Archive for December, 2011

Translated from Italian news via the Panorama military newspaper, Friday 16 December 2011 edition.

Wine bottle writing contest grows in popularity

According to Italy’s statistic agency ISTAT, more than half of Italians don’t read even a book a year that is not imposed by their work or study duties. One Italian family out of 10 doesn’t have a single book at home, the survey reported. Since people read very little in Italy, winemakers and a leading Italian bookstore decided six years ago to promote reading in a particular way. They set up a short story contest for amateur writers on a subject related to wine, and three winners would have had their works published on the backs of wine bottles. This year, winners will see their short stories published in the form of tiny booklets attached to the bottles of wine. This contest’s popularity grew over the years, to include about 1,000 short stories, and the organizers are now thinking about extending the contest in Europe, as well as in the United States and Canada.

Interesting concept. I haven’t yet seen the stories on the backs of wine bottles here in Italy, but I’ll be looking now that I’m aware of it. I hope this finds its way to the States.

When I was in grade school, I really enjoyed horror movies and comics. I had always thought I owned some horror comics in 5th Grade, but it could have been later, perhaps 6th or even 8th. I always had a memory of a particular one that had a graphic beheading as the title page (and again later in the story). I didn’t remember the name of the story or the magazine that contained it, but a few years ago I found a book called The Zombie Factory, and it contained the story “A Corpse for the Coffin” – the one I remembered from years ago.

There was another story I remembered reading around the same time. It was about a man visiting a castle in search of a tapestry. He encountered a vampire, whom he destroyed at the end in sunlight. After searching for some time, I found a website that listed all of the horror comics by Eerie Publications. “The Hungry Vampire” seemed like the story, so I ordered a DVD ROM of the comics and confirmed that it was in fact the story I remembered.

I found that both “The Hungry Vampire” and “A Corpse for the Coffin” were published many times over the years. Both were published in Weird Vampire Tales in subsequent issues, January 1981 and April 1981. This puts them in 7th Grade for me, which doesn’t seem right because I really (think) I remember reading them in 5th Grade.

It’s possible that both stories were published in some other magazine, but I haven’t yet found anything.

Anyway, listed below are all of the Eerie Publications that contained the stories from 1978 onward (taken from the website above). If anyone knows of other publications that contained these particular stories, please let me know.

Terror Tales v9n1, Jan 1978, 68pp, $1.50
Cover reprinted from Weird v8n4b

The Horror Doll – Reprinted from Tales From the Tomb v6n5
Living Corpse – Reprinted from Tales From the Tomb v6n5
The Witches Coven – Reprinted from Horror Tales v3n4
Dead Dummies – Reprinted from Weird v3n5
The Zombies Vault – Reprinted from Terror Tales v2n3
A Corpse For the Coffin – Reprinted from Witches Tales v2n4
Satan’s Demon – Reprinted from Horror Tales v2n5
The Transparent Ones – Reprinted from Tales of Voodoo v5n4
The Devil’s Machine – Reprinted from Tales of Voodoo v4n5
Mask of Horror – Reprinted from Weird v6n6

Weird Vampire Tales v5n2a, Apr 1981, 60pp, $2.50

Fangs of Horror – Reprinted from Witches Tales v6n2
The Flesh Eaters – Reprinted from Tales of Voodoo v5n5
Vampires Plague – Reprinted from Terror Tales v7n1
The Evil Trip – Reprinted from Weird Worlds v2n3
Vampire – Reprinted from Tales of Voodoo v7n2
The Demons Night – Reprinted from Terror Tales v4n1
A Corpse For the Coffin – Reprinted from Witches Tales v2n4
Dead Thing Among Us – Reprinted from Tales From the Tomb v6n6
Signed in Blood – Reprinted from Tales of Voodoo v3n1

Weird Vampire Tales v5n1, Jan 1981, 60pp, $1.95

The Strange Vampire – Reprinted from Horror Tales v4n4
Snakepit – Reprinted from Weird v7n7
The Fleshrippers – Reprinted from Weird v7n6
Drowned in Sand- Reprinted from Weird v7n6
The Hungry Vampire- Reprinted from Weird v6n3
The Invaders – Reprinted from Weird Worlds v2n4
[When They Meet the] Vampire – Reprinted from Witches Tales v6n1
Werewolf – Reprinted from Weird v4n4
Fangs of Terror – Reprinted from Terror Tales v6n2

Terrors of Dracula v1n5, Nov 1979, 68pp, $1.75
Cover reprinted from Horror Tales v5n4

Inside Front Cover – Reprints art from cover of Weird v7n5
The Evil Black Cats – Reprinted from Witches Tales v3n2
The Hungry Vampire- Reprinted from Weird v6n3
Where the Flesheaters Dwell – Reprinted from Tales From the Tomb v6n2
The Spider – Reprinted from Tales From the Tomb v6n1
Swamp Monsters – Reprinted from Tales From the Tomb v2n2
Fangs of Terror – Reprinted from Terror Tales v6n2
The Hungry Ghoul – Reprinted from Tales of Voodoo v3n4
The Deadly Corpse – Reprinted from Tales of Voodoo v5n2
The Blind Monsters – Reprinted from Weird v9n1
Satan’s Cat – Reprinted from Horror Tales v2n2
Back Cover – Reprints art from cover of Weird v7n3

If I had to pinpoint when I became a writer, I’d probably say “Fifth Grade”. That’s a long time ago, 1978-1979 to be exact, but I believe it’s when I took my first step to becoming an author. Of course, at that time, my knowledge of writing was limited. One of the first stories I wrote was about Santa Claus getting sick and Mrs. Claus having to dress up as him and deliver the presents. Sound familiar? It should. I plagiarized The Year Without a Santa Claus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Year_Without_a_Santa_Claus

It wasn’t intentional plagiarism. I just didn’t have an understanding of writing and that you couldn’t simply retell a story and call it your own. Mrs. Boggs was nice enough not to call me out on it (I’m quite certain she and everyone else in the class had seen the special on TV before) and even read it to the class. For some reason I missed school that day and they had lost the second sheet of paper (which had two lines on it). She said that she was able to read the last two lines that I had erased (written on the half-line at the bottom) though.

My memory is a bit vague on exactly when I wrote my first “Mad Scientist” story, but it was definitely in Middle School (6th – 8th Grade). (For accuracy, my school had grades 1 – 8 all in the same building and was called Elementary School.) Because we switched classes, I have memories of writing stories in each classroom, but I think it was 6th Grade because I used to give my stories to Mr. Walker, our homeroom teacher, to read. He was very accommodating and actually read my stories week to week.

I patterned my stories after the 1940s serials where each chapter would end with the hero (or one of the good guys) in peril and the viewers would have to see the next chapter the following week. When I was in 5th Grade, there was a short-lived TV series called Cliffhangers that tired to revive the serials, but the series never finished.

Each week, I’d write a new chapter of “The Mad Scientist” and would draw the cover art to go with it. Around this time, I was also dreaming of becoming a comic book artist/writer, though I lacked any talent in drawing. I had several “covers” for stories, though never really wrote any of them. “Iceberg” comes to mind, though I can’t imagine now what type of story I had in mind when I made the title. “The Iron Soldier” was a comic (Sgt. Rock copy) I was trying to do, but it died a quick death also.

In 7th or 8th Grade, we had county-wide writing tournaments. The first I remember was called WREECH (Writing/Speech), the latter called SPRITE (Speech/Writing). I won Third Place for my story “The Scientist, Mad?” This was a revision of my Mad Scientist serials, condensed into just two chapters with the first ending in a car-crash cliffhanger where, Allen, the main character barely escaped.

It was Mrs. Arthur’s insistence that I rename my story from “The Mad Scientist” to “The Scientist, Mad?”. I never liked it at the time, but I thought she knew best and went with it. In retrospect, it was probably a better title, though I’m not sure anything could have helped the content.

This was my first attempt at dialogue (believe it or not, my previous stories had NONE). I can imagine if the phrase “epic fail” existed back then, it would have been used to describe the dialogue in my story.

The exchange went something like this:

Allen and John opened the box in the warehouse.

“Oh my gosh, it’s a bomb,” Allen said.

“You got a dime, bud,” John replied.

Allen handed John the dime and they went to call the police.

As they went outside, the warehouse exploded.

Ugh, I know. I unfortunately have a really good memory, so sadly that’s an almost exact copy of my original story dialogue. I’m sure there was more, but belaboring the point would most certainly be too painful for anyone reading this.

Remarkably, I did win Third Place (I’m hoping that there were at least FOUR participants so I can claim not to have come in dead last). The comment on my paper was “A young Hemingway…” though I don’t recall the rest of it. I’m sure the judges were just being nice.

I also did a “descriptive writing” entry that didn’t place at all. My original idea was to do “Dracula’s Castle”, but I got lazy and at crunch time wrote “Pac Man” instead. Even the best of authors would have a hard time making Pac Man interesting in text, so you can imagine my effort … “I guided my bright yellow dot around the maze gobbling up the smaller white dots while avoiding the red, pink, orange, and blue ghosts…” I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but it’s probably a memory best left forgotten. Mrs. Arthur reminded me afterward that I should have written Dracula’s Castle.

I didn’t pursue much writing after that, with the exception of some attempted game writing and script writing in high school and my first years of college. Maybe more on that later…