Monday, April 21, 2014

Salem Witch Trial Viewing

          Hear ye!  Hear ye!  Here there be spoilers.
          I watched episode 1 of Salem last night.  Judging the show at this point is probably not fair.  This was merely the get-to-know-us-and-our-thigh-suckling-toads episode. 

          My first thought was a phrase my best friend often used when we were children:  extremely mediocre.  It doesn't really mean anything.  It is just fun to say.

          The part of me my wife calls the Writer Snob thinks they are trying too hard to shock.  Besides the whole toad sucking thing, lots of people get nekkid.  By "lots," I mean we see butts and side boob and the witch-hunting reverend preaching doggie style.  (Oppa Salem Style!)  Nekkidness doesn't bother me, but I suspect this will become a cheap ratings device.  The first couple of episodes we will see several of the cast's finest heinies.  Then we will enter Puritan wasteland where we have lots of plot and other story thingies occasionally interrupted by a gratuitous cleavage shot.  Depending on whether it is Sweeps Week.

          The show opens by telling you it is September 21.  I know little of the historical facts of Salem, but this strikes me funny that the date is also Stephen King's birthday. 

          Isaac "Fornicator" Walton confesses to "gazing upon the nakedness of Abigail Cook."  I love how Iddo Goldberg delivered this line, almost bored.  I'm in stocks, I'm about to get "ten hard ones" with a whip across my back, a scarlet F branded into my forehead, and I have to pee.  Can we hurry this up?  I haven't had coffee yet.

          He also confesses to "self pollution."

          My wife looked up from her Facebook game and said, "He did what?"

          "Self pollution."

          Blank stare.

          "He defiled himself.  He peeped at Miss Abigail and took Little Isaac in hand."

          Still a blank stare, but this one was to inform me that I am a goober.
          At the end of Act I, Tituba and Mary perform a sort of Satanic abortion of John Alden's child, complete with some Satanic baby oil as personal lube.  The Devil cavorts satyr-like through the forest, while the procedure is performed by a tree (a tree surgeon?) with its black goo that resembles Venom from Spider-Man.  As best I can figure, Mary agrees to this so no one knows that she and John Alden played Doctor in the graveyard, and so she doesn't have to say, "No, the F doesn't stand for Forehead!" the rest of her life.  Suddenly everything is over, Mary looks down at herself, while Tituba is obviously calling Ye Ole Guiness Book of World Records to report the world's fastest tummy tuck.  Immediately, we jump into Act II and seven years into Salem's future, where John Alden has returned from war and Tituba's accent is gradually becoming more Marie Laveau-ish. 

          Mary married Mr. Sibley and apparently gave him a frog in the throat as a wedding gift.  

          There are many thinly veiled morals of the story.  The witch hunt seems to be telling us to look at our own hypocrisy.  Also, the story emphasizes an ongoing comparison between the two Puritan "enemies," which are the witches amongst us and the Native Americans beyond the town borders.  Both are savage "nature worshippers." 

          This is not addressed in the show, but whenever I hear anything about the Salem Witch Trials, I think back to something I read when I was still in high school.  (In the era my son refers to as Before Technology.)  The Salem prosecutors hosted various, no-win tests to see whether you were a witch.  The one that fascinated me most was dunking the person's head in a bucket filled with water.  If they lived, they were a witch. 

          Honestly, Salem is not that bad.  There were a few moments of genuine creepiness, in a The Exorcist sort of way.  It is WGN America's first originally scripted series. Star Trek's Brannon Braga creates, executive produces, writes, and generally kitchen-sinks the whole thing. 

          I would watch again. 

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Guest Blogger: Deborah Cota

Storytellers are not writers...well, not just writers.  Deborah Cota is a storyteller to her bones.  She takes you into her novels like that gentle neighbor who invites you to sit beside her on the porch swing and sip some Lipton.  Then once there, listening to that slender chain creak, you begin to see the tempting slips in reality telling you that you are somewhere you do not recognize.  It's too late at this point, of course.  Instinct tells you to find some place safe, but the other part -- that part Deborah finds so easily -- says "Okay.  In a minute.  But let's just see what happens next."

I am honored and thrilled that my friend and paranormal novelist Deborah Cota is guest blogging here today.  And she's saved some of her best quirky off-the-wallness just for us.

You can find Deborah's first novel The Kindred on Amazon.  Book two of The Dante Chronicles, The Brotherhood, will be available January 30, 2012

She also writes her own blog The Dante Chronicles.


The Muses: Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomeni, Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia, Ourania and Calliope, were Greek deities said to have been sent to inspire man. What most history books don’t know is Zeus fathered a tenth Muse named Sandy; an incorrigible little imp with an attitude as high and wide as Mt. Olympus itself. 

Sandy had been with me as a child, encouraging me to explore things and touch objects that invariably would raise my mother’s blood pressure and send her voice into the stratosphere. Sandy would whisper in my ear, “Go ahead and touch the expensive, ceramic statue. Play with the matchbook...its okay. Trust me!” 

This would have been all well and good with most children, but being me and the klutz that I am, the statue ended up in pieces, the matches nearly singed my eyebrows off, and Sandy was not allowed to hang around anymore. 

Thirteen years ago, when I toyed with the idea which is now The Dante Chronicles, I caught up with Sandy. I was sitting at an outdoor table in front of Starbucks, and she was sitting at a table next to me; mumbling to herself and shifting papers in front of her, looking and sounding a lot like Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny.”

“Hey! Remember me?” I asked.

Sandy looked me up and down. Wrinkling her forehead, she squinted, “Cat statue that shattered, and the big match plate that went poof, right?”


“Yeah, I remember you? How’s your mom?”

“Good. She hasn’t forgotten you.”

“Most mom’s don’t.”

“What are you doing here?” I asked looking over at her table-top covered with pictures of paintings. 

“Hell if I know...this guy...? He’s a bass player who wants so bad to be a painter like his girlfriend, but...I just don’t think I can get anything better out of him. Look at this mess! He’s worse than her! My Peekapoo could paint better with her tail.”

“You have a Peekapoo?”

“Yeah, her name is Trixie! Wanna see?” Sandy grabbed her over-stuffed wallet from a giant, bright-red purse and rolled out a photo strip of color portraits; every one was of Sandy and Trixie in matching outfits, posed like something out of an old Montgomery Wards catalog. 

“Cute,” I said, smiling approvingly and doing my best Meryl Streep.

“Oh! That’s right! Acting classes with Dakin Matthews. Uh-huh. Very good. Oscar worthy, even.” Sandy turns her back to me, goes back to scrutinizing her photos, and sighs. Taking out my notebook, I start scribbling some notes on Eli and the cloaking spell and then stop to read what I’ve written. 

“What’s the book about?” Sandy asks over her shoulder. 

“What book?”

“The one you’re writing, Silly?”

Covering up my notebook, “Oh, I’m not writing a book, I...”

“Uh-huh...sure. What’s it about?”

“Really, it’s just some stuff I’ve goofed around with...”

Sandy gets up, turns her chair around and sits at my table, “Spill!”

“Well...I was thinking about a paranormal story...about a family that is split up and forced to fight demons to survive.”

“That’s it?”

“Well, like I said…I was just….”

“Got a villain?”

“Not yet.”

“Not yet? NOT YET?” Sandy reached behind her, grabbed her purse, pulled an iPad out and whipped her fingers across. 

“What’s that?”

“Something new…you won’t see it for a few years. I just turned the idea over to Steve, a new client. You’ll love it when it comes out….Okay, let’s see…one, two, three, four, five….”

“What are you counting?”

“People who have hurt you, used you, broken your heart, or been needlessly mean to 
you…twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-….”

“You have a list?”

“…thirty-three…of course. You don’t?”

“No…I try to forget all that.”

“Listen, kid…if you are going to write about demons and a family forced to fight, what better place do you have to conjure up the villains? Every writer does it…come on just try. What about her? Or him…Oh, he deserves to be ripped to shreds, got any plans for….”

“You are enjoying this way too much…” I said, packing up my notebook and coffee. 

“Kid, listen…I know what you are keeping inside you and I know how much talent you have. You need to do something with this. You’re good. You just need a little push.” 

Sandy leaned over and whispered something in my ear that I had pushed all the way to the back of my mind. I grabbed my pen, and wrote with force until the imprint of my writing pierced the page beneath. 

“Corson? What is that?”

“Not what, Sandy. Who. It’s a combination of a few different names.”

“Ahhh…I like it. This is good. What about a love interest?”

“No…I don’t want to write anything like…” 

“If you are writing about a family, then there is going to be love. May as well go for it all. Action, adventure…make it the book you’ve always wanted to read, but could never find.” 

“But a love interest?”

“You of all people can do this with your eyes closed. Just picture the man you’ve never found and hope to meet one day…Write about your friends, family, acquaintances….” 

“But a whole book? I don’t think I can…”

“Oh, honey,” Sandy said taking her purse and stuffing the pictures inside before standing up and pushing her chair back to her table. “Pull out all those composition notebooks of yours and paste it together. You had these books written twenty-years ago.” 

Later that week, as I was constructing a real outline, I decided to take a break and go do some shopping. Walking around the now defunct Tower Records, I heard a song. When I got back in my car, I heard the same song. As I walked into Safeway, I heard the same song blasting from a shiny, black Charger. 

So close no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trust in who we are
And nothing else matters

All through the grocery store and on the way home, I was mumbling to myself these lines over and over till my sister looked at me and sternly said, “What the hell’s the matter with you?”

Deciding to stop for lunch at Emil Villa’s I told her of my plan and my meeting with Sandy. 

“Oh, God…not her again!” my sister said, holding her head in her hands. 

“Yes, her again…but I’m older now and I won’t be touching anything lethal.”

“That’s great, but why were you mumbling to yourself like that? I thought you were losing your mind!”

“I think she was sending me a message…you know, like a Muse is supposed to…the song…it’s my theme. The message I want to convey.”

“Metallica? Your message is Metallica?”

“No…well, yes…but no.”

I began to run my idea across to my sister and at a key moment of my explanation her eyes twinkled. I knew I had the right plan there and then. She reached in her purse and pulled out a tiny notebook and pen. 

“Here…right it down.”


“Write the lyric down so you’ll stop walking around mumbling to yourself. You were doing it all through the produce department at Safeway, and people were staring at you while you were reciting it to the tomatoes. I don’t want anyone thinking you’re as nuts as I know you are. I’m just grateful it wasn’t that sanitarium song or ‘Enter Sandman’.”

Now ­I was the one with the twinkling eyes! Thanks, Sandy!

Sandy still comes by now and again; usually just when I hit a small plot snag, or at first edit. Mom is a little more receptive to her, although she still hides the good china, her shoes, and locks-up our dog in the laundry room. After she leaves, my sister does some finger exercises to get ready for me because I usually write up a few thousand words or so, every day, for the next couple of months. 

Encourage and be nice to your Muse. Troublesome or not, they are pretty good to have around.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kindred Spirits with a Flashlight

My friend and one of my favorite novelists, Deborah Cota, asked me to write a guest blog for her site.  You can read it here.  Hope you enjoy, and I would love to hear your comments.

 You can find Deborah's book here:

The Kindred

Sunday, January 8, 2012

And Yet He is Still a Yeti

I've got a treat for you.  My best friend since first grade, Yancy, is guest posting today.  He has some amazing stories to tell, as you'll see by following the links below.  

--- Sam    

*                    *                    *

Oil and water.  Fire and gunpowder.  Spiders and…well, anything, because I hate spiders.  I’m talking about things that don’t go together, and often have serious consequences when placed in close proximity.

The most hilarious combination, I have found, is intelligent people and boredom.  I have been privileged to lead some of the finest soldiers the Army has to offer, in a less than ideal setting – western Iraq, just as the war was starting to wind down a bit.  Our job was one of the hardest I think, because it wasn’t to destroy, but to fix.  People.  My team ran the emergency and trauma section for one fourth of the country, but it wasn’t a continuous flow of broken bodies.  In between the hellish moments sat long periods of nothingness that would last days.  Buddha would have seen it as an opportunity.

My nirvana came when we received a new Doppler from medical supply.  About the size of a walkie-talkie, the device uses ultrasound to amplify certain bodily noises through a speaker – quite useful in quickly detecting heart rates of unborn babies or even blood flow of patients in shock.

I was trying to think like an officer, and give the guys something meaningful to do.

“Gentlemen, go into the trauma room and play with the Doppler.  Use it on each other, that way you know it forward and backwards.”

They willingly disappeared into the trauma room, and I heard the whoosh-whoosh of the machine periodically as one soldier would find another’s pulse.  Then I heard loud gurgling and laughing, as one soldier’s internal rumblings were broadcasted to the world.

Those of you who are parents know that when the room gets quiet, you better get up and check on the kids, because they are into something.  Soldiers are the same, so I started toward the trauma bays as I overheard.

Chad: That just doesn’t sound right to me.  Have you ever had any heart problems before?
Taylor:  No, never.  What does it sound like?
Ariel:  No murmurs, arrythmias, valve problems?
Taylor:  Nothing. Should we ask the captain?  Or the doc?
Chad and Ariel (mumbling together):  Definitely.  Absolutely.  Yeah, I think so.
Ariel:  The doc will want an EKG, should we just get one now?
Taylor:  Do you think that’s necessary?
Chad:  If we don’t, she’s just going to ask for one.  This should be looked at right away.
Taylor:  Is it that serious?
Ariel:  It’s probably nothing.
Chad:  Probably.  I'm sure you're fine.  No chest pains or anything?
Taylor:  We should get it now. (Peels off his shirt and walks over to one of the patient exam areas.  Pause for background - when Taylor goes shirtless, the number of bigfoot sightings spikes.  The man is a YETI.)

Chad:  The electrodes won’t stick, I’m going to have to shave a little.
Taylor:  Just do it. (More background: prep razors are extremely sharp, one dry swipe can clear a six inch path of chest hair without pulling.  An EKG requires ten electrode sites.  In a matter of seconds, Chad and Ariel had cleared almost a square foot of carpet from Taylor’s chest in a disorganized pattern, a fact of which he was not yet aware)

Taylor stared at the ceiling as the EKG machine hummed and printed his report.  He pulled the wires from his own chest, and practically sprinted, still shirtless, to where the doc sat, reading some notes from her computer.

Dr. Fraley:  What’s this?
Taylor:  My EKG.  Does it look all right?
Dr. Fraley (after a few seconds):  Looks perfectly normal, why?
Taylor:  Well the guys heard something in the Doppler…
Dr. Fraley:  What did they say they heard?
Taylor:  Some kind of murmur or something, they said they thought I should have an EKG.
Dr. Fraley (Checks out Taylor’s bare chest and giggles, as only a 50-year old woman with ten years of college can do):  There’s nothing wrong with it, but look at yourself.  (She wasn’t even trying to control herself now)

Taylor realized that he had been had.  The series of shaved patches looked roughly like a large smiley face, using his natural anatomical features as eyes.

Chad:  Look!  It’s a man-o-lantern!
(Howls of laughter follow, as Taylor’s face turns red, more from embarrassment than anger)

Due to concerns that this is to remain a family blog, I am unable to print the remainder of the dialog.

I will invite the reader, however, to read about one of Ariel, Chad, and Taylor’s more serious moments in Angel.   I implied in the beginning of this story that this bunch of clowns had my deepest respect, and they do.  I love them all as much as family, and even if they are like a gaggle of dysfunctional kid brothers, they are focused mind-readers when dealing with a trauma patient.

More gratuitous self-promotion:  My Facebook page is called The Pen and The Sword.  If you see something you like, then please like it, comment, or best of all, share it on your own page.   I need every fan I can get, so I can share my stories and those of others with a world that doesn’t always understand them.

Yancy W. Caruthers, CPT, AN, USAR (Ret)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve in SamSpace

  It's Christmas Eve. 

I blog now, but in social networking of Christmas Past, I remember that after days of diligently Googling, I mastered the art of cutting and pasting HTML code into the "About Me" box of MySpace.  I can write some simple HTML unassisted by any major search engines.  For example, I know that body's must be followed by /body's and that the command "font face =" works much better at making your webpage prettier than does sacrificing an old typewriter to the computer gods.  Still, there are great volumes of HTML that doesn't look a whole lot like English to me. 

Take for instance, "navbar hover."  Is that actual code?  Probably not, but I found it in the About Me box, so I'm running with it.  For some reason, the phrase fascinated me.  Why?  Well, let me put it this way:  Some of the certifiably oddball things that pop into my head and fall out of my mouth often make my wife turn to me and say, "Are you all right?  I mean, really, I think you should be on some sort of maximum strength anti-goober medication, or something."  Hmm. 

Where was I?  Oh yes, "navbar hover."  Okay, so I began to wonder that if it could hover, what would happen if you typed in:

Navbar sit
Or . . .
Navbar play dead

My wife wanted to type in "navbar bite me" but that one made me nervous, especially since the webcam spontaneously activated and started looking around the living room.

            Anyway, it's Christmas Eve.  I'm a little worried.  Not so much recently, but in Christmas Past my son was terrified of Santa Claus.  We have a picture of him sitting on Santa's knee, red faced, and screaming as if the old man had just told him, "Now, this won't hurt a bit."  My wife and I have elected not to tell him that tonight is the annual night that The Claus inevitably prowls around the neighborhoods of the entire planet. 

My wife said, "No, you can't tell our son that an old man with supernatural powers will get inside the house while we are sleeping."

I said, "How about --."

"No," she answered.

"Just that --."


I smiled and donned my best humble look of innocence.  "I just want to explain to him that Santa Claus will leave behind things -- things that no one knows what they are.  And, that no one will know until the crack of dawn."

My wife crossed her arms and explained to me politely and calmly how my idea needed a little work, and that we should concentrate on heightening the enjoyment of the Yuletide traditions. 

I mean . . . that's not her exact words.  Her exact words were more like, "I know where you sleep."

But I knew what she meant.