Log in

On the Banks of the River Jordan

By John Reppion
Reviewed by Charity VanDeberg

You may be familiar with John Reppion’s various, highly-acclaimed comic book projects with wife Leah Moore, but you may not know that he also knows how to create things without so many pictures. In On the Banks of the River Jordan, he uses emails, actual locations, and quotes from genuine books, such as Lancashire Folklore (Harland & Wilkinson, 1867), to illustrate a frightening world that will leave you hoping he just made it all up.

The story begins with an email from Reppion to ghost story author Brian J. Showers. He introduces himself and explains a bit apologetically that he is in the process of turning a mass of research notes on a nearby Victorian park into a story. He asks that Showers allow him to share his research in hopes that it will help him to more easily organize the information. “I am currently at something of a loose end whilst my wife, and day-to-day writing partner, is off visiting her sister…” Showers kindly agrees and Reppion arranges his notes and thoughts in email form.

Despite being presented in the format of modern technological communication, On the Banks of the River Jordan very closely mirrors the style of early gothic tales. Most of the conversation is one-sided. Reppion’s character writes and often receives no response, as Brian Showers’ internet connection is compromised by road work near his house. In a traditional ghost story, this lonely and frightened narrative would be delivered as entries in a journal or letters to a bosom friend, where replies are delayed due to horrific thunderstorms and washed out roads. This old fashioned feel is further accentuated by Reppion’s formal writing style, as evidenced by his easy use of the word “whilst” in the previously quoted passage. It is easy to imagine him sitting alone in his house (castle), face lit by the glow of a computer monitor (flickering candle), sorting through pages of photocopies and handwritten notes (clippings and rubbings), letting out the cat, letting in the cat, and listening to the strange sounds outside his window. After a while, it begins to feel a bit claustrophobic and the reader may be tempted to email a warning to the author.

This is a beautifully crafted ghost story that blends reality and superstition into a seamless world that so closely resembles the real one that you can only hope the noises outside aren’t as nearby as they seem. Presented as a 20-page booklet by Swan River Press in Dublin, On the Banks of the River Jordan is only available online at http://moorereppion.bigcartel.com/product/on-the-banks-of-the-river-jordan-swan-river-press-haunted-histories-7.

It is absolutely worth a read and could one day be a very valuable addition to your collection.


Bad Poetry but Very Necessary


The elevator door opened and she stepped inside.
The smell was sweet, cloying in the small space.
To her left, the wall and floor spoke the saddest story she had ever heard.
White frosting, white cake, white candles, shattered plate.
Red icing letters, their message destroyed
By an unimaginable passion that would cause a birthday cake to become a weapon.

Mandolin and the Smell of Dead Fish

Back in the late '90s/ early '00s, my friend Jay McElroy was singing for a San Diego band called Mindsize.   We chatted on IM a lot and he often had to run off to do errands, leaving me bored and filling the time by typing random poetry and short stories.  When he returned to the computer one of those times, he found a story that he really liked and asked if I would let him put it in his friend's zine.  I said yes.  Why not?  Then I promptly forgot about it.  While cleaning out some stuff today, I found copies of the first three issues of the zine, titled "The Smell of Dead Fish."  One the first page of the third issue, I saw my story.  I didn't even remember receiving these things, much less noticing my name in one of them.  It was a nice surprise.  

Click on Thumbnail to make bigger

I wish all pets were robots

Reasons I wish all pets were robots:

1) Robots don't eat poop and then vomit it on my white carpet.

2) Robots don't bring baby gophers into the house to dismember them.

3) Robots don't drag their butts across the carpet with a look of pure glee and disturbing intensity.

4) Robots don't hump each other right in front of the fridge door while I'm trying to make dinner.

5) Robots don't steal my Eeyore then bury his detachable tail in the hole of aforementioned dead baby gopher.

6) Robots don't lick plates left a little too close to the edge of the kitchen counter.

7) Robots don't eat all the frosting that was meant to go on the cinnamon rolls.

8) Robots don't pull so hard on their leashes that they cut off their oxygen and go into a self-induced asthma attack.

9) Robots don't pee on the ice chest during family barbecues.

10) Robots don't decide they would rather not go to sleep at a reasonable hour, but instead roam the halls, their nails clicking loudly.

Straight & Nightmares

Allergy season has begun and it's going to be a killer.  Snuffly nose, tight lungs, stinging eyes.  I can't even think straight most of the time.  Think straight... I'm not sure what that means.  Is it straight as in not gay or straight as in uncurved? Can you even think in a straight line?  I can't even draw a straight line.  

Definitions of straight on the Web:

successive (without a break); "sick for five straight days"
having no deviations; "straight lines"; "straight roads across the desert"; "straight teeth"; "straight shoulders"
(of hair) having no waves or curls; "her naturally straight hair hung long and silky"
erect in posture; "sit straight"; "stood defiantly with unbowed back"
in keeping with the facts; "set the record straight"; "made sure the facts were straight in the report"
characterized by honesty and fairness; "straight dealing"; "a square deal"
uncoiled: no longer coiled
free from curves or angles; "a straight line"
neatly arranged; not disorderly; "the room is straight now"
not homosexual
true: accurately fitted; level; "the window frame isn't quite true"
square(a): without evasion or compromise; "a square contradiction"; "he is not being as straightforward as it appears"
directly: without deviation; "the path leads directly to the lake"; "went direct to the office"
heterosexual: a heterosexual person; someone having a sexual orientation to persons of the opposite sex
neat: without water; "took his whiskey neat"

I suppose it would be more correct to say that I can't think in a way that is without deviation.  That's nothing new, really.  

I had a horrible nightmare last night, or alptraum for my German audience.  I don't have a lot of nightmares, but when I do they are the kind that make you wish you weren't all alone in a bed with your husband hundreds of miles away sleeping on an air mattress at his uncle's opulent Inland Empire home.  I don't remember much of it except a man's voice telling a woman near me to "get her out of here before it begins."  Then, I was laying on my bed in the dark (still in the dream) next to a figure who shook his head violently and chanted, "Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I. Oh, I."  At that point, I woke up, in the dark, next to no one at all, staring at my lumpy reflection in the mirrored closet door.   

And to make you all equally freaked out:


Dave Eggers and the Wild Things pt. 2

The stage was set for Berkeley Rep's current play Coming Home (see below).  It consisted of a beautifully constructed shack interior, power lines, and a glimpse into the chain-linked dirt backyard.  Two comfy chairs flanked a small table that held a pitcher of water, two mugs, and a flower arrangement.

 Jon Carroll  is well known to those who still read newspapers. I, being of the instant gratification internet generation, had no idea who he was, but he was easy to spot.  As he took the stage, I nearly giggled.  The man who took the left chair looked like a typical journalist who had taken on the persona of James Lipton of "Inside the Actor's Studio."  He even wore a turtleneck and sports jacket.  There was no way it wasn't planned.  Jon introduced Dave Eggers and the audience applauded loudly.  The little boy in front of me, clutching his The Wild Things book in his hands, beamed excitedly.  

The questions and answers were not very interesting, as far as interviews go.  Jon asked about the books; Dave answered.  Jon asked about the tutoring project; Dave answered.  Nothing exciting and gossip-worthy reared its little head.  So, instead, I watched Dave Eggers.  I know, I know.  Everyone was watching Dave, right?  No, I was really watching him.  And he twitched a lot.  He touched his face, rubbed the stubble on his chin, jumped at the feedback from the microphone (the sound was not good, tinny and full of echo).  He pulled at his shoes, crossed his legs a lot, and took many sips of water.  At one point, he refilled his mug, picked it up and let it hover near his mouth before setting it back on the table.  A moment later, he lifted, hovered, and repeated.  It was intriguing.  Was he nervous?  Was it the audience? Was it too much coffee?  Maybe he just didn't like to talk about himself.  Hmm.

After a while, Jon notified us that there was some time to take questions from the audience.  A few hands shot up immediately.  The house lights brightened.  I've been to a few interviews and even more readings and author events.  Never have I encountered an audience that was so hostile toward the person they were there to see.  It was as if they wanted to eat him up, they loved him so... or something like that.  "Do you really write about outsiders, as Jon said, or is he just all wet?" one woman joked (kind of).  "Why did you edit instead of write?" "Why did you make them burn the cow? I couldn't pick the book up for 5 years?"  And at one point, as Jon made a comment inspired by one of the questions, a very rude voice bellowed, "Question!"  Jon and Dave both paused, very surprised.  "You said it was time for audience questions!" the rude voice continued (it belonged to a curmudgeonly old man on the left side of the stage). I turned to Kathryn and we were both shocked by the boldness/rudeness.  Jon recovered, though he seemed annoyed.  Who wouldn't be?  Dave did his best to answer the forgettable question.  

After the interview, the horde lined up for autographs.  Kathryn and I went for Thai food.  After an hour or so, we wandered back past the theater on our way to the garage.  Jon and Dave were in the lobby, thanking the theater staff and preparing to leave.  I told Kathryn she should just go in and say hi.  She didn't.  We crossed the street toward the garage and headed for the elevator.  Kathryn pushed the button.  She saw Dave Eggers crossing the street toward us. 

"Wouldn't it be funny if we ended up sharing the elevator with him?" she said.

I watched Dave walk closer, lost in his own thoughts, and called out, "Are you coming?"

He looked up, surprised.

"The elevator," I said.

Dave sped up his pace and smiled.  We all climbed into the elevator, Kathryn pushed the (2) button, he pushed the (3).  She mentioned something he said during the interview, about how every time he and the subject of his biography "What is the What" were together, strange things seemed to happen.  

"Leaving Sudan is always an adventure," he answered. 

We reached our floor and I thanked him.  For what?  For writing, for doing the interview, for riding in the elevator with us? I don't know.  It was just one of those nights when you thank someone for nothing in particular and go home feeling like something really exciting happened.

Dave Eggers and the Wild Things pt. 1

I had heard of Dave Eggers before my former writing professor, Kathryn Abajian, invited me to see his onstage interview by The Chronicle's great Jon Carroll.  Of course, I couldn't tell you offhand what he's written. So I looked him up on Wikipedia.  Impressive resume, I found. From his first book, 2000's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (a title even he is embarrassed to say in public), his screenplays for Where the Wild Things Are and Away We Go, all the way up to his most current book Zeitoun, this man has been working nonstop.  And he doesn't just write.  He's also been a driving force behind 826 Valencia, a non-profit tutoring and mentoring program that started in San Francisco and now has seven chapters throughout the country.  And he's married.  And he has a baby.  And he's kinda hunky, see below:


The interview started at 7:00, following a wine and cheese mixer in the lobby.  As Kathryn pointed out, the place seemed to be filled with English teachers.  They have a certain look about them.  People clutched books, sipped their beverages, and spoke about Very Important Things until the host of the evening's festivities came out and the lights dimmed.  

To be continued...

The Molting Chapter 1: Guilty Susie

Category: Writing and Poetry

The Molting Chapter 1: Guilty Susie

From Terrance Zdunich, the Creator of Repo! The Genetic Opera

For those who’ve seen Repo! The Genetic Opera, it comes as no surprise that writer/Gravedigger Terrance Zdunich’s next project would be a graphic novel. After all, not only did he co-create the incredibly vivid world and characters, but all of those comic book style flashbacks… Yeah, he drew those. This is a talented man. And now he has given us The Molting, a graphic novel in 12 parts that add up to the story of one really twisted American family, the kind that you hope never invites you over for Thanksgiving dinner.

In Chapter 1: Guilty Susie, we meet young Anthony and Susie Deveraux just after the death of their parents. Believing it to be the best situation for the siblings, the court puts them and all of their parents’ belongings into the custody of their dubious aunt and uncle. And then, as these things tend to do, it all goes downhill. There is greed, cruelty, violence, a couple of screeing cockroaches, and an evil dog. Before the children can escape their court assigned hell, another Deveraux will die.

Zdunich’s writing style is compelling, managing in the first part of the issue to seamlessly weave the juxtaposition of the words of the court’s judgment with pictures of the reality faced by the children in their aunt and uncle’s care. There is not much dialog; leaving the drawings to tell more of the story, which actually adds to the creepiness. Zdunich’s illustrations are simple, without much detail or shading, practically childlike in the old fashioned comic style like Archie or Little Orphan Annie, but you’ll never see Jughead get his head blown off in a bloody spattering of red and black.

The Molting is bit expensive for a graphic novel, at $7.99 per issue. That might detract the casual readers from picking up a copy, but as Zdunich says, “It’s truly an independent effort, self-produced and financed.” It is a labor of love and specifically aimed at “a core group of fiercely fine folks who’ve been following my endeavors as an artist.” As such, it will be available only through Terrance Zdunich’s website www.terrancezdunich.com and at select appearances. New issues will be released approximately every two months; issue two, The Happiest Place on Earth is also now available. A creepy and well written story, if you are a fan of Zdunich, horror, or homicidal families, you should give this series a try.

I love this band. Roche Limit "So Sorry."