No Joke: Read “Bad Vibrations” in Alternate Hilarities V: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife

Ebook Cover

Since I began publishing fiction in 2012, I’ve billed myself as a horror and fantasy author, someone inclined to write about monsters and mayhem and mythological creatures. For a few years, I was completely satisfied writing about time travel, ghosts, devils, sirens, succubi, and devious drug plots.

And while I will continue to write about these things, I’ve started to play with new genres and writing styles. The other night, I finished my first romance novelette. Before that, a comedic, satiric take on a fairy tale. Comedy and romance are becoming a regular part of my repetoire, and it’s a really exciting and fun shift. (My writing group back in Phoenix, Arizona, would be so proud, a group that often requested I write something in which someone didn’t die or the conflict was resolved happily.)

So it’s fitting that today, April Fool’s Day, marks the publication of my very first piece of straight-up comedic writing. No joke, I’ve written something that I hope makes you laugh, not shiver in terror.

Today, Alternate Hilarities V: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife is available via Strange Musings Press, bringing you 33 crazy, wacky tales from the great beyond and outlining just what could go wrong with it:

As you shuffle off this mortal coil, many things will go through your mind. Will you be remembered well? Did you live the best life you could? Did you leave the iron on? And most importantly, did you remember to delete your browser history recently? But the big question that will finally hit you full on, is there something after all of this? And if so, will it suck? If only Yelp! had a category for the afterlife.

Here is a collection of humorous tales of the afterlife that covers the I.T. woes of Heaven, the dangers involved in using out-of-date occult tools, the perils of not saving appropriately for the hereafter, the shock of finding out that not every good deed will get you through the pearly gates and the cold hard fact that paradise just isn’t for everyone.

So go to the light at your own peril.

It could be life everlasting, or it could be an oncoming train.”

My contribution, “Bad Vibrations,” explores the motivations of a ghost’s very first haunting – and the truly embarrassing secrets she wishes had followed her to the grave.

Pick up your copy today, and be on the lookout for a blog takeover by Alternate Hilarities editor Giovanni Valentino on April 11 and my author interview with Strange Musings on April 14!

What Have I Been Smoking?

Photo by flickr user "**RCB**

Photo by flickr user “**RCB**

Do I have a doppelganger here on Earth or a twin in some alternate universe hitting some cough syrup or hallucinogens on the daily? Because I have been having some incredibly trippy and entertaining dreams. Really vivid ones, the kind you only experience in deep REM—or if there was something in the water.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. In fact, I want these dreams to continue to flicker through my brain at night, because who wouldn’t want a semi-private concert with Prince while they sleep?

Here’s a roundup of my nighttime cranial romps. I hope you’re half as entertained by these as I am. And if anyone out there examines the meanings of dreams, please enlighten me as to what they are trying to tell me!

The Count and the Castle—In this dream, Count Dracula was alive and well in modern day Romania and his castle had become a full-fledged tourist attraction. There were 13 floors to explore, and people would flock from everywhere around the world to check it out. Of course, I was Dracula’s human girlfriend and since I was so badass, it made perfect sense for me to walk around topless—perhaps because we were in Europe?

Chris Pratt and Fringe—In this dream, Chris Pratt decided to become a pop star and his first single was a cover of a Queen song, although I can’t tell you which one, because I’d never heard it before. Anyway, Chris did an open call for backup dancers and naturally, I jumped at the chance. I showed up in a gold dress made entirely of fringe and shook it on set for hours. I was in about five seconds of the final music video, but it was totally worth it.

Anne Rice Likes Earl Grey—A few days before I went to the Anne Rice and Christopher Rice book signing at Changing Hands in Tempe, I dreamed that only 12 people showed up for the signing. (Crazy, I know, because they are both such phenomenal writers with huge fan bases!) Anne and Chris proceeded to hand out a bunch of free books to us and at some point, Anne said she wanted something to drink. So, what did I do? I made her a spot of Earl Grey tea and we talked like old friends.

Private Purple Party—In this dream, I was attending a generic music awards show and my musical boyfriend, Prince, was scheduled to perform. Prince asked about 20-30 of us onstage, hugged each of us individually, closed the heavy, red velvet curtains, and proceeded to treat us all to a private concert. He just sat behind a piano and sang to us. He even took off his mic, so everyone in the auditorium couldn’t hear him. The impatient audience on the other side of the curtain got restless and everyone left. But Prince wasn’t done partying. The curtain opened again, we went back to our seats, and we were treated to a full Prince concert with tons of dancers and theatrics.

High Heels and Hawks—In my latest dream, I was not only a newbie vampire but a hardworking and fabulous drag queen. And I’m talking a big, bold, and beautiful lady of the stage. The middle of the dream got a little fuzzy, but I do know there was drama surrounding my two boyfriends (that’s right, not one boyfriend, but two!). A little later, I’d found some human companions who wanted to help me control my vampiric powers so I could learn to use them for good. I woke up just after we’d taken in an injured hawk named Amy, who was destined to be my sidekick. How’s that for a superhero origin story?

So, what do you all think? What the hell have I been smoking?

 

Photo licensing**RCB**

I Don’t Have the Patience to Float

Pod

I have a number of friends who’ve recently raved about saltwater flotation therapy, so when a Living Social deal popped up in my email during a particularly stressful week, I bit. I mean, I’ll try anything once―sometimes twice.

Saltwater flotation therapy involves climbing into an isolation tank which deprives you of all your senses. It’s pitch black, soundproof, and filled with about 10 inches of lukewarm water and tons of Epsom salt. The high saltwater content allows you to float without any effort.

These isolation tanks were originally developed by John C. Lilly in 1954, a medical practitioner and neuro-psychiatrist interested in conducting experiments in sensory deprivation to study the brain’s natural state, minus outside stimulus. Since then, saltwater flotation has been used to detoxify, relax, and energize the body.

I thought I was ready. I’m so gullible sometimes.

I climbed into my isolation pod in my own little room completely nude and I immediately starting picturing myself in a sci-fi movie. Gattaca came to mind. The pod was completely white, egg-shaped, and lit internally with a soft blue light (which you can shut off to float in complete darkness, but we’ll get to that later).

During the first ten minutes, there was soothing music, the kind of stuff you hear in massage studios or yoga classes. I settled back and let my arms float on either side of my head like a bank robber who’d just been caught. Everything was going great―and then the music stopped. And I was alone with my mind.

The idea of this tank is to calm your mind and let it wander. Apparently, you can have some pretty psychedelic experiences if you just let go. Sans music, I, unfortunately, couldn’t shut my brain up.

Immediately, I was concerned I’d fall asleep floating and then startle myself awake, which of course would result in splashing my face with saltwater―or have a dream in which I had to, uh, use the restroom. The paperwork I’d signed expressly said that if any sort of…bodily accident…occurred in the water, there would be a substantial fee. Despite having a lot of control of my body, I was a little terrified of being “that girl.”

Stop it, I said to myself, you bought this deal to challenge yourself to relax on a deeper level. Get the full experience. Get control of your thoughts.

And with that, I hit the button to turn out the blue light. Darkness bloomed around me. Because my eyes were still open, the loss of light played with my sight and suddenly black shapes were swimming on the pod ceiling. And they were trippy and fun and they didn’t go away, even five minutes later. I could feel myself smiling.

Then, I started to wonder if astronauts in space feel this way when they’re in zero gravity. Of course, that prompted me to start pushing myself back and forth through the pod so I felt like I was flying and floating through the stars.

And then, the paranoia began and I started to imagine that there was something in the water with me, something slick and with big teeth…It is Shark Week, people. I flipped that blue light back on pretty quick.

I tried to calm down and stay still again. I thought maybe a new arm position would help. I could get comfortable again. I tried to put my arms by my side, palms up, corpse pose in yoga―and my arms, buoyant as they were, floated right back up to over my head. Which, of course, made me laugh at the complete lack of control of my body.

Suddenly, I realized that the blue light came from behind me, submerged in the water like a pool light, and I could manipulate it. That’s when the shadow puppets began. And it all went to hell in hand basket pretty quick.

In my last five minutes in the tank, the music came back on and I got ballsy and flipped onto my stomach in a skydiving position. Wheeeee!

When I got out of the pod, my body did feel great. My skin was smooth from the salt and my limbs were relaxed. I also slept amazingly well that night and I was super energized the next day. Overall, the experience was pretty fun. And the place I went was super professional, top of the line, and had a really fantastic atmosphere.

Will I float again? I honestly don’t think that I have the patience. An hour is a long time to lie completely still while conscious.

It’s also really hard to shut off this writer’s brain. My imagination goes wild during the most mundane of activities, so bring in something novel like this―and I’m done for.

I am clearly the problem.

I don’t have the patience to float.

And I’m okay with that.

Because this crazy over-imaginative brain is all mine.

Beware the Brides of March!

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Would you pass up the opportunity to ironically wear a wedding dress and traipse from bar to bar in downtown Phoenix for cool beverages on a hot day? Yeah, I wouldn’t either.

This past weekend, I joined about 100 other blushing brides for the Brides of March pub crawl, an event that includes high-heeled footraces, bouquet tosses, lots of very creative wedding attire, oodles of cross-dressing, and cocktails aplenty. Yes, these were my people.

I think the photos tell the story of the day, so I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

Needless to say, I’ll be back again next year―in something way less conservative and little more avant-garde.

Beware the Brides of March!

             DSC00504 DSC00510                                                                                             DSC00513 DSC00515 DSC00520 DSC00524                             DSC00527    DSC00530           DSC00533 DSC00534

There’s Still Sex in the City

Photo by flickr user "Chesi - Fotos CC."

Photo by flickr user “Chesi – Fotos CC.”

I remember the first time I watched the finale of Sex and the City. It was 2004, I was a sophomore in college at the University of Arizona (go Cats!), and I was watching it off of a VHS tape. That was because my dorm, Kaibab-Huachuca, definitely did not have HBO, but I was lucky enough to have a roommate whose mom did at home and had offered to tape the final episode and ship it to us from California.

The night we watched it was a big deal. (Or perhaps it was a Big deal!) My roommate and I huddled together on our queen-sized bed (we’d pushed our bunks together), booed the Russian, and clapped as Big threatened to punch him. It was the end of an era. We felt it. It was bittersweet and pretty magical.  

It’s nearly a decade later and I’ve been revisiting Sex and the City, which is like visiting an old friend. You simply pick up where you left off. There’s still love there, still lessons to be learned, still tons of laughter. And there’s still sex. Lots of it. And the gossip it creates.

I started with episode one and instantly got re-addicted, because it’s utterly fabulous. And that’s because it’s utterly relatable. The producers and writers of the show sat single women around a table and asked them to tell their most terrifying, most beautiful, most unbelievable sex and relationship stories. And those stories became the stuff of the show. Which means there’s a girl out there who was broken up with on a Post-It note. A girl out there who was asked by her boyfriend to pee on him in the shower. (I do wonder if this was really a politician!) A girl who received insider trading trips from a man she was sleeping with on Wall Street.

This show wasn’t afraid to show the awkward and humorous sides of sex. Which is so important. Because sex is not sugar-coated or proper or predictable. And relationships are messy, constantly shifting, complicated. Whether pondering whether the nuclear family is the best option for you or trying to figure out what to do about a guy’s funky spunk, chances are good you’ve been there – or you have a girl friend who has.

And that’s why I love watching Sex and the City today as much as (and maybe even moreso than) I did in college. There’s real life application going on here, people. It’s like spilling your guts to a bartender. We’re commiserating and celebrating together. And that is priceless.

Photo by flickr user "Associated Fabrication."

Photo by flickr user “Associated Fabrication.”

And then there are the girls. Carrie. Samantha. Miranda. Charlotte.

I remember there was this whole trend where girls would choose which Sex and the City character they “were.” I’m pretty sure there were T-shirts out there that read, “I’m a Charlotte” or “I’m a Carrie.” I don’t identify with them this way, because each of them represents a part of me. I’m a writer and shoe-obsessed like Carrie. I have days of heavy cynicism like Miranda. There’s a time and a place to be proper like Charlotte. And sometimes, I get brave and brash and I just want to wear leather and molest someone like Samantha. Put these amazing women together and it just works.

This weekend, I watched the finale of Sex and the City. This was my first time watching all six seasons chronologically. It was raining and my windows were open. Watching the final scene was like closing a great book. I felt accomplished and a little emotional.

But more than anything else, I felt happy – happy that there’s a series out there like this one and happy that I will always have four wild friends to laugh and commiserate with at the push of a button.

It’s official, ladies and gentlemen. There’s still Sex in the City.

Photo licensing – Chesi – Fotos CC Associated Fabrication

Strut Happens

Strut - disco

“I love my life – because this is my life,” I said to my friend Sara last night while watching bellbottom-clad men disco dance across the stage at Icepics.

 Last night, I introduced Sara to the Men of Strut and I’m pretty sure they’ll be lifelong friends. We were thoroughly entertained, to say the very least.

The Men of Strut show graces the stage of Icepics the last Sunday of every month and, I believe, the third Thursday of the month, too. It’s unlike anything else in Arizona. Because the show is an intersection of male revue, Chippendale’s, drag performance (without the female illusionist component), and boylesque. Which all just equals awesome.

Strut - Bohemian

The show opened with a lip-synched rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” – in period costumes. Dallas, Ish, and Geo acted out one of my favorite Queen songs, complete with a flashlight opening to pay homage to the classic music video, a hat change to create a “mama,” a fake gun to accommodate the lyric “just killed a man” (although Dallas kept waking from death to wave at us!), and a very dramatic hanging at the close of the song. Sara and I sang along and screamed.

After the hanged men left the stage, our host of the evening, Oliver Town, came out (pun intended) for some witty repartee. He’s one of my favorite hosts. Always silver-tongued, dressed to the nines, and quick on his feet with an inappropriate joke, Oliver is the consummate MC. In demonstrating how to properly throw money onto the stage, I hit him in the nipple with a one dollar bill and we formed a bond.

Next up, the boys came out in leather for a Prince/Madonna shake down…and maybe Dallas pulled me up onstage. With any other show, I would be wary. But with Strut, I know these boys are simply having fun, enjoying the camp, and are aiming for everyone to have a good time. (It doesn’t hurt that they are gay – I mean, safest place ever for a straight girl, right?) I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy this show so much – it isn’t meant to be serious. It’s meant to be fun – a celebration of dance, costume, the human body, and a little camp thrown in for good measure.

Strut - superhero

That being said, these men really commit to putting on a good show and strutting their stuff. They are rehearsed, anything but shy onstage, and clearly enjoy what they do.

I also appreciate that despite the flavor of this show, the performers are gracious and accommodating. They help you on and offstage, make eye contact and thank you genuinely when you tip them, and I’m proud to report that my hand was kissed a time or two last night. Being a gentleman makes all the difference.

Throughout the night, we were treated to Bee Gees impressions, a feisty cook (Dallas was working on quite the dish!), a gang of superheroes (Geo, with his chiseled features, makes a perfect Superman), Broadway numbers, a little Latin flavor (Ish can move those hips), and guest performer Roman Holiday (who is cute as a button and clearly has had some ballet training, girl).

Strut - Backstreet

My personal favorite was a Backstreet Boys medley! Sara and I ran up to the stage like crazy fans, crying and waving dollar bills at them. I’m pretty sure we made them break character and they thanked us after the show for our over-the-top antics.

In “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” Dallas, Geo, and Ish nearly bared it all, leaving us hooting and hollering and cracking up.

And of course, they ended the show with a “Macho Man”/”YMCA” mash-up. Oh yes, the costumes were on point, which by the way, are made by the lovely Geo, who went to school for fashion design.

With $4 martinis flowing, laughter aplenty, and a little T&A (okay, maybe a lot of it), it was a grade A night.

Strut - YMCA

We’ll be back to visit the Men of Strut again, because these boys work hard and then werk it out. It’s a beautiful thing.

And I get it. ‘Cause sometimes, you just gotta strut.

Talk Nerdy to Me

comic shoes

I had a bit of a Tiffany epiphany this weekend. Okay, maybe “epiphany” is a strong word since it’s really something I’ve always known. This weekend just made it really clear. So, here goes…

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m a bona fide nerd.

And as I get older, I seem to be reaching exponential levels of nerdiness. It’s reached critical mass – as in I should probably have a “Nerdy 30” instead of a “Dirty 30” when I reach that monumental age in a few years.

But I’m swirling…

Why was this weekend so telling, you ask? Well, my friends, on Sunday I went to Phoenix Comicon. And it was glorious.

Once a year, the Phoenix Convention Center is taken over by the likes of Wolverine, Dr. Who, zombies, and countless anime characters. And every year I look forward to this takeover, because I love the public surfacing of geek culture. I love the booths that sell Death Star ice cube molds and retro G.I. Joe action figures and multi-colored contacts for cosplay – or whatever. I love the people who go above and beyond to create costumes for this event – especially the steam punk collectives, because let’s face it; theirs are expensive, creative, heavy costumes. I respect that level of commitment.

Loot

I love the things I walk away from Comicon carrying. This year, my finds include the first book in the Looking Glass Wars trilogy – which I had the author, Frank Beddor, sign for me – two volumes of the graphic novel adaptation of The Stand by Stephen King, one pair of darling origami crane earrings (yes, they are paper!), a free comic, The Edge of December, the first installment of Preacher, and a “Cumberbitch” shirt to publicly announce my crush on Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock and this summer’s Kahn).

My loot would have included some steam punk jewelry if not for the emergency alarm that ruined nerd paradise and forced us to evacuate the Phoenix Convention Center toward the end of the day – yeah, all 30,000 of us. Watching Superman leave a building in distress is kind of disheartening.

And though my love for Benedict Cumberbatch is strong, I chose to stroll home instead of strolling back into the building for a panel on the widespread success of BBC’s Sherlock once the firemen had put out a small fire. I’d had enough adrenaline for one day.

Besides, there’s always next year. I already have plans to purchase full event passes for Phoenix Comicon 2014. No more of this one day shit; I’m going for four next year. And I can’t wait to plan which panels I’ll go to! And there will definitely be an outing to Geek Prom!

The second indication of nerdiness from this weekend? (Okay, maybe it’s really the third after that little outburst).

I went to see Oblivion. Which probably wouldn’t have happened a few years ago.

Sci-fi has never really been my thing. I am all over fantasy and magical realism like maple syrup on chicken and waffles. Give me a twisted fairytale. Give me the expanse and escape of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Give me creepy things like goblins and zombies and vampires (as long as they aren’t of the Twilight variety) and I am a happy girl.

Technology and space? That’s generally where you lose me. Sure, I’m a smart girl and I have experience with technology, but it’s never been my strong suit. And space and I have just never…clicked.

At least that’s the old me talking.

This weekend, Oblivion captivated me…and made me wish there were more movies out there like it. (Although, this whole genre is new to me, so there are probably many out there like Oblivion that I’m not aware of…and that my uber nerdy boyfriend will “make” me watch after reading this blog post.)

bubbletea1

Photo by flickr user “bubbletea1.”

Tom Cruise plays Jack Harper, part of the “clean-up crew” on post-apocalyptic Earth who maintains drones by day and dreams about his life on Earth before the invasion by night – that is, what he can remember after the mandatory, government-sanctioned memory wipe. As the story goes, aliens, called Scavs, took out Earth’s sun, causing tsunamis and earthquakes with the imbalance. Then, they invaded with the intent to strip Earth of its natural resources. We won the war, but the planet was trashed. Survivors were taken to Triton, one of Saturn’s moons, found inhabitable by humans. Jack and his partner/lover, Victoria, are on Earth to monitor technology that collects energy from Earth’s oceans, energy that is critical for human life to exist on Triton. They report to the Tet, a spacecraft orbiting Earth and housing operatives responsible for the mission. Rogue Scavs still inhabit the planet, trying to take out Jack and his drones as they work to protect the energy-collecting machines.

But not for long. In two weeks’ time, Jack and Victoria will complete their mission and join the rest of humanity on Triton, leaving Earth behind.

During his final two weeks, Jack starts to wonder if he should leave…and if his mission is really as it seems. Passages from books found in the rubble start to resonate with Jack. He spends time at his cabin off grid and undetected by mission control, shooting hoops, playing records, and wondering if the planet should be given another chance. A beautiful woman haunts his dreams…and then crash lands on Earth.

And that’s when it really starts to get interesting. And crazy. And awesome.

As we were walking out of the theater, my boyfriend said that Oblivion had tapped into some very classic sci-fi themes, which left me thinking, “Wow, I just really enjoyed a sci-fi flick – and one boasting classic conventions at that. Perhaps the force is strong with me and I just never knew it.”

Yep. It’s official. Nerdy, nerdy, nerdy.

So, I guess there’s really only one thing left to say…

Talk nerdy to me, baby. Geek out. Confess your mutual nerdiness. What’s your favorite aspect of geek culture? Go!

 

Photo licensing – bubbletea1