Archive of ‘horror’ category

16 Things I Loved In 2016

loveLet’s face it. There was not much to love about 2016. We watched as our beautiful, beloved dreams died one, by one. Whether it was our star men, our poet-bards, our very first motorcycle-riding, purple velvet wearing crushes, our hopes for a magnificent female president, or at least president who isn’t completely bat-shit bonkers, and as of when I began writing this– the loss of my beloved rebel princess, my very first role model–2016 was devastating in so many ways, and saw the end of so many wonderful things.

And so I look to the little things. The sweetness that lightened the burden. The small discoveries that made life easier, or little luxuries that eased a horrible day, a terrible month, or a no good, very bad year.

In no particular order, and for these reasons, here are 16 things I loved in 2016.
(Curious about my picks for previous years? Here’s 2015 & 2014)

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Christian Louboutin Nail Polish. Now someone will say to me, “Really, Sarah?”  A $50 nail polish?” And yes, I will agree, that’s pretty ridiculous. But the bottle is gorgeous, and the wand is the perfect petite height for my small hands (the stiletto lid is deceiving) and this is absolutely high quality lacquer, very long wearing. I mean, I guess it is. I knit and wash dishes and read books and type and use my hands a lot, and 2 coats lasts me a week without chipping. That’s pretty great, right? I wear it almost exclusively.

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Tom Ford Oud Wood Shower Gel. Yeah, so…if you weren’t keen on the thought of a $50 nail polish, you are probably not going to get on board with a $67 bottle of body wash. But this one smells like woods and incense and secret forest temples and is an utter treat. It is my secret weapon in the constant battle of “ugggghh…do I really have to shower today?”

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Diptyque Baies candle. I first sniffed this stunningly gorgeous candle whilst shopping at Uncommon Objects in Austin. They had it burning on a counter top near the entrance and I was so enthralled with the fragrant wafts drifting throughout the store that I had actually ordered the candle on my phone on amazon before I made a purchase from the shop I was actually in. Rude! I’m sorry, but I really had to have it. I was so surprised when I read the description for Baies: “a luscious blend of black-currant leaves and Bulgarian roses”. Usually these are not smells that I want anything to do with! But somehow this combines for a strikingly elegant scented object, a sort of woody-musky-green fragrance, that I never ever want to be without.

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Owl Moon bloodmilk X Black Phoenix Alchemy collabroative fragrance. From chapter one of bloodmilk’s sister shop, Exquisite Corpse, this is an exquisite, unique scent experience that literally sets my teeth on edge, but sometimes I need that very sort of fearsome inspiration and motivation. With notes described as “dark, rooty, sweet patchouli swirled with honey,” Owl Moon opens with the blackest, earthiest patchouli (before learning of the notes, I actually thought it was vetiver!) and calls to mind cool, moist soil at the base of a pine tree through which all of the busy little night creatures slither and crawl, the pale, ghostly light of the moon glinting off their scales and wings. A yellow-eyed owl, perched overhead, meditates briefly before silently embarking on his nightly hunt; the sour, screechy scent of his nest, littered with rodent bones and pellets, serves as a warning nearby.  This is the fragrance of potent night magics, rich and ripe with darkness and feral mysticism. The sharpness of the patchouli streaked with high-pitched honey combine to form an aura that is both graceful and grotesque, sacred and profane. If all of that reads familiar to you, this is exactly what I have written about Owl Moon before, elsewhere, but it’s not plagiarizing if it’s your own words, right?

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Hurraw lip balms. Several people mentioned these lip balms in passing this year, but I pooh-poohed them because I thought the name was dumb. Well, turns out I am an idiot. These are amazing. Vegan, organic, fair trade, all of the buzzwords that are bandied about, yes all of those things, but they are also smooth, and not at all draggy or grainy or melty or overly smelly, AND they have options that are not mint or fruit. Also, they are about $15 less than my previous favorite lipbalm, so Hurraw, despite the stupid name, is a win.

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Zenmed Anti-Redness Rosacea Treatment. I self-diagnosed myself with rosacea earlier this month, after noticing and freaking out over the course of the year fluctuations and flare-ups of redness and stinging on my face. Based on some suggestions from friends I tried this particular set of products from Zenmed and my face cleared up overnight. That is not an exaggeration or embellishment. It literally cleared up over night. (I also stopped drinking coffee and started taking omega-3s, but I really do think it was this thing in particular that did the trick.) I cannot recommend it highly enough.

And speaking of coffee. I would be remiss in not mentioning cold brew coffee on my list. Any kind, but especially the pre-made stuff in the bottle that you buy at the store. It was a lifesaver this summer when it was too hot to drink hot coffee, and I was too sweaty and lazy to go through the process of brewing the cold stuff. I’m not really drinking coffee anymore, but it certainly made this past May-August ever so much more bearable!

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I think Gardein Breakfast Pockets may be my favorite discovery this year. I’m not one of those people who can eat as soon as I get out of bed in the morning; I need to take my time, sip a hot beverage (now that I’m not drinking coffee, the current beverage of choice is turmeric-ginger tea) and just go about my early hours ver-r-rrry slowly. It’s not that I am not a morning person–I am totally a morning person!– but it really does have to be at my own pace. I try to eat a little something right before my work day starts, and these hand-held little pockets are really delicious. I am also a person who absolutely cannot do sweet things in the morning, so to find a convenience food that isn’t a waffle or a poptart or a cloying breakfast bar is pretty awesome. It’s vegan, but I am under no illusions that it’s “healthy”. With no animal products and at only 200 calories though, it’s good enough for me. (Note: I am not vegan. Not even vegetarian.)

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The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer left me speechless. I was certain nothing could ever measure up again, and I was very nearly afraid to start reading something else afterward! The books tell of the mysterious, dangerous wilderness of Area X and the humans exploring it: several decades ago, an inexplicable environmental change occurred and a large swath of land and sea was sealed behind an invisible and largely impenetrable barrier. “Inside it, nature shifted. It grew wild and pristine, dense and fertile—improbably pure, as though nature had said “Enough!” and reclaimed itself.”  It’s an uncanny, and genuinely surprising read that haunted me for days and probably will continue to do so for many years to come. With this series The New Yorker refers to Vandermeer as The Weird Thoreau, and …yep. Totally apt.

salt Salt Is For Curing by Sonya Vatomsky. I make myself very sad thinking about missed connections. What would life be like if perhaps I’d never gotten to know certain people, if I had carelessly just let those opportunities slip past? Sonya is one of these people. We connected via social media before I even knew they were a writer and I sometimes think…what if I’d totally ignored this weird person who started following me on twitter? What if I wasn’t a nosy so-n-so and took no notice of the fact that they were also a poet?  In my reading of Sonya’s book, Salt Is For Curing, it took all that I had not to devour this small book of spooky delights in one greedy instant. I feared that to do so, to ingest all of these potent magics at once, would give me a terribly heartsick sort of heartburn and yet leave me with the very worst sort of emptiness, knowing there is no more to be had. I drew it out for as long as I could stand. It is now in its fourth printing, which I think is basically unheard of for small press stuff, so, congrats my darling Soyna! Even if this is my fourth time saying so.

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What Is A Witch by Tin Can Forest and Pam Grossman is equal parts storybook, grimoire, comic book, and illuminated manuscript, What Is A Witch explores the many guises and archetypes of the witch–that ultimate icon of feminine power. The book’s lyrical language of night-song and half-rhymes, when given voice (and it absolutely must be read aloud), becomes a wild, witty, wondrous invocation, threaded throughout with fanciful visions, whimsical allegory, and magical truths. I engaged with its mesmerizing imagery and the poetic spell it cast, and immediately it awoke something within me. I felt it rise within myself, something fierce and surprising and nearly frightening in its power. If you feel yourself similarly compelled, don’t fight it. Go where this book takes you. See what you draw forth from yourself. Don’t be alarmed. Let it change you. This is magic, after all, and we are witches.

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It’s not spooky or eerie in the least, so it may surprise you to know that HÆLOS’ Full Circle is my favorite album this year. I know it’s not supposed to work this way, but I made my decision back in February and I’ve heard nothing that even comes close to changing my mind since that time. A sweeping, meditative album, comprised of down-tempo, melancholic dissonance, lustrous synth, and cinematic, kaleidoscopic strings; reminiscent of 90s atmospheric trip-hop, and reverberating with narcotic, late night poignancy, this is the sonic equivalent of the steady, gorgeous thrum and throbbing heartbeat of a hand in your own.

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Two of my favorite movies this year would have to be Demon, incorporating Jewish folklore and demonic possession into a tragic tale that’s not quite horror and not quite comedy, but works quite well as precisely what it is not, and The Handmaiden, a gorgeous, deliciously twisted film, by Chan Wook Park.

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My marvelous coffin-shaped jewelry and pin display boards from LifeAfterDeathDesign, which I have written more about previously here.

And numbers 14-16 are a cheat, but maybe more important than anything listed: I loved collaborating with my brilliant, talented, visionary friends on our various projects–we created not just one, but TWO wildly successful Occult Activity Books this year! That’s amazing!

I loved (is loved the right word?) that I knew when a relationship with a particular outlet was no longer working for me and was lucky enough to move on immediately to something not only better, but which also felt tremendously more right for me. Life is too short to be in an uncomfortable situation that makes you unhappy! Also, boo to bullies and blowhards, what ever form they take. I love that I finally knew when to move on, I guess is what I am saying.

And what about you? What did you take comfort in this year? What are some awesome discoveries you made? What are some of your favorites? Tell me all about it in the comments!

*featured heart garland image is, I think, from etsy seller Kirrakai

A Chilling Chosen Few

A Chilling Chosen Few was originally written for and posted at After Dark In the Playing Fields on Halloween in 2010, as a companion piece for 12 Terrifying Tales, a list of spooky stories which I also shared again here at Unquiet Things earlier this month.

I know, I know… it’s still only August, but if you’re in the mood to draw the shades and crank the air down to an acceptably chilly clime, the following movies–some of my personal favorites for creepy viewing–should tide you over until our sacred haunted holiday.

Also note that, although this list is now six years old, these remain my go-to freaky films: the kind which leave bruised and haunting imprints on the memory, the shadowy images I watch on the movie screen of my inner eyelids when I can’t sleep at night and have worked myself up into a fever pitch of paranoia and panic.

What are some of your favorites for eerie, eldritch viewing? Whether mildly gruesome or pants-shittingly terrifying, tell me about all about them in the comments! (I live in permanent FOMO, you know, so I can’t stand the thought that there is something amazing out there that I don’t know about and have not yet seen.)

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Suspiria (Dario Argento), 1977
A moody, atmospheric assault of the senses. A young American woman arrives at a European ballet school where nothing is as it seems. Hallucinatory mayhem ensues.

3-holly1The Resurrected (Dan O’Bannon) 1992
An intelligent, brooding adaptation of Lovecraft’s “The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward”. Chris Sarandon at his creepily aristocratic best.

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Cube (Vincenzo Natali) 1997
Kafkaesque sci-horror reminiscent of a visceral Twilight Zone episode. A handful of strangers wake up inside a monstrous maze of interlocking cubicles which are armed with lethal traps. Why were these individuals chosen? What is this place they are in? Is there even anything outside the Cube?

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Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (John D. Hancock) 1971
An eerie, dreamlike film in which a woman’s already fragile psyche undergoes further trauma at the isolated farmhouse where she initially sought solace. Is there really something sinister going on between the mysterious drifter and the baleful townfolk – or is Jessica spiraling further into delusion and madness?

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Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder) 2004
Romero’s 1978 original was “sacred ground” for horror buffs, but even though I saw this remake 6 years ago, there are some nights I still can’t sleep thinking upon certain scenes; to this day I am convinced I will awake to find my neighbor’s child gazing upon me hungrily, ready to mindlessly, viciously eat my face off.

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Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things  (Bob Clarke) 1972
A strangely awkward film, a bit of nostalgic whimsy on my part.   A flamboyant theatre director brings his acting troupe to a remote island cemetery to raise the dead,as a practical joke.  This turns out badly for all involved; as we all know, these practices are no laughing matter.

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Lemora: A Child’s Tale of The Supernatural (Richard Blackburn) 1975
 An orphaned young innocent is lured to a remote mansion on the outskirts of the strange southern gothic shanty town populated by bizarre mutants, and soon finds herself in the clutches of the wicked (and undead) Lemora. A long, unsettling nightmare of a film.

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Imprint (Takashi Miike, Masters of Horror) 2005
A tale of lost love that grows stranger and more horrifying as the story unfolds. Contains one of the grisliest torture scenes that I have ever seen.

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The Mist (Frank Darabont) 2007
Excellent Stephen King Adaptation (at least I thought so, but I don’t want to argue with you about it); local folks are trapped in a supermarket when a mysterious mist envelops the town – among the incredibly frightening monsters here, the worst and most brutish might actually be the human people. Also, I think this may have the bleakest ending of any movie I have ever seen.

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Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey) 1962
After a traumatic accident a woman seems to be losing all contact with the world of the living.  Worthwhile viewing for the gorgeously oppressive atmosphere alone.

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The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona) 2008
A woman returns to her childhood home – a seaside orphanage – to reopen the establishment and raise her adopted son. The child’s mysterious disappearance, and frightening, otherworldly goings-on contribute to what is a quietly chilling, heartbreaking film.

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A Tale of Two Sisters (Ji-woon Kim) 2003
A tale of tragedy and madness, based on an old Korean legend/folktale.

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Les Diaboliques  (Henri-Georges Clouzot) 1955

*And a bonus pick from my dear friend The Kindred Spirit, who shares that since having seen Les Diaboliques, “I have been wary of face-like bathtub faucets ever since!”

Will Errickson’s resplendent horror fiction reviews

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(Originally posted in 2011 over at After Dark In The Playing Fields)

Perhaps a month or so ago whilst puttering around on the internet late at night, a memory, unbidden, came to mind. A book I had read when I was younger.  Though I could not recall much of the plot (except that it was a riveting combination of almost-unacceptably-unbelievable and strangely compelling),  or the story details, or even the names of the characters – the cover, and the title were for some reason burned indelibly into my brain.

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On a whim, I thought I might poke around to see if what, if anything, other readers had to say about The Manitou, and it was then that I stumbled onto Will Errickson’s Too Much Horror Fiction blog.  Will’s sharp, smart, and endlessly amusing synopsis of the story and review of the book compelled me to dig deeper into his site, and in doing so I came across many strange, moldering titles that I had not thought of or seen in years…some I barely remembered and some which were so bizarre that I actually thought I  had dreamed them up. Before I knew it several hours had passed and it was 2:00 AM in the morning; I was exhausted but full of a sort of demented exultation –   I think it is safe to say that I have never in my life been excited to stumble across a corner of the internet as I was when I discovered Will’s blog, which is dedicated to “reviewing and collecting horror literature and celebrating its resplendent paperback cover art”.

Will graciously agreed to do a bit of a Q&A with us over at After Dark in the Playing Fields; read on for, among other things, his thoughts on terror in the formative years, his picks for a compellingly horrifying read and a top ten list of his favourite deranged horror fiction book covers!

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Mlleghoul: To quote you, paraphrasing Poe and Lovecraft: “Horror… is that singular frisson of terror itself”. Can you hearken back to the time when you first experienced that dread feeling and share with us the details surrounding that, and the myriad ways it has manifested in your life up to this point?

Will Errickson: I’ve tried before to nail down early moments of fear and horror from when I was a kid, and I just can’t. All I can really say is that growing up in the 1970s and early ‘80s there was no lack of spooky stuff on TV that you couldn’t avoid, whether it was IN SEARCH OF… or a commercial for movies like SILENT SCREAM, THE PROPHECY, THE SHINING and ALIEN. I remember finding a horror movie magazine that a teenage relative had that completely freaked me out; I couldn’t even look at the cover. Christopher Lee’s Dracula was pretty impressively scary at that age. Of course JAWS was inescapable, but once I actually *saw* the movie when I was 8 or 9 I became obsessed with it. Can’t quite remember how I began reading horror, because those trashy old paperbacks with skulls on the covers unsettled me. Think I just picked up one of my mom’s Stephen King novels when I was about 13 or so. So ever since I was a kid I’ve been into horror as well as the people who create it.

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Back to the above referenced paraphrasing – what are some of your favourite books or stories that evoke such a feeling for you?  I believe I culled the quote from your post on The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, so I imagine that might be one of them?

Several of Ellroy’s novels have been disturbing, not just BLACK DAHLIA but also L.A. CONFIDENTIAL–the parts that *didn’t* make it into the movie version. Books such as DRACULA and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR were perhaps the first scary things I read; later Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” and various stories/novels by King (especially “The Mist”) and Peter Straub. SONG OF KALI by Dan Simmons, THE CIPHER by Kathe Koja, FINISHING TOUCHES by Thomas Tessier, THE SEARCH FOR JOSEPH TULLY by William Hallahan. I read tons and tons of short stories in different anthologies as a teen and in my early ’20s; some of my favorites from that era are “Night They Missed the Horror Show” by Joe Lansdale; “His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood” and “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” by Poppy Z. Brite; “Dread” by Clive Barker; “Old Man and the Dead” by Mort Castle; “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner; “Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity” by David Morrell; “The Answer Tree” by Steven Boyett; various Shirley Jackson and Thomas Ligotti tales. It’s difficult to pin some down. Rereading them now is cool because many hold up and are still effective. I’m slowly making my way through the two-volume Library of America’s AMERICAN FANTASTIC TALES… Short stories really show the horror genre in its best light. There are great novels, of course, but short stories… yeah. I’m sure I’m forgetting some right now.

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In this vein, what is your general criteria for a satisfying read?  Can you give some examples of the books which might fit this criteria?  And this may be a silly question, but how much does the cover art play into this for you?

Pacing is probably the single most important aspect. Atmosphere is great too. I don’t need great writing but it does have to be good. A lot of ’70s horror novels, and even going back further, had a real professionalism about them; you knew you were in the hands of masters. But by the ’80s more horror glutted the shelves so many, many books were very poorly written and edited and conceived. You can forgive a lot if the author is sure of himself, which is the case with Graham Masterton’s THE MANITOU. It was rather ridiculous but his conviction carried it. THE AUCTIONEER by Joan Samson is a wonderful example of strong writing and story, as are Michael McDowell’s works. You can’t ever go wrong with Shirley Jackson. I loved THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by Anne Rivers Siddons. Fritz Leiber’s OUR LADY OF DARKNESS was excellent as well. ALL HEADS TURN AS THE HUNT GOES BY by John Farris. THE RATS by James Herbert. As for supernatural violence and the like, I like a quiet chiller as much as a gory thriller. Joe Lansdale’s THE NIGHTRUNNERS blew me away back in the day but I haven’t read it since. As for cover art, it doesn’t play into my interest in reading a book; I’ve gotten past that these days and if the books has a truly terrible cover, I try to imagine I’m reading it in manuscript form! So yes, I guess cover art can color your imagination as you read.

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You reference John Farris’ Son of the Endless Night as a quintessential 80’s horror novel, with its “blurb from Stephen King and a review quote comparing it to The Exorcist, and its artwork of both a scary-looking young girl as well as a black-winged demon” –I’d be interested in hearing more about this idea of a quintessential 80’s   horror novel.  Also, do you feel there are elements of the story itself that make it a prime example of the decade’s horror offerings?  So…what would be a quintessential 90’s horror novel?  70’s?  60’s?  Ok, I’ll stop there.

1980s horror to me is big and badass, influenced by more graphic horror movies. Huge set pieces of bizarre horror carnage, lots of characters, a go-for-broke attitude. Another cool ’80s novel is THE SCREAM by Skipp and Spector: big, bold, vivid, outrageous, energetic. A bit dated in a fun way. Let’s see… for the ’60s I’d say ROSEMARY’S BABY by Ira Levin: ironic, cool, blackly comic, lightly satirizing modern mores. The ’70s quintessential horror would probably be ’SALEM’S LOT, but I think an argument could be made for HARVEST HOME or THE OTHER by Thomas Tryon. Quieter and more reserved than King, but still creepy; a mainstream bestseller kind of vibe before the paperback horror boom of the ’80s fractioned off the audience. For the ’90s, that’s tougher, because I stopped reading contemporary horror in about 1993 or ’94. Kathe Koja’s THE CIPHER turned horror around by taking the focus off “regular folks” as it’d been in the ’80s and made it about artists, slackers, young people on the fringes of society. What can I say, I identified!

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For as long as you’ve been running your blog, what would you say are the top 10 most ridiculous/absurd/batshit insane horror novel covers you’ve featured? 

NIGHTSCAPE by Stephen George

ROCKABYE BABY by Stephen Gresham

SANDMAN by William W. Johnstone

DEW CLAWS by Stephen Gresham

SEE NO EVIL by Patricia Wllace

DEAD TO THE WORLD by J.N. Williamson

TRICYCLE by Russell Rhodes

LURKING FEAR & OTHERS by Lovecraft

WAIT AND SEE by Ruby Jean Jensen

RESURRECTION DREAMS by Richard Laymon

But there are still many, many more out there! I will always be on the lookout to feature them on my blog…

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What is your opinion of “pulp” and what purpose it serves–what can we learn from it about our culture that isn’t a part of canonical literature? “Pulp” novels are considered low-end and sort of disdained, but obviously they are popular to read.  What about the lurid themes found in them resonates with the reader? 

When it comes to the worth of any kind of pulp or genre fiction and its status, I like to turn it around and posit that lots of literature, the high-end, culturally-sanctioned stuff, isn’t nearly as profound or insightful as some people like to think it is. There is just as much cliche, lack of imagination, and poor–as in pretentious–writing in that kind of fiction as in pulp or genre fiction. Writers who began in the pulp fields are now considered major American authors, crime writers like Raymond Chandler as well as a horror writer like H.P. Lovecraft. Horror fiction deals with the same themes as any other kind of fiction: families, history, love, sex, death, violence, grief, guilt, etc. Sure, a horror novel might accentuate the less savory aspects of these themes, but I’d say a classic writer like Dostoevsky, for instance, is also exploiting them as well. I *think* that literary critics these days are little more amenable to that idea, anyway.

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Finally – The Nursery, by David Lippincott (a cult favourite here at After Dark in the Playing Fields) – any opinions?*

I’m unfamiliar with that title but the cover art is awesome! Added to my to-be-read list.

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A heartfelt thanks to Will Errickson for taking the time to answer our questions and share his thoughts!

 

this, that, & the other thing {xxiii}

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Witch Series, Camille Chew

The new-to-me art of Camille Chew; a fanciful take on modern witches

 

A poster for Häxen. (Image: Cornell University Library)

A poster for Häxen. (Image: Cornell University Library,

Take a Peek at the World’s Greatest Witchcraft Movie Poster Collection

 


I’m absolutely enthralled with this beautiful, grotesque trailer.
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Long Live the New Foot Flesh* (a Baby Foot foot peel review)

IMG_1142*First, let me give credit to Ben, who made that foot flesh comment over on facebook.

I am going to lead into this review with an “after” photo.  Otherwise, I am afraid I might scare folks away before they’ve even read the first sentence.  Or perhaps I do not give you enough credit for your iron stomachs and your willingness to delve into the depths of disgusting foot molt with me?  Honestly, this kind of stuff doesn’t really gross me out, and in my postings of this process over on Instagram I’ve found that most people are actually more fascinated than repulsed (or perhaps a titillating combination of both) and so I will stop treating you with kid gloves and just get on with it!

I don’t think I had ever read up on foot peels, or the Baby Foot brand specifically, until I saw a brief mention of it over at EauMG (and let me forewarn you–I never, EVER, come away from Victoria’s blog without desperately coveting and usually ordering something she has mentioned over there.  This visit was no different, as you will see.)

Once the seed was planted, I could not NOT try it.  A disgusting corporeal transformation occurring right before my very eyes?  Body horror delights to photograph and document, with which to freak people out?  Oh, yes, please!  As an aside, I don’t know what is wrong with me.  I have a long history of being in love with grossing people out.  So, my apologies…sort of.  But not really.  At all.

You can find this stuff for about $20 a box, and it is a one use thing.  How does it work? Well, it’s a chemical peel for your feet. The ingredients list mainly fruit acids, but also the stuff you’d typically find in a chemical peel: glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids, as well as alcohol. According to Baby Foot, all you do is wash and soak your feet, apply the booties, wash off, then wait. In five to seven days, the peeling should begin.

A few tips from bloggers and reviews throughout the peel-o-sphere: set aside an evening for it.  Wash and clean your feet and soak them in warm water for a good, long time.  Set up a little area for yourself on the sofa or your desk or where ever, and make sure you’ve got everything you need within reach for at least the next hour or so, because you are kind of going to be stuck.Stick your feet into the gloopy, acid filled booties, tape them up, pull on a pair of house socks over them (just to keep everything warm and snug, I presume) and sit tight for the next 60 minutes while you knit or read or watch a movie or tweet your absurd thoughts on twitter or whatever it is you do to keep busy. Note: those are all of the things I did.

Some folks keep it on past the hour mark, but I did not.  To be honest at 45 minutes, things started feeling like they were heating up, in an almost uncomfortable way.  I de-booted myself after exactly one hour, rinsed and dried my feet thoroughly, put on a clean pair of socks, and went to bed.

day one

DAYS ONE AND TWO.  No change.  But you can see that my heel is kind of tough and calloused looking. When I stir and shift at night, in bed, I can hear it rassssssp against the sheets and it’s pretty mortifying. What you can’t see is the really tough patch of skin on the side of my big toes.  All in all, I guess my feet aren’t too jacked up…but I like to wear sandals, and it is my belief that one’s feet must be fantastic looking for those sorts of shoes.  Also note my terrible tattoo that a budding artist gave me when I was about 17.  Tattoo artist friends! I’d love to collaborate with you on a cover up one day. Let’s talk!

day two

DAY THREE. Many bloggers and reviewers note that they are soaking their feet every day during this process, and me, well.  I am not.  I am both lazy and yet I somehow do not have time for that.  And anyway, I figure that my feet are sitting in a shallow bit of water for 10-15 minutes every time I shower, so that’s going to have to be good enough. And truly, as you can see here, I am not certain it really matters all that much. By day three things are starting to happen, as evidenced by the action occuring just below my toes.

day three

DAY FOUR. The Cronenbergian Baby Foot experiment intensifies, slightly. The peeling has also begun to start on my toes and is creeping down the outside of my sole.

day 4

DAY FIVE. Shit is getting real and things are looking pretty leprous up in here.  I am wearing socks everywhere to avoid actively shedding my disgusting former foot skin all over the floor, everywhere that I walk. This just about kills me, as I like my toes to wiggle freely.

Day 5

DAY SIX. I had absolutely no idea I was so utterly, gloriously disgusting. Look at the molting majesty of my foot, gaze upon its vile splendor! IT IS SO GROSS AND I LOVE IT. Several folks at this point asked if it hurt at all, and I am being perfectly honest when I say that I didn’t feel a thing.  This all could have been happening to someone else’s body, for all the discomfort that it caused me (none). Also, many people exclaimed incredulously that they could not believe I was not picking at it.  Well, I did pick, a little bit.  When there was a long, delicious strip of ragged skin,  tattered and barely hanging on, I did give it a gentle tug to loosen it.  If it broke off, great. I threw it away.  If not, I left it alone and stuffed my repulsive appendage back in my sock.

foot top

DAYS SEVEN AND EIGHT. By day seven, most of that rag-tag business had fallen off in my socks over night. The bottoms of my feet were mostly free of dead skin. Now there is some interesting business happening on the tops of my feet– they had gotten a bit flaky and ashy and my toe-knuckles (is there a word for this?) had started peeling.  There really was nothing awful about these parts of my feet to begin with, but curiously enough, I think this stage took the longest to cycle through.

AFTER

TWO(ISH) WEEKS LATER. My raspy heels are totally gone, along with my horned big toe. However, I know that this is going to require maintenance which, let’s face it, I will probably never keep up with. The bottoms of my feet are quite a bit smoother and the tops of my feet actually do feel like that proverbial baby’s bottom.

I am sad to report, that Baby Foot did not give me freakishly disproportionate, actual baby’s feet attached to my ankles, so I am afraid that the product name is a bit misleading.

However, if you desire soft, lovely feet that look like they’ve never done a day’s work and if you like disgusting science experiments coupled the unease of body horror as it relates to your own body–I cannot recommend this highly enough.  It satisfies on both the side of money well spent on a beauty product and the personal obsession with weird stuff and things to share with people. Win win!

It must be noted that you should purchase this from a seller or site you trust.  I have linked directly to the product I ordered and I had no problems with it whatsoever.  If you are the kind to get freaked out by Amazon’s one star reviews, though, you’ll find some doozies. The short answer is to order from where ever you feel most comfortable.

Have you used Baby Ffoot, or any chemical foot peel at all?  Feel free to weigh in with your experiences…and I am sure I don’t have to tell you…the more disgusting, the better!

Note: this is not I paid or sponsored or whatever-you-call-it review.  I purchased this product honestly with money that I stole from someone else.

 

The Dark Mysteries of Professor Jack

Jack Shear, artist's rendering

Jack Shear, artist’s rendering (Artist: Tenebrous Kate)

Ha!  I used a Gothic novel generator for the title of this interview, it’s pretty cheesy, but I kind of love it anyway.  As opposed to another one I picked out: The Bitter Vengeance of Professor Jack…which is maybe potentially slanderous?

Or …is it?

Read further and determine for yourselves my dear innocents, and learn more of this mysterious gentleman and his dark obsessions.  His fascinations align closely with many of my own, and, I suspect yours; I invite you to partake in the insights and secrets that he has been gracious enough to divulge today, and I pray that we do not live to regret this beautiful, terrible knowledge.

Jack and I began our correspondence in the winter of 2010.  It could have been any time during that year, but for dramatic purposes we will say that it was in bleak midwinter, the landscape treacherous, hardened by a killing frost;  a moonless night, an unexpected, brittle rap at the frozen windowpane…

(Except in this case, it was an unexpected email from an intriguing stranger who wanted to chat about a mutual love of music! It was actually a pleasant thing—and a welcome diversion,  and the beginning of a lovely friendship.)

Jack actually teaches Gothic and Decadence literature–that part was not just mentioned for drama and intrigue–and is also a published author of several RPG related materials. I had so many questions for him, and I am certain that the answers are of keen interest to the folks who read my ramblings here; if you have a love for Gothic tropes, for horror fantasy games, for dark music, film, and literature, you are certain to enjoy the following transcript.

Thanks, as always, for reading, and Jack–thank you for indulging me. You are a gem, and I am pleased to know you!

Jack Shear

Mlle Ghoul: Your answer to what is best in life differs slightly from that of our favorite barbarian: “What is best in life? To drink poisonous liqueurs, hallucinate fabulously about dancing girls, and engage in triumphant saber duels with your enemies!” I’d love to know what you get up to in your spare time and how closely it mirrors the duels and dancing girls that I like to envision.
Prof. Jack: Credit where credit is due: that bit of “biography” was written for me by my longtime friend and frequent collaborator Tenebrous Kate. She knows me far too well; I think she really captured the main points of my personality and predilections there. To be honest, I used to get out a lot more in my younger years, but these days I prefer a quieter kind of decadence: a nice intoxicating beverage, a beautiful bit of prose or cinema to get lost in, and a night in with my charming companion is my current preference.

As for saber duels, it’s probably fair warning to anyone who makes an enemy of me to note that I always triumph in the end.

I am intensely curious (read: nosy as hell. I am very nosy) about young Jack! Can you pinpoint a time in your childhood wherein you developed a fascination for the Gothic novel or gothic tropes/conventions? Can you talk about how it led to your current career path and the other writings that you do?
I actually remember my first exposure to the Gothic: my aunt bought me a couple issues of the comic book The House of Mystery, and by some stroke of fortune those issues featured J. M. DeMatteis’s ongoing “I…Vampire” story. “I…Vampire had Gothic conventions written into the plot an characterization as flavor, and the covers of those issues were rich in the Gothic aesthetic; it was all candelabras and crumbling castles. I could not get enough of it.

As for how that early exposure to the Gothic shaped by current career path and the kind of creative work I do, I can tell you that when I find pleasure in an aesthetic I get absolutely fixated on it. I don’t just want to indulge in it, I want to overindulge in it! I moved on from those early Gothic comics to checking out Poe, Stoker, and Shelley from the library; from there I delved into the lesser known Gothics. I never burnt out this fascination I have for the genre. If anything, over the years it has only intensified.

When I started taking academia seriously, I knew I wanted to share my passion for the literature with young, impressionable minds who maybe hadn’t dove into those dark waters yet. And so here I am, teaching an introductory course on Gothic fiction, as well as similar classes on the literary impact of the Jack the Ripper murders, the recent (and archly Gothic) television series Penny Dreadful, and Decadent literature.

Gothic shelfie

Gothic shelfie

Can you speak to your favorite elements of a good gothic tale? And for those reading who have been hesitant to jump in to this particular genre, can you recommend a reading list of few decent “starter” gothic tales? (Perhaps a few advanced for those whom this is old hat?) Are there any so awful, so atrocious that you would caution against reading them? Feel free to include those as well!
My favorite elements of any Gothic tale are the moments of absurdity. Horror tales are a dime a dozen, but what sets the Gothic apart is its propensity to get really weird, to skirt the line between sublime terror and overwrought, and potentially laughable, excesses.

If someone were new to the Gothic, I’d recommend Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Everyone thinks the story will be familiar, but Shelley’s novel has depths that are often missing from our “pop-culture” version of the Frankenstein story. Following that, I’d point people to a few Poe short stories (“The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Black Cat,” especially) or Oscar Wilde’s peerless The Picture of Dorian Gray.

I’m always pushing people who are already familiar with the main Gothic texts to read Charles Brockden Brown’s novel Wieland. It is amazing and like nothing else written. All I’m going to say is this: the plot revolves around religious mania and ventriloquism. You want to read that, right? James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is another Gothic novel that too many people sleep on.

As for Gothic texts I’d warn people away from, there is a reason that the more obscure Gothic novels remain obscure. For example, Valancourt Press does tremendous work bring forgotten Gothic novels back into print, but I generally wouldn’t recommend them except to other fanatics who share my tastes. There are good books in their catalog, but a lot of them are fairly derivative. [Editor’s note: Valancourt Press brings many more recent horror titles back into print as well, and is definitely worth checking out if you have a love of Gothic or Horror. I have an entire shelf dedicated to beautiful Valancourt editions.]

The Martyr’s Kiss from misterguignol on 8tracks Radio.

We first connected, I believe, through a mutual love of music over at 8tracks, wherein you note that you like music made by artists who “live in their own weird little worlds” and list preferred genres including “spectral folk, murderous americana, doom balladry, dustbowl country, fin de siecle cabaret…”. I’d love to pick your brain regarding your current favorites in this vein! I am also intensely curious as to your musical journey (as a listener and an appreciator) and how you came to listen to this type of music?
It’s funny, I think I went from not being interested in music to being utterly obsessive about it in my early teenage years. Part of it was that I discovered that there were alternatives to what I had been hearing on the radio. Finding bands like Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure, and Bauhaus was a revelation—a revelation that turned me into the kind of questing fool who went looking for obscure records made by maniacs and who spent far too much time in dank goth clubs, but it was a revelation none the less.

As for current favorites, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Batushka’s Litourgiya, a startling debut that mixes black metal with Eastern Orthodox spiritual music. My girlfriend gave me a copy of an Anna & Elizabeth album that is really nice Appalachian folk. The new Hexvessel is captivating. Aside from newer stuff, I’ve also been revisiting Aghast’s Hexerei Im Zwielicht Der Finsternis, a dark ambient record that is about as soothing as the sounds of a witches’ sabbath.

The Hallow, poster design by ArtMachine

The Hallow, poster design by ArtMachine

We often correspond back and forth with film recommendations and such. Is there anything you’ve watched recently that you would suggest to like-minded folks? And what was it about them that appealed to you?
I love horror films, but I’m also extraordinarily hard to please when it comes to movies. According to a lot of people I quite like, It Follows is a modern classic of the form, but I have to admit that I thought it was amazingly mediocre and frequently silly. It feels like I have to watch a pile of movies before I finally strike on something that feels worthwhile. The last movie I really enjoyed without much reservation was The Hallow. I liked the way that The Hallow reworked the themes and imagery we usually associate with “folk horror.” It felt like a fresh take on that niche. The performances were strong, and I admired the creature design.

"Wraith", Jack Shear

“Wraith”, Jack Shear

Your Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque blog is a wonderful resource for fans of horror fantasy gaming and has been praised by bloggers as an “output of depraved creativity” and for your valuable insight. Can you talk to the circumstances under which the blog was originally created and it’s purpose/intended direction? What are some of your favorite topics to blog about over there?
I think most blogs are conceived out of boredom, and mine was no different. I had started reading a few gaming blogs and thought that it might be a nice gesture to put my Gothic-inflected game material out there in case anyone could find a use for it in their own games. It grew from there, but I can’t say it has ever had an intended purpose or direction.

If I had to nail down a motive, it would probably be that I wanted to show people that even an idiot like me could put their stuff out there with a minimum of fuss, that doing-it-yourself was actually viable, but mostly I just post things that interest me.

It’s odd; a lot of people who blog do so because they crave community: they want to be part of a conversation, they want to grow an audience and have fans, they want to find like-minded folks, they want to network, etc. Blogging can be a great venue for that, but I’m so antisocial that it’s never really factored into what I do. I put my stuff out there and if people like it—great!—but if not I’m just going to keep doing what pleases me. It is nice, though, when people go out of their way to tell me that they liked something I wrote.

"Midnight in Krevborna", Jack Shear

“Midnight in Krevborna”, Jack Shear

You have published a number of original titles under the umbrella of Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque Publications. Your first offering, I believe, was Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque itself, “a Gothic Fantasy Supplement for old-school fantasy role-playing games”, and which has expanded to include additional world building manuals, as well. I don’t want to presume that you love your Gothic baby best – what can you tell us about your other titles? Which is your personal favorite to play (or DM is your bag, I guess)? Have you had great successes with these offerings? Which seems to be other folks’ preferred fantasy setting?
My favorite is always the thing I’m playing or running right now—which, in this case, is Krevborna, a Bloodborne-inspired Gothic setting I wrote to get a sandbox game going using 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. I am absurdly proud that I did all the art in the pdf myself. I also really like the setting in Jonathan Harper’s Blades in the Dark game; I had a blast exploring the setting in a campaign ran by Andrew Shields and I’m really looking forward for that game to pick up where we left off.

As for other settings, I’ve done things inspired by post-apocalypse trash culture like Planet Motherfucker and my Gothic-in-Spaaaaaaaaaaaaace setting Colonial Ethersea. There’s a lot of unpublished setting work kicking around as well; someday I should do something with the Edward Gorey-esque Slithdale Hollow. Overall, I’ve had far more success with my publications than I would have ever suspected—I thought I would only sell a few copies to close friends, but I sell a small pile of them every month. I have a strange aversion to profiting off my hobby, though; the money I make on my game books gets donated to worthy causes. This is the saddest mark of my success: I’ve actually caught people ripping off my material and claiming it as their own. That’s when you know you’ve arrived.

I think the vast majority of gamers prefer a more standard fantasy approach when it comes to settings for their games. There’s a reason why Wizards of the Coast has really been pushing the Forgotten Realms (a very “vanilla,” semi-Tolkien-esque fantasy setting) as the backdrop for the new edition of D&D: it’s got the recognizable fantasy tropes and is appealingly neutral in tone and flavor. Frankly, it’s an easy setting to understand and fit fantasy ideas into. In contrast, the DIY D&D scene seems to go through cycles. “Gonzo” settings were all the rage for a while, but right now “Weird” crapsack settings (settings where everyone is miserable and everything is grimdark and soggy) seem to be on trend—which is funny because if everything is “weird,” nothing is actually weird. Also, I think those settings are more talked about than played when it gets down to it.

You are also a contributing editor over at Heretical Sexts, a micro-publisher of niche, print material focused on the dark and the bizarre. I hear tell that there is a fantastic Gothic ‘zine currently in the works, which, I imagine, you must have a heavy hand in. What can you tell is about it, what can we expect?
I’m not sure if I have an exact job title at Heretical Sexts, but I think we’ve joked around that my job is “Enabler” or something along those lines. Heretical Sexts is really Tenebrous Kate’s baby, but I’ve always made myself available to workshop ideas, give editorial assistance, and provide writing for some of the collaborative Heretical Sexts ‘zines. It has been wonderful watching Kate’s project grow; I adore seeing my friends develop their artistry and put their lovable weirdness out there into the world. I suppose that is what makes me an enabler.

I believe that the forthcoming Gothic ‘zine, Morbid Fantasies, is the first Heretical Sexts publication that has been wholly written by someone other than Kate. I’m beyond flattered that she offered to put out a lovingly-crafted book of my thoughts on Gothic literature.

Morbid Fantasies is a response to a problem I have with the way that Gothic literature is usually presented. At its inception, the Gothic was a popular genre—it was fiction meant to be read and enjoyed by anyone with an inclination to dark or mysterious content. But somewhere along the way the Gothic became a genre sequestered by scholarly study—talk about Gothic literature was relegated to obscure academic journals instead of it being a literary form for devoted readers. Morbid Fantasies aims to change that. It’s a book that wants to help you learn to love Gothic literature. It gives a brief history of this amazing aesthetic mode, suggestions for what books you should read and what you should be looking for as you read them, and an exploration of the conventions, tropes, and imagery most often found in the literature. It’s a reader’s guide to the Gothic, and I can promise you that it will help you on your way if you are totally new to the Gothic or deepen your love of dark, passionate fiction if you’re already exploring Gothic texts.

Are there any other upcoming projects you can share with us?
Well, I do have a bit of eldritch fun in the Occult Activity Book [Editor’s Note: This is sold out for the time being] that you and Becky Munich just put out! Other than that, I’ve been writing a thing (I’m not sure if it is a book or what yet) about horror and philosophy—something inspired by E. M. Cioran, the Graveyard Poets, and doom metal, mostly. It’s the kind of thing I might finish and then never show anyone.

Miss Vanessa Ives, as illustrated by Caitlin McCarthy

Miss Vanessa Ives, as illustrated by Caitlin McCarthy

Finally–Eva Green: Discuss.
We all need a muse, don’t we? Joking aside, Vanessa Ives is easily my favorite character on television at the moment, and I genuinely feel indebted to Eva Green for making that character possible! Season Three of Penny Dreadful can’t arrive soon enough for me.

Sneak Peeks {Occult Activity Book}

ECW

I am so excited to be working with a talented group of friends and artists on a thrilling collaborative project that we hope to make available early this year.  My co-conspirator has begun releasing wee sneak peeks at some of the artwork included in our cooperative creative devil-baby so I thought I might follow suit and start generating some buzz (Beelze-buzz?) about the project!

I’m won’t say too much about it…I don’t want to spoil any surprises…but you’ve perhaps become aware of this adult coloring book/activity book trend, yes?  Maybe you are intrigued, sure, you love the idea of soothing zen activities and mindfulness and all that sort of thing, but well…you’ve not jumped in because you’re not exactly all sweetness and light, are you? And these cutesy, cornball books currently on the market aren’t quite geared toward your darker sensibilities, eerie aesthetics and esoteric interests, are they?

Be patient for just a little while longer, friends. In the meantime, collect your demon-summoning colored chalks… you’re about to find your Zen moment on the dark side…

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Occult activity book art {artist: Becky Munich}

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Occult activity book art {artist: Becky Munich}

15+ impossible wardrobes dreamed in 2015

I have a weird habit wherein every time I write something, I feel compelled to design an outfit around it. Obviously in the virtual sense – my wallet could not possibly withstand this peculiar compulsion!

Below are 15 (okay, it’s actually probably more like 20-30) ensembles created in 2015, including links back to the articles, essays, or ramblings that inspired their creation. As always, click through the image to find details on the items included.

15 things I did in 2015

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15 things I wrote in 2015

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15 things I liked in 2015

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Merry Hexmas to you!

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The New Faces of Death

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Kintsugi

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Alchemical Catharsis

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Queen of Hearts

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Travel Journals: Portland

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Feral Mysticism

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Terrible, tragic beauty

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but I brought you flowers!

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les neiges d’antan

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Darkly Dreaming

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Krampusnacht 2015

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Perfume of the Dead

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Hag Couture

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Summer scents for those who shun the sun

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wind & stone, fire & bone

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The Scent of Evil

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Vögguvísa, or: There is much that darkness knows

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This, that, and the other thing (xix)

ives

‘Penny Dreadful’ Costume Designer Gabriella Pescucci on Her Dreadfully Delicious Designs [h/t Jack]

 

vic_lede_biketrike

Dissecting the Dream of the 1890s: My Skype Date With Those Curious Neo-Victorians [h/t Tanya]

 

janellesuffolk007Live by the sword, die by the sword: haunting new photos and words from Ellen Rogers

 

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Sex, Death, and the Psychedelic Madness of Jean Rollin

 

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Siren undergoing leg reconstruction; Saint Wanderer’s Hospital series from Katie Eleanor

 

WEDLc4Tr
Trash Twins Sarah Horrocks and Katy Skellie talk to us about female vampirism in the films of Jess Franco and Jean Rollin

 …For your ears….

 

 

 

…and a few tidbits to get you into the holiday spirit..

The Yule Scents are live at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab!

Contemporary artists tackle that old baddie, Krampus

Wicked Krampus-inspired fragrances for an authentic smelling Krampusnacht celebration.

The John Waters Guide to Holiday Party Etiquette

NOMI NOËL: GET YOUR HOLIDAY JOLLIES WITH ’SANTA KLAUS NOMI’

Dead Good Gifts, at Death & The Maiden

Gift Guide for Weird Girls at Wolf N Whisky

Goth Gifts for the Darkly Inclined at The Spooky Vegan

And probably my favorite holiday gift list maker of all, Eaumg, has started her series of guides for 2015, starting with A Gift Guide for Niblings & Teens and a Gift Guide for Natural Beauties.

Currently {11.04.15}

Currently stepping up my pin game with offerings from monpetitfantome, adipocere, and vacvvm.

 

Currently reading: Small press, local authors haunted nonsense in addition to learning about secret German fencing societies.

 

Currently wearing: my Lorraine cross and Two of Swords earrings from bloodmilk, all the time. And tee shirts because November in Florida.

 

Currently testing: Kypris Moonlight Catalyst, Herbivore Botanicals Rose Lip Butter, Moon Juice Heart Dust. (Verdict, the Kypris is a lovely overnight skin elixir but it may be too soon to tell, and the Heart Dust is delicious! The lip butter is nice, but not as great as my old standby.)

 

holy beast

Holy Beast2

Currently watching: School of the Holy Beast.  Sans subtitles.  “…a veritable furnace of subjugated carnal desires and broken vows.” I probably don’t need the dialogue, right?

Currently listening: As beautiful and melodic as Julia Kent’s Asperities is, it is also an album full of tension and darkness. You’re not sure if that breathless feeling you’re experiencing is the welling emotion of tears yet to be shed or a silken noose tightening about your throat.  This is the sound of my every November. Haunting, heartless; exquisitely cruel.

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