Friday, March 22, 2013

RIP Rick Hautala -- a lifetime is not long enough.

Yesterday evening a friend emailed me to let me know some sad news. Rick Hautala, Maine author and someone I’d just started to become friends with in the last few years, died suddenly yesterday afternoon of a heart attack at age 64.

Rick at NECON 2006
I couldn’t quite believe it was true, but when I went to his website at, there it was. Rick’s wife Holly had posted the following on his Facebook page Thursday afternoon: “Hi all and thank you. Just to let you know there will be no funeral, as that was not Rick’s thing. I am hoping to put together a celebration of his life in a month or two. We are just devastated here, and I really appreciate your kind words. Will keep you posted…”

As shocked as I was, I can’t even begin to imagine what Holly and the rest of Rick’s family and friends are going through. My heart goes out to them.

UPDATE: Fellow author Christopher Golden has posted on his blog about how you can assist Rick's family:

Those of you who attended the Lovecraft Lounge short film showing at my shop in August of 2011 to hear him speak and answer questions about the short film "Lovecraft's Pillow" which we screened will remember how nice he was, and how willing he was to give even the smallest crowd of fans his time and energy. He was even patient in explaining over and over again how to pronounce his name [HOW-tah-lah].

Rick was the most positive, friendly, and helpful "Ink-Stained Wretch" I have had the pleasure to meet. I am having a hard time realizing I'll never get a chance to tell him this. This post is simply one more small step towards reminding local folks of Rick, the writer-next-door that so many took for granted as being forever nearby. He will be missed. I'm glad he wrote as much as he did, it's going to have to last us a long while. Here's to Rick Hautala. Maine has lost a good inky friend.

I came to read Rick’s work only recently, though like many of us here in Maine I knew of him for years. I sampled his books here and there, invited him to speak about his screenwriting work for “Lovecraft’s Pillow” at my bookshop, and almost got to give an introduction for his talk at October 2012’s “Little Festival of Horrors” at the Portland Public Library (the event was cancelled by the arrival of Hurricane Sandy). I was looking forward to having another chance to introduce him this fall, but sadly that will not happen now.

Here is the short film, Lovecraft’s Pillow, if you haven’t seen it yet:

Little Brothers, 1988
I also spent some time last year interviewing him about his “Little Brother” stories as part of my research for a Strange Maine related book I am working on right now about Bigfoot in Maine history and culture. Rick was always ready to answer my questions and set me straight on what his goals in writing were.

As Rick said to me, “Honestly, I was (and am) just trying to tell stories to entertain and amuse people … and, yeah! … to creep them out.” What more could we ask from one of our state’s longest publishing horror authors? All he wanted to do was entertain us.

To quote Rick:
The most dominant theme I see (and what do I know? I’m just the writer) is people being tested to:

1) Accept something that they believe or have been told is “impossible,” and
2) Do something about it. Face it. Deal with it. Try to come out on top.

All of the LITTLE BROTHERS stories—and THE MOUNTAIN KING, too, I think, are about people coming to grips with something that, according to their limited belief structures, is impossible … yet real, nonetheless.

Losing Rick so suddenly has thrown myself and others who always thought he’d be around into just that position. How we deal with it is up to us.

For those of you who didn’t know much about Rick, here is the introduction I wrote for his postponed appearance at the Little Festival of Horrors:


Hello everyone, and welcome to the second author talk of the Portland Public Library’s LITTLE FESTIVAL OF HORRORS. I have the pleasure today of introducing Maine author Rick Hautala to you. He is the published author of over 90 novels and short stories, many of which have been translated to other languages and sold internationally. His short story collection, Bedbugs, was selected by Barnes & Noble as one of the most distinguished horror publications of the year 2000.

Most recently the Horror Writers Association awarded him the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement for 2011, which was presented to him at the annual banquet in spring 2012. Rick lives just outside of Portland with fellow author Holly Newstein. He moved to Maine to go to college back in the day, and never left.

His stories, which are sometimes supernatural in nature, most often deal with monsters of all sorts. He enjoys monsters, whether they’re real or not. That’s how he approached his novel The Mountain King which he aimed to write as a rip-snorting, limb-rippingly fun monster book. The story places a family of Bigfoot-like creatures in the mountains of New England, and lets the reader in on what exactly happens when the inevitable culture clash between hikers and homicidal Bigfoot families happens.

His novel Little Brothers is a favorite of many of his fans, and spawned a handful of stories and pseudo-myths about these creatures which haunt the Maine woods. There is a new Little Brothers novella titled Indian Summer which is coming out soon from Cemetery Dance Publications. Other forthcoming books include Chills and Waiting (also from Cemetery Dance), and Star Road, which St. Martin's is slated to release in 2014.

In addition, Little Brothers was recently optioned for a film, and a team is currently working on adapting it into screenplay form.

In fact, Rick writes screenplays himself. His adaptation of award-winning author Kealan Patrick Burke's "Peekers" is currently on the film festival circuit. My personal favorite of these projects is the short film “Lovecraft’s Pillow,” which was based on a story suggestion from Stephen King. In this speculative story, a desperate and bankrupt man buys a pillow that once belonged to famed horror author H.P. Lovecraft in the hopes it will inspire his own writing. The results are … understandably uncanny, to say the least.

But enough from me. I’ll let Rick speak for himself. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Rick Hautala!

Where ever he may be headed to now, I hope his audience has a warm and friendly welcome for him, as he well deserves.

At the end of January, he was interviewed on the Francy and Friends podcast. You can download the MP3 on their site here. Rick shows up about 24 minutes into the otherwise raucous show, and talks candidly, as always, about life as a writer. His personality shines through. He was always a wonderful conversationalist. Enjoy.
Listen to internet radio with FRANCY AND FRIENDS on Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Zombie Puppet Musical auditions?!!

Yes, the headline does not lie.

WHAT: Audition for the June 2013 show,"A Post-Apocalyptic Improvised Zombie Puppet Musical" with the Improvised Puppet Project
WHEN: Auditions will be Sunday March 24 2013 at 4:00pm
FMI: E-mail Tara at, or visit

The Improvised Puppet Project is holding auditions for their big Spring show, "A Post-Apocalyptic Improvised Zombie Puppet Musical," which will be performed during the second annual Portland Fringe Festival the last week of June 2013.

In case you are wondering what the heck the storyline is, here is the blurbtastic plot summary:

In a post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited by puppets, people, and zombies, only the power of musical theater can save the day.

Rehearsal & Performance Dates:
"A Post-Apocalyptic Improvised Zombie Puppet Musical" will perform Wednesday, June 26, and Saturday, June 29 at the Portland Fringe Festival and Sunday June 30 at Acorn Studio Theater in Westbrook. There will be one or two rehearsals per week from the end of March through the end of the run. This show is a 45-minute improvised Broadway-style musical, performed with puppets. Each show will be accompanied by a professional musician who will both score the show and improvise songs to sing to. We are looking for improvisors with musical theater or puppeteering experience -- or a wholehearted willingness to learn a lot of new skills in a relatively short time!

Auditions & Registration:
Auditions will be Sunday afternoon, March 24, at 4:00pm. To register, please e-mail Tara at info[at] with your full name, email address, phone number, and a short description of your improv/musical theater/puppeteering background. We'll get back to you by email and confirm time and location, and also send you more detailed information about what we're looking for. This audition will be more like an improv jam than a normal theater audition -- we want to create a laid-back, low-pressure atmosphere for you to show us your best work. We'll even tell you what we're looking for ahead of time so you don't have to wonder! No need to bring your own puppet, or even a headshot -- just your improvising self, ready to have some fun.

For more information about The Improvised Puppet Project, find us on Facebook:

Friday, March 08, 2013

Scallop swapping?

Mario Moretto, Hancock County reporter
Well, the pressure for me to top the Rangeley Robot Monster story from the other week has been intense. I mean, how does a person top a two-week run which includes dowsers looking for Bigfoot and monster robot attacks?! Luckily for me, the Colbert Report did a fantastically funny segment about an incident on Mount Desert Island. I then found out that the story had originally been reported on by Mario Moretto of the Bangor Daily News.

Enjoy the video, and read on for more!

The news story was originally run in the Bangor Daily News on November 27th when reporter Mario Moretto encountered a post on the Ellsworth Police Department's Facebook page inquiring community-wide about the lost scallop pieces. He posted on Twitter about it, thinking to himself, "Isn't this weird?"

Seeing the post, his editor Rick Levasseur told Moretto he should run with it, and do a full story for the paper. Apparently Moretto and Levasseur have the nose for news, because sure enough Moretto's story got picked up by other Maine outlets and the AP wire. It can now be found reprinted in all sorts of "weird news" columns and news blogs, and everywhere the Colbert Show segment is mentioned. But, as Moretto observes, "It's sort of an occupational hazard in today's media landscape that if a story you wrote goes viral, very little attention is paid to the byline. Everyone knows the story, but not many people pay attention to who reported it."

Read Mario Moretto's original article here:
Southwest Harbor man seeking missing scallop guts after putting them in wrong car

A follow-up article, again by Moretto, appeared in the Bangor Daily News on November 28th with the headline "UM teacher: 'It was me. I have the scallop guts.'" Mario is no stranger to oddball stories. "The thing that makes 'Scallop Guts' such a great story, though, is the happy ending," he said. Darn right.

To read more of Moretto's Hancock County articles, click here:

When I asked Moretto if he had come across other strange Maine news items during his tenure, he admitted there are plenty of "out there" stories, but the scallop guts story seemed to be the best so far. In the past, among other things, he has reported about a woman who snapped photographs of bones she found on a town pier. The woman sent the photos to the state medical examiner's office. "She was convinced they were human, but the Medical Examiner identified them as chicken. A representative from that office told me it happened all the time."