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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter

+++ Vol. 3.03, July 18, 2005 +++



Blather. Wince. Repeat.


This month a cat was born with two faces and I have to marvel over this wonderful mutation. If you've seen the photos plastered all over the internet, then you know that “Gemini” is a tabby that has two sets of eyes, noses, and mouths. The faces share a throat, however, which decreases the likelihood of two sets of hairballs on the carpet every morning, but hey, this freak of nature proves that anything is possible. After all, Gemini is able to lick itself twice as much, in an effort to get twice as clean, and therefore would swallow twice as much hair to spit up on twice as many carpets.

Cats are two-faced by nature, but this is still a pretty wild invention. I sort of wish it was a Siamese, and not a tabby, however, just for irony's sake.

Gemini isn't a genetic experiment, per se, but the offspring of what the breeder calls a “miniature cat” and a full-sized feline. Male cats have spiny genital organs – barbs that actually hook inside the female to hold on to the squealing kitty long enough to conceive. I don't know which mate was the “miniature” cat, but either way the consummation had to be painful.


Hey, if I had a two-faced feline, I wouldn't call it “Gemini.” What is this, the 70's? I'd probably go for something much more schizoid. Like “Tragicomedy.” And I'd pet only one side of the creature, just to make that side smile and purr while the “tragedy” side just sadly scowled.

Oh, the possibilities. And I don't just mean “His and Her” water bowls. Imagine the uncanny set of double eyes, glowing green at you in the dark. Imagine the frightening shock of its stereo hiss. Imagine the unspeakable horror that rodents would experience, torsos torn asunder in the multiple mandibles of this double-mouthed mouser.

And when the dopplekitty did something bad, like claw my couch to hell (due, perhaps, to an preternatural sense of depth perception), I'd have to send Cerberus, my three-headed demon dog, out to chase it. Mayhem would ensue, but I'm sure Tragedy would win the battle.

But all of this is rather moot. I think a schizocat wouldn't survive very long after birth. And not just because its biology is an affront to all that is natural. No, I think the thing would surely go insane and claw itself to death. Cats can't stand their own reflection in a mirror, let alone one glued to their own cheek. The itch of hidden whiskers, tickling somewhere secret inside, alone would be madness. And I seriously doubt that one face would deign to be cleaned by the other side's spit-laden paw. No, Tragedy and Comedy would want to go their separate ways, but each would learn the hard way that nine lives simply aren't divisible by two.

Postscript: Shortly after I finished writing this article, poor little Gemini died of natural causes (rather than self-mutilation), less than a month after her birth. ::–(( (that's a double-faced frownie, in case you couldn't tell). You can still read all about this real life “freakcident” here:


Skeleton Marionettes

Manipulate the actions of skeletal figures using virtual wires and other devices. Weird “x-ray machine” biometric fun from Andries Odendaal at Wireframe Studios.

Dance, Skeleton, Dance!

Also see….
Wireframe's Portfolio:

Odendaal's Whizzball


Post a haiku based on the virtual fridge magnets available on the “Refrigerator of the Damned” at between now and Noon, August 14th. If you contribute my favorite submission, I'll send you a free copy of the Fairwood Press edition of Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems, customized with a personal haiku written just for you! Be sure to include your subscriber e-mail address. The winner, plus two honorable mentions, will also get a free pass to various content at The Sickolodeon! And I'll reprint the winners in the next newsletter to help you celebrate your victory.

For the sake of this contest, let's define a “haiku” as “seventeen syllables written in three lines, divided into 5-7-5.” Remember that you can add suffixes and prefixes and conjunctions as needed to the fridge magnets, but you have to use the actual words provided on the Damned Fridge page.

Look for “The Damned Fridge” at

Learn more about Gorelets at Fairwood Press:

Also: look for the special Play Dead “Review Race” contest elsewhere in this issue of The Goreletter!

GORELETS: Unpleasant Poems

Feature Creatures

alone, the mortician plays
a facial reconstruction game
and calls it “Mr. Potato Dead”
the corpses skin like spuds
and he makes the freaks his friends
but when the Picasso-faced
cut-ups haunt his daydreams
and threaten to pull him apart
all he can say in his defense
is that he turned the other cheek,
over and over again


+ Invent a new form of water torture.

+ Give a character an occupation involving cages (warden, zookeeper, dancer, wrestler…), and then trap them inside of one.

+ Murder an idea.

Instigation is a WEEKLY department in Hellnotes newsletter: (See “Wee Small Hours” below for more!) You can also buy collections of prompts for chump change at The Sickolodeon: If you publish or post something instigated by this department, let me know at and I'll mention it here!


Wee Small Hours is the name of a new monthly publication of flash fiction inspired by creative prompts selected from my weekly Instigation column in Hellnotes newsletter. This week, Hellnotes is celebrating my 100th “Instigation” column, featuring an article about how to best utilize these wacky prompts, and the launch of Wee Small Hours will be part of the festivities, among other things.

Even if you aren't a subscriber to Hellnotes, you can submit to Wee Small Hours. But if you're a writer, why aren't you already subscribing? This great journal just won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction for its weekly coverage of the horror trade. It's jam packed with material and this is THE week to subscribe! Aside from payment and prizes for selected stories, Hellnotes will be offering a special “free taste subscription” to all writers who submit to Wee Small Hours, so be sure to check out the guidelines!

Guidelines are here:


Play Dead is now available at your favorite bookstore (though you may have to ask them to stock it). It's my second novel, my first in hardback, and I'm enormously excited about it. Pick up a copy – I think you'll agree that this noir supernatural thriller is something very unique. Play Dead is a story about pathological gamblers who, essentially, play a game of poker with photographs of their murder victims…until the “deck” they create takes on a sinister supernatural power. Structured in 52 chapters – plus one “joker” – the book is literally a “novel of cards” that invites you to play with the possibilities. Play Dead is being published by Raw Dog Screaming Press, the innovative small publisher of unconventional fiction (and the rogues responsible for 100 Jolts), in a fine trade hardcover available now…and soon as a limited, highly collectible “Grim Grimoire” edition made of sculpted resin!

The trade hardcover is available at a list price of $27; there are plenty of bargains out there online if you look for them, and most horror booksellers (like are offering up signed copies unavailable elsewhere. No current plans are in the works for a paperback or e-book. The special sculpture-bound edition of Play Dead, however, is still in production and will be limited to 54 copies. It will be textured to look something like a prop from a horror film, sporting an evil “Ace of Spades” on the cover with dark ruby eyes and realistic teeth…and it will include a custom-illustrated pack of actual playing cards emulating images from the book. This “Grim Grimoire” has yet to be priced (watch for updates), but a book this unique is certain to sell out quickly. You can preview how cool these awesome books are going to be by looking here:

For more information, advanced praise, and links to booksellers stocking Play Dead, see: Wanna read the first chapter? It's available in the Reading Room at Horror Fiction News Network:

I promised that I'd upload audio to this year, and I've finally managed to produce something unique. “Driving the Sick Elephant” is a studio-quality spoken word performance set to original music, now available for free only on my website. The accompaniment is pretty cool in itself, so you can also download the instrumental track on its own if you like creepy music. More is certainly to come. Check out the streaming sample and get the mp3 files for your DiePod at:

Rigormarole, my new poetry chapbook, should be mailing very soon from Naked Snake Press. It will be a limited run of 250 copies, signed, featuring original art by one of the godfathers of “splatterpunk” fiction, best-selling author John Skipp. Horror-web calls Rigormarole: “An eclectic and often inspired collection. Arnzen provides for both those that love zombies and those that are sick of them, because you cannot help but laugh at some of these while being amazed at the zen-like depth of others.”

The winners of the 2004 Bram Stoker Awards were announced last weekend. Alas, this newsletter and my fiction collection, 100 Jolts – which were finalists – did not earn the trophy, but the old cliche is true: it truly was “an honor to be nominated” by my peers in the horror field. There are several highlights in the winner's list, and I applaud everyone. But I think I'm clapping loudest for Hellnotes newsletter, which won the Stoker for Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction. It feels good to be a small part of a winning serial. Congratulations, especially, to editor Judi Rohrig. I was also happy to see that Shane Staley from Delirium Books won the Specialty Press Award and that The Devil's Wine (reviewed here last October) won the Bram Stoker award in the “Alternative Forms” category. Many congratulations to Tom Piccirilli for his courageous support of horror poetry. Check out the full winner's list and be sure to read all the finalists if you want to stay up on the best scary stuff being written today.

I was happy to see that my poetry book, Freakcidents, hit #2 on the bestseller chart at Shocklines Bookstore the week it was released. Have you gotten your freak on yet? Come one, come all – see the amazing “Needle Baby” or the frightening “Spiderboy”; feast your eyes on the incredible “Human Scab” or the man who can swallow himself whole! Wonderfully illustrated by GAK, this signed/numbered limited edition will make you rethink what it means to be human, after all. Softcover is $9.95; hardcover is $50. Learn more at

As many of you know, my day job is as a college teacher. This May's issue of The BroadSheet features my essay, “Grossing Out Teacher: A Horror Writer in the Writing Classroom.” Although this piece is aimed at other teachers, you might find it interesting to read about the bizarre things students sometimes do when they find out I write horror stories.


Want a book signed? Want to attend a fiction reading or take a horror writing workshop? Here are some of my upcoming appearances for 2005.

August 19-20th
HorrorFind Weekend | Baltimore, MD
Fiction Reading and Book Launch for Play Dead

October 22nd
Ligonier Valley Writers | Scottdale, PA
Horror and Fantasy Writing Workshop

November 3rd-6th
World Fantasy Convention 2005 | Madison, WI
Reading TBA

I'm also going to begin arranging for public signings and readings in the Pittsburgh region throughout the Fall, so keep your eyes on the Goreletter weblog for updates if you're planning on being in the area.


Offbeat Confessions


Not Proud

I Used to Believe


A Macabre Miscellany

I found Geoffrey Abbott's treasury of trivia, A Macabre Miscellany (Virgin Books, 2004), entirely by accident. I was gift shopping at the local chain bookstore, and somehow found this morbid little book in the Reference section. After reading the back cover – which calls it “a compendium of carnage, a treasure chest of torture and terror…the very best of the very worst things that can happen to a person” – I immediately knew that I had indeed found a gift…for myself!

Published by the quirky book division of UK outfit Virgin Entertainment, this 4×6“ title manages to collect “a thousand gruesome and gory facts” culled from world history by none other than a former Beefeater at the Tower of London. In his introduction to the book – which is essentially a compendium of bizarre historical factoids revolving around torture, mutilation, and capital punishment – Abbot explains that in his work at the Tower of London, he would most often get lurid questions from tourists who would want to know more about the execution chambers than the Crown Jewels…and so he began to research the answers, which led to a lifelong obsession with the bizarre. The book is divided into chapters with titles like “What a Way to Go!” and “Bones, Brains and Body Parts” which catalog the extreme lengths that “civilized” cultures have gone to in order to exact punishment, cruelty and revenge. The book is filled with “little known facts” that would make for delightful dinner conversation. Here's a typical entry (and one of the tamer ones, I might add):

“Before severed heads were displayed in public on London Bridge, they were preserved by being parboiled in salt water and cumin seed to deter the sea birds from eating the flesh.”

There are nine hundred and ninety-nine more where that came from. Reading this book, I learned about virtually every execution method ever tried by man (I particularly like the “Brazen Bull” (which boiled victims inside a golden calf) and the ancient Chinese punishment of sawing a man in half, vertically, starting at the head); bizarre medical experiments (like the time a dog's head was sewn onto a freshly guillotined corpse…and momentarily brought to life!), and numerous freakish delights (like the story of Peter Kuren, the “Monster of Dusseldorf,” whose blood fetish was so neurotic that even at the guillotine he expressed regret, “not for his crimes, but because he would not be able to hear his own blood pumping out after the blade had fallen”). I finally learned how long it takes a body to be cremated and was surprised to discover when the last beheading was performed in France. Abbott's talent for digging up history's horrors – from the banal to the absurd – greatly impressed me.

If you like true crime, you'll get a kick out of this book. The old cliché, truth is stranger than fiction, is proven once again…and as a horror writer, this book really inspired me in ways I can begin to imagine. And it made me laugh, of course, too. I highly recommend this title. I'll be looking for Abbot's related book, The Executioner Always Chops Twice, the next time I go gift shopping…and I'll definitely be picking up More Macabre Miscellany: 1000 MORE Hideous And Horrifying Acts when it's released this September!


Dennis Hopper's Horror Sequels

For your next movie night, rent:
Land of the Dead (2005)
The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005)
Firestarter 2: Rekindled (2002)


Be the first Goreletter subscriber to post a reader review – pro or con – of my new book, Play Dead, at or and win a free signed copy of one of my recent poetry chapbooks. Two separate prizes (one for each site) will be awarded – but you can only win once; consolation prizes might be offered to other contenders who also get reviews up quickly. E-mail me to alert me if/when your review appears. (Note: this contest does not apply to readers who received an Advanced Review Copy from the publisher). Get your orders in now; the race is on! Play Dead at Play Dead at


It actually pays to scroll this far down.

This great bargain is for Goreletter subscribers only. Buy any book directly from the publisher's online catalog at Raw Dog Screaming Press and receive a FREE COPY of 15 Serial Killers by Harold Jaffee! You must enter the discount code “FREE15” in the comments field when you check out using PayPal.

Buy one item on The Sickolodeon and I'll give you free access to one other item on the site. To send me proof of purchase, click on the “detail” column entry for your purchase history in the “account summary” at, then copy and paste the “receipt details” information into an e-mail you send me at I'll send you a free access pass to another randomly chosen item in The Sickolodeon! The Sickolodeon is open for business here:

GET FICTIONWISE – the web's best sci-fi and horror e-book seller – maintains a special 15% off page for Goreletter subscribers, which is updated weekly. This week features e-book treasures by talents like Fritz Leiber and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Do a search for economical Arnzen titles, like 100 Jolts or the hard to find book, Paratabloids, while you're there!

Dark Discoveries magazine is offering an exclusive discount to all Goreletter subscribers. Save 25% on subscriptions or single copies. That's 4 issues for $14.99 or single issues for $4.50 instead of $5.99 (shipping is free!). You can pay thru paypal (to: ) or see the publisher's website for details on where to send a snail mail payment. Use code GOREDISC in your order to claim the coupon.

Writers: Don't forget that you can get a free 2-month “Taste of HELLNOTES” subscription by participating in their new monthly “Wee Small Hours” publication. What better way to instigate yourself into some twisted storytelling?


If you subscribe to AOL, you may have missed issue 3.02 due to an unforeseen spam filtration. E-mail me if you didn't receive the newsletter (“Birds are Fowl”) and I'll forward you another copy directly.


All material in The Goreletter is © 2005 Michael A. Arnzen, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward the entire contents as a whole, without alterations or excisions. Direct links to articles in the archives or the weblog are permitted and encouraged. For reprint permissions of individual pieces, please contact

Winner of the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Alternative Forms from the Horror Writers Association:

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Time for a Change

“This life is a hospital in which every patient is possessed with a desire to change his bed.” – Charles Baudelaire (died 1866)

* Due to the temporary nature of internet URLs, some websites mentioned in back issues of the Goreletter may no longer be live, or may also point to unscrupulous web servers. I will denote these with overstrikes as I discover them, but if you encounter a dead, changed or unscrupulous link, please feel free to inform me.
* “Boo Coupons” are expired in all but the current issue.
* If you are seeking a particular book by Arnzen mentioned in The Goreletter, try
* Arnzen's blog is now located at Visit it for breaking news and extras not appearing in The Goreletter.

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goreletter/skittyphrenia.txt · Last modified: 2013/11/29 11:51 by marnzen

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