Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pneumatic Attack Spider

This spider started out as my build for Halloween 2015. Although I managed to finish it, just barely, in time to set it up for last year's yard-haunt, it didn't fare well. Not only did it debut with a superbly amateurish decorative finish, the mechanics and engineering failed too.

This year, rather than allow myself to invest in a new project, I set out to finish this one properly. I think it turned out pretty well. Though you can't see it in these daytime shots, there's a strobe that triggers with the animation. It looks a little less intimidating during the day. Take a look and let me know what you think:

And here's a side view:

And another view from the front, but further back:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Creative Writing Group

We're a small group that meets one Saturday a month at The Valley Brew where we critique and discuss one another's works-in-progress.We're looking for fellow motivated aspiring writers willing to log the hours it will take to critique the work of his/her fellow members. Joining members will be expected to deliver conscientious, in-depth critiques with regard to (but not limited to) plot, characterization/POV, dialogue/voice and grammar/style.

Meet our current group members:

Pat MacEwen

I'm a physical anthropologist (translation: bone freak) with a sordid past in forensics.  I've published a number of short stories and novellas in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery, including "Home Sweet Bi'ome" which was selected for the most recent Cramer & Hartwell anthology, Year's Best SF, vol. 17. I have two novels out from Sky Walker Books:  "Rough Magic" and "Dragon's Kiss." Some of my work has been translated into German, Russian, and French, but not Japanese (sigh!).
Check out more about Pat here:


Hi! I'm Dee. I'm a recruiter by day and aspiring author on nights and weekends. I typically write young adult/new adult, but I'm open to writing whatever the muses grace me with. I have no completed projects as of yet, but I have managed to fake my way through a meeting with some agents, so I think that should count for something :)


What began as a way to avoid science class her freshman year of high school, became an unexpected journey for Brenda. Four years of high school yearbook snowballed into another four in college and ultimately a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Over the course of her “day job” career she has worked as a newspaper reporter as well as a public relations and marketing professional in minor league sports. These days Brenda is focused on climbing the Great Wall of writer’s block and editing the three first drafts of novels that she has written. Her interests are in women’s fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, and essays.

Jerry Enni

I write all across the board, but what I have the most fun writing is the dark, scary stuff. I've published a few short stories in small press anthologies.

If you'd like to give the group a try, send me an email.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pneumatic groundbreaker

I've wanted to do pneumatic props for years, but because I didn't know shit about pneumatics, and even less about wiring and electrical, I always put it off. Not this year though. This year I took the plunge and built a pneumatic groundbreaker. With a parts list provided by Rocky Mountain Haunters (who credits casa fear as the original designer of the groundbreaker), and a few google searches to ferret out whatever small details were posted by those who had previously built their own groundbreakers, I got started.

There are various ways this can be assembled, but I did mine with the kit from FrightProps, which gave me everything I needed in regard to the innards that make this thing move and scream the way it does. Their kit is pretty pricey, but for a novice like me it made getting started much easier. Someone inclined toward the sort of assembly required here might be able to get everything needed a little cheaper, but for me the FrightProps kit was the thing that gave me the confidence to attempt this build. It came with the cylinders, the solenoids, all the fittings, the powered speakers and even a motion sensor for triggering the prop.

I couldn't find much online about specific assembly, so I ran into a few problems here and there. But with some trial and error I got it to work right. All in all I think it turned out pretty well. I'd like to do another one of these in the future. Maybe next year. Considering the issues I ran into, and to spare anyone else building this prop the frustration I felt at times, I might do an instructable when I put the next one together.

Take a look:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mongolian Death Worm Sighted in San Joaquin Valley

The Mongolian Death Worm, a cryptozooligical creature thought to exist beneath the yellow sands of the Gobi Desert, has migrated and made a new home in the fertile San Joaquin Valley.
The first sightings were reported as early as April, around the same time the San Joaquin Sherriff's Department dealt with a string of livestock mutilations thought to be the work of cultists. Then in August, crush time for the many wineries that grow their grapes in the valley, when field-workers began to disappear, authorities were forced to investigate what had quickly developed into the legend of El Diablo Gusano, or The Devil Worm.

The latest sighting was at Lathrop’s Dell' Osso family farm, a popular destination in October for families looking for safe ways to celebrate the Halloween holiday.
A day out to the farm ended in tragedy for one family when the Death Worm made an appearance in the corn maze and allegedly swallowed an eight year old boy whole. The grainy photo below shows his last moments.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saving Mirabel

Here’s a great little tale that I’m awfully proud of, despite the fact that I don’t much enjoy zombie fiction – zombies at all, really.

But I wrote this about three or four years ago, targeting a specific anthology (the editor rejected it). I like the story, and where it took me, so I dropped it into the crit-group over at CafĂ© Doom. It went over well (most of it), and some of the feedback showed me where I should’ve gone with the story. So I went. Then, when I attended Borderlands Bootcamp in 2009, for the short-story camp (back when they were running two different camps), I used Saving Mirabel. Again, shitloads of feedback, some from Pros like F. Paul Wilson (who, by the way, liked the story).

So, about 180 hours and several thousand dollars later, I sold the story for… ready…

A contributor copy.

I know, I know. But damn, it really is a good story (if I must say so myself), and I just couldn’t hold out for more any longer. And the folks over at May December Publications really treated the whole thing with enthusiasm and class.

Plus, I got this*:

Which kind of makes up for the nearly non-existent pay.

You really should pick up a copy – if not for the 13 other fine tales in the anthology, then at least so you have the opportunity to read Saving Mirabel. Did I mention, it really is a fine tale?

And here’s the part that made it more than worth giving it up for nearly nothing:

Hanna Masaryk wrote the intro, which almost makes me sound as cool as I am:

Despite what some people may think, zombie stories are not about the guts and the gore and the brains. The real horror of zombie stories comes from what that terrifying, post-apocalyptic setting reveals about those humans that remain behind. What Jerry Enni has managed to do, is to write a heartbreaking story about lengths we’ll go to in order to save the people we love. He forces the reader to ask what they would do if they were faced with the trials of a zombie apocalypse; who would you save and what would you sacrifice to do it? What separates the humans from the zombies is their ability to love and to hold loyalties, and the situation in which Mr. Enni has put his character demonstrates this in the most tragic way possible. It would be easy to write a zombie story all about the gore and to conveniently ignore all those human messy emotions, but this story successfully accomplishes a more difficult feat: it embraces them.

Damn. I love this woman.

And, if this isn’t enough to spur you onto Amazon to grab your copy, then perhaps this will help:

Saving Mirabel – by Jerry Enni

Charlie stood at the window watching the men in the yellow rubber suits load his neighbor into the back of an ambulance.

The old man lay strapped to the gurney, his eyes wide with terror. They slid him in and slammed the doors shut.

The sirens wailed as they sped off and Charlie had to wonder why they bothered with them anymore.

“Charlie, who was that,” Mirabel called, her voice raspy from all the coughing.

He let the curtains fall, obscuring the view outside, and then
walked into the room where his wife lay.

“You’re supposed to be resting,” Charlie said.

“Who did they take, was it Bud?”


Mirabel looked away from Charlie, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Don’t do that, don’t cry. He was old, it was his time.”

Mirabel turned back to him. She looked worse.

“I’m next, Charlie. When they come and do count tomorrow they’ll see me. Then they’ll take me away.”

“No. You’re getting better.”

“Don’t you lie to me, Charlie! Not you. Not now.”

“Then let me go to the square, I can get you help!”

The baby cried in the back room.

“You can’t take Anna to a place like that. And you can’t leave her with me. What if I died while you were gone? She’d be the first thing I went after”

The baby screamed louder. Charlie looked down at his wife, tears clouding his sight.

“I can’t-“

The doorbell rang.

“Oh my god,” Charlie said.

He wiped the tears from his eyes, and rushed over to Mirabel. He picked her up and carried her into the bathroom. He turned on the bath, removed his wife’s nightgown, and laid her into the tub.

“You can turn off the water right, I mean, you have enough strength?” Charlie asked.

The doorbell rang again. The baby screamed.

“Yes, go!” Mirabel said, and Charlie was out the door.

He scooped Anna out of her crib, wrapped her in a light blanket and popped a pacifier into her mouth. He walked to the front door and peeked through the peephole.

He leaned his back against the door and stared off into space, frozen with panic.

They’re not supposed to be here yet.

The gentle roar of the bathwater ceased, and the bell rang again.

A young man, twenty-ish, stood on the porch. He had on a black jacket with bold yellow letters emblazoned across the front – CENSUS. He was scribbling on a binder sized notepad when Charlie opened the door.

“Ah, Mr. Tabern, I was just about to give up on you.”

“Yeah, sorry, you caught me in the middle of diaper duty,” Charlie said, raising Anna in his arms slightly. “You’re not due until tomorrow, right?”

“Yes, that’s right,” the Census Man said, extending his hand. “I’m Norm. This route’s mine now. I’m getting acquainted with my new flock. I’ll be back tomorrow for the official count.”

“Ahhh,” Charlie said, retrieving his hand from Norm’s overzealous grip, “what happened to Samson?”

“Pneumonia. They didn’t think he’d make it, so… well, you know.”

Charlie nodded.

“Yeah… well. Hey, since I caught you at home would you mind signing in. The more I get out of the way today the better.”

“Sure, but I’m afraid you’ll have to come back anyway. My wife’s in the bath.”

Jesus why’d I tell him that, why didn’t I just say she was out?

“That’s alright. If you’ll let me in I can just get a verbal confirmation. I can initial her in.”

Charlie looked back through the crack in the door.

“I don’t think so, she wouldn’t feel comfortable.”

“It’ll be quick. Please. If I can clear your house I’ve got every block in this quarter. I won’t even have to come back this way tomorrow.”

Charlie hesitated. Then he thought this might work out for the best. Norm could come in, hear his wife speak through the door, and then she would be cleared for the week. A whole week. The next time he came around she’d be better.

“Sure, if it’ll be quick,” Charlie said, then stepped back and held the door open for Norm.

He rapped on the bathroom door and called out to his wife.

“Mirabel, we’ve got a new Census man. His name is Norm. He’s here a day early. He just needs to hear your voice so he can clear you for the week.”

“Hi, Norm,” Mirabel called through the door.

Charlie felt relief wash over him. Her voice barely hiccupped. She sounded better than she had in a couple of days.

“Sorry to intrude on your bath Mrs. Tabern. I appreciate you accommodating me like this. I’ll stop in on you next week so we can meet properly.”

“No trouble at-“ Mirabel coughed. “Excuse me,” she said, the rasp in her voice coming back. “See you next week, Norm.”

“She okay? She sounds… ill,” Norm said.

“Nah, she’s fine. Used to smoke a lot back when they were legal. She’s sounded like that since high school.”

Norm flipped open his binder.

“That’s odd,” he frowned, shaking his head slightly. “I’ve got the both of you down as low risk. Says here neither of you ever smoked- don’t drink much – exercise regular, the whole nine.”

“Weird,” Charlie said, panic ebbing away at his sense of relief.

Mirabel let out a single small cough and Norm closed his book.

“Damn. You know I hate to have to, but I think I’m gonna come back tomorrow after all.”

“Why?” Charlie asked, wearing his best perplexed face.

“She doesn’t sound very good, Mr. Tabern. As a precaution I’ll need to see her in person. If you want I can wait around now.”

“Nah, better you just come back tomorrow. Sorry you have to.”

“Me too, Mr. Tabern.”

Charlie closed the door and went to his wife.

God she was thin. How much weight had she lost? Jesus, it had only been four days.

“You okay?” Charlie asked.

“Did I hear right? He’s coming back tomorrow?”

“Yeah, he heard you cough.”

“I tried so hard… God I tried to hold it in, Charlie, but I couldn’t, it tickled,” she said, tears coming again.

“It’s okay, baby, it’s okay,” Charlie kneeled down, resting Anna on his thigh. He wrapped an arm around Mirabel.

“But it’s not. What are we going to do?”

“I’ve got an idea. I need you to rest though, or this will never work. I’m gonna put Anna down, then I’ll help you to bed. When you wake up I’ll tell you exactly what we’re going to do.”

Mirabel looked at him, hope flickering in her eyes.

“Okay, Charlie.”


Okay, now go: Saving Mirabel (Chivalry Is Dead).

And thank you for the support.

Oh, and for kindle owners, you can get it super cheap here. And for those who are already Amazon Prime members, you can read for free here.

*The “Chivalry is Dead” antho, which was an all male contributor anthology, coincided with another anthology (zombie, all female), called “Hell Hath No Fury”. In a promotional sort of spirit, they put together these packets. The center photo is one of myself, zombified, and the marriage certificate refers to the fact that I and Hanna were married in the sense that we were each providing the intro to one another's stories in the opposite anthos.