Welcome to our web site. For more information about Stephie's art, please also check out artbystephie.com.
For Matt's writing projects, please go to storiesbymatt.net. Enjoy your visit here!

10/26/14: Many of you know that I'm a regular at the Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series. Once a month on a Saturday evening, we have a featured reader, followed by as many open mic readers as we have people who want to get up and read. This month was a little different. With Halloween coming up next week, they decided to celebrate the season with an evening-long, Halloween-themed open mic. Everyone was encouraged to bring in their "best scary stories, poems, and dramatic works" to share with the group. Sounds great, right?
     This year, I've been focusing more on short stories than novels, both in consuming and creating. I've been listening to a number of short story podcasts, and one that I like a lot is Pseudopod, which features horror-themed stories. I figured I should be able to come up with a story for the reading series night. I had been thinking about it since the theme was announced, so a couple of weeks ago, I sat down at the computer to write a horror short story. I opened up my word processor, created a new file...
     And just sat there, staring at the blank screen. I started a couple of times, but before I got too far I erased what I wrote. I had a few idea, but I just couldn't get started. After about an hour, I thought I'd just work on something else, and let the Halloween story stew for a little longer. I opened the file to work on Stalking Stan Dixon, the latest story I'm serializing at the THC, and I quickly found that I couldn't do anything with that, either. I was completely blocked. I then shut the computer off and went to watch TV.
     A couple of days later, inspiration struck me as it usually does: when I was in the shower, getting ready to go to work. I held onto the idea until I was on the train to work, and typed a quick couple of paragraphs on my phone, then later that evening, when I got home from work, I sat down and the first draft flowed out as fast as I could type. The story came out pretty well, if I do say so myself. After I read it at the THC, Jenny said that I captured the feeling of the day pretty well. Read Into The Fog and see if you agree.

10/16/14: Last year, my brother mentioned that he was working on a personal project, using the on-line archive of the Chicago Tribune to compile a list of movies shown at the Brighton Theater when we were kids. The Brighton was a short walk from the house we grew up in, and in that pre-VCR, pre-DVD, pre-streaming age, we each spent many hours there, together or separately, enjoying the finest (and not-so-finest) that Hollywood had to offer. What we didn't realize at the time, and really not until the building had been torn down, was that the Brighton had a long history, not just as a neighborhood second-run house, but it was quite the movie palace, built by the prestigious firm of Levy & Klein for the Schoenstadt family, who ran many theaters on the south side of Chicago. I used a fictional relative of the Schoenstadts as a main character in my book The Opening of the Elysium, which, oddly enough, I haven't mentioned here before.

     This sounded like an interesting project to me, so I suggested that he put the file into Google Docs so that I could help out. I also had a link to the Trib archives through my local library, and while using it to research details for several of my books, I had taken some detours to check the movie listings for the Brighton. We set up the file, and I added columns for the Colony and Marquette, two other nearby theaters. Then it was just a matter of us spending our spare time poring over fuzzy scans of old newsprint and noting the titles that were listed for each theater.

     So last night I was up late, searching the archives, when I stumbled across the date of one of my fondest memories of the Brighton. I was looking for the first Friday in July, 1973, July 6,1973 to be precise, and discovered that was the date that "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" was released. It seems that they did occasionally get a first-run picture at the Brighton, and this was one of them. What makes this date so special was that on that date only, they showed all five Apes films in a row. What made it even more special was that we somehow talked our parents into letting us attend. By ourselves!

     I now wish I could remember some of the conversation that went into this scheme, but somehow we convinced them that it was a good idea to drop off three pre-teen boys at the theater in the afternoon, and leave them there all day. I remember getting there around 2, just before the first movie started, and I don't remember moving much over the ensuing 8 hours. We went for snacks a couple of times (I don't know if we had popcorn, but I do remember ice cream sandwiches) but I don't think I even went to the notoriously scary bathroom, which was in the basement of the building, reachable only by an impossibly steep set of stairs. Chris recalls that he "did venture into the Brighton bathroom that day, and I know for a fact that it was the first, last and only time I did so. And yeah, it WAS scary! "

     That's really all I have to report on the day. Nothing bad happened to us (it was the '70s after all) and our parents picked us up at 10, after the last movie. We were drained from all the Ape goodness, but excited that we attended our first movie marathon, although I don't remember knowing that term at the time. The only goofy thing about the entire day was that they showed the fifth movie first. Not only did that screw up the continuity of the series, but it also meant that the premiere showing of the one of the few first-run films the Brighton had in that stretch was at 2 in the afternoon. I wonder who was the knucklehead who planned that.

10/07/14: An interesting thing happened last weekend that I'd like to tell you about. Stephie was checking one of our credit card statements on-line Friday night and noticed something odd. As you can see from the screenshot here, we had a $1.09 charge on the card from someplace classified as a "HOME SUPPLY WAREHOUSE STORE" in "MID DORAVILLE US". This was suspicious in so many ways. First of all, neither of us remember making such a charge. I know it wasn't me, because I would never charge something for a dollar, at least not in person. Also, anyone who knows me knows that the likelihood of me patronizing a "HOME SUPPLY WAREHOUSE STORE" is slim to none. On top of that, the description of the vendor starts with "DO NOT USE THIS". Something funny was going on here.

     I tried calling the credit card company, but it was late on a Friday, and I was tired, and there was a long wait predicted on the call, probably because there were few people answering the calls, so I figured I'd call again the next morning. Before I logged off, though, I Googled some of the particulars and it seems that Doraville is in Georgia, a place neither Stephie nor I had been since we attended the Olympics in 1986. That means nothing in this global economy, though, as the charge could have been placed by phone or via the 'net.

     The next morning, I spoke to a very pleasant young woman at the credit card company and explained the situation. She said that the charge hasn't gone through yet (the "*Pending" on the line was an indication of that) and until it cleared, she said (or I think she said) that she would not have all the particulars of the transaction available to her. She did confirm, however, that the store in question was based in the Atlanta area, and that the physical card was not used in the transaction. We discussed it a bit and came to the decision that there was some kind of fraud going on here. I told her that I seem to remember one fo the TV news magazines recently doing a story about credit card fraud, and as an example, they sold some credit cards on the black market, then watched as the purchaser put through a small transaction to verify that the number was valid and active. We agreed that was what appeared to be happening here.

     We decided the best course of action would be to cancel the card and issue a new number for us. She asked me several times, probably to have me on record, to confirm that I suspected fraud in this case, and that cancelling the card is what I wanted to do. She also asked if I wanted them to express the replacement cards, which they did with no charge to me, since fraud was suspected. Finally, the suspicious charge would be removed from our account. I asked her why they would put through a charge for a business with the name "DO NOT USE THIS", and she said that the name there is only the human-readable part of the transaction, so it's irrelevant to the computer, and that if the vendor is not flagged to not use, any transactions would be processed. I'm just glad that the name was as it was, because that was the first red flag that Stephie saw.

     We soon got e-mail confirmation that the account was closed and the balance transferred over to the new account. The replacement cards arrived on Monday as expected, and we've not seen any evidence of any subsequent problems. Actually, there was one issue. We have this account as the default at a couple of web sites, one of which was eBay, for account I use for selling some of my crap, which I haven't done in years. Shortly after I changed the account there, Stephie noticed a one dollar charge pending for eBay, when I didn't do anything but change the number. A panicked call to eBay confirmed that the dollar charge was eBay's way of confirming that the number was valid, and that the charge would never be finalized, and sure enough, it disappeared in a few days.

     So the takeway from all of this is two-fold: first, keep an eye on your credit card statements. Stephie is not thrilled with the on-line portion of our banking and credit card accounts, but she agrees that it helped us catch this quickly, before any large charges were made. I'm pretty sure that we would ultimately not be accountable for any fraudulent charges, but I doubt that contesting a large charge would be as easy as contesting a charge of $1.09.

     The other thing to keep in mind is to keep a current list of all the places on-line that have your credit card number. I assembled our list the last time I had to update a card when the expiration date passed, and that list came in handy when we had to change each site that had the cancelled card. We don't have that many sites retaining our card information, but they are spread between two separate cards, and if I didn't have that list handy, we may not have changed all of them promptly, which may have resulted in a disruption of service if a site tried to use the cancelled account.

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