There are nearly 20 books in my reviews below, but I’m afraid that I have a physical copy of only one of them. So our Stacked feature photo is not exactly a “stack” but it’s a very good book, so we’ll just have to be okay with it!

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily XR Pan. I do so love a re-imagining of age-old mythologies and I especially love magic woven throughout a contemporary, real-world story, so for these reasons alone, I was already poised to love this story of star-cross lovers Luna Chang and Hunter Yee, born on the same day and bestowed with inexplicably mystical gifts. Along with the silvery, expressive gorgeousness of Emily XR Pan’s writing and the beautifully bittersweet story arc of secrets and struggles and moon-struck mysteries, I adored Luna and Hunter’s journey together even more than I thought possible.

I can’t count the times my jaw dropped when reading Catriona Ward’s Sundial, a seemingly domestic drama of a novel comprised of secrets between mothers and daughters, the fierce and fearsome bonds of sisterhood, and the visceral, chilling effects of generational trauma.

Rob, a suburban housewife just trying to live a normal life despite her toxic relationship with her odious husband, senses with growing horror a chilling and evolving darkness and in her eldest daughter, Callie. Desperate for a solution for her child with whom she struggles to connect and doesn’t actually even like very much, Rob journeys with Callie to her childhood home, Sundial, in the middle of the Mojave desert. Shocking secrets are revealed gradually, nothing here is as it seems or as you expect, and once you think you’ve got the story straight, your expectations are subverted and turned upside down and inside out. This is an intensely brilliant, brutal, breathless tale that kept me guessing right up until the end.

A powerful and propulsive historical horror novel following a mysterious outbreak in a Japanese American internment camp during the fraught nationalist days of World War II, The Fervor explores a supernatural threat inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon. Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, were taken from their home in Seattle and forcibly relocated and incarcerated in an internment camp in Ohio while they await the return of husband and father Jamie, an airforce pilot stationed in the Pacific. A strange contagion spreads among those in the isolated camp, with minor illnesses evolving into episodes of aggression, violence, and death. After a sinister team of doctors arrives, Meiko and her daughter unite with a gutsy newspaper reporter and grieving missionary widower to investigate. Alma Katsu’s stories are always fiercely fascinating affairs and this does not disappoint.

It Will Be Just Us by Jo Kaplan. I haven’t been so simultaneously immersed in and wonderfully creeped out by a book in a long time. In brooding, labyrinthine  Wakefield Manor, phantom images of the houses’ past events and inhabitants perpetually loop through the rooms and corridors. But history can’t hurt you, no matter how dreadful, right? Sam, who lives there with her mother and sister, begins to glimpse what she believes is a faceless spectre from the present, a vicious entity bent on brutality– one who is able to move through time. Though its identity and motives are unclear, its intent is horrifically, and murderously apparent. This family thought themselves safe from the past, but can they protect themselves from madness and violence from the future?

Motherthing by Ainsley Hogarth. WOW. I am putting this book at the top of the list of the best things I have ever read. It’s sad and funny and disturbing and weird as hell. I love authors who can capture and articulate the disjointed strangeness and disconcerting intimacies of our inner monologues, those thoughts we’d never say aloud, and yet we recognize so much of ourselves in them when we get to listen in on someone else’s interior conversations. Hogarth also does a tremendous job of navigating and revealing the aching weirdness of relationships–both in the heartburstingly good and fun ways and the heartrendingly tragic and traumatizing ways. Dead moms and complicated mothers are a huge theme in this book, so if that’s a triggering topic, be wary. What is a mother’s love? Who deserves it and who does not? What happens when we’re deprived of it and in striving to be everything our mother was not, are we not also becoming that shadow, as well? In this story, Abby has found her true-love soulmate in Ralph and hopes to create a family with him, giving their child everything positive and good as a parent that neither she nor Ralph experienced as children. In the wake of Ralph’s cruel and emotionally controlling mother’s suicide, Ralph is succumbing to a deep depression and is also insisting that he is seeing his mother’s ghost. More troubling still, Abby is beginning to sense a presence as well. Feeling her dreams threatened and her fragile sense of self crumbling, Abby becomes …quite desperate. Motherthing is released in September, but I acquired an advance copy through Netgalley.

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes. In The House in the Pines, we are following Maya, a young woman who is going through klonopin withdrawals and dealing with her insomnia by applying a liberal amount of alcohol. Still grieving the shocking loss of her best friend Aubrey who died–suddenly and in strange circumstances– seven years prior, Maya sees a YouTube video recording a recent death that occurred in a diner. A death that seems terribly familar to her friend’s. Sitting across from the dead woman just happens to be the man that was also with Maya’s and Aubrey on that tragic day seven years prior. Frank–the man that Maya had begun dating and found herself falling for. And who, despite having no proof, she suspected was responsible for Aubrey’s death. Frank, of whom though her memories of their time together are strangely hazy, she vividly and violently dreams of every night. At times both swiftly-paced as well as a bit of a slow-burn, The House in the Pines was a compelling and thought-provoking read, engaging the reader in explorations of loss and regret, of memory and madness, and how the past can sometimes offer deceptive and dangerous refuge. I think I see the weird, uncommon stuff embedded in a story long before I see more basic motives and logistics, so I didn’t find this twist especially twisty but appreciate its inclusion and it provided an interesting angle. This title will be published next January; I acquired a copy through Netgalley.

Billy Summers by Stephen King. I read this book about an assassin with a heart of gold who pretends to be dumber than he really is so that people will underestimate him should the shit hit the fan one day (which it does) but I don’t want to talk about it. The more I read Stephen King as an adult the more I question my deep and abiding love for him, which bloomed when I was a much younger person. I find this all deeply depressing to contemplate.

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten. In the late 1950s,  the small Swedish mining town of Silvertjarn saw its entire population of about 900 disappear overnight. In the present day, Alice, a budding documentary filmmaker, travels with her crew to the abandoned town to begin gathering research and footage for her project on the town’s fate and what actually happened there. As the group begins exploring, strange and sinister things start to happen, threatening the project and endangering the crew. As things fall apart for Alice and her group of friends, the pieces of this mysterious and frightening puzzle start to come together.  I think if you watched the supremely unsettling horror film Yellow Brick Road, you will probably appreciate The Lost Village.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. A deeply troubling but extremely readable story about a 15-year-old private school student’s relationship with her 42-year-old teacher. I’m a little bit grossed out (at myself) by how quickly I tore through this book, but there you go.

The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson. I read this while I was traveling and anxious, so I barely remember it, but I do recall that it was a quick read with characters I was really rooting for, and where some really gross stuff happened.  A kind of weirdness and horror overtakes a small Oregon town as a government experiment fails and its manmade nightmares escape containment. Conspiracy theories and science gone wrong and hormonal high school friendships and surprisingly disgusting body horror, wheee!

Dead Silence by SA Barnes. I don’t typically read a lot of sci-fi space horror and this claustrophobic Event Horizon-esque novel has me questioning why. As we enter the story, Claire and her crew of workers are wrapping up a maintenance project in deep space when they unexpectedly pick up a distress signal from the Aurora… a luxury liner that disappeared under mysterious circumstances twenty years prior.  Even dumb babies know that answering distress calls from ghost ships in the dead of space is never a good time, but Claire, the sole survivor of a tragic event from her past, is no stranger to ghostly visitations and wants to check it out.. Madness, infection, corporate politics, and pandemic themes abound in this tale of dread and despair, and there’s even a bit of romance (I could have done without even a hint of romance, tbh.) So I guess need more horror in space on my shelves?

The House Across The Lake by Riley Sager. Actress Casey Fletcher is having a rough time of it. Grieving her husband’s accidental drowning at their beloved lake house, she’s coping by applying a liberal amount of alcohol to the wound. Her drinking and depression spiraling out of control, Casey’s subsequent behavior instigates a fairly incendiary streak of bad press, and at her stage-actress mother’s behest, she retreats from the public eye to the relative quiet of her family’s lakeside home. There she meets one of her new neighbors, Katherine, when she saves her from drowning and a fast friendship begins to form– but is swiftly cut short when Katherine soon after that goes missing. Casey, whose rest & retreat habits include drinking from sunup to sundown as well as spying on her neighbors in their glass house across the water with her late husband’s high-powered binoculars (you can see craters on the moon with them, he marvels) observes some strange happenings over there and is growing suspicious that Katherine’s intensely controlling husband has done her in. Riley Sager has introduced a supernatural facet to his typical woman-in-peril psychological thriller and through the book’s twists and turns it becomes apparent that whatever you think you know, you probably don’t. Or even if you do know it…you still don’t! Ultimately, I’m not sure that this is one of the author’s strongest offerings, as the believability factor is a bit iffy, though I think if he’d perhaps built up more story and local lore around the weird bits, he might have pulled it off. Still, it was pretty binge-able –I read it in a day!–and a solid spooky summer read. This title will be published in June; I acquired a copy through Netgalley.

And boy howdy have I read a lot of women-in-peril (and adjacent) books lately. I’ve found that, at least at this stage in life, they’re the best things for me to read when I want to just turn my brain off and let it snack on junk food. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware was probably my favorite among her books thus far. Sort of had an olde-timey golden age mystery gothic feel to it, with mysterious letters and mistaken identities and fortune-tellers and weird family dynamics  A Slow Fire Burning by Paul Hawkins, well, take heed of the title. It’s a slow burn. There is a death and three different women connected to the victim. I heard someone say about this book on YouTube, “I just can’t get into books with old people as the main characters,” so I read this out of spite. It was okay. The Guest List and The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley, were both fun stories that I read over the course of an afternoon or two. In The Guest List, a luxurious destination wedding goes sour on a creepy island where everyone is keeping secrets, and The Paris Apartment follows the down on her luck Jess as she goes to stay with her half brother in a posh Parisian apartment, and discovers not long after she arrives that he has gone missing. In her investigations to find out what has happened to him, she discovers the building’s dysfunctional occupants are the least of her worries.  Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty were probably my favorites from among this stack of mysteries and thrillers. These are the first books I have read by Liane Moriarty, and man, her writing is so goofy and charming. I love that. Both feature vulnerable people going through their own stuff in the scheme of the larger story, but often the individual characters’ stories interlink in interesting ways as well. Both of these books have been turned into television series, so I won’t bother getting into the plot, but if you want something a bit more light-hearted than a Ruth Ware or Paula Hawkins, but still kinda murdery, Liane Moriarty books are adorable.

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The Art of Darkness is a book that was born in my blood. I have always been obsessed with what’s in the dark, and these fears and fascinations drive just about everything I do.

🖤 Before I wrote any books, before I contributed to any blogs, before Tumblr or Pinterest or Livejournal or even my AOL user profile (ha!) I’ve perpetually been compelled to connect with others via imagery that I’ve unearthed from the darkness. I’ve been shouting into the void about these things for as long as I can recall, and it’s this very compulsion that led to the creation of this book.

🖤 A desire to share the artworks I love that haunt and horrify, mesmerize and delight, a longing to have a beautifully bound piece of the void to hold in my own hands, brimming with weirdness and wonders, the melancholic and the macabre, and all the shadows of the supernatural, the surreal, and the sublime. I can’t wait for you to hold a copy of it in your hands, too!
And in about three months’ time, we’ll both be able to!

🖤 So here’s the part where I tell you that your preorders are so, SO helpful–whether via amazon or your local bookshop or or even requesting a copy or two at your library!

🖤 If we’ve connected via my art writing over the last few years or if something I’ve shared has tantalized (or terrorized!) you and you’ve been wondering what’s the best way to support me and my work, your preorders of The Art of Darkness are just the thing!

🖤 And don’t forget, if you fill out the form on the Quarto website, you can receive some treats including a signed bookplate, and in the meantime, I’m not sure if I have shared this yet, but here’s a FULL jacket reveal, including that devastating cover from Alex Eckman Lawn AND a midnight bloom by Chris Mrozik on the back cover!

Antiquity_V, Alex Eckman-Lawn


How To Hold, Chris Mrozik

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31 May

what’s that I can’t hear you over the sound of my perfume

Pictured above: when your perfume cabinet moonlights as a Penny Dreadful burlesque stage, I guess? I don’t think I am using this space optimally or efficiently, so I guess I will settle for using it ridiculously!

Here is a gathering of all of the perfumes I have reviewed this past month…

While I don’t often reach for fragrances that are considered light or fresh, Keiko Mecheri’s Les Nuit d’Izu is a scent that does these things exactly the way I like them. Les Nuit d’Izu is a poem, not a haiku, but perhaps a bittersweet tanka consisting of transparent green woods and sharp soapy florals, tempered by soft mosses and the musky powder of blooming citrus. It awoke in me a deep sense of nostalgia and it was driving me nuts because I couldn’t put my finger on what it reminded me of. I think Les Nuits d’Izu is a more posh version of Cotton Blossom, my favorite Bath and Body Works scent that’s gone through so many iterations that I’m not even sure what it’s called anymore. Cotton Blossom was a dreamy treat of white musk, soapy florals, and a hint of linens drying in the breeze high on a seaside cliff. It marked a time in my life filled with brief moments of tremulous hope tucked inside dark pockets of blinding despair. Les Nuits d’Izu shares many of these aspects, note-wise anyway, but with an intimate sense of midlife perspective from someone looking backward rather than forward. I feel like this perfume I am wearing today is the evolution and maturity of the body spray that I wore back then. I love it, but I don’t know if I can justify a full bottle when I’ve already got something that smells so similar. With maturity comes restraint and an obligation to fiscal responsibility after all. HAHA, that was a joke. You know I am going to buy a bottle.

 Saturday and Sunday from Arielle Shoshana. Saturday is reminiscent of those Choward violet candies, but instead of a chalky sweet floral, it’s a chalky sweet green leaf, as well as vaguely soapy, in a botanically-fruity chemical Herbal Essences shampoo kind of way. Saturday smells like your best friend in middle school who you probably shouldn’t look up on Facebook because you’re gonna be horrified to see who she voted for in the presidential elections a few years ago and how invested she was in building a wall. Leave the past in the past and maybe just buy the cheap shampoo from your youth if you’re feeling nostalgic, it’s probably about $150 less than this perfume. From the notes, it sounds as if Sunday is meant to be some sort of matcha horchata frappuccino thing, but the rice milk, rather than being sweet and creamy on my skin, instead comes across as more grain-like and savory, almost like a puffed, unsweetened cereal. As if I was having a bowl of hot, salted, and buttered Rice Krispies. The coconut and vanilla try to peek through but it presents in a sort of jammy, condensed milk & jello retro 1950s dessert manner that’s really offputting, especially next to the Frito-Lay vibes. I think both of these scents are a pass for me.

You know, it’s possible in my old age I am becoming less rigid, and more flexible in expanding my horizons when it comes to my former hard-passes. Over time I had come to believe that I was just not a gourmand kind of gal. So maybe I’m just running into some really well-executed compositions, full of thoughtful nuance and all kinds of interesting facets…or maybe my tastes are changing all together. Does it matter? It’s good to keep yourself open to stuff, at any rate, so either way, it’s not a bad thing. Over The Chocolate Shop by 4160 Tuesdays is, at first, basically a cake straight to the face, bittersweet dark chocolate crumbs on your chin, rich, creamy milk chocolate frosting right up the ol’ schnozerino. But after a moment or two, there’s more to it. Now, this is gonna sound gross, but there’s a certain…scatological element that I am picking up on. I don’t know how else to say it I don’t want to think about it too much but there’s definitely an indolic something or other that makes this cocoa less delicious and more funky and weird. And I’ll be honest, that’s one of the reasons I like the scent. There’s nothing like that listed in the notes, though, so I’m not sure what I am smelling. There’s also a sort of Escentric Molecules velvet woodsy sandalwood/cedar undercurrent to the fragrance, which is really pleasantly elegant and understated, especially next to something so decadent as all that chocolate. So if the idea of a bottomless chocolate buffet + a mysterious and inexplicable poopy element + a squirt of ISO E Super rings your bells (and I mean you know why wouldn’t it) then this is a definite must.

Sante Sangre, created by Dmitry Bortnikov and Rajesh Balkrishnana. Raj thoughtfully sent to me a sample of this, along with a few of his other collaborations after seeing a few of my reviews on fragrantica, and I thought that was pretty cool and awfully generous. I believe this is meant to be a scent highlighting both lotus and dragon’s blood, which is a really intriguing concept because regardless of what they might actually smell like, those two notes feel so very different to me and conjure wildly different associations. Lotus being sort of delicate and ethereal and watery and dragon’s blood more spicy-powdery, rich and balsamic. The scent surprisingly enough opens with citrus and soil, a really zippy, tart, grapefruit-orange, and earthy garden smells of freshly turned dirt on a late spring morning when you’re trying to do a bit of planting before the day gets too warm. This is followed by a very pretty vanilla orchid flower and warm, smoky tonka note, along with soft, candied confections of resins and woods, like a sort of amber nougat with a sandalwood custard-cream center. Sante Sangre is a fragrance that hovers just beyond your perception; you can’t smell it on your wrist in the moment, you smell it where you were standing just a few seconds ago, in the room you left an hour ago. It’s a bit of a temporal anomaly of a perfume that’s really just begging me to break a few laws of space in time. In order to finish this review tonight, I feel I’d best served by tootling through a wormhole to future me or slipping through a secret window to past me in order to collate and coalesce all of the mes wearing this scent, so that I can get the full picture of it. I will get to work on that.

As with many things, because I am a spiteful, hateful hater when it comes to the things that everyone else loves and are super jazzed about, I was all set to be unimpressed with Debaser from DS & Durga. a figgy scent apparently based on the opening song from the Pixies 1989’s album, Doolittle. Shame on me.
Because I actually really love creation, and although I live to be right in all things, in terms of perfume I do actually love to be wrong. At first I was kinda leery because the initial sniff was of unripe peaches, rudely knocked off the tree by the ornery flaps of sassy corvids, to lay wetly in a mound of dewy grass clippings. It was fruity but far too green to be sweet, or even edible. The coconut note is green too, a coconut before its reached full maturity, at the stage you might harvest it for the water sloshing inside rather than the flesh. It’s clean and mineralic as opposed to sweet and creamy. And maybe what I mistook for peach is actually the fig, the cool, shady leaf and the bitter sap, but thankfully not the jammy, honeyed fruit. It dries down to moody, rooty, earthy iris, and soft woody musks. Do I get the punky energy of a Pixies song inspired by surreal cinema out of this scent? I don’t know that I do, but I don’t know that I don’t. It’s a subtle fragrance with some unexpected flourishes and off-kilter appeal and if being wrong means that I smell like an oddly understated but characteristically weird A24 film, then I am very ok with it.

Batsheva from Regime des Fleurs smells of a subtly smoky blackberry and violet incense, something you might burn to summon either spectral shades from the underworld or second-ranking seraphim. It’s a strange, amorphous mixture of the undefined: it’s neither sweet nor dry, aquatic nor earthy, fruity-resinous nor herbal fresh, edgy leather metal lord nor cottagecore sweetheart–and yet it somehow sits at the intersection of all of these things. I love Bathsheva’s early collections with their frills and ruffles and ditzy, saccharine prints, and this scent is a through the looking glass version of that twee weirdness, a dark, twisted fantasy that never quite made it from La La Land to the nightmare side. “Liminal” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but this fragrance really does feel betwixt and between, grounded and ethereal– a space of utter unbelonging.

While I know that Blackbird from Olympic Orchids takes its inspiration from the warm, sunbaked days, ripe blackberries, dry grass, and cedar trees of the Pacific Northwest, my imagination took a very different turn upon first wearing it. Of time spent in a haunted glen, with hungry roots and mossy stone. And cross the brook, a of troop wicked goblin men–who find you napping all alone. They hobble, hurry, scrabble, scurry and once your face they spy, you wake befuddled, vision blurry to their helterskelter goblin cry: “Come buy our orchard fruits, Come buy, come buy.” Though I believe Blackbird is meant to evoke a dreamy temperate midsummer day, in its fruit like honey to the throat, I taste poison in the blood. The delicate mulberries, wild free-born cranberries, crab-apples, blackberries, damsons and bilberries, currants and gooseberries are born in snow and mud. Apologies to Christina Rosetti for hacking up your beautiful poem although at its heart I think it’s warning us not to be greedy sluts, but whatever. This is all to say, even though I hate fruit (in the perfume world and also in real life) I really like Blackbird. It’s an ominous blackberry cautionary tale in a grove of dramatic conifers.

I made this. It me.

Autumn Rhythm from Chris Collins is everything I wanted Autumn Vibes from Maison Martin Margiela to be, but which it miserably failed at delivering. I said what I said about it in my previous review at the time but instead today I am going to compare that scent to a dream I had last night where I crashed Reba McIntyre’s Thanksgiving dinner and she was aggressively pushing an excess of pumpkin pie on her boozy, belligerent guests. Autumn Rhythm, on the other hand, is a far cry from that cornucopia of autumnal resentment and lesson in exquisite restraint. THIS is the Ray Bradbury Autumn People fragrance I was hoping for. It’s the scent of a cool, smoky wind that clings to your hair and scarf after a walk in the waning light of a fall afternoon. Though a tussle of leaves have tumbled to the acorn-specked soil, most remain a soft serenade of green and pale, glowing yellow. Rhythm is a perfume of promise and patience as the trees slowly shed what no longer serves them, the dead and dying detritus of leaves, bark, needles, cones, and twigs, earthy, leathery, and woody and bitter. A strange melancholic verdancy, not crisp, but the tender, mossy dream of it. All of these notes, captured in a warm woolen halo of cashmere stitches and sweet musky skin. This is autumnal perfection.

I had previously tried one from Rook Perfumes–Undergrowth–which I didn’t love, but I held out hope because their offerings just seemed to evoke a sort the quiet drama and weird theatricality that I am very into. And so I think I found my gateway into their world with Thurible. I don’t smell the swinging sacramental censer of aromatic embers and worshipful smoke, but rather an abbess in her holy house working with the incense ingredients in their raw forms. Moss gathered from the lee of a stone, the earthy herbaceous poetry of crushed sage, the gunpowder floral of black pepper that dances frenzied confetti fragments of dark matter under a sturdy stone pestle’s grinding, all bound in the sticky shadows of leathery labdanum and musky amber honey. I don’t know if you light this for ritual descent into the twilight of the underworld or if you smear a fingerful across your tongue at night before navigating the dark corridors of dreams, but whatever its use it feels of disruptive eeriness and unreality where you learn of the things behind the things.

Hiram Green’s Arbolé is not what I expected from the verdant liquid pictured in the bottle. This is a woody anise, a waxy vanilla, a sweet, powdery heliotrope. A lot of reviewers describe this as luxe and cozy and elegant and I think I get that, but there’s something skin-crawling and unsettling that lies beneath. It’s the unreliable narrator in the best-selling domestic-noir thriller; she’s posh, privileged, possibly lives in a Parisian apartment or a luxury flat in London. She’s either in a troubled marriage or she’s grieving her dead husband and/or child, she’s isolated, she’s probably self-medicating and not always terribly lucid, she’s paranoid… or is she being gaslit? She’s spying on the neighbors, she suspects murder or kidnapping or espionage, she’s playing detective, she’s too smart for her own good but too late to figure out she’s been trusting the wrong person. She backs herself into a corner and rarely comes full circle, or even out on the other side of things. The scent of fear and anxiety exuded by these women as they make their way through the twists and turns of these stories? It is the fragrance of Arbolé’s queasy, uneasy prettiness.

Akro Haze is a cool, slithery scent of aromatic and bittersweet-camphoraceous herbs, the hissing sweetness of that unexpected and uncanny resinous maple syrup note that I associate with immortelle, and a quiet, stealthy base of leathery woods and patchouli. I can’t speak to the fragrance’s supposed inspiration because I do not partake, but it certainly does have a nocturnal, narcotic energy, all languid limbs, drowsing breaths, and being hypnotized by a gorgeous creature who is actually a snake spirit or a snake goddess, or a Medusa, or a half-woman, half-cobra monster created by a mad scientist, or whatever– what I am getting here is that Haze is a monstrously beautiful snake lady of a scent.

I can’t tell you anything about No. 32 Blue Oud by Cognoscenti that makes any amount of sense. Remember Smarties, those small, sweet pale, chalky disks of nostalgia, stacked in rolls, wrapped in crinkly cellophane, and which probably made up the bulk of your Halloween haul when you were a kid? Ok, well, imagine a confection along those lines, crafted by enterprising small business owner witch Pepper Dupree of the Whispering Hills (patent pending) and flavored with proprietary woodland essences of violet and bluebells and meadow rue, brambleberries, cypress and fern and a fuzzy snippet of flowering lichen that only blooms in the shimmering light of a blue moon. The candies are painted the intense velvety shade of midwinter nights, deep resolve, and slow truths, and emblazoned with silvery scenes of celestial significance. She was inspired by Zeus, the blind, starry-eyed screech owl that she saw on the internet and wanted to create a tiny treat that evoked for the user what Zeus awoke in her: a brief moment of universality, of wholeness within oneself and one’s connection with everything. As you can imagine, such visions, however exquisite or fleeting, come at a steep price–but Pepper Dupree now accepts Afterpay and Klarna.

Pear Inc. from Juliette has a Gun is rotting clumps of sour milk, canned fruit that’s been forgotten in a bunker for 35 years, and the slutty Egyptian musk that a zombie stripper demon might wear while giving you a wildly uncomfortable lap dance. My god. I just want to hurl this sample straight into the sun.

I have written about Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir before, but I thought I might revisit it because while I really do love it, the hows and whys of my love for it are certainly subject to change over time! Clinique markets the perfume as an “intriguing non-conformist fragrance.” Chandler Burr writes of its depth and shadows, and it’s described by many reviewers as “a chypre on steroids.” I find all of these things to be true, and more. It is a bitter, balsamic, menacingly astringent blend of cool, otherworldly woods and sour alien herbs, abstract florals and austere resins. Verbena and geranium, jasmine and oakmoss, bergamot and patchouli–all of the familiar notes for a classic and yet it feels out of time, wholly strange and new, as if it contains a strain of alien DNA. Like it’s been floating through the void of space in a cavernous non-Euclidean construct, the monstrous pressure and eerie whistle of the air ducts it’s been hiding in slowly driving it mad as it drifts a silent path through the cold stars, utterly alone. If this being had a message for us from across that cosmic ocean of emptiness, it would surely reach us after its death. Such a transmission from that dread abyss is the scent of Aromatics Elixir.

Imaginary Authors Fox in the Flowerbed is all fluttering spring petals, light feathery wings on a playful breeze, and unsettlingly intimate musks. Even the honeyed jasmine, usually so heavy, heralding summer’s muggy fug, feels like a gossamer dream on a cool, April evening. This conjures the beautifully tender, kinky lepidopteran weirdness of The Duke of Burgundy‘s bizarre love story. I know a fragrance inspired by the film already exists, but somehow Fox in the Flowerbed does a more proper and true job of it.


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1968 Reader’s Digest edition of “Rebecca” by Daphne De Maurier.

It must have been fate. Born eleven days apart on opposite coasts, Leo and Diane met, competed artistically, and eventually fell in love while attending Parsons School of Design, each aspiring to a life of art. After their marriage in 1957, the artists initially pursued separate careers in illustration before recognizing their strengths were collaborative in nature. In an effort to work in a particular style that they both could master, they symbiotically and seamlessly melded their personalities and styles, employing pastels, colored pencil, watercolor, acrylic, stencils, typography, woodcut, pochoir, found-object assemblage, collage, and sculpture into an entity/partnership that they came to refer to as “the artist.”

Noted Leo on the gorgeously striking complexity of their distinctive decorative realism and unconventional techniques: “People often comment on the ‘Dillon style.’ I think that someplace, the two of us made a pact with each other. We both decided that we would give up the essence of ourselves, that part that made the art each of us did our own. And I think that in doing that we opened the door to everything.”

Marie Laveau Cover Artwork, 1977

The Dillons became famous in the science fiction community for their imaginative and incredible variety of drawings and illustrations for prints, book jackets, textbooks, album covers; the books of authors such as Ray Bradbury, Garth Nix, and Isaac Asimov were all embellished with cover art revealing “the artist’s” unique vision. The Dillons were presented with the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 1971, making Diane the first woman to receive the award. Outside the world of fantasy and science fiction, the Dillons became renowned for their numerous children’s picture books celebrated for illustrating stories featuring all ethnicities and cultural heritages–for which they received unprecedented back-to-back Caldecott Medals.

original art for the cover of John Brunner’s The Traveler in Black


DEATHBIRD STORIES, by Harlan Ellison cover art


Queen Zixi of Ix , or the Story of the Magic Cloak LP art


A Wrinkle in Time cover study


The Ring, 1968


Cover art for World’s End by Joan D. Vinge


The Tempest album cover Caedmon Records (1975)


Different: An Anthology of Homosexual Short Stories cover art


The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury cover art


art from Claymore and Kilt: Sorche Nic Leodhas


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@theindygrrl Every day doesn’t have to be a ride on the strugglebus. #adultcoloring #coloring #livingoutloud ♬ original sound – Indy Grrl

“Every day doesn’t have to be a ride on the strugglebus.” My baby sister has a TikTok account now, and even though she’s only posted one video so far, I really like what she’s doing here. Mental health revelations + coloring snippets. Or even just daily chatter and thoughts + coloring snippets. I’d watch the heck out of that, even if I wasn’t her sister! I never got on board with the whole adult coloring book phenomena (oddly enough, I find it an incredibly stressful endeavor, not soothing or peaceful for me at all!) but I do find it very calming to watch other people do it.

In this video she’s giving voice to some thoughts I have been plagued with lately, myself. I got married in February. Bought a new house in April. My second book will be published in September of this year and I am working on my third book for publication in 2023. These are all wonderful things that I am thrilled to experience. A month or so ago, before we moved, a friend commented on one of my Instagram stories about how very blessed I was, or something to that effect. And you know what? I immediately got defensive. I thought to myself, “after ALL I’VE BEEN THROUGH, don’t I deserve to have something nice? Don’t I deserve success? Don’t I deserve HAPPINESS?”

I felt attacked by this harmless comment which I am sure was meant in good faith and friendliness, but I felt like my right to these things was being questioned, like I hadn’t earned them, like I hadn’t struggled enough to be worthy of them. Like escaping a decade-long abusive relationship wasn’t enough to earn the right to be with someone kind and loving. Like having spent years of my life caring for others, spending time and energy and money, and sacrificing my own mental wellness to keep them safe and comfortable wasn’t enough to earn time to focus on my own endeavors. Like I don’t deserve, at 46 years of age, to own a home, to have nice things, after spending every year of my life working since I was 15 years old. Because I grew up in a home with a parent who struggled with addiction and mental health issues wasn’t enough to earn me the right to function as a healthy adult, with boundaries and a sense of self-worth not reliant on keeping everyone else happy?

But the truth is…I didn’t have to experience any hardship to deserve to be alive, to be loved and cared for. To take up space. That’s not how that works. “Those of us who’ve experienced abuse, sexual assault, and trauma may question our personhood and very right to exist,” writes And so I often think–although I’ve tried to disengage with this thought process– that life is just supposed to be a perpetual, relentless struggle. That anything which makes life better or easier, is somehow cheating …for me. Other people can do these things, but I am not allowed to. This is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember and I write about it a little bit more here, in “Conveniences for the Invisible Girl.” I don’t know if I fully explained my thoughts then, and I don’t know if I am doing it now, but maybe you’re getting a picture of what I am trying to say. Maybe you struggle with worthiness, too.

I don’t have any answers. I’m just going to keep being here, living my life. Struggling with human things. You know where to find me.

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You may have noticed that while the Haute Macabre Shop is still open for business, the long-running goth fashion and lifestyle blog has closed its doors. That’s okay! All things have their time, and I was privileged to have had the opportunity to contribute my writing in the form of essays, articles, and interviews for a while. It does make me a little sad though, that some of the sartorial ensembles I created for them over the years might be lost to the ether, so I thought I’d collect them all and give them a home at Unquiet Things.

Here are all of the ones that I could find, and as I unearth more, I will be sure to add them!






















































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