writers, monkeys, beer

Just the Good Ol’ Boys

Wow! It has been way too long since our last post! Well, we’re pretty sure that we’re not the only ones affected by the circumstances of the world. Speaking of the circumstances happening within the world … for some reason we thought about a story that we had written many, many years ago which ended up being published in Issue #3 of Encounters Magazine back in 2010. Encounters was a beautiful magazine – perfect bound, 8”x10”, and filled with well over 100 pages of speculative fiction short stories. Alas, Encounters no longer exists, having gone the way of so many print magazines. Since it has been so long since the story in question had seen the light of day and it may or may not look sideways at the apocalypse, we decided to share it with this post. We hope you enjoy!


Just the Good Ol' Boys

Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano

Michael hated this assignment. He hated the walking, but that limitation was part of the assignment. As well as dressing his best, but that he did not mind. Grousing as he walked, he stepped with precision in an attempt to keep the filth of the dirt road from marring the sheen of his black shoes. Every minute or so he ran his right hand over his suit jacket to shoo away potential wrinkles, his left hand gripping an attaché. Despite his professional attire, he refused to keep his hair short, his flaxen locks glowed from the noon sun while his ponytail reached the middle of his back.

The road snaked through the forest, wide enough to keep the treetops from forming a canopy, and led to a cabin as dirty as the road. Around the ramshackle structure lay accoutrements once meaningful, but now rusted and useless: a dilapidated push mower sans engine, a refrigerator with no door on the crusty hinges, a couch with springs poking from the seat like the hairs of a dying man’s head. Michael noticed a primer gray car as well, but cared very little if it worked or not. He had no affinity for vehicles either.

But there was one useful piece of furniture outside the cabin – a picnic table – and seated on its bench was a bald man, neck as thick as a leg, with muscular arms powering out of a sleeveless flannel shirt. Tattoos of religious symbols: crosses, stars (five-pointed, six-pointed, nine-pointed), an ichthys, a kalmia, an omkar, an ankh, a triskele, a menorah, a khanda, and other symbols of luck and blessing, covered his arms. This monster of a man was one of the individuals Michael needed to see.

Michael approached the picnic table, trying not to think about how crunching through the leaves and twigs scuffed his shoes. The man at the table stared at a little brown cup next to a large brown jug. The veins in his scalp seemed to push his forehead downward, a scowl that cut ravines into his face, ruddy from ire. Hand quivering, he reached for the cup and lifted it only a few inches. The trembling spread through his entire arm, the shaking forced him to yield and place the cup back on the picnic table. Michael wondered how an arm large enough to throw a person could not lift a tiny cup. Then the scowling hulk looked up. And smiled. “Never thought I’d be happy to see you, Michael. Looks like you can help me out here.”

“Greetings, Warren. Should we—” Michael cut himself short due to the shotgun pointing at him.

“Drink what’s in the cup,” Warren said, his voice deep and aggressive, his finger on the trigger.

Michael sighed and rolled his eyes. “Warren—”

“Oh, high and mighty Michael, you know I ain’t got no qualms ‘bout pullin’ the trigger. And it ain’t gonna be pleasant. Now drink.”

Sighing again, Michael placed his attaché on the table then ran both hands over his suit jacket. With great trepidation, he reached for the cup and brought it to his lips. Pausing, he inhaled, trying to determine the concoction. Alcohol wafted through his nostrils and he smiled, remembering the immaturity of the cabin’s inhabitants. Throwing his head back, he swallowed the liquid in one gulp. He wanted to die, even though that was an impossibility.

A conflagration exploded within him as his ivory wings burst from his back, tearing his suit jacket to shreds. The bind that held his ponytail snapped, his hair frizzing, struck by invisible lightning. Tears mixed with sweat as Michael fought with gravity to remain standing all the while screaming, “OH GOD!”

Warren howled with laughter. By the time he calmed himself Michael finished gesticulating. Stray feathers floated from his still twitching wings. His shirt and tie remained on his body, but sweat discolored the whiteness of his shirt. Still trying to catch his breath, he panted, “What … was … that?”

“Just a batch of moonshine we whipped up. Here, my turn,” Warren said as he handed the shotgun to Michael.

“What?” Michael asked.

“I ain’t gonna drink it unless I gotta. And what’s in that gun is special. Can hurt angels like you and creatures like me. Now point it at me!”

Raising the gun at Warren, Michael contemplated pulling the trigger no matter what happened. But the large man poured a splash of moonshine from the jug into the cup and slugged it back. He clenched his meaty fists and held his breath, his skin reddening past the point of burgundy. Veins rippled their way across his muscles. Even his tattoos looked ready to peel from his skin. With one eruption of fury, Warren let loose a roar that rumbled the ground and shook the forest. Branches and leaves rained about the cabin.

Panting, Warren wiped away a tear and laughed. “Now, that’s some good stuff! Roscoe sure knows what he’s doin’!”

As if scripted, the cabin door opened and two scruffy men meandered out, hooting and cheering. One man, sickly and gaunt except for a bulbous bulge from his midsection that looked more like a boil ready for popping than a belly, sidled up to the picnic table and plopped down next to Warren. “Good stuff in there, yeah?”

“Damn, Roscoe!” Warren yelled, still chuckling. “You sure got a way with the hooch!”

“Second favorite thing I invented. After these bad boys, of course,” Roscoe cackled, pointing to his trucker cap that displayed a logo of a cigarette company, and tugged at his ratty tee shirt, adorned by an advertisement for another cigarette company. His teeth yellow and brown, his gums blood red with hints of pus.

Michael grimaced at the man’s visage and sat down on the picnic table’s other bench. Fetching his attaché, he procured a pencil and notepad from it. Old fashioned, but he felt more comfortable with these means than any other technology throughout the years. “Sure are proud of yourself, Roscoe.”

“Ehhhh. Those ain’t the true disease, though.”

“No?” Michael asked.

“Neh. The pestilence is from within. In a man’s heart, his soul. Make him do all kiiiiiiiiiiiinds of crazy things.”

“You had nothing to do with that?”

“Nope. Most I can do is toss a couple germs about. Science kills half and ‘education’ prevents the spread of the other half.”

“So, what about the pestilence from within?”

“That? That’s what man is born with, Michael. Addiction. They all got it. A few can control it. But they allllllllllllllll got it!” Roscoe cackled again. “The best part is if they ain’t addicted to what I got, then they addicted to what Enos got!”

Michael frowned. He turned to Enos and did a double take. Every one hundred years Michael performed this visit and took notes from these interviews. When the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, Enos was the skinniest of the bunch, but now … “Enos? You’re … you’re … fat?”

Sitting on the couch, bowing it in center from the prodigious girth, Enos smiled. His thick lips were shimmering from the grease of the fast-food burgers piled on the plate he held. The stained tee shirt, advertising the very burgers he ate, did nothing to stop his imperialistic belly from hiding his lap. Ham hands and sausage fingers picked a burger from the pile and he unwrapped it. His chuckle resembled a gurgle as he said, “Yep.”

“But … but … you’re … you…”

“Ain’t like the ol’ days, Michael,” Enos said in between bites of his burger. “New kinda famine.”

“How? You’re … I’m sorry, Enos, but you’re the opposite of ‘famine’ now.”

“Just ‘cause I’s fat? You thinkin’ too old, Michael.”

Michael slapped his pencil down from frustration. He crossed his arms and frowned. Even his wings angled forward. “Oh, this has to be good. Please enlighten me.”

“Famine don’t mean ‘no food’ no more. It mean ‘no nourishment.’ It mean ‘always hungry,’ Michael.”

Michael leaned forward a bit, now interested in what the obese man had to say. “Go on.”

Enos slurped the grease from his fingers and grabbed another burger from the pile. Holding it in his bloated palm, he showed it to Michael. “This ain’t go no nutrition. Got nuthin’ good for the body. No vitamins. Processed wheat, processed meat. Man killed whatever was good in the pieces parts to make these here burgers. You eat these and you belly fill. But you body starvin’!”

His brows knitting, Michael leaned back. “Now wait a minute, Enos—”

“And then you belly never full! You eat these, and you never satisfied. You eat more, ‘cause you need more.”

Roscoe cackled again. “Ain’t that a hoot, Michael? In the old days, man was scared that one of us would come along and then be followed by the other one of us. We thought that too! But man, he’s combined us! He now got an addiction to neeeeeeeever being satisfied.”

“Man outsmart ol’ Enos. I always thought to take food from man. Ha! To make man hunger, I shoulda give him more food!”

“Don’t you know it!” Roscoe howled. “Mosta the diseases man gets, he gets from food – ‘cause he wants mooooooooooore food and he tries to grow in places it shouldn’t! Swine Flu! Mad Cow! Great stuff!”

Michael stared, trying to take in what he just heard. “You two are trying to tell me you had nothing to do with that?”

“Nope,” Roscoe and Enos said in unison.

Skeptical, Michael continued with his interview, and asked Warren. “How about you? Those tattoos are new. Religious symbols? Doesn’t seem your style?”

Warren grinned and leaned back, crossing his arms in front of his chest, flexing to show off the topic of conversation. “Yeah? Why not?”

Michael snorted and shook his head, amazed at the gall. “Well … how about most of them promote peace?”

Warren laughed, shaking the whole picnic table. “They can promote all they want, but the only thing they’re good for is what I promote. I’m their biggest fan.”

“Warren, that’s—”

“Frighteningly accurate? Think about it. Name one recent war that wasn’t about religion?”

“That’s ridiculous. Just recently—”

“It’s not about territory or freedom or resources like the old days. Just recently the good ol’ U. S. of A. went over to the Middle East. And ‘won.’ Did they take territory? No. They didn’t even take the resources that they said they were gonna take.”

Michael frowned. “Are you saying that you had nothing to do with any of these recent wars?”

Warren laughed again. “I love startin’ me a good war. I really do, but I never thought to start one by sayin’, ‘My peace lovin’ god is better than your peace lovin’ god.’ That’s just brilliant!”

“I’m not buying any of this from you three. Where’s Dean?”

On cue, the cabin door opened again, giving way to a thin, pale figure wearing a faded overalls over a faded tee shirt and a faded trucker cap. “Hey, Michael.”

“Dean,” Michael moaned his salutation.

Dean strode from the door, carrying a six-pack of beer. He moved like a ghost through a graveyard on his way to the picnic table and tossed a can to each of his friends. With one final saunter he sat directly across from Michael. “What are you doing here Michael?”

“The same thing I do every one hundred years. I’m sent to check up on you four. Make sure you’re behaving yourselves until the appropriate time.”

Dean sipped his beer and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “We been. Nuthin’ more wild than making moonshine.”

“I don’t believe you, Dean. Especially with your likes. Both Heaven and Hell have been getting more souls the past hundred years.”

A raspy chuckle. A sip of beer. “The average life span of man increased by more than a decade between the turn of last century and the turn of this century. Technologies have been growing by leaps and bounds. Longer lives. Greater prosperity. More and more people on this planet means more and more souls. More lives means more deaths.”

“How convenient.”

“Michael, Michael, Michael. Man is very convenient. The four of us were chompin’ at the bit the moment these monkeys became ‘man’ to get a piece of them. To inflict our ways on them. Little did we know all we hadda do was be patient. They say they fear us, but their actions say they love us!”

“I don’t believe this.”

Another swig of beer. “Look around, Michael. Do you see the steeds?”

Not noticing until now, Michael took a moment to peek around. No steeds. Setting his jaw firm, he looked back to Dean. “No.”

“Don’t you find it odd that the Four Horseman don’t have horses?”

Wings twitching, Michael steeled his gaze at Dean.

Dean continued, “We let them go. We hadn’t needed them for ‘bout fifty years now. We fire up that car now and again to go to town for supplies. That’s it. We’re just good ol’ boys now. You can protect man from us, Michael, but you can’t protect man from man.”

Frustrated, Michael slouched and ran his hands through his hair, searching for answers. Realizing one thing, he sat back up and sighed. “Well, there’s still one saving grace.”

Dean smirked, taking a slow drag from his beer while glancing at his comrades. Turning back to Michael, he asked, “What’s that?”

“The mark of the Beast.”

Chuckling, Dean replied, “Come again?”

“The End of Days. There will be no End of Days until the Mark of the Beast is on everything.”

Laughing, Dean turned his beer can to show Michael the bar code. Warren, Roscoe and Enos followed suit, displaying the bar codes.

Jaw dropped, Michael could only whisper, “The Mark of the Beast?”

Dean answered, “Ain’t many products left without it. How long before man puts it on himself?”

“No,” Michael mumbled, dejected. Even his wings sagged. “It’s not time for the Apocalypse to come.”

“The Apocalypse ain’t comin’, Michael.” Dean’s voice hollowed, an icy breeze across a tombstone. “It’s already here.”

Michael sat for minutes, unable to move, processing all he had heard. Finally he sat straight, fluttered his wings, and ran his hands over his shirt in an attempt to smooth the wrinkles. Once satisfied, he reached for the jug, filled the cup and threw back a swig….

writers, monkeys, beer

Deconstructing the Novel, Part 4 – Fearful Symmetry

BRIAN SAYS:

“So, where do we go from here?”

That was what Chris and I said to each other, probably at the same time, probably at a bar, when we sat down to talk about Fearful Symmetry, book 2 of the “Shattered World” series. Okay, it was very likely we said it at the same time, because the person who asks the question first doesn’t have to bear the burden of answering it, and we were most definitely at a bar, because that’s where we do our best thinking. Yes, I said thinking. The good news is we already had a bit of a blue print going into this. Believe it or not, we planned ahead while we were working on book 1, The Shattered Visage Lies

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writers, monkeys, beer

Deconstructing the Stories, Part 6

BRIAN SAYS: 

People often ask us if there is anything autobiographical in the Drunk Comic Book Monkey series. The answer is absolutely yes. After all, the series is a collection of short stories where Chris and I are the main characters, so it stands to reason that there would be plenty of experiences to draw from. Now, some of what we’ve experienced in the books, aside from going toe-to-toe with monsters and aliens, happened to us only in the fictional world, such as waking up in a Tijuana jail cell, waking up in a Canadian jail cell, waking up on a deserted beach, but we’ve sprinkled some bits of real life throughout. One story that comes to mind is “The Day the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys Stood Still” in The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Sciencey Tales of Science Fiction.

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writers, monkeys, beer

Deconstructing the Sci-Fi Novel, Part 1 – The Biggest Bounty

BRIAN SAYS:

Have you read The Biggest Bounty yet? If you would like to, you can grab a copy via this link here and then the rest of the blog entry will make sense. Now that you’ve read it I’m sure you noticed that it’s a swashbuckling science fiction with action, adventure, intrigue, milk, and a little bit of comedy thrown in for good measure. This is book 1 of the “Zeus and the Pink Flower” saga where the two protagonists had just recently met and started working together. Chris and I wanted to start at the beginning and follow these two throughout their careers. As such, there were two things he and I wanted to touch upon with this book.

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writers, monkeys, beer

Deconstructing the Anthology, Part 1 – TV Gods

BRIAN SAYS:

“Are we sure we want to do this?” I asked. 

Chris exhaled, slowly trying to blow doubt and insecurity out of his body. His eyes shimmered with the start of tears. “I think so?”

“Oh… oh, God… no…,” Christine muttered, realization crawling up her spine like ants.

“What are we talking about?” Jeff asked. 

“Jeff, run. Run, run now, run fast, Jeff, just run,” Christine whispered.

Knowing Christine well enough, Jeff heeded her warning without question. He jumped from the couch, knocking the tray table over, and stepped on the cat’s tail as he sprinted for the door. Fingertips fractions of an inch from the doorknob, Chris and I thwarted his escape by yelling in unison, “We’re going to publish an anthology and you’re going to be the editor!!”

Jeff fell to the floor and writhed, screaming, “It burns! IT BURNS!”

“Are we sure we’re ready for this next step?” I asked. 

“Well, we’ve published one anthology already, as well as three story collections, and dozens of magazines,” Chris answered. “It’s the next logical step.”

“IT BURNS!! BURNING BURNS!”

“So, what’s the anthology going to be?” Christine asked. 

“IT STILL BURNS! IT BURRRRRRRNS!”

I shrugged my shoulders. “How about we call it ‘TV Gods’? We’ll ask the writers to take their favorite TV shows and their favorite mythologies and mash them together.”

“BURNING ME! IT BURRRRRR… wait… that’s not a bad idea,” Jeff replied as he sat up and grabbed his mead, the aloe rub for his soul. “I think I even have a story idea already.”

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writers, monkeys, beer

The Journey: Struggle

In our previous installment of The Journey, we learned about different business types. We also learned that the world loves it when Brian gets laryngitis. Let’s see what else we can learn when it finally comes time to form the business….

The Journey
“Struggle”


With most endeavors in life, there are two ways you can do things – either the cheap and difficult way or the expensive and easy way. Walking to work is very very cheap, but probably not the easiest thing to do. Driving to work will save your sanity, but cost your wallet dearly. Starting a corporation is no different. Since both Chris and I are college graduates and my alter ego is an accountant (my superhero identity, of course, being “Sasquatch: Devourer of Mass Quantities of Food!”), we thought we could take the cheaper way to start a corporation. We’re no strangers to research and/or a little hard work, and I don’t seem to have the same phobia as most of society toward paper work (another super power, perhaps?), so we decided to roll up our sleeves, show some American spirit, and do it ourselves! Well, it was a good idea at least.

The biggest problem we faced was where to begin. We were ready to fill out any and every form we could find. But which ones? And in what order? Of course, federal forms and state forms are different animals. That are untamable. With sharp, pointy teeth. We went to our state’s website, but that only helped to a certain extent. It listed all kinds of forms, but it told us neither the specific forms we needed nor the proper order in which to file them with the state. And the federal government? Fahgedaboudit!

We did manage to figure out how to file for a fictitious name, though. Filled out the form, wrote out the check and off it went. The interesting thing about that was our lawyer later told us that the procedure wasn’t in place to protect us, but it instead protected the public FROM us, letting the good citizens know that we would be operating business under the name Fortress Publishing, Inc. A piece of paper and a small ad in the local newspaper were supposed to protect the public from Chris and me? The comedy just writes itself: Two bald men went on a rampage in south, central Pennsylvania, drinking all the beer and eating all the hot wings the region had, but before all hope was lost, they were thwarted by… an official government document!

As you can probably surmise by now, Chris and I caved in and took the easy, but expensive, way out. We hired a lawyer to create, and file with the state and federal governments, the Articles of Incorporation, the agenda for the initial Board of Directors meeting, and corporate by-laws. We then had an accountant friend of ours help us get our tax ID number, sales tax numbers, and “S” Corporation status elections, for both state and fed. It was certainly a lot of paperwork considering we live in a paperless society. However, we did find solace in knowing that we had experts involved. Certainly, we would have overlooked a form or two or filed them in improper order, undoubtedly creating a scenario very similar to Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.”

In the meantime, our third partner decided not to participate in the corporation. Of course, his money wasn’t going to participate in the corporation either. The true beauty of the situation was he decided to tell us AFTER we put his name on the Articles of Incorporation, elected him to the Board of Directors, and made him an Officer. So, for our first official Board of Directors meeting, we had to un-elect him from all of the above. Remember, as a corporation there are certain rules you need to follow, including the occasional Board of Directors meeting with legible minutes, election of officers, issuing stock, yadda yadda yadda. However, we hold all our business meetings at the local Hooters, so they aren’t quite as boring as they may sound. Before you ask – yes, the local Hooters is very conducive to conducting official business. We may now be CEOs and Presidents and all kinds of official sounding titles, but we’re still writers at heart and we find the environment very emotionally stirring.

One of the more exciting (and I use that term very loosely) things about becoming a corporation is the “corporate kit.” Chris and I are men, so when we heard the word “kit” we immediately translated it to “cool toy.” Tools come in kits. When you buy a grill, it comes in a kit-like box – and there are very few toys cooler than a grill. So, we were pretty amped up when it came. It was basically a large notebook with a sheath. There was a section for minutes, record keeping and the corporation’s stock certificates were located in the kit as well. SWEET! There were only twenty certificates, so we decided to use only two (one for Chris, one for me) and not all twenty. There was one item that caused the clouds to part and a ray of light to shine from Heaven upon it – the corporate seal. It looks like any standard paper crimper that any Notary Public would have. But it was OUR corporate seal! We paid for this! There was a certain sense of pride we had discovered in following through with the creation of a corporation. We showed that pride by putting our mark on any piece of paper we could fit between the plates. Every scrap paper in my office, every one of my son’s pieces of artwork on the fridge, every receipt I could find. I was so maniacal with it the dogs ran and hid in any room I wasn’t.

Even though it was quite a struggle (that we eventually solved with our checkbook), starting our own corporation was kind of a rush. We get to honestly say we own our own publishing company. And no matter how hardcore “down with the institution” you are, you can’t help but have an extra swagger in your step knowing you are legitimately a President or VP of a corporation. So, now what…?

Next Issue: “Foundation.”

Post Script: This article was originally written well over a decade ago about events that occurred even farther back in time. The commonwealth of Pennsylvania has made significant strides in making information about starting a small business readily available, especially with their recent website, business.pa.gov.
writers, monkeys, beer

Deconstructing the Stories, Part 4

BRIAN SAYS:

For this installment, the stories that we’re going to deconstruct are four that can only be found in The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness: Reflux Edition. From here on out, we’ll just refer to it as Reflux. What is Reflux? Other than that burny feeling your insides get when thinking about either Chris or me? It’s the special edition of The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness. This limited print run can only be purchased directly from us at any of our various appearances (check here for where we might be next) or from our website, here. What makes Reflux different from the original edition? Well, we added three stories, rewrote four stories, and after EACH story is a behind the scenes look of what we did or drank to come up with the story. It’s like the special director’s commentary DVD of your favorite movie. Why did we rewrite four of the stories? Well, we’re glad you asked.

One of the stories I decided to rewrite was “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Wendigo.” Chris wrote that story in the original version. He did a fantastic job with it, continuing our adventure from our time in Tijuana chronicled in “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. La Chupacabra.” However, when we first brought up the idea of our characters facing the wendigo spirit, we each had vastly different takes on the subject. Chris portrayed the spirit much like Algernon Blackwood did in his tale many years ago. It lent itself well for what Chris did with the story, but my favorite versions of the wendigo were always the more Hollywood style – the ravenous creature possessing a person, turning them into an insatiable cannibal. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Algernon Blackwood version of the wendigo. But after we released the original version of Scary Tales, we learned that many people don’t know what a wendigo is, and even fewer have heard of Algernon Blackwood. When we decided to do Reflux, I jumped at the chance to tell a story using one of my favorite spirits not sold in a liquor store. I also took the opportunity to make a few jokes about Canada. Because, you know, Canada.

The other story I rewrote was “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. Zombies.” This concept was actually what started the whole nonsense of us writing ourselves as characters in horror stories. At the time, I was not a fan of zombies. Over the decades, the typical zombie story evolved from inept young people struggling to flee from shambling corpses that can somehow utter the word, “Braaaaaaaaains,” to a more sophisticated study of human nature where survivors could be more dangerous than the zombies themselves. When Chris wrote the original, he did a fantastic job of taking the zombie story to a unique place (the zombies in question were not actually undead, instead they were under the mind control of the nefarious Potato People) as well as tell a compelling story using dialog only, with zero narrative. Even though I enjoyed his vision, I still wanted to see a traditional zombie story filled with traditionally stupid characters. Namely, Chris and me.

Since the characters of Chris and Brian spent so much time in a restaurant thinly veiled in fiction called Melons, I thought it would be funny if Chris and I won a “golden ticket” to visit the headquarters. Little did we know it would be much like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory! Not only did I want to up the fun factor, but I also wanted to add to the body count. Scary Tales is a book about horror stories, and zombies are always eating people, so the zombies in this version of the story eat people. Of course, they deserve to be eaten since they do what the characters do in the zombie stories of yesteryear that I detested – drop weapons right after successfully using them, or sacrificing themselves for the rest of the group when there’s another option that would allow everyone to escape unscathed. Of course, I also decided to have fun with the source of zombie-making contagion. Yes, you guessed it – the goat.


CHRIS SAYS:

…And cut. Ok, that’s a wrap, guys. Good job and we can continue filming tomorrow… Oh, hi! I didn’t hear you back there, you sneaky creepers! Thanks for visiting us on the top secret Fortress lair… oh, wait… it’s top secret… so, what was Brian going on about? Reflux? Yeah, I know a thing or two about that. Come on over here where we can talk.

Four stories from the original collection got a complete makeover in Reflux. Brian wanted to tackle Zombies and The Wendigo because he simply envisioned them as something other than what they were in the original edition of the book. And I’m glad that he did. He took both stories back to their more Hollywood roots and it brought out more of that delightful lunacy that you all know as The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys.

For my part, I wanted to try to work a slightly different angle with “Spider.” The original is classical zaniness and a favorite of ours to do at readings. I’m always a sucker to twist up a good classic into knots, so I wondered what would happen if I made “Spider” follow a traditional European fairy tale format, complete with a stranger and gifts and all of that. As we had begun to work in Jeff Young more as an antagonist, I thought it would be great fun to continue this theme (it wasn’t until Brian and I met after the first round of story re-writing that we found out that we had both taken this tactic). The framework of the story is largely autobiographical as Brian had told me just weeks earlier how he had blown up two mowers in a span of a few days. For someone who only mows twice a year, this is no small task! Brian’s accountant, financial justification for the events of the story… well, that just makes me laugh a little bit on the inside. He’s read it. He still hasn’t denied that he would rationalize it similarly….

“The Blob” was a story for which I had no reference. There is no literary equivalent that I’m aware of and I have never seen the movies pertaining to it. I enjoyed Brian’s take on things (who doesn’t love a good mad scientist?) and I stopped to wonder what semi-autobiographical reference I could use in which we were mad scientists… hmmm… oh, yeah… at one of our Fortress excursions we may have relived the good old college days and some of our less than wise mixologies. At the forefront was some good, old-fashioned, gummy candy. Couldn’t possibly cause any harm, right? So I threw in a little Ghostbuster humor and mixed it with a few fifty piece wing platters and voila! Speaking of gummy candy, I think it’s… ummmm… clean out the pantry day! National holiday, you know. Gotta go! Bye!
writers, monkeys, beer

The Journey: Reconnaissance!

In our previous installment of the journey, we learned all about printing. Well, we learned a little about printing. And we may have learned that Brian might not be Batman. Ahhh, who are we trying to fool? We all know that Brian is Batman. So, let’s take a peek at what happens when we try to educate ourselves about starting a business….

One of the more difficult things about being regular working schlubs like us trying to step outside of our preordained caste and start our own publishing company is finding time. There’s never enough of it to do what we need, to muddle through the regular day-to-day activities such as work, pay bills, spend time with the family, pay bills, feed the addiction to eBay, pay bills, do the chores, pay bills, etc... Then add to the pile, “small business start-up” and the pile becomes perilously close to toppling over, crushing all beneath it. Jac fell victim to such circumstance, no longer able to commit. Fortress was now down to three. 

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writers, monkeys, beer

Deconstructing the Second Novel, Part 1 – The Devil’s Grasp

BRIAN SAYS:

Tom looked at me, nodded his head toward Chris, and said, “You know he writes, right?”
I replied with, “Ummmmm… no.”
Turning to Chris, Tom pointed to me, and asked, “You know he writes, right?”
Coincidently enough, the reply Chris gave sounded oddly familiar. “Ummmmm… no.”
Tom then summed up the future partnership that Chris and I would form with one word: “Idiots.”

That little tale about the endeavoring spirit of human nature took place almost fifteen years ago, about ten years after we first met. Yes, I just said that it took ten years for each of us to figure out that the other wished to be a professional writer, which only happened by the assistance of a third party. Not only is it a testament to how well men actually communicate with each other, but even if the conversation somehow came close to the subject, then inevitably something would distract us from it. One time Chris and I accidentally forgot to go to the local bar to pick up women [The Ferrell/Kattan skits you’re envisioning now really aren’t too far from the truth], because we got past a difficult level in the latest Star Wars video game and wanted to keep playing. Why is any of this relevant? Because the first thing Chris and I worked on together was The Devil’s Grasp.

Of course, before we put the proverbial pen to paper, we sat down and compared notes: How long we’d been writing, where we’d gotten published, what we liked to write, how many more levels there were in that damn Star Wars game, why the beer pitcher was always empty. We discovered that we were in the same stage of our writing careers – a few things published in small magazines. So, the next obvious step was to write a novel together.

By this point in time, I had already written two novels; one solo, one with another writer. Neither amounted to anything more than experience, beer drinking, and good times. Luckily, I was able to bring all of that to the table when Chris and I FINALLY stopped playing Star Wars and started talking about the novel.

CHRIS SAYS:

Testing! Testing! Is this thing on? It is? Well, hi, folks! Let’s see here… video game… beer pitcher empty… be right back! I’m not so sure this thing truly holds 64 ounces!

While we were walking around the used car of our writing aspirations, randomly kicking tires and jumping through open windows, we discussed genre and found that we both have a keen interest in fantasy, though we had largely gotten there via different paths. As a kid I had read the “classics” and many of my days had been wholly consumed by them. Tolkien, Le Guin, Leiber, Howard… they made me want to swing a sword, to hurl spells of magical creation, to be the size of a mouse running from dark wizards, or to be seeking the advice of an alien seer. Brian was familiar with more modern, but not less important, works found on the cinema screen or comic book pages.

As we were discussing tropes and quests and magic, we also confessed to each other that we both had an interest in horror and here seemed to be a way to differentiate our piece from other more mainstream fantasy. As all of this involved far more discussion and learning about another dude that either of us had done in quite likely our entire collective lives, we took a break and went to our respective homes to do more thinking. We both typed up a short page or two – essentially of list of “do’s” and “don’ts”.  This is really how we began the process of collaborative writing. Passing chapters back and forth, each trying to outdo the other by putting characters into perilous situations and challenging the other to save them.

Over the next few weeks, we established goals and outlined chapters. Afterwards, we each picked a chapter that we wanted to work on and set monthly word count goals. On the designated day, we would meet up and go over what we had done and where we envisioned the characters going next. We always outlined a good 5-6 chapters in advance and worked on different chapters, writing towards the day of the inevitable passing off of a chapter to the other person, back and forth until revision time...<shiver> I still get chills thinking about revisions… slimy, putrid… out of what miasma they crawl, I know not, but they are certainly welcome to go back whence they came! <shudder> I think I got some miasma on me….
writers, monkeys, beer

Deconstructing the Stories, Part 3

BRIAN SAYS:


Holy wow! It’s been less than a year between postings! Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your Priest! We’re heading to Crazytown and I think I’m the Mayor! Okay, I might have oversold it a bit. Sorry. It’s just another post pulling back the curtain that separates Chris and me from the rest of the world.


So, the last time we deconstructed some stories from our short story collection, The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness (available here and here), Chris and I looked at a couple of our favorites. This time, we’ll take a look at a couple that really stood out for us. Or me, I’d have to say it’s the last story in the book, “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Devil,” for many reasons.


As we were writing the book, we went along our merry way doing some goofy things that led to unanswered questions. Beer Pants. Talking to animals. Dying more than the average human being. Why there’s a goat in a few of the stories. As we were finishing up the rest of the stories, we were running out of opportunities to explain ourselves. It finally dawned us to do one final story where we match wits with the devil. Better yet, we force Jeff to match his wits with the devil. And it worked.


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