Thursday, October 19, 2017

How to Put Together An All Hallow's Read Treat Bag



Step 1. Place Halloween book in the bag. 

And done

Pat yourself on the back for celebrating literacy and a really fun holiday and sharing that with someone you love. 

Not kidding. It's that easy. 

Unless you're like me most years and are going the "put your candy in an old grocery bag because I forgot to buy you a trick-or-treating pail" route, you probably are going to be purchasing something cute to put Halloween candy in for your kids. 

Put a Fall or Halloween themed book in the cute bag before you hand it over. It doesn't have to be a scary book, but it can be if the person you are putting it together for loves that sort of thing. 

That's it. Literally, there is nothing else required to celebrate All Hallow's Read. 

I generally try to pack it with one piece of specialty candy (like bubble gum tape) and a cheap toy or word search game as an extra surprise, because who doesn't like those things? 

Remember that this doesn't have to be elaborate. Especially if you are on a budget. 

The most expensive item on the list is the book, and maybe you can't afford to buy a new one of those (kids books especially can run you twenty bucks plus pretty easily). Some Dollar stores carry books, and sometimes they gear those toward holidays like Halloween, so it's worth checking those out. Thrift stores often carry books, too, but I don't have a lot of luck finding relevant titles-though I'm sure if you had time to pick through a pretty large selection you could get something. 

Some years I just use library books. Which will cost you nothing. 

Having someone check out a book for you that they think you will love is still a wonderful surprise, I promise the kids won't care (we usually donate our new books once we read them anyway unless it's a reference title or something really loved- my kids don't reread books and I sure as hell don't, so sometimes loaned books make far more sense). 

For adults, you can do the same thing, or even purchase e-books (which are generally cheaper) for All Hallow's Read. 

All that matters is that you keep the person's taste in mind. Don't buy your best friend who is scared of the Walmart Halloween aisle a gory novel. That's being a jerk. 

You could go the seasonal route and look for something autumn-themed or maybe even ask if a cozy murder mystery would work. 

The important thing is to give books and stories you know the person would enjoy. Don't forget that writing a story for someone works, too. 

So, what's going into our All Hallow's Read bags this year?...

We picked the second book in the "Last Kids on Earth" series for my oldest.




This is great for higher level elementary kids and maybe even some middle-schoolers. I enjoy these books myself, actually. With not-too-scary situations that still require its main cast of kids to be brave and witty, this is one of my favorite series for this age group right now. 

For my middle child, who isn't a huge scary thing fan (except for Bendy and the Ink machine) we picked "Pumpkin Town". 



It's humorous, the illustrations are awesome, and it's not too short or too long-a common problem for picking books at his age. 

And, for our toddler, "I am Bat". It's modern, it has a message about sharing, and since she's going to be a bat this Halloween, it just works out. 



For all the kids to share and because it's a fun read aloud, we also have "Grimericks". It's not overly creepy, but it's still very much in the spirit of the season, with darkly magickal illustrations and limericks. 



Enjoy your Halloween with your favorite people, eat wonderful food, and share some great reads. 



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Downtime with Z Nation.

I'm working on two new covers. Two new covers and a re-edit and a new short story. I'm working on two new covers and a re-edit and a short story and trying to keep up with the life that happens with two middle-schoolers and a toddler and more medical appointments than I can even focus on at any given moment...and I did that thing where I run myself into the ground. 

When that happens I get some signals from my body that I'm in trouble. 

I was awakened by my heart running a marathon in the middle of the night, and while the episodes of tachycardia were short (probably thanks to my meds) they were also insistent. I spent the majority of the night fighting it and trying to keep track of the time so that, if one of them exceeded the 15-minute window, I could call for help. None of them did. 

I required a lot of help to get through the next day, and I'm still recovering today, too. The attacks used to be brief and over but now often drain my energy and body for longer periods of time. 

As much as I'd like to feel accomplished and have everything done, I have to realize it's not always possible and probably not a great idea. 

It's one of those things that REALLY sucks about indie publishing-you are responsible for everything. It's a great way to learn about the industry from the ground up, but there is a learning curve and it's a lot of juggling. 

And sometimes juggling is about knowing when you're going to drop fucking everything and stopping before that happens.

So today is a minimal responsibility day-there are always things to take care of, but my quiet time won't be filled with working today. 

It will be filled with popcorn and pizza rolls on the couch. And finishing my book. And watching "Z Nation" with my husband. 

We missed this show when it aired starting a few years back (yeah, I know. But we had a new baby, The Strain was on, life was busy) but now I'm sad we didn't tune in.


It's horror, it's definitely a zombie series, but it has a sense of humor while still maintaining some aspects of right-and-wrong that make horror compelling. 

If realism in zombie stories bothers you, skip it, because they crack open fresh walking dead heads with everything from egg beaters to golf clubs. 

But what they do have are memorable and likable, if goofy, characters and an interesting storyline. It's a great show to take a break with, especially in October. 

Also, "A Tribe Called Red" made some music for this show for an episode (I haven't gotten to those yet, but it looks and sounds great). I have to watch anything they had a hand in because they are amazing, and you can check out their stuff here . 





Saturday, October 7, 2017

All Hallow's Read: "Oniate"



    

Oniate

Tanner and Addison stood by the buffet, reaching down every few minutes to help clear away plates and food, but mostly they were just talking, talking with that half-smile on their faces that meant gossip. That wore that half-smile all the time. Tanner was somewhere near blonde, Addison had browner tones with blonde highlights and hair that changed lengths so often that it had to be clipped in somewhere, but both women had the same weirdly doe-like brown eyes. So alike were the color and shape that they could be related. Though, they weren’t.
            Hartly stood apart from them, putting rolls and lunch meat into a plastic-topped bin. They couldn’t convince anyone else to take leftovers from the buffet so this would go into the fridge in the back for the workers. Hartly’s phone buzzed, she checked it but knew who it was.
            A text message checking in on her. It was her friend, Virginia.
So, you are….?
            Surviving. Packing everything up and should be back home in an hour, Hartly texted.
            Survive faster. Virginia texted back.
            The funeral had been horrible, awkward and draining. A mass event for Shadelynn Max, the young woman from the office. She was two years younger than everyone else and cover-of-a-magazine beautiful. And smart. All of those things made her hated.
The entire thing just reminded Hartly that, when she died, only those closest would be allowed to remember her this way. The obscenity of those who didn’t care, or who hated Shadelynn, crawling all over the place was enough to make Hartly feel ill. Tanner and Addison, who really only seemed to like each other, still attended and even attempted to run every event dealing with personnel.
It was a strange phenomenon.
Hartly finished shoving the trays of food and one lopsided coconut cake into the fridge. She turned to find both of them waiting for her, blocking the tiny prep kitchen’s only entrance.
“Thanks so much for staying to help,” Tanner said. “You sure you don’t need to take any of the food home?”
“Yeah, I mean you don’t have to leave it if you can use it,” Addison said, “Not that you’d want to eat any of this stuff. Shame about the lousy catering, but if I were her husband, I wouldn’t have even spent the cash for soggy ass sandwiches from that dump.”
“Right,” Tanner said. “This whole thing, it’s just weird. Killed on the wrong side of town probably visiting her little side action boyfriend.”
“That’s how it goes, so sad,” Addison said. “Were you friends?” Addison flipped her hair over her shoulder, but one of the clip-on pieces stuck weirdly out to the side. Tanner eventually smoothed it back.
“Yeah,” Hartly said, “She was nice to everyone.”
“Aww, I bet this is hard,” Addison opened her arms for a hug.
“I’m sorry, I’d hug you, but I’m not feeling well. Probably coming down with something,” Hartly said. It was the truth. Her head was killing her, and her body was sore like it was awaiting a fever. She couldn’t wait to get home. To get distance from the oddly pastoral funeral home and everything in it.
“Oh, I imagine. Living downtown like that, in that cramped space with all that dust and dirt nearby. My allergies would murder me,” Tanner said.
            There was a loud sound, a kind of bashing noise that made all three of them jump.
            Then silence.
            Then another bash.
            “Where is it coming from? That’s creepy,” Tanner said. Looking around wildly with those eyes, she’d never looked more like a deer.
            “Someone fell, or something fell over I bet,” Hartly said.
            “Seriously? There’s nobody else here right now. What the hell could make that noise,” Addison’s voice changed to something darker and more dramatic.
            Another loud noise, a scraping sound.
            It was coming from the reception hall.
            Hartly moved to open the door. Addison pushed her back.
            “What are you doing? We don’t know what’s out there, let’s just go,” Addison said. She and Tanner were already moving toward the exit.
            Hartly hesitated. The noises were scary, but this was real life. Real life in a funeral home, maybe, but real life. Someone could be hurt and need help. She twisted open the door.
There was nothing behind it, an empty space of off-white and pastel pink wallpaper.
“Hello?” Hartly said, not really loud enough to be a yell. It was still too scary to yell.
She leaned out of the doorway, long black hair swishing forward ahead of her.
            There was a dark spot on the floor. No, not a dark spot. Something far more impossible.
An arm. Gray like old burnt charcoal, but definitely a human arm. It whipped around violently, bashing against the hallway wall.
Hartly ran, disoriented and dizzy, she ran out of the reception room and accidentally back into the chapel. There was nobody, nobody left to help, nobody to tell, not even a body for the arm to belong to.
Bam!
The sound of what had to be the reception hall door. Could that thing open doors?
Hartly ran through the giant wooden entrance doors, doors she could remember going to an exit.
There were Tanner And Addison, just opening the double glass doors to get the hell out.
Hartly crashed into both of them but never lost her balance because she was larger and could not afford to. “Run! Just run!”
They argued with each other about how stupid either this was or that Hartly was, but thankfully understood they were in danger and ran.
“My car is right here,” Tanner said, and she swiftly unlocked her door with the remote on her keys, hopping in.
Hartly stood there for a second, she couldn’t decide whether a vehicle was better or running was safer, but Addison was already climbing into the car. “Get the fuck in here and tell me what’s going on,” She screamed. Hartly did, but as she pulled herself into the backseat of the Suburban, something crashed against her door, closing it for her, and nearly on her.
            Against the window’s tinted glass, the gray ashy palm pressed against it so fiercely that the grass began to crack. “Drive! Go,” Hartly screamed.
            “It’s just a hand, it’s a fucking hand,” Addison said. “What the fuck is this shit?”
Tanner was crying instead of screaming and drove the three of them over a curb, they bounced onto the dirt backroads of the funeral home and floored it. Hartly hoped the noise and the speed would get someone’s attention, anyone’s attention.
But this place was in the heart of the rural area.
And nobody seemed to be around. They passed a restaurant and gas station, but it looked closed, and they couldn’t risk stopping there, even though none of the women could see the severed arm anymore.
“What was that?” Tanner asked.
“It’s just…an arm, just a hand. It was moving, thrashing around in the hallway.” Hartly said. “It flew after me. I mean I think it flew, it had to. It could open the doors.”
“Flew after you? So it wants you? Why the fuck are you in the car with us?” Addison said.
“Stop it, it started when we were all there. Hartly was probably just the slowest.” Tanner said, wiping her eyes, and staring into the rearview mirror.
“It went after her door, too.” Addison reminded her. “Probably some bullshit magic curse, whatever the fuck she’s into. And now it’s following us because it’s following her.”
Hartly realized being in the car with these two might be just as dangerous as facing the hand.
“Look out!” Hartly shouted. Neither of the two seemed to see it or register if they did, but the thing was flying right toward the front windshield.
It crashed through, Hartly saw it press against Tanner. It went right through her. A gush of blood and the meatier pieces that make up a person flew everywhere, blocking out the afternoon sun that had been cascading from the windows. Addison, who’d been in the passenger seat, was trying to grab the wheel.
She must have succeeded because they were turning. Or spinning. And the Suburban flipped. Hartly’s head felt like it would burst and kill her as well. Her vision was leaving. Hanging upside down by the seatbelt, but with no strength to unbuckle it, she still fumbled for it. Blood was stinging her eyes, Tanner’s blood.
Was the thing still in the car? Addison was getting out, running. Finally, the seatbelt button clicked, Hartly hit the top of the vehicle, her head made it hard to even breathe, but nothing else mattered except for getting out of the damn car. She heard the sloshing of Tanner’s insides, and the long fingers of the gray hand appeared, grasping the side of the black leather car seat, almost delicately.
Hartly rolled out of her partially open door and ran, nearly throwing up from the pain.
Addison was just in front of her. “No, it’s still alive in the car, we can’t outrun it!” Hartly yelled, she turned and made a dash to the restaurant and gas station they’d just passed.
            It felt like it took too long to get to, she half expected the thing to be right behind her but it didn’t happen.
The store and diner were as closed as they looked when driving by. Hartly took off her shirt and wrapped it around her hand and arm to break the glass and unlock the front door. Addison surprised her, nearly making her heart stop, but together they pushed through the county store and ran to the bathrooms.
Closing the door behind them and sitting against it, they tried to silence their breathing. Hartly wondered if it could actually hear. It had to be tracking them somehow.
            “You know what? I’m sorry.” Addison whispered. Hartly just nodded. They were both covered in blood, but Addison looked cut and bleeding from her own body. Probably from the glass shattering in the front of the vehicle. Hartly realized she was just in her sports bra, a gothic affair that seemed grotesque under the circumstances-a cotton black bra that showed a painted on rib cage and a heart. Her shirt was still around her arm and she unwound it, shaking out the glass, and began to tear it into strips, holding the fabric to tear it as quietly as possible.
            Hartly pointed to the giant cut on Addison’s arm and wrapped it. She used on more on Addison’s right leg. She wondered what they must look like, Addison in her expensive floral dress and beat up, and herself in just a bra and skirt and blood. Both of them in dress shoes. Hartly wondered how she’d explain that a flying hand killed Tanner to the police. And then wondered if they would live to say anything to the police at all.
            Things like this probably happened all the time. And just the victims never lived through it to talk about it.
            The pain in her head gave Hartly no choice but to slump against the door. Thankfully it was dark, with a thin line of glass as a window that even a ghost hand probably couldn’t fit through.
And it was quiet. Finally quiet. Hartly’s breathing slowed. She closed her eyes.
            The pain was unbearable. Near her temples it felt like something was digging, cracking into her skull. She began to see things, flickers of light. And her last rational thought was that she must have a blood clot because speaking and moving were impossible now.
            There was an old man sitting by a small campfire, his glasses and bald head reflected the dancing light. He had dark skin and a soft smile, a smile like her own. It was her grandfather.
            Her long-dead grandfather.
            Hartly found herself sitting near the campfire, in a cheap lawn chair. A towel was around her. She’d been swimming in the lake. And this was the best part of her summers as a girl.
            She wanted to ask if she was dying, but her silence was unbreakable in the hallucination, too. Her grandfather smiled at her, that soft smile. “You know,” he said, “Unkind words do nothing for anyone. Someone has wronged you, been unkind, what can your words do? Nothing. The creator didn’t intend for us to use language as a careless weapon. And there are punishments for the people who use it that way. Make sure you stay on the other side of that.” He said.
            Hartly nodded, but it took everything out of her even for that little movement. And it rattled her already shaken brain, she put her hands on her temples. “Oniate,” her grandfather waved his hand in a ghostly motion, “Dry fingers. Look into the fire, watch the flames. I can only distract it for a short time. But, you must not run. The guilty run, so you must not. You must keep walking on the other side of it. Look into the fire, Hartly. Time to survive faster,” he said. Her grandfather reached beside him and took his trucker’s cap and placed it on her head. She couldn’t remember what golden logo had been embroidered his favorite hat. But her headache was gone.
            “Get up or I swear to God I’ll leave you here,” Addison said, shaking Hartley’s shoulders. The shaking hurt in the spots sore from the crash. But her head didn’t anymore. The sight of her grandfather and his fire were long gone, and it was just the quiet and darkly dingy rustic bathroom, and Addison, whose brown doe eyes were wide. “I’ve tried everything and everyone, I can’t get phone service. It doesn’t make any sense. The thing hit the goddamn window,” Addison said. “We probably need to go out the front before it decides to break in that way.”
            “Might already be too late,” Hartly whispered, but Addison was already peering out of the bathroom door, already starting to sneak into the country store aisle. “Listen, I had a vision-”
            “Your witchcraft shit probably brought this thing here. Not sure I give a fuck about your vision unless it told you how to kill a floating hand,” Addison said. They moved quietly to the front entrance. “We have to run when we open this, it’s nearby and this makes noise,” she whispered.
Hartly grabbed her shoulder. “No. I know what this is. It’s Dry Fingers. What they once called Oniate. It’s the vengeance for those wrongfully spoken against, especially the dead. It left us alone back there. Right after you apologized. Anything that can go through a car, through a person’s rib cage, is powerful, and it could have gotten us there. You’re only chance is to apologize.”
            “For fucking what? Are you insane? I’m not doing that. Because I didn’t do anything wrong. And if it’s me, why the hell is the thing chasing you, too?”
“I don’t know,” Hartly said, “I don’t know that. But why for once in your life don’t you try apologizing for hurting other people. This is a spirit of retribution. This is all it does. It might not work, but if it can…” Hartly let go of Addison. Either she’d listen or she wouldn’t. And there wasn’t anything else to do.
It was Hartly that pushed open the broken glass entrance door, and both women ran outside, kicking up dust. Hartly kicked off her shoes and Addison did the same. The sun was nearly setting now, just a sliver of pink gold in a cold twilight sky.
Hartly’s lungs hurt, she turned to see behind them. Dry Fingers was there, flying after them both. It was fast and it would catch and kill them. She tried to keep running into the evening sky, following the last light of a retiring sun. But Hartly was not a runner, not a good one. And she realized that this was pointless. The whole thing. If that creature wanted them dead, they would die. And better to die here and not risk anyone else. Better to be an obscure happening, a story not told anymore, than expose other people to a monster.
Suddenly Hartly just stopped. Didn’t fall, but stopped. “Addison,” she yelled. But Addison didn’t stop. Didn’t look back. And the arm pulled her highlighted hair, pulled her body backward onto the dirt road.
The gray, dead hand closed over Addison’s face, squeezing, Hartly head bones pop. And beside them was an unexplainable shadow cast by no light on the road. One Hartly knew well. It was her grandfather, talking to the thing, pleading with it. She knew those gestures the shadow was making. She stood for a minute, hoping his intercessions would save Addison, that the thing would let her go.
But blood was oozing out of her face. And she was making a wet noise as her breath came out, but there were no screams, and eventually, no noise.
Hartly turned and wiped the tears from her face and began walking down the road.
Every few seconds, Hartly turned around, expecting Dry Fingers to be at her back. But it was there still in the distance, tearing apart what had once been Addison. And eventually, that sight was gone. And even in the darkness, the hand never reached out for her.
When Hartly saw the lights, the headlights of cars on the highway, it was like walking into another dimension, like a bubble she’d been trapped in had suddenly burst. She was back. Back in reality. Her phone buzzed, then set off a noisy trance song, it was a call from her best friend. She answered and just began speaking before there were questions. She felt like she could barely find the energy to explain.
“Call the police for me,” Hartly said. “Tell them I’m just down the intersection of Tuckett, near the funeral home and two people have been murdered.”
“Hartly! Don’t hang up! Don’t! What happened?” Virginia’s voice sounded so sweet. She’d forgotten what it was like to hear that in someone’s voice, that caring. 

“I survived.” She said. 

       *** Check out the photographer for the background on Unsplash***







Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Tag" A Flash Fiction Story.

October always means All Hallow's Read, so I try to put up stories for free as a way to celebrate (either written by me or people willing to contribute) and illustrate them. 

***"Tag" was inspired by Wendig's flash fiction challenge (he does those a lot on his blog, so if you need writing prompts, you should follow him. That and all the other good advice stuff about the writing and the things.***



Tag


Spray painting on the walls, even the unused ones, was illegal in the city. Painting on anything other than assigned surfaces was outlawed. Once outside the perimeter, the ground outside was okay. But sometimes it killed the grasses. Taj found that the trunks of trees, big trees, worked very well when rocks of decent size couldn’t be found.
            He pulled the cheap paper mask over his dirty blonde hair and fastened it to his young face. It wasn’t great, but he’d had to use rags before, or just pull his shirt over his mouth and nose.
            Time was up and any more minutes wasted looking for a better spot meant his picture wouldn’t happen, so Taj had picked the first fat-enough tree he’d come across. Another artist had been here before. There was a tag at the spot of the tree where the branches began to sprout off. It was just a name in bright yellow. “Dutch” was written in a beautiful yellow script. He didn’t like the idea of using someone else’s workspace, but he wasn’t going to let any time free of the city get wasted.
            He set his backpack on the ground and all the cans of colors rattled. The canvas could be changed to anything, but he knew what he wanted to do and had sketched it many times just before falling asleep each night. It was what he’d seen in his father’s telescope last winter-the giant planet. Mostly green and surrounded by bright blue moons that extended out almost like an arm, waving. Space backgrounds were easy to make beautiful with lots of soft strokes over black and spattering white paint with a dry brush for stars. Taj used a stencil for the planet and moons, though. It was too hard to get things perfectly round on tree trunks or rocks.
            The sun was close to setting and he forced himself to call it finished. Taj began to stack the cans back into his backpack. He didn’t have time to clear out the nozzles. He could do that back at home.
            “That’s a good job. That’s an excellent job,” Someone said, a deep male voice. But there was nobody there. Taj hadn’t seen, hadn’t heard, or even felt anyone approach. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard unidentified voices. He shook it off and began to walk away while pulling off his mask and trying to put it into his too-small pocket.
            “Goodbye, then. Will you come ‘round to paint any more pictures?”
            “No, I can’t use the same spots again, I waste time looking for things, things to paint on,” Taj said before he could stop himself. The voice sounded friendly, needy almost. It broke his heart not to answer it.
            “Oh, well. It was nice of you to do this one for me, anyway.”
            “You?” Taj looked around.
            “Yes, I know artists don’t do pictures just for trees. But it’s nice to have. We get to keep them for a long, long time, usually.”
            “Trees?” Taj doubled back and looked at his artwork and to make sure he’d heard right.
            “Here, if I won’t see you again,” the tree’s longest branch twisted around and dropped two things at Taj’s sneakered feet; a round and fat purple plum, and a tiny, hand-sized kite that looked like a spaceship. It had knots in the string. And twelve was almost too old to be flying kites, but Taj picked them both up anyway.
            “My name is Dutch.” The tree looked as if it bowed.
            “That’s your name written there, then? Who painted that?”
            “Another boy. Well, he isn’t a boy anymore. Hasn’t been for some time. But he traveled out here and wrote our names for us,” the tree said. It was shaking playfully back and forth. “The plum isn’t mine, I’m too large to be a plum-grower. But it was a gift from a friend. The kite I accidentally took from someone, but they never came back to get it. I think it’s better you have it.”
            “Yes, that’s fine then. Thank you.” Taj said.
            “You’re very nice.”
            “People say that a lot,” Taj said, “I have to go now, though. Nobody can come back into the city after dark. Kids aren’t supposed to be here at all, but sometimes they let us.”
            “I’ve been here for hundreds of years. Nothing at all has happened to me. Except for my lovely paintings,” The tree said.
            “Yes, but you’re not a boy.” Taj knew enough to walk away. The tree kept talking. Taj only waved to be polite and then ran back toward the tall white walls of home. When checking back into the city, he handed the toy and the fruit to the new officer with the long brown hair who was working the kiosk. Taj tried to avoid handing the same officers dangerous stuff too often. They would end up restricting his outside time for his own good.
            “The tree gave this to you?” the officer asked, “You didn’t take a bite of this or anything else, right?”
            “No ma’am,” Taj said.
            “I don’t know about the toy, it looks okay. But this is poison,” She held the round purple fruit up to Taj’s face for a moment before finding a clear bag to place it in. “It looks like you’ve found another aggressive area. Do you have a minute to fill out paperwork on where you were exactly before you head home? It’s important. Other kids could go out there and get hurt.” The officer was already standing up like she knew Taj wouldn’t refuse. “For the life of me, I don’t know why you kids don’t just use regular canvas and paper for your art. This gets more dangerous every year,” She said, putting her hand on his shoulder.
            “I know. But it’s not the same,” Taj said. He shifted his backpack and the spray cans rattled together like strange bells. 




Thanks to the photographers on Unsplash for the images used in the artwork- Brandon Green Aleksander Naug

Watch this if you have never heard of All Hallow's Read and think you might want to celebrate. 




Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Review of The Strain's "Mister Quinlan-Vampire Hunter" Issues 1-5

October. 

How is it already October?

This feels like a heavy month already. 

We swallow tragedy with our morning coffees, both brand new and ongoing. And feel powerless in the face of it. 

And just before Halloween all of my retesting will net me a hopefully new diagnosis. I'll hear my own personal fate not long before my favorite holiday. 

The only thing I can think of to make things feel lighter is to celebrate the season, and that means celebrating the scary and the mystifying. 

This is and always will be my favorite time of year-when dark stories are growing out of the ground right alongside pumpkins. The imaginary horror acts like an inoculation against the actual frightening things. It's both a form of escape and one of purpose because most horror fiction reminds readers that bravery and heroism are important. 

I can't speak for everyone, I know dark fiction is an acquired taste, but if you could use a good story then I recommend Dark Horse's "Mister Quinlan: Vampire Hunter" series. It's a short read at only five installments and deals with the origin of one of my favorite vampire half-breeds. 




The Strain just recently finished airing the four seasons of its television series, and this is one of those rare times when I would highly recommend both the television series AND the books to any fan of horror. 

Obviously, the books pack a harder wallop. It's a tough story to tell, one of a violent species overthrowing humanity, and if at some point you don't find tears in your eyes, you might not have read it correctly. 

But the television series is by no means bad, it's just different. And the actors were amazing. So you could go with either or both. 

And the comics are gorgeous, too, if you aren't in the mood for a novel series. Once you've dabbled in that, you are going to have questions about some characters, and Quinlan will be at the top of your list. 


via GIPHY


That's where this specific series set comes in. 

Mister Quinlan is a pivotal character, and he most certainly deserves this set of short comics devoted just to the circumstances of his rather tough life. 

The images are wonderful, but the narration is accurate enough that you'll be able to read it in his voice. That alone is worth the price of admission because this character is an immortal vampire fighting for the humans. 

This isn't the first time that story has been done (Blade and Vampire Hunter D are two of my other favorite heroes) but something about the characters born of dark circumstances and them turning that around is incredibly appealing. I think it's even more powerful as a narrative if you yourself have come from terrible circumstances. These characters are symbols, reminders that you can be related to monsters and not one of them. 

It's as poetic as it is fascinating, though it's definitely dipped in several layers of blood and gore-that's a hallmark of The Strain. There aren't any moments of looking away-not in the book, the television series, or the comics. 

So if you are a vampire fan or a fan of the series, go ahead and grab all five of these. I ordered mine digitally and it read well on my Kindle-the illustrations are vivid, so don't let worrying about that deter you. 

Vampire halflings make for some kick-ass horror fiction. 



Credit to the photographer for the background for the sketch
            Leonardo Yip



Thursday, September 28, 2017

National Poetry Day (not for us in the US, but let's celebrate anyway).

I started out in college looking at poetry the way most of us do-annoyed at it. Annoyed because most of what I'd been exposed to or made to do was trite. Or boring. Or sometimes both, and sometimes worse.

I felt that way even though in middle school I'd often gone to sleep reading Gibran and Rumi. 

It wasn't until college that I was exposed to the raw stuff, the poems that you read that stuck with you forever. As if, in reading those lines, they burrowed into your brain like they were meant to be there. And the best ones even helped you make sense of the world, not unlike the way longer fictional stories do, but they are more powerful. Compact. A one-inch-punch. 

Don't assume you don't like poetry. 

Everyone likes poetry.

You just haven't found the lines that will burrow into your brain, yet. 

You can start with books of masterworks, ask your creative writing teacher to recommend a poem, or just start googling great poems. 

And try writing it, too. 

I think this is one of the more difficult kinds of work for me. Because there isn't room for the pacing or anything that can go into fiction, everything matters. Every word and pause impacts the overall piece. But I wanted to share a couple of short Haikus (you can find out more about them here if you want to try some of your own today and aren't already familiar with it). I think this form is one of the easiest to start with. It gives you an easy framework. 

Blue

Gazing at the blue
We are asking the cloud cover

To erase this spell.











The Last Word

It is all cracked
Learn to be a hummingbird
When the world is mad






A word can be poetry. Two words. Fridge magnet letters, or book spines, or receipts and instructions. Not everything is poetry (sometimes not even the damn poems). But it has the power to be that way. 







Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Gift of Uncertainty

I've been told for months to get ready to face that I'm going to die. 

I was told yesterday that the diagnosis I was handed by the smaller hospital and local care providers is probably wrong. 

They'll be repeating testing because it appears some of mine was botched or inconclusive. There's a weird antibody that made an appearance, but we have no idea what that means at the moment. My lung capacity test looked shitty and almost ended with me being given medication that would have likely sent me into SVT, but at this point, that didn't surprise me. 

Nothing mattered but the moment the physician at the center of excellence said that his clinical suspicion of primary PH was low. 

There are several types of pulmonary hypertension and for the what feels like the longest time, I was told I had the worst of the worst. Now I may be looking at the easiest to correct. But even if it's not that one, it doesn't look like the monster. It doesn't look like primary. Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, once called primary, is the drunken uncle with the police record that you never want to invite to the party. 

I was an hour away from being booked into a surgery it doesn't look like I even needed last summer. 

For something we are fairly sure I might not have. 

I guess the takeaway is first, even if it's hard, expensive, inconvenient, all but impossible to get yourself to the specialty center closest to you-go anyway. Just go. I kept thinking locally they could deal with this. It kept me closer to my family and stopped me from asking for help. But that was not worth this. Going somewhere where they see patients with what you have on a constant basis will always net you more answers, better ones, and a better care team. That sucks, but it's true. 

I'm so thankful. It was like I was about to have to hand back my ticket to the world of the living and it was given right back to me. 

At the same time, suddenly everything HURTS.

That wall I'd put up around this to be brave feel apart. And everything is raw. The crying, the breaking down I wasn't doing is here now. I had to make plans to leave my still small children. And I feel like that put a mark on me I can't get rid of, the facing of this very real mortality. 

And I think all of that makes me ungrateful. 

How many people get out of that diagnosis? Get out of it with something easier? 

And it hurts all over again because I know there are people out there facing this alone and it's final. 

And then there is the doubt. If the testing for the other form is done and negative again, could I be stuck in the same group once more? It's probably not likely, but it is still frightening. It's as if the news is too good to be true. 

I want to bury myself in a hole for a week and come out when this metamorphosis isn't so painful. 

I guess right now we don't know anything for sure, but that's the best fucking news I have had in a long, long time. 



Thanks to the photographer on Unsplash for the photo for the artwork