Weekend Round-Up!

Hey, friends. Hope you’re well. I am. More importantly, my family is. Thanksgiving is coming up, which makes me happy because it’s one of the coziest holidays, and I enjoy eating, and, on a selfish note, I’m really hoping to get some extra writing time over the long weekend, and I love writing time even more than eating.

*takes deep breath*

So a few items of interest…

If you haven’t heard about Jesus Gonzalez’s passing, here are the facts: He was a great person and a great writer, and you should buy one or more of his books today.

J.F. Gonzalez and Brian Keene

J.F. Gonzalez and Brian Keene

My horror epic SAVAGE SPECIES is now available at Audible.com. Check it out now.

Listen to the terror...

Listen to the terror…

EXORCIST ROAD, my recent novella release, is slaying audiences. Between Goodreads, Amazon, and a few other prominent sources, it has received a grand total of thirty five-star reviews, fifteen four-star reviews, and not a single review of three stars or fewer. That’s pretty good, no? You can grab it here or anywhere else ebooks are sold. And if that doesn’t do it, my fellow (excellent) author Hunter Shea recently said, “Exorcist Road is Jonathan Janz’s most terrifying tale to date. Raw, brutal, chilling, it demands to be read in one sitting. The best fiction book on possession since The Exorcist!”

 Windy City Horror

Windy City Horror

My upcoming January release, a novel called THE NIGHTMARE GIRL, is also garnering raves. I’m extra proud of this one and can’t wait for folks to read it.

Coming in January

Coming in January

More stuff to talk about, but we’ll save that for later posts. I hope life is well with all of you, and I hope you’re enjoying and appreciating your families (and/or your friends). I can always do better, but I tend to be thankful all year. Every day I get to spend with the ones I love is a gift. Really.

Good night.

An Interview with Kristopher Rufty

Hey, friends. I apologize for the blog silence lately, but I’ve got a special treat for you this weekend. My good friend and fellow writer Kristopher Rufty agreed to answer a few of my questions, and even if my questions were inane, his answers weren’t. He’s an awesome guy and a fantastic writer, so without further preamble, check out what he has to say…

Moreland, James, Everson, Kristopher Rufty, and Me

Moreland, James, Everson, Kristopher Rufty, and Me

Some readers have compared your stuff to the stories of Richard Laymon. How do you feel about that comparison, and is there a specific Laymon story you enjoy the most?

I’m honored whenever somebody compares my writing to his. One person actually apologized when they told me PILLOWFACE reminded them of a Laymon book. I asked why they apologized. Their answer was because his stuff is so outrageous. Smiling, I told them that’s one of many reasons that I like writing. You can be outrageous and there’s no limit to what you can do.

The comparisons are rewarding, but at the same time, I don’t want anyone to think they’re deliberate. I love Laymon’s work the most, but I never wanted to copy him. I like how he’s able to tell so much by writing very little and that’s what I try to do with each story of mine. Because I was worried about the Laymon, Lee, and Ketchum comparisons, I wrote OAK HOLLOW in a completely different voice than my usual. I tried to write in an almost Joe Hill and Bentley Little sort of style. And Don D’Auria sent it back to me. He said it was a great book, but I needed to write it again in my real voice. He told me not to let the comparisons hold me back. I explained how I worried that people thought I was trying to copy those guys, and he said he used to edit them all and he’d be the first to accuse me if he thought it was true. Then he told me I reminded him of Ray Garton, so I figured I was in good hands. J

There are so many Laymon stories that I love. Even the not so popular ones. DARKNESS, TELL US is a lot of fun. I’ve read it multiple times. I also like DARK MOUNTAIN, a lot. Again, not one of his popular stories but, to me, the writing is flawless. QUAKE is as close to perfect as you can get for a truly horrifying story that makes you sweat with tension. That one wound me up so much one night that I never went to sleep. It’s very intense, steals your breath.

I love the Beast House books. THE CELLAR was my first Laymon story and I was hooked from there, but my favorite of the three (four counting FRIDAY NIGHT IN BEAST HOUSE) is probably THE MIDNIGHT TOUR.

IN THE DARK might be a close second choice for my favorite.

Hmmm…if I have to pick one, I choose THE STAKE. Great concept that’s done in such a unique way. It has everything he’s known for on its pages and is written in perfect, punchy prose. Plus, it takes its time building up to the wild climax. Larry Dunbar might also be my favorite Laymon character. For writers like us, Jonathan, this book is required reading. We get to see the life of a successful midlist writer caught in a situation that he would’ve written about in one of his own books. Could you imagine what would happen if you found yourself stuck in something you could have written? Wow!

THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW and ENDLESS NIGHT might tie for my third favorite. Aargh! So many to choose from. I love them all the best!

I’ve read a good deal of your stuff and loved it all. I haven’t read Proud Parents yet, but its cover is one of the coolest covers I’ve seen in years. How did that cover come about?

Wow, thank you, man. I’m very happy you like the cover. I believe I had the idea for the cover before the book was even finished. There’s a scene in the book where a character is flipping through Gabe’s drawings and finds many grotesque childhood memories captured in crayon. The cover is one of them and there was another one created for the back cover that features Greg (the Dad) burying a body, but it’s hidden underneath the cover copy. If you look very closely, you can somewhat see part of it.

I love the old garish paperback covers from the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s. Since PROUD PARENTS is also a tribute to those books, I wanted the cover to reflect that. The artist nailed it. It’s probably my favorite, next to A DARK AUTUMN.

Gorgeous Wickedness

Gorgeous Wickedness

One thing that makes your work so engaging is your characterization. Can you pick one or two of your characters that you like most of all? And why did you choose these characters?

Thank you, again. To know that you enjoy the characters is very relieving. Favorites? That’s tough. Believe it or not, I really like Wendy from THE LURKERS. People hate her, but, to me, she’s just misunderstood and very bad at expressing herself through outlets that aren’t anger. SPOILER ALERT: I received emails from readers outraged that Wendy survived in THE LURKERS and so many of the nice characters were killed. I was happy that she made it. It really showed that her love and devotion to Gary could keep her motivated during such a nightmarish ordeal. She wasn’t unscathed by any means and on the last page we know her story isn’t over. I was happy to revisit her in THE LURKING SEASON. Hopefully she will be forgiven for some of her actions in the first book when she comes back in the second one.

Joel from PILLOWFACE is another favorite. A twelve-year-old horror fan living in a world of fantasy that shields him from the horrors of the real world around him. Myself at that age. But I’d like to think that if I befriended a maniac straight from the horror movies that I adore, I wouldn’t be so quick to follow the same path as Joel. Maybe it’s his lack of guidance, but the boy makes a lot of terrible decisions and too many innocent people pay the price.

But my favorite of them all has to be Detective John Stiltson. He’s been with me since I was fourteen years old, pecking away on a typewriter in my bedroom. He’s popped up in so many stories I’ve written throughout the years that I feel like I know him best out of anybody I’ve written about. He’s in ANGEL BOARD as a main character and OAK HOLLOW in a small role. I hope to spend more time with him in the future. He was almost in THE SKIN SHOW, but I quickly decided not to have him come in and take over the book. It was about Andy Raab and if Stiltson showed up, heads would roll.

But he’ll be back soon. I want to do a book that focuses on Stiltson and his trusty partner, Giles. Kind of a crime novel, but with horror elements sprinkled throughout. I have the title and the premise in mind, but haven’t sat down to work on my notes for it.

Fast-Paced Terror

Fast-Paced Terror

What is your favorite part about being a writer? Is there a least favorite part?

Great question. Nobody’s asked me what I like least about being a writer. Maybe I should start there. Honestly, what I like the least is not getting to write more than I already do. I had a huge health scare last year that I’m still trying to recover from. It was one of those close-the-door moments at the doctor’s office when he explained my options. I thank God that it didn’t turn out as badly as the doctor prepared me for. But the future was unknown and I didn’t get to write too much for a long time afterward. My wife helped me set up in the bedroom and I wrote the majority of PROUD PARENTS and all of THE SKIN SHOW in bed. But those weeks where writing was scarce, I felt like an addict in need of a fix. I couldn’t sleep. I was moody and irritable, not a pleasant person to be around. But when I was able to get back to work on PROUD PARENTS, I noticed a quick improvement in how I felt. My attitude changed. I felt better, excited, and eager. Hungry. By the time work began on THE SKIN SHOW, I couldn’t be stopped.

So what I like least about writing are the days I don’t get to do it at all.

And what my favorite part is everything about the process. I love those moments when I can sit back and let the story flow from my brain through my fingers, the days my hands struggle to keep up with the flow. I call it a creative dump from my brain, like it’s been holding it in during a long drive and finally found the rest stop toilet. The story just plops out. Haha. Gross, I know.

I love watching the characters grow. Wendy from THE LURKERS is the perfect example of this. So is Sheriff Ben Holly from PRANK NIGHT. Greg and Sheila from PROUD PARENTS. Miles from THE SKIN SHOW. These characters start off as one type of person, then they quickly adapt into something stronger. But there’s also a flipside to that. There’re those characters that start off strong but quickly decay into something you’re not expecting. I’ve been surprised more than once when somebody I think will live to the end are quickly dispatched in a rather gruesome way.

And I love hearing from my readers and getting to meet them. Last March in Horrorhound a reader came to the table with a stack of my stuff for me to sign. Another person came with a framed DVD sleeve of Psycho Holocaust for me to sign. That was a humbling experience. I felt like, maybe for the first time, that I was finally there, you know. It still makes me feel tingly whenever somebody pops up and tells me they enjoyed one of my books. I know I can’t win them all, and I don’t, but when I do I’m very grateful.

Another Great Read

Another Great Read

What’s on the horizon for Kristopher Rufty? Can you talk about the projects you’re working on and what else you have planned?

I love talking about what’s coming next. Sinister Grin Press picked up my novel JAGGER and will be releasing it in December. They’re planning a huge promotion to coincide with the release. I think they’ve already booked podcasts, interviews, and have a lot more plans for it. It’ll be available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book. I’m really excited about this book. It’s my killer dog story, but told in a way that I think has never been done. I put characters from my independent movie, Rags, in the book and had so much fun with them.

Somewhere around that time I’ll put out the e-book and possibly the paperback of BIGFOOT BEACH. The hardcover will come next year sometime with some other surprises inside. This book was a blast to write. The idea started two years ago when I went to eat lunch with my kids at school and somehow we got on the subject about how we all have big feet. I made a comment that if somebody saw our footprints in the sand at the beach they’d think a Bigfoot was running loose. It was one of those moments where the idea exploded in my head and I couldn’t talk for a few moments as the story just assembled itself right there. My kids have been excited to see this one come out, so I can’t wait for people to read it.

Thunderstorm Books wants to put out one more new one from me before the end of the year also, but I don’t know if it’ll make it. This one might be the first of 2015, but if I can get the rewrites done in time, it just might print before Christmas. Either way, it’s going to be a beautiful book. This one is my vampire tale, set in the 50’s in a small farming town in Wisconsin. That’s about all I’m going to say for now.

I have two titles coming from Samhain in 2015. The first will be THE LURKING SEASON, a sequel to THE LURKERS, and the other I won’t name just yet. I turned it in last week, so I can talk more about it soon.

Also, Audio Realms will release the audiobooks for PILLOWFACE and OAK HOLLOW before the end of the year, plus some more next year. I’ve heard samples of these books and I’m very happy with how they turned out.

I also have to have a book turned in to DarkFuse by May. It’s my first of three for them. It’ll come out the year after, with the other two following each year after. So I’ll be busy for a while and I couldn’t be happier.

Thanks for having me on your blog, buddy. It’s always fun. Can’t wait to hang out again and talk about writing and old horror paperbacks. Congratulations on EXORCIST ROAD, such a powerfully horrifying story that I still think about. It’s one of those that’ll stay with me forever.

And that’s a wrap. See what I mean about Kristopher? Not only does he write outstanding, edge-of-your-seat books, he has impeccable taste in other writers.

So check him out now. I promise you’ll have a great time!

 

 

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: My Vampire/Superhero Novel for Only $1.99!

Hey, friends. Sparse blogging month, but I suspect you all know why (family, writing, teaching, three dozen other things). So I’ll get right to it: my vampire/superhero/action/horror/everything-and-the-kitchen-sink novel BLOODSHOT: KINGDOM OF SHADOWS is only $1.99 right now at Amazon.

If you love superheroes, great. But if that turns you off, forget the superhero part and focus on the rest. This, my friends, is an exciting tale that holds something for everyone. What a great way to celebrate Halloween!

Ready to explode onto your Kindle

Ready to explode onto your Kindle

 

Audiobook News! SAVAGE SPECIES! THE DARKEST LULLABY! TOO MANY CAPS AND EXCLAMATIONS!!!

Hey, friends. A whole lotta blog silence over the past twelve days, but believe me, I’ve been working. Editing one novel. Writing another. Brainstorming a third.

But today I’ve got some really fantastic news about my first two audiobooks.

SAVAGE SPECIES has been out for a while now, and it’s a fabulous production. Even better, I got word yesterday that it’ll be popping up on Audible.com and several other places soon. Which rocks. And the coolest thing is that the whole thing is only $9.99, which is incredibly cheap for an audiobook, particularly one as rousing and entertaining as this one (Was that narcissistic? A little? A LOT?!). Randy Hames absolutely rocked the reading, so I hope you’ll check it out soon.

Listen to the terror...

Listen to the terror…

Speaking of Randy Hames…

The guru of Audio Realms Publishing (a super guy named Fred Godsmark) was able to procure Randy’s gritty, nuanced, transfixing verbal services for my second audiobook THE DARKEST LULLABY. The cover is pictured below.

darkest lullaby SQ

I haven’t yet heard THE DARKEST LULLABY, but I’ve already heard great things from the folks who have heard it. If hearing that makes any sense to you. And this one too will be showing up on Audible.com very soon. I’m guessing its price tag will also be pretty dang reasonable.

So that’s all for tonight. I hope all is well with you, friends.

The Monster Men and I Take on Vampires!

Last week I appeared with Hunter Shea and Jack Campisi on their wonderful MONSTER MEN show. Well, that interview/discussion turned into two interviews/discussions, and the second installment is available to watch now. It’s about vampires. And my novel DUST DEVILS. Because it contains vampires.

A Wild Vampire Western

A Wild Vampire Western

In addition to that, we talk about FRIGHT NIGHT.

fright night

‘SALEM’S LOT

salems-lot-artwork

FEVRE DREAM

Dark Brilliance

Dark Brilliance

I AM LEGEND

Richard-Matheson_I-Am-Legend

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

let the right one in

THE LIGHT AT THE END

TheLightattheEndKindleCoverII

And two dozen other vampire-related topics. So check it out, friends. It’ll be time well spent.

THE NIGHTMARE GIRL: Cover and Synopsis Reveal

Hey, friends. When an editor gets excited, I tend to get excited too. Especially when it’s editor Don D’Auria, a man who has edited the likes of Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, and Brian Keene.

The book Don’s excited about is my upcoming January release THE NIGHTMARE GIRL. Here’s the creepy Angela Waters cover:

Fiery Terror

Fiery Terror

And here’s a very short, very rough, very unofficial synopsis:

When building contractor Joe Crawford confronts a young mother abusing her toddler in a gas station parking lot, he sets in motion a deadly cycle of revenge, supernatural terror, and fanatical cult violence. Soon, Joe must fight to save his wife, his daughter, and the abused little boy from an ancient fire cult in THE NIGHTMARE GIRL.

I’ll be talking more about the story soon, but for now I’ll just say that this one, though horror, is also a suspense/mystery novel. It’s also a tribute of sorts to one of my literary heroes, Mr. Joe R. Lansdale. Oh, and the ending was inspired by Quentin Tarantino. I can’t wait for you to read it.

Bryan Smith Kills Again: An Interview about STRANGE WAYS and Other Stories

Bryan Smith is one of my favorite writers working today. He sells a lot of books, but more importantly (to me, at least), he writes really, really well. His prose moves, he knows how to surprise without cheating, and he maintains his narrative energy from the beginning of a story to the end. I was fortunate enough to meet him and sign books with him this summer at Scares That Care, and I hope I get the chance to work with him again soon.

So without further ado, here’s a short interview with a man I’m proud to call a friend. His new novel is called STRANGE WAYS

strange ways

1. STRANGE WAYS is an arresting title. Could you talk about why you chose it and how it ties into the story?

STRANGE WAYS was the original title of an earlier novel I eventually retitled SOULTAKER. The bulk of SOULTAKER was actually written before my first novel was published. I came back to it when I was stuck for something to do as my fifth novel for Leisure Books. I think I changed the title because SOULTAKER felt more to-the-point and was similar to the title of an earlier book I’d written for Leisure called DEATHBRINGER. But I always liked STRANGE WAYS as a title and eventually decided to revive it for this latest book. The only way it really ties into the story, though, is that a lot of strange things begin to happen in this idyllic suburban neighborhood after some new people move in. I took care to emphasize that strangeness in the early chapters so that there’d be at least a somewhat legitimate excuse to use it. The actual origin of the title is a little convoluted. Many years ago, when I wrote the first two-thirds of what would eventually be SOULTAKER, I wanted something that would capture the, well, strange and freaky vibe of the novel. At the time I had the Doors song “Strange Days” on my mind and sort of derived it from that. Later I realized “Strange Ways” was the name of a KISS song from their second record. Both are great songs. Like a lot of horror writers of my generation, I’m strongly influenced by rock music in general.

2. You’re a versatile writer. You’ve worked, at the very least, in three distinct genres so far: horror, crime/action, and urban fantasy (at least, some would call the KAYLA books urban fantasy…though I just think of them as horror). To what do you owe these diverse interests? Is it just “in you”? Is it because you watch these types of movies and read these types of books? Or is it something else entirely?

It’s because my interests encompass all those things and more. Although I love horror, I’ve always wanted to write in other genres, particularly the crime genre. I probably read more crime novels—in particular, vintage pulp crime novels from the 40’s and 50’s—more than anything else. My recent novels 68 KILL and BLOOD AND WHISKEY stem from that interest, and I’d like to do more of that kind of thing in the future. But the bulk of my audience is comprised of horror readers, so I keep most of my focus in that direction. Eventually, however, there will be another crime novel. The KAYLA books are definitely my version of urban fantasy. Some horror people perceive them as horror books, but that’s only because urban fantasy is steeped in a lot of similar tropes. In terms of gore and explicit content, the KAYLA books are pretty tame compared to my straightforward horror stuff. That series came about because I was stuck for something to write after my wife died a few years ago. At first, I wasn’t even sure I had it in me to write again. My wife wasn’t a horror fan, but she did love the urban fantasy stuff, so I decided to take a shot at writing the kind of thing she might have enjoyed. I enjoyed writing those books and may eventually come back to the series.

kayla-and-the-devilfinal

3. Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a favorite character or two? Why has this character (or why have these characters) stuck with you?

I have a few favorites. At the top of the list are probably Kayla Monroe from the KAYLA series, Roxie from the KILLING KIND series, and Jessica Sloan from the DEPRAVED books. By this point it’s no secret that I have a fondness for snide, snarky badass female characters. I guess it’s fair to say that I have something of a bad girl fetish. I’m sure there are those out there who tire of me repeating the type, but they’re just going to have to deal with it if they plan to continue reading my books. I may occasionally deviate from the template I’ve used just to subvert the expectations of readers, but I’ll always eventually revisit that kind of character.

KaylaUndead (1)

 

4. Back to STRANGE WAYS…Delphine, Simone, and Zarina are the names of your “Sisters of the Endless Night.” They sound like interesting characters in that they do bad things but might not be without redeeming characteristics. In past novels you’ve demonstrated an ability to present this duality in a believable way. Is this a conscious decision on your part, or do the characters just develop with both positive and negative traits naturally? Are you drawn to characters who can be both cruel and sympathetic?

In general terms, yeah, characters develop that way naturally as I write the books. Most people in the world have both good and bad in them, even those who are largely loathsome for various reasons. Kayla is a lot like that. She’s just not a nice person at all, but she recognizes that and feels bad about it at times. STRANGE WAYS is a different case, though. The members of the coven are pretty much entirely without redeeming characteristics. In part, that’s a result of a desire to veer away from the more reality-rooted recent books I’ve done and write a more straightforward good vs. evil exercise in good old-fashioned horror entertainment. These witches in STRANGE WAYS are quasi-immortals who have prolonged their lives through centuries via mastery of black magic. I do explain that in the early days of their coven they had some moral qualms about what they were doing. However, by the time we meet them in the modern era all of that has long since passed away and they are just purely evil.

5. Lastly, what does the future hold for Bryan Smith? I know you’re kicking around several story ideas. Can you share any insights on future projects? Books your fans might be able to look forward to?

New ideas come to me on an almost daily basis. I’ve had to learn to set aside a lot of them and focus on the ones that have the most obvious potential. A while back I talked about how I wanted to become a modern equivalent to the pulp writers of a bygone era. A lot of the guys who wrote those pulp novels made their living by constantly grinding out new product. It wasn’t unusual for people like Gil Brewer and Carter Brown to write novels in a month or less, and they would often release several novels a year. So that’s been my goal over the last couple years, to relentlessly plow through one book after another with only small breaks between them. So far it’s working for me, and I’ve finally realized my lifelong dream of making a living solely by writing by doing it this way. Some of the upcoming projects I have planned are a zombie novel called SLOWLY WE ROT, a slasher novel called TONIGHT THEY DIE, a third KAYLA book, a haunted house novel, another sequel to DEPRAVED, a crime novel that may or may not be called DIRTY DEEDS, and any number of other things. At some point I’ll be collaborating on a novella with Ryan Harding. I never have any shortage of new projects on the horizon, obviously.

smith

That’s all for now, folks. You can pick up STRANGE WAYS right here.

Thank you to Bryan Smith. And thank you all for reading this interview and for going out and buying a couple Bryan Smith books. Believe me, you’ll enjoy them. The dude truly knows how to tell a story.

Leisure Horror Fans Rejoice! Samhain Horror Is HERE!

How many of you remember how awesome it used to be to be able to count on two Leisure Horror titles every month? I remember discovering names like Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, John Everson, Tim Waggoner, and too many others to mention through Leisure. I also remembering, many years ago, deciding I wanted to be published by Leisure and edited by the man behind the line, Don D’Auria.

Don D'Auria. Suspected of Vampirism. *If anyone has proof that Mr. D'Auria has aged in the past two decades, please contact the CIA.

Don D’Auria. Suspected of Vampirism.
*If anyone has proof that Mr. D’Auria has aged in the past two decades, please contact the CIA.

Then Leisure and its parent company, Dorchester Publishing, went under, and Don began a horror line at a different company (Don, by the way, had nothing to do with the company’s financial woes and always treated his authors with the utmost respect).

Enter Samhain Publishing. Already a red-hot seller of romance titles, Samhain was ready to begin a new line of books in a different genre, and when Don D’Auria became available, they snatched him up and created Samhain Horror.

Erotic Horror

Erotic Horror

What’s my point?

Before everything went bad at Leisure, you could count on two awesome horror novels every month. Now, at Samhain Horror, you can count on (at least) two awesome horror novels every month, plus at least one or two novellas.

Leisure’s book were affordable. You could grab a paperback for about eight bucks. Now, by clicking on this link and buying directly from the Samhain Horror website (and using the PAPERBACK50 code at checkout), you can buy a paperback for about eight bucks. The ebooks are reasonably priced as well, often selling for under four bucks in the first month of release.

Tim Waggoner. Rock Star.

Tim Waggoner. Rock Star.

Same editor. Same quality. Same affordability. Heck, Samhain even features some of the same authors (including the aforementioned Bryan Smith, John Everson, and Tim Waggoner). And I dare say you’ll love many of the new authors Samhain Horror has midwifed into existence (including Brian Moreland, Hunter Shea, Kristopher Rufty, a ton of other fantastic writers, and….*whistles politely*….*pauses out of respect for other authors or maybe just to add drama to his own name’s unveiling*…Jonathan Janz).

Bryan Smith Mayhem

Bryan Smith Mayhem

So if you were one of the orphaned Leisure Horror fans left in the lurch when that company—well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty, you can rejoice. Samhain Horror has your fix. Monthly. For a good price.

That is all.

Oh, and buy the book pictured below. It’s a great place to start reading Samhain Horror.

A Wild Vampire Western

A Wild Vampire Western

For My Daughter on Her Seventh Birthday: The Grub on My Chest

One of my older daughter’s nicknames is Sparkle, so we’ll go with that for now. A quick story about her…

When Sparkle was a wee baby, we brought her home from the hospital (after only a brief debate). I was prepared for the worst. See, my first child (my son) was Mr. High Energy and allowed us to sleep for no more than twenty-six minutes at a time over the first year of his life. My boy, as much as I love him, was a force of nature, his wails slamming into us like a neverending tsunami. A tsunami on steroids.

So we figured Sparkle would be insane as well, right?

I had everything set up. I had my recliner by the big picture window in the den, I had my portable DVD player, I had a pile of DVDs I could watch and listen to on my headphones. I was ready. It was the middle of summer, so I was shirtless. I mention that not to make you shiver in revulsion but because all the parenting books talked about how important skin-to-skin contact is for a baby.

I placed my newborn Sparkle on my chest, reclined the chair, donned my headphones, and started my first feature. I’d even been sure to avoid liquids for an hour prior so I could minimize urination breaks.

Like a human grub, my little Sparkle lay on her stomach, curled up her legs beneath her, and nestled into me with her fuzzy head under my chin and her tiny diapered buns pointed heavenward. She lay there and lay there, and even when the vicious cannibal in RAVENOUS began murdering and devouring people, Sparkle never stirred.

Ravenous_ver1

This is uncanny, I thought to myself. And amazing. My first child never remained this still for this long. I’m almost halfway through an honest-to-goodness movie, and she hasn’t begun to shriek at me like Donald Sutherland at the end of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

sutherland

I finished the movie, and the grub on my chest continued to slumber.

I replaced RAVENOUS with the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.

Still no movement from Sparkle. For perhaps the sixtieth time since I’d taken my position, I craned my neck down to make sure she was breathing.

Yep. Still breathing. Just not crying or kicking or shaking her fists at me like Peter Finch in NETWORK (Hey, might as well stick with the movie references, right?). I got halfway through my movie and began to get seriously worried. Because Sparkle still wasn’t crying.

Crazy-Howard-Beale-Peter-Finch-from-the-movie-Network.

I licked my lips, debating. I was worried about her, but after all, this was what I’d hoped for, wasn’t it? I mean, had my son been this docile I might not have spent 2005 and 2006 sleepless. So I took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on the movie. Yet despite its quality, the only thing I could pay attention to was the barely-moving grub on my chest.

day_the_earth_stood_still_poster

I felt a mental chill. Panic gripped me. I reached down as quickly as I could without upsetting Sparkle and called the nurse.

ME: I think I’ve got a serious issue.

NURSE ON CALL (voice tight with apprehension): What is it, sir?

ME: It’s my daughter. She’s a newborn. We just got her home and…

NURSE ON CALL: Yes?

ME: She’s, um…not crying.

NURSE ON CALL: (silence)

ME: That’s bad, right?

NURSE ON CALL: Is she breathing without effort?

ME (glances at Sparkle’s back): I think so.

NURSE ON CALL: Does she appear to be in any discomfort?

ME: No. Not at all. See, that’s what’s worrying me.

NURSE ON CALL (bemused): I’m afraid I don’t see the problem.

ME: She’s not screaming at all. She hasn’t slapped me yet or peed sixteen feet in the air or punctured one of my eardrums with her shrieking.

NURSE ON CALL (another pause): Is there anything else you need tonight, sir?

ME: So she’s…okay?

NURSE ON CALL: (click)

Sparkle continued to breathe gently. I sighed and lay back, more relaxed than I’d ever been in my life. Then I put in RESERVOIR DOGS.

Daughter, you continue to have that same soothing effect on me. When I’m worried or unsure, you calm me. Your smile, your positive attitude, your assurance that Yes Daddy, everything’s going to be just fine all work to achieve the impossible. You help me relax.

Proof of the Sparkle

Proof of the Sparkle

When I’m sick, you always volunteer to help me. You bring me a warm, very wet washcloth and slop on it onto my forehead. You pour me the Sprite we always keep on hand for sickness, and you always remember to pour some for yourself as well. You caress my hair and talk, it doesn’t matter about what.

You’re my little angel.

Sparkle, I hope you never change. Oh, you can grow and all that stuff, but never lose the amazing, warm, nurturing heart that makes you who you are.

I love you forever, my little daughter! Thank you for being you!

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