Tag Archives: book covers

“I’m tired of you being so dark while I’m so impish and whimsical.”

53. Get In Trouble – Kelly Link

Kelly Link’s brand of magical realism is always something I look forward to reading. I bought her Get In Trouble short story collection as soon as it came out and read the eight stories I hadn’t read before quite quickly. It’s been interesting to read the evolution of how Link deals with forming her characters. They seem to be much more realized in this collection than they were in her earlier work and usually a non-character character bugs me, but it never did in her writing.

I don’t like the cover of this collection as much as the past three of hers, it’s too not-whimsical, too graphic designy for me. The feeling I get from Kelly Link stories is like entering a long-abandoned and overgrown mini-golf course with a fairytale theme at dusk and red, cream, and brushy lettering is not quite right.

Pammy would’ve made a good cover model, especially on her shiny 1950s chair. She’s darling and cautious and those sweet eyes hint at an abandoned mini-golf course within.


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City News and Books on December 10, 1988

52. Deadly Sleep – John Applegate

The cover features a teddy bear in a bed brandishing a bloody knife in the air – awesome. The story features an overly worried middle aged man who can’t control himself when he sleeps. There’s also some business stuff – boring. Who hasn’t woken up as a dad in the suburbs, wondering if they killed someone the night before? It’s the stuff of a million excuses and a million insurance fraud murders. So garden variety.

It’s okay, Horace, you can snuggle back in free from fear, there’s no middle aged suburban dads around.

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Somebody’s watching that coffee and contemplation.

32. Stalkers – Ed Gorman & Martin H. Greenberg, eds.

One of the nice things about libraries is that they sometimes make purchases from smaller publishers and those things stick around…waiting for their chance. Stalkers was published by Dark Harvest of Arlington Heights, IL in 1989.

It features authors of horror novels for the most part, several of which wrote books on my shelves that I haven’t yet read, like J.N. Williamson. Williamson’s story “Jezebel” was very moralistic but also captured the feeling of being watched when you’re really not doing anything worth watching as a lady very well.

Pickles was constantly doing something worth watching. Here she is, looking alert.

Some I forgot about, like John Coyne (The Legacy aka that book/movie poster with the cat head sticking out of the green, zombie looking hand that scared and intrigued me as a child). Coyne’s story “Flight” was one of the weirder ones. A man takes off with his child when he’s totally not supposed to and ends up in a cabin with a paranoid old coot and it gets very bizarre from there. Features ye olde proverbial “They.”

Some I hadn’t heard of, like Michael Seidman, the editorial director of Zebra…a publisher that probably would have published me back in the day and stuck lots of weirdo skeletons on my covers. Oh, to go back in time. Seidman’s “What Chelsea Said” was a creepy little urban nightmare. Bumbutt.

Edward D. Hoch, “The Stalker of Souls” was an academic mystery. I haven’t read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but I got that vibe from it nonetheless. The reveal was a little tiresome, but the atmosphere leading up to it was great and very on theme.

Belvedere raises his head while being accused of nefarious plans by Pickles. Again. She’s the guinea pig Sherlock. Sort of. Not really. She’s far too cute and not nearly addicted to heroin enough to be Sherlocky.

The story that stuck with me the most has its own introduction, an oddity for short story collections, usually there’s just a short paragraph introing the author (if that, and sometimes the contributor bios are in the back). The introduction discusses how long Dean Koontz had the idea and other situations where the story didn’t work out to be published and it’s a nice insight. I’ve read one Dean Koontz book, The Funhouse, it was written under a different name and it was weird but didn’t make me want to dig in to the rest of his catalog. I think my main turn off, as usual, is the font they use for his name. It doesn’t appeal to me.

Anyway, now I’m a little more intrigued. I will at least always look for his stories in more of these weird little horror story anthologies because “Trapped” played right into my worst stalking fears and also hit several areas of my interest – isolated homes, mad science corporate bullshit gone awry, smart heroines who don’t freak out, a hero very much like Chief Hopper… But as I was saying, those worst stalking fears – RATS. Genetically engineered rats who are even smarter than rats already are. Also bigger. And they cut off your phone while staring at you with their beady little eyes. And they thought about the car. And they’re huge and white with red eyes. And of course there was a fucking illustration for that story. NO. I try not to show fear around real rats because I appreciate how smart they are, but, No. Also, rats are not afraid of people. They like people.

Pickles hides from smart rats in her hay. According to a 1921 book about pets I have, rats hate guinea pigs, so she doesn’t really need to.


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Class of 1984 might be our best case scenario soon.

26. Schoolhouse – Lee Duigon

1988, a time when horror paperbacks were plentiful and there were more than enough skeletons on covers to scare all the children in line at the grocery store. Schoolhouse has a skeleton teacher (with bun and pointer, but no shoes, I feel like she could’ve been wearing shoes) with both an apple and another skull on her desk. Another skull on her desk! And the background isn’t just black, there’s a chalkboard and a spider web and everything. Pinnacle getting their money’s worth out of the cover artist. It’s a full painting. There are many parts of me that wish publishing still allowed for this style of cover and for a proliferation of bizarre horror novels.
Schoolhouse’s staying power is in its weirdness. If one went to public school, one generally could be led to believe that something weird is going on…especially in the 1980s, when the something weird didn’t have to be related to state budget cuts and elected officials painting teachers as the enemy for wanting proper resources because public schools’ mission is give EVERY student an education, and they don’t actually leave any children out.  Perhaps a digression, but things were different then and if your teacher was an enemy, it was probably because they were possessed by an alien beast creature sliming its way to the surface (now those are just lots of repugnant elected officials, possessed by somebody else’s money). Schoolhouse very much treads the line between horror and science fiction and who knew that would be a preview of our educational system today – vouchers and creationist textbooks, anyone? Scary stuff.

Danger Crumples and Ozymandias have very different investigative styles. Danger leaves no pillow un-turned, Ozy knows H.P. Lovecraft-style slimy beasts don't hide under pillows.

Danger Crumples and Ozymandias have very different investigative styles. Danger leaves no pillow un-turned, Ozy knows H.P. Lovecraft-style slimy beasts don’t hide under pillows.

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Consider the Dangers.

My little man.

My little man.

Danger Crumples was the most important guinea pig I’ll ever have. I love all my pigs, they’re all so completely special to me, but Danger Crumples always stood out. He was very clearly the star.  As far as I’m concerned, he always will be. There’s no denying his charisma- I can’t think of anyone who saw him in person that didn’t want to pet him or didn’t try to get his attention. He’s pretty unforgettable.

On January 22nd, he passed away after a relatively swift decline. I stayed with him the entire time, making sure my best friend and the most consistently inspiring of all my muses knew how important and loved he was and still is. I also had him cremated so that he has to come with me wherever I move for the rest of time. He’d already lived in three states with me and taken every transition remarkably well, so, now he’s stuck in his bamboo box with a fly nameplate.

I was working on drawings of him for paintings and prints to bring to Wizard World Madison when he passed. As usual, he took some major roles – the tenth Doctor, the eleventh Doctor, the captain of the Elizabeth Dane-ger in Pigs in the Fog, an infected expedition member in The Pig – so he’s The Pig aka The Thing, anyway, YA author Christopher Pike, 1990s YA book cover model for said Christopher Pike takeover, and a little bit of the role of his not-real twin spirit- Hello Kitty. It’s very hard for me to draw and paint my pigs after they pass, so I left the painting of the Dangers until practically the last minute of my painting “schedule” and ended up painting seven Dangers at once. That was hard.

The seven Dangers.

The seven Dangers.


The Danger Who original paintings and Hello Danger.

The Danger Who original paintings and Hello Danger.


The Christopher Pike-Danger Crumples takeover. Danger Crumples Is Pigture Perfect.

The Christopher Pike-Danger Crumples takeover. Danger Crumples Is Pigture Perfect.


Being both the author and cover star made it seem appropriate to make the titles a bit more literal - Danger Crumples...In a Car with a Skeleton.

Being both the author and cover star made it seem appropriate to make the titles a bit more literal – Danger Crumples…In a Car with a Skeleton.


The biggest one - where Danger Crumples is joined by friends Ozymandias and Horace - Pigs in a Graveyard

The biggest one – where Danger Crumples is joined by friends Ozymandias and Horace – Pigs in a Graveyard.


( my profile on the Wizard World site )

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“Become a part of the NIGHT WORLD. Enter to win a flower pin.”

12. Soulmate – L.J. Smith

I did not know of the Night World series, or any other L.J. Smith series, actually, until I found a bunch of Night World books in the detritus of a closing book store’s YA section in 2014. I was looking for 1970s, 80s, and 90s YA as I usually am and the 1990s editions of the series have the most amazing covers. They’re paintings (of course, like I’d really be attracted to photography-based covers in YA…so 2000s…) of the main female characters (sometimes with special guests) surrounded by flowers and weird monster and demon faces and one face that really looks like wolf form attacking Lucy in the rain-Gary Oldman-Dracula from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and ravens and black cats and this one has a candlestick and they are bizarre and awesome pieces of book coverage. I know that this one was published in 1997, when I was a freshmen in high school and had moved on to reading Interview with the Vampire and Silence of the Lambs, but if I had known about this series when I was a teen I would have totally loved it. The female characters are well drawn and considering these are always romances, they’re feisty enough to not drive me nuts with their romantic angst (they’re certainly not swooners or “rape me and I’m yours” types) and I know I would have totally related to them –minus opportunity- when I was younger.

Soulmate concerns a romance throughout the ages, kind of like what Gary Oldman-Dracula is trying to imprint upon Winona Ryder-Mina in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and by the way, I dug that movie quite a bit when I saw it as a teenager (surprise surprise); you know, “I have crossed oceans of time to find you” and all that other shit vampires say to not look like pedophiles to high school girls who don’t recognize them for the creepers that they are. Anyway, Hannah aka vampire dude’s soulmate, current body edition, is seeing a psychiatrist and it brings up repressed memories of her other lives with said vampire, and how said vampire murdered everyone she knew when they first met (and her) and it’s an interesting path to reconciliation. I know that the soulmate concept has a bigger part to play in the Night World, but I don’t have the whole series and I haven’t read all the ones I do have yet, so I have no idea where it’s going. Hopefully not a sad, couple filled kegger. Maybe Thunderdome for couples. I do know that I shelved the re-published, multiple books to one volume, covers featuring bland black and white photographs of random, staring girls versions of these books when I worked at the public library and I was not even remotely intrigued to read them. That was a shitty re-design, people. A shitty re-design. Those lonely, staring girls do not say “I have charisma and well constructed female characters inside.” They say “You will be alone forever inside the black void.” I, like, already know that.

Thaddeus knows Pickles is not his soulmate, that would be Pammy, but they still enjoyed each other’s company without dramatic protestations and no prehistoric villages had to be slaughtered.

Thaddeus knows Pickles is not his soulmate, that would be Pammy, but they still enjoyed each other’s company without dramatic protestations and no prehistoric villages had to be slaughtered.


Mixtape –
1.    “Seventh Wave” – Devin Townsend
2.    “Satellite” – TV on the Radio
3.    “Freya” – The Sword
4.    “Sweet Leaf” – Black Sabbath
5.    “Schyssta Logner” – Witchcraft
6.    “Night City” – The Sword
7.    “All Black” – Hanni El Khatib
8.    “Long Time Coming” – Droids Attack
9.    “Mouths of Madness” – Orchid
10.    “Moonchild” – Fields of the Nephilim
11.    “Satan/Dance You Fukr” – Zydepunks
12.    “Bruane Brenn”- Kvelertak
13.    “High Road” – Mastodon


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Filed under Books, Review, Writing, YA Megamix Summer

Write. Print. Repeat.

Two squirrels! Two robots! So appropriate for the second book of a trilogy.

Two squirrels! Two robots! So appropriate for the second book of a trilogy.

The Guinea Pig-style (Duncan Hills) first edition of Night of the Squirrels: Day of the Robots, sequel to Dawn of the Interns and the middle section of the Squirrelpocalypse trilogy,was initially available on Amazon in May of 2013. Now, in June of 2015 (well, sort of May because it put it up in May, but there are always delays while I wait to see my cover and not a grey box on websites before I say anything), the “Call of the Merricat” second edition is available with its more squirrelpocalypse-appropriate cover and two less typos.  I’ve been told it’s better than the first one – but! – I don’t think that matters unless you’ve read the first one, so maybe it’s an Evil Dead II situation and maybe it’s Gremlins II, there really aren’t enough horror comedies with sequels that remind me of my work, so it’s tough to be sure.

It’s also occurred to me lately that it might be interesting to show my work, at least in terms of how I create my clearly a-mah-zing squirrel covers. I do have a lot to say about cover art on here – that’s because I’m an artist. I use my human brain and hands to write my novels and also to draw and print the squirrel versions of their covers through the bewildering process of silkscreening. Silkscreening is the process of shoving ink through mesh to put images on things, in my case, card stock. In order for the ink to make the images I want it to, I hand paint the mesh of my screens with screen filler.

The dark red business is screen filler. Everything that’s covered with filler will remain the color of the card stock I’m printing on.

The dark red business is screen filler. Everything that’s covered with filler will remain the color of the card stock I’m printing on.

Many people can get their drawings onto their screens much more easily using photographic methods (light and photo emulsion). I can barely breathe most of the time because of my severe allergies and chemical fumes will destroy me very quickly, so I hand paint. It’s, um, not very easy to maintain the level of detail I want because I still only have human hands, but I do my best.

Pre-print Robots, post-print Interns, with discerning critic Danger Crumples. It is possible to remove the designs from screens, it’s called “reclaiming.” I am able to keep my designs on the screens by only washing out the ink when I’m done printing. Cold water takes out the ink, hot water is required to remove screen filler.

Pre-print Robots, post-print Interns, with discerning critic Danger Crumples. It is possible to remove the designs from screens, it’s called “reclaiming.” I am able to keep my designs on the screens by only washing out the ink when I’m done printing. Cold water takes out the ink, hot water is required to remove screen filler.

Once all the screen filler is dry and I’ve held it up to several light sources five million times to check for pinholes that will ruin my feelings while I print, I sort out the paper I want to use (I have to run a veritable shitload of prints when I silkscreen) and get the screen secured into the t-shirt press that hooks onto my coffee table. And then I print. On my knees. I ran this print sixty-one times.

Here’s my print-covered floor and the screen upright in the hinge clamps of my t-shirt press just before I went to wash the ink out of it.

Here’s my print-covered floor and the screen upright in the hinge clamps of my t-shirt press just before I went to wash the ink out of it.

I pretty much throw my prints everywhere there’s space because I need to run the print until the ink runs out, gets too dry, or some sort of blobbiness takes over. I had an ink-thickness issue this time, so I only ended up with twelve great prints and thirty-two mostly good ones. That’s a pretty good ratio considering I haven’t printed anything for over a year and my ink was definitely too thick for all the teeny details I wanted to come through.

Peregrine critiques my print from above.

Peregrine critiques my print from above.

I should mention that I’m leaving out a lot of details about the process of silkscreening, like tool names (squeegee!) and how you should have mylar on hand for proofing and registering your print and other things, so if you want to silkscreen in your living room you’ll need to research actual tutorials. I took silkscreening in college way back in 2003, and I didn’t put enough time into it, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t because of the chemical processes and my lack of allergy treatment at the time. I could have learned I have allergy-induced asthma earlier by passing out in a creepy basement room trying to coat my screen with emulsion, but at what cost? Actually, the cost would be these prints and all the others I’ve done since being able to re-visit silkscreening. Too much. It would be too much. And I retained a large amount of what I learned in that class over twelve years’ time, so…peaches. Of course, the guinea pigs would be much happier if I didn’t do so many things that take my attention away from them. A cost I must pay.

Horace and Danger Crumples don’t think I paid the cost to be the boss.

Horace and Danger Crumples don’t think I paid the cost to be the boss.

Anyway, that’s my cover creation process and if you want to support projects done completely by hand by someone who is nearly extinct because of their allergies or just want to know what happens next in my Squirrelpocalypse trilogy, I will list some linkage below and add to my “About” page. Oh, and since it’s YA Megamix Summer and my chapter titles tend to be song titles, here’s a sixtyish minute mixtape of chapter title songs to go with Day of the Robots:

1.     “Bang!” – The Raveonettes
2.    “Underdog” – Kasabian
3.    “Incubation” – Joy Division
4.    “Be My Wife” – David Bowie
5.    “River Styx” – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
6.    “Worm Tamer” – Grinderman
7.    “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night” – Ween
8.    “Sistinas” – Danzig
9.    “I Wish This Song Was Louder” – Electric Six
10.    “Retrovertigo” – Mr. Bungle
11.    “Deep in the Woods” – The Birthday Party
12.    “I Think That I Would Die” – Hole
13.    “Running Up That Hill” – Kate Bush
14.    “Dog Eat Dog” – Adam and the Ants
15.    “Heart of Stone” – The Raveonettes
16.    “Cat People” – the Danzig version
Barnes and Noble

P.S. One important thing, there are several “Rachel Smith”s writing and self-publishing. Accept no substitutes. It can be confusing. I have only published two novels so far, both are pretty clearly linked thanks to that new cover and the adoption of series specification (Night of the Squirrels/Squirrelpocalypse Trilogy) – even that other “Rachel Smith” who wrote an ebook about guinea pigs is not me. I would think that anyone could tell the difference between her writing voice and mine and her cover aesthetic and mine – I just wanted to make sure we’re all clear that she’s not me. And I haven’t written any books on shopping addiction either. Just YA fiction about the squirrelpocalypse thus far.

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Filed under Books, Dawn of the Interns, Day of the Robots, Night of the Squirrels

Jingle Bells…Jingle Yay…Jingle Good for You

A second jump into the murky seas of search terms. I mean into the fresh smelling forest of Douglas firs of search terms. I am trying to sound more winterish. There’s no snow, yet, in my area, but the bitter bleakness remains. I should change my voicemail to that “Hello, you’ve reached the winter of my discontent” thing from Reality Bites. Or I could listen to less doom metal while it’s totally cold and bleak outside. But it seems like the best time to listen to doom metal! And I just found out the singer dude from Finntroll (not doom metal at all) is cute and that made me nearly happy. Damn, I am rambling. I guess in this vein of trailing off I could mention that the purchase I’m happiest about lately is the game Cards Against Humanity. It’s free to download if you don’t feel like buying it. Damnit, Jerry!

7. Why are so many people looking for this? : son of rosemary incestuous

What kind of a world do we live in? Why can’t people just search for random incest? I mean, it’s on Game of Thrones, not just in these old tomes from the 1990s. Son of Rosemary…is the worst

Are Jon Snow and Daenarys Targaryen related? I hope not.

I originally wanted that review to be only two words: Shit Sandwich. And I loved The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby so I felt really guilty about how much I hated Son of Rosemary. It just sucked so hard. And it’s hard to see good writers write shit sandwiches. That’s why Pammy is hiding.

8. Amusing terms: guinea pigs named Lois

I wonder how many guinea pigs named Lois there are? I don’t have any, the only Lois here is Lois Duncan: Twisted Window , Lost in Time

Who watches Ozymandias? Will anyone keep from his detonating his Doomsday device? I watch him,  but I wouldn't.

Maybe in his previous home, Ozymandias was named Lois. Probably not.

9. Things I hope don’t exist: ebook on taxidermy of guinea pigs

I’ve never thought about having my pigs freeze dried or stuffed. Mostly because the idea of having their glares become lifeless and frozen in time is a little too much. Also, taxidermy has not progressed to the point where the adorable snout and ears of the guinea pig can be preserved exactly as they are, forever. I don’t think an ebook is going to help that.

Why specifically an ebook? It’s hard enough to find physical books on guinea pigs and you’d think a squirrel mold would probably work.

Twiglet – Not meant for stuffing.

10. Not on my watch, son: guinea pig rat cross

I have heard terrifying tales of escaped hamsters mating with mice and producing offspring. I have never heard about that happening with guinea pigs and rats and I never want to hear about that happening. It just makes me think of the Fly. And the Fly II.

Thaddeus and Pammy, so fresh and so clean clean

Thaddeus tells Pammy it will never happen. Just like he hopes his next bath will never happen.

11. Self-indulgent edition: captain sparkles

Next year, I will be putting up the sequel to Night of the Squirrels: Dawn of the Interns on Amazon. The sequel is called Day of the Robots. The character that I have nicknamed Captain Sparkles appears in both books and will also be included in the conclusion to the Night of the Squirrels trilogy: Night of the Squirrels. It is always darkest before the dawn. Anyway, I reviewed Nightlight , the Twilight parody book by the Harvard Lampoon people and utilized that nickname (which is also in my book in the spirit of Twilight parody, but there are no vampires in Night of the Squirrels, despite what that visiting Canadian writer decided in workshop, not bitter, there are also no particularly forlorn romances, just funny bad things happening, good grief this is a long aside) in the title of that review.

The main characters are people! They’re people! (to be said like you’re talking about Soylent Green)

Pickles is on the cover because she’s a clue that the content is kind of unexpected in a variety of ways. And she’s so cute.

Night of the Squirrels: Dawn of the Interns – a slightly more thorough explanation

Night of the Squirrels: Dawn of the Interns – purchasable

12.  High concept spelling issues: ginny pigs ghost hunter

So I started a series of paintings and silkscreens about this very issue… I also had Ginny dolls as a child. It’s like this person is psychic. Anyway, the first time I included the concept was in a painting for Mr. Cheese that is somewhat visible in some of my photos – Thaddeus and Pammy take over for the Ghostfacers from Supernatural investigating the Murder House from American Horror Story. Danger Crumples is their intern, kicking the pink flamingo from the Electric Six song. It’s basically the only area you can see behind Ozymandias besides Belvedere being Ryan Gosling from Drive and the bottom of Pickles dressed up as Constance from AHS standing on the end of the Chevy from Drive Angry.

Discussing my artwork in this capacity reminds me of the Maria Bamford bit about taking art classes from Wizard. “The last time I saw that look… Ojai, ’74.”

Are there ghosts behind this pumpkin? This chair is known to be haunted .

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Filed under Books, Dawn of the Interns, Day of the Robots, Night of the Squirrels, Writing

So, kidnapping was like a theme in the 80s, Lois and Norma?

24. Taking Terri Mueller – Norma Fox Mazer

Norma Fox Mazer is another heavyweight of the painted covers young adult era. While the graphic design possibilities have “improved” over time, a cover with a painting on it still appeals much more to me. Taking Terri Mueller’s 1981 Flare edition (seriously, it’s a Flare Original Novel) features the same cover subject matter as many YA novels about girls – a girl. However, in this case, she’s not staring blankly out into the ether. She’s using a payphone. And she’s not wearing some lengthy flouncy dress (not that there’s anything wrong with that in period novels or novels that are bottle episodes taking place at prom or maybe homecoming) and isn’t just a cut off head, again, staring blankly, she’s concentrating on the phone. Both hands are on the receiver, she’s wearing seventies colors including an awesome puffy green vest like my grandpa’s and jeans. Because running around a lot and avoiding your foes requires pants to be most effective. And, hey, another landline! That’s right, I’m a little overly excited about non-smart-phones. Get off my lawn.

Perhaps I should discuss the content of the book in my review, seems pertinent. Terri lives with her dead in a neverending state of flux. They move every six months, apparently her dad looks good in jeans so he finds ladies to replace Terri’s mother – but not in the “this is your new mom now” sort of way, they have a dog named Barkley, and they have failed at having guinea pigs.

Terri’s dad thinks guinea pigs are “dumb” because of the noises they make. The eponymous wheek. Well, screw that guy. Terri said they “weren’t very interesting pets” (p. 20) … and felt bad about getting rid of them. She was also incapable of separating them by sex after one had babies and was inclined to think that they may have more babies. Seriously, it’s not that hard to separate guinea pigs by sex after they are old enough to be purchased or adopted from the roadside. I cannot tell you how many times my male guinea pigs have made it extremely clear with their giant fuzzy balls and consistent rumble strutting that they are male. Belvedere started rumble strutting when he was like eighteen days old, it was a little disturbing since his voice was so highly pitched. Also, he was hitting on his mom. Creepy. Anyway, many people make assumptions about guinea pigs, like that they breed quickly. A sixty to seventy day gestation period is not quickly in the rodent kingdom. Murderface’s gestation was seventy-two days. In case anyone’s wondering, I did not breed her on purpose and she only had one set of babies, who never had babies or fathered any babies (Sorry, Bel). The gestation period of a rabbit is about thirty days. Thirty. That’s quick.

So, Terri’s thirteen and was not a competent guinea pig owner, but she does have questions. Questions about her mother. She wants a stable home life and to stay in the same school for a while – she has a crush named George and a new friend Shaundra! Terri is as confused and anxious as any teen would be after breaking in to her dad’s lockbox and finding a divorce certificate. It should be hard to divorce dead people, I mean, I’ve never tried, so I don’t rightly know, but…

Murderface’s voice was like the softly tinkling bells of constant judgment. So cute. And aristocratic.

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I wonder if Suze ever wandered down to the Murder House, they needed some exorcising…and less decorating.

6. The Mediator: Shadowland – Meg Cabot

These books are a very good mid-point between Buffy and chicklit. My impression of Meg Cabot has always been that she writes books that appeal to your traditional girly-girl, and I’m still pretty sure she does. These are the only books of hers that I have read, and I read them because they added something that usually appeals to me – ghosts. And they are very teen, there’s slightly forbidden romance, and Suze Simon is a very teen-girl character, she’s from New York, she moves to California, she judges everyone for wearing pastel colors, she worries about her fashions, and she tends to lost souls. One thing I have to say that I appreciate quite a bit in these books is that Cabot does not lose the family dynamic. Suze is a teenager, she has to live with her now blended family, she has to deal with rules and consequences that normal supernaturally inclined characters don’t have to deal with because they’re orphans or abandoned by their dad or they run away because of their calling, etc. etc. It is important to demonstrate how a character such as Suze can function in a real life context, obviously, she gets in trouble a lot. But, being grounded has its perks in Suze’s case, in the form of a house ghost named Jesse.

Anyway, in Shadowland the series kicks off with a poltergeist and a very normal teenager conflict – Suze stole this ghost’s former boyfriend. What a bitch. So the poltergeist tries to kill both her ex-boyfriend and Suze and Suze gets in trouble because her mentor-mediator Father Dominic would rather she tried the gentle approach when dealing with ghosts, encourage them to move on instead of straight-up exorcise them. But whatever works.

I made Pammy move this one time, and she did move in with Thaddeus, but they received a little house and a little bridge to hide under so no harm was done.

7. Ninth Key

The second entry in the Mediator series mixes Buffy with a little Veronica Mars. Rich people doing scandalous things, trying to trap young Nancy Drew-types inside their blazing inferno estates, Nancy Drew-types kissing the wrong boys and letting ghosts interrupt them, etc. My one real qualm with this series is that it really feels like one book with small asides. I guess Suze is, like, learning things about herself along the way and young people have short attention spans, but this was published in 2001 when Harry Potter and books the size of doorstops were totally possible. Maybe just not for girls, who were still expected to be learning to cook and doing their daily exercises of embroidery – or was that the seventeenth century? In our modern political climate, I sometimes get the centuries confused.

Pammy caught this goat all on her own in between fending off her suitors, of which there will always be many.

8. Darkest Hour

So, as usual I read this series out of order. Some jerky real teenager was reading book three when I needed to read it and so I had to put it on hold at the library and wait. Ergh. Anyway, the story had certainly moved along in this fourth book and Jesse the house ghost took on a much bigger role than cute dead dude. You know, there are times when I wish these books had taken place in San Dimas, California. San Dimas High School football rules! Anyway again, it seems that the house ghost/cute dead dude had an evil fiancee. Highjinks ensue and before you can say “Deacon, you ditched Napoleon?” everybody’s a mediator and/or dead. Well, deadish, as in for a time. Some people stay dead. Mostly the previously dead ones. Ghosts, eh? What’re you going to do?

Pammy narrowly avoids a kiss from Thaddeus, who is not an evil ugly dude. He has also never ditched Napoleon at a water park.

9. Haunted

Boyfriend fight! Well, one potential boyfriend and one creepy extortionist boy that’s not really a friend fight. Did you know that ghosts can punch you in the face? I bet there are several people who know that, and one of them lives in Las Vegas and spends a lot of time on his hair. As I mentioned previously, these books feel like one big book and that becomes much more apparent once the “real” storyline starts to pick up speed in book four. I do not recommend reading these without getting your hands on all of them simultaneously…which is more possible now that they’re being republished as multi-book editions – at least the first two books have been re-published that way, with a less colorful cover. It’s one of those “oh look there’s some random girl on the cover of this young adult book” sort of covers. At least her back is turned, showin’ some intrigue.

What? There’s a young adult cover without some photograph of a girl’s face looking serious on it? Published within the last five years? Blasphemy! Surely it is an abomination.

10. Twilight

The last one in the series involves time travel. Because that’s how supernatural ghost-exorcising powers evolve. Duh. But no phone booths. And it works out the way it needs to in order to be a teenager romance without a vampire involved.

Pammy is trying to time travel by hiding under this pillow. It may work at some point.

11. Reunion

So in the fourth book in the series Suze tries out a plot line that was later somewhat co-opted by American Horror Story and lets some previously murdered teenagers attempt to get their revenge on their still deranged killer. This is also the book where the main story arc kicks off. And I read it last.

So this one time, Pammy and Twiglet were on top of the pillow and it still didn’t work as a time travel device. A cuddling space, definitely, but no time travel.

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