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?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 ?
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.
Not going to put any schedule on these anymore, because it just doesn’t work.
Anyway, since I last checked in, I went with the family on a short trip (by train) to D.C. It was a sunny trip that coincided with the climate march, which we didn’t join I guess because we chose to explore the museums, which were cool and comfortable, instead of letting the kids be scorched by the sun outside. We kind of expected to run into the march at some point and join in for a short period of time, but somehow we just missed the whole thing. I feel a bit conflicted about that, like maybe I shouldn’t advertise it, since I’d like to project a more militant image, but no many would be fooled anyway, right?
The highlight of the trip was a breakfast we had at a place called A Baked Joint. I had a salmon bagel with fried capers that I had dreams about the following night, so “dreamy” is the proper adjective here. The Spy and Space Museums were fun too. Food and museums—this was all our trip.
I packed brilliantly for this, all the clothes worked out perfectly except for the bag which snagged my clothes and I am right now considering getting rid of. But I’ll wait for a bit before I do anything I might regret. I am working on a packing post, since it was the first time I was happy with all my clothes and I don’t want to forget how I achieved such a feat.
I have been reading some good books. My friend Charity let me borrow two of Michelle Paver’s scary books, Dark Matter, A Ghost Story and Thin Air. I liked both quite a bit, although they could have been scarier. But very pleasant and entertaining reads. I also read Wicked, by Joanne Fluke, which . . . was okay for a gym read. I loved, loved, loved Mariko Koike’s The Graveyard Apartment (read this one on my way to D.C. and back). There is nothing like Japanese horror, is there? It’s not a perfect book by any means, but it is gripping and chilling. I have just started The Cat in the Coffin by the same author and it is very promising also. I find even the titles of these two books brilliantly simple and scary.
I finished the last season of Wayward Pines on Hulu. Really good, I thought. Now I am giving The Strain a try and it’s okay, I think. Although the Alien-type parasite coming out of the mouth is a bit too revolting for my taste. I am also watching Hotel Beau Sejour on Netflix, a Flemish-language ghost series, and it’s very atmospheric, which I like a lot, but rather slow moving, which might be a problem for some, but I don’t mind.
The weather has improved and although it’s still kind of cold most days (I am wearing a wool sweater and wool socks in the house right now), but it’s sunny enough to be pleasant and to start to get me out of my winter’s funk. I think. I am feeling much less anxious and even a bit optimistic, if I dare admit it. Like not all is lost and life is not over just yet.
Here is a list of things that made me cry last week:
I’m sure there is a lot more that I am forgetting, but this is about it for now.
Ten items of clothing for ten days. It’s one of those challenges that flourish over on Instagram, although the credit for initiating it goes to two style blogs, Style Bee and Unfancy. Since I had been following some of the women who did it several times in the past and derived a lot of pleasure for watching them mix and match those few items of clothing, I felt an impulse to join in and play along.
I am not a capsule wardrober or much of a minimalist when it comes to the number of clothes I own. I like options, get bored quickly and enjoy my thrifting adventures that contribute to my about-to-burst closets. But this challenge might be interesting, I though to myself one morning, and in ten minutes I had a pile of ten items to wear for the next two weeks (I didn’t include the weekends in the challenge).
My thoughts after the challenge: I like options and I get bored quickly. Still it was fun, because I didn’t take it all too seriously and I switched my items around later in the day when I felt a need for it.
All my items came from the thrift shop:
I did include outwear (the two cardigans) and shoes in my initial ten, but at some point during the challenge I decided to switch the shoes for two more items of clothing. I ended up only adding one pair of leggings.
It was a frustrating exercise. The fun part was the companionship and camaraderie I felt with the women who participated on Instagram, but the getting dressed itself was annoying. My enjoyment of my clothes was somewhat diminished by the limitations of the exercise. My clothes are not useful and functional, they are playthings. I kind of feel like the minimalist and utilitarian approach to clothing can only suit those who don’t really care about clothes, but I know it is not true—many women who do capsule wardrobes and reduce their options love their clothes. So I don’t know where we differ, but this is not for me.
Which doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t do it again as an exercise. It is good practice for vacation packing, for example, although I have been known to take ten items of clothing for merely an overnight trip.
My favorite outfits to wear were probably 4 and 5. 1 is a good contender also. I don’t know if I could name a least favorite—they were all pretty good. Maybe outfit 10 was out of my comfort zone a bit, with too much going on, and outfit 7, where the scarf annoyed me with its bulkiness.
That’s about it. I had a good time and I plan to do it again, given a chance. Nothing earth-shattering.
Copyright 2018 Lori Tiron-Pandit