Tag Archives: Ozma

“Hey, it’s Randy. We’ve got until tomorrow morning to sacrifice Stephen to the devil.”

71. Living with the Dead – Kelley Armstrong

You know, I’m not sure that Hope and Karl can really carry a story. Hope’s a demon who has a hard time controlling her massive powers and Karl is a werewolf slash jewel thief (sometimes) that loves that demon. Karl didn’t really pop out much to me in the other werewolf stories, so his whole near-redemption situation wasn’t all that intriguing. I think maybe Armstrong knows that not all the characters really deserve their own book length work, but still wanted to use these two, and so she stuck them in with some other narrators in Living with the Dead. The result is a bit of a mess. The plot’s fine, a little involved considering that this is book nine in the Otherworld series and the reader is only familiar with a couple of the characters already – and vaguely familiar at that. Robyn, Hope’s friend that doesn’t know she’s a demon, who also has a dead husband who was – surprise! – a necromancer, starts finding lots of dead people around her. And not in a Sixth Sense way, in a “you must be the killer, you’re around” way. Oh, those supernatural crimes inspire the best police work. Well, this one kind of does once Robyn’s dead husband starts helping Finn, another new narrator.

Sometimes you read books in a series to have read the whole series…and if Armstrong’s writing wasn’t so easy to glide through, I might’ve skipped this one.

Ozma looks for a story with more dynamic narrators on the other side of the couch. The cooler werewolves are not back there, little Oz, I’m sorry.

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There are an awful lot of stakes raised here for a book that didn’t involve many vampires.

65. Wolfman Confidential – Justin Robinson

Things are getting a lot darker in the City of Devils. It would stand to reason that any story involving more of the mobster and cop elements of the adventures of Nick Moss would be on the more serious side – even if those mobsters are a sidhe, the girl version of Krang from Ninja Turtles, and a germaphobe.

At first I was a little nervous about the amount of new characters that continued to pop up and have things resolved throughout the novel. That nerviness turned out to be unfounded by the end, thankfully, as the characters circled back around or their involvement in the main plot became clear. It’s so important in a series with a world as unusual and detailed as this one to not just mention some new person or location or thing solely for its own sake and Robinson manages to keep the newness and revealed relevance fun throughout. There are a lot of weird and wonderful set pieces with a ghost gang’s lair, goblins, a phantom and his young protégé, and – unexpectedly – people.

I have to say, though, my favorite scene involved the familiar monsters who hang out at Nick’s house every night trying to get him to let them turn him. Nick basically giving story-time to Sam, Mira, and Lurkimer made for a good moment of grounding in a very action packed story.

Ozma is waiting for Pere to tell her stories about her own version of the Night War.

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“Only the ghosts in this house are glad we’re here.”

34. October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween – Richard Chizmar & Robert Morrish, eds.

October is one of the months that I always wish I could take entirely off my day job – at least, pre-climate change. Now it usually has a crappy hot week and some not really all that fallesque weeks and way less of what I expect – not enough crisp air and insect and plant death to make my allergies just a bit easier to manage. Also, it should come as no surprise that Halloween is my favorite holiday. I may have even mentioned that before on here. I’m not sure, but it’s still my favorite holiday.

It’s also the month when I adopted Horace, the heart of my herd and the sweetest guinea pig. He was so excited to find out there were other guinea pigs in my house when I brought him home that he didn’t stop vocalizing for half an hour. It was the best. Although I did not get him on Halloween, it was close, October 24th, and so essentially, adopting him is one of my favorite Halloween-adjacent memories.

October Dreams has an interesting structure. It goes back and forth between short stories and “My Favorite Halloween Memory” segments from horror authors. Some of the memories are better than the stories as they truly give a picture of Halloween and they really break up the experience of reading this 660 page long collection. I’m not going to discuss them further beyond saying that they are the full size Snickers of the reading experience.

You could say that Horace is the full size Snickers of guinea pigs. He was a big pig and incredibly sweet.

Dean Koontz – “The Black Pumpkin” – Once again I found myself really enjoying the work of Dean Koontz. A kid buys a super gnarly pumpkin from a super gnarly man despite his reservations and because of some taunting from his jackass brother; and it, well, had the exact ending I expected.

Poppy Z. Brite – “Lantern Marsh” – Before the immense life changes, and really, still after, you could always count on the swampy and mysterious to work their way into a Brite story. This is no exception and plays a little off the weirdness of coming home and reacting to how your hometown doesn’t stay frozen just because you left.

Thomas Ligotti – “Conversations in a Dead Language” – An off-kilter selection covering the ins and outs of handing out candy.

Thomas F. Monteleone – “Yesterday’s Child” – This one had great atmosphere and some creepery to go with.

Peregrine is creeping up on Horace who thinks he’s creeping up on that pumpkin. This herd can handle some creepery.

Simon Clark – “The Whitby Experience” – A vacation gone wrong in the best way. Misty…confusing…pizza gets burned – they’re going to have a bad time.

Ray Bradbury – “In-Between, A Halloween Poem” – It’s a poem. I’m fine with poems. Poems about Halloween are fine.

Jack Ketchum – “Gone” – Sometimes it seems like letting strangers knock on your door for candy really is opening yourself up to psychological punishment. Especially if you’ve lost a child that you’ll never see through the opposite end of the experiment.

Gahan Wilson – “Yesterday’s Witch” – This was just cute.

Paula Guran – “A Short History of Halloween” – Non-fiction interlude! I appreciated this because, to a librarian, there are no celebrations of anything without helpful, verified information.

Horace runs from my nerdery. He did not want to know the illustrious history of pumpkin photoshoots.

John Shirley – “Mask Game” – Family conflicts played out without those helpful puppets you see in movies with family counseling scenes sometimes. The classic example being What About Bob? This story also reminded me of all those times on Supernatural when young people inadvertently summoned old gods or goddesses.

David B. Silva – “Out of the Dark” – It’s always good to be nice to that immortal entity you trapped in a trunk.

Ray Bradbury – “Heavy Set” – I did not expect this kind of a story from Ray Bradbury, I really don’t associate him with assholes who lift weights in their mom’s yard.

Richard Laymon – “Boo” – An interesting twist on the “Bet you can’t go up on the creepy porch” story. He added stalking.

Douglas E. Winter – “Masks” – My strongest anxious memories are about waiting. So this story was very effective for me.

Horace is waiting for me to stop taking pictures so he doesn’t have to establish a new residence atop this pumpkin.

Caitlin R. Kiernan – “A Redress for Andromeda” – I read this story previously in a different collection of hers and I have to say it’s a bit more to my taste than most of her work. A little more plot and less reliance on atmosphere to carry everything.

Lewis Shiner – “The Circle” – One hell of a time travel tale. It also involved those super awkward feelings that happen when you tried to get all your friends to like your new boyfriend and he sucked and then you broke up. Tail between legs.

Gary A. Braunbeck – ” ‘First of All, It Was October…’ An Overview of Halloween Films” – Non-fiction interlude two! This was a great list. But I do not agree about Ernest Scared Stupid. I was in fact scared stupid by that movie. Some of us are scared of trolls. And rolling over to find one in your bed is just well, let’s just say it kept me up at night for years, despite the overall stupidity of the whole enterprise.

This one time I made Horace come with me to investigate whether or not something else that scared me stupid was still in the basement. It was. Horace was a valiant pig, he totally helped me be less terrified.

Tim Lebbon – “Pay the Ghost” – Very reminiscent of True Crime. Loss, weird journeys, pits full of dead things.

F. Paul Wilson – “Buckets” – One time I was grading this beginner college course on philosophy. It actually didn’t really fit my idea of “philosophy,” but anyway, one assignment was an argumentative paper. A student turned in a paper full of the images that anti-abortion zealots use on their posters, images of bloody fetuses and about one page saying she wasn’t a fan of abortion in the least objective terms possible. That was a fail and from my perspective, so was this story.

Stephen Mark Rainey – “Orchestra” – This was an unexpectedly clever story. It was interesting to see old dude pro musicians as the protagonists and it does not have a nice ending.

Charles L. Grant – “Eyes” – Another disturbing story. Damn, dude. The things some people do for their kids.

Horace and Peregrine took a long time to be proper friends. Horace would’ve done a lot for her, including endure many sharp nips until she let him skritch her chin with his face.

Dominick Cancilla – “Deathmask” – Super creepy teenager and mom paranoia story. I really enjoyed this one.

Michael Marshall Smith – “Some Witch’s Bed” – “He will never forget her” – you’re damn right.

Ramsey Campbell – “The Trick” – Not a very nice story at all. There’s a dog involved, just a warning for those of you who want to be warned about that sort of thing.

Peter Straub – “Porkpie Hat” – So, I have to admit that whenever anyone mentions jazz I immediately think of white middle aged men snapping their fingers and trying to seem cool in record stores. I also think “Just play the right notes!” and I can’t even remember where that quote came from anymore. However, Straub managed to suck me in by saying Hat, the main character, was from Mississippi. Fine. We’ll see what you do with it, man. We’ll see. Of course, this is a Mississippi I do not know, one that feels closer in kin to Joe Lansdale’s East Texas than my Hattiesburg, I’m also, like, way younger than the characters, so, that has an effect. Anyway, it was a really solid, image-invoking, page turner of a story. Thankfully, not too much jazz description had to be endured.

Horace had his MA in telling stories to ladypigs.

Stefan Dziemianowicz – “Trick-or-Read, A Reader’s Guide to Halloween Fiction” – Non-fiction informational interlude number three! SO helpful. I loved this list because it allowed me to check things off and to find new books.

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“Kind of an extreme reaction to not being invited to the party. Don’t you think?”

6. The Cemetery – D.E. Athkins

Oh, Deathkins. Your characters are some doozies, especially in this one where there were so many of them I can’t even remember who is who and I totally read this in this, the year of my herd 2018. Recently I was re-watching the He Man and She Ra movie while painting (Classy. Artist. Me.) and I noticed that everyone kept repeating their relationships to each other – “This is Angella, she’s my mother.” “Let’s save Glimmer’s mother, Queen Angella.” “I wonder what my former pupil, Skeletor, is up to.” “Hello, Skeletor, my former pupil.” “Suck it, Hordak, the teacher who abandoned me.” I may be paraphrasing in that last one, but it was annoying there and would be useful here. There are way too many people in The Cemetery. And Cyndi, the most memorable one, likes “to push people.” She’s rich and bitchy. Her name is perfect. She planned a Hallowe’en party in a cemetery – The cemetery – and then some dude makes the mistake of dying during it. So you could say Cyndi pushed him – put on sunglasses – to death. YEEEAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Okay, maybe it’s not really CSI: Miami quality, but, there’s a possibility that it is. Anyway, so, death, then some more death, and some supernatural stuff and I really thought that it was just going to be a murderous groundskeeper who is tired of those damn kids stomping around in his eroding hilltop cemetery during their oh-so-spooky parties but…it wasn’t.

Finny never gets invited to Ozma’s parties in the cemetery. She doesn’t think he’s serious enough for hide and seek. Someday he will have his revenge.

Mixtape:

1. “Within the Wall of Tress” – Wolfmen of Mars
2. “Aldhissla” – Finntroll
3. “Lady Velvet” – Devil Electric
4. “Loss of Feeling of Loss” – Pinkish Black
5. “It’s Not Cranberry Sauce” – All of Them Witches
6. “Prisoners” – King Dude
7. “The Doom that Came to Marble Town” – Espectrostatic
8. “Kiss of the Broken Bottle” – Wolfmen of Mars
9. “The Number of the Beast” – Electric Six
10. “Archangel (Samhain cover)” – Beastmaker
11. “Bloody Revenge” – Terrortron
12. “Nocturnal Me” – Echo & the Bunnymen
13. “Living for the Grave” – Brass Hearse
14. “The Delirium of Negation” – Espectrostatic
15. “Once-Over” – Terrortron

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Art Intrusion #D06: “Road Worrier” edition

The traveling art show continues!! Next up GeekCraft Expo in St. Louis! It’s tomorrow!

I’m tempted to do that “Picnic game” they did on one of Daria’s best episodes, “Road Worrier,” only I’m not going to Alternapalooza, I’m going to GeekCraft Expo and I’m bringing…

Asbestos insulation, brine shrimp, the cryogencially frozen head of Walt Disney, a dromedary, a Eurocentric view of world history, and…

Finny as Samurai Finny with actual Finny! (Actual Finny will not be present. He’s not used to being around very many people, plus, not allowed.)

 

Daria, Jane, Trent, and Jesse did not get past “E” so now we’re in the clear and can skip to “I” for “iPiggie”

Ozma takes out one of my Liv Funko Pops in order to assert her dominance as the Liv in iPiggie – it’s a painting and a postcard.

 

Of course, now we skip from “I” to “P” for Porgegrine, available on posters and stickers and postcards so you can share the inspiration that a guinea pig Valkyrie can bring.

Some grumpy little icons.

 

GeekCraft Expo St. Louis is July 28&29 in the Grant Gym at Webster University. On Saturday it runs 10-5 and Sunday 10-4. Many hours to pick up something from me, the only person who ever has guinea pig art at these shows. It’s my niche and I’m sticking to it.

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Mostly pictures of my pigs trying not to be in pictures with art I’m bringing to SUPERCON…

Have I mentioned that I’m going to be at SUPERCON? A few times? Well, here’s one more mention featuring works I’m actually bringing with me (unless something terrible and luggage related happens, then I’ll basically just have posters and postcards and two paintings):

First off, we have Pere-Barb, from my set of Stranger Things parodies, Danger Things. Peregrine does not want to be seen with Pere-Barb, I guess she doesn’t like her jacket.

 

Salem, like most guinea pigs, does not want to look at me the same way he looks in the painting. He’s following in the footsteps of greatness by being uncooperative. Also, for some reason this is hard to find on Threadless, so here’s a link. Real Guineas.

 

Brand new – Herdin’ 2 Electric Pigaloo, just in time if you need inspiration to save a community center of your very own! Ozma is running away from the responsibility. Running away – to Paris. Always go to Paris.

 

Pere is proud enough of her criminal empire to be photographed with the posters that you can ONLY get from me in person. Only. I’ll have them in my jacket.

 

And finally, these are most of the blind paintings that I will have. Now there are way more guinea pigs than skulls! (I do love skulls, there will be more skulls.) They are wrapped up and I have no idea which one is which because I was not in the room while they were wrapped. Each one is $5 and based on a Nancy Drew end paper. They’re literary. Like me and possibly you.

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Art Intrusion #Q8

There are only SEVEN days until SUPERCON!                    !

My booth number is Q8. I will have things I painted and printed with my human hands and some of them are very new.

Like Salem. He’s really new.

Here’s Salem, with Ozma’s nose and Finny’s feet covered in popcorn. The first 80s movie he and I watched together was Real Genius. I adopted Salem to raise him right. Someday he’ll invent a laser that fills a house with popcorn. Someday.

 

I did more blind paintings – and more of them feature guinea pigs than they used to! And I have posters, postcards, stickers, tea towels, silkscreen prints with mistakes, silkscreen prints without mistakes, and of course actual paintings.

 

Of course, if you can’t come to SUPERCON which is in seven days, July 12-15… I have another deal for you – Threadless is offering free shipping on orders of $45 or more through July 19th, just use code: FREESHIP71844b112

I have added several images that will never be available anywhere but online, and the one of Ozma is totally available on a shower curtain. She’s the only guinea pig shower curtain I’m currently offering. She’s really cute.

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“Oh! Fuck the fuchsia it’s Friday!”

13. The Mall – Richie Tankersley Cusick

Trish is working in the mall at Muffin Mania, it’s very Fast Times as she’s flirting across the food court (you can call it “The Eatery” all you want, we all know what it really is) with Storm at Pizza Park. Storm Reynolds isn’t who he says he is. He’s not a porn star as his name would imply, but he’s not who he seems and for some reason he continually clamps Trish’s arms and steers her places. Very controlling behavior-preview, Storm. He also drives too fast.

Trish has two friends, which keeps the focus on a few characters – her, Nita her shoppin’ friend that works in a clothing store, and Nita’s twin Imogene who works in the bookstore and wears…Glasses!…clearly she will never die. She also has a total bitch for a boss, Bethany, who sucks at communication and controlling the bustling atmosphere of Muffin Mania.

The other male characters are both weird and/or quirky. Wyatt, who speaks in riddles and wears a jean jacket with the sleeves cut off, totally sparks Imogene’s interest and therefore Nita’s, so she goes all 80s movie villain girl and tries to get his attention. He actually reminds me a little bit of the only person named Wyatt I know, except for the jean jacket thing.

The real villain of the piece goes a little bit more 70s giallo in his approach to stalking teenage girls – I couldn’t help but picture him with black gloves at all times. He hides in the mall and wears a series of disguises to keep his eyes on Trish at all times. His introduction is asking her for a honey muffin, later telling her boss he hit her car and she needs to come look at it, then when she gets outside and finds nothing happened to her car he calls on the payphone next to it and when Trish picks up he tells her the honey muffin tasted like her – Ew. – and ratchets up the creepery, staring, and random disguises from there. Ratchets up to kidnapping and ice pick murder, even.

If Trish would’ve just stayed in Kyle Kinane’s joke and never left that birthday party at Benihana, none of this would’ve happened. She would’ve had a choo-choo train made of onions instead.

Sure that hairy-armed guy in the gloves seems to be just nicely walking his fingers around, Ozma, but don’t take him up on his offer to pay your ballet school tuition.

Mixtape:

1. “Silently Stalking” – All of Them Witches
2. “Shadowman” – Devil Electric
3. “You Are the One” – A Place to Bury Strangers
4. “Don’t Let It In” – Wolfmen of Mars
5. “Bounce House Demons” – Chelsea Wolfe
6. “X” – Brass Hearse
7. “The Fear” – Pulp
8. “Venus in Furs” – Electric Wizard
9. “In Death (I’ll Love You More)” – Brass Hearse
10. “When I Was Bleedin'” – Dax Riggs
11. “If the Coffin’s Rockin’, Don’t Come Knockin'” – Terrortron
12. “Jam It in the Hole” – Electric Six
13. “Unflattering Lights” – Wolfmen of Mars
14. “Ur Djupet (Out of the Depths)” – Finntroll
15. “1985” – Kvelertak

Art Intrusion #485 – I have a Threadless store now!! It’s in progress, but it exists! The images are relatively large!
Threadless

Art Intrusion #486 – The newest item on both my New Threadless store and my Forever Redbubble store where you can totally buy stickers (!) is a Bi Pride flag I designed for a friend of mine who needed a Pride flag to reflect her love of red (and I, as a printmaker, recognized that process red aka magenta is actually already part of the bi flag so I whipped this idea up and printed it post haste because I love printing in process red and doing special images for my friends). It turned out pretty cute and I totally made her a tea towel so she can have this little binicorn in her kitchen reminding her what month it is now and to always be proud. Then I printed a more-magenta version to share with anyone who wants one to add to their own lovely flag collection. Happy Pride!

Bi Pride - RachelESmith

The Binicorn, waving proudly in the breeze.

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Cult cookies.

7. Waking the Witch – Kelley Armstrong

I read the Otherworld series in a very random order, and this was the first witch-focused book I read. I didn’t know Savannah’s back-story from Stolen and I definitely recommend reading that before reading this one. It would’ve been nice to have some frame of reference for how Armstrong deals with witchcraft before reading Waking the Witch. Armstrong has a lot of characters in her Otherworld series, so even the minimal summaries left me a little lost because I hadn’t at least read Stolen. I can also tell you that my “review” of Stolen will not help you. No it won’t.

Savannah is a likeable protagonist and she’s headstrong but manages to be fun to follow along with as she tries to solve some witchcraft-adjacent murders in a small town. She has good investigative skills (and now I know how she learned them, now, so much later) but still acts like the twenty-one-year-old she’s supposed to be and that was an improvement over Armstrong’s YA work for me, where it felt like she was consistently talking down to the audience. So now I know she can represent slightly-above-youth youths without being patronizing.

Ozma: Plucky, ready for action. Peregrine: Sleepy, ready to send Ozma into the fray.

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“Is that a guy following us with a knife? Maybe it’s a chupacabra.” (Kyle Kinane)

83. Tales of the Otherworld – Kelley Armstrong

In the introduction to this collection, Armstrong mentions that although she put these stories up on her website for free essentially as a thank you to her readers, they were still consistently pursuing her to publish them traditionally…which is one fun aspect of the great ebook debate. Currently at the university I work for, they mention repeatedly that the ebooks they’ve bought are being used. In the department I work for, if you let a patron know we already own a book in eform, they send you an email saying they want a copy they can hold in their hands. It’s an ouroboros. Armstrong’s solution to feeling like she had to sell something she was trying to give away on purpose was to make it a charitable endeavor and to add a new story – a lovely compromise. Tales is the second volume of previously free tales and although the other collection dealt exclusively with the male werewolves in her oeuvre, this volume still deals with some of werewolves, thankfully.

My “reward” for my readers involves these adorable photos of my guinea pigs. Look how free and adorable Ozma is. Freely enjoy

“Bewitched” – After Elena, my second favorite character of Armstrong’s Otherworld is Eve Levine. She’s a witch, so my favor surprised me because I really enjoy her werewolf stories more than any others, but she’s an ornery witch. “Bewitched” is the new, non-already free story in this collection and it’s about her relationship with Kristof Nast, the before-time of Savannah’s story. Yay!

“Birthright” – Logan’s introduction to his pack, of course, he didn’t even know he was a werewolf…oh, those absentee dads. He comes to Stonehaven and tells Clay he looks like he’s in a frat. I like Logan, he was much more levelheaded than some of the other wolves and so it’s nice to get a few more snippets of his character.

Ozma is pretty sure her birthright involves not being stuck on a couch with Horace and Peregrine. She’s not wrong.

“Beginnings” – I thought this was also the title of that two part Buffy finale where she has sex with Angel and he goes evil-Angelus. That’s “Becomings,” but in Googling to double check myself, I found that there’s some Buffy fan-fiction called “Beginnings;” I forget about fan-fiction sometimes… Moving on, it would have been a nice coincidence that both this story of Elena and Clay meeting and Buffy and Angel falling apart would be called the same thing, but they’re not, so… Moving on again. Elena struggling for money in college and being underestimated and antagonized by Clay at first is quite fun to read. It also really grounds Clay in his anthropological background, which always seems like it might be a put-on when reading some of the books. It’s there, mentioned randomly, but as someone who has studied both art and anthropology sometimes it feels like when they make Tara Reid a scientist in a horror movie. The words are there, but do they understand them? Having Clay act like that toward Elena proved to me that he is a solid visiting faculty member at a university. Throw in a scene of finding a book they said they lost a year ago in their office and calling the library to ask that they be reimbursed for the bill and it would be complete.

“Just bring your books back, Finny!” Ozma, as a librarian.

“Wedding Bell Hell” – Paige and Lucas get married. It’s like a reunion of all kinds of fun characters and a little mixed up but positive and that’s how Paige always seems to me anyway.

“The Case of El Chupacabra” – I never really expected Armstrong to branch into mentioning Chupacabras. Ever. They seem far too far south for her Canadian characters, but then again, there’s some stories in Miami, but it’s still weird to see Mexican goat suckers involved in one of her stories. I mean, it’s not really there, but, still. Weird. This one is a case for Paige and Lucas and of course gets in to all the Cortez Cabal intrigue and those aspects of the Otherworld have always bored me. I’m just not super into corporate/mobster/overly powerful dudes in suits doing shitty things or Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate-ing. I would’ve been happier if a real Chupacabra was in charge, which is why I keep capitalizing that word when I don’t think I need to.

Ozma escapes the plastic alligator skull, the closest thing I have to a chupacabra.

 

 

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