Look at us posting another entry within a year from our last one! It’s like we’re trying to keep some form of schedule. Crazy! Anyway….
If you recall from a loooooong time ago (last year), we started a blog segment called “Deconstructing the Stories” wherein we wanted to take you behind the scenes for our short story collection, The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with this work – it’s a collection of short stories by Chris and me featuring ourselves as characters of horror stories. If you’d like to familiarize yourselves with this book before we continue, you can order a hardcopy here or here (Amazon) and you can order an eVersion here. Okay, so now that you’ve read the book from cover to cover, the first question you might have is how we came up with the idea in the first place. Well, we went over that in “Deconstructing the Stories, Part 1.” The second question you might ask is how we’re allowed to mingle with regular society. We don’t know either. The third question might be which stories in the book are our favorites. Okay, we know the answer to that question!
For me, I would have to say it’s “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. La Chupacabra.” First, it was the first story first written, firstly, and you always remember your firsts first. First is a funny word if you say it too many times. Anyway, it became the first story we wrote because when we made the list of creatures we wanted to tussle with, the top three monsters were obvious (vampires, zombies, werewolves), and even some other monsters made the list with very little thought (blob, ghosts, the devil, a slasher), but the ones that quickly intrigued us were the little known ones, such as the chupacabra. How were we going to write a story about a topic with only a handful of resource materials and even fewer recognizable tropes? For this whole book to be successful, this was one of the first questions we needed to answer.
Chris and I started off waking up in a Tijuana jail cell. One of the potential pitfalls of writing a piece where you’re the main character is that there is a chance that you’ll include an inside joke or a reference that only you know. Chris and I constantly joked about waking up in a Tijuana jail cell. So, we had to gut-check most of our jokes – are they too much of an inside joke for the readers? With that question in mind, we moved forward with the story and jokes, trying our hand at different types of comedy ranging from the subtle (arguing with a goat) to the absurd (a French speaking Mexican character).
With this story, we also inadvertently came up with two important items in the “Drunken Comic Book Monkey” lore – the beer pants and the goat. The beer pants are pretty self-explanatory. Whenever we (the characters) needed a cold beer, we’d procure one by reaching into our pants’ pocket. At the time, we (the writers) didn’t know how the beer pants worked. For those of you who haven’t made it to the end of the book yet – yes, we do explain how the beer pants work. Then, there’s the goat. The goat who can outdrink us. Throughout the Drunken Comic Book Monkey series, we pride ourselves in our drinking abilities. Sadly, that pride resonates in both of us as characters and writers. We added the goat with supernatural alcohol stamina as a joke. It’s a goat! Who can outdrink us! That’s funny! At the time, we didn’t realize that the goat was going to be a fan-favorite character. I mean, we should have guessed that was going to happen since the goat is a recurring character not named Brian or Chris.
After finishing “DCM vs La Chupacabra”, we set the tone and answered a few questions we had about the project. We also realized that we could dip back into the pool of characters that we create along the way, such as the goat and El Tigre Grande. Plus, it’s just a fun story! So, that is why this is my favorite story of the book.
It’s completely cliché to say that choosing your favorite story is akin to picking your favorite child. So I’ll forgo that approach and say, instead, that the line is thoroughly untrue. It’s nothing like trying to pick your favorite child. The difficulty is that it’s easy to like stories for such vastly different reasons that it’s often difficult to choose – unless you have a sound process to determine what matters most to you. It just so happens that I do….
Oh those many years ago, Brian and I found ourselves perched atop barstools (where else would you find the two of us?), laughing like asylum escapees over this whole Scary Tales of Scariness idea. We were taking turns playing “Oh, yeah? Well, then I’m gonna…,” concocting a potential story idea giving the other person more agita than the previous story idea that caused eczema for the soul. It was hysterical! Well, it was hysterical for the two of us. Looking back I realize that no one else in the Hooter’s restaurant shared in our enthusiasm. In fact, I remember thinking at the time that our neighbor consumed his wings at an impossible pace. I may have thought then that he was practicing for a wing eating contest, but, alas….
When I first blurted out that I wanted to do a story where we face zombies, because Brian hates zombies, I quickly coupled it with the idea that there would be no speech tags. Sure, they can be used to convey a character’s frame of mind, but I often view them as the speed bumps of the written word, merely serving to slow down both the reader and the writer. Robert Heinlein often had two characters engage in pages of back-and-forth dialogue that was thoroughly successful without speech tags, so why the heck not give it a shot? In fact, I even went so far as to challenge myself to do the entire story as dialogue, not a single word of narrative to grace the pages! I appreciate effort and authenticity as a reader, which I knew going into things would be a fair challenge with the recent popularity of zombie stories.
The story came out so quickly that I actually found it difficult to be an amanuensis for my muse. But she, my shrill harpy of a muse, continued to harangue me, reminding me that deadlines were created specifically with procrastinators like me in mind, so I did my best to avoid in the moment editing on the first draft. As I typed I was fully aware that I’d never thought up the ending to the story. At this point, it was the first story I’d written for Scary Tales of Scariness, so there was no other material available for me, no previous story to use as a tie-in… and then it hit me that I could make this piece the tie-in story. Brian hates open-ended stories and if I went to him with my very first piece and told him there’s no real ending, he’d blow a head gasket. How perfect was that? I could do what I do best: be a further annoyance! And as I worked towards the pseudo-ending I matched up the ridiculous notion of “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Potato People” as the successor story and how that could ultimately lead into the “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. Cthulhu” story, which Brian had already challenged me to write sans any dialogue. Thus a trifecta of stories was planned out amidst the clacking of the keyboard keys.
It’s been mentioned to me in the past that I’m a pretty simple guy (usually as a somewhat less than obscure comment on my mental faculties, much like an amoeba being a simple organism). If my ultimate criterion for determining my favorite anything is the annoyance of my Fortress Publishing, Inc co-owner, then I guess I’d have a difficult time trying to argue to the contrary any point concerning my simplicity as a human being. Or an amoeba. But I think I’m perfectly okay with that….