MEET VERONA CASSIDY:

FILLE FATALE

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.

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10 Books that Burrowed into my Brain

Posted By on April 29, 2017


I read a lot of books, but frankly I forget about most not long after I’ve finished them. While I may well have enjoyed the reads, only a select few titles have managed to stick with me to this day, years later. Below is my Top Ten list of these. They’re not all classics, and I wouldn’t recommend them all to everyone. However, they’re the ones I remember — their plots, characters, even lines of dialogue or prose. Your mileage may vary, but I think they’re at least worth a test drive.

Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
Zephyr, Alabama, is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson — a place where monsters swim the river deep and friends are forever. Then, one cold spring morning, Cory and his father witness a car plunge into a lake — and a desperate rescue attempt brings his father face-to-face with a terrible, haunting vision of death. As Cory struggles to understand his father’s pain, his eyes are slowly opened to the forces of good and evil that surround him. From an ancient mystic who can hear the dead and bewitch the living, to a violent clan of moonshiners, Cory must confront the secrets that hide in the shadows of his hometown — for his father’s sanity and his own life hang in the balance.

Callisto by Torsten Krol
Odell Deefus, who’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, has one goal: to “try my hardest to be a good soldier against the mad dog Islamites.” But while driving to an army enlistment office in Callisto, Kansas, his ’78 Chevy breaks down on the side of a country road, and it’s only the beginning of his troubles. When he accepts a local’s offer of shelter until the car is repaired, things go from bad to worse — worse as in murder, drug dealers, tenacious televangelists . . . and finding himself a prime target of the FBI, which thinks he’s a member of a terrorist sleeper cell. And none of it bodes well for his unrequited crush on Condoleezza Rice. But fear, rash judgments, and extreme reactions are simply the norm in a post-9/11 world. Odell will just have to deal with it.

Cold Skin by Albert Sanchez Pinol
Shortly after World War I, a troubled man accepts a solitary assignment as a “weather official” on a tiny, remote island on the edges of the Antarctic. When he arrives, the predecessor he is meant to replace is missing and a deeply disturbed stranger is barricaded in a heavily fortified lighthouse. At first adversaries, the two find that their tenuous partnership may be the only way they survive the unspeakably horrific reptilian creatures that ravage the island at night, attacking the lighthouse in their organized effort to find warm-blooded food. Armed with a battery of ammunition and explosives, the weather official and his new ally must confront their increasingly murderous mentality, and, when the possibility of a kind of truce presents itself, decide what kind of island they will inhabit.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow. This is the improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog.

The Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale
When a group of friends decided to spend a day at the world’s largest Drive-In theater horror fest, they expected to see tons of bloody murders, rampaging madmen, and mayhem—but only on the screen. As a mysterious force traps all the patrons inside the Drive-In, the worst in humanity comes out.

Island by Richard Laymon
When eight people go on a cruise in the Bahamas, they plan to swim, sunbathe and relax. Getting shipwrecked is definitely not in the script. But after the yacht blows up they’re stranded on a deserted island, and there’s a maniac on the loose.

Lamb by Christopher Moore
The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years — except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story. Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more — except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala — and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Awe and exhilaration — along with heartbreak and mordant wit — abound in Lolita, Nabokov’s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love — love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
Following the death of a friend, the poet and pets’ mortician Dennis Barlow finds himself entering the artificial Hollywood paradise of the Whispering Glades Memorial Park. Within its golden gates, death, American-style, is wrapped up and sold like a package holiday, and Dennis gets drawn into a bizarre love triangle with Aimée Thanatogenos, a naïve Californian corpse beautician, and Mr. Joyboy, a master of the embalmer’s art. Waugh’s dark and savage satire on the Anglo-American cultural divide depicts a world where reputation, love, and death cost a very great deal.

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
Set in a remote future in a post-nuclear holocaust England (Inland), Hoban has imagined a humanity regressed to an iron-age, semi-literate state — and invented a language to represent it. Riddley is at once the Huck Finn and the Stephen Dedalus of his culture: rebel, change agent, and artist.

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.

VENT-logo

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

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VIEWING PLEASURE (A Tale of Terror)

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