (IAC)... but he persisted in his dogged refusal to start at times. The IAC took care of some of the idle issues, and cleaning out the throttle body helped with the starting a little, but it just got worse and worse.

About a month ago, he started just cranking. He'd eventually fire over, but it wasn't looking good. After some web crawling and Youtubing, I realized that there was a delay between turning the key and when the Check Engine light came on. Once I cranked for a it, or just left the key in, the Check Engine light would eventually come on, and Frankenjeep would fire right up. Yep. It was the telltale and terrifying sign of a bad ECM. Ridiculously common on YJs, but a pain in the undead butt, ya' know?!

So I pulled the ECM (gorram 8mm bolts!), packed it up in a box, and sent it to a place I found on Ebay out of Chicago. Cost me $115. I sent it on 7/31, received it back on 8/9. Reversed the pull out, and reinstalled... and now FrankenJeep fires up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

The idle issues are gone, and it takes like half a crank to fire it up.

NOW I can move on to the serious modifications, like a lift, tires, armor, etc.

In an unrelated note, I did do some useless, completely aesthetic and mall-Jeepy things to it.

My gear shift knob...

My transfer case knob...

And, my tire cover! 

Hmmmm. I'm sensing a pattern...

I'm looking forward to having a running Jeep, especially since this weekend is Jeepalooza 2018. In my hometown, we have the Last Stop Willoughby festival - it's named after the Twilight Zone episode where a train traveler gets stuck in a small town in the past. It's named after my hometown. The episode was written by Rod Serling... but it was contributed to by the late, great Harlan Ellison (who grew up in the next town over - Painesville). They have a big parade and over the last 8 or so years, there's also been a Jeep Parade at the end of the regular parade. We're talking 100+ Northeastern Ohio Jeeps, tooling down the road. It's an amazing sight to see!

I kind of thought, in the back of my mind, that I wanted to make sure FrankenJeep was ready to go for the parade no matter what, and now I'm happy to say he'll be there!

The adventure continues!

FrankenJeep - It's Alive!!

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

So... a couple months later, and there's been some progress.

The main issue is... Frankenjeep failed eCheck yet again. I spent quite a bit of time working on him mechanically, but it looks like it's not happening. That's what temp plates are for, I guess. In January 2019, I'll get plates for him once he's 25 years old and grandfathers out of eCheck.

(Getting new brakes, a tuneup, oil change, and basic maintenance [3/14/2018])

Also squared the brakes away, so he stops when you tell him to.

Other than that, he's running amazing after everything that we did to get him up and going

I also began body work. Pulled the front flares and found that the fenders had quite a few holes in them. So a bunch of new sheet metal, some tiger hair, and some finish bondo later, and the tub is in tip top shape.

Now, I am not a body guy. I'll be the first to admit that. However, I have Youtube and several years of half-assed painting experience; enough to be dangerous. In other words - the body's not super smooth, but it's good enough.

REMEMBER: FrankenJeep is a low buck project. He's for cruising in the summer and off-roading when I can. He'll never be a show quality ride. This means I'm not dumping a crap load of money (beyond the crap load I've ALREADY dumped into him) for paint... so I went with a backyard paint job.

We went with a Rustoleum spray job. The boy and I spent a day sanding and doing additional body work, spent a day taping and prepping, and then painted it in like 2 hours.

The paint job looks amazing from 10 feet away. Up close, you can see some runs here and there... but Frankenjeep looks pretty damned good now. Plus, I used Rustoleum 2x from Home Depot... so I'm not concerned about dings or anything because I can always just give it a quick, $3.49 spritz to touch him up from trail rash and mall parking lot door wangs. All told, with bondo, primer, paints, painting supplies... I spent like $150. I could have probably bought an HPLV sprayer and did it the right way, but rattle cans worked with the spirit of the build.

NOW that all that other crap is done.. and while I'm waiting for him to age into some plates... I can spend some time working on mods.

I also added:

  • A Rampage soft top
  • Bestop soft doors (I LOVE these doors!) 
  • A Rampage Center console
  • Seat covers
  • Other little odds and ends

On the immediate list:

  • Lift
  • Bigger tires (31s or 32s. Nothing crazy)
  • New bumpers
  • Some offroad lights (I'm thinking round halogens mounted over the windshield. Old school, ya know? That's how Jeeps had them when I was younger and dammit, these kids today with their new-fangled LEDs need to get off my gorram lawn!!!)
  • Paint the hardtop black

Nothing too crazy... just want it to look good and perform a little better.

FrankenJeep - Grave robbery!

Ed. Note: I've had a running Jeep build over on, and figured I'd put it over here for posterity. And... maybe... it'll prompt me to do more goddamned writing.


I am alone and miserable. Only someone as ugly as I am could love me.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein 

So, I finally re-entered the Wrangler world.

I have a long history of Jeeps (I’ve really owned nothing else my entire adult life). However, my last Wrangler (a a 2002 TJ I purchased new ) succumbed to the awful horror of northern Ohio winters and road salt. The frame completely rotted out and, at the urging of my wife, I replaced it with a Commander. I love the Commander, and its both my DD and our traveling vehicle because its so comfortable, but it wasn’t quite a Wrangler, you know?

So, a year or so ago I began to get the itch to go topless again. It was almost unbearable. I finally decided to pull the switch last fall and picked up a new project for a ridiculously low price. Now, after spending the winter working on it (when the weather would let me), it’s finally ready to begin its undead return.

Shambling back from the dead… it’s Project FrankenJeep!! (Cue the dramatic flash of lightning and crash of thunder!)

Why’d I get it? Because it was in pretty good shape, despite her appearance. Plus, it’s become a great project for my teenage son and I.

The gruesome details: 
It’s a 1994 YJ with the 2.5. It’s pretty stock, but it has a hard top (something I’ve never had before with any of my previous 5 Wranglers). Per the prior owner – it had new floor pans, new body mounts, brand new fuel pump. Also did some body work to patch holes in corner panels, installed new inside door panels, and seat belts. The motor has 55,000, while the body has 200,000. It also had the frame repaired.

All of these details – especially the body work – made it almost impossible to pass up. The frame and body are in great shape and the body work was done right.

However, there were some issues (aren’t there always, though?!)

It had been straight piped. Unfortunately, my neighbors don’t deserve that, so I had to put on a new muffler and tailpipe. To complicate this, and the single most important issue with it - Ohio has 9 counties where we need to do emissions testing. I live in one of them. It failed it’s first echeck (high NOX), so I spent the winter doing all kinds of stuff that precluded the last resort - replacing the catalytic converter. Why? Because emissions testing is only needed on vehicles less than 25 years old. Frankenjeep is 24 years old. I’ll be damned if I’m going crazy and dumping a bunch of money at something stupid when, in like 6 months, I don’t have to do anything for it. So I’ve done a tune up (new plugs, wires, cap, and rotor), oil change and filter, and changed the air filter. I’m going to Seafoam it, hit it with some high test gas and some Guaranteed to Pass. Im also going to run it on the freeway to heat up the cat and hope that I can cheat the roller test enough to get plates for it.

In the meantime, it also looks like the brakes have never been done on it. I had to replace the brakes all the way around, a rear brake cylinder, and a couple brake lines. It’s still giving me some trouble getting bled, and the brakes are still a little soft. I’m planning to fix that in the next few days. I fear I’m going to need to replace the front bleeders (Curse you, road salt!) and/or the master cylinder.

Once FrankenJeep passes echeck, it’s time for body and paint. I’m thinking of painting him orange. Half thinking of doing the $50 Rustoleum paint job.

The key with FrankenJeep is that he is a fun Jeep. He’s not my daily driver, and I’m going to build him up and do so cheap. He’ll see trails, and he won’t be pretty, but he’ll be kick ***.

Future plans:

  • A soft top
  • 32s and a small lift
  • New bumpers
  • Expedition rack (had one on my last jeep and LOVED it)
  • Bunch of small things to make it as fun as possible! 

Here he is the day he came home on 9/13/2016! 

Here are some pictures of the work that was done to him by the dude who had him before me... as he wrote: 
Has been completely gone through, new floor pans, new body mounts, brand new fuel pump, did some body work to patch holes in corner panels, new inside door panels, seat belts, motor has 55,000 and body 200,000, frame repair on rear where leaf spring shackle goes, everything has been done right. 4 Cylinder with five speed. will make someone a really nice jeep (Edited for illiteracy).

Watch for more progress..

Friday, June 24, 2016

A (Belated) Return to Zombieland - Day of the Dead Film Location

I have been horribly negligent when it comes to my blog, and I've been woefully behind on updating anything.

Take this post for example. Believe it or not, it's almost a year late. My apologies for that.


In October of last year, myself and ZombieBoy partook in what is likely to be an annual pilgrimage to Zombieland... the area of Pennsylvania where George A. Romero filmed his classic unholy zombie trilogy... Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead!

This time around, it was to attend the recently started, but annual Living Dead Fest in Evans City, Pennsylvania. Yes... that Evans City. The bucolic town where Night of the Living Dead, as well as The Crazies, was filmed!

Interestingly, the Living Dead Fest is actually pretty small. Really small, in fact. Evans City is a small little town, and it and the festival's center point is the newly moved Living Dead Museum. You may remember, the original was actually located in the Monroeville Mall - the filming location of 1978 Dawn of the Dead - and I related how cool it was when myself, the wife, and the undead and evil prodigy I call my kids visited it a few years back.

Now, it's in Evans City, and it seemed to -- at least the day of the Festival -- be hopping.

Organized by none other than Gary Streiner - the sound guy for The Night of the Living Dead (and brother of Russel Streiner - who played the iconic Johnny in the original NOTLD). There were a slew of people who appeared in the movie, people dressed as zombies, and all kinds of other coolness.

Probably the highlight, for me though, occurred while we were walking through the vendor area. I was perusing some zombie posters in a tent, and I looked to my left to say something to ZombieBoy. Only he wasn't there. he'd moved on to the next booth. It was who was standing next to me that freaked me out, however. Standing next to me instead... and I get giddy thinking about this still... was none other than TOM SAVINI!

That's right Tom Mother-Flipping Savini! 

I made an "Eep!!" sort of noise, stammered, and said, "Tom, wow! Hi! How are you?"

"I'm good," he said, and reached out and shook my hand.

Then he moved on. And I stood there, all star struck. Like a total fan boy.

I snapped a quick picture of him at the next booth, but did it surreptitiously because I know it's uncool to take a pic of a celeb at a convention or fest without paying them, but I was so fucking jazzed! He was the one person I was hoping to see, and to have a one-on-one personal interaction like that was mind-blowing!

Anyway, after that and given how small the town and festival space itself was, ZombieBoy and I found we had walked through the entire event within a half hour or so. And it was only like 1:00 in the afternoon. We had tickets for the festival movie later that night (The Crazies was playing on a screen in EDCO Park after the sun went down), and needed to kill some time, so we headed up to the Evans City Cemetery as ZombieBoy had never been there.

I started showing him around, and as I'd been there before and knew where things were, I actually managed to pick up a couple of other visitors and wound up leading an impromptu tour. Amazingly, one guy in the group actually had a printout of my blog article on it and was using it as a guide for himself and his girlfriend!

You can check out my first, geeky visit to the Evans City Cemetery by clicking here.

The newly restored chapel looks amazing compared to my last visit, and I'm so, so glad I could contribute to and kick a couple shekels towards the restoration and resurrection of this iconic structure.

Having finished the tour, it was getting on lunch time. As Mrs. Zombie wasn't around, it became necessary for us to eat unhealthy fast food. I feel no shame in this. Dr. Zombie - on occasion - needs to sneak some unhealthy food when he can. Just saying...  So we motored up into Zelienople, which was having a huge Oktoberfest celebration. And by huge, I mean HUGE. The Living Dead Fest, which is down the road a mere 5 minutes, was paltry in comparison.

Anyway, we headed into the local Zelienople Burger King where we got to try something I'd been dying to try since it had come out --- The Burger King Halloween Whopper.

And, in case you're wondering: The news articles were all true. For days afterward, ZombieBoy and I were plagued by neon green, iridescent, 2-4-5 Trioxin colored poop. Unpleasant, I know. But true. So horribly, horribly true. True and sooooo worth it!

As we were eating lunch, I was thinking about how I'd already pretty much seen all Evans City had to offer in terms of movie locations. It was then that I struck upon the idea of visiting the final movie location for Romero's classic Day of the Dead... the one place I'd yet to see! I talked it over with ZombieBoy, and as we had several hours to kill, we went for it.

About a half hour or so ride from Zelienople, you can find the Gateway Commerce Center in Wampum, Pennsylvania.

It was here that George Romero filmed the underground scenes from the fabulous 1985 zombie classic, Day of the Dead!

Here are some shots from the original movie:

A former coal mine, it's been turned into a storage shelter and it made the perfect location for Romero's film. Romero chose it because it was still close to Pittsburgh, and it had the requisite claustrophobia-inducing gloom for the underground military research facility the film's characters find themselves in.

Needless to say, it's just a really cool location.

As you approach, there are two entrances. you drive up a winding road and are met with imposing, monstrous, real-life zombie proof gates that lead into the side of a mountain. Unfortunately, you can't get into the facility because it's private property, but that didn't stop me from driving up to both gates and taking some pictures between the gaps in the security gate.

It may have been wistful thinking, but the shot above feels an awful lot like the shot from the original movie. Here are some screen shots for comparison...

What do you think?

Anyway, it was still cool as hell! There was an undeniable creepiness to the place.  As I looked through the massive gate into the very bowels of the mountain that towered above us, the smell of mustiness and earth and the coolness of subterranean wind was chill-inducing.

We snapped pictures at both gates and were very pleased to have checked yet another unhallowed horror movie filming sites off the list!

We returned to Evans City afterwards, and got some dinner, before moseying down to EDCO park at dusk to watch the amazing and political charged classic, The Crazies, with a small crowd of fellow Living Dead aficionados! ZombieBoy and I cuddled under blankets, ate popcorn, and I had a couple beers under the chilly, October sky in the birthplace of the modern zombie movie.

What was great was that The Crazies was filmed in Evans City proper. It was really neat, and a little surreal, to see many of the same buildings and bridges and streets we'd just spent the day walking through on the big screen. All in all, the movie in the park was one of the highlights of the entire trip. I'd return just for that!

After the movie, we drove back home, and I reflected how glad I was to have shared some of my geeky love of all things horror with my now teenage son, ZombieBoy. He was there when we went to Monroeville to see the Dawn of the Dead Mall, and now, as a young man, he was there for this other great experience. It was cool, and also a little bittersweet as he will soon be leaving for college soon and opportunities like this -- opportunities to share in our mutual geekiness--  will be forever reduced.

He's gone from this...

To this...

Crazy, right?

All in all, it was a great weekend.