Today’s the day: StokerCon 2021

StokerCon Logo for FB

Very excited to spend the next four days attending StokerCon 2021–the Horror Writers Association’s annual conference. It’s being done virtually, and the amount of work that went into planning this was probably gargantuan. I’m so grateful!

The conference runs through Sunday. There will be three hang-out bars (like Zoom calls where you basically pop in and pop out to have cocktails and socialize with other con-goers), and over 200 programs, both live and on-demand. They cover the gamut from academics to the writing biz, the horror genre, and the craft. I’m especially excited to attend Horror after COVID, Financial and Literary Estate Planning for Writers, Portrayals of Mental Illness in Horror, and A Revelation in American Horror film: Intergenerational Traumas and Transmissibility in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. Right now, I’m watching a YouTube tutorial on StokerCon 2021 Spirits (cool mixed drinks to enjoy with the con–I may have to try that Blood Orange Bourbon Sour)!

I also can’t wait for the Final Frame Film Competition–14 short horror films (I love me some horror shorts!). I’ve got my Jiffy Pop at the ready!

What happens when someone overhears you in the grocery store …

Friendly's Ice Cream haul 05-19-21

It was a beautiful day here in Connecticut—finally, hot! I’ve been eating a lot of ice cream lately. Mostly because I love it, life’s too short, and I’ve been in a very happy place for over a month.

My three favorite flavors are vanilla (because, you know, back in the 1970s, you didn’t have a whole lot of choices except for Neapolitan and coffee and I wasn’t a fan of chocolate or strawberry), Butter Crunch (because my dad always took me out to Friendly’s for that) and Summer Breeze, a pleasing, summer-only edition blend of vanilla, lemon candies, and graham cracker. This last one I discovered in 2019 when it was on sale in a grocery store near East Providence and I wanted to try something new.

I put the Summer Breeze in my cart. I’d only planned on getting two cartons, so I tried to make a choice between the Butter Crunch and the vanilla.

Suddenly, I said—louder than I’d intended—“F— it.” I grabbed them both.

I heard a woman’s laugh from down the aisle. She was standing in front of the cases where they keep all the frozen treats.

“I was just thinkin’ f— it myself,” she said. “I can’t decide. I think I’m gettin’ a few! F— it!”

We wished each other happy eating, and I headed to the check-out.

You’re probably wondering why I’d put this on my blog, but it was just one of those perfect moments in life in which you just bond for a second with a complete stranger. And after the rough year or so we’ve survived, it was comforting. It was a reminder that yes, eventually, we’re going to be okay.

And now … which carton should I mine first?

Until we meet again, Auntie Del

Delores Thanksgiving 2012

Auntie Del at Thanksgiving at my house in 2012.

My mother’s last surviving sister, my Aunt Dolores, passed away on April 20, 2021 (interestingly enough, her late husband’s birthday). She was a very special lady—quite the card. Here’s the eulogy I wrote, and a smattering of photos and a snippet of video. My brother Chuck’s eulogy is also included as a PDF. Read the rest of this entry

34 ORCHARD ISSUE 3 IS NOW AVAILABLE!

Issue 3 is now available for download! You can get it here: https://34orchard.com/issues/issue-3/, or here, which also has links for Issues 1 and 2: https://34orchard.com/issues/

34 ORCHARD Issue 3 Cover

 

Recommendation: Marlena, by Julie Buntin

I just finished reading Julie Buntin’s Marlena.

The novel tells the story of Cat and a dark bond she shared with her friend, Marlena, when they were high schoolers in Minnesota. As an adult living a swank life in New York City, Cat thinks she’s left it all behind—until one day, someone from their shared past asks to meet. As those unsettling months resurface, Cat learns that, thankfully, it really is true that you can’t go home again—but sometimes, just remembering is bad enough.

Oddly, the reason I found this book was because I was working on a short story, and I needed a novel that my main character could read that would contribute to my piece’s single effect. My plan was just to grab a title that’d make sense, but I popped open the Amazon preview and was sucked right in (I know this book has been listed for prizes and has also been named Book of the Year in several media outlets, but honestly, I don’t go by that. Suck me in and keep me there. That’s the only thing, for me, that counts).

Marlena flows Read the rest of this entry

Video: Unboxing the Tomy Smaller Home Bentwood Rocker

Tomy Smaller Home Rocker and Tiny Newspapers Test Shot
The Tomy Smaller Home & Garden Bentwood Rocker and my tiny newspapers. This was a test shot for what would become the cover of the Holiday 2021 chapbook. The scale between them’s slightly off, but I think I did okay for someone who really isn’t that crafty.

Remember all those tiny newspapers I was making? I finished them! I made 320 sets, which means 640 total (two per set). I really enjoyed listening to documentaries or watching TV with my family while I worked on them, and shocked myself when I got them all finished in just three weeks.

Anyway, the tiny newspapers will accompany this year’s holiday chapbook, which is my “Christmas Card” to friends and family (if you’re not on my postal mailing list and would like to be, please drop me a line through my Contact Page). This year’s story is “Nothing to See Here,” and is set in 1986 between the Challenger and Chernobyl disasters.

I’d had the Tomy Smaller Home & Garden (also known as Tomy Smaller Home after a lawsuit) dollhouse as a kid, and loved it to death (more on my current quest to replace the whole thing in future posts). All of the furniture was well made, and there were a couple of unique things about it: it was 1:16 size (most dollhouses are 1:12, and to give you a better mental snapshot, Barbie is 1:6); in addition, its design was “modern” (at the time, that meant extremely 1970s/early 1980s in its décor).

My favorite piece, for some reason, was the Bentwood Rocker. I really fantasized about owning a real one when I grew up (not anymore, peeps! I’m over it, just FYI). I needed to take a photograph for the cover of the chapbook, and I thought the rocker would be perfect, since a full-sized one features prominently in the story.

Nothing to See Here 2021 Chapbook front cover
The front cover of 2021’s holiday chapbook.

Since I’d bought the SH&G living room set that contained the rocker—but I’d scored it in brand new, unopened condition—I wasn’t about to crack into the kit to use the chair as a prop. I went on Ebay and instead bought a used one for ten bucks. It came in a Velveeta box—pretty appropriately ’70s!

Contemporary Velveeta box.
The Velveeta box containing the rocker…it’s almost $8 now? Good Lord! I remember when this crap was three bucks!!

The day it arrived was magical.

The unboxing — March 5, 2021. Oddly enough, I’m wearing a vintage 1986 necklace.

A fave coffee’s back!

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Island Coconut K-Cups

I live on coffee (and wine, too, but that’s not what I’m discussing today). I frequently will drink as many as five cups, even late into the night. It’s the fuel that keeps me writing.

That said, I have my personal favorites. Back in the 1980s, I was a huge fan of International Coffee’s Suisse Mocha. In the early 1990s, Dunkin’ Donuts French Vanilla was my jam.

ONE of my favorites these days is Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ Island Coconut, which starts appearing on store shelves in March and is sold through June (after that, I’ve found you’re out of luck). I usually get my K-Cups at Bed, Bath, & Beyond, but I’m sure if you hunt the shelves of other stores like Target, you’d probably find it.

Game on, people! Time for me to stock up!

If you love Island Coconut and can’t find it after June, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND H-E-B’s Houston Blend, which is a little more coconutty, but damn close. You can order some of that online here (and yes, they have K-Cups too): https://www.heb.com/product-detail/cafe-ole-by-h-e-b-houston-blend-medium-roast-ground-coffee/2337503

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates it, happy last day of Passover for those who celebrate that, and for fellow Pagans, happy Ostara two weeks late, although we seem to just celebrate every day, don’t we?

I wish you all, no matter what you’re doing, a spring-like day full of joy!

Bath & Body Works Easter 2021 Candle
Bath & Body Works’ Sweet Carrot Cake Candle, infused with the scent of sweet cream cheese frosting, fluffy carrot cake, and cinnamon spice. Yum! Good enough to eat!

DARK DISCUSSIONS turns 10! We visit ALIENS …

Dark Discussions -- Aliens Mast_Episode479

Dark Discussions, the horror film discussions podcast, turned ten years old last month!

For our big episodes, we usually talk about a “tent pole” film, asking our listeners to vote for a title they’d like us to cover—this time around, it was 1986’s Aliens.

I came to the Alien franchise later in life, as I wasn’t allowed to watch scary movies when I was a kid (even though I did sneak in a few here and there at my grandmother’s house, because no one was paying attention). While I enjoyed Alien—which I saw in my twenties—I really liked this sequel better. Wonderful allusions, a solid story, a slight shade of a burgeoning romance, an oppressive atmosphere, a James Horner score, a really young Bill Paxton and a gorgeous rendering of an abandoned station—this one rung all my bells.

To listen to our discussion, visit here: https://www.darkdiscussions.com/podcasts/dark-discussions-podcast/dark-discussions-podcast-episode-479-10th-year-anniversary-aliens-1986/

Fan of alien films? Also on that page is a listing of all of the other Alien and extraterrestrial films we’ve covered thus far.

 

Pfizer Shot #1 Accomplished!

Vaccine Clinic Sign

My husband Nathan and I got our first Pfizer shots today up at the Xfinity Center in Hartford (over an hour away). The process was smooth and easy! I’m really impressed with how well organized it was compared to how tough it was to get an appointment in the first place, and the cool guy that checked us in has the same birthday as my dad (2/17), which I took as a positive sign.

No side effects. I had some weird tingling in my arm, but I’ve had shots for lots of other things because I’ve worked at aquariums and have had more than my share of bouts with possible tetanus and exposure to strange animal diseases. So it wasn’t anything I hadn’t experienced before. 

Getting Shots at Hartford Xfinity Center

Our second shots are scheduled for Saturday, April 17. We plan to stay overnight the night before and make an adventure out of it, because hopefully a global pandemic will only come once in our lifetimes … 

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