freaky gun story in Santa FeAs a hor­ror writer, I still have to shake my head at the way real­ity con­sis­tently trumps fic­ton when it comes to lunacy, audac­ity, and sheer whacked-​out nuttiness.

David Morrell's tautly woven historical thrillerMetic­u­lously researched and beau­ti­fully writ­ten, David Morrell’s Mur­der As A Fine Art takes its name from an essay by Thomas De Quincey, whose mem­oir Con­fes­sions of an Eng­lish Opium-​Eater cre­ated a scan­dal in Vic­to­rian Lon­don when it was pub­lished in 1821.

What does a horror writer look like?It hap­pened again the other day. A woman I’d recently met asked me what kind of writ­ing I do. When I said I write hor­ror, she seemed taken aback and said that was the last thing she’d have expected. This is not uncom­mon in my expe­ri­ence, yet I’m fairly cer­tain that romance writ­ers, for exam­ple (unless they hap­pen to be male), don’t get this sort of reaction.

On the Writing Life and Raising Guinea PigsThe chief rea­son why I’m poorer today than when I was born is that I’m a writer who hasn’t con­vinced the world of it. Nor a sin­gle edi­tor. And the boss told me once I would do bet­ter rais­ing guinea pigs as a side line.”

Nightmare on Griffin StreetThe hap­pi­est end­ings are some­times too ran­dom, too unbe­liev­able, too ‘con­trived’ to ever work in the world of fic­tion. A writer can’t just wrap up a sus­pense story with “…and then, when all seemed lost, some­thing unex­pected hap­pened and every­thing turned out okay!”

A few days ago, I got a fran­tic phone call from Angie, a woman who feeds a small colony of feral cats along a depress­ing indus­trial strip in Grover Beach. One of the reg­u­lars had failed to turn up, and now Angie was hear­ing cries com­ing from a stor­age locker in a unit adja­cent to the lot where the fer­als nor­mally gather.

A Feast to Die For

Sugar Skulls, Candy Coffins, and Pan de Muertos

Ever wish you could trade hol­i­days with another cul­ture? In my Cen­tral Coast neigh­bor­hood, Hal­loween dec­o­ra­tions are start­ing to appear: pump­kins on porches, skele­tons dan­gling on doors, witches’ caul­drons dusted out to be filled with bite-​sized Milky Ways and Her­sheys and the like.

But while folks here are gear­ing up for Hal­loween, in Mex­ico and in Mex­i­can com­mu­ni­ties around the US, this is the time of prepa­ra­tion for Dia de Los Muer­tos. Tra­di­tion has it that on mid­night on Octo­ber 31, the gates of heaven open and the souls of chil­dren return; souls of departed adults fol­low the day after, on Nov. 2. All are greeted with boun­ti­ful offer­ings of food, drink, and flow­ers. And heart­felt, often jovial, reminiscences.