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Costume-palooza: The Swedish Chef

Published November 1, 2017 by admin

What, it’s Halloweek, you really expect me to stop celebrating because it’s November? Silly reader! Sadly, I didn’t touch on all my favorite past costumes this year (gotta leave something for next year), but I definitely want to include this year’s effort. Plus, hey, how about a fun, light post while you’re waking up from your candy coma this morning, right?

One of the big influences from my growing up was the Muppets. Jim Henson was and is a big part of my life – his fantasy work got my mind working in ways it never could have without Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Storyteller. The Muppet Movie provided the optimism and idealism I needed at certain times in my life. I grew up a hardcore Sesame Street devotee. Somewhere along the way enjoying everything Henson turned into me really wanting to figure out how all of that was done, and most likely was a reason I started getting into making big character suits, complex outfits that involve rigging, and working with puppets professionally. It’s really not that hard to make the leap from point A to point B in this case. For better or worse, I’ve not gotten to work with a Henson property yet, and after this they will probably never let me near them in the future, but oh well. This costume was totally worth it.

The Swedish Chef has been a long-running inside joke for years with me – it’s one of the voices I can do really well, and he just amuses me. I love puns, love silly stuff, and the old chef sketches just make me laugh so much. Depending on how bored I am and how good of a friend you are, you may or may not have had to suffer through me serenading you with popular ballads as done by the Swedish Chef on your voicemail if you don’t pick up.

So yeah, ta-da!

 

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Or is that ‘Bork bork bork!’?

 

 

As far as difficulty level, it wasn’t so bad, just mostly finding the different pieces. Apron, tie, and pants were shopped (and the pants were a miracle find that I didn’t expect), shirt is something I own for some reason. Obviously made the head, hat, and hands. Part of me is sad I didn’t spring for the antron fleece, but part of this exercise is I wanted to see if it was absolutely necessary to use it to do something like this. Short answer is no, but I do prefer it or a fabric with a stretch to felt. I think some of the detail work might have been smoother otherwise, but this idea was happening fast and on a budget. I played around with a spray adhesive vs some of the more industrial glues I’ve used in the past, and it actually worked out because I went back and adjusted some structural things on the head several times and I don’t know if I could’ve done that with something heavier.

All in all, this was a little bit of trial and error to make, but still a ton of fun. He’s fairly comfortable to wear, and I can foresee him being part of my notorious holiday card schemes in the future.

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Free Fiction, New Reviews, & Things to Creep You Out

Published October 31, 2017 by admin

Happy Halloween, all! Time once again to see all that I’ve been getting up to, and since it’s a special day, I’ve got some spooky stuff lined up. But first, if you’re looking for a last minute read that will creep you out, or one that will amuse you and not be as creepy but still be weird, might I offer the following suggestion:

 

Buy My Stuff

 

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at where I’ve been in the past week or so.

 

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My latest review for Books by Violet covered one of my favorite new discoveries: Baba Yaga’s Assistant. I love this book. It doesn’t hurt that it’s about Baba Yaga, who’s one of my favorite folklore characters, but it’s also the way she’s used. I love the combination of folklore and modern life, I love the main character, I love the art, I love this book. Be sure to check out the full review full of my love here!

 

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I’m back with the Ladies of Horror flash fiction picture project – the above was my image for this month. It gave me a ton of ideas, but ultimately I went with something that I hope will creep you out this Halloween. Read my entry here,  then be sure to click around to read other fantastic, free reads to get you in the holiday mood!

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You can’t have autumn without leaves, right? Well not only have I kidnapped the HorrorAddicts.net blog, but I’ve done it with a story all about fall leaves – and decorating. By now you’ve probably figured out that there’s more to it than that, but I’ll let you discover what else is up, yourself. Check out the story here.

And I’ll be nice and not include a picture for this next one – if you haven’t read my clown piece The Moments Before, that’s the feature for another kidnapped blog on HorrorAddicts.net’s blog. A strange little piece about a new take on the end of the world, I have to say it pleases me. Check it out here.

 

SJ Reads: Hester

Published October 30, 2017 by admin

Time to round out the month with another nostalgic Halloween read! This week’s pick will be one of my favorites from when I was a kidlet, and likely one that only people who date back to bronze age (like me) will remember. I give you: Hester.

 

Hester

 

Hester is an alligator who’s getting ready for her Halloween party, but has time to spare. She goes out trick-or-treating, but ends up at a house that is owned by a very nice older lady and her friends. Since this book isn’t easy to find and has been out forever, spoilers ahead:

Hester totally trick or treats at a haunted house, but it’s full of nice monsters who are happy to have a visitor (and if memory serves, they let her in because she’s dressed as a witch, herself). There’s also a vignette where she helps the older lady (a witch) with some broom issues.

This is a super-cute book with some really vibrant and vivid illustrations. I remember checking out this particular title all year round as a kid, because I had a thing for exploring haunted houses (and this book is probably responsible for me thinking that any inhabitants of such houses would be a friendly delight, setting up my childhood mind to get wrecked by adverts for horror movies later on). The illustrations really give you room to explore – there’s some good detail which led to a great deal of imagining on my part as a kid.

I like this story because it’s somewhat gentle, with Hester soothing and helping out the haunted house inhabitants. They’re never really referred to as anything other than a nice old lady/nice people, so the book relies fully on the illustrations to convey the “joke.” Still, if you also look at it from the standpoint that they could very well be nice people except for the prejudices that are put on them (thanks horror genre), it’s interesting from that angle, as well.

Over all, a cute, fun, Halloween read that will give kids a lot to explore and give adults a chuckle. Unfortunately, it’s out of print, and while it’s a little easier to find than last week’s title, you’re going to end up paying for it.  I would definitely recommend checking out your local library system for it, because it is definitely worth a flip through.

 

 

Costume-palooza: Bring on the Weird!

Published October 27, 2017 by admin

Every so often, it seems like I feel the need to just go way over the top and do something…different. I’m not sure if this is from some subconscious need to prove myself or sheer boredom with the typical types of Halloween costumes, but this usually puts me in a really good mood until the moment everything starts falling apart and I have to make it all work. And then I love it again.

I know, it’s complicated. What can I say.

I was doing some work on an event one year and stumbled onto a French artist who does work with combining synthetic skin with fashion pieces (no, I have no idea what I googled to even find that), and it got me thinking of ways to use that concept which has led to a multitude of diverse projects – everything from a revamp of Elizabeth Bathory and a gruesome clown for the event I was designing for, to pouches and purses to spice up those late night trips to the grocery store (Okay, they’re actually for cons. I only accidentally wore one to the store once and it was completely worth it).

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And this thing. The whole killer prom queen archetype admittedly fascinates me for various reasons, and this was my take on it: cuteness on the top, party on the skirt (or however the saying goes). Originally this was made for a Simplicity Pattern design contest where you had to use one of their patterns in a new way. I’m not sure if this just wasn’t what they had in mind or it was the fact that I may have used one of their Disney patterns to base this off of, but obviously I didn’t win because people are no fun.

I’ve never quite gotten the whole look where I want it – I probably need to make a prom queen banner, and admittedly if I’m wearing it out I have no desire to dump a ton of fake blood on me because I have been there for professional reasons and I am not that invested in a look in my personal life. I’ve toyed with the idea of latex and paint up my arms to gore it up a bit, but again, I don’t really cherish the thought of doing that in a hotel bathroom. Anywho, skirt is latex over fabric with various (fake) parts ordered through the interwebz. Also molded the hand for the bag, though I’d likely try it a slightly different way if I had to do it again (also makes me wonder where I put that mold).

So that tided me over for a couple years, and then I had the need to go further, to be bolder, to be…more.

Again, I was playing with stuff professionally and a friend and co-designer and I somehow hit on the idea of delving into the world of stalkabouts, but tried to make things somewhat more user friendly for a gal – not that gals can’t wear a full suit, lord knows I have – but in this particular situation it was better to do everything possible to keep full visibility. We decided to play with a few different variations, and of course I wanted to incorporate this into my definitely not having a life crisis costume moments, so we ended up combining my fascination with Gothic Lolita street fashion and, well…weirdness.

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So what this is supposed to be is a creepy girl with her imaginary friend/demon companion/whatever – admittedly I think I can do more for it to read better, but I was literally finishing it as we were going out the door to road test it (and that, itself, had some more entertaining moments of my life that aren’t suitable for a public blog). Eventually I’d like to put a leash on Martin (that’s the demon’s name, because I was watching a lot of Doc Martin at the time) to kind of pull things together a bit. Unfortunately, poor Martin caught a hand in my car door at one point, and got dropped on his head, so I’m going to have to give him some TLC before wearing him out again – I’d also like to adjust his height because while walking through a convention hall is fine, the actual doors are not so easy. And I probably need to adjust his arm position, too, because he grabbed a lot of people’s butts and I just don’t need that problem in my life. The rigging, too, probably needs some slight re-calculating, but overall it’s actually more comfortable than it looks, just a bit hard to get into and navigate. Much to the distaste of those around me, Martin lived in my car for a while and then hung out in various rooms for my own amusement before retiring to current lair.

My friend the Amazing Larry did the initial dress, but I’ve since added things to it and adjusted the fit a bit. I did the cape, but have since swapped that bonnet out for one I was given. Obviously the bag is all me, and I did most of Martin, though I was working a lot at that point so Larry cut the basic skeleton pieces so I wouldn’t be a hazard to myself.

Like anything else, everything is in progress, and fluid, and I think that’s important to keep in mind, especially when doing big, weird things like this. It’s always how it is at the moment, or where I’m content for it to be for right now, but I fully expect for things to keep morphing and adjusting in the future – just like my life, oddly enough, so I suppose these are less reflective of some weird discontented breakdown and more reflective of me being in process. And that I am positively cool with.

SJ Reads Bonus: Tomie by Junji Ito

Published October 26, 2017 by admin

For whatever reason, I haven’t really been getting into too much that falls into the realm of horror this year, until very recently. A friend and I got talking about manga and I mentioned that I admittedly fall more into the shojo-type reader (for better or worse), and because he knew I really like horror and wanted to diversify, he recommended the work of Junji Ito. At the moment, Tomie was the first book by Ito I was able to get my hands on, so I brought it home with little expectations, figuring it might kill an evening during a stressful week.

Holy. Balls.

This book…this book…

Tomie

This book had a slightly slow start for me, but once it got going, it really sucked me in. We begin at Tomie’s funeral, where we learn she’s been hacked to pieces by a psychopath, leaving behind her grieving friend and boyfriend. And the teacher she had an affair with. And other classmates who weren’t too fond of her. And by the way, it was her class that killed her after an accident. And then she comes back to class the day after her funeral like nothing has happened.

And that’s just the first story.

The really interesting thing about Tomie, is not just that she’s beautiful, but that she isn’t what I’d call a typical horror monster. I think she’s referred to as a succubus, but I don’t think that’s a really accurate term for whatever this thing is – if there is an actual term for it. There’s also a really clever, repeated use of her name throughout, so you don’t have to name her as a creature or thing – she’s Tomie. She’s not necessarily out to suck the life from someone or anything else…if anything, she craves other people’s attention. And the more they give to her, the more she wants, until she drives them so mad that they commit murder..which usually ends up being her.

You would not think you could fill a book with stories about this, but Ito does it. And they’re unsettling, uncomfortable, and diverse. You have two hikers who find her frozen while they’re looking for the one hiker’s missing brother. You have the two girls who find the strands of Tomie’s hair that one girl’s father has kept and end up infecting their whole class with bits of Tomie. You have medical experiments, a young boy torn between Tomie and his mother, a girl who is manipulated various times by her, a strange salesman selling bits of Tomie to create a mass amount of her to infect the world, a warped plan of vengeance….it just goes on and on.

Really, that’s where it’s effective as a volume. It wears you out. It just keeps going, and you can’t stop reading. You want someone to come out on top against her and just when you think it happens…the other shoe drops.

The art is magnificent for horror manga – Ito really pulls out all the stops. I will say, having become used to shojo style art, it was a little bit of a switch for me, but very quickly the art becomes more detailed and expressive once you’re let loose on the roller coaster. This stuff is over-the-top, dramatic, gory, and monstrous. The different forms Tomie takes, the way she regrows, or reforms herself, plus the variety of her deaths as people desperately fight back…it’s a lot to take in. The sheer amount of different ways Tomie regenerates and clones herself, the different expressions of people as they lose their minds, the different ways they try to rid themselves of Tomie through terror and love…it’s intense.

And really, for me, that’s where the horror came in. Story-wise, all the ways that love is shown to grow manic, obsessive, and toxic is deeply unsettling. The people that you want to cheer for turn horrible, or you just know in the pit of your stomach that they’re going to be victims and be touched forever once Tomie shows up, because once she does there’s no escaping her. There’s no underdog awkward girl coming out on top, no one getting the last laugh. As horrifying as the illustrations are, they were almost cathartic after the tension of watching Tomie manipulate people. She’s intensely cruel and apathetic in turn, her manipulations are really uncomfortable. You’re put in the horrible position as reader as not wanting to cheer for her death, but not quite blaming the other characters when they snap, either.

I think, in horror, it’s common to try to game the story, to have in the back of your mind what you would do, how you would ‘win.’ I just don’t think there’d be any way to win with this creature and the intense, obsessive emotions she provokes just by being around people. And that is absolutely terrifying, especially considering her desire to mutiply and go out into the world – the thought that these stories may not even cover all the multiple Tomies that were made in one of the stories just makes the whole concept even better (and thinking long-term on it so much worse).

What also bothered me with this is that, essentially, the monster is a young woman whose purpose is to get killed repeatedly, so does that propel misogyny and the whole succubus/evil woman stereotype in horror? Usually I’d give an immediate yes, but with this,  I’m honestly not sure. I feel like I should have something to say on that, and yet the story really says as much or more about how other people take to Tomie, about their own inherrent monstrous qualities that are lurking below the surface, as much as whatever she’s supposed to be. Really, no one is innocent in this book, no matter how much they claim to be. Tomie may affect people, but you also get the sense that that desperation is already there, and is drawn out rather than implanted. In some ways, she does have agency – it’s just incredibly twisted.

Still, it does worry me that so much of the theme of this is violence against a woman, even if she obviously is not human and is very much drawing out the reactions of others in a calculated way (you could argue that inciting her own death makes Tomie potentially grow and multiply faster, and as long as she’s not being ignored, she’s somewhat satisfied..if she’s ever satisfied). My own reactions to the book have given me a lot to think about, and I’d be curious to know if there’s supposed to be any further symbolism or anything there, or what the thought process was. This is a book that definitely makes you consider who you are and how you’re reacting to the material, so while I found myself entranced by the story, I was also highly unnerved that I was so taken by it, too. And you get the feeling that that’s the way the character would want it, which also mildly freaks me out.

This book gets under your skin quickly and stays there – it’s definitely haunted me long after reading. A fast read, it also probably isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not one of the most unsettling horror books I’ve read, but I think the visuals help propel it to the unnerving category much quicker than a straight novel. I definitely recommend this one, but be warned – Tomie comes back, and she likes to stick with you.

Guest Post: Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Published October 25, 2017 by admin

So today we’re bringin’ back the guest post for one of my favoite fiends, Emerian Rich!

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What would you do if you could create anything your imagination could think up?
I don’t know about you, but as an artist, I’m often frustrated at the fact that I can’t create exactly what I see in my head. The disconnect between what we can imagine and what my artistic limitations are is something I struggle with as much as the next artist. No wonder artists create one master piece per 3-5 duds that are kept in the workshop, never to see the light of day (or possible purchased by mom).

I was so excited when I decided the gods of my world in Dusk’s Warriors would be able to conjure whatever their imaginations could think up. At last! I would be able to create out of nothing, everything I imagined. But as I sat in front of my blank page and attempted to put those words to paper, I drew a blank. Is the perfection of having carte blanche too much freedom? And how was I to now create in words what I could not create in art?

Once I slapped myself for putting too much pressure on, I figured out a way to bring the joy of conjuring to life. I closed my eyes, turned on my phone voice recorder, and pretended I was Severina, standing in front of her new world. As I imagined conjuring the land of Dusk in my imagination, I spoke aloud what I was seeing in my mind’s eye. I’ve placed an excerpt of conjuring from the book below.

So next time you are struggling with a project, be it art, writing, or music… Take a moment and think about it in another way. Could you write a poem about the piece to convey the emotion you feel? Can you create a song about a writing project? And when you go back after trying it another way, will it come more easily?

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Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Heaven has opened up and welcomed the vampires of Night’s Knights into a new reality. As they struggle to find their place in their new world, trouble brews on Earth.

Demon servant, Ridge, is causing havoc by gathering up all the souls on Earth that have been touched by immortality. When he injures one of the Night’s Knights crew, he launches a war between the vampires of Heaven, the Big Bad in Hell, and a mortal street gang of vigilante misfits.

Will Julien, Markham, and Reidar be able to defeat the evil that’s returned, or will they once again need Jespa’s help?

Praise for Dusk’s Warriors:

“All hail, the queen of Night’s Knights has returned! Emerian Rich’s unique take on vampires delights my black little heart.” ~Dan Shuarette, Lilith’s Love

“A world of horror with realistic characters in a fast paced thriller you won’t be able to put down.”

~David Watson, The All Night Library

Praise for Night’s Knights:

“Fresh, original, and thoroughly entertaining.” ~Mark Eller, Traitor

“Emerian brought the Vampire Novel back from the dead.” ~C. E. Dorsett, Shine Like Thunder

Available now at Amazon.com in print and eBook

https://www.amazon.com/Dusks-Warriors-Nights-Knights-Vampire/dp/1544628803

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Emerian Rich is an artist, horror host, and author of the vampire series, Night’s Knights. She is the hostess of the internationally acclaimed podcast, HorrorAddicts.net. Under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal, she writes the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams and she’s the Editorial Director for the Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

 

 

Creepy Reviews, get yer creepy reviews!

Published October 24, 2017 by admin

So, being down a week means I have more fun stuff to share with you today!

black butler

My latest manga review for I Smell Sheep is up – to celebrate all that’s creepy this month, I’m taking a look at Black Butler! While it’s not without it’s problems, it does some really good things to subvert typical horror cliches and characterizations – if you can stick with it. To read the full review, go here!

princess decomposia

 

And to prove I can write about and even like cute stuff, too, I reviewed Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula over at Books by Violet! It’s a really fun, different sort of look at vampires and monsters, plus there’s a plucky heroine and some fun scenes in this quick read. Definitely be sure to read the full review!

ghostopolis

 

Also at Books by Violet, I’m taking a look at Ghostopolis – I mean, with Halloween around the corner, you’ve got to have ghosts, right? Fast pacing and some really original world building are the big features in this story about what life is like on the other side – and what happens if one of us might get dragged over there before it’s time. Definitely worth checking out the full review if you like a lot of action and interesting twists and turns with your creepy. Read more here!

 

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It occurs to me that I shared this around media but not here – so a long time ago I did a thing for Friday the 13th (the day, not the franchise. I’ve had dealings with Jason, but that’s a whole other story). Once in a while I fanfic myself and the not completely good and not actually a bird character Clyde, from Olde School. So, if you’re in the mood for something to read to kill some time and laugh at me getting sucked into one of my own worlds, here you go. 

Also, it’s October, and I write creepy stuff, so…

Buy My Stuff

Specifically, might I suggest the 1800’s vampires vs lumberjacks short read Mooner? 

Or how about taking a chance on a bunch of shorts ranging from weird to what the hell in Lost in the Shadows?

I’ve also got a story in the horror anthology The Grotesquerie, as well as shorts in Curious Incidents,  The Big Bad and The Big Bad 2