I didn't plan on writing another book any time soon, and my latest, THINGS I DO WHEN I’M AWAKE, is a very short one. But one day I woke up with this title in my head, and just started writing. I had no plot in mind, just a general concept. Then I realized I was channeling my mother, Charlotte Anne Glenn, who actually passed away right in the middle of its creation. That event definitely affected the overall tone and trajectory of the already sad and surrealistic first person narrative.
As some of you know, she was a beauty queen (the book is dedicated to "Miss Houston 1960") and aspiring actress suddenly struck down by schizophrenic at age 22. It kicked in when I was conceived, and fatally ruined her entire life.
She died in a Florida state ward, alone and apparently very ill, this past September 26. It hit me harder and deeper than I thought it would, considering the last time I saw her in person was in Miami, 1992.
Suffice to say she is the most tragic person I ever knew, though I never got to know her that well due to her circumstances, which impacted mine.
Hence this book, now available from my own imprint, Thrillville Press.
While it contains the exploitation elements (gratuitous sex and gore) my "brand name" is known for (if it's known at all), this is more of a meditation on madness and mortality than it is a straightforward tale of terror.
Much of the "horror" comes from incidents in my own life, while creatively extrapolating from what I knew about my mother's condition and situation. Stylistically it's unlike anything I've ever written, though the themes will be familiar to anyone that knows my stuff. And I'm never shy about sharing my innermost angst and demons.
I hope it's a suitable tribute not only to who she was, but who she might've been. Who we both might've been, had biology or fate or whatever not dealt us this crippling blow.
Below is a post I made on Mother’s Day earlier this year, one that I am glad is over soon, due to not only personal but also recent historic events. It encompasses all of my feelings about her life, my place in it, and vice versa. I am reposting here because I really can’t augment what’s already been expressed:
It's Mother's Day weekend, so this sad story is on my mind. This was my mother, Charlotte Glenn. She was Miss Houston 1960 and a runner up for Miss Texas after winning the talent category reciting Shakespeare, my namesake. As a young woman she was a very talented actress with lots of promise for a bright future. She met my father while attending the University of Texas and together they went to New York City to pursue their thespian dreams together. Shortly thereafter I was conceived. I am told this caused her great distress since I was not part of the plan. In any case, while in her womb her latent schizophrenia kicked in and by the time I popped out on April 2, 1963, her psychologically and emotionally fatal madness was in full bloom, and it literally ruined her life. She is the most tragic human being I have ever known, though due to these circumstances, I never got to know her that well. I only met her a few times over the years. Frankly, I still feel cursed and haunted by this biological and spiritual connection. It's nobody's fault. Just how the dice roll sometimes.
I was very lucky in that I raised by her kind folks in Houston till I was 6 (after being taken away from her as an infant following some violent behavior on her part), though when I was about 5 she showed up out of the blue, then literally kidnapped me back to Manhattan under the pretense of taking me to a local toy store, actually driving me to a train station in New Orleans. She was a total stranger to me. I thought her relatives in Texas were my "family." All I really remember of those months in Manhattan is her sitting in a rocking chair listening to the song "Those Were the Days" over and over. Finally my grandfather denied his own fear of flying and rescued me back to Houston.
Then when I was six or so, my father and his third wife showed up, again seemingly out of nowhere, making claims to my custody. Eventually I was flown to L.A. to live with them, but that marriage was already dissolving, Pop wasn't around, and somehow I wound up with this strange woman, her infant son (and my half brother), and a right wing guru cult that travelled across country to settle in South Jersey, of all places, where I was raised till I was 16. No point in divulging details but it was an extremely abusive environment, so I was shocked but relieved when they suddenly decided as a group to kick me out and send me back to live with my Pop in L.A., but we didn't hit it off either, and I was on my own at age 16.
After all this familial turbulence, I became curious about my natural mother, and after some detective work, struck up a correspondence. She had been living on the streets for much of her life, but by the time I flew out from Berkeley to Brooklyn in 1989 to visit her, she was working as a receptionist at the Cuckoo Clock Company in Manhattan. I still have a stack of neatly typed but increasingly incoherent letters from her with that ironic letterhead.
I was picked up at the New York airport by a Middle Eastern guy that had found her on the street and married her because he needed a green card. They quickly got divorced, but he still looked after her. Later he was shot in the head and killed during a holdup.
What I remember mostly of that trip was lying awake in the middle of the night as she stood in the doorway watching me, smoking a cigarette, the lit end glowing eerily in the dark. I was so nervous, I hid her knives. But it was fine, if depressing. She lived in Bensonhurst, a known Mob neighborhood, so she at least was safe to walk the streets at night.
I saw her one more time in 1992. By this time she was living with her mother in Miami. It was a pleasant enough trip. Her brother had just died from AIDS. I barely remember meeting him as a child.
I haven't seen her since.
Right now, as far as I know, she is a ward of the state of Florida. For personal reasons we no longer communicate, though from what I understand she is both mentally and physically debilitated. I still think about her. I can't help it. She has influenced much of my writing throughout my life. Even though we spent very little time together, I sometimes feel her absence acutely. Not her specifically, but the love of a mother which she simply was never in a position to provide.
My wife Monica as filled that void for me. Despite this unfortunate history, I turned out fine. I only hope Charlotte's tormented soul finds peace sometime, somewhere. But it won't be here.
This is how I prefer to remember her, in her prime,
before the illness stole her life and killed her dreams:
I received word she died in the Florida ward on September 26, 2016 - ironically, the same grindhouse gore god Herschell Gordon Lewis died, in the same state. Geographically if not mentally, that is.
The only thing they had in common, besides their residence? Horror. Except hers was real.
Below are the cover images created by master artist Dyer Wilk (who also created my Thrillville Press logo and has designed all my imprint's titles so far), detailing its evocative evolution.
Here are just few of my many social media promos. I used images from old horror flicks, pinups, etc. As you can clearly see, I was attempting to collectively communicate a very specific mood of decadence, depravity, debauchery, decay, despair, desperation, and disorienting, disturbing delirium. The juxtaposition of the brightly colored text over the stark black-and-white pictures was meant to evoke the visual sensation of neon glowing in the dark.
Hopefully I sustained this same ambience in the short but intense (like me) book. Even the composition and stylistic choices (for instance, no dialogue) were constructed to convey a sense of isolation and loneliness. To further help achieve that, I only wrote on overcast or rainy days, which are fortunately fairly frequent here in Seattle, a major reason I moved here.
These images are from the 1934 public domain film Maniac
helped inspire and inform Dyer's work on the cover:
So, there you go.
I will bringing copies of this book with me to the very first Writer's Retreat of San Buenas in Costa Rica this coming January 29-February 4, where I have the honor of being an instructor. I'll be using this book as a focal point of discussion in a workshop I'm calling "Dreams, Memories, and Imagination."
|Hosting and reading at Noir at the Bar Seattle, Thursday, January 12, 7-10pm|
Anyway, that's all for now. Thanks as always for you support. We need to stick together now more than ever.
Monica and me celebrating Thanksgiving in style, The Capital Grille, Seattle, 11/24/16
|At the University of Washington Club|
|I've been designing Elvis-themed Christmas cards for this computer company in Berkeley since 1992. This is the 2016 edition.|
|Bachelor Pad Magazine #38 featuring my regular movie column.|
This time: Classic Sinatra Cinema!
VIHARO ON VIDEO:
Interview with Scott Fulks and me for Tiki Oasis TV, August 2015
ONLINE SHORT FICTION
A WRONG TURN AT ALBUQUERQUE (1982) and THE IN-BETWEENERS (1987)
PEOPLE BUG ME (2013)
ESCAPE FROM THRILLVILLE (2014)
|My story MEANTIME is included in this bitchin' anthology, |
for which I also wrote the foreword:
My short story BEHIND THE BAR is included in this anthology
|My erotic horror noir novella THINGS I DO WHEN I'M AWAKE |
The new Vic Valentine novel HARD-BOILED HEART now available from Gutter Books!