Last month I shared a video over on YouTube in which I answered some of your burning questions. They were really great questions! It was a treat to craft responses for them– so thanks, everyone, for taking the time to send me your thoughtful queries and curious musings
For my friends who don’t want to watch a video (I understand, I would often rather read things, too!) I’ve copied below the entirety of the conversation in writing. Enjoy! Or judge! Both are fine.
When the Q&A was first uploaded, I did a giveaway alongside it. Well, as it turns out, since then I have put together two more boxes of “my old crap” to send away to a lucky someone. So if you missed the first giveaway over on YouTube, you have a second chance over here on the blog! Just leave me a comment –maybe tell me about one of your current favorite things!–and a week from today will choose two winners to each receive a box.
What got you interested in darker types of stuff at an early age, if anything, and why do you think it appealed to you like it did?
It’s funny. I definitely was not into much in the way of dark and scary things when I was young, as a matter of fact, a certain Scooby-Doo episode gave me nightmares for months! My teenage cousin’s Kiss posters with their feral, spacey makeup frightened me so badly that she had to keep her door shut when I was visiting their home. But somewhere along the way, I’m guessing I was maybe 8 years old or so and I wish I could pinpoint what it was that turned me, so to speak, that fright began to gave way to fascination, and whereas I would once hide my face behind a pillow when something scary was happening, I now began to feel the itchy urge to peek.
The vampires and ghosts that I hid from had become curious to me–though no less monstrous–and I wanted to know more about why they did the things they did, and perhaps on a subconscious level, why these things appealed to me. I think these peeks, these nibbles, whetted my appetite, and I developed a true taste for terror, a hunger for horror that at turn haunts and heartens me to this day.
I was asked two somewhat similar questions, so I thought I might try to tackle them both at the same time! Do you have a personal ghost story or paranormal experience you can share? And I’d like to know if you’ve ever seen or experienced some weird shit. Ghosts, aliens, etc.
Not exactly ghostly, but it did massively freak me out at the time, and it still does. As a matter of fact, this could right go up there with the Scooby Doo and the Kiss posters as to what set me down the path of darkness! Picture it: Milford Ohio, 1980ish. It was the night before Easter, and I was maybe four or five years old. My mother had just tucked us into bed and I was lying there, wide awake, thinking of my ruffley pink easter dress and my little straw hat and running around my grandparent’s back yard, seeking out plastic pastel easter eggs with coins and candy tucked inside. My point being–I was definitely not asleep!
I heard a tap on the window and I looked up to see a hideous vision staring in at me. It was the Easter bunny, but grimy and menacing, with a huge mouthful of razor-sharp fangs, and most terrifying of all was how his ears just didn’t…flop right. Like they were broken. Like how a zombie might shamble along on a broken ankle, that kind of broken. I screamed loud enough to wake the dead and when my mother ran into the room, there was of course nothing at the window to give evidence of my terror. She calmed me as best she could, shut off the lights, and I somehow fell asleep. What fueled my terror anew the next day as I was riding in the backseat of the car to my grandparents house is when I realized ….my bedroom was on the second floor. Not only was that thing outside my window, but …how did it get there??
Another terrifying sleep-related incident happened to my middle sister, not me. We were a few years older and still sharing a bedroom (she somehow slept through the Easter Bunny incident) and this was a bedroom in a different house. First I will note that I, until that point, had always been a very light sleeper, the slightest stirring would wake me up. One night over summer break, we passed what I thought was an ordinary evening of slumber. However, the next morning she confided to me the terrifying way that she spent that same night. Sometime after midnight, she awoke suddenly to see a figure lurking in the threshold of our bedroom door, darker than the shadows surrounding it, its sinister red eyes glaring directly at her. She tried to call out to me but I slept right through her cries, deeply sleeping and oblivious both the waking world and my sister’s terror. She said she felt paralyzed, as if there were a great weight on her chest. She lay there, frozen with fright and completely immobile for hours. She must have finally fallen asleep because next she knew, she was waking, the sun was shining, and she could move again.
Later we learned that she experienced what was, most likely, a form of sleep paralysis and to this day she suffers from these midnight horrors. As for me, since that night something changed in my sleep patterns and I continue to sleep like the dead.
I have written previously about sleep paralysis, and you can find it here.
It might be a bit sensitive, so no hard feelings if it’s not something you choose to answer. Are there any topics, depictions, concepts, or anything similar that are triggers or hard lines for you in media? That would make a book or movie a pass for you? For example, I won’t watch a movie where an animal is abused or killed.
I hear you on the animal abuse–that’s vile and gut-wrenching, and if I know ahead of time there are instances of that in a story, I will give it a pass. But what I really struggle with are books/movies, etc., where addiction is a central part of the story.
Growing up, my mother struggled with both alcoholism and mental illness and it’s still really hard for me to talk about. A parent is supposed to look out for you, to guide you, to take care of you; home is meant to be a place of safety and stability. My sisters and I, our home life was fraught with uncertainty on the best of days, and a drunk, screaming lunatic on the rest of them. I often felt like the roles were reversed and I was the adult (a complicated relationship with my mom that continued well on into my own, actual adulthood.)
I’ve read that adult children of alcoholics can be pretty judgemental of themselves as well as others, and so it might sound a little harsh and judgemental to say this, but books featuring individuals in the throes of addiction are a hard pass for me. It also may sound as if I have no compassion in my heart, but I’ve got to have enough compassion for me to acknowledge that reading about these characters is no good for my own mental and emotional well-being.
Note: though I have used some iconic imagery from The Shining to illustrate my answer here, a more recent example of a television series with a plot that I found pretty triggering was Lucas’s struggle with heroin addiction in the 2018 Netflix adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House.
Because I’m curious (and struggling with my career): what do you do for a living?
Not that I am assuming that the asker of this question thinks so, but I am always so flattered when people make the assumption that I write for a living. I do not! My forthcoming book, The Art of the Occult: A Visual Sourcebook for the Modern Mystic, is the first time I have ever been paid to write anything, and I have been writing my entire life! And the funny thing is, a mere month before this opportunity came up, I had just written a blog post about how I was never going to write for pay. Oh, universe. It’s hilarious how you make me eat my words like that. But honestly, I am not going to be making a living off of this book (I used the small advance to pay for my Invisalign, heh) so I am not quitting my day job anytime soon.
I know this is probably not the most positive sounding answer, but it is me being completely frank on the subject: I don’t know that I’d really be happy in any career. Simply put…I don’t like to work! I mean, who does, right? But …some people seem to really love their chosen career and thrive on the joy it gives them. That’s not me. And I think I figured this out about myself early on in life, so I pretty much made the decision that I’d do what I could to make the money I needed in order to do the things I really like to do. For me: this means materials for knitting, nice food to cook with and to feed the people I love, and all the books and art that I have room in my house for. The job is really just a means these ends, I guess.
As for my day job, well, it’s really not that exciting. As writer of weird fictions HP Lovecraft is cited with having said, “What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world’s beauty, is everything!” I think all of the other things I do are ever so much more interesting than my job! But that’s not a real answer to this question.
I have worked for the same firm for almost 15 years now; my official title is VP Operations, but we’re a fairly small business, so while that encompasses a great deal of things, it’s a title that sounds more important than it might actually be. I work very closely with the company’s president on a lot of projects, I handle HR and payroll related things, I do the social media for the firm, and I have support responsibilities related to the other folks in the company. I didn’t begin my role working from home, but I have been working remotely since I moved back to FL in 2011. I will mention that I work for a recruiting firm, so from a recruiter’s perspective, I might suggest you look into some career aptitude testing (you could try something like The Johnson O’Connor Foundation https://www.jocrf.org/ ) and would definitely encourage you to polish up your resume, update your linkedin profile, and check out some unique ideas for re-energizing your job search strategies. It’s a weird time right now, but companies are definitely still hiring!
Show us your favorite Florida goth summer look!
Well, as it happens, at 44 years of age I have JUST NOW gotten comfortable enough in my own skin to stop suffering needlessly through our brutal summers and just wear a dang pair of shorts. It might not be glamorous, but my favorite summer outfits consist of the same pair of denim shorts all week long (I only have the one pair) along with a tee shirt (of which I have many.) Tee shirts are definitely a weakness of mine. Here are a few of my favorites, and if you are curious about where they came from, just leave a comment and I will figure it out for you.
If I am feeling fancy, I will probably go for a sundress and a cardigan, because though I may have made some progress in terms of body image, I still don’t like to leave my upper arms bare.
For some fantasy goth summertime ensembles, have a peek at this semi-recent blog post: How To Wear Summertime Goth Looks When You’re Not Actually Goth And Summer Is Almost Over, But Whatever.
I wanna know what kind of food you like! Taurus time! And what you do when you are stressed.
Wow ok, so I could talk about food forever. I was just telling my sister that although I have loved to read for my entire life, and am so obsessed with my knitting that I will probably sneak my projects into both weddings and funerals…it is food and cooking that really has my whole heart’s love. The kitchen is such a deeply soothing, wondrously special space for me and the one place where I am never scared or nervous or anxious, where I am always completely at home. My best days are those that I have spent hovering over simmering soups, and yeasty bubbling bread dough, chopping, mixing stirring, sprinkling, concocting something delicious and heart-warming, and filled with love. This is the best magic I know, the cozy, calm, kitchen witchery kind.
My favorite meals as I child are probably the ones I still crave today, and there are two in particular. My late grandmother’s chicken and dumplings, and cheese coneys, which I think is a midwest thing and basically a hotdog in a bun topped with chili and an insane amount of shredded cheese. I can’t eat them every day because I think that would probably kill me, but as for favorite foods in general, I prefer savory over sweet for sure. I will take a pass on pancakes and waffles and french toast, but you can lure me with bagels and lox.
(Being judgemental again, I think that sweet bagels are an abomination–get out of here with that cinnamon raisin bagel crap!) I love vegetables but I don’t really care much for fruit, although I do think honeycrisp apples are a beautiful snack, along with a spoonful of peanut butter! As far as snacks in general, I prefer salty over sweet and I feel like maybe I am the only person in the world who would pick puffy Cheetos over crunchy, but more for me, I guess.
I like all kinds of cuisines, but I think if I could have a day of favorite foods, I would have a Japanese-inspired breakfast, with broiled salmon and rolled omelet and rice and miso soup and all kinds of pickles. For lunch, an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox and thick slices of ripe, juicy tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onion. And for dinner I might have popcorn and a gin gimlet! Maybe two gimlets, extra limey.
When I am stressed? Well, as you can tell from the above, I cook and I eat 😛 But when I am super-stressed, like too anxious and paralyzed to move? I find that sitting down, taking a deep breath, and making a mindful list can lead to getting unstuck. Not a pie-in-the-sky to-do list for the day, but rather a list of the bare minimum stuff. Breathe. Drink a glass of water, stand up and stretch your arms as far as they can go, try and touch the clouds through the ceiling. And then… maybe answer one email for work.
I find that sloooo-oowly crossing each of these things off of my list is the equivalent of putting one foot in front of the other until I find myself on the other side of whatever had gotten me so worked up.
What has changed for you in Plague Times? What has surprisingly remained the same?
I spend a lot of time alone and I think I am pretty good company. But a lesson I have learned before and it took this past year to remind me is that sometimes I can be alone and in my head too much. Though I have lived most of my life in Florida and that is where I currently reside, there were a number of years that I lived in NJ. I was in a relationship where I was not that person’s major priority, but really, that was the least of the problems in that relationship. I didn’t see a lot of him, and other than my coworkers at the two jobs I worked in order to make ends meet, I didn’t see a lot of anyone at all. I didn’t make any local friends while I was living there, and so I spent a very isolated, melancholy seven years in that place. I remember, growing up, that my fondest wish was for “everyone to just leave me alone!” And I definitely got that while I was in NJ, and it turns out, as it does in most cases, that one should be careful of what one wishes for. I was miserable.
I moved back to FL where my family still lived and I met someone else who spends time with me and who makes me a crucial priority in his life and things are very different now. This is a roundabout way of answering the question, but I guess what I am saying is that in the past few years I’ve taken being back amongst friends and family for granted, thinking “oh, well, I don’t want to visit so-n-so this weekend, I’d rather stay home.” WELL. I have had six months of weekends at home, and I just want to see people again! Even if it’s a dinner I’d rather cancel at the last minute, I’d still be happy to go!
As for things surprisingly remaining the same, that’s an interesting question. I mean a lot has stayed the same. I already worked from home, I was already a homebody-bordering-on-recluse who never left the house, and obviously that has not changed, but also that is not a surprise.
However…I guess I could say this. I am a person who loves to have a slew of personal projects lined up for myself and I would have thought in this time of uncertainty and upheaval, I might not have the focus or the motivation to embark upon or complete any of these things–but I have found the opposite of that to be true. I think this is a sensitive and potentially triggering topic right now, that of productivity during a pandemic, and many people are having a completely a different experience.
I realize I am experiencing this from a place of privilege: I am healthy, I am employed, I am not experiencing instability or insecurity with regard to my lodgings or where my next meal is coming from. Of course I am going to have the mental bandwidth to devote to plans and projects. My day-to-day worry and dread, which is already pretty bad, is now ratcheted up and operating at what feel like unsustainable levels, and I think that is a large part of why I’ve been throwing myself into my to-do lists with gusto. I don’t want to let myself get eaten alive by my anxieties, so I don’t allow myself the time or the space to think about it. I know this isn’t healthy, and I’m sure it will catch up with me at some point. That was a bummer of an answer, and I am sorry.
I love hearing about favorite heirlooms – I feel like you would have some cool ones.
None of my grandparents are still living, and my mother passed a few years ago as well. So you’d think I’d have a variety of heirloom-type things to cherish…and yet. Somehow I do not.
I have two very special things, one from my mother, and the other from my maternal grandmother. My mother collected tarot decks and when I was young I used to pore over one in particular, The Tarot of the Cat People, a wildly gorgeous deck combining science fiction and fantasy, featuring mysterious figures dressed in rich, flowing costumes and elegant jewelry…which naturally appealed to me, little magpie that I was! The deck is created by Karen Kuykendall, a cat lady whose art is said to be influenced not only by felines, but also by architecture, anthropology, art history, costume in history, her travels in Europe, Mexico and the southwest United States. My mother did not have much to her name when she died in 2013, but she still had this deck, which now is wrapped in silk, and sits amongst my own collection. Fittingly, my mother was very much a cat lady herself, who at any point in time had no less than twenty cats under her roof… and many years later, this deck still smells strongly of cat pee.
From my grandmother I have a cookbook, an item which smells much nicer! This is among my most treasured possessions…it is book of her favorite recipes and many of them handwritten, along with newspaper and magazine clippings. It’s stained and well-worn from frequent use and just as humble a thing as those tarot cards are glamorous, and I love them both equally.
I’d love to hear which modern physical media artists resonate with you and any particular pieces you own that you absolutely adore.
With regard to physical art, my first thought is that of 3D art–sculptures or carvings or architecture or art installations, things like that. But then again, isn’t a painting or an illustration on a canvas a physical piece of art, as well?
So maybe this is a cheat of an answer, or maybe not, but I’m going to share a handful of beloved artists who fall anywhere along this spectrum. I could wax poetic about all of these brilliant, talented humans, and in fact, in some cases, I already have– in the form of interviews or articles that I have written with or about them. If that’s the case, I will include the link below! Though I am not an artist, I am a massive art enthusiast and supporter of my favorite artists so this is definitely something I will revisit in a future video with a more comprehensive tour of my collection.
What is on your perfume wish list? And an add on, because you are a very olfactory oriented person what are some of your favourite non-fragrance aromas?
My perfume wish list isn’t what it used to be, but that’s because for the good of my wallet and sanity, I stopped reading perfume blogs several years ago. I’m no longer up on what’s new and rare and coveted and I’m better for the lack of temptation! With less fixation on the new offerings, that frees me up to enjoy the fragrances that I already own.
I will say that there is one from Bruno Acampora called Young Hearts that caught my eye sometimes over the past few months; described as “dewy, fresh, green and peculiar”, well, I like anything described as peculiar. And now that I am thinking about it, there was a scent from a few years ago that I was keen to try, inspired by the Library of Babel.
Aside from those two, I have a perfumer friend who has been diligently and thoughtfully working at creating her own formulations for a few years now and I cannot wait until she releases these fragrances into the world; I have sniffed a few prototypes and I feel that I am (and probably a great many of you as well) are the target demographic for these dark, mysterious, and incredibly well-researched scents. But it’s not my project, so that’s all I can say about that for now!
My very, very favorite non-fragrance related aroma is fresh marjoram. Marjoram in an herb in the oregano family, but it doesn’t smell at all like that nose-tickling pencil shaving spaghetti sauce herb to me; it has its own very distinct scent– faintly sweet and green and floral, and a bit woody and musty, too.
When I was growing up, my mother had some Christmas ornaments from Avon, l recall them as little fabric shapes with snowmen painted on them, and they exuded this sweet, dusty potpourri of a scent that I for years associated with the holidays and bringing decorations down from the attic, and in my mid-30s, when I smelled fresh marjoram for the first time, it was a scented epiphany. It’s such a beautifully gentle aroma, and I’ve got several pots of it growing on my front porch because I just can’t get enough of it.
Is there a holy Grail item that you covet for your collections but which you have yet to acquire?
Yes, and I will probably die mad about it. This is a poster from 2011 or so, a collaboration by artists Vania Zouravliov and Aaron Horkey, commissioned by Mondo, for Dracula. I missed it at the time and of course it probably sold out almost immediately. You can find it on eBay for nearly $1500… but that was originally a $60 poster, so that eBay seller can go straight to hell as far as I am concerned.
I hope this question is not cheeky, but I remember you mentioning wanting to curb your magpie tendencies. As someone who is constantly torn between acquisitiveness of all the pretties and anti-capitalist/degrowth ideals, I’d love to hear how you are thinking about it these days!
Not cheeky at all, I think it is actually a great question which deserves an equally amazing answer. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a good answer for you. While I will never be a minimalist, I do very much want to, while not pare down, exactly, I guess…I want to stop …wanting more? I want to use and enjoy the nice things I already have, but there is always the compulsion to find something nicer, something better, something perfect. Something that will make me perfect! I’m sure it’s all tied up in a bunch of deeply-rooted, internal stuff that has nothing to do with “stuff” at all. Rather feelings of childhood neglect, insecurity, and deprivation. Trying to fill a void that goes all the way down to my core, where there’s a little girl shouting up as if from the bottom of a well, “Pick me! Choose me! Love me!” Maybe I’m shopping for that poor kid, who knows?
At any rate, At the beginning of 2020, just as the beginning of every year, I made a vow that I wouldn’t buy any: books, art, perfumes, or jewelry (those are the four trouble areas, I guess.) Did I stick to that promise? Of course not. I will say that in terms of art, well, we’ve mostly run out of space, so that’s been curtailed by circumstance. With regard to perfume, I really haven’t been tempted because nothing has really excited me. Jewelry, well, there have been fewer jewelry purchases than in recent years, but there have been a few, like a pair of fantastic eyeball earrings from Alexis Berger, and this strange of beads from Eternal Craft Designs, in the photo above. Oh, and of course, I grabbed a necklace from Flannery Grace. And bloodmilk. Oh dear.
Books, ah. They’re a problem. Bigger problem than ever. Not sure what I am going to do about it, but you know, I think 2020 is the wrong time to be worrying about this problem. Like I said, this is an excellent question, and it’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about, but I’ve done a crap job with it this year. I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on this issue in the comments!
I’m curious if you some rotate your collection of art and interesting items in your home, or do you just keep adding, or do you pass things along to others?
I love the idea of a rotating gallery of arts and art objects but honestly, I am too lazy to do that. Plus while I know what I like, and I think I have a keen sense of style, particularly as it relates to my taste and aesthetic…I have absolutely no idea when it comes to design. Simply put: WHERE DOES ALL THIS STUFF GO? Honestly, I just keep cramming things on the shelves and pray they don’t buckle under the weight of my nonsense.
Or else I might pass it along! I was trying to recoup some of the money that I spent on various things by selling things in Depop, and while that was not a bad experience, per se, it was an annoying one. There were one too many instances of people asking dumb questions and I was like NOPE! LIFE’S TOO SHORT FOR THIS BALONEY! To spite the one person who asked me for several photos of a $25 pair of slides taken from a variety angles, I marked everything as sold, bagged it all up, and promptly gave it to a family friend, who is probably at this point the recipient of most of the stuff I know longer want or need or have room for. I consider myself a very patient person, but at a certain point these requests over sites like Depop or poshmark or whatever seem entitled and downright rude, and you know what? Fuck that. I’d rather flush my $300 perfume down the toilet than sell it to someone like that, and yes I am a drama queen and I am okay with that.
[EDITED TO ADD] Okay, I am a lying liar and I just listed some more stuff on Depop this past weekend. Le whoopsie.
Thanks for reading, friends! Please leave a comment below for a chance to win some of my books, art, perfume samples, etc., that I no longer have room for or never found room for in the first place. I am happy to send it your way!