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Sightings and Appearances

Eric is making signing and speaking appearances to promote A Consternation of Monsters. (He also occasionally does some acting.) You’ll find those appearances and roles here.

February 7-9, 2019 — Eric’s short play “Aye Do” will be featured as part of Greenbrier Valley Theatre‘s GVT Play Fest.  The decision to settle down can be tough for some, but when you’re a hardened Pirate Captain living a rich life of high-seas adventure filled with “ya harrs” and “yo hos” and pillaging yachts of Wells Fargo executives, it can be downright vexing.  Until one destiny-altering, magical moonlit walk on a beach sets the wedding bells a-ringin’.  But will his first mate get him to the church on time or talk him out of a journey fraught with perils and potential doom?  Johnny Depp, beware!  A 10 minute sea-faring romantic comedy about growing up.  And pirates.

Actual Conversations Heard at My House #459

(Setting: our living room, as the end credits roll on our six-month-old DVRed copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE, a movie which I have only now finally got around to watching and which my wife has only now finally got around to reading a book during, punctuated by long stretches of looking over the edge of her iPad to stare at Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, a little drool running out of the edge of her mouth.)

ME—  Huh.  Well, as not great as that movie was, it was not nearly as bad as I expected it to be.

THE WIFE— (grinning) Isn’t there a movie with just Aquaman in it?

ME—Yes.  It’s called “Aquaman.”  And it is in theaters now.

THE WIFE— (Giggles)  I would go see that.  (Sly grin.)  Maybe they’ll have more scenes of him drinking and stomping around.

ME—(Stunned)  You liked that, huh?

THE WIFE—(Beaming) Uh huh!

ME—You are a puzzle I will never solve.  When I drink and stomp around you say I’m an alcoholic.

THE WIFE—Yeah, but I have to live with you.

(Cut to the following evening, as we emerge from the local cinemaplex having viewed all 2 hours and 22 minutes of Aquaman.)

THE WIFE— That was a terrible movie

ME— Indeed.

THE WIFE— But Jason Mamoa was pretty.

ME— He was prettier than Amber Heard and her clown wig.

 

Rabbits Now Firmly in the Wreckage!

My latest audiobook narration has been released.  It is the audio reading of the latest in S.D. Smith’s Tales of Old Natalia series, The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner, read by yours truly.   It is a continuation of the adventures begun in The Blackstar of Kingston (which you definitely should hear first).  In fact, this book finally puts some wonderful off-screen characters from Blackstar on screen at last.

It is a very worthy sequel and definitely advances the community of rabbits toward the kingdom we know it will become in The Green Ember (as read by the fantastic Joel Clarkson).  They just have to survive, first.  And no one’s safety is guaranteed.

Check it out now at Amazon, Audible.  Or, save $1 and order it from the publisher’s website.

Even more Impending Wreckage…

The recording and mastering has been completed on the audiobook adaptation of the latest in S.D. Smith’s Tales of Old Natalia series, The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner, read by yours truly.   It was a pleasure to revisit characters from The Blackstar of Kingston (which you definitely should hear first), as well as give voice to new characters in the series and wonderful characters who only existed off-stage in the first book.  (Mother Saramack, anyone?)

It is a worthy sequel and definitely advances the community of rabbits toward the kingdom we know it will become in The Green Ember (as read by the fantastic Joel Clarkson).  They just have to survive, first.  And no one’s safety is guaranteed.

Expect publication in early December.

The Wreck has begun…

Recording has officially begun on the next audiobook for which I am serving as narrator: The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner by S.D. Smith. It is the second book in Smith’s Tales of Old Natalia series, which are set a century before his regular Green Ember series and detail how that kingdom began.

I can report that it is a worthy sequel to The Black Star of Kingston and it’s good to be voicing old friends (and enemies) once again.  If you’ve not read (or better yet, heard) The Black Star of Kingston, you should do so before journeying up river for the next one.  Otherwise all the twists and turns won’t be nearly as satisfying.

Look for it (listen) in early December.

Sightings and Appearances

Eric is making signing and speaking appearances to promote A Consternation of Monsters. (He also occasionally does some acting.) You’ll find those appearances and roles here.

November 10, 2018 — Eric will be leading a writing workshop called the Joe McCabe Memorial Short Play Writing Workshop as part of the Fall Writing Conference for West Virginia Writers, Inc.  The first workshop Eric ever attended at a WV Writers Conference was one on the craft of writing short plays taught by the late and prolific playwright Joe McCabe. In this workshop, Eric will honor Joe’s legacy by using examples of Joe’s work (as well as Eric’s own short plays) as a backdrop to discuss the form. The goal is for participants to leave with ideas for short plays of their own to develop as well as resources for submitting those plays to theatres around the country who are actively seeking them.

Sasquatch Carting Lessons Now Available

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce that my latest audiobook narration, the award-winning short story collection HOW TO CARRY BIGFOOT HOME by writer/musician Chris Tarry, is now available.

It is a collection of beautiful, funny, bittersweet, and (in the case of one of them) Pushcart-nominated tales. It was a fantastically fun project to work on.

Please be so kind as to check it out on Amazon.com, Audible.com and (coming soon) to iTunes.

#Bigfoot #audiobook #redhenpress

Searching for Tigers and Diarrhea

The wife and I dined at Shoney’s for Sunday brunch, both because we were very hungry, but also because I’d been suffering from a bit of constipation.  Shoney’s buffet, we knew, would cure both.

Shortly after we were seated, a family consisting of a grandmother and four children–two boys and two girls of the age range of 7ish to 15ish–were seated at the table next to us.  Eavesdropping on their conversations quickly became our mealtime entertainment.  For instance, when the waitress explained that Shoney’s Sunday buffet contained both lunch and breakfast items, the youngest girl beamed with amazement and proclaimed “I like lunch and breakfast!”

“Yeah, I think she’s my favorite human, now,” I told my wife.  For I also like lunch and breakfast.

We got some lunch and breakfast for ourselves from the buffet and a few minutes later the family members filtered up for their own grub.  When the kids returned to the table, they were all atwitter about something.  It was hard to determine what exactly they were excited about, but eventually we got enough clues to start piecing things together.

“Who is Tiger Woods?” the younger brother said.

“You don’t know who Tiger Woods is?” the older brother replied.

“No,” younger brother said.  “Who is Tiger Woods?”

“He plays golf,” the older sister said.  “Professionally,” she added.  “At the Greenbrier,” she finished.

Oh, I thought. maybe they had watched some of the PGA Open a few weeks back.  I assume he played in it, but I didn’t go and didn’t even watch any of it on TV, since my sports intake is pretty much limited to the Olympics and American Ninja Warrior.  Then the older sister threw a wrench into my theory.

“He looks really young.  I can’t believe I was standing right next to him,” she said.  At first I thought she meant that she’d attended the PGA and must have somehow stood beside him there.  Why this would come up again so long later, I wasn’t sure, but that was my working theory.  My alternate theory was that he was in town again and was playing golf at the Greenbrier and the family had somehow seen him there.  However, the way the two sisters on the opposite side of the table kept craning their necks to look toward the buffet in the room behind me gave me pause.  I knew it was possible that Tiger was in the area, but was it somehow also possible that he was dining at Shoney’s?  The girls kept craning to see.

“Do they mean Tiger Woods is here?” I whispered to the wife.

“No,” she said.  “Tiger Woods would never eat at Shoney’s.”

“I dunno,” I said.  “I think he’s demonstrated something of a taste for diner waitresses.”

The wife was not amused by this.  She added that if Tiger Woods was really in the restaurant there would be far more excitement and whispering and craning among all the other tables.

A few minutes later, the waitress returned to the other table and the Tiger topic was still going strong.

“Did you know Tiger Woods is here?” the youngest girl asked the waitress.

“Oh, is he playing at the Greenbrier?” the waitress asked.

“No.  I mean he’s here!  He’s in Shoney’s!” the younger sister replied excitedly.

“We stood beside him in line,” the older sister confirmed.

“You did?” the waitress said in a confused tone.  She looked around, but didn’t seem to see him.

My wife shook her head. “See, if Tiger was here the staff would have been told in advance about it.”

I wasn’t convinced they would, but I was also far from convinced Tiger Woods was breathing the same air as me.  I finished my last bite of cheese grits and decided to go back to the bar, both for round two and for a scouting expedition to see if I could figure out who it was in the restaurant that those girls thought was Tiger Woods.  I looked all around, scanning the horseshoe of booths near the bar, the double rows of booths stretching toward the cash register and front door, and the back room where gatherings are sometimes held.  They were all full but I didn’t see any customers who could remotely be mistaken for Tiger Woods.  In fact, the only African American male I could see in the place was a waiter, who in no way resembled Tiger Woods.  Maybe these kids were racist and couldn’t distinguish between different black people.

Throughout the rest of our meal, the kids continued to talk about Tiger Woods, and crane their necks, and go back to the bar.  Each time they returned they seemed to have a new story about seeing him again.  I was on the verge of asking where he was, but decided that it would just lead to the kids’ illusions being shattered when I pointed out that whoever it was they thought was Tiger Woods was not really him, which was the most likely scenario to me.  Let the kids keep their story.  It was time for us to leave. Shoney’s had done it’s job.

The coda to this tale is that days later, while attending a public event in town, I was SHOCKED to my core to see a dude at the same event who was the spitting image of Tiger Woods.  The guy was clearly 20 years younger than Tiger Woods himself, so I knew he wasn’t the genuine article.  But he was dressed in a collared golf shirt and was wearing a ball cap much like ones Tiger might wear, and looked to all appearances like a long-lost Woods son.  Just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, I asked a friend to take a peek for confirmation that the guy really did look like Tiger Woods.  He confirmed it.  Now, I don’t know for certain that this was the guy the kids saw during lunch and breakfast that Sunday, as I didn’t see him myself, but now I have to think it was highly probable.  Of course the only way to know for sure would be to ask him, or to subtly inquire as to the regularity of his bathroom habits over the previous week.  But I didn’t want to have that conversation.  And so it will remain something of a mystery.

WHACK!

That feeling you get after you’ve spent half an hour editing the first few minutes of an audiobook file you recorded four days ago only to then hear your own voice on the recording say “Yeah, I kinda want to do this thing all over again,” followed by sounds of coffee drinking, the humming of a solid note for several seconds designed to visually mark the recording to signal your future self as to where to begin the edit, and then your own voice starting the chapter anew.

It’s only due by Friday.

Coming Attractions

With my latest audiobook narration Mississippi Nights freshly released, I want to draw your attention to a future release coming later this summer.

I am currently recording the narration for the audiobook of How to Carry Bigfoot Home, by Chris Tarry.  I can safely report at this point that the stories within are just as impressive, funny, heart-breaking, and poignant as you would hope for a collection with a title like that.

Which is to say, it’s fantastic and I highly recommend it.  The style of the stories varies greatly between each, but Tarry always has a clever turn of phrase, with equal parts comedy and tragedy, often within the same story.

It has also been one of the more challenging audiobooks I’ve recorded, as I’ve had to learn how to approximate a few different accents that I’ve never attempted before (Newfoundland Irish, for instance.)  My hope is that they will be true to the emotions of the characters at all times, slavishly accurate secondarily, but I’m aiming for both.

If you enjoyed my own, A Consternation of Monsters, you’ll love this.

Look for How to Carry Bigfoot Home in August 2018.

Broken things

Things in my life that are currently broken:

  1. My Subaru’s driver’s side window, which, two months ago, stopped rolling down and presumably also no longer rolls up. Makes drive-through windows kind of a pain to deal with.  In more positive news, I’ve begun eating less fast food, cause lord knows I cannot be bothered to get out of my car and go inside.

  2. My lawnmower, which, three weeks ago, began  making horrible noises (the kind of sharp-blades-of-metal-about-to-fly-in-all-directions kind of noises that most people don’t care to hear coming from some place beneath their butts.  It has been sent to the shop where it has been for two weeks.

  3. My desktop computer, which, two weeks ago, made a funny ozone smell upon startup, worked for another five minutes then shut itself off.  I ordered a new power supply on the theory that my old one was bad, but this doesn’t seem to be the issue.

  4. My bluetooth headphones, which have been ailing a bit since one of the arms of their neck-wrapable housing snapped, exposing fragile wires within.  I “fixed” it by the use of some gorilla glue and some moldable glue putty on top of that.  Then, the headphone earbud developed a gap where the wire-cover meets the earbud.  I “fixed” this with some liquid electrical tape.  Unfortunately, it didn’t last and the earbud went ahead and developed a break in the wire, killing that earbud.

  5. My sense that anyone in government is decent or can be trusted, which has actually had several hairline cracks in it since the `90s, but which has finally gone ahead and shattered into multiple pieces.  The best I think we can hope for is that a given politician’s self-serving interests might coincidentally line up with good policy.

“The Talkin’ Baby Bunny Burrito Blues”

I’m embarrassed to say it, but my wife and I have been harboring murderers in our house for several years now.  Three vicious killers, in fact.  Three slavering, fanged destroyers of life who enjoy nothing better than to wolf down baby bunnies as fast as they can get them.  We call these killers, the dogs.  And while we are horrified that this is their hobby, we are usually powerless to stop it.  Yes, if bunny chomping were a team sport, the score would be bunnies 0—dogs in the double digits.  To make things worse, the dogs often have co-conspirators in this carnage in the form of the cats.

One evening, from my office upstairs, I heard the high-pitched anguished cry of an animal downstairs.  I recognized it as the chirpy squeak of a baby bunny.  The doors were all closed, which meant that one of the cats had brought the bunny in through their kitty door.  They’re fond of doing this, but I don’t know why they bother.  In 100 percent of cases so far, the dogs have immediately taken the baby bunnies from the cats and then cheerfully devoured them.  Now don’t get me wrong, we try our best to stop it when this happens.  We scream “Leave it!  Leave it!  Leave it!” followed by “Drop it!  Drop it!  Drop it!” followed by “Eww, gyyahhhh, noooooo!  Just… just take it outside!  Outside!!!”   It’s the worst episode of Planet Earth you’ve ever seen.

Hearing the squeak downstairs, I cursed at the inevitable devouring that was about to befall the squeaker, but I went out to see what I could do.  From the landing, I could look down into the living room where I saw the squeaking bunny sitting all by itself in the middle of the floor near the dining room table.  The cat had allowed it to escape so he could play with it, but didn’t seem to be in a hurry to do so.  The bunny didn’t seem to be injured, and took the opportunity to run away, scurrying across the floor and then behind our entertainment center.  Unfortunately, it was spotted by our middle-child dog Moose, who had also heard its cry and come runnin’ in to find it.  He dashed behind the entertainment center after it.

What Moose failed to notice, though, but which I could see from my perch above the living room, was that the rabbit was no longer behind the entertainment center.  It had instead dodged beneath a low cabinet and changed direction, because I then saw it run along the baseboard of the back wall, past the closed back door, and then disappear behind the arm of a piece of furniture we call “the dog couch.”  (We call it “the dog couch” because it’s a ratty old sofa, primarily used by the dogs, and not to be confused with the “good sofa” which we reserve for ourselves and also often the dogs.)

I sighed and trudged downstairs to begin the no doubt futile process of trying to catch this stinking rabbit.

I crept in the direction of the dog couch, trying not to draw Moose’s attention to the bunny’s hiding place.  Moose was still behind the entertainment center looking for it, though, and had been joined there by our other two dog-children to form a bunny search party.  Meanwhile, our other cat, a remarkably dumb animal we call Fatty Lumpkin, had gone over to the couch to investigate the bunny.  As Fatty started to peek around the edge of the couch, the bunny suddenly popped out from that very corner.  This startled Fatty, who nearly broke a hip trying to flee the room.  His flight, in turn, startled the bunny, who ducked back behind the couch.

I walked over and opened the back door, creating an escape route for the bunny.  I then slipped over to the dog couch itself and began rattling the Venetian blinds which hung down beside the arm in the bunny’s hiding spot.  Sure enough, he popped back out and began hopping toward the open door.  And then he completely avoided safety and escape by hopping right past it.  In fact, the bunny was moving toward the dogs, who were all three still behind the TV looking for him.  I was pretty sure I was about to witness natural selection in action.  However, the bunny then changed direction again and scurried along the front edge of the “good” couch.  From there he hopped all the way over to the still closed front door at the front corner of the room.

As calmly as I could, I moved toward him, pausing only to pick up the soft green rag carpet we keep near the door, which I hoped to use as a makeshift net. Before I could get any closer, though, the bunny bolted along the side wall and I was forced to fling it early.  It flew and landed, not directly on the bunny but in his path at the base of that wall.  And the bunny dove beneath it.  I then stooped over and gently wrapped the carpet into a tube, creating a makeshift bunny burrito, which I then carried outside, closing the front door behind me.

I waited a few seconds, praying that the dogs had not noticed any of that.  Or, if they had noticed, that they would then not also notice that the back door was still wide open and run around the outside of the house.  Hearing no thundering canine approach, I deposited our guest onto the patio.  The bunny looked a little dazed as he peered around.  Then he wiggled his whiskers and hopped off into the night without so much as a thank you.  I watched him go, content in the knowledge that we’d finally scored one for the bunnies.

And back inside, the vicious bunny killers continued searching for him behind the TV for several more minutes.

Mississippi Nights audio book now available!

I’m pleased to announce that my latest effort as an audiobook narrator, Mississippi Nights by D.M. Webb, is now available.  It’s a Christian fiction romance/thriller set in my home state of Mississippi.

I had a lot of fun narrating this because, in addition to getting to voice some colorful characters, I was impressed at the how the author deftly and playfully lampoons many of the tropes of the Nicholas Sparksy-style romantic fiction genre while still writing a legit romantic thriller.  I also appreciated that the book tackles some serious real world issues in a way that does not suggest easy answers to the problems.

I can also report that it got a little dusty in the ol’ recording booth at times, as I, the narrator, was sometimes unprepared for the emotional impact of the story.  (While I admit to bawling my eyes out watching movies, I rarely cry reading books.  This one got me more than once.)

MISSISSIPPI NIGHTS–  Two brothers, one death – the bond of brotherhood and family faces its greatest challenge. When firefighter David Boyette’s fiance perishes in a car accident, he blames his brother, Sgt. Jeremy Boyette, for her death.  Three years later, David returns home with a dark and devastating secret. With the help of family, a woman’s love, and a child’s devotion, can David overcome insurmountable odds as he and Jeremy face the bitterness that enslaves him? 

Mississippi Nights is available through Audible.comAmazon.com, and iTunes.

 

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Eaglemoss TARDIS Special Edition Figurine

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

 

There are a few white whales out there in terms of TARDISes that are not in my TARDIS collection.  Some of these, such as either of the hand-made polystone TARDIS “diorama” models by Big Chief Studios, are pretty damn pale in terms of white whales.  They seem like gigantic, 20″ high versions of my beloved Electronic Flight Control TARDIS, complete with lights and sound, but with a huge boost in quality.  And as much as I would love one, the reason I’ve not bought one is because they are just stupid expensive even at base retail price, going for between $250 and $400 depending on the retailer.  I buy one of those and my wife will probably see it as grounds for divorce.

However, there are other TARDIS models and toys that were well below the Big Studios threshold when they were first offered for sale, but which, once out-of-stock, became rare and saw their price triple.  One such specimen is the TARDIS Special Edition Figurine released by the Eaglemoss model company.

For those not in the know, Eaglemoss is a company that specializes in spaceship models and sculpted figurines of pop culture characters, usually cast in metal.  They have figurine lines for Star Trek, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, The Walking Dead, and others, but have spent most of the last decade producing a line of Doctor Who figurines as well.  And the fact that I don’t own any of the figurines from this line is pretty much down to marriage preservation, too, for each of the Doctors originally retail for $17.95, making a 12 Doctor set cost-prohibitive unless purchased in the $35 four-pack sets, and even then… really?

Eaglemoss made a TARDIS, though, which is a white whale that’s been singing a siren call to me for several years.  It originally retailed for $35, which seemed not unreasonable to me.  Trouble was, shipping was another $15 on top of that, which I could not justify.  Of course, they usually offer free shipping on orders of $60 or more, but that meant having to buy two of them, or finding some other stuff to order with it and before you know it I had well over $100 of stuff in my cart when all I really wanted was one stinkin’ TARDIS and I’d get fed up and walk away.  After, let’s say, two years of doing this, the Eaglemoss TARDIS went out-of-stock.  And even though they have a little box where you can leave your email in case they re-stock, they are not known for actually re-stocking what was the whole time intended to be an individually numbered limited print run, so that’s not happening.  I soon began seeing my former $45 TARDIS for sale on eBay for upwards of $100.  And when it was anywhere under $50, it was always a seller in England and they tacked on another $40 for shipping to the U.S.–which was never gonna happen on my watch.   I sadly resolved myself to the likelihood that the Eaglemoss TARDIS, much like the Electronic 4th Doctor TARDIS set from 2010, was a whale that had slipped my clutches, escaping into the vast sea of prohibitively priced merchandise.  I mean, it didn’t stop me from setting up a saved search for it, though, since you never could tell when one might find an auction for one at a reasonable price point.  This never seemed to happen, though.

Then, last month, something even more unlikely than a cheap auction happened.  I received an email ebay search report that someone had posted a new listing for an Eaglemoss TARDIS for $25 and with free shipping and it was BUY IT NOW!!!!  And I happened to be looking at gmail on my phone when the listing hit, so I couldn’t load my eBay app fast enough.  The whole time, though, I kept thinking that there must be something wrong with it for it to be listed for such a low price.  Surely it had been dropped, or gnawed by a dog at the least to go for only $25.  The listing indicated nothing of the sort, though, so I fired my whale spear and it struck home in white TARDIS flesh.  (This metaphor is really getting strange.)

A few days later, my new Eaglemoss TARDIS arrived and was something of a surprise, mainly because it was three times bigger than I expected it to be.  The Eaglemoss figurines I’ve seen and owned are around three inches in height, so I assumed somehow that the TARDIS would be as well.  Nope.  It’s to scale with the Doctor figurines, so it’s a full five inches from the base to the bottom of the roof lamp.  The other surprise was the material it was made of.  While I don’t own any other Doctor Who Eaglemoss figurines, I do own a Starman and an Ambush Bug from the DC line; they’re both cast from metal, so I expected the TARDIS would be metal as well (hence the huge shipping costs for most folks).  The TARDIS, however, is cast with some sort of resin.  I imagine a TARDIS of this size cast in pewter would probably weight at least five pounds, so it’s probably for the best.  I’d say this thing is still a solid 2 pounds.

As far as TARDISes go, it’s mostly decent.  The sculpting is nice, though there is no wood grain, but I’m okay with that.  Where it kind of misses the mark for me is in the detail work of the painting.  The windows are especially sloppy, with the gray paint of the frames occasionally splashing up onto the blue of the exterior TARDIS walls or onto the white of the “glass” panes. It looks like it was painted by a fairly skilled 10-year-old.  The sloppiness extends to the painting of the roof lamp.  Also, the decal for the door sign was applied skewed to the left side of the phone-cabinet instead of centered properly. Again, it looks like a skilled 10-year-old might have done it, so, again, I’m going to blame child labor.

Despite these complaints, though, it’s still a nice piece that I’m proud to have in my collection.  And a white whale hunted and killed and flensed and turned into 19th century lamp oil.  I give it 3.5 TARDI. 

Sightings & Appearances

Eric is making signing and speaking appearances to promote A Consternation of Monsters.  (He also occasionally does some acting.) You’ll find those appearances and roles here.

May 18-19, 2018 — Eric is the director for the 2018 Opera House PlayFest at the Pocahontas County Opera House in Marlinton, W.Va.  Featured plays will include “Petting Zoo Story” by Jason Half, “Daughters These Days” by T.K. Lee, “Beans and Franks Never Tasted So Good” by Jon Joy, “A Game of Twenty…” by Eric himself, “Riding Lessons” by Brett Hursey, and “Bankin’ on the Grand” by Chris Shaw Swanson.  Featured actors will include Chris Curry, John C. Davis, Eric Fritzius, Janet Ghigo, Charlie Maghee Hughes, Kim King, Jay Miller, Bill Mitchell, Joanna Murdock, Rhonda Pritt, and Shenda Smith.  Tickets will be available at the door.

He finally has his answers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to write about the passing of Art Bell, purveyor of strange ideas and the poser of questions concerning all manner of mysteries of the universe.  He was for many years the host of Coast to Coast A.M., one of the most successful radio programs of the last half century.  Art’s was a fantastic and fascinating format, as he basically just opened the phone lines to anyone who wanted to call about whatever topic he was covering in a given night.  Ghost stories?  He took `em.  UFO sightings? He wanted to hear about `em.  Were you a time traveler?  Give Art a call if you were in the same year.  He might not believe you, but he’d let you tell your story.

I wish I could say I grew up listening to Art Bell, but if a radio station in my area of Mississippi broadcast his show I was unaware of it.  I learned of him in the late `90s while working as a radio DJ myself in Tupelo, Mississippi.  I can’t recall for sure how I came to know of him, but likely from one of the various conspiracy, UFO, or cryptozooloigic websites I was a fan of in the day.  I know for a fact that I had read a creepy story or to featuring his show in an encyclopedia of Fortean topics I owned at the time (but which has mysteriously disappeared from my shelf now).  He was a fascinating figure, even if I couldn’t hear him on a regular basis.  I was able to download clips of his shows from his website, but streaming was an odd creature in the late 90s.  And then, in 1998, just as I was learning of Art to begin with, he retired under mysterious circumstances.  It was to be the first of many such retirements, almost all of which didn’t take for very long.  Art was soon back on the air.

When I moved to North Carolina in 1999, Coast to Coast was broadcast by one of the sister stations to the one I worked for in Charlotte.  And during the two months or so I did an overnight shift there, I often found myself switching over to the AM feed and listening to Art in real time, rather than downloads days later.  It was always entertaining.  However, my thankful departure from that shift and Art’s various other premature retirements kept me from regularly hearing him much after that.

Bell is, of course, the inspiration for my fictional character of radio host Rik Winston and his UFO All Night program, who is referenced in my short story “…to a Flame.”  (You can read more about that story in the Moths & Men blog series elsewhere on this site.)  In the story, one of the characters, Virgil–loyal Rik Winston listener–tells the tale about a “doctor guy” who calls in to Rik’s show following an alien encounter.  This was inspired by a real series of calls to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM from the 1990s. The real story turned out to be a complete hoax, of course, which the “doctor” guy eventually admitted on Art’s show.  However, this hasn’t stopped that guy from trying to make money off of it to this day.  (UFOWatchdog has more about the real story and the “doctor’s” actual identity HERE.)

While Rik is also the “author” of the foreword to A Consternation of Monsters.  But he’s only turned up in one short story, so far.  However, he’s been referenced and even makes an audio appearance in three of my short plays.  I call them  the Ellipses Cycle, as they all have titles featuring ellipses and are thematically tied together by their strange and unusual (and often West Virginia-related) subject matter.  They also all mention Rik Winston.  They include the stage adaptation of “…to a Flame,” the inspired-by-a-true-story African lion adventure “…and Tigers and Bears,” and a third play set in the waiting room of eternity called “A Game of Twenty…”  It’s a story about a guy who finally gets to ask for answers to all the questions about strange and unusual things he has wondered about.  Naturally, he loves every single answer he gets.  That play has been produced for Greenbrier Valley Theatre as well as a staged reading at the 2016 West Virginia Playwright’s Festival.  And, in May, it will again be performed as part of the Opera House PlayFest 2018.

I’ll have to dedicate it to Art Bell.  Hopefully now, the man has all the answers.  But here’s hoping it’s another early retirement.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: TARDIS Rotating LED Cell Phone Charm (The Shotglass TARDIS series)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

The very smallest of the shotglass TARDISes in my collection is the TARDIS Rotating LED Cell Phone Charm.  It’s a tiny tiny TARDIS encased in a plastic bell jar dome that screws onto a plastic base bearing the Doctor Who logo used during the David Tennant era of the show.  While mine hangs in my car from my rear view mirror, the device is meant to attach to a cell phone.  The base has sensors within it that can detect incoming cell signals which activate the device to cause the TARDIS within the dome to spin and LED lights in the base to flash, signaling you that you have texts or calls when your phone is on silent mode.  Sounds mildly handy, no?  Turns out, not so much–at least in the way that I used the device.

The first time my TARDIS charm ever activated was at night, as I was driving home.  There I was, driving down the straightish stretch of highway near my house, preparing to turn onto the lane that leads to my neighborhood, when unexpectedly I am blasted at eye level by flashing blue lights seemingly from somewhere on the road ahead.  In that instant my brain became convinced that, at worst, I was about to be t-boned by a police cruiser coming out of the neighborhood to my right; or, at best, said police cruiser was not in motion but had turned on the blues in order to pull me over for some unknown infraction.  It was startling and I screamed aloud, much like a little girl. Then I heard my cell buzzing and realized what was going on and felt the kind of shame one only feels when startled by tiny sparkly lights. And this happened on more than one occasion as the days went by.  I also learned that the effect wasn’t that much less startling during daylight hours.

Fortunately, the batteries in this device didn’t last very long, no doubt owing to it having sat in on a shelf and/or in a warehouse for years before I purchased it.  I have yet to replace them, nor are their any plans in place to do so.

As far as TARDISes go, I cut this one a lot of slack on the detail side because it’s so tiny.  It also gets extra points for looking cool under the dome.  It’s almost like the Master was able to somehow use his Tissue Compression Eliminator on it to finally trap it in some sort of time-travel-proof bell jar.  It’s a novelty item with a lot of novelty.  I’ll give it four Tardi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Die Cast TARDIS Keychain (The shotglass TARDIS series)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection.) 

The die cast TARDIS keychain was the first TARDIS keychain I purchased and I like it a lot.

As a TARDIS it’s a lovely representation of the Pertwee/Baker era flat-roofed, dark door-signed TARDIS, though this one has a much better paint job than the TARDIS of that era ever did.  (Not a chip to be seen.)  It’s also pretty well in scale with the modern era TARDIS keychain, showing the size differential between the two models, even though they’re made of entirely different materials.

As a keychain I think this would function pretty well, too, as the metal die-cast nature gives it a satisfying weight and sturdiness to withstand the wear and tear keychains often go through.  As with all my other TARDIS keychains, I ditched the chain early on.  But I have kept the ring, which pokes from the top of the roof lamp itself, in case I ever want to use it for another purpose.  It could make a nifty ceiling fan or lamp chain pull, for instance, though is probably too heavy for, say, an earring.

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