Learning Curve

By Steve Wetherell

 

My name is Jack, and since you asked, yeah, I’ve always been a bastard.

Not in the traditional sense, mind you. Well, yeah, maybe that too. Never knew my Dad. There were a couple of stand-ins that never lasted long. Billy’s Dad, he stuck around longest. He was alright. Only ever hit me when I deserved it, which is fair enough.

Nah. What I mean is I’ve always been a professional bastard. I mean, well, I suppose I must have been an amateur at some point, but you know what they say: if you’re good at something you don’t do it for free. That’s why when most kids were trading football stickers and pick n’ mix I was already selling off stolen porn magazines and cheap foreign fags. Go where the money is, sell high buy cheap. Or sell high and don’t buy at all, I suppose.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking; “If this fucker’s such a professional, then what’s he doing hiding out in this shithole bar at the arse end of El Nowhere?” That’s a good question. I’ve got my answers, but I suppose all the other washed out wrong ‘uns have got theirs too. Best laid plans and all that shit. Let’s just say that I was playing a game, and playing it well, and then some fucker changed the rules. Leave it at that.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, always been a professional, me. I think I was about thirteen when I moved into the big leagues proper, though. I was a sharp kid, sharp enough to know that if I ever wanted to see some serious scratch I’d need to shift something harder than stale packs of Lucky Strikes and crusty copies of Reader’s Wives. Coke was coming in big back then, and for a while it was what was known as a deregulated market. Lots of producers, lots of movers, lots of people looking to lock it all down. Chaos.  And where there’s chaos you get opportunists. That was me- an opportunist. I watched the dealers, saw how they operated. It didn’t take much hanging around to learn who the players were. Learn where the weak links were in the supply chain.

So there I was on the Caulfield estate. Now, I grew up on a street where the houses would have fallen down if they weren’t propped against each other, but I was always glad I didn’t grow up in a tower block. There’s something about them, all that concrete and rust, the gangways and thick doors. They feel like prisons. No surprise they’re usually filled with criminals. Profiling, that is, but back then we just called it observation. It was half past ten and no place for a thirteen year old kid in his shit trainers with his hood up, but I wasn’t bothered, even back then. Professional, you see?

I was making my way to Lazlo’s place, climbing up the piss smelling stairwells to the top floor. Lazlo seemed to me to be an odd choice for a dealer, but he was the name I had to go on. He was this mad Russian who liked nothing more than sitting in pubs drinking bad lager until he was drunk enough to beat the shit out of a stranger, which in his case wasn’t really that drunk at all. I’d followed him about, watching him without being watched, clocking his schedule. He was the kind of guy whose whole vibe screamed “Don’t Fuck With Me.” A massive tattooed sausage of a man, with a big, red shiny head. What little English he knew he bellowed at the top of his lungs. He wasn’t exactly inconspicuous, is what I mean. People were scared of him, though. Certainly too scared to break into his flat and steal his shit.

So, I was breaking into his flat to steal his shit. Now, Lazlo may have been mad as a frog’s cock, but he wasn’t an idiot. He had one of those doors that were reinforced metal, more locks than the chastity belt on Satan’s missus. Getting into his flat through the front door would have needed a mortar round. Luckily, though, this was summer time, the proper British summer time you used to get back then, when you could fry and egg on a car bonnet by day and the nights clung to you like wet soot. The front door would be a no go, but I was willing to bet my life that the back door on the balcony would be open. Literally bet my life, seeing as Lazlo lived fifteen stories up.

Using the switchblade which was the only legacy my dad left, I fiddled the lock and broke into an empty flat four doors down. In through the front, out through the back, and then it was a bit of balcony hopping and trying not to look down at the concrete sea below. Not a fan of heights, but needs must. When I finally got to Lazlo’s balcony the back door wasn’t open, but the window by it was, so all it took was a quick reach through and I was in.

Now, I was cool, yeah, cooler than a snowman’s cold bits, but I wasn’t rash. I knew Lazlo wouldn’t be getting back in until well after the pubs shut, so I figured the place would be empty when I broke in. The place wasn’t empty, though. The telly was on, loud, and on the couch a chubby blonde woman in a greying nighty was sprawled out in a manner that left little to the imagination. There was a strong stink of weed and the air was thick and hazy, so I figured the woman was well out of it. But when I quietly closed the door behind me she shifted and moaned, her broad brow furrowing, drawn on eyebrows squeezing toward one another. She was out, but not out for the count, which put me in an awkward situation. I knew I was in there for the money, sure, but the world didn’t take kindly to peeping toms. If I’d been caught nicking I’d have had the shit kicked out of me at best, but if this lady woke up to see me staring at her unkempt muff, then It’d be a very different kind of kicking. There’s a principal, see?

That turns out to be just the start of my worries, though, because just then I hear a muffled commotion from the corridor outside, growing louder. Then keys in the door. I move behind the curtain just as the front door explodes open on a tidal wave of Russian swearing.

I don’t make the mistake of trying to peer out from the curtain, I just keep perfectly still, holding my breath. I gently hold the hem of the curtain to stop it moving. I hear Lazlo as he crashes around the apartment, exclaiming fuck knows what in a language I’m fairly sure he’s making up on the spot. A lower, gentler voice chimes in now and then– the couch queen– but mostly Lazlo seems content with the sound of his own voice. He was agitated about something, working himself into a temper. I remember hearing his heavy footsteps stomping toward me and me clutching at the handle of my knife in my pocket, for all the good it would’ve done me. I reckon me stabbing at Lazlo would have been like trying to eat a steak with a toothpick.

So I was making like a statue when this meaty hand bursts into my view and opens up the window wide, just inches away from me. Lazlo flaps his hands, shouting over his shoulder at his woman. If he turns his head the wrong way he will see me, and I will be dead. I remember that feeling to this day. Like a cold little ball in your stomach. A queer, dread certainty. I stand utterly, utterly still.  Lazlo moves away and comes back with a tea towel, flapping air out of the window, shouting all the while as he does so. Evidently he resented his missus smoking up the place while he was out doing an honest days drinking. Nobody likes getting in the middle of a domestic argument, especially if you’re trying to rob the domicile, so I breath very quietly through my mouth.

The couch queen says something that seems to end with a question mark, and Lazlo pauses a moment then turns around with a big, broken grin on his face. I don’t need to speak Russian to guess what’s coming out of his mouth next. It’s got that universal guttural sound of the randy old sod, like a wet engine revving enthusiastically. Lazlo moves out of my sight and I’m thankful that he’s leading his missus into the bedroom, rather than shagging her right there on the couch.

At this point an amateur would have counted his blessings and made a break for it. I wasn’t an amateur. I moved slowly and carefully into the living room. I was reasonably confident that any noise I made would have been covered by the still blaring television and a background riot that sounded like someone slapping a chihuahua with a trout. But I don’t get complacent.

It doesn’t take a lot of rummaging around to find an old Adidas backpack half filled with baggies of white powder. Jackpot. That’s the thing about security, once you get past the barricades people tend to let their guard down. Lazlo’s hidden a fair old whack of coke with less proficiency than a teenager hides his jazz mags.

I put the backpack on and I pull out of that flat at roughly the same time Lazlo’s pulling out of his missus. Too late, old son, I think. By the time you realise you’ve been done I’ll be long gone.

I remember walking back that night. Not running, walking. Just another kid with a backpack out past his bed time. I dodge the street lights, keep to the quiet sides of the roads, carefully ignore every passing car, every stumbling drunk, every pack of pricks. At all times I keep one hand on the backpack strap and the other on the knife in my pocket. I get to my house, over shoot it by a good few yards, and then turn around to see if anyone’s followed. Then I go home.

My mum is asleep in front of the telly. Billy is in the crib bed that’s already too small for him, leaning over the bars with that sloppy little toddler grin all over his face. I pick him up for bit until he gets grumpy, then I put him down, and get a blanket for my mum, tuck her in and turn the telly down a bit.  Then I lock up, smoke one of my mum’s cigarettes and spend an hour or so starting out of the landing window onto the street below. It is quite, and it is dark, and I am at peace with the world.

It wasn’t quite as easy as that, obviously. I wasn’t going to shill cocaine off my own back—that’s a good way for a kid to get stabbed, that is. I took the stash to one of the movers and handed it over, no fuss no muss. That haul was my resume, see? It could’ve gone either way, I suppose; I knew the stunt would either get me an in-road to one of the more established outfits, or a kicking for being a cocky twat. Turned out to be a bit of both, but that was the day I went legitimate. Well, I say legitimate, you know what I mean. From criminal to career criminal.

I didn’t see Lazlo again until about five years later, when me and a couple of lads were tasked with putting him out of business. He was always too big, too loud, was Lazlo. When things started to tidy up a bit, you don’t want a nutter like that shouting the place down. Bad for business. So we fucked him up. It took some doing, let me tell you. I’ve still got this scar on the side of my head, see? Hell of a learning curve, was Lazlo.

Hell of learning curve.

Anyway, it’s your round, isn’t it? El roundo? I keep forgetting you don’t speak English. Well, probably just as well, I suppose, otherwise I would have had to break your head open by now. I’d rather not do that, obviously, but I’m keeping a low profile, being careful, like. I can’t stay cooped up with Billy all the time, though. It’s starting to do my head in, to be honest. It’s nice to have someone different to chat to for a change, even if this is a strictly one way conversation.

I tell you what- seeing as I’m pissed and you clearly don’t understand a word I’m saying, how’s about I tell you another story? About the time I ripped off the devil himself? It’s a bit of blinder, this one, and not one you’re likely to believe. But I’ve got the scars, see? And scars tell their own story. They don’t give a fuck if you believe them or not.

So. They say the streets of London are paved with gold. False advertising that is…

Mind Fucked: Meet the Nutters

Editor’s Note:

As many of you know, we’re planning a virtual party on Facebook on September 17th, to celebrate our new books and to thank you, the reader, for supporting us. Event details can be found here. To “gear up” for said party, each of the dolls have written a little bit about our favorite titles. And, just by reading and then sharing and/or commenting, you’ll be entered to win a free book. Don’t forget to TAG US via Facebook or Twitter when you share!

Today, it’s Renee’s turn. Up for grabs is a Kindle copy of MIND FUCKED.  And now, Renee’s going to introduce you to a few of the nutters:

When I started writing Mind Fuck, the goal was one thing: hilarity. I had a very loose outline but the character of Milo Smalls was fully formed in my brain. He was perfect. Nothing could change him. No ONE could change him. He was the star. No one else.

My problem was he was too awesome. I needed characters that challenged Milo and created the right kind of “foil” to make him shine. That meant they had to be way “out there.” All of the characters in this book are outside the realm of normal, which means the average reader is unlikely to have much in common with them. To solve this problem, I gave them quirks, habits and thoughts similar to the ones we hide every day. And then I exaggerated these traits, so they “seem” more insane than the rest of us.

The characters are what makes this book so awesome. (Not just in my opinion. Readers agree, so stop with the doubty face.) So let’s meet a few of them, shall we?

Rochelle Middleton

Also known as Doctor Death, Rochelle runs a therapy group Milo’s police captain sends him to. Problem is, Rochelle might be crazier than the people she’s treating. Her list of quirks:

  • Obsessed with cats. And I mean she LOVES cats. Collects them.
  • Control freak
  • Fears heights
  • Bumpy surfaces make her uneasy
  • Fears light bulbs
  • Believes if everything is perfect, then nothing will happen that she can’t control. The problem is, the more she tries to perfect her patients, the more out of control they become, and the stronger and more violent her desire to fix them becomes.

Andy Zunser

Andy is my daughter Kennedy’s creation. He has an uncontrollable urge to lick children. Now this isn’t based in sexual attraction. Andy simply has to lick children. The rest of his shit? Does he really need more? Fine.

Andy is also whispers all the time, and he’s extremely insecure. He desperately wants to fit in, but the licking makes that impossible. How many of us just want to fit in, but have something inappropriate or awkward about us that prevents running with the pack?

Ozzie Lemon

Ozzie is my favorite character next to Milo. I wanted him to be offensive, but funny. Someone that challenged Milo where the others only perplexed him. Ozzie is a little bit me, a little bit my father and (don’t tell her) a tiny bit Katrina Monroe. He blurts profanity as naturally as he breathes. He’s also intuitive, smart, blunt, and empathetic. The person people “see” on the outside, a rude, insulting dick-smack, is nothing like the real Oz. Few people would bother to find that out, because they let his “first impression” make up their minds.

  • Afraid of farts, because of a childhood prank gone horribly wrong
  • Dislikes the number 8
  • Compulsive gambler
  • Sorts everything by color and size

Estella Butler

Estella is infatuated with Milo. Her fear of fingers and being touched, is an exaggeration of one of my quirks. I hate feet. My feet, your feet, all the feet. When someone touched me with their foot, I feel irritated. Almost angry. A bare foot touching me? Ugh. Violent thoughts begin. Bare feet touching MY bare feet? I can’t even.

I gave Estella the same issue with fingers, but to a degree so intense, it affects how she functions in daily life. She bit off her own fingertips, for example. The rest of the group has to wear mittens just so she can focus. However, while Estella can’t stand fingers, she also has an overwhelming need to be loved. The aversion to fingers makes that extremely difficult. She lives in a constant state of anxiety. In addition to that, Estella also has a compulsive urge to rub whiskers and she believes dreams are really ghosts speaking to you. She doesn’t like ghosts.

Nina Fleet

Nina was supposed to be a love interest for Milo, but as both characters developed, I realized her promiscuity would spark Milo’s phobia of germs, which meant they wouldn’t work well together. So, she became a character who added color to the setting and other characters. Sometimes you need one of those. (Although she ended up serving a greater purpose later on) She seems extremely confident, but is more frightened little girl than highly sexualized woman (although this is the persona she presents to the world). Nina is a nymphomaniac and a hoarder with a really bad memory. She can also be a massive bitch, when she feels threatened. She symbolizes everything we’re told (as women) not to be, as well as the things we’re told we should be.

Buggy Flint

I guess you could say that Buggy’s phobias and compulsions mimic our struggle with what we know is good for us, versus what we desire despite that knowledge. Buggy’s fear of green is so intense; he wears special glasses that filter color, because he completely loses his shit if he sees it. Like, full on nervous breakdown. He also has an irresistible compulsion to gorge on broccoli, while fearing it because he knows it’s green. We all know how it feels to want something we know is bad for us, right?

Charlie Howard

Charlie was a last minute addition to the cast. I wanted a character that symbolized the annoying stereotype of the alpha male, but exaggerated to show how silly it is. And we got Charlie, who loves to put his dick in holes and lies because he just can’t help himself. He’s basic. Selfish. Thinks with his penis. Has to put it into whatever hole he can find, regardless of the danger it presents to his physical well being. He’s absurd, but charming.

He’s also afraid of toes and doesn’t like the sound a zipper makes.

Shamus O’Connell

We don’t see a lot of Shamus, but what we do see is definitely memorable. Shamus is a sensitive and trusting man. Like an overgrown child really. He tries desperately to overcome his compulsions, but in the end, the poor soul can’t resist the overwhelming urge to bite the heads off birds. At the same time, he loves them. So, while he wants to hold them, pet them, admire them, he also destroys them in the most horrific, unsettling way possible.

Milo Smalls

Finally, Milo. He’s a little bit of everyone I know and love. He’s exceptionally smart and intuitive, and he’s observant, mistrustful, honest to a fault, curious, and stubborn.

At work, his previous captain prepared a list to help future coworkers deal with Milo without any… awkward situations.

  • Writes ONLY with pens, because he doesn’t like the impermanence of pencils
  • Doesn’t trust technology: The Internet is an absolute “nope” and he loathes the cell phone he’s forced to use for work.
  • Loathes change. Routine is his best friend
  • Likes things in groups of three. Sees this is a good omen. Hates groups of two. Believes two means bad things are going to happen, and more than one group of two means that bad thing will be worse. Having one left over isn’t as bad as two, but it’s cause for concern, “because there’s one left over.”
  • Suspicious of gingers. His suspicion increases to uneasiness and even fear depending on the level of ginger. For example: Strawberry blonds are the least harmful ginger, giving him only a mild sense of unease, while bright orange gingers are the most dangerous.
  • Fearful of cats (most furry animals make him at least a little nervous, which stems from how dirty he believes they are)
  • Believes rap music is the cause of society’s slow but steady destruction and is like poison for our brains.
  • Feels uncontrollable rage in the presence of jelly donuts
  • Avoids long-term relationships. Is a little too impulsive when it comes to anonymous sex
  • Photographic memory, yet he still keeps meticulous notes on every case. Writes everything in notebooks (which are the same color, size, type, etc. If one is damaged, he rewrites it. If he can no longer buy the same type, brand, etc., he replaces all of the books)
  • Obsessive need for cleanliness. This is so severe, he won’t or drink from anything that is not disposable and packaged. (In other words: Only used once. By him.)
  • Dislikes nail biters and ankle socks.
  • Tweezers give him the heebs.
  • Despises bow ties.

You might think that these issues would make Milo a total shut-in, or it would at least inhibit his ability to solve crimes. Think again. Milo actually uses each of these quirks to help him solve cases. Those that he can’t, he bravely tries to overcome in the name of justice, proving if you feel passionately enough about something, nothing will hold you back.

Oh, look at me motivating the masses. I’m a good person.

I’ve left out Joy, James, and of course, Captain Cunt. You’ll have to meet them on your own.

 

The Devil Dogs

Editor’s Note:

Happy Monday, Dolls! As many of you know, we’re planning a virtual party on Facebook on September 17th, to celebrate our new books and to thank you, the reader, for supporting us. Event details can be found here. To “gear up” for said party, each of the dolls have written a little bit about our favorite titles. And, just by reading and then sharing and/or commenting, you’ll be entered to win a free book. Don’t forget to TAG US via Facebook or Twitter when you share!

Today, it’s Christian’s turn. Up for grabs is a Kindle copy of NO MAN’S LAND: HORROR IN THE TRENCHES.  And now, Mr. Saunders: 

The Devil Dogs

by C.M. Saunders

My new novella, No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches, tells the story of a British infantryman at the Somme in World War I who ends up fighting not just the Germans, but also an unseen enemy that makes his friends ‘disappear.’ Amongst the usual death and destruction to be found in a war zone, the book features a reanimated corpse, unkillable death squads, and what I refer to as ‘Devil Dogs.’ In the story, these are vicious German Shepherds, symbols of the German war machine, who had their brains transplanted and replaced with those taken from dead SS soldiers. So in effect, they are dogs with people brains. Angry people brains. They are then sent out to prowl no man’s land, the area between the allied and German trenches, looking for victims.

I wish I could lay claim to making this shit up. But rumour has it that this area of research was part of the infamous Nazi human experiments of the 1940’s during which all manner of cheerful things took place, from sewing sets of twins together to making people drink nothing but sea water so they could study the effects. Some of these experiments also included forced amputations and limb transplants. Yep, just like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Most of this stuff was inflicted on POW’s during World War II, but I moved it to the trenches of World War I to suit my purposes. During war time, or even outside war time, people do such incredible, fucked-up shit to each other you don’t have to make it up. Just read a bit of history.

I couldn’t find any online sources for the transplanting-people-brains-into-dogs thing, so maybe I did make that bit up. Who knows? However, there is some literature relating to Soviet experiments along similar lines concerning the pioneering ‘work’ of Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov in the 1950’s which supposedly led to the first heart transplant in 1967. One of his greatest achievements was bringing a dead dog’s head ‘back to life.’ There’s even footage on YouTube. Some sources suggest this was a continuation of research started by the Nazis a decade earlier, and it’s anyone’s guess what really went on at those sketchy Unit 731 camps.

Ultimately, nobody knows how far they want or if the experiments were successful. Probably not. I imagine it came down to size in the end (doesn’t it always?). I mean a man’s brain wouldn’t fit inside a dog’s head, would it? Unless these particular dogs were genetically engineered or something to make them bigger than the average canine. And the Nazis would never do that, would they? By the way, I took the term Devil Dogs from a nickname the US Marine Corps were given by the Germans. According to Marine Corps legend, they fought with such ferocity at the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918 that they were likened by the enemy to ‘Dogs from Hell.’ It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

 

CHEMICAL PURPLE JESUS: On Researching A TALE DU MORT

Editor’s Note:

Happy Friday, Dolls! As many of you know, we’re planning a virtual party on Facebook on September 17th, to celebrate our new books and to thank you, the reader, for supporting us. Event details can be found here. To “gear up” for said party, each of the dolls have written a little bit about our favorite titles. And, just by reading and then sharing and/or commenting, you’ll be entered to win a free book. Don’t forget to TAG US via Facebook or Twitter when you share!

Today, it’s Katrina’s turn. Up for grabs is a Kindle copy of A TALE DU MORT. And now, Katrina: 

 CHEMICAL PURPLE JESUS

by Katrina Monroe

The best part of writing, as any writer will tell you, is the dreamy-researchy bit. The only things you have to contend with are your thoughts, frazzled and all-the-amaze as they are, the endless possibility of The Idea, and all the fun places you get to go and see all for the sake of research.

When I started my research for A TALE DU MORT, I started small. This was death we were talking about, and not just the theoretical type. While I had some wiggle room when it came to the mythological side of the story, more than half of the tale is spent in the starch white of an embalming room. Having never been an embalmer or dead, I was stuck. I needed information.

I started with books. By far the most informational were MORTUARY CONFIDENTIAL: Undertakers Spill the Dirt by K. McKenzie and Todd Harra, NINE YEARS UNDER by Sheri Booker, and SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES by Caitlin Doughty.  The static information was good. Great, even. But description can only get a person so far when accompanied by technical terms and industry slang that I’d need an English to Mortician dictionary to translate.

I needed more.

Because my first two books (REAPER and SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE) were highly fantasized, I hadn’t ever needed to take a field trip to look at real things. With MORT, no matter how much internet research, book flipping, and YouTube hole-falling I did, I still hadn’t gotten the real-world information that would make MORT special.

I didn’t actually think a funeral home would let me tour the place. The above memoirs had painted a pretty bleak picture of funeral directors’ outlooks toward outsiders. Imagine my absolute glee when Emily (not her real name) at Miller Family Funeral Home agreed to let me poke my nose in all their nooks and crannies.

Not knowing what to expect, and having touted myself as a Big Deal by throwing out the words “Published Author” in my initial email correspondence, I dressed like I was going to a job interview—and spent the entire interaction thinking about the way leggings made my unders ride up my ass. Emily met me at the door and, to her credit, didn’t immediately throw me out because I was obviously not that kind of author. No tweed jacket and briefcase for me. (Although I did wear costume glasses because I’m a child and think they add a modicum of credibility).

We sat in the arrangements room, which is just a fancy way of saying “sales floor.” The wall farthest from the door (and therefore hardest to escape) held casket corners and urns and hundreds of catalogues for everything from flowers to keepsakes intended to be handed out like party favors. Surrounded by knick-knacks of the dead, it was hard to find the proper reverence for the preparation of a loved one and had to force a cough several times to hide a giggle.

I hadn’t prepared any questions—I’m not a journalist anymore, and when I was one I wasn’t very good—and had to rely on a few half-scribbled notes like, “equipment/facility?” and “process?” Somehow, we bungled through a conversation that yielded some pretty interesting facts regarding the hows and whens of transporting and embalming a dead body.

“Do you want to see the embalming room?” She asked.

Of fucking course I wanted to see the embalming room.

No, there wasn’t a body inside, but there might as well have been. Having binge-watched every season of SIX FEET UNDER, my imagination filled in the gap. The chemical smell was something like a mix of chlorine and heavy-duty oven cleaner and only got stronger as I approached the porcelain table. On the one end was a pump called a Porti-Boy I recognized from my YouTube trawling as the thing that fills the body with embalming fluid. (Go ahead and do a video search of this process and try not to pass out.) On the other end was a toilet for collecting the blood that drained through a tube attached to the body’s jugular vein.

That saying about flushing your life down the toilet became a little too real.

Emily walked around the room while I scribbled into my notebook. She pointed to a long, metal rod that looked like it was meant for spear fishing. “This is a trocar. Basically, we pierce the guts and use the tip—which is attached to the Porti-Boy—to suck out anything left inside.”

“Like poop?” Did I mention I’m a child?

“Like poop.” She smiled.

She opened a cabinet revealing a rainbow of chemicals and withdrew a bottle of what looked like purple Kool-Aid. “This is my favorite.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“We call it Chemical Purple Jesus.” She chuckled. “Not sure why.”

Then she went on to explain the different uses for each chemical. Without getting technical, each liquid is mixed with others to create the right “plumping juice.” Embalming fluid can cause a person’s skin to turn Hulk green if they were jaundiced, and these chemicals help correct that, among other things.

We spent almost forty-five minutes in the embalming room and, all the while, the mystery of death sort of peeled away, giving me a new perspective with which to approach MORT. Death is frightening and moving and misunderstood, but it’s also chemical and funny and gets flushed down the toilet.

I could have written MORT without my trip to the Miller Family Funeral Home, but it wouldn’t have been as good.

Research is important, but experience is better.

If you ever find yourself thinking, “I wish I could see—” when it comes to your writing, find a way to do it. Your story will thank you.