Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Horrifies this Horror Scribe

It’s Halloween season again.  If you’re like me, I hope this means you’re taking this time to indulge in all your favorite horror stories, both on-screen and in print.  I thought I’d share my all-time favorite scary stories.  My criteria?  Not merely whether they kept me up for a night or two.  No, these are the tales that have haunted my dreams ever after, that have irrevocably altered the landscape of my imagination. For me, it's not the usual suspects -- it's not the vampires, werewolves, Frankensteins or zombies -- that do the trick.  From the all-too plausible (post-apocalypse scenarios) to the outre (extradimensional forces battling for the fate of mankind), I'm always fascinated with what new ways authors come up with to terrify and entertain us.   

The Road by Cormac McCarthy - One of my all-time favorite novels, period.  McCarthy is known for being a master stylist, and I found his prose in The Road to be a revelation.  It’s stark and fragmented, which perfectly reflects a stark, fragmented world.  The first time I read this book, I got about 15 pages in and had to set it aside for a day or so because it was so unrelentingly bleak.  A beautiful and devastating work, which also happens to include post-apocalyptic cannibal hordes.  Walking Dead, eat your heart out.  Ah, zombie humor.  That’s good stuff. 

"Feeders and Eaters" by Neil Gaiman - A short story from Gaiman's collection, Fragile Things.  I've long been of the opinion that Gaiman is at his best in the short story medium, and this tale sort of clinches it for me.  F&E is the tale of a man whose little old lady neighbor has a peculiar craving for raw meat.  The ending made me feel physically sick.  That, my friends, is some very effective horror. 

Insomnia by Stephen King - It was a close tie for me between this and It.  Don’t get me wrong, the Turtle and the deadlights really fuck with my head.  But it was Insomnia's little bald doctors with their scalpels and scissors that-- well, gave me insomnia.  Plan to sleep with the lights on with this one.   

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - Much has been made over this anything-but-quaint and curious volume, and deservedly so.  Is it horror?  A love story?  A scathing send-up of academic writing?  Whatever it is, Danielewski’s minotaur of a tale features some thrillingly original horror imagery.  To this day, I still eye walls and spaces suspiciously, not entirely convinced that the rooms in my home aren’t misbehaving.  

The Entity by Frank De Filetta - I first read this one when I was about 11 years old.  (I know, I know.  Too young.  My mother didn’t censor my reading material at all, which was something of a mixed blessing.)  I remember how disturbed I was by the violence and hopelessness depicted in this book, and the leering “based on a true story” tagline.  I'm not into torture porn, but I found a woman being kept in physical agony by a demon to be viscerally affecting. 

What are your favorite horror reads?  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Bravo, Blue Monday Poets!"

As some of you may recall, I was the featured poet at the Uptown Art Bar’s Blue Monday earlier this month, which is co-sponsored by the KC Writers Place.  I read a series of new poems—so new, in fact, that I haven’t even posted them anywhere online.  The poems were:

Garbage Pail Kids
Life Support, or Things no one tells you about dealing with a terminally-ill spouse
The Hug Barrier
No, I Don't Have a Foot Fetish

In the audience that evening was Rane Bo Cross, the force behind Paraplui Productions and the Fishnets Experiment.  She did a write-up of the event.  

I think it’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about my work:

“The night really began and ended with the featured poet of the night.  Our shaggy-haired host, Mr. Hughes, takes over the mic to proudly introduce Lauren Scharhag, and purr-growls his promise to us that we won’t be disappointed, then hands the stage off to this unassuming woman who looks so pleasant and gentle.  She briefly introduces herself and informs us of a last minute rearrangement in her poetry playlist, then proceeds to upend her 'Garbage Pail Kids' right onto the invisible table in front of us – lifting the bucket up and away so that we can see the spread up close and personal, can inspect it with our own noses.  She has me pumping my fist in silent cheers one second, then the next she gives me a good, hard elbow in the ribs to remind just how good I really had it as a child.

“After the applause ends, she apologizes and warns us that she is about to take us to the dark side, where it gets deep and heavy, but she promises to reward us with something lighter and happier at the end.  I settle in for a creepy female Poe/slightly crazy Plath something or other, but what she dishes in my lap is a torturous heart squeezing list . . . The List of Things Learned while caring for a spouse-lover-friend-partner who is terminally ill.  Her list stabbed me in my scarred over wounds, dug up and into my worst fears, and let me weep for one minute after another after another in her brutally honest, yet gently forceful way.  I was unable to write more than a two word scrawl for later in my notepad, didn’t care about taking notes.  I was with her all the way down the roller coaster.

“After wringing my tear ducts into silent submission, she makes good on her word and delivers a much needed, albeit 'Awkward Hug' and the laughter bubbling up through her reading of the poem is the real reward at the end.  She truly was more hilarious and entertaining than the handful of comedians I saw doing stand-up at the next event on the same stage once the poetry time was up, and I swear her manner and method and strength of delivery has to have doubled the power of her words.  And I realize that this is exactly why poetry reading nights exist, so the Laurens of the world have a place to make their real art come to life.

“Bravo, Blue Monday Poets, and well done!  Now, if you can just find me a soft cushy chair for my bony butt to sit in, I will be there every month possible.”

I don’t even know what to say, Rane.  Thank you so, so much.  As a fellow artist, I’m sure you understand how important it is to receive this kind of feedback and encouragement.  Anytime I have doubts about what I’m doing, I’ll be able to come back to this and find the motivation to go on. 

To see the rest of the Blue Monday photos and Rane’s commentary, check out her Fishnet Experiments page on Facebook.  

Be sure to come to the next Blue Monday, every second Monday at the Uptown Arts Bar in Kansas City, MO!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This is what 14 years of marriage gets you.

My husband and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary this month.  I don't mind telling you we're in a very good place right now.

Recently, we were watching this Louis C.K. stand-up, in which he talks about jerking off to twenty-two-year-olds:

Me: I don't thnk I was jerkoff material, even when I was in my twenties.
Patrick: (without missing a beat-- er, so to speak.)  Yes, you were.
Me:  Really?
Patrick: Still are.

Happy 14th, honey.

For everybody else out there-- if you're looking for love right now, I hope you find it.

If you're lucky enough to already be in love, I hope you find your significant other jerkoff-worthy, now and forever.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Come see me at the Uptown!

Hey, folks!  I'm going to be the featured poet at this month's Blue Monday Poetry Night at the Uptown Arts Bar in Kansas City, MO.

That's Monday, Oct. 13.  Poetry starts at 8 p.m.  

I have new work to share, so come have a drink and a listen!  Also, I'll have copies of my poetry book, West Side Girl & Other Poems.  

Blue Mondays are emceed by KC poets David Arnold Hughes and Sharon Eiker.  There's no cover.

The Uptown is at 3611 Broadway, KCMO 64111.

Hope to see you there!