Punctuated by horror movies

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June 27, 2018

Dracula, 1958, with Christopher Lee.

I hail from Romania. so o, course. I remember watching this particular Dracula with my little sister, my cousin O (lifelong partner in horror-appreciation), and my aunt, O’s mother, at home. My parents were away for a wedding, probably. We all got so frightened during that movie that my aunt got us all off to her own place after the movie, in the middle of the night. Because none of us could sit for one more minute in the house where we had watched the film and where now obviously evil resided.

A more recent Dracula retelling that I really enjoyed was Dracula Untold. A beautiful, moving movie, I thought.

I owe a lot of my love of horror movies to my cousin O. This was the time of video cassettes, in Romania where there was no Blockbuster, but only tiny neighborhood shops with walls lined in pirated tapes, the name of the movies written by hand on the edge. My cousin lived in a bigger city and had an older brother, which afforded her more access to movies than I could ever have in my provincial little town. But we met on summer vacations and filled our time with stories. Many of them from horror movies. That is how, one of my favorite horrors from middle school I actually got to watch a couple of years ago. At the time I only saw it through O’s detailed retellings of every scene and in-depth interpretations of motifs and symbolism. I loved it. But I couldn’t find it for the longest time because the bootleg VHS that O had watched had the movie’s title translated as The Devil’s Cabin. Never to be found as such again. The movie, I later discovered, was The Evil Dead (1981).

As I said, this was the time of the videocassette renting and watching movies at friends’ houses, and as I remember it, every time my parents were out of town, we’d be in the mood for horror, which my poor kid sister endured stoically and with severe scarring for the rest of her life. She was marked by a particular one: the Omen (1976). The movie dwells heavily on the number of the Devil. My sis is born on June 6th, and we kind of convinced her that her birth time might have been 6 o’clock. 666. She’s still not over it, which makes me aware that I must not have been the loving and compassionate big sister I’ve always considered myself to be.

Time passed. I don’t remember a lot of horror watching during my early adulthood for some reason.

A strong memory, however, is watching Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) the Japanese production. I watched it in Mumbai, with my husband and his brother. Scary. The scariest thing I’ve seen. It took me a long time before I could watch The Ring, which was a Japanese movie remake, because I have made up my mind that I am not strong enough to handle Japanese horror.

I had a long time of being unable to watch horror, actually. During my pregnancies and while my children were small. Not for lack of trying. When my daughter was very little (or maybe I was still pregnant?) I watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose with my husband, in our suburban rental apartment. It was not good. The same night after watching the movie we were woken up by a strange sound in the apartment. It was a sort of deep thumping that reached into your stomach and made it seize. We discovered quickly enough that the DVD player had somehow reloaded the movie and there was a breathing sound on the menu screen, which kept playing in a loop. We turned it off and went back to bed, a little shaken. It was 3 am.

So yeah, that put a hard stop on my horror watching for a few years. But I am back and making up for it now. A couple of more recent movies that I enjoyed quite a bit are The Woman in Black and Crimson Peak. The first one was beautiful and very scary, the second one mainly beautiful.

Gothic horror will always have my heart, what can I say? Speaking of which, I thought Penny Dreadful, the TV series, was breathtaking. What could be better than having all your Gothic horror favorites playing together? Dreamy.

I could think of more but I am going to stop here, on this high note. What movies have been horrifying you?

Feminizing the canon, are we?

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June 14, 2018

The Paris Review has started this new column they call “Feminize Your Canon,” which looks like the best idea I’ve seen lately in support of women’s writing. There is a but, though.

It depressed me like nothing else. If you are an unsuccessful women writer, it will depress you too. I honestly didn’t need help in this direction. My personal desk drawer (just an expression, although I could rename my computer folder where I collect all the finished work) is filled to bursting with little malformed, rejected monsters who do a good enough job of reminding me that I am crap at what I do. So now I don’t know if I need, on top of that, to read these biographies and start identifying with all the unappreciated women who ever dared to follow a literary career.

The first article of this series is on Olivia Manning, written by Emma Garman. Now I don’t recall having read anything of Olivia Manning’s, but this piece makes her sound like a very hopeful, confident writer who never got, and here is the thing, what “she thought she deserved.” Emma Garman doesn’t really make it clear if she personally believes Manning deserves a place in the canon, but only that Manning herself was very confident that she merited recognition. Which obviously never really came.

So, yeah, abandon all hope ye who enter.

The smallness

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June 7, 2018

 

It’s something that the human brain cannot really process: our own smallness.

I have been having to deal with a lot of rejection coming my way lately. Since January I haven’t had any story accepted for publication, although I have been submitting regularly, up to ten stories per month. Every time I open a response e-mail from a publication where I’ve submitted, I feel this crevice opening under my feet and for a few seconds while I read the e-mail I am floating on top of the abyss, completely detached from the rest of the world. And I am so scared. But then I fall back on the ground, barely a bruise or a scratch, as if I was not standing at the edge of the living universe just a few moments before. And I don’t know what to do with myself for a while: who am I again? I find it harder and harder to start writing and submitting again.

That’s a lot of words and too much imagery to say that rejection is soul crushing. I heard someone say somewhere that when encouraged, when praised, people perform much better than they would otherwise. I am assuming the reverse it also true. It’s like our brain putting the brakes at exactly the worst moment. When we should persevere and try harder, we feel so demoralized that we can’t lift a finger to help ourselves. Because we don’t do well feeling small. we need that superiority bias to succeed. But that doesn’t come easily, especially to some of us, especially when so many external factors push you in the opposite direction.

Depression has been negatively correlated with the superiority bias, we need to feel like we’re better than others just to feel okay. I am not feeling okay right now.

Stationery: bullet journaling

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April 4, 2018

Since late last year I fell victim to the bullet journal craze. I am easily swayed by trends, as we all know, but this time I was actively looking for a system that would bring back pens and notebooks into daily use.

Before the bullet journal I used to have a scattered system all centered around the regular journal (a classic hard cover Moleskine) where I wrote very infrequently in the past few years, when I needed to know what I thought and felt about something, or tried to deal with a situation. Besides that, I had a special notebook for each novel (a Moleskine Cahier) where I drew diagrams and explained characters, inspirations, etc.

For several years I’ve also had my Filofax for daily tasks and lists, but it has been a little frustrating with its small size (I think in Filofax terminology it is “personal” size) and the rings making writing a bit cumbersome. I always felt restricted by the Filofax, although enjoyed the feel of its soft leather cover in my hand, its paper bulkiness and the ease of leafing through. I still keep it permanently next to me on my table, even though I rarely touch it. Another, larger ring planner I own (the red one here), gets very little use because those rings are just uncomfortable.

My new system combines the journal and the organizer in one notebook. I started using a Markings by CR Gibson notebook. which is kind of a classic Moleskine dupe, for everything from daily tasks, ideas, story developments, random personal thoughts, dinner party planning, trip packing, everything. At the end I keep lists of books read, thrift store purchases, story ideas, sewing projects and so on. I call this a bullet journal, but I don’t follow any bullet journal notations or anything. I do embellish it by drawing flora and using special lettering for parts of it. I expect it to last me about a year, maybe slightly less. I still keep a separate notebook for the novel I am working on and a separate dream journal.

It is really a joy to have everything in one place, and treat it less seriously than I used to with my regular journal (which I wanted to be the container of only very deep and universal thoughts—I know, I’m rolling my eyes too!). This is just life with everything it carries. It’s a much more relaxed approach and fits my style well.

Because the cover of my inferior notebook was peeling off and looking unsightly, I made a removable leather cover for it. Very excited about that feat! I had actually thrifted this cover some time ago, but it was brown and way too big, so I had to modify it. I cut it down and sewed it back on, dyed it black and in the process I also added two pen loops, which are visible in that first picture. Never want to let it out of my hand now. The thought of being able to use this cover for years, with different notebooks, is particularly comforting too.

Speaking of pen loops, I have discovered that I need at least two pens to use concomitantly: one for writing and one for drawing. For writing I use now 0.4 or even finer point gel pens. My favorites are the capped ones, not the retractable. Most often I’ll pick up the Muji 0.38 gel ink ball point and the Pilot High Tech-C Maica 0.4 point. I can’t express in words the pleasure of writing with these pens: my brain feeds on it like it’s sugar. I now even flesh out stories on paper, and my writing is often better than on the computer, although I sometimes feel the frustration of not being able to write fast enough to keep the pace of my thoughts. In the end, probably a good thing, because by the time it hits the paper, the idea had time to be edited and become more clear.

For doodling right now I am using a Pentel Sign pen, which has a somewhat flexible felt tip that can create variation of line thickness. It works fine. In the future I am planning to get a Tombow Dual Brush Pen so that I have more options in just one pen loop. I know!

I know a lot of people find stationary irresistible. An article I read recently talked about how humans have found ways and tools to extend their brains—maybe this is why pens and paper have such wide appeal, who of us cannot use a few extensions to our brains? I know I can (and badly need it too).

Checking in: snow day

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February 8, 2018



Another snow day. I heard yesterday on the radio that historically in our area we get the most snow of the winter in the first two weeks of February. Right. So, it’s not over. This winter has been relentless.

But a snow day is not a bad time to write a blog post over here with updates.

It has been a rough start of the year. Cold aside. My grandmother passed away last week and I want to share about what she meant to me but I’m not able to just yet. I’m still frozen.

This year. I don’t know what else it’s going to bring. Several of my closest friends are going through hellish situations that have accelerated in the new year, and it just makes me feel so anxious about life. Life after forty. Why are we so unprepared for getting old? You feel like you’ve known all along but then when it happens, you’re at a loss: it’s not what you thought. Might it be that our culture doesn’t prepare us for it in any way? Why are all the books only about young people? When did you last read a novel where the main character is in their fifties? A woman in her fifties?

I’ve been working a lot on new stories and new submissions. I am still behind schedule with everything. My plan is to get three short stories published, then go back to the novel and do some final edits before starting to submit again. I’m almost there. One more story to go.

I never thought I’d become a short story writer, but I’m enjoying the process now. With a story you feel the stress, the pressure and the obsession taking over for only a limited time, after which you let go. With a novel, you live in the cloud for years. I don’t know which is best. Depends on what mood I’m in. I am looking forward to open that big manuscript again and give it a go.

My daughter has made the most unbelievable strawberry cupcakes as a trial for her little brother’s Valentine’s Day in preschool, and I have licked frosting from every surface that it touched. Generally sugar is not something I crave, unless it’s hidden in chocolate, but I that frosting was from another story, obviously.

And I am going to meet some friends this week for a bead-sorting party, which sounds like more fun than I’ve had in quite a while. What to wear? Leaning toward the raw silk sack dress over leggings and long sleeve t-shirt. And maybe my new silk and silver tassel necklace, because jewelry is obviously a must on this occasion.

Last weekend I left an Eileen Fisher duster in the store. What was I thinking? It was a linen blend, black, an interesting, swingy cut. But then I had also found other things that I wanted apparently more and I didn’t want to go overboard. I bought instead a great wool moto jacket, a knit linen Vince tunic that goes with everything, and a linen/cotton canvas tote by Norma Kamali—I cannot resist bags and I have been looking for a black beach bag for a long time. I don’t remember why.

Looking forward to the end of the week. At least then we’ll have wine.

A dreadpunk, gaslamp, and dark steampunk anthology: DeadSteam

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January 30, 2018

One of my short stories, “A Visitor at Sultana’s Castle,” is set to appear in the upcoming DeadSteam anthology, edited by Bryce Raffle, to be published by Grimmer & Grimmer Books in October 2018.

The dreadpunk, gaslamp, and dark steampunk anthology will include seventeen chilling stories of the monsters lurking around every corner, the ghosts haunting the darkest streets of Victorian London, and the dead things crawling out of their graves to consume the flesh of the living. These are tales of the ghoulish and the gothic, chilling stories of haunted streets, of vampires and demons stalking the city from fog-drenched alleyways lit only by gas lamps.

Featuring stories by David Lee Summers (Owl Dance, The Brazen Shark), Jen Ponce (The Bazaar, Demon’s Cradle), Wendy Nikel (The Continuum), Karen J Carlisle (The Adventures of Viola Stewart), Jonah Buck (Carrion Safari), DJ Tyrer, Jay Seate, Lawrence Salani, James Dorr, Lori Tiron-Pandit, Rob Francis, Ross Smeltzer, CC Adams, Alice E Keyes, Steve Carr, E Seneca, and Bryce Raffle (The Complications of Avery Vane).

Wardrobe planning: What I’ll wear

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January 25, 2018

Looks like everyone (Grechen of Greche’s Closet, Talia of Ethel Grace, and M of Work From Home Wardrobe) is thinking about planning their future purchases and style tweaks for the year, and I am, as always, feeling the inspiration.

Something good came out of my (too many) Instagram outfit pictures: looking back through that record of outfits I was able to form a better idea of what clothes I enjoy and which ones don’t really work for me.

I like oversized, generous volumes, both on top and bottom. I like layers, in full black, but also in black and white, and black and grey. I like full length coverage.

I enjoy natural fabrics: linen, cotton, cashmere, silk, wool. I own one tencel pant and one bamboo shirt and I like both, but I am not looking to add more of these fabrics to my wardrobe (although they are somewhere on the sustainability spectrum).

The world and everyday life are a complicated spaces to navigate. Some people try to simplify everything, and wouldn’t that be so easy if it were possible? It’s not. For me there is beauty and a lot of merit to the complexity of our modern lives and choices at large, but I know I can simplify some aspects of it, and my closet is one of those places.

And simplifying might be too simple a word, because closet choices make political and social statements of their own, and are in no way shallow and meaningless as they might seem to the untrained eye.

I like basic shapes that float away from the body. Cuts that allow for movement. I like to be enveloped in beautiful fabrics that feel luxurious and natural to the touch. I like to lose myself inside my clothes. Hide. I wear them as armor for sure.

The few silhouettes that I want to wear are very clear to me: the boxy shirt, the long skirt (basic A-line, bubble, harem), the long sack dress, the wide leg pants and long cardigans. These are the main elements. Short cardigans, tunic dresses, skinny pants and fitted tees are often useful for layering, but not key style elements on their own. The slouchy pants are somewhere in the middle: I kind of love them, they are practical at times (running after kids at the town park) but they are not the first thing I think of when I consider what defines my style.

With the exception of the long cardigan, I can sew all my (preciously named) “defining-style elements” myself, which feels very freeing and gives me a lot of control. I like control. I have made the boxy shirt in cotton and linen and am planning one in raw silk now, and maybe a fine wool fabric later, although I do have a couple of cotton&cashmere kimono sweaters from J.Jill that serve me just as well in cold weather. I have made the wide leg pants in denim and I have several linen and wool versions, from J.Jill and Eileen Fisher. I am planning to sew a raw silk pair any day now (I already bought the fabric). I have made the sack dress in linen, cotton and raw silk, and I don’t see any other need there.

My wardrobe is over ninety percent thrifted and handmade, and I am very content with that for many reasons, ecological and budgetary. Accessories are also predominantly second-hand or handmade. I have a few too many bags, but I am coming to accept it as my big weakness, and I’m trying to let it be, for now. Although I don’t know if that’s so smart—I am these days making a packing list for a five-day trip and seriously considering taking five bags: travel tote, travel hobo crossbody, plus two small crossbody bags and one fanny pack!

Shoes are sometimes difficult to thrift, but I try to find them second hand in online shops. I feel like I have the staples I need, like Birkenstocks clogs and sandals, canvas sneakers, and army boots. I own some oxfords and loafers too, but I’m not crazy about pairing them with most of my wardrobe, as they feel insubstantial. I like a platform or some sort of heavier feel to the shoe.

This year I am going to test these revelations and stay on course. I’ll try to observe if anything else of importance comes up, but I doubt it. I’m feeling very good about my clothes right now. They are fun and cause me little to no anxiety. It’s nice.

Something new and something old

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January 11, 2018

Although I started with such a clever title, I don’t want to keep up the suspense, which must be killing you for sure, so I’ll let you know right away that I’m talking about the new year on one hand and some sketches I made in the past but never got to publish on the blog, on the other. Your chance to close this page and move on to more entertaining content.

I keep drawing these sketches of my favorite literary women in the form of Cucuteni goddesses, and I can’t say that I am not very fond of them. I feel like they encompass so many of the things that hold meaning in my life: writing, feminism, ancient matriarchies, female deity cults, dark literature, creativity.

I’m obviously no plastic artist of any form, but I do enjoy doodling like everyone else. I guess literary women sketches is something that I do now. And this is quite the elite group, though isn’t it?

Shirley Jackson is joining in from her own blog post, which I did publish on the blog some time ago, when I remembered I had a blog.

I just wanted to gather all these in a blog post, to save them on my website for the future. I haven’t posted anything here in the longest time, and instead I waste a lot of energy on Instagram. Lately, though, I have been feeling that uncomfortable feeling again, that I am giving these social media platforms free content to do with it as they please. And while I get various benefits from it (exposure, connections) I feel like it’s a waste if I don’t publish it on my own website. I am pretty annoyed with Instagram lately and the “algorithms” they push at us, so that my feed is populated by whatever they deem more suitable for me, instead of the chronological order of posts from the accounts I care to see. I probably should unsubscribe from many accounts so I only follow the ones that I care about most. Like reduce the number to under 100. Would the algorithm manage to screw that up also? Probably. I have moments when I feel this urge to republish all my Instagram content on a page on this website. I have resisted it so far. I don’t know how much sense that would make.

I don’t know what to do about Facebook either. Many ethical dilemmas there. But I feel like I do need it to connect with professional groups that I need to be involved with. So I deleted my old account that contained too much personal stuff and started a new clean one, which I plan to keep strictly professional in tandem with the author page. It’s not working already.

Keeping up with social media is becoming too much work, right?

I listened to a podcast on Me & Orla yesterday on using Pinterest as a business and found it so interesting that I had to implement some of the advice immediately. I do like Pinterest a lot and use it frequently especially for food and clothes, not so much for promoting my writing or to send traffic to this blog. Vertical images with text. And mixing up your own pins with repins on the same boards. It’s what I’ve come away with.

So, yeah, I might post more over here this year, because social media always ends up scary and disappointing and making you feel like a tiny, stupid cog in a machine controlled by malevolent forces.

See you around ?

My story, Picture Perfect, in Myths, Monsters, Mutations

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December 8, 2017

One of my horror short stories, “Picture Perfect”, that has been published in the Myths, Monsters, Mutations collection, edited by Jessica Augustsson, and published by JayHenge. It’s a really beautiful collection of stories, and I’m so proud to be included!

I’m off to celebrate with a handful of chocolate-covered espresso beans.

The Caretaker, a short story

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July 8, 2017



Sirens Call Publications has published one of my short stories, The Caretaker, in their latest issue of the The Sirens Call ezine, Horror-Struck!. You can read it right now at www.sirenscallpublications.com, along with a lot of other great stuff, if you’re into horror at all.

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