Detonation #21: When Life Gives You Lemons…

You learn a lot about yourself. The first thing I learned is that I am undoubtably in the shit. It’s up to my neck. And I put myself there.

I’m debating over how specific to be. This is personal. It’s the hugest thing. To me anyway. Others have been through worse. There are refugees who’ve walked away from a lot more than I have. I can live in Noggy’s Pontiac Aztek if I have to.

But my creative engine is completely busted. I miss writing. I miss coaxing something real out of a few nebulous thoughts. Everything is sour now. I’ve always been the kind of person who can’t write if I’m too down or too giddy. I gotta be on an even keel.

When life gives you lemons…. Jesus, can I be real for a second? You likely gave those lemons to yourself. Life doesn’t have that kind of agency or punitive zeal. You made choices. You know what you did. Idiot.

So that’s the first thing you do. Kick the shit out of yourself. When life gives you lemons, shut up and eat your fucking lemons. Such is your penance, you villain. Taste good? You want some more? Here’s a whole goddamn ass ton. Pucker up, dirtbag.

Eventually you get will tired of eating shit. Or sour citrus. I’m confusing the metaphor but stay with me, I promise this will make sense. If you’re not in therapy by now, you probably should be, because this is when your shrink, with an empathetic head tilt, will say, “be kind to yourself.” Takes a few days or weeks for this to sink in, but when it does it’s a relief. Pour a little sugar in your glass, babe. You don’t gotta take it straight anymore because punishing yourself doesn’t actually fix anything. Drink up and watch Netflix.

With a little sweetness reintroduced into your life, you can make some room, a little space in your noggin where the creative magic can happen. But it doesn’t. And you don’t understand. You’re calm, you slept a whole 6 hours, your eyes are no longer swollen shut from crying. You study yourself in the mirror and sure it’s not the best you’ve ever looked but three drinks and you’d probably fuck you. So it’s not a self-esteem thing. You don’t hate yourself, yet there’s that flatness. Lemon juice and sugar. It’s nice, but not magical. Honestly the idea of lemonade is always better than the reality. Try that Netflix again.

Here’s the worst part, if I may be so vague. I can’t say everything will work out okay, because I have no clue. This isn’t a tidy step-by-step for how to navigate the biggest trauma of your life and keep working on your dumbass novel that seemed so important three months ago and has now dropped to the sub-basement level of your priorities.

But I miss my work. I can’t even watch Netflix because I can’t pay attention, even to the shower scene in Sex/Life. I miss writing more than I miss dick.

I said this isn’t a guide. More of a journey thus far and now you’re caught up. This is the first creative work I’ve done since my life exploded. It’s not creative magic, but I’m getting my thoughts down at least. The lemons though. They’re still here. They keep coming. And this, my friends, is what the sidecar was invented for.

2oz Cognac

1oz Triple Sec

1oz Lemon Juice

1/4oz Simple Syrup

Shake it up and shake it off. I just wrote something, bitches. I’ve still got it and so do you. Let it never be said that we don’t know what to do with our lemons.

Forbidden Fruits: “Gluttony” by Cam Hayden

T6 Forbidden Fruit


With the release of Forbidden Fruit, the second (or sixth, depending your reckoning) instalment in our Purgatorio anthology series, we are inviting our fabulous contributors between the flames to get their hot, gluttonous take on their story and the book and life in general, such that it is in these end days.

Today we welcome Cam Hayden, artist and author of “Gluttony”, a graphic tale of a little old woman with some serious and pressing issues. Cam, please tell us a little about yourself in exactly twenty-seven words.

Cam: I’m pretty tall, probably like 7 feet or so, and super ripped, like totally shredded, most people when they see me are like, “woah! That dude can’t keep shirts on his body because they get all cut up on contact!”

TST: Alright, forty words but we’ll let that slip – this time! Let’s get right to the oozing meat of it. What does gluttony mean to you? Is it inherently a bad thing? How does that play into your story of excessive consumption found in this unwholesome volume?

Cam: Well, right now I’d say gluttony is kind of a survival mechanism. I’m living in this place with 29 other dudes, all competing for the affections of one lady. There’s only so much food to go around so at night I’ve been sneaking into the kitchen and just going to town on everything I can get my hands on. I need to keep my strength up because I never know what I’m going to be doing the next day. Could be wrestling orangutans, could be doing flips, could be seeing who can dig the biggest hole in 15 minutes. Any food I can get in me instead of those other guys, that could be the edge I need. Our task last week was to submit a comic to a prose anthology. Those other chumps were too weak to come up with anything.

TST: That’s one lucky lady, right Lola? And we agree about the other chumps. Tell us about a time you overindulged, like really stuffed yourself silly…with anything.

Cam: Back in the day, I was in a prog rock band and ate 7 peregrine falcons, including beaks and feet. Normally I’d only eat 2 but we kept getting encores. Man, they loved us in Red Deer! I even had to abstain from the groupies that night because I kept burping up those little hoods. It was embarrassing. I played it off like it was funny but it really upset me.

TST: Red Deer is the cat’s pyjamas – smells like a serious road trip – beaks and feet and donuts. Which of your characters could you see popping up again in other stories?

Cam: Maybe the maggots.

TST: Never enough maggots. That makes me want to tell our maggot story. No? Fine, you win this time… So Cam, tell us about your usefulness in the kitchen. Does preparing food get your creative gravy gushing?

Cam: Sometimes while my chef is mashing my taters I make my butler do improv with me. Does that count?

TST: Yes, definitely. Also, taters, mmm. What would you do if you swallowed a fly? And what’s the largest land mammal you think you could cram down your throat?

Cam: I swallow flies all the time, it sort of comes with the territory where I’m living. I was also having trouble sleeping so I went to one of those sleep clinics where they videotape you tossing and turning all night. As it happens, the reason I kept waking up was because my nose and mouth would fill up with the little buggers. It was like there was an after hours club for flies inside my yap. It turns out the reason was because of all the tubs of honey I’d been chugging while the other dudes were working out or whatever. Largest animal: peregrine falcon. No wait, that’s not a mammal. Let’s see… ok, one time I shotgunned an orange crush but I didn’t realize that due to some mishap at the plant, a skinny pig had gotten into the can.

TST: Sounds like you need to work your way up to a camel or possibly a hippo, but a skinny pig is a good intermediate step.

Thanks Cam! And don’t forget to check out the book – Terrace VI: Forbidden Fruit is available on and and under whatever rocks you might find stray books.

About the Artist:

Cam Hayden draws strange comics, cartoons, makes odd prints and things like that. A lot of his inspiration comes from underground comic folks and an early exposure to Mad Magazine and National Lampoon. He also makes goofy trading cards.

Find Cam online on Twitter at @Lancegoiter or at

Forbidden Fruits: “Naked Samantha” by Eddie Generous

T6 Forbidden Fruit


With the release of Forbidden Fruit, the second (or sixth, depending your reckoning) instalment in our Purgatorio anthology series, we are inviting our fabulous contributors between the flames to get their hot, gluttonous take on their story and the book and life in general, such that it is in these end days.

Today we welcome Eddie Generous, author of “Naked Samantha”, a story about uh, hmm, poker? and one I suspect you never thought you’d get published. Eddie, please tell us a little about yourself in exactly twenty-seven words.

Eddie: I’m currently a bit sweaty, and bloated from ice cream (non-dairy, I’m suddenly allergic to everything, happened the moment I outlived Jesus Christ). I’m fond of cats.

TST: Alright! With that out of the way let’s get right to the oozing meat of it. What does gluttony mean to you? Is it inherently a bad thing? How does that play into your story of excessive consumption found in this unwholesome volume?

Eddie: Gluttony, I guess, is crossing a line from consumption to criminal consumption. Probably it’s usually okay, I mean, the world’s on fire and conservative politicians want everyone miserable before they burn. So, indulge. How gluttony plays in this story…ignore what I just said; don’t indulge in that, you perverts. Some carnal urges need to be ignored…then again, sometimes it’s fun to watch things play out when there’s a secret on the horizon, an ace up the sleeve.

TST: Tell us about a time you overindulged, like really stuffed yourself silly…with anything.

Eddie: When I was fourteen, I drank thirty-three beers in one night and was sick for a whole week, but I had to go to school. Not like anybody was going to let me stay home for a hangover. Also, I split one of the beers with a donkey not long before I passed out in the field where we were drinking.

TST: Which of your characters could you see popping up again in other stories?

Eddie: From this story, I guess the Starbucks employee? Otherwise, I don’t know. Not too many options and Samantha kind of steals the show, so it might be like rewriting this same story all over again if she reappeared.

TST: Tell us about your usefulness in the kitchen. Does preparing food get your creative gravy gushing?

Eddie: I’m a good cook, if you’re into low-brow offerings. I’m not excited about cooking, but I know what something’s going to taste like if I make it, so I tend to do my share of the suppers around my house.

TST: In your view, how likely is it that the barista who smiles as she takes down the complicated instructions for my mochafrappishitino would murder me in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself? And in your view, would I deserve it? Also, five card stud or Texas hold’em?

Eddie: Baristas seemed unhinged at the best of times. I guess they weed out people who would thrive in other environments and take what’s left over. I guess the real question that would answer your question is: did you tip? Texas hold’em, I guess. I don’t know much about cards or gambling or convening with enough humans to facilitate a game; not these days.

TST: What’s next for you? Any forthcoming releases, hatchings, or germinations we should be on the lookout for? 

Eddie: I have a new novel on the way in September titled HETTY and, and in August or September I have a novella coming titled IT CAME FROM SPACE, and I have a handful of shorts on contract that’ll trickle into the world in the next however long, but mostly, if people want more of me, they should grab a copy of THE WALKING SON. It’s the story of a curse, a road trip, and some very old coins, plus ghosts and body horror. People, so far, really seem to like it.

TST: Thanks Eddie! And don’t forget to check out the book – Terrace VI: Forbidden Fruit is available on and and under whatever rocks you might find stray books.

About the Author:

Eddie Generous has fallen off three different roofs and been lit on fire on multiple occasions. He grew up on a farm and later slept with his shoes under his pillows in homeless shelters. He dropped out of high school to afford rent on a room at a crummy boarding house, but eventually graduated from a mediocre college. He is the author of several small press books, has 2.8 rescue cats (one needed a leg amputation), is a podcast host, and lives on the Pacific Coast of Canada.

You can find Eddie online at

Detonation #20: Sour Grapes

Everyone loves the idea of an egalitarian prize bestowed on a truly meritorious work of literature as determined by The People. Something like the Goodreads Choice Awards should be the ultimate in democracy, yet isn’t, for… reasons. So many reasons. Like Stephen King winning the horror award every year, even for his crime novels, ‘cause he’s the only fucking name anyone recognizes.

Next rung down this wretched ladder are the awards created by readers and writers, for readers and writers. Unfortunately, what follows in practice is an award by writers for writers. Which sounds close enough, but in fact couldn’t be further afield.

The bullshit mechanism of reader’s choice awards is not often discussed openly. It’s considered bad form to acknowledge honourees as anything other than purely deserving. Fortunately, Lola and Noggy don’t take anything that seriously and will always find a way cut off their nose to spite their face.

Noggy: So… writers submit to these snobby awards AND vote for them?

Lola: Yeah, by paying to become members of the association organizing the award. Publishers can and should submit, but in practice it’s writers, especially for anthologies and self-pub’d work.

N: The writers nominate and vote through long lists and short lists and then?

L: As voting members they typically get a package containing digital copies of all the shortlisted works.

N: Wait, isn’t that like…dozens of books? You have to read them all?

L: Jesus Christ, no. Who has time to read?

N: No one writing horror poetry and tweeting 89 times a day, that’s for sure. How does voting work then?

L: Easy. In categories where you’re a finalist you vote for yourself. In categories you aren’t, you vote for your friends. Chances are the only book in the pile you’ve actually read is your own. Isn’t that wild? The short story categories are the best though; for that one I’d recommend roulette, a lottery, or pin the tail on the jack ass.

N: So much for democratized literary utopia…


We’ve ranted about this before. The dirty secret of how little most writers actually read. And those of us who do read a lot are not going to waste our time consuming a reader’s choice award voting package because most of the material is honestly not that good. But we’re all too busy blowing each other to say it.

Yes, juried awards have their flaws but at least you can be reasonably certain the adjudicators have read the fucking book they’re voting for.

Reader’s Choice Awards are equivalent to The Emperor’s New Clothes. We ooh and ah at the grace and dignity with which he carries himself in his exquisite robes. When in fact he’s naked and eating a chili dog while fucking a pelican. But hey, we weren’t actually at the procession that day, and he’s our friend, so he’s got our vote.


N: You done ranting? It’s time for Arby’s.

L: Not even close. The other thing I’m going to get mad at. Awards for best anthology. An honor that belongs to all and to none. As an editor you can say you’re a winner for a book you didn’t write. As editors we consider this a dickwad move, considering the actual authors can only say they contributed to the project, which is hardly worth wedging into their bio. So, this award sits like a square egg in a kind of purgatory for unclaimed miscellany that no one quite knows how to handle. Is there even a word for adjacent congratulations?

N: I’m sure there’s a German word for it. A long, angry German word. Hmm, probably something like Beglückwünschung – that’s sort of terrifying.

L: Germans have more efficient things to do than acknowledge reader’s choice awards.


You could accuse us of being fucking jealous. Sour as hell. Green little goblins, ejaculating envy in thick bitter ropes. And you’d be right. But it doesn’t mean we’re wrong. And if you think we’re sore losers? God forbid we ever actually win anything.

The Donut Queen by Scott S. Phillips

The Donut Queen


Vampires get a bad rap these days. A terrible rap. Sure, it’s easy to point to the general body of work from the last decade and shrug at the overdone and uninspired and lazy, but that’s a vast oversimplification. All genres wax and wane, and amidst the swirling seas of creativity there are always gems to be discovered and cherished. If you’ve been keeping watch, you’ll know there is plenty of thick red blood left in the vampire genre. Still not convinced? Fire up WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (movie AND series), for one, and you will be.

Along those humorous and wildly entertaining lines, the PETE, DRINKER OF BLOOD series has been a treasure for the last few years. Since 2012 Scott Phillips has been entertaining us with tales of regular, everyman, Pete, transformed into a vampire in 1973 and sort of stuck in the seventies in so many (good) ways. The fabulous and distinctive covers by Lili Chin elucidate this aesthetic perfectly.

All poor Pete wants is to have an unexciting, normal life (or what passes as one for a creature of the night). Spending quality time with his girlfriend Angie, working his night job for the Department of Water and Power, listening to classic rock at the Starbucket diner. But a simple life is not in the cards. Over five novels (with a sixth in the works!) Pete, with a fantastic cast of friends, enemies, and frenemies, has navigated an increasing chaotic adventure oozing with greasy magic and the machinations of the insidious Untermeier’s Donuts.

This adventure and conflict comes to its penultimate conclusion in The Donut Queen. Maisie Untermeier, the aforementioned Donut Queen herself, has arrived in person to deal with the ever troublesome Pete, and with an unexpected and terrifying ally attempts to make good on that threat. But Pete has an unexpected, though possibly undesired, ally as well, and in typical Pete fashion, unlife never proceeds exactly as desired.

While you might possibly understand what the hell is going on if you jump right into this one without reading the preceding four, I’d strongly recommend picking up the others if you haven’t – well worth the price of admission.

The Donut Queen is available on Amazon now!


TST: Welcome, Scott, to the Seventh Terrace of Purgatory. The sexiest terrace of course. And warm! Want to introduce yourself and tell us a little about your new novel, THE DONUT QUEEN? And possibly about the PETE, DRINKER OF BLOOD series in general?

Scott: Thanks! I like to be warm and sexy. By way of introduction, I  guess I’m just a guy who likes to write stuff. When I was a kid I used to make little Super-8mm movies, mostly because at the time I wanted to be a stop-motion animator, but as I kept making the flicks, I realized that I liked writing the scripts for ‘em better than doing the animation and whatnot. This led to writing a bunch of screenplays and I eventually sold one that became DRIVE (Dacascos, not Gosling). I wound up writing a handful of movies and a bunch of stuff that never got made (like the infamous Steven Seagal nightmare and the script I did for Kelsey Grammer’s production company at Paramount that basically broke my spirit). Along the way, I discovered I liked writing short stories a lot more than I liked dealing with Hollywood and around that time, I wrote my first novel, SQUIRREL EYES. After a truly unpleasant experience with the editor of my novel FRIDAY THE 13th: CHURCH OF THE DIVINE PSYCHOPATH, I decided to take a stab at self-publishing, and I’ve never looked back. 

As for PETE, I had originally written what became the first novel as a screenplay, although it was more of an Adam Sandler movie than what the book wound up being. My girlfriend Sarah Bartsch, who is also a writer (and we’re working on a couple books together right now), suggested turning it into a series, and THE DONUT QUEEN is the fifth book in that series. That one just came out at the end of April. They’re urban fantasy stories full of vampires, monsters, and magic, and they’re also pretty funny (I hope). 

TST: We love Pete, but why the hell would you select 1973 as the year his hair had to be trapped in? Not a particularly great year for hair if I remember, though I was only six and probably got my hair cut with a bowl.

Scott: I was nine and had that same bowl cut! Which is probably one reason I got picked on constantly, along with liking comic books and Star Trek. Remember when being a nerd actually got the shit kicked out of you? Anyway, I disagree on hair-years – personally, I’m all about the 70s hair, largely because as a guy who has had long hair (and is in the process of having it again now), it’s a lot easier to pull off the 70s thing than the 80s thing – hair metal or new wave. Of course, Pete doesn’t even have long hair, just a ‘fro. I guess this is where I should mention that 1973 is when Pete got himself vampire-bit, for those wondering what the hell we’re even talking about.

TST: So… greasy magic. Sounds like something that spontaneously happens when we leave fast food in the sun in the back seat of our Pontiac Aztec or possibly when Gary and the rest of the penguins get into the lube. How on earth did you come up with the concept and name for this unique flavor of sorcery?

Scott: One of the things I like to do with the Pete books is poke a little fun at genre tropes, and between writing the first and second books, I read MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson, and he came up with that insanely cool and insanely well-thought-out magic system, so I wanted to do the exact opposite with PETE HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. I figured I needed the lowest form of low magic, and you can’t get much lower than something that requires using your own pee (or other bodily fluids) to control it. I wanted a sort of magic that’s pretty much exclusively used by criminals and lazy people. The name is kind of a Trailer Park Boys reference – they’re always referring to anything particularly sleazy as “greasy,” and I just thought it fit. 

TST: The inclusion of the Fae in this novel is inspired. Did you plan this, or did you take a wrong turn at Albuquerque?

Scott: Thanks! But heck no, I don’t plan nuthin’, really. When someone asked Elmore Leonard if he outlines really tightly, he said “I don’t even have a loose outline. I just make it up as I go along.” That’s pretty much how I like to write – although I’m not comparing myself to Elmore Leonard, aside from not outlining. I tend to have little signposts in my head that I work towards but I like things to be flexible, and I find if I’m working from an outline I get all twisted up trying to stick to it even though my instincts are screaming at me to throw it out. So yes, wrong turn at Albuquerque, which is easy since I live just outside of the place. I guess it just felt like it was time for some faeries to show up in the Pete books. 

TST: What’s next for Pete? We hear tell of a capstone for his current set of adventures – though hopefully it won’t be three more years! And on related note, are you planning on writing any more Boone Butters stories? Please say yes.

Scott: I’ve just gotten started on the sixth book in the series, which is called THE GREASY MAGIC WAR. That will wrap up the Untermeier’s Donuts story arc that’s been going on since book two – and yeah, I definitely don’t want any more three-year stretches of writing one book! Depression is the enemy of cranking out the wordage, I can assure you. I’m feeling a bit better these days, though, and I’m writing every single day (and have been since January 1st, 2020). There will definitely be more Pete adventures after book six, although I think they’ll be more standalone stories unless I change my mind along the way. I already have an idea of what books seven and eight will be, in any case. I’d like to do a spin-off featuring Randy “Serious” Burns and his criminal cohorts, and I’ve got the next Boone Butters book percolating like crazy, but it’s just a matter of finding the time to write all the things. As I mentioned, Sarah and I are working on two books together – they’re both cozy mysteries, and we’re having a lot of fun with those. With any luck, the first one (WICKED SNARL: A DANGER POTATO MYSTERY) will be out by the end of the year.

TST: You have a great Patreon with a stream of terrible poems, video journals, and sneak peeks. And something called No Coward Bites where you eat… well, technically things you can put in your mouth and possibly swallow. What made you think this was a good idea?

Scott: Thanks! I try to make the Patreon thing fun and deliver some goofy stuff. Writing the terrible poems is my favorite thing about it. No Coward Bites is actually something I do for YouTube, so anyone can check it out, but folks on my Patreon get early access to new episodes. It was Sarah’s idea – I have a bunch of those disturbing old cookbooks full of horrifying recipes and she thought it would be cool if I made them and sampled them. The title is something my friend Greg Freeland said when I told him I was gonna make the Veg-All Pie for the first episode. I’d like to do the episodes more often, but not only is time a factor, I honestly dread having to eat the stuff so I put it off sometimes. Like the one I’ve got coming up – it involves chicken noodle soup, cream cheese, lemon Jell-O, and canned shrimp. The idea of putting that into my mouth-parts is utterly terrifying. 

TST: You wrote a couple of fantastic short stories for us back at Coffin Hop Press, in It’s a Weird Winter Wonderland and Knucklehead Noir. Any possibility of getting another story out of you in the near/medium/long future?

Scott: You are too kind. I would love to send more stories your way, but once again it comes down to the hours in the day. I’ve got a couple things kickin’ around my brain, so it’s not out of the question. As with any of us people what puts the words on the papers, the dream is that the book sales will pick up to the point where I can cut back on the day job a bit and get more of the real stuff done.

TST: Thank you for chatting with us! Any final words before we release the leg hold trap?

Scott: Only that I wish I had that fast food from the back seat of your car right now. 


About the Author:

Scott S. Phillips has written all kinds of stuff: films, TV, books, comics and even dialogue for talking dolls. He’s the author of the PETE, DRINKER OF BLOOD series, as well as several other books. Scott wrote the screenplay for the cult action flick DRIVE (1997), and twelve episodes of the CW Network’s KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT.

Perhaps most importantly, he once performed as stand-in for the legendary Lemmy in the video for Motorhead’s “Sacrifice.”

You can find Scott at his Patreon page, where you can get cool exclusives like sneak peeks at chapters of upcoming books, a Patrons-only blog, read his monthly terrible poems (and see videos of him doing dramatic readings of those very same terrible poems), get your name listed in the acknowledgments of his books, and even have a character named after you!

You can also find Scott at Facebook and Instagram: @scottphillipsnm

Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez

Queer fiction has long led the charge of stories with big ideas that challenge, terrify, and thrill, and this novel exemplifies those qualities. In near-future Toronto, devastating floods stoke the fear and hatred of the privileged, giving rise to a powerful civilian militia with a mission to eradicate immigrants, queer folks, poor folks, and anyone deemed to be other. This dark wave spreads unchecked across the country, until a black drag queen, transgender refugee, and a former social worker are recruited into a resistance movement that might be their last hope.

This is story driven by indelible characters, complex and non-conforming, without a single archetype to be found among them. With no molds from which to cast, Hernandez has accomplished something remarkable in creating wholly realized unique individuals. There is no saviour, no plucky sidekick, no sage. Evil is an utterly banal presence in the narrative, taking the form of politicians, angry suburbanites, and “concerned citizens”. It’s scary as hell because Crosshairs is our world exaggerated, but only a little, and some days not at all. Prepare to confront your biases in this unflinching novel where humanity shines in all its beautiful, messy, resilient diversity.