Monthly Archives: November 2014

Heath Lowrance




Curiouser & Curiouser: Who was your first crush?

Heath: I had sort of a triple-whammy when I was about 11 or 12 years old. First, Julie Newmar as Catwoman made me sorta sit up and realize that, hey, there WAS a difference between boys and girls. Diana Rigg as Emma Peel reinforced that. And Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams set it in stone. Someone told me once that there’s a definite pattern there, but I, of course, have no idea what they’re talking about.

C&C: What’s the story behind the white cowboy hat? What prompted that purchase and who are you when you wear it?

H: I really like that hat and I wish I had more reasons to wear it; here in Lansing, MI, you can’t really walk around town wearing a cowboy hat. I mean, I suppose you COULD, but you’d be asking for trouble. I bought it because I always kinda wanted one, and I like the way it looks. When I’m wearing it, my inner bad-ass comes out, which makes it useful for writing purposes (yes, I sometimes wear it while sitting in front of my computer typing away. Don’t judge).

C&C: Why a WHITE cowboy hat? Not black, brown, but white? Connotations of good as opposed to evil? You just liked it the best? Can we just do the interview about the hat?

H: You can’t really tell from the picture, but the hat is actually OFF-white, which is more appropriate, I reckon. In the parlance of our gamer geek friends, I am Chaotic Good.

And my hat doesn’t do interviews anymore.

C&C: You worked at Sun Records – tell me pretty much ANYTHING you want about that.

H: I did! I won’t lie to you, it was the best job ever. I’ve already told the story of being the only non-essential personnel in the studio when Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Scotty Moore were there filming something for the BBC—that was probably the highlight—but really, everyday was pretty cool. I got to meet people from all over the world who’d made the journey to Memphis to see the shabby little place where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, etc, cut those historic tracks. I got to be a know-it-all, sharing bits of information and playing songs for remarkably enthusiastic audiences. It was a great time, once an hour, every day. I loved it.

C&C: What was the worst job you ever had?

H: The polar opposite of working at Sun was this office gig I had for SEVEN LONG YEARS. It nearly killed me. I was in sales first, then customer service, and I sucked hard at both. Every morning I’d lay in bed and consider cutting off my foot and wondering if that would allow me to not go in that day. It was boring and tedious and stressful and I think I aged twenty years for every shift.

C&C: Do you have any tattoos?

H: Yeah, I have one. I’ve had it since I was 17 and almost never think about it anymore. It’s a cow skull, on my left bicep. I was sorta into the “cowpunk” thing when I was a kid. I know tats are a lot more common now, pretty much everyone has them. I guess I have no strong feelings about them at all, as they don’t indicate anything about the person who has them.

C&C: Do you collect anything? If not, did you ever, say as a kid?

H: I guess I do. I like to acquire old issues of Manhunt from the ‘50’s when I can, although I don’t have many. Also, paperbacks from that same era. I used to collect certain comic books and toys, but the thrill of that wore off as I got older. Sometimes when I get really enthusiastic about a particular writer, I feel the compulsion to buy everything by them. But my various collections of things are really meager compared to some folks I know, which makes me realize I’m not a profound collector of anything.

C&C: What’s your favorite holiday and why?

H: Hmm… Halloween, maybe? That probably won’t come as a shock to anyone. I don’t go to Halloween parties or anything, I don’t dress up in costumes (I liked your Han Solo costume, by the way!) but I dig the whole Halloween vibe. Spooky, spooky.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

H: Hang on, lemme see.
35 cents. A couple of stray pistachios. A piece of paper that I have written LUCIFER SADFINGER on; I have no idea what that means. Oh, and look, a crumpled dollar bill that must have gone through the wash. Party time!

C&C: Can you make of three scenarios that “Lucifer Sadfinger” could end up on a piece of paper in your pocket??

H: I figure it’s one of three things.

1) I met someone named Lucien Solfigger and just horribly mangled his name.
2) a very lonely guy with a bizarre name gave me his info and asked me to text him, but he forget to give me the number, which would go a long way toward explaining his loneliness.
3) A cult of Depressed Satanic keyboard players have marked me as their next sacrificial victim.
Whichever one it is, I suspect it’s better not to know.



Heath Lowrance


Leah Rhyne



Curiouser & Curiouser: Tell me everything about the rUNdead you participated in recently!

Leah: Everything? Okay, here goes.

rUNdead came to Charleston three years ago, right as I was getting ready to release the first Undead America book. I signed up for the race, along with my brother, who flew out from Oklahoma to run it with me, and a friend of mine. We talked about using it for some kind of promotional event, but I had no idea how to do that, so finally we just ran it. We died. All three of us. The zombies have to steal your flags (like flag football), and we all had all our flags stolen. I also had my butt and a boob grabbed, but I guess it was all in good fun. We laughed a LOT and had an excellent time.

So when I heard rUNdead was coming back the following year, around the same time I was releasing Book 2 and getting Book 1 in print, I reached out to the guy in charge, and we struck a deal: I blogged for them, and they gave me a vendor table at the event. It was spectacular. My whole family came out (husband, kiddo, parents) as did lots of friends. I only brought about 20 copies of the book, and I sold them all! So it was great!

This year, we struck the same deal. I blog every week in the three months leading up to the race, and I get my own table at the event. This year I was next to an actor named Greg French, who happens to be better known as “Barbed-wire Zombie” from The Walking Dead. He’s actually played something like 20 walkers over two seasons of the show. One of my best friends from college had come down to run, so we all had fun, hanging out, swapping stories and such. I let my daughter dress up as a zombie, and she entered the costume contest. It was super-sweet, even though she lost out to two babies dressed as Little Bo Peep and a sheep. I mean, who can beat that?

But seriously, it’s such a fun event. My friend that ran it this year said she’s never laughed so much in her life. The zombies are fun and crazy, and the people who are in charge of rUNdead have become like family to me. I hope we all get to do it again next year.

C&C: Do you do make-up FX for the RUNdead event or is that
strictly for the Other Team? And do you in general get into F/X, make-up,
blood, costumes, that sort of thing, in general?

L: I’m TERRIBLE at make-up, but I do my daughter’s zombie make-up every year
anyway. At rUNdead they actually bring in cosmetology students from a local
school to handle the course-zombies.

I love the idea of costumes, blood, make-up, but short of red lipstick and
1950s style dresses, I have no flair for it. I feel like I need
lessons…or maybe a budget so I can hire someone…so I can get better at
it. Like, when I see cosplayers at cons, I’m JEALOUS. I want to do that,
but I have no idea how!! It’s just not my skill-set.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

L: Right now I’m wearing running shorts and a tank top, so I don’t have any pockets. But earlier I had on a dress and denim jacket, since I went to a press preview for a new exhibition at a local gallery downtown. So at that point, in my jacket pocket, I had my phone, a hair tie, and more than likely a used band-aid or tissue or some other child-themed detritus.

C&C: Do you wear shoes and socks in the house?

L: I love love LOVE being barefoot, and one of the benefits of living in the south is that I can usually get away with being barefoot year-round. But on those few cold days, I MUST have socks because otherwise my little toes’ll get froze. And that never goes well. But shoes? In the house? Almost never….unless it’s a Going Out Night and I’m wearing heels, because once I get those suckers on, they do NOT come off. Because once they’re OFF? I refuse to put them back ON.

C&C: Shoes are stupid, some of them are just really pretty,
and also sometimes there’s glass. Glass leads to injuries. This is a
segueway. What’s the most ridiculous way you’ve gotten injured/injury
you’ve had? You can reach back into childhood if you need to…

L: Well, I cracked a rib from coughing during a particularly nasty case of
bronchitis. That’s pretty ridiculous. That was probably six or seven years
ago. Then about two years ago, on a rainy day, was carrying a box of frozen
meat (yes, frozen meat) in my garage while wearing rubber flip-flops.
Apparently the water made the bottom of said flip-flops extra-slick, and
when I took a step, my feet literally slipped up and out. I flew through
the air and landed – hard – on my ass, cracking my tailbone. That HURT!
Plus the frozen meat went everywhere.

See? I don’t need to go too far back in time for ridiculousness. It’s
followed me through life.

C&C: How many readings have you done since this summer in Louisville, and are you less nervous now that you’re an old pro?

L: Me? Read? Honestly, the only “public” reading I’ve done since Louisville happened last week. It was Read All Day Day (yes, there’s some redundancy there) at my daughter’s school. It was also Halloween, and since they apparently don’t like to celebrate pagan holidays in southern public schools (or at least not my daughter’s particular elementary school), they came up with a compromise: children could wear book-themed costumes to school. My child wore soccer clothes because she loves a series of books written by Alex Morgan, a player on the US Women’s National Team.

Anyway….parents were encouraged to drop by and read to the kids on that particular day, so I read a story I wrote for my daughter a couple years back. It’s about a little girl (shocker) who’s afraid of a monster that haunts her dreams. I wasn’t nervous at all while reading it, and the kids were great. They laughed at the right places, and gasped sometimes too. So all-in-all, it was a pretty lovely experience.

Beyond that, though? Nope. NO public readings to speak of. So I’d probably still flip out like I did before Louisville.

I do have an upcoming event called Atomacon here in Charleston. I’ll be sitting on panels for the first time. I’m a little freaked out about that!

C&C: What’s your favorite candy?

L: I’m quite fond of most forms of chocolate, but Cadbury chocolate direct from England is probably my favorite. I’m also a huge fan of Nerds and other fruity candies. And cotton candy. And….well, okay, I just love candy. All of it. Except the vomit flavored beans in Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.

C&C: What do you dance to in the car when there’s no one around to stop/hinder your full performance?

L: I have a six-year-old little girl…I can do a mean “Love is an Open Door” from Frozen….but only when she’s in the car. I sing the boy part, of course. Kristoff. She’s Ana.

But by myself….the thing that’s really going to get me singing and dancing….has to be….Oh dear God, confession time: Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi. *gulps* He’s from my hometown. No lie. And all of Jersey still loves him. Once, I was at a diner in northern Jersey at 2 a.m. and Livin’ on a Prayer came on, and pretty much the whole diner started singing. It was impressive.

C&C: Do you have any tattoos?

L: Yes. I have three. A line drawing of a rose bud on the back of my neck, flowers all over the tramp-stamp location on my back, and a star and moon on my hip. The star and moon came on my 18th birthday, done by a guy whose name was (if I remember correctly) Big Brad. The flowers were all done by my brother, who’s a tattoo artist – the one on my neck is fairly recent, but the tramp-stampy one came about when my ex told me not to get any more tattoos. See how that worked out for him?

C&C: Do you think birds are smart or stupid?

L: Ugh. Birds. I’m terrified of birds. They’re smart and savvy and they’re
going to take over the world with their ugly little claw-feet. And living
where I live, there are birds EVERYWHERE!!! Ibises and herons and egrets
and hawks and bald eagles and CANADA GEESE! They’re the worst. I really
think they’re out to get me. And did you know: herons or egrets (I’m not
sure which is which) make some kind of noise that sounds exactly (EXACTLY)
like you’d expect a zombie to sound. So when you’re outside, alone, at
night, and one flies close overhead….it’s like the apocalypse is coming!







Leah Rhyne

Court Merrigan



Curiouser & Curiouser: I sort of indirectly became acquainted with you through guest-editing at Menacing Hedge. I emailed Craig Wallwork and said “I’ve accepted a story by someone named Court. Isn’t that a hell of a name?” or something similar and he ended up knowing who your were and informing me I hadn’t “discovered” you after all. Is there a story behind your name?

Court: My parents wanted a girl. True story. I mean, my first name’s Courtney. What other conclusion is there to draw? My mom denies it but I don’t believe her.

I’ve always had a special affinity for that one JC song:

I wish I could say that, like the song, that name made me tougher, or that me and my dad once had a rumble in the mud and the blood and the beer, but really all I got out of the deal was a somewhat unique nickname.

C&C: Soccer! Tell me about your first experience coaching. I know it’s a trip.

CM: Oh Lord, where to start, other than to acknowledge that you folks out there who teach preschool and kindergarten and run daycares – you people are saints. Trying to get a pack of 3- and 4-year olds to do anything even vaguely in unison is like herding a pack of rabid centipedes. Do you know what the most important thing in a 3-year old’s life is when they step on a soccer field? Snack time.

But it was really great, kids at that age just love everything. They’re miles away from figuring out how to bully one another and making a chorus of them laugh is surely the closest we get to happiness in this life. Three-year olds can have fun watching a loose shoelace flap in the breeze and they aren’t capable of hating anything. Except when it isn’t snacktime.

The Fightin’ Minnows did win one game this season, which was my fault. I never have played or watched soccer, or understood it at all, really. So I thought that when we scored, it was like football, we got to kick off. Our first game we ran up like nine goals before one of the other parent-coaches kind of pulled me aside and asked if they could have a turn kicking the ball from midfield like, you know, the rules stated. Here I thought I was a idiot savant at this soccer-coaching gig, too.

We didn’t win any games after that. But we did have snacks.

C&C: Do you have sports love? Tis the season. I’ve seen you use the word “Royals” a lot and you don’t strike me as a pop music lover. I’ll warn you I’ll fall asleep if this answer involves stats…

Hey, writing the perfect three minute & thirty-second pop song is a feat to be respected. Too bad it hasn’t been done since what, Michael Jackson? I’ll go find my rocking chair now. I think I left my cardigan there.

I really only follow one sport closely – college football. I grew up in Nebraska, and as any good Nebraskan will tell you, the Huskers are our state religion. We even built a Holy of Holys in Lincoln where 90,000 pilgrims appear decked out in corn suits six times a year. I can no more justify my love of the college gridiron than I can explain why bourbon is the proper tipple for a writer-in-training. It just is. GO BIG RED

I grew up listening to the Royals on the radio, way before those interlopers from the National League the Rockies showed up in Denver. I admit my fandom had gone a bit dormant, I only checked the standings every few days or so, before they made their remarkable run to the World Series this year. Maybe you have to be a grownup to really appreciate baseball? Because I sure did enjoy watching it again, and I haven’t in years. Of course it helps when your team is winning.

C&C: Your wife is beautiful. As a faux-journalist it was my responsibility to look at a lot of pictures of her. When did you fall in love?

CM: We met nine years ago when I was working in Thailand. A blind date, done traditional Thai-style. When I showed up to the beach to meet her, she was there, all right. Along with seven members of her extended family. No way were they leaving her alone with me until I’d been thoroughly vetted. Took a couple months, actually. And by then Nok and I didn’t care anymore – we knew we were it for each other.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

CM: As I type this, jack & nothing. Some kind of metaphor there?

C&C: What did you do for Halloween?

CM: Followed my kids around for blocks and blocks of sugar-hoarding. This marked the first Halloween where no one whined until they got carried, though, so … progress? Then we came home, the kids watched something on Netflix and I alternated some reading of Joe Clifford’s latest, Lamentation, and an ARC of The Nickronomicon by Nick Mamatas. Nick’s book pays homage to Lovecraft but unfortunately most of the references are lost on me so I’m sure I’m missing the best parts. Halloween-y, though, right?

C&C: What’s your favorite season, and why?

CM: Fall. If you write noir-ish things, what other season could it be?

C&C: You’re absolutely right. Fall is where all the colors and smells are, the rest are a little color-palette-specific. How does this leave you feeling about Christmas?

Tell you what, I fucking love Christmas. The way Tim Minchin loves Christmas, maybe more. That song chokes me up every time.

My family’s far-flung, from New York to Seattle. Don’t get to see them as often as I should. But come Christmastime, we get together.

I think I can trace my love / fascination with genuine country music to Christmas, too (I’m talking real country now, not this plastic bullshit you hear on the radio). I have a distinct memory of sitting in my grandparent’s house at Christmastime. My grandparents had an old wooden cabinet record player. They almost never used the thing. But every once in a while they’d play a record, usually on a winter evening when it was too cold to do any more farm work (for my grandfather, raised on a hardscrabble dirt farm in the Great Depression who came of age storming Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima in the Marine Corps, it had to be pretty damn cold out, Christmas or no Christmas.) On this Christmas, the record was Hank Williams. Us grandkids sitting around the woodburning stove-heated room during a western Nebraska snowstorm, listening to Hank warble. Basking in an intragenerational admiration society with my grandparents.

I can’t say we heard Lovesick Blues, but that’s my favorite Hank song, so I like to think we did.

Pretty much all the other music I’ve ever listened to is just a bonus track to Hank. And all those Christmases, a pale imitation of that one.

C&C: What was your favorite toy as a child, and why?

CM: I don’t know if it’s a toy, exactly, but when I was pretty little I got a BB gun for Christmas (there we go again) and I did as young farmboys do, proceeding to murder whole flocks of perfectly innocent sparrows and pigeons. God, I loved that gun. I’m sorry now for the sparrows although not so much for the pigeons. Flying rats. They did untold damage with their piles of guano to our beautiful barn. Anyway, I shot off whole boxes of BBs until I graduated to a shotgun and then, for one reason or another, sort of lost interest in hunting. I don’t know why, exactly. I own guns and I still love to get out there where the critters are, but I’m just not very motivated to kill them while I’m there. Maybe it’s the fault of that toy?

C&C: Do you “educate” your kids in any specific area of pop culture? Like, movie westerns, classic rock, etc. If you do, how so?

CM: My kids have grown up steeped in country music, beginning and ending with Hank Williams, Sr. They know dozens of Robert Earl Keen and Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver and Merle Haggard songs by heart, and God knows how many besides. I’m currently educating them on the virtues of Sturgill Simpson, Eilen Jewell, Jason Isbell, and Lucinda Williams.

I do my best to cover the country catalog with them. My daughter used to sing “O.D.’d in Denver” to guests when she was like 3; I always thought it was funny to watch them squirm when she got to the “be damned if I’ll ever do any more cocaine” line.

Sturgill Simpson, by the way, gives me more hope for country as a genre than anyone else going now. Dude’s more Waylon than Waylon, in my opinion, and I named my son Waylon.

I tried to get my daughter to watch Star Wars one time but she wasn’t really into it. A little young, maybe? (I think she was 5.) I also tried to get her to read the Chronicles of Narnia and Little House on the Prairie, which I loved as a kid, but she prefers The Hunger Games and My Little Pony comics. That’s cool. As my kids get older, I’ll try to guide their reading to the good stuff, but not too hard. My parents never guided, instructed, cajoled, or recommended a single book to me – they let me read what I like, for which I’m eternally grateful. I’ll do my best to be as non-domineering as they were. Except for the Disney princess. I fucking hate the Disney princesses.

But hell, this was my favorite book as a kid (I paid way too much money to get my own original 1986 paperback copy as an adult, after the original went lost):

​What kind of parents let their 10-year old read this R-rated trash? Damn good ones, in my opinion.