Hello and welcome to the 6th issue of The Ghoulish Times. Last Saturday I skipped writing a newsletter due to the fact that I was in England freezing my ass off, but now I’m back in Texas and ready to tell y’all about my trip. But first! Have you noticed that crack in the sky? It seems to be spreading…
BENEATH THE SALTON SEA
Our next release, Michael Paul Gonzalez’s Beneath the Salton Sea, comes out in just a couple weeks, so how about a cover reveal and a new promotional trailer?
Every memory is a recording.
Nothing about the Salton Sea is normal. The sand isn’t sand. Just piles and piles of desiccated bones. There are little pockets where life clings on, birds, reptiles, people. It’s an ecosystem of living things that rely on other living things too stubborn to leave. Life forcing itself on death, or maybe the other way around.
Dee and her wife Sharon find this out the hard way after making a quick stop at Salvation Mountain to film some b-roll and see the sights out in the middle of the vast nothing. A bizarre rumor of a “crack in the sky” from one of the locals sends them on the hunt for an abandoned yacht club— where they make a discovery that changes their lives forever, and those close to them as well.
Could you identify a loved one by their whisper?
Beneath the Salton Sea is a cosmic horror technological nightmare transcribing the raw honesty of what makes a family, what breaks them, the difficulties of communication, and the painful joy of memories.
If you knew this was the last thing I’d ever tell you, what would you want me to say?
"Beneath the Salton Sea is a mesmerizing trip into the strange, uncanny places of the world. The setting lurches to horrific life in Gonzalez’s deft prose, inviting us all to explore the otherworldly decay that permeates this place. This is a haunting story—I won’t be able to forget the visceral images that these characters encounter any time soon…" — Jo Kaplan, author of It Will Just Be Us
"Beneath the Salton Sea is a hallucinatory wonder. A lyrical exploration of emotional trauma and the timelessness of grief. Gonzalez's words draw you in, sentences washing over you in waves, before the story pulls you under completely." — Joshua Chaplinsky, author of The Paradox Twins
“I loved every word of this startlingly visionary novel. A bizarro blend of The Twilight Zone meets Emily Dickinson, Beneath the Salton Sea is a lyrical and dark exploration of the impossible, of grief, and of longing. This is what loss looks like.” — Lee Murray, double Bram Stoker Award®-winner and author of Grotesque: Monster Stories.
Pre-order Beneath the Salton Sea directly from our webstore, and receive a signed bookplate from the author: ORDER LINK.
Jay Wilburn returned to GHOULISH to talk about ratman, live-streaming on Twitch, adapting to new generations, and the dying slang from our youth.
Tim Waggoner recently published the novelization for Halloween Kills, so I invited him onto the podcast to discuss the process of writing a movie novelization. And, because my friend Miguel Myers (host of My Horror Confessional) is the biggest Halloween fan I know, I felt obligated to allow him to guest co-host the episode with me. It’s a fun time! Don’t listen if you haven’t seen Halloween Kills, as we dig deep into spoiler territory.
THE BLOODY UK, MATE
As mentioned in my last newsletter, the Celluloid Screams film fest in Sheffield, England invited me to attend the UK premiere of my horror movie, We Need to Do Something. I thought, for those interested, I would do a brief breakdown of my trip in this week’s newsletter.
I drove to Miguel’s house in Austin (yes, the same one who hosts the My Horror Confessional podcast) and dropped my car off in his driveway so he could drive me to the airport. He was kind enough to let me leave my car there to avoid paying parking garage fees. He also baked me an entire bag of cookies for my journey. These weren’t just any kind of cookies, either, but cookies cut into the shape of Michael Myers and various knives. Here’s a photo that is either a knife or Michael Myers’s penis (which maybe are the same thing, when you really think about it):
Fortunately I don’t have much to comment on concerning the actual travel aspect, because nothing went wrong and everything was pretty smooth. I flew from Austin, TX to London, which was like a 9+ hour flight, had a 3+ hour layover, then flew another hour to Manchester. I did find it amusing that the first thing waiting for new arrivals in the London airport was a Harry Potter-themed airport, which—to me—felt like the equivalent of a gun shop at baggage claim in a Texas airport (which we absolutely do have).
From Manchester I took two trains to get me to Sheffield. Here is a blurry photo of some sheep I passed as I neared my destination:
After getting off my train, a staff member with the film fest was waiting for me at the station in the freezing cold. They’d even made up an amazing little sign with my name on it. It was definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. She walked me over to the cinema (The Showroom) to check-in with the rest of the fest and obtain my badge and goodie bag, then I was sent off to my hotel room at the Jurys Inn.
I was also later given a very cool T-shirt, which is shown here:
Immediately I’m thinking, okay, this is the best film fest in the world. And you know what? I don’t think I was far off. Celluloid Screams rules, and if you ever get the chance to attend it, I highly recommend doing so.
Anyway, since my train arrived rather late into the evening, I barely had time to check into the fest and my room before the opening film started, so I rushed back to the Showroom and slid into my seat just in time to catch the UK premiere of Antlers, a film I had been greatly anticipated for a couple years now (it’d been delayed a couple times because of COVID).
So, with Antlers…I think it has some amazing creature design. The whole movie is gorgeous to look at. Just spectacular cinematography all around. Unfortunately I was pretty disappointed by the rest of it. I think maybe it would have improved with more time to breathe, perhaps as an additional season of Channel Zero.
After the screening, I decided I desperately needed to eat food, as I hadn’t eaten anything since, like, 9AM, and it was already almost midnight. Unfortunately, the Showroom pub had already stopped serving food, so I chugged a couple pints and went off on my way to find something to eat in the city of Sheffield at 12AM—stumbling drunkenly in a strange place I’d never visited before (this was, in fact, my first time ever leaving the United States). Finding food proved oddly difficult that night, for some reason. None of the pubs I entered still had food cooking. There was nothing else around my hotel that I could locate, and I was just about to surrender and buy candy bars from my hotel lobby when I discovered a flashing sign almost directly across from the hotel: CHICKEN BAR. What is a CHICKEN BAR? I wondered, then decided it did not matter, and ran across the street because, evidently, jaywalking is not only accepted in the UK, but it’s also highly encouraged. The chicken bar turned out to be awesome. Just a small diner that serves fried chicken, kebabs, pizzas, etc. I bought some fried chicken and chips and stumbled back to my hotel room where I curled up in bed and feasted while watching the Horror Channel.
Yes. That’s something else I discovered on my first night in Sheffield. The UK has a Horror Channel, and it supposedly stays active all year, not just in October. What a miracle. You’re Next was just starting up when I turned on the television, so I watched that until falling asleep. At some point the term “mumblegore” originated in my head, which I decided was the genre most appropriate to describe my own fiction writing.
I woke up early the next morning and caught an Uber across the city for my Day 2 appointment, which is a mandatory test for anybody traveling to the UK. Basically just an additional COVID test. I talked with Michael David Wilson (host of the This is Horror podcast) on the phone while waiting for the clinic to open and we talked about how every British person seems to be mildly annoyed about everything.
After returning to my hotel, I took a shower and walked over to the Showroom for some lunch. I got a chicken gyro wrap and a pint of something alcoholic. Then I took a decent walk into the city center in search of an indie bookstore. I try to make it a habit to support at least one independent bookstore whenever I visit a new place. The store that was recommended to me by Celluloid Screams happened to be a little kiosk called La Biblioteka. I purchased a copy of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, mostly because the title is the most heavy metal title I’ve ever heard in my life. How fucking cool is that title. Oh my god. The rest of the book also looks great, I’m looking forward to one day having time to read it.
I roamed around the city center for a little while longer, buying a few gifts for my family here and there, although Sheffield is definitely more of a industrial/college city than an ideal place to purchase gifts—which is totally okay, I’m not complaining. I quite enjoyed how Sheffield looked and felt, and I can’t wait for another opportunity to visit.
For dinner, I returned to the Showroom’s pub and ate a “buttermilk chicken burger on a pretzel bun”, which was as delicious as you might expect.
Then I returned to my hotel room and waited for BBCSheffield, the local radio station, to give my cell a ring. I was interviewed live on the air around 8:15PM in anticipation of the premiere of We Need to Do Something (which would be screening only an hour later). The interview went pretty well. The host, much to my amusement, seemed mostly fascinated with my name. I guess he had never met anybody with a suffix before. His final question, if my memory is correct, was, “How did you come upon a name like that?” Which I responded with, “Well, I wasn’t given a choice. I was pried from my mom’s womb and they just gave me the name without consulting me about it.”
I do have to give the radio host props, though, because the bizarre question completely threw off my plan to get murdered in Sheffield. The entire day I knew I would be doing this interview, you understand, which means I had the entire day to cook up a truly stupid idea. I intended, toward the end of the conversation, to ask the host what the most popular “soccer” team here was, and once he answered, I was going to insult the team and imply it consisted of “a bunch of grandmothers” and then challenge anybody who spotted me on the street to come fight me if they disagreed. Why would I say any of this? Because I am a stupid person who cannot resist doing the least logical thing in any situation. Except when someone interrogates me about my name, I guess. Well played, BBCSheffield. Well played.
After the call, I rushed back to the Showroom just in time for the UK premiere of We Need to Do Something. I gave a brief introduction that consisted of something like “Do you like bathrooms? Do you like movies? Well, I have good news for you.” As it turns out, the kind folks of Sheffield enjoy both bathrooms and movies (although, I think in the UK “bathrooms” are more commonly called “toilets”—my sincere apologies). I’ve attended numerous screenings of this movie now, and I have to say, the Celluloid Screams showing might be my favorite theater experience of all time. The crowd fucking loved it. They laughed at the right jokes and reacted to the right scares in the exact way I hoped they would, which isn’t always the case. There’s been other screenings where not a laugh could be heard the entire runtime, which—trust me—is abysmal feeling. But this screening was the opposite of abysmal. It was goddamn awesome. I also did a Q&A after the screening and that went pretty well, too. The director, Sean King O’Grady, Zoomed in to accept questions virtually alongside me.
All in all, it was a great day, one that I will never forget.
The next day, I found a proper British pub that insults its customers in the menu alone.
Now it’s time to admit how lame I am, because on Saturday I did pretty much nothing but sleep. The excessive travel finally caught up to me and completely wrecked my brain and body and I passed the fuck out. At one point, I managed to make it back down to the Showroom for a screening of Broadcast Signal Intrusion, which I ended up really loving. One of the best films I saw at the festival. It's a noir techno horror paranoid spasm of everything I like in fiction. Max Headroom, eat your animatronic heart out.
I did a little more walking around Saturday night, but nothing exciting enough to report here.
Due to sleeping all day Saturday, I ended up staying awake until 5AM watching stupid shit on TV and reading Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show, which meant I slept all day again on Sunday—which was a little intentional, since I would be leaving Sunday night (or Monday morning) at 3:45AM via train. So, I slept until the late afternoon, then I got some lunch and headed over to the Showroom for a screening of When I Consume You. I loved Perry Blackshear's They Look Like People so my expectations were really high with this one, and I was not let down in the slightest. Seek this out the moment it becomes available.
Directly after the screening, I did a video interview for Celluloid Screams that will eventually go on their YouTube page, and also another interview for Ghouls Magazine. Not sure when either will be published. I’ll provide updates on both in future newsletters.
The closing film of the fest was Titane, which I decided to skip since I’d just watched it back in Texas the week before flying out here. Great movie, though! You should definitely watch it. I just wanted to use that time to go back to the hotel and shower and pack my bags.
A little after midnight on (technically) Monday morning, I returned to the Showroom for the Celluloid Screams karaoke after party. I intended on just hanging out for a little bit to not appear rude. I did not plan on having any drinks. This plan did not last, as the moment I walked into the pub I was handed two beers.
These drinks quickly multiplied, and suddenly it was 3AM and I was nearly blackout drunk. At some point I believe I was involved in a group karaoke number. I am not exactly sure. Either way, I was coherent enough to realize what time it was, and rushed back to my hotel to collect my bags (forgetting my phone charger, of course), check out of the hotel room, and scramble to the train station.
Rather than waste any more space here, I’ll link to my drunk twitter thread documenting my train travel.
And, since I am have nearly hit my email length limit, I’ll end this newsletter with a video of my dog Frank, having discovered that I did not, in fact, abandon him forever.
Okay, that’s it! We Need to Do Something is finally available on VOD in the UK. Go rent/buy it digitally! Watch it in your bathroom. Don’t flush until it’s over.
See you next Saturday, ghouls.