Car Wrecks and Other Derailments In Life

I’ve been driving since I was 15 and, other than one notable incident where I scraped my passenger side on a concrete column in a parking garage, I’ve never had an actual car wreck before. Of course, Saturday changed all of that when I took a hit from a Ford F150 while driving my fiance’s Juke. The impact happened on the driver’s side and took me completely by surprise. There was a squeal of tires, a pull of G forces, and the sound of a shotgun going off in my ear as the side airbags deployed and punched me in the head. I blacked out momentarily and, as soon as my vision returned found myself in a complete, confused stupor. I didn’t understand what had happened at first.

My injuries were minor and the rush of adrenaline kept the severity of them at bay for several hours. Now, three days on my hearing has finally returned in my left ear though there is still a perpetual ringing and an intermittent stabbing pain. My neck and back are aching and the extra strength Aleve that the neurotic little doc at the AFC prescribed me without really listening to what I told her or even examining has done nothing to abait the issues. Still, all things considered, it could be much worse.

Spring dredges up some unpleasant memories from my career in emergency service. Name a wreck I helped work three years ago where a boy the same age as my son was gruesomely killed after being ejected from a vehicle. Very rarely do I remember a name from these traumas but this one sticks in me. Of course, out of respect and professionalism I won’t be sharing the details or the boy’s name. What I will say is there are moments that haunt you, people you couldn’t help whose memory lingers in the mind and heart long after the fact like ghosts and keep you up at night. And as I sit here writing these words that ghost hovers over my shoulder.

All things considered, it could have been a lot worse Saturday and the fact that I’m able to gripe about my aches and pains is a blessing. I may feel like shit but I’m not laid up in a hospital bed or laid out in the morgue so I’m doing okay. What it’s really done is hurt my ego more than anything else by taking the piss out of me. I’ve prided myself on spending nearly 20 years behind the wheel without a crash to my name and, despite knowing so much better, it made me feel just a little invincible. Taking that hit reminded me that I’m anything but. It’s the sort of reminder I think everyone needs once in a while, that little jab that tells you you’re as weak, fallible, and finite as anyone else.

There’s also one final bit of irony that comes from this. The odyssey that lead me to start a new life -and this blog- began with a car wreck on March 3, 2013.

I’ve been off my game this week with everything relating to the crash. Where I intended to get some articles and stories written this weekend and week I’ve really not felt like doing much other than lying around watching scary movies and cartoons. It’s something that likely isn’t going to change before this coming weekend gets here. Editors, if you’re reading this, whatever I owe you will be to you soon. Readers, I promise I’ll have something original and new for you soon.

Until then, enjoy some classic Danno by rummaging through the blog.

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Walking the Razor’s Edge

As a writer and artist, I despise censorship. It absolutely disgusts me to hear that a topic is off limits or that an idea can’t be pursued because someone may find it offensive or inflammatory. At the same time, I find myself having to self censor quite a lot. Between my full time job and my freelance career, opinions and the open expression of ideas can be a death sentence. Endorsing the wrong viewpoint in the eyes of certain people could cost me my livelihood and my audience leaving me penniless and without a means to continue to create and explore my art and those dangerously inflammatory ideas that I am only now starting to gradually integrate into my work.

In my short life I’ve seen so much drastic change in the world and I’ve been fortunate enough to know people that witnessed even greater change before my time. With each generation there comes a new wave of advancements that lead still to new ideas and values. The problem with my generation and the current atmosphere, however, is that we are more polarized than ever into conflict and opposition. People can’t even respect one another long enough to have frank, intelligent conversations without recriminations, accusations, and mindless shouting and threats. The internet, particularly social media, is the absolute worst. Despite his urging, I continue to refuse to allow my son to join Facebook or any other social media site because I don’t believe he is equipped yet to handle the torrent of vehement anger and ignorant rage that flows through those sites.

Honestly, it terrifies me to let a child start out his life by recording every single mistake and underdeveloped thought in perpetuity online. People grow. People evolve. Especially when they’re young and maturing. If I’d been involved in social media at 13 I shudder to think about the ignorant, ill informed opinions and ideologies that would have been shared. Very little of the child I was exists in the man I’ve become and I’m thankful every morning for that. But what happens to my son? Will he be burdened by the digital ghosts of his past? Will his mental and emotional sins condemn him long after he’s grown and become a man? Do the opinions and thoughts only half understood as a child need to be forever burned into his soul for everyone to see twenty or thirty years from now?

The sad reality is that this is getting worse, not better, and that social media in particular brings out the ugliest and most base traits of every last person at some point in time. Find me the worst thing I ever wrote on my feed, the most cringe inducing status update I ever shared or was a party too with as little as a simple “like” and you’ll find me damned by millions. Find it for yourself and you’ll find the same is true for you.

Despite being bad at it, so bad, I have been trying to keep my mouth shut and my fingers busy typing away at inconsequential things.

I was raised on a lot of sci-fi, Bradbury and Heinlein, Roddenberry and Serling, and I had hope that the 21st century would bring us wonders beyond imagine. Flying cars, space travel, information and education and the power that it would bring. Instead, communication and information (rather the misunderstood and half realized information) have lead us down a dark road and I’m note sure we’ll find the light again in my time. But I’ll keep looking. And when I can’t stay balanced on this dangerous edge any longer I’ll speak and take the cut and relish the pain and the blood of the wound and use it to pen words that might save my soul or, at the least, ease the suffering of a man who finds himself drowning in ignorance amid a sea of knowledge.

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Realistic Goals

It seems like whenever I have the appropriate conditions to write I never can think of anything to say. I get a blank page, ramble off a bit of nonsense, and it all falls by the wayside. Let me be slammed busy or in the middle of something and the Muse doesn’t just speak to me, she screams in my ear. The editor of a website that I’ve done some actual paying freelance work for wants me on the staff full time. The going monthly rate is, at best, an honorarium and not on a par with the professional rates I set out to make but I’m excited to have the chance. I’ll finally be able to list a paying writing gig on my resume which will help in the long run as I try to get a full time job in the field.

I’ve been learning to set realistic goals for myself lately. I’ve had to. Flying off on a tangent used to be fun in my more manic days. The inevitable emotional crash sucked but it was always a hell of a ride. Late last year I got my first real taste of being a professional writer while covering the Women in Horror Film Festival. Unlike my current, full time job I actually felt like a professional and garnered the respect of my peers while reviewing films and interviewing filmmakers. Each night I met with a group of writers, drank copious amounts of alcohol, and discussed everything from our craft to current events, to the best iteration of Star Trek. I even made my first commission on an article after two years as a freelance journalist.

Everything takes time. Five years ago I was on the verge of giving up. Three years ago I was struggling with using social media to market myself. Until a year ago I’d never earned more than ten bucks for a year’s worth of work as a writer. Things progress at their own speed and, while I’m working to keep up with that slow but steady pace, I get the chance to continue honing my craft and experimenting with ideas and concepts to see what works and what doesn’t.

I finally have a patron via Patreon which is cool but, truthfully, a little nerve wracking. Suddenly I am having to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to being a regular content creator. For the kid who always got “Does Not Manage Time Wisely” marked on his report card, needing to work on an honest schedule is something totally new and it takes time to get used to. Even so, I’m excited because I get to continue experimenting with new concepts and techniques and I know there’s an audience to view it.

Will I ever be able to leave the public realm to become a full time writer? Will I ever see more than a handful of my stories published in small print? Will I get to work on the amazing projects and with the incredible people I’ve always dreamed of collaborating with?

I don’t know.

But for the first time in my life I’m certain that I’ll get a chance to try. That’s plenty for now.

In other news, wedding planning is slowly consuming my entire life via the fiance which ads more excitement and trepidation to the normal level of anxiety I exist in. I’m trying to reorganize my schedules with the sites I write for regularly to make my workload a little lighter with the non-paying outlets so I can focus more on my independent projects and with the paying outlets that are taking me on. I’m trying to organize it so I can keep writing for everyone. Making some gradual headway on a script I was asked to collaborate on but nothing I can get into yet. Also working on contributions for two new PDI anthologies and a novel pitch I’m hoping to make to the editor at the end of the year. Paul, if you actually read my blog, ignore the last sentence for now. I’ll holler at you about it when I’ve got my shit together, I promise.

If you’re not following me on Instagram then you’re missing out on a daily tribute to women in horror. And not just actresses and directors. I want to encompass everything that is the horror community including lifestyle, models, artists, crafters, creators, and so much more. Meanwhile, on Patreon, more rambling, more running off at the mouth, and a few more flash pieces as I continue to get things ready to actually start running some State of Fear and podcasts next month as well as the ongoing Five Minute Frights and the current serial, Plan 9.

Hopefully, by the time my honeymoon is over in May, I’ll have the hang of this scheduling thing down and actually be putting out new content at least once a week here and on my Patreon. In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of huge content dumps to make this coming week and I’ll be continuing my Women in Horror Month posts on IG tomorrow morning.

Until then, stay spooky.

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One Last Dance


And while I’m talking about Valentine’s, romance, and horror stories, I had a thought come to mind. A few years ago when I wrote A Thousand Little Deaths, there was a scene I considered cutting because I felt like it didn’t add as much to the story as I would have liked. A friend convinced me to leave it in, saying that it was a moment of sweetness in an otherwise horrific tale. Looking back four years later, I’m glad I left it in.

For those of you who haven’t read the book (or accompanying short stories) A Thousand Little Deaths is about Danny Oldham, a man who is cursed to continue living in spite of himself as he struggles against other, more sinister forces. Like most of my protagonists he’s a gruff, cynical, sarcastic man who seems difficult to befriend and impossible to love. In this scene, he’s lying in the morgue and wakes to find the ghost of a woman he loved a very long time ago waiting for him.

Reading it now, the story itself -the whole story- feels so incomplete. Especially this scene. If I could do it again, I’d write more. I forget, sometimes, that the completely realized stories I see in my mind need more elaboration on the page. Maybe I can write more like this in the future.



One Last Dance (an excerpt from A Thousand Little Deaths)

I remember when I met you, she said sweetly. You looked so nervous. You had two left feet and you still wanted to dance.

There was no one, nothing save for the swirling mass of blackness that was Danny Oldham. His body was cold in a drawer at the local morgue but his mind, the energy that made up his consciousness, his soul was somewhere else, between worlds swirling in that primordial chaos that had given birth to all life.

Do you remember what you said to me the night you asked me to marry you? Alice’s voice was sweet, soft with that lilting drawl that had melted his heart whenever she spoke.

How can my heart go on without you? Danny said. Or was it a thought? He didn’t know. Didn’t care.

And how will tomorrow come if you’re not in my arms to see the sun rise over the hills? I’ll give you this; I never met a more poetic soul.

I’ve missed you, Danny said to her in the darkness.

You’re work isn’t done yet.

But I’m so tired, he argued. How will I go on without you? It’s been so long already.

And it’s just a little bit longer still.

I miss you, Alice.

How can you miss something that never left you?

The room was cold, ice running down his bare backside as he opened his eyes in darkness. Waking up in a morgue vault was nothing new to Danny. This one was large, a walk in freezer. His body was covered in plastic with a piece of string tied around his big toe. The tag would almost certainly read John Doe if Novak had been able to intercede. Sitting straight up, he pulled the tarp from over his body and stepped carefully onto the frigid floor. He groped blindly in the dark until he found the door and then the emergency release inside. He stepped out into the examination room and searched until he found a box in an office with an extra pair of scrubs that he could squeeze into.

“One last dance?” Alice asked from the other side of the examination room.

“Is it really you?”

“As real as I’ve always been, love.”

With trembling arms, Danny reached out and joined Alice in the center of the floor and together, they danced.

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Vampires and Valentines

It’s that time of the year again where the stores are saturated in cheaply made, overpriced heart shaped trinkets in shades of red and pink. Just going through the local grocery store yesterday I had to sift through an ocean of heart shaped balloons and stuffed bears to find my way to the register. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind Valentine’s Day. In theory, finding a day in the start of the year to celebrate romance and love is beautiful. In practice, however, it’s become an overly commercialized excuse to sell cards and shoddy trinkets with the underlying notion that you need to do all of this to prove something in the hopes of getting laid.

This is my last Valentine’s Day with my fiancé before we get married. To most it seems like a piddling milestone, something of no real consequence. After all, marriage doesn’t change anything, right? That was how I felt the first time I was married when I was 20 and dumb and didn’t understand a thing about romance, love, or commitment. At 33, doing this for the second and final time -and with the woman of my dreams no less- I know that marriage changes everything. Waking up every morning beside this person, knowing that you have promised your whole life to be with her is nothing short of world changing; especially after being through such a rocky patch in the first stage of your life.

Three years and some change later and I wake up every morning smiling when I see her sleeping so peacefully beside me. In those moments it isn’t about sex, commitment, or anything else associated with a relationship. It’s just love. Knowing that this person, this other half of your heart is lying there with you, warm and soft and perfect there in your arms is amazing to feel in any stage of any relationship. But knowing that you are so totally, helplessly in love with this person, with the thought of the life that you’re going to have with this person, well, that’s something else entirely. For the first time in my life I can see a future with someone, a future where I become a father again, raise a family, and experience a journey in the warm embrace of something that too few people ever really have the chance to try.


Blood soaked after Evil Dead: The Musical.

It isn’t about showing her that today, this one day set aside in the year for lovers, that she means something to me. It’s about showing her the worlds I want to build with her, the futures I want to travel through and explore hand-in-hand. For the first time in my life I feel like I know that love that my grandparents had, that they tried to teach me and my sister to find. The sort of love my parents still know and raised us in. Maybe I’m just a fool hearted romantic, an inarticulate poet rambling on about what it means to feel anything at all? Maybe it’s something more? I don’t know. But I’ll take it.

As I wandered through the aisles of meaningless trinkets and hollow gestures last night, I couldn’t help but notice a themed end cap with movies. Romantic comedies and “chick flicks” layered one on top of the other. That and Twilight. I hope you can hear my eyes roll in my head at mentioning that title. A flat, unemotive tale about a female protagonist written so bland and undefined as to literally have no character or personality whatsoever being the focal point of a love triangle between an underage werewolf and a hundred year old vampire trapped in a teenager’s body. The entire series has so little to do with love and so much to do with falling into this Stockholm Syndrome style relationship with an abuser that it always baffles me when I see people talking about such a “great romance” in their tale. But it makes me think.

Vampires, whether they sparkle or not, have been the topics of love, lust, and passion since the Victorian Era. They represent something animalistic and intangible that appeals to almost everyone in some sense. Tragic characters who have the capacity to love eternally, to literally be tortured to madness by an eternity without that one thing they can never hope to attain. A raw, sexual being whose animalistic lust and supernatural means of seduction and persuasion are only matched by the passion burning inside their heart. The vampire represented a terrifying break in the puritanical facade of Victorian life and, more than a century later, the vampire is still a symbol of that sexual energy and romantic possibility that absolutely terrifies us.

I don’t write much romance and I write even less sex and erotica because, honestly, so much of my work takes a turn for the bizarre that I feel like I’d cross some lines that might not ought to be crossed. But, on occasion, I write a thing or two that stand in contrast to that. Maybe a scene here or a chapter there. In this case, I wrote my own vampire story with a unique twist. There is some romance to it which is strange for me to put into words.

This is my first pass at a vampire story from a while back. It originally ran in Bloodbond Magazine in their Spring 2016 issue. Enjoy.



The Blood is the Covenant

“There are no limits to my true power,” Azazel, The Dark Prince, lisped from across the booth. His chubby, ruddy fingers were wrapped around a wine glass rolling the merlot in a crimson swirl. He had tried to convince me that it was a virgin’s blood he was sipping on but the bartender had been eager to assure me that the only thing bled to quench his thirst were grapes. “My strength is piqued, though, when the moon is full.”

Azazel, The Dark Prince was supposed to be my contact, a guide to the shadowy underground vampire culture that had blossomed in town. My hope as I interviewed local vamps on message boards and chatrooms had been to meet someone involved in the actual psychic transference and blood drinking rituals that would be the focus of the book I wanted to write. What I had found, unfortunately, were a string of socially dysfunctional disappointments all culminating in the meeting I was having with The Dark Prince. The stereotypical, thirty-something virgin nerd sitting across from me in the booth. I had no trouble believing that he spent his days hiding from the sun but in his parents’ basement and not a coffin. If he knew anything about actual vampirism beyond what he’d read on the internet in manga form I’d have been thoroughly amazed. He was easily three hundred pounds, stuffed tightly into a black t-shirt and an off the rack Dracula cape he’d clearly found at Walmart on sale after the holiday. His greasy black hair was pulled into a pony tail behind him and a few loose strands had fallen in front of his smudged glasses.  His long, dirty nails were covered in cheap black nail polish almost as cheap as the faux silver crucifix medallion around his neck.

There was a twinkle in his beady eyes as his chubby lips curled up into a smile.

“And you can get me into the scene,” I asked incredulously. It was the third time that I’d asked the question since we’d met and his insistence on deferring to his own alleged supernatural prowess was wearing thin.

He cut his eyes suspiciously around the bar. The Black Orchid had been a cowboy bar called the Hangman a year or so before and, despite layers of black paint and black light posters nothing could disguise the faux Southwestern motif of its previous incarnation. There was a cattle skull nailed on the wall above the entrance to the restrooms covered in red paint and pentagrams. The coiled lasso hanging on horns had been painted, poorly, to look like a snake. Goth industrial music thumped and rattled out of cracked speakers around the room, vibrating in my chest. It made my lungs hurt as I struggled to hear The Dark Prince prattle on about himself. He tried to lean across the booth, was blocked by his own girth and finally gave up, choosing to lean back and spread his arms across the back of the seat he was sitting on.

“This is the scene,” he wheezed triumphantly. “This is my kingdom, my dark domain. This is the hunting ground where I stalk my prey just as the hungry panther stalks through the night. Women are inexorably called to me, craving the sexual aura that I exude. They desperately crave to taste of the night as only I can offer.”

I nodded as if I actually cared about what he was saying and fished the battered pack of Marlboros from my jacket pocket. I was about to spark the lighter when he started waving his pudgy hands at my face.

“You can’t do that in here.” There was genuine panic in his voice. “The owner said he’d kick me out if I caused any more trouble in here.”

“Okay then,” I said as politely as I could without laughing. I really wanted to ask what sort of trouble he could possibly have caused but decided I’d use this as my chance to escape. “I’ll be right back.”

The lie was pretty blatant but I guessed he would sit alone at that booth for at least half an hour before he wedged himself out to come see where I’d gone. I’d wasted an entire night with some chubby dork with a Dracula fetish and had nothing to show for it except a sudden urge to go home and drink myself to sleep over my wasted time. What I needed was an actual vampire, someone who could explain to me the why and wherefore of living this otherwise strange lifestyle but all I could find were posers and imposters like Azazel. Leaning on the brick wall by entrance outside I lit my cigarette even as the burning in my chest continued. I probably needed to see a doctor but, without this book I was broke and not a lot of sawbones worked for free. I contemplated the unpleasant thought that I’d wasted my time, again, running down a lead that was going nowhere. Usually there is some spark of truth in every work of fiction, something real that holds the myth firmly into the ground in our culture. I wasn’t feeling very hopeful about this one, though.

“Rough night?”

I was startled when she spoke. I hadn’t seen her walk up to me from corner of the building and I jumped a bit at the question. There was an almost immediate calm that hit me as soon as I looked at her though. She was short and slender with long red hair, and freckles that that dotted the perfect porcelain symmetry of her face. With piercing green eyes that seemed to glow in the neon light flashing from the sign above us she was instantly one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen in my life… or at least during the course of the night. Unlike most of the women inside the bar, she was dressed modestly in a black tank top and jeans with none of the apparent “screw you”, daddy issue tattoos or piercings that everyone inside was painted with. She leaned against the wall beside me and motioned at the cigarette in my hand. I pulled one out of the pack and lit it for her.

“It’s been eye opening, I can tell you that.”

She laughed. “I bet. I saw you with The Dork Prince  and I was getting ready to swoop in and save you when you came out here. You don’t strike me as much of a blood sucker, though.”

“Yeah, neither does he.”

“Some people lead a rich fantasy life to cope with the fact that they’re just not comfortable in their own skin. Looking at you, I’d guess you’re more of a voyeur when it comes to human behavior. A writer, maybe?”

“What gave it away,” I asked. “The three day beard? The beat up notebook? Was it the look of quiet desperation as I listened to that moron talk about his ‘dark gift’?”

She laughed again. It was enchanting and made me feel a bit better about an otherwise wasted night.

“Yeah, I could hear a bit of the conversation when I came in. That guy is such a loser. I’m Lil, by the way.”

“Allen,” I offered, returning her smile. “Nice to meet you.”

There was a moment of silence between us as we listened to the steady thump of muffled music and conversation from inside.

“Hunting vampires?” For the second time since we met she had caught me completely off guard.

“You could say that,” I answered hesitantly. “A little embarrassing I guess but a man has to eat and I won’t be doing too much more of that if I can’t get this story written.”

“Well, you won’t find any in there, I can promise you that.”

“And I suppose you’re going to tell me where I can find some?”

“I can,” she said. The smile on her face grew just a bit. “For a price, that is.”

I snuffed my cigarette on the pavement and nodded to her before I started walking away.

“Sorry, I’ve already been rolled once tonight. But, hey, there’s a room full of suckers hanging out just inside those doors. Have fun.”

Without so much as a glance back at her I got in my truck and sped away. How stupid could I look to people? More importantly, how stupid did I really have to be? I’d found the bar thanks to some fluff news piece that had come out about it at the end of September. It was meant to get people interested in the weeks leading up to Halloween. I’d found Azazel, The Dark Prince -no, The Dork Prince- on a message board that was sponsored by the International Vampire Church which, seemed even more incredible because the subculture was creating organizations like that to help people meet other like minded folks who wanted to “share the dark gift” with one another. I’d never done as much research on a story as I had this one. Most of my stuff was the generic schlock noir detective stuff and the occasional psycho killer short. I liked things that ended in a twist and, at least when it came to detectives and nut jobs, the research material was laid out pretty nicely every night on the evening news. This was supposed to be the story to move me out of the bush-leagues and into something better.

The check engine light flickered to life as I parked in front of my building. Laying my head on the steering wheel for just a moment I thought about offering a prayer to the Writing Gods, that maybe they could send a muse or some talent my way to raise me out of the depths of mediocrity. I waited for my reply only to realize the Writing Gods were capricious and self-serving. I trudged up the three flights of stairs leading to the Spartan little one bedroom I called “home” and decided I’d just get drunk and pass out for a few days. The only thing I could count on, after all, was that my pillow would still be waiting there, warm and inviting and just as eager to see me as I was it. Instead, I found another surprise standing at my door.

“Believe it or not, I usually take ‘no’ for an answer,” Lil said, unfolding her arms. “But I’m making a special exception for you so don’t disappoint me.”

I stammered, looking for words that just weren’t there.

“Don’t talk,” she said, sweetly. “I’ll explain everything once you pour me a drink.”

So many questions raced through my head, so many concerns darting in and out of every fired neuron. I reached down and unlocked the door.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in,” she asked. “I am a lady, you know, and it would be nice if you were a gentleman tonight. At least for a little while, that is.”

“Sorry. Would you like to come in?”

What was I saying? Why was I saying it? My heart was pounding so loudly I could hear it in my skull. My whole body was suddenly weak and uncertain. How had she found me? How did she beat me here? Better yet, how did she know where I lived?

And why did I invite her in?!

I was losing my mind. I hadn’t seen her following me but there she was, as real as the cold chill running down my spine as she sauntered into my apartment like she owned the place. My blood ran cold as she passed me, her arm brushing against my hand. She sat down on the futon and started to rummage through the magazines scattered across my coffee table. She patted the seat beside her and motioned for me to sit down.

“Lesson number one,” she said, holding up an old issue of Rue Morgue. “Forget every last bit of this bullshit. Garlic and crosses are annoying but they don’t do squat. Stakes, well stakes just royally piss me off. You ever been staked? Of course you haven’t. Now silver is a different story altogether.”

“So, silver hurts you?”

“No, but I look damn fine in it.”

I sat down beside her. I should have been terrified. I had no idea who this woman was or what she wanted from me, but I felt nothing but ease and calm as I sat beside her.

“What are you?”

“I told you, silly boy. My name is Lil and for a price I can teach you everything you could ever want to know about vampires.”

She licked her pink tongue across her pearl white teeth. Something was off about the motion and I focused on her teeth. They were all pointed. Every last molar and incisor was serrated, a shark tooth shimmering in her smile. I swallowed as she tapped one of her canine teeth with the tip of her tongue.

“Okay, I’ll bite,” I said, choking down the fear that was trying to leap out of my throat in the form of a scream.

“No, darling, I’ll bite.” She laughed.

“Let’s say that I believe you and that you can give me what I’m looking for. What’s in it for you?”

She ran her small, delicate fingers across my chest and up to my neck. Her skin was cold, the clammy touch of a corpse as it traced my jugular vein and carotid artery.

“I’m hungry,” she said plainly. “I’ve had the equivalent of junk food for weeks now and I’d like something a little healthier than that. You know, just a nice, home cooked meal. Give me a full stomach and a good day’s rest and I’ll fulfill all your heart’s desires.”

“How do I know you won’t just bleed me dry and leave me for dead?”

“Because I’ve been feeding on you since the moment you came through the door and we haven’t even gotten to the main course. Now, take off your clothes and take me to bed.”

I woke up with the worst hangover I’d ever had in my life. Think of the flu and pneumonia having some diseased little baby inside of your skull and leaving it there unattended while they skip out to grab a smoke. Nausea, fatigue and the worst headache in the history of human suffering almost kept me from being able to move that morning. Lil was naked beside me, covered from the waist down under my blanket and bedsheets and sleeping like the dead… or the living dead. I really didn’t know at that point. She wasn’t moving, wasn’t breathing, wasn’t really doing anything at all but staying nice and cool and pale in the semi-darkness of my bedroom. I reached over to caress the smooth lines of her back and almost panicked when I felt how cold and clammy she really was all over. For the first time since I had come home from the Black Orchid last night I was suddenly thinking clearly and the thoughts weren’t pleasant.

What if she’s dead? What if I killed her? Even if I was innocent of anything wrong how was I going to explain that? I’d been researching vampires and talking to nut jobs on the internet for weeks now. There was no way I was going to have a long and happy life if anyone had seen us together before she died? I was spiralling into a magnificent panic when she lifted her head off of the pillow.

“Coffee,” she groaned and fell back into the pillow.

I jumped out of bed and landed in the floor by the window.

“You’re alive.”

“Don’t sound so surprised,” she grumbled from the pillow. “Seriously, I need some coffee.”

I staggered to my feet, threw on some clothes piled by the foot of the bed and wandered into the kitchen. My stomach was still doing somersaults and my head was throbbing but I managed to brew some coffee  and bring it back to the bedroom. Lil was dressed when I came back in and sitting on the edge of my bed playing with my phone..

“You didn’t take any pictures while I was asleep,” she said. She seemed genuinely surprised and just a little offended.

“I don’t do that sort of thing,” I told her. “Besides, do you even photograph?”

“Beautifully,” she said. She raised up the camera, looked in the lense, pouted her lips and took a picture. “Something for later.”

I handed her a cup of coffee. She sipped her it and smiled at me with row on row of serrated teeth. It wasn’t nearly as terrifying as it had been last night. It was even a bit endearing now. Without a word she stood up on the bed, leaned down and kissed me passionately. Immediately my headache disappeared, my stomach was fine and I had more energy and vigor than I could ever remember having. She pulled away and grinned at me.

“And that, darling, was lesson number two,” she said sweetly. “We don’t just take life, we give it too.”

“So, what now?”

“I would love to go downtown and get a big breakfast,” she said, plopping down onto my bed. “Unless you’d like to play some more?”

I grinned. “I’d be happy to but I’m kind of hungry myself. I didn’t think you could be out in the sunlight.”

She sprang instantly from the bed and landed by the window, grabbing the cord for the blinds in her hand. She jerked the thin white rope down and flooded the room with sunlight. Collapsing in the floor she started to scream and convulse. I grabbed the cord from her hand, pulled it tightly and dropped the blinds. The room was dark once again, filled only with the sound of her laughter.

“I thought I told you to forget all that stupid, Hollywood bullshit,” she cried through her chuckling fit.

I was taking a vampire to breakfast. It had to be the most surreal moment of my life. There we were, riding down the highway in my truck with the windows down and the warm June air kissing our skin as we drove through town. Lil was glowing, her eyes hidden behind gaudy, oversized sunglasses  and her hair cascading red wine over her alabaster shoulders.

“So, what else should I know about you,” I asked. “I mean, you drink coffee, you’re able to cure hangovers with a kiss; is there anything about vampires that isn’t complete BS?”

“Doubtful,” she said with a smile. “We still eat food, keep our bodies running just like anything else on the planet but we also feed on energy, all that psychic turbulence that people create in their minds and in their souls. If it makes you happy or sad or angry or scared it’s enough to make us strong and give us the powers and vitality that we need. My personal preference is… well, you saw what I prefer last night.”

We both shared a laugh.

“So, what about the blood drinking?”

“The blood is the covenant,” she said reverently. “It is the promise of eternity that we make with one another. It strengthens the psychic bond between the maker and the made.”

“So, you can make other people into vampires if you want to?”

She nodded. “But it’s not an overnight transformation. It takes decades and a level of devotion to one another that goes beyond love. Two souls literally have to share themselves with each other in order to make the transference complete. The blood is just a conduit for the change.”

She made me park in a garage at the edge of the town’s Historic District. We walked down the busy sidewalks, passed bronze placards on brick buildings that told the story of the town’s history. The soul of the city was laid bare in front of us as we passed wall after wall until I was thoroughly lost. Tugging on my arm she lead me down an alley between two old warehouses that were going through renovations. There was a tiny brick building sitting in between the two towering sites with a recessed stairwell that lead down to a large, iron door with a radiation symbol on it. There was a bronze placard beside it covered in graffiti. It was a stylised Bela Lugosi as Dracula with the words “Spiritus Immundus” written on his fangs.

“The Unclean Spirit,” I muttered, familiar with the term from my research.

Lil pushed open the door and pulled me inside. “Lesson three, mister,” she said. “We have a sense of humor. We own our mythology. Hell, we’re the ones who created half the legends about the vampire around the world.”

The door groaned shut behind us.

“This is where Arthur lives. We usually have breakfast together on Tuesdays. I sent him a text letting him know I was bringing you in for a bite.”

I was putting a lot of trust in her which scared me worse than anything else about the entire experience. Arthur’s place was a huge fallout shelter constructed during the Cold War. The walls were covered in neon paint graffiti similar to the front door, all monsters and movie scenes illuminated by black lights down the sides of the wall. The glorified cave meant to protect whatever handful of people could make it there in time had been segmented and converted into a modest little home. Lil was in a rush, leading me quickly through the long, plush carpeted hallway towards an ornate door at the back of the shelter. Without a word she pushed the door open and motioned for me to enter.

I can smell his fear, a voice said inside my head. It wasn’t my usual inner monologue but a deeper, stranger voice. I promise I have no designs for harming you, Allen. You are a guest here. Please, come in.

The room was dark, the lights dim. There was a small kitchenette set up to the left with fresh baked cinnamon rolls and a pitcher of fresh squeezed orange juice sitting on the table. Soft, classical music played from speakers in the corners and the walls were covered in more socially acceptable works of art in frames. Sitting in a chair near the kitchenette was a man in a dark robe and loafers. He was short, broad and stocky with a bald scalp. He was normal looking at a glance but a closer look soon removed any thought that he was, or ever had been human. His jaw was broad and square, his skin pale and scarred and leathered by time and age. His ears were pointed sharply at the tips and his lips were full and blue. His eyes were dark ovals at either side of a fat, broad nose that came down from a large, sloping forehead. He seemed like a cross between Nosferatu and Cro-Magnon Man.

“This is Arthur,” Lil said with a smile. “He saved my life when I was young and helped me find my way through the ages. Arthur, this is the man I was telling you about.”

You’re the one who has burned through the internet searching for our kind, he said again in my skull. I expected you to be taller. At the very least better looking.

“That’s not nice,” Lil scolded. “He wants to tell our story.”

“How is he doing this?”

The mind is an amazing thing, my friend. When you stop looking at time as an enemy, you find yourself able to open doors that would otherwise forever be locked.

“Why don’t we have this talk over breakfast,” Lil suggested.

Eating breakfast with vampires had to be the second most surreal moment of my life. Arthur was an incredible man… well, protoman. As we ate, not a word was spoken but within my mind an entire lecture was delivered on human history and the evolution of both mankind and the vampires. Arthur was, in fact, a Neanderthal man who had seen his own race gradually dwindle into extinction as the eons rolled by. He traveled with various groups of early humans, foraging and hunting and gradually building civilization, going for thousands of years without ever aging or even knowing how it was he had survived. The changes that had come over his body had helped him immensely as a hunter. He could track prey for miles, could sense the fear in even the smallest game and both feed from it and locate it from the distance. His teeth had become fangs to help him better take hold of the wild beasts he encountered and gave him a measure of protection against other predators. As his psychic powers had grown, so did his intellect and understanding of human nature. Before the Bronze Age had even begun he knew he would never be accepted by mankind until they too could find the way to consume that psychic power and make it their own.

I could spend a lifetime learning from you, I said inside my mind. And I still wouldn’t be any closer to knowing the whole story, would I?

I have lived a long time, he said. He smiled, showing the old, yellowed fangs inside his mouth. I have watched my own kind fade into the twilight of history and seen your race flourish in the bright dawn. So, if you will permit, let me ask a question of you?

Anything. Please, anything at all.

Why do you wish to know so much about us? What does it benefit you in the end?

I looked from Arthur to Lil. She was staring intently at me, waiting to hear what answer I had. Thinking for a moment I looked down at my empty plate, my hands on the table beside it and sighed.

“Because, the world has too many monsters in it,” I said aloud. “I thought I could take something terrifying and make it more human.”

They both laughed. Hearing his voice, that ancient, guttural voice that hadn’t been heard by human ears in eons sent a chill through my spine. It was hearty and rich and as solid as the stone that his bones must have been made of.

More humanity would only make us more terrifying. What is it that you truly seek?

“He wants a second chance at life,” Lil said. “I tasted it last night and again this morning. How long have you known you were dying?”

“What do you mean, ‘dying’?” I was shocked by the assumption. Then I looked at their faces and realized that they were equally shocked by my response.

“You didn’t know?” Lil’s voice was suddenly softer, more soothing than ever before.

“I’m pretty sure I’d know a thing like that.”

He speaks the truth, daughter, Arthur said, his voice somehow soothing and forceful all at once inside my mind. And you would help him, I suppose?

I could feel the blood racing in my veins, burning a course through my body with every throbbing beat of my heart.

“I’m dying? From what?”

The ancient Arthur vanished and almost immediately appeared standing behind me. He placed his large hands, the nails long and sharp and gray onto my shoulders and squeezed gently. I could feel the same warm surging in my body that I had felt last night as Lil and I made love. The energy of my body, my soul was entering into him and a bit of him into me. He released me and was again sitting across from me at the table.

A cancer in your body, a small, black space inside your bones eating away at your very being. It’s that persistent ache in your chest. You will be dead in a matter of months.

I closed my eyes and tilted my face up at the ceiling. What had started as a way to write a one of a kind story was now a death warrant, narrated to me by the oldest living being on earth. I could spend a lifetime talking to him and he would certainly accommodate me now since that lifetime would be shorter than most. Before any more depressing thoughts could fill my mind I felt the cold, icy familiarity of Lil’s hand holding mine.

“Arthur created me,” she said gently. “I was dying in the wilderness when I was nineteen, alone and bleeding to death. He offered to give me a second chance and he never asked for anything in return other than my company.”

Be certain that this is what you want, child, he said, warning us both inside our minds.

“What are you talking about?”

“Saving you,” Lil said.

“You said that takes decades.”

It does, Arthur continued. But the transference can hold back the hand of death indefinitely until the acolyte can learn to live on his own. It requires that you offer yourself completely to the idea, that you share your soul with one and trust them as an extension of yourself. Do you understand?

“I think so,” I said contemplatively.

No, you don’t. But you will learn.

I looked back at Lil, that sweet, angelic face that had seduced me over night. It wasn’t the same face now. The flesh was contorted and strange, animalistic and horrifyingly predatory as she opened her mouth and exposed the rows of sharp, dripping fangs. In an instant I felt her teeth in my throat, felt the blood draining away and my life slipping towards the cold, inky blackness that lay beyond. There was no fear though, no panic.

The blood is the covenant, I heard her whisper in my mind. The promise of eternity that we make with one another. It is beyond love and beyond loyalty and beyond the illusions of time and mortality.

I drifted in darkness as the night swallowed me and all thought faded into nothing.

I woke up in my bed to the smell of fresh coffee and frying bacon. Slowly, I slipped out from under the sheets and staggered into the kitchen. Lil was standing at the stove wearing nothing but an apron and humming a song. She looked over her shoulder at me, smiled and turned back to the stove.

“Have a good nap,” she asked, still humming her tune.

“I think so,” I said, slumping into the futon. “How long was I out?”

“About a week.” It was a nonchalant remark that seemed entirely inconsequential to her. “Don’t worry though, that’s perfectly normal.”

“Am I… I mean, did you turn me into a vampire?”

She laughed.

“No,” she said, stepping away from the stove. She knelt beside me and smiled. “I made you into a healthy man again. You’ve got a second chance at life and a pretty good shot at eternity.”

“So, now what?”

“Now,” she said, climbing into my lap. “It’s time you earn it.”




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2018: The Year of Shameless Promotion

This is going to be a year of me heavily promoting myself and my work because I’d like to start making a little cash for my art. Don’t get me wrong, I’m writing for the love of my craft but it would be nice to see some pay off for that work. As such, here’s a quick rundown of everything I’m offering right now and the promise of so much more to come. You can find all of this in my bookstore and in the links below.


Danno of the Dead Originals


A Thousand Little Deaths is the story of Danny Oldham, a man who just can’t seem to stay dead. Based on the short story Dinner at the Cross Roads Cafe (Unoriginal Magazine, Issue 4).

Those Things’ll Kill Ya’ explores a world where the dead have risen and putting them back in their graves is a full time job. Charlie Stone is a misanthropic undertaker just trying to make a living among the dead.

Random Fears collects several short stories and flash fiction pieces ranging from the mildly bizarre to the fantastically gruesome. Featuring stories published in Devolution Z and Bloodbond Magazine as well as several previously unpublished works, it’s a unique read.

PDI Press


Noirlathotep: Tales of Lovecraftian Crime is the finest collection of classic noir style detective stories blended with cosmic horror available to readers. Featuring stories that test the limits of reality and the imagination, you’ll need a private eye to help locate your sanity when you’re done.

American Carnage: Tales of Trumpian Dystopia takes punk rock and heavy metal and bangs it against the current climate of crisis and dystopian fears running wild through the nation. Five stories featuring rock themed, post apocalyptic visions of the not too distant future will leave you on edge.


Deadman’s Tome


Book of Horrors III features terrifying stories transcribed from the website Deadman’s Tome and reinterpreted for readers in eBook format.



Making original horror and strange fiction on Patreon and with your subscription you can be the first to check out the incredible, terrifying, and bizarre worlds of author Dan Lee. Minions of Danno gain access to ongoing serials, short stories, editorials, and other content ahead of the release date.




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Danno of the Dead – Your Freelance Dream in 2018

If I didn’t write for you in 2017, well, you really missed out on something. But don’t worry because my schedule is open and I’m ready to write for you in 2018!


My pricing starts at $0.03/word (Thee cents per word) for most non-fiction projects under 5,000 words. Shop around. Find someone offering to write you an article or review for a lower, flat rate free. You won’t. And if you do, it probably won’t be worth reading.


“My prices are so low, you’ll think I’ve suffered brain damage.” -Homer Simpson

The problem with creative content is simple: everyone thinks they can do it themselves and most are unwilling to offer a fair price for creative content. Writing, film, music… any form of art or creative service you can think of and there will always be that one guy in the company saying “Oh, I could do that and it wouldn’t cost us anything!”

So, rather than listen to Mr. DIY who, at most, only wants to pay in “exposure” why not contract with a professional freelancer who is going to give you a fair price for a great service? And you’re getting more than just an article. On request I will provide original photos, videos, graphics and more. I’ll also use my social media presence (Instagram & Twitter) to help advertise and promote the article.

“Geek Culture” with a focus on horror and the macabre is my specialty but I’ve never said “no” to a chance to try something new. The basics are below so do yourself a favor in 2018 and choose the right guy for your write-ups.














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The 2018 Nashville Zombie Walk – An (Unofficial) Announcement!

What was the best thing to happen in 2017? If you said anything other than “The return of the Nashville Zombie Walk” then you’re absolutely wrong. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, the Nashville Zombie Walk is Music City’s very own zombie themed Halloween parade with a social conscience. The NZW collects non-perishable food donations for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee in advance of the holiday season, offering participants not only the chance to have a unique experience but to make a difference in the community at the same time. After an unfortunate, two season hiatus (2015 & 2016) we were able to get the walk up and shambling through the streets again in 2017.

That’s not to say there weren’t problems.

Most of the issues we encountered this year came up literally at the last minute. The biggest issue happened the day before the walk as a miscommunication with city officials and walk organizers over the route cut the walk from a little over a mile down to a two block radius around Marathon Music Works. There were some other logistical problems that cropped up at the last minute with entertainment and events as we tried to make some changes to accommodate and compensate for the unfortunate reroute. And, as if that weren’t enough, the walk ended up happening on one of the coldest days this Autumn with temperatures down in the low forties and the threat of freezing rain looming over our heads.

Damn, doesn’t sound like much of a success, does it?

That’s where you’re wrong.


First and most important, we had a zombie walk. It wasn’t the walk we wanted, no, but it proved that the event was going to be a lot harder to kill and thanks to the devoted walkers and volunteers who made it happen, we can safely say that it will be back in October 2018. I also had to learn a hell of a lot to pull this off. From flash mob origins to a community of over 8,000 online, the Nashville Zombie Walk is growing every day. But learning how to actually pull this off without going completely insane takes some trial and error and 2017 had plenty of both.

Here’s what you need to know as we start 2018:

Yes, the Nashville Zombie Walk will be back in October 2018 and announcements on the specific date, time, and route(s) will be made on this blog, the Facebook page, and on the website.

We are meeting in February with city officials to lock down a definitive route -as well as a couple of alternative routes- and to get all of the permits and licensing the city requires out of the way as soon as possible.

We’re going to keep the registration process that we used this year because it helped us get an idea of how many people were in attendance and that single statistic helps us bring in the sponsors who pay to make this happen.

Now, here’s what we’re hoping to do in 2018:

Not suck!


Seriously, though, we want to partner with area cosplayers, haunted houses, the horror/macabre community of Nashville, and any other businesses or individuals who want to give back and have some fun while they do it.

We also want to make 2018 the biggest year for donations that the Second Harvest Food Bank has ever seen. Not just on the date of the zombie walk, either, but throughout the year. We are encouraging fans, volunteers, sponsors, and everyone in the community to give what they can when they can.

We’ve got a lot of work to do and about 10 months to get it all done. Keep following online for updates and information. If you’re interested in volunteering, becoming a sponsor, or partnering with the organizers to make the 2018 Nashville Zombie Walk the best Halloween event in Nashville.

Finally, to everyone who came out for the 2017 Nashville Zombie Walk, I cannot tell you enough how grateful I am. It was cold, wet, confusing, and more than a little chaotic but you made it amazing. Let’s do it again in 2018!

If you’re interested in joining the Nashville Zombie Walk as a volunteer, sponsor, or partner, email us or contact us through the Facebook page.


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‘Twas the Shift Before Christmas: A Poem

In honor of my friends and family who are on duty tonight while we gather ’round the Christmas tree. Merry Christmas. Be safe.



‘Twas The Shift Before Christmas (A Christmas Poem)

‘Twas the shift before Christmas and all through the town,

People’d lost their damned minds as they hurried all around.

There were accidents a plenty, a couple of thefts at the mall;

A shooting in the projects with no witnesses at all.

The detectives were napping at home in their beds,

With visions of drug busts dancing in their heads.

While I at my console,

The whole shift on patrol,

Were braced for a night both crazy and cold.

Then from the phones there arose quite a clatter.

Another 911 call; now what was the matter?

From the din of a bar room came angered inflections,

Plus static and popping from a piss poor connection.

Then what without surprise did I happen to hear?

A belligerent drunk demanding more beer.

I started a card, got units responding,

Then continued the call while the complainant kept arguing.

Another fine Christmas the jailhouse would see,

With this inebriate, some hookers and a handful of thieves.

Away raced patrol cars, their lights all a flash.

Now he’s armed with a pool cue and showing his ass.

OC was deployed as he continued to fight,

Ruining all hopes for a calm, silent night.

Away into handcuffs they snatched him up quick.

You could tell right away that he wasn’t Saint Nick.

Yes his nose was all red and his gut shook like jelly,

But his breath reeked like crap; his clothes stained and smelly.

Though he’d seen better days and was soaked in cheap gin,

He was filled with cheer as they hauled him on in.

Then I heard him exclaim before he fell to the floor:

“Merry Christmas, you pigs!”

Then he started to snore.



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Have Yourself a Scary Little Christmas

I wanted to do a lot of stuff leading up to Christmas and it just didn’t happen. I got a lot of articles written at Psycho Drive-In, 52 Weeks of Horror, Zombies In My Blog, TN Horror News, and Pop Horror but as far as any holiday themed stories or bits of new holiday fear I’ve got nothing. So, instead of trying to wing it and end up with something totally incoherent, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m posting a story from my collection, Random Fears, in .pdf for free just for you guys. I’m also sharing some of the coolest holiday horror short films I’ve watched this year embedded below. So have yourselves a scary little Christmas.


The Night Before



Gremlins Recall



20 Seconds to Live: Christmas Morning

A Very Troma Christmas

And if all this Christmas cheer didn’t do it for you, check out these articles from Psycho Drive-In, 52 Weeks of Horror, and Zombies In My Blog, Tennessee Horror News and Pop Horror! Enjoy!

Humbug – A Christmas Story

Just Ax Santa Claws

Scary Christmas

It’s a Tromaful Life

Gremlins Recall

Christmas with the Creeps

Holiday Fear


Bonus: Yuletide Anniversaries!

The Mummy (22 December, 1932)

Spider Baby: The Maddest Story Ever Told (24 December, 1967)




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