My True Crime-inspired Young Adult novella UGLYVILLE is now available on Amazon for Kindle and Print! An eccentric teenaged girl falls in love-at-first-sight with the neighborhood garbageman, only to learn he’s already taken. But that won’t stop her from stealing his heart for herself, by any means necessary.

And don’t forget my acclaimed Dark Comedy novel DEAD SIZE. Reviewers call it "a fantastic blend of detective story, dark comedy, and waking daydream” and “sick, twisted, and hilarious."

Also available, Dark Park Publishing’s “amazing” Sci-Fi Horror anthology WHAT HAS TWO HEADS, TEN EYES, AND TERRIFYING TABLE MANNERS?, edited by yours truly, my “sharp-witted” Short Story collection DARK SPACES and my brand new conte cruel-esque Kindle short "THE DARK AT THE DEEP END."

I hope you will give my books a try. There’s something for everyone... who isn’t like everyone else.

<--- Purchase links on left sidebar.

Revisiting “VENT!: The Online Magazine for Disgruntled Filmmakers” (Part 2)

Posted By on July 3, 2016

A significant element of VENT!’s raison d’être (see previous post) was demonstrating that even the most lauded filmmakers had difficult, even doubtful beginnings. Below are a few true origin stories I had shared on the website about some famous auteurs. Whether you’re a filmmaker, author, musician, or other artist, there’s always hope if you’re resourceful and persistent. (Being talented probably helps too.)

  • Francis Ford Coppola, the genius behind such cinema classics as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, began his filmmaking career a little less illustriously. In 1961, as a UCLA film student, 22-year-old Coppola wrote, produced and directed a nudie short called “The Peeper” (inspired by Russ Meyer’s The Immoral Mr. Teas). He combined it with a nudie western (made by others), plus some additional footage. The result was the 66-minute Tonight For Sure (original title: Wide Open Spaces). Coppola also shot new scenes for the nudie feature Playgirls and the Bellboy before going on to work for B-movie mogul Roger Corman.
  • Controversy monger and hyperkinetic filmmaker Oliver Stone began his auspicious career in the industry working for schlockmeisters Troma Entertainment (The Toxic Avenger, Surf Nazis Must Die, Class of Nuke ‘Em High), first as an actor in the G-rated(!) The Battle of Love’s Return (1971), and then as associate producer a year later on the initially X-rated erotic thriller Sugar Cookies.
  • Guerilla moviemaker turned Hollywood mover-shaker Robert Rodriguez partially financed his early films, including El Mariachi, by volunteering as a “lab rat” for medical experiments. One week-long session to test a speed healing drug required he endure biopsies in which small chunks of flesh were removed from both his arms.
  • Before moving to Austin, Texas to make his hit debut feature Slacker, Richard Linklater left school to work hard labor on an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • In lieu of film school, punch-happy film geek Quentin Tarantino learned his craft through working at a video store. His first job, providing him with an education of a somewhat different sort, was at a porno theater called the Pussycat Lounge.
  • Alan Rudolph, protégé of auteur Robert Altman and later director of such cryptically giddy films as Choose Me and Trouble in Mind, started off as assistant director on The Brady Bunch TV series. Among the very first projects on which he had honed his filmmaking talents (under a pseudonym) was the twisted 1973 horror feature Barn of the Naked Dead. The “plot” includes kidnapped women in chains, a psycho dressed as a ringmaster with a whip, a long-haired mutant from an H-bomb test site, as well as ridiculous dialogue, terrible sound, and bad editing.
  • Celebrated filmmaker/humorist Woody Allen was not quite the exemplary student. Before he was bounced out of New York University after having been enrolled for a total of only two semesters, he had never earned more than a grade of C- in motion picture production and an F in English. He admits to having skipped half of his classes (although he did attend the film screenings regularly). One dean told Woody he was “not good college material” and a professor of his declared he had no future in film. Years later, in lieu of academic honors and a college diploma, Allen has won major critical acclaim and three Academy Awards (and many nominations) for his work.

Revisiting “VENT!: The Online Magazine for Disgruntled Filmmakers” (Part 1)

Posted By on May 1, 2016

Way back in 1997, after I had completed producing my one and so far only feature film on a $60,000 budget, I launched a semi-popular website called VENT! It focused on the flourishing world of indie filmmaking at a time when regular folks were maxing out multiple credit cards (à la Kevin Smith’s CLERKS) or enrolling themselves in paid scientific research studies (à la Richard Linklater’s SLACKER) to finance their own films. VENT! was a venue for indie filmmakers to share and bitch about how hard it was to make and make money from a film on your own.


Now here I am, almost 20 years later, and I still have the film bug. I still write screenplays between my prose work. And I still want to direct another film. (Ideally one more successful than my first opus.) I believe I still boast the visual storytelling chops, and desire to demonstrate them… as soon as I can get somebody to give me the funds to do so. (Major lesson I learned from my first opus: use other people’s money.)

I recently came across the content of VENT! on my computer and thought it would be an interesting, inspiring, perhaps painful reminder of what true independent filmmaking entails. Turns out much of it is as relevant today as it was in ’97.

To start this series of posts off, below is the homepage introduction to the site:

“I’m shocked when I read things calling the new generation slackers or Generation X. This is a great, great generation. They are totally passionate about the cinema, the law, cooking. And there is no place for them.” -Francis Ford Coppola

Independent filmmaking is booming, and the explosion has left many an indie filmmaker writhing in its aftermath. More independent films (especially low and no budgets) have been made in the past five years than have been produced in the previous twenty-five years.

Here is a no-punches pulled (excepting slanderous allegations), no-bullshit (okay, maybe a little bullshit) place to vent all your frustrations about the medium you, as a filmmaker, so passionately embrace. This is the online magazine to bitch and moan about everything in this biz that vexes you, and to educate fellow film and video makers on what to do and what to avoid. Here we can benefit from each other’s experiences, or inexperience, with major studios, production companies, distributors, exhibitors, producers’ reps, film festivals, attorneys, agents and critics. It is not meant to discourage or bum out struggling filmmakers. Rather, it is a reality check for us, composed of doses of venom, advice and humor. It is to show all indie filmmakers that we’re not alone in our efforts to get our films made and seen, and that, in this ever-morphing industry, there often are no hard and fast rules to succeed. It might not make us feel any better to learn there are so many of us striving to get noticed, but hopefully it will rouse support and spark ideas among the independent film community.

VENT is group therapy for down-but-not-yet-out movie makers.

VENT will also have interviews with established indie filmmakers who tell how they got where they are, as well as with suicidally-in-debt filmmakers who are still waiting to be discovered and just trying to survive. If you are an indie filmmaker who has produced a film and can’t get it sold or screened, or if you’re an aspiring filmmaker who can’t get your film financed, or if you’re just someone who wants to “let ’em have it” in the motion picture business, write to VENT about all your trials, troubles and tribulations.

Remember, every filmmaker, whether you have made a film or not, is alike in one respect: We all share a dream. VENT will wake us up.

Behold “The Beholder”! (My earliest surviving story)

Posted By on December 13, 2015

Here, dear reader, is my earliest surviving complete story. (I have uncovered writings predating it, such as this one, but not with fully developed narratives.)

Penned while I was in high school, many of my oldest friends still remember this character study about a man who finds beauty in everything he encounters. I think it illuminates how, even back then, my mind veered toward the darker side of the human psyche.

Click on the link below to read:

“The Beholder” by Sawney Hatton












Posted By on October 29, 2015

In celebration of Halloween, I present you this nasty little story about body modification.

Click on link below this line to read:

– Viewing Pleasure by Sawney Hatton –

"Hospital Nightmare" by Maxwell Hamilton

“Hospital Nightmare” by Maxwell Hamilton


Posted By on August 29, 2015

photo 1986 William McConnell

photo 1986 William McConnell

The Butthole Surfers were the most important band I listened to during my formative teen years. They were my Beatles, my Grateful Dead, my One Direction(?). From the first time I heard frontman Gibby Haynes bellow ‘SATAN! SATAN! SATAN!’ at the beginning of “Sweat Loaf” on their 1987 album Locust Abortion Technician to my first BHS concert at the Ritz in New York City—featuring fog machines, strobe lights, flaming cymbals, penis surgery movies, and a nearly bald, entirely naked go-go dancer—I was hooked. The Butthole Surfers spoke to me, and I haven’t been the same since.

An old friend of mine, James Burns, has written the definitive, long-overdue Butthole Surfers book, LET’S GO TO HELL: SCATTERED MEMORIES OF THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS. Also capturing the socio-political climate under the Reagan regime, it features scores of rare photos and anecdotes from many punk rock luminaries.

Jim was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book and his memories of BHS close encounters:

Q: What makes the Butthole Surfers worthy of a biographical book?

A think a lot of people have forgotten just how important the Butthole Surfers were in the evolution of alternative rock, and of rock music in general.

photo 1987 Ken Salerno

photo 1987 Ken Salerno

They were one of the first bands to fully incorporate the complete history of rock music into the context of punk rock, and certainly one of the most successful bands to do so, in the 80s especially.

After most of punk rock was becoming unmotivated, around 1986-87, the Buttholes were there to remind folks the reasons we were drawn to punk rock in the first place. The fact that they could do that while playing 10-minute long improv jams remains a pretty amazing feat.

By 1989 or so, after they became a quartet, they were writing serious rock songs. The thing is, they weren’t putting out records. Their 4-song ep Widowermaker only alluded to what they were doing live. They had dozens of tunes that didn’t get released until later on. If you want to know who built the bridge between punk rock and grunge, I would argue the Buttholes were THE band to do it.

I also think they are an amazing study of how to run a band, and that any band can make it, no matter the name or style of music, providing you are committed (or committable) enough. They were real troubadours.

Q: What musicians influenced the Buttholes? How have the Buttholes influenced other musicians?

I don’t think the band was limited to any particular influence, per se. They’ll perhaps mention their love of The Fall, Television, or the Jam, Black Sabbath of course, or Grand Funk Railroad, or even Walter Brennan. And you can hear all those influences and a million more in their sound, which changed remarkably from record to record. I think it was their willingness to incorporate all music, regardless of the so-called ‘genre’, that made them so great.

As far as musicians they influenced, that list is too long to mention. Let’s just say that Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Green River were all opening for THEM in the 1980s. Jane’s Addiction and Dinosaur Jr are among those they’ve influenced as well. There are very few bands of any importance in the 80s who were not anxiously awaiting the next Butthole Surfers record. Pretty much any band that was incorporating the freak power mentality of the 1960s into the realm of punk rock owes their debt, in part or in full, to the Butthole Surfers. Period.

Q: The Butthole Surfers live shows were legendary. What made them so remarkable?

photo 1982 Dixon Edge Coulbourn

photo 1982 Dixon Edge Coulbourn

Butthole Surfers concerts were completely lawless. People forget what it was like in the 1980s. Edwin Meese, the PMRC, Jerry Falwell; the FCC overreach into content; the Mapplethorpe/National Endowment of the Arts debate. The whole Reagan administration had been bent on suppressing any views that didn’t fit into the conservative Christian values he prescribed to. Let’s not forget, Reagan sent troops into People’s Park to shoot protesters BEFORE Kent State—this was not a man to be trifled with. I think the song “U.S.S.A” really strikes at the heart of what was going on at the time so eloquently.

The Butthole Surfers’ shows sort of held up a mirror to society, without being overtly political. True freedom in a time of repression is dangerous to the powers that be, but no one would touch them. I don’t think Tipper Gore would want the Butthole Surfers dragged before Congress to debate whether their records were dangerous, which is what made the band that much more dangerous to their bogus family values.

Q: How did their notorious name originate? How did their name affect their marketability?

In that same vein, the band name prevented them from being mentioned in many newspapers and magazines, even on college radio. The FCC was fining college and commercial stations for indecency, and program directors were scared. I mean, even in 1996 they released a “clean” version of Electriclarryland with their name blocked out on the cover. Their name was probably the biggest obstacle to their success, early on. It wasn’t until grunge became popular that the majors would even THINK about being able to promote them.

The legend goes that they settled on the name after having a different name every day. They finally got a paid gig as the Butthole Surfers and figured it was a good omen. Not sure if they realized at the time how much grief it would cause them later on.

Q: How were you introduced to the Buttholes?

My pal Dafydd was buying records like mad, and he bought most everything on the Alternative Tentacles label. He brought over A Brown Reason to Live to my house in 1984 or so. I dug it, but it took a while for me to get fully into them. When their song “Moving to Florida” came out, my other pal Kevin and I used to crack up to it. But it wasn’t until I heard an interview on WNYU in 1987 that I was finally intrigued enough to go see them live. I did, and that was it. My 16-year-old straight-edge mind was completely blown. I was converted.

Q: Why did you decide to write the book? What was it like writing it? What kind of challenges did you face?

I was running the Anal Obsession, and just accumulating recordings and talking to a lot of former band members and their friends, mostly just looking to score more shows. Through that, a narrative started to develop. I started writing it about 5 years ago, and after about a year or so, started seriously seeking out interviews.

I knew that Chuck Young was trying to write a book about them and he was unable to pull it off, even though he was close friends with them! We had even chatted once about it long before I’d started writing. God bless Chuck… there is a special wing in heaven for him.

Anywho, Chuck’s inability to get it done makes my attempt even that much more presumptuous, but I think my LACK of attachments to the band actually HELPED. I didn’t get led on all the wild goose chases the band used to like to lead serious journalists on. Chuck had more fun in the process, but I got the information I needed to finish a book.

The biggest challenge was just that. The band was constantly goofing around and rarely gave a serious interview. I must have read hundreds of articles, piecing together stories and comparing show dates to time frames to come up with some semblance of the ‘truth’ and then, later on, interviewing folks to get the best recollections/corroborations. It took me five solid years of writing, and honestly about 25 years of collecting and research to complete. It was not a job for a sane and rational person.

Q: What was your most surprising discovery about BHS when researching the book?

I guess it was surprising that I actually got denied a couple of interviews because of the whole Touch & Go lawsuit thing. I’m kind of surprised that folks are still so hung up about it they wouldn’t even talk to me about the band.

I really feel that the band got short-changed in that whole thing, in more ways than just that they weren’t getting paid properly. It’s a real shame that the lawsuit remains their legacy in many ways.

Things are much different now. Bands rarely stay on the same indie record label for as long as the Buttholes did, but the precedent the lawsuit set was actually good for bands and their art. No label should own a band’s music hostage in perpetuity. Corey was making more per record than the members in the group. How is that fair?

So there’s that, and also just how dern<sic> nice and supportive so many people have been to me, and supportive of the project. A lot of folks have shown the love. I feel blessed to have met so many great artists and people over the course of writing it. It really is humbling.

Q: What is your favorite BHS anecdote? Your personal fondest BHS memory?

My fondest Butthole memory is still that 12/12/87 Ritz show, the one that got us onto the cover of Double Live. What a show that was, huh?!

Butthole Surfers Double Live, 1989

Butthole Surfers Double Live, 1989

Seriously, though, there is one thing that Teresa said to me which really stands out.

She says that the band had an unspoken code to not discuss what things “meant.” So many interviewers were asking them what their name meant, what their stage shows meant and what their songs were about. They would lead journalists on wild goose chases and such just to avoid having to place meaning behind everything they were doing.

That said, she mentioned that the song “Perry” is about everyone trying to find meaning behind it all. (”It’s about licking the shit off the floor…”)

Where and when will the book be sold?

The book just came out on August 27, and right now is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’ll also be selling it direct through the CHEAP DRUGS RECORDS Facebook page within the next month or two.

Let’s Go To Hell by James Burns

Let’s Go To Hell by James Burns