Banjo Billy’s Bus is Calling Us

Driver, where are you taking us?June 059

Boulder, of course, where Banjo Billy’s Bus Tour has been a local institution since 2005.

This irreverent blend of history, comedy and darn-good storytelling received some national attention today on NPR. The story was produced by the lovely and talented Grace Hood, of course, and you may recognize another name on a few of the photo credits.

Check out the story, and if you’re in Boulder, take the tour. Even if you’ve lived there for years, you’ll learn new things about the town. Billy (aka John Georgis) is a gifted storyteller and a great personality.

Best of all, take the ghost tour in October, when the air is as crisp and chilling as the stories.

Stephen King, Joyland

JoylandJoyland by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first three-fourths of
Joyland
are amazing, some of King’s best recent work. The ending, however, is a bit too easy and familiar. King’s previous offering through Hard Case Crime, The Colorado Kid, subverted convention and was far more challenging to the reader.

Infused with heart and the nostalgic thrills of boardwalk carnivals, Joyland is worth the ticket price. The novel begins as a rail-rattling thrill ride, but, in the end, eases too gently into the station.

View all my reviews

Transgress August Issue

Fellow Transgressors, the wait is over!

The August issue of Transgress Digital Magazine is now available for download, free of charge.

This month’s lineup is more electrifying than a summer concert festival:

We have fiction from authors Dale Bridges and Christina Eisert, including the start of a serial novel Lafayette Park.

Grace Hood weighs in on the media coverage of rampage violence in light of the shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin.

And Vince Darcangelo interviews true-crime historian Harold Schechter in advance of his new book, Psycho USA.

All this, plus art and a round-up of summer science books.

Get your copy now!

Transgress v1n2

Update: The second issue of Transgress drops later this weekend. This edition features fiction from Dale Bridges and Christina Eisert and nonfiction from Grace Hood and Vince Darcangelo.

This month’s topics include: would-be superheroes, historic vampires, the Aurora movie theater shooting, an interview with crime writer Harold Schechter and more.

Stay tuned.

New Pubs

Holy March Madness:

In recent weeks, Misanthrope Press published the anthology, A Rustle of Dark Leaves: Tales from the Shadows of the Forest, and Sideshow Press published Black Ink Horror #7. Respectively, the two anthologies feature my stories “The Dark of the Woods” and “Bloodwork and Synesthesia.” Two of my favorites. I haven’t seen Black Ink yet, but A Rustle of Dark Leaves looks fantastic on my Nook.

Real-Life Horror (I mean, really)

Usually, I write about fictionalized horror, but something truly scary is life without a quality education. I was fortunate to attend a first-rate high school, but not every one is as lucky. For many, attending an online school is a new possibility, which in and of itself could be of great value.

Unfortunately, for-profit companies have hijacked onling learning and are funneling taxpayer money away from public schools  and students and into the pockets of corporate administrators many states away (in the particular case I’m referring to, from Colorado to Virginia).

http://www.kunc.org/post/overworked-and-underpaid-teacher-staffing-colorado-virtual-academy

For the past six months, Grace Hood of radio station KUNC has been investigating K12, a Virginia-based company that oversees online schools across the country (and is currently being sued by its own shareholders). What KUNC has uncovered is a for-profit company taking tens of millions of taxpayer dollars (funds specifically earmarked for public schools), yet is delivering a sub-par product. The graduation rate at one of their schools is 22 percent, which is four times lower than the state average.

Obviously, K12 is failing its students, but as KUNC discovered, there are also questions about how this for-profit company in Virginia is spending our Colorado tax dollars. Teachers are paid far below the state average and have student lodes higher than teachers in brick-and-mortar schools. There are $1.3 million unaccounted for, and despite numerous requests, K12 refused to say where that money went, responding only with evasive, indirect answers, blatant deception and refused to speak on the record, despite the public’s right to know where our money went.

It’s a troubling situation that short-changes students, rips off taxpayers, and the lack of transparency is disturbing.

Disclosure: Grace is my partner, so I’m somewhat biased when I say she did an amazing job of investigating and reporting on this issue. But there is nothing biased about the facts of the case. I recommend you read this article, listen to the audio and learn more about the complicated and sometimes controversial world of online learning (there is a great PBS Frontline about how schools are cheating veterans out of their GI Bill funds).

Horror film and literature is great entertainment. But misappropriated funds, exploited teachers, and, worst of all, short-changed students is truly frightening.