My newest mini zine, “The Birthday Party,” is now available via Etsy.
The zine is based on a short story previously posted on Patreon and revised to be several hundred words longer.
$1 | 16 pages | 1/8 US letter | black & white.
I hadn’t actually planned on writing a blog post today. In fact, I wasn’t much concerned with getting back into any kind of blogging routine. I don’t know what blogging is to me anymore, and I care far more about my zines and other projects than keeping a regular blog–but sometimes it’s nice just to talk things out, so I thought I’d do a little small goals update for October.
Bake and decorate festive sugar cookies. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with cake baking and decorating, so now I’m looking to hone my skills in the world of decorated cookies. I’ve never made a royal icing, or even a particularly well-shaped batch of sugar cookies, but since October is the month of my favorite holiday, I’m going to try making some bats, cats, and pumpkins before the month is through.
Finish a short story mini zine. I’ve been dipping my toe into the world of horror short stories for the past few months, and I’d like to start putting them out into the world in ways other than my Patreon, so my hope is that one of the stories, “The Birthday Party,” will become a 1/8 letter size zine by the end of the month.
Finish + return my library books. Weeks ago I ended up putting hold requests on ten books, and to my surprise they all seemed to become available within days of each other. Since then, I’ve been trying my damnedest to finish them before they’re due back–and now I’m completely out of renewals, with four books left, so it’s either finish them or bust! But I’m especially determined to finish them up so I can request Caitlin Doughty’s new book, From Here to Eternity, because I’m itching to get my hands on that one.
Long time no see! I’ve been taking a lot of time for myself over the past few weeks, focusing on the things I want to do (mostly reading, exercising, and cleaning the house) and trying to avoid pressuring myself to do too much of anything else. I dropped off on my bookstagram, too, for a while, even though I’ve been doing a ton of reading. I just needed some me time. To be honest, I’m still not going to be posting as often as I was before, but it’s nice to be finding the right balance for myself now.
Continue to send out writing submissions. Only one, but that’s something! Plus, it was accepted, so it’s definitely a win for July.
Get caught up on 100 Horror Films. Yeah, not quite. I’m still about twenty movies behind, which I don’t think is going to take me long to reach, so I’m not quite freaking out–yet. But I do need to get cracking.
Clean my office. LOL. This did not happen, but I’m actually on planning on doing it today. It’s even on my to do list in my planner!Send out two more submissions. One last month was good, but since I’ve got a few things in the work this month (a couple more poems, mostly), I’d like to get them ready start sending out, because the more I put out there, the more chances to get accepted!
Read seven books. I actually achieved this in July, without even trying, and I’d like to keep the momentum going. I think requesting so many from the library has been helping to keep me engaged and excited to read.
Finish my horror short story. It’s this kind of ethereal yet macabre piece inspired by the Marilyn Monroe biography I’ve been reading and all of the horror films I’ve been watching. I’m feeling so enthusiastic and excited about it, so I think if nothing else, I’ll definitely achieve this one.
What are you aiming for in August?
Most of the books I read can be put into two categories: young adult or Stephen King. Every once in a while, though, I’ll branch out, for one reason or another. In this instance, All I Want to Do is Live was a publishing project I chose to back on Hatchfund, a Kickstarter-like project funding site—and of course I went for the bound book copy reward.
All I Want to Do is Live is a collection of essays, creative nonfiction, and poetry. It’s made up considerably of selected pieces from author Trace Ramsey’s zines, some of which appear both in their original zine or chapbook form and in adapted/expanded versions later on in the book.
Part one consists of selected pieces from Ramsey’s nonfiction chapbooks and zines, and Ramsey’s storytelling within these essays is striking. He crafts vivid scenes of rural life in beautiful, horrifying ways, which aren’t likely to be easily forgotten. One notable event is his effort to butcher a roadkill deer he found, the attempt quickly going awry. Among the rich description of solo survival, though, Ramsey makes reference to why he’s doing this—his internal motivations—and he does so without making the piece feel disjointed or awkward. Many pieces in the collection have this back and forth between the internal and external; I couldn’t help noting as I read that Ramsey’s smooth style would make an excellent example for anyone looking to study creative nonfiction.
Among part two, the poetry selections, there are a number of amazing, thoughtful pieces, from the likes of “Baby #1” and “Baby #2” to “Homeless” and “Roaches.” A personal favorite within the section is “Planning,” which examines assumptions surrounding the potential of tragedy and the aftermath. It’s a short piece, but powerful in its brevity. As with much poetry, each piece in the section benefits from a reread and even a read aloud. The language twists in a way that at first can be puzzling—if beautiful—and isn’t that just the way of poetry?
A prominent, recurring theme throughout the collection is Ramsey’s interest in and affection for birds. Their presence seems to permeate nearly every piece, even in a simple passing mention of a bird’s song or their appearance flitting through a scene. I don’t put much credit into the idea that themes, motifs, and the like are always a result of author intention, but I do think that the birds, in general, speak to a variety of habits, ideas, and experiences: The prominence of the rural in Ramsey’s life, the comfort of the familiar in the midst of a struggle, and the constant underlying presence of his depression.
Part three of the collection, essays and flash nonfiction, contains one of the most impactful pieces: “Farthing Street.” This essay focuses on the birth of Ramsey’s second child and the ensuing post-partum depression he experiences, something not often talked about in terms of the father. It connects so many aspects of the collection together to discuss Ramsey’s depression, approaching it medically as necessary (and how that relates to an at times “crunchy” lifestyle, and birth process in particular), and examining how it affects and relates to his status as a new father. It’s a thorough, passionate piece, raw and quiet, yet still powerful, with its closing line the collection’s title in bold, “All I want to do is live.” It’s a piece that made me take a moment, take a deep breath, and hold the book to my chest as I braced myself in recovery.
All I Want to Do is Live is just beautiful, inside and out. From the texture of the tricolor cover to the vulnerability and honesty of the contents within. Trace Ramsey’s collection is a powerful work of art that I’m so proud to support.
Sometimes I wonder why I bother doing these posts if halfway through the month my goals are going to be different from what they were at the beginning of the month. It’s a lot like my tbr lists, actually. I make them, and then just kind of shrug and say, “Screw it,” if I decide something more interesting or important has come along.
Finish writing and revising Whatsername #4. Okay, if I’m being honest, I still have a few pages to fill with content in this issue, but considering I not only wrote and revised but also laid them out what I have so far, I think this counts as a success. I should even have the issue finished and ready to list on Etsy before July is through.
Write for at least fifteen minutes every day. Maybe? I stopped filling out my habit tracker partway through the month. (Full disclosure: I just got lazy. It happens.) I can’t quite call this a win or loss, but I feel happy with what I did produce in June, and that’s what really matters.
Read five books. Technically, I only read four and started a fifth. So I’m going to call it a win, even if only one book was from my original tbr for the month.
Continue to send out writing submissions. I actually sent out two submissions in June, even without it being a “small goal,” and I’d like to keep doing so. It feels good to try putting my work out there in a different avenue than my usual choices (i.e, doing it all myself).
Get caught up on 100 Horror Films. I’m not uncomfortably behind, but I’d still like to get caught up so I don’t have to worry about falling even farther behind before the last third of the project comes along.
Clean my office. My office at home hasn’t been a particularly enticing place to work lately, and I’d like to go through everything in it, get rid of anything I don’t need/want, and reorganize what I can. It’s just kind of a hot mess right now, and I want to be excited to work in it again.
What are you aiming for in July?
Y’all, I could not resist this box, and there was a turn of luck that came in my ordering it. A couple of weeks ago, as I was crossing my fingers in the most recent Nocturnal Readers Box rep search on Instagram (spoiler alert: I was not chosen as a rep), there was the announcement that a few orders had been canceled for the June box and purchases would be temporarily reopened. So naturally I snagged that right up after missing out on the original ordering time frame for this Stephen King-themed book box.
For those who don’t know, The Nocturnal Reader’s Box is a monthly subscription box focusing on the horror, science-fiction, and psychological thriller genres. Each box comes with two books–one new release, one new copy of a previous release–a bookmark, a wearable, and an art print commissioned for that month’s theme, plus a handful other items.
This month’s box included: an exclusive edition of the new Stephen King novella Gwendy’s Button Box, co-authored with Richard Chizmar; a copy of Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub; a bookmark; a The Dark Tower bandana; a “Constant Reader” enamel pin; a “Greetings from Derry, Maine” magnet; It and Carrie stickers; a The Long Walk art print; a Castle Rock/Gwendy’s Button Box limited edition coin; a Creepshow patch; and an exclusive Firestarter tea from Jasmine Pearl Tea Company.
This box was an absolute blast. All the items in it were wonderfully on topic, from the It and Carrie stickers (two of my favorites of his novels) to the Derry, Maine postcard magnet to the Dark Tower bandana. Everything is of excellent quality as well, which is always a pleasure. While I’ve never received a low-quality box from any company I’ve tried thus far, I have gotten some disappointing items before, but that wasn’t the case with this one. The items were such that they should appeal to a variety of King fans, and they’re all something that can find use.
I’m thinking specifically of the bandana, because I don’t generally wear them, so what I actually ended up doing with it was tying it onto my bat purse, which it goes great with aesthetically. I think just because it was something that might not have an obvious use right away for those who don’t usually venture into the land of bandanas doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth it. (And honestly, even if you can’t find a use for it, there’s so much else in the box that it’s not a loss.)
I think my only disappointments with the box were the second book and the tea. While I have high hopes for Pork Pie Hat, it’s something like an odd duck in the box since it’s not a Stephen King piece. As for the tea, that’s all about preference. While I’m a huge fan of spicy foods, I’m not a fan of ginger, which is a big flavor in this tea. The tea itself seems to be of great quality, though, with a strong scent and flavor. I simply don’t like ginger. (And I did at least make the effort to try it–it just wasn’t … my cup of tea.)
So was I happy with my first Nocturnal Reader’s Box? Oh, heck yes. So much so that I’ve kept my subscription going for the July box as well (themed “The Feast”), and I’m looking forward to seeing what shows up at my doorstep next month.
Disclaimer: I purchased this box with my own money and have received no compensation for this review. All opinions are one-hundred percent honest and my own.
This past Saturday, Dan and I took our fourth hike of the year so far, which is already notable just in the fact that it’s more than I think I’ve ever done in any year past. I’m well on my way to my goal of seven hikes, and I’ll probably surpass it.
This time around, we went to the Madame Sherri Forest in Chesterfield, NH. It’s one of our first hikes out of the Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire book that we have, and it was my favorite hike overall so far, not only for the “haunted” aspects but also the area itself.
The forest houses the ruins of Madame Antoinette Sherri’s “castle,” a grand, fifteen-room house that she’d had built to house parties over the summertime. As she grew older, though, she no longer be able to host the parties and instead took up residence in a Vermont nursing home. The castle went into disrepair before burning down in 1962, presumably due to arson. The site is allegedly haunted because, well, what’s a ruinous site in the forest without a few ghosts to go along with it? It’s said that you might spot Madame Sherri at the top of the staircase, and if you take a listen, you can hear phantom laughter and music.
We didn’t hear anything, but it was a beautiful place to start our walk nonetheless. The ruins are on a little side path before you get to the actual trail, and there’s honestly not a whole lot there: a staircase with archways and a fireplace at the top. I was kicking myself when we left the house, though, because I forgot to pack the digital recorder that Dan got me for our anniversary a few years ago; even though we didn’t hear anything ourselves, who knows what the recorder might have picked up? So on top of going back just to hike another one of the trails, I want to go back just to do a little more investigating at the ruins.
After our stop at the ruins, we headed out to the trail. There are a few different options–the Ann Stokes Loop, Daniels Mtn. trail, and Mt. Wantastiquet trail–and we went with the Ann Stokes Loop for our first trip. This took us up the mountain, with another trail that we stopped on, this time at Indian Pond, on the way up. All of the views along the trail were great, from the tree canopy, to the pond, to the view from the top. Most of my photos didn’t do them justice, but I love what I did get.
This was a moderate trail, which means I spent a fair amount of time grumbling and yelling, “Oh my god!” every time we were going uphill, which was often. As with all of our hikes like this, though, it was worth the trouble. I felt incredibly proud of myself after, and everything we saw was breathtaking. From just the trails signs to the view of Chesterfield from the ledges above to the plant life, the whole experience was beautiful and invigorating.
As I’ve said, this is the most hikes I’ve ever done in a year for the simple fact that I’ve never really been a “hiker.” While Dan’s gone on a couple of overnights, I just haven’t been that serious about it (or any kind of exercise to be honest), but something about this year made me want to start trying more, and I’ve been enjoying each trip so much so far. I’m looking forward to see what others we end up doing, haunted or not (although the more haunted the better in my opinion).
I don’t read (or know of) a lot of zombie books, and I don’t watch many zombie movies, either. The only time I watch The Walking Dead is when I’m in the room while Dan is watching it. I’m not opposed to the zombie subgenre; it’s just not my usual topic of choice. But when I picked up Rue Morgue a few issues ago to find the cover story was a piece on a new zombie film–an adaptation of a novel–it piqued my curiosity. Maybe it was the title, The Girl with All the Gifts, or maybe it was the summary that followed, but along with that cover story, something got TGWATG stuck in my head like an inner ear itch you just can’t scratch.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I made my first trip in months to the library. I went armed with a list, and TGWATG sat at the very top.
M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts places readers twenty years into the future, where a fungal virus has spread and turned much of the earth’s population into “hungries,” seemingly mindless creatures that feed on their (uninfected) fellow humans. It’s been discovered that certain infected people–certain children–are partially immune, but the reason remains unknown. When the base at which this anomaly is being studied becomes overrun by a hoard of hungries and junkers (a feral population of humans choosing to live fully off the grid, without the aid or overview of the military), we’re left to follow five of the remaining characters on their way to the command center. Among them is the infected child, Melanie, who shows the greatest potential to save them all.
A sentient zombie in the form of an adolescent girl seemed too good to pass up, and I’m so glad I found TGWATG at the library because I didn’t much want to wait to read this.
The beginning was a bit slow, easing readers into the world of destruction, infection, and military life. I have to admit the first dozen chapters or so felt like a struggle, but a number of bookstagrammers assured me it was worth it, that the action would pick up, and they didn’t let me down.
Nothing terribly new or unexpected occurs in this novel as far as zombie stories go, aside from the explanation for the undead. The reanimated state of zombies has often been portrayed as resulting from a disease, but the disease as fungal isn’t one I remember seeing before now and not to the extent it has been in TGWATG. Carey is thorough in detailing what scientist Caroline Caldwell–a rather sterile, human evil in contrast to the hijacked hungries–knows and we, as a result, also come to learn. And while I find the fact that it’s a fungus and, by extension, how it works fascinating, the chapters from Caldwell’s perspective remained some of the least interesting throughout the book, as Caldwell’s ruminations are bogged down by science and lack of humanity that’s found in the other characters, including the hungry-hating Sergeant Parks. I wouldn’t say this makes the Caldwell chapters bad, however; in fact, their style reflects perfectly on her character.
By far my favorite chapters were from Melanie’s perspective. She has such a wonderful character whom I couldn’t help feeling affection for (though, honestly, I liked everyone but Caldwell). To see the world, even in its dystopian state, through the eyes of a young girl is actually quite sweet, given their circumstances. But Melanie’s characterization gives us so much insight into these partially immune hungries, and while I expect readers will catch onto the looming questions of “Who is human and what does that mean?” much quicker than the adults in the novel, it’s not a consideration without merit in this story.
My biggest beef with the story is actually the subplot of the junkers. They’re mentioned a handful of times, but aside from being a catalyst in the early stages of the novel, they don’t have much part to play. I don’t know if they were truly necessary to the story overall (and as it happens they’re largely absent from the film adaptation with no real loss to the story). While they present an ominous threat, it’s so abstract in comparison to the hungries that they’re forgettable.
Despite the slow start, I enjoyed this novel. It was a little predictable at times–apart from the ending, which I didn’t see coming and just adored in its darkness–but for the most part, it was a thoughtful, frustrating, and heartbreaking look at humanity and what it means to be alive.
I did my first monthly/small goals post in a while last month, and I really enjoyed having a focus for May, especially only a few small ones. I didn’t feel too overwhelmed, and even though I–spoiler–didn’t fully accomplish any of them, I do feel like I accomplished something on each of them, so I’m not getting down on myself either. I’m excited to go over last month’s goals, see what I can continue versus what I want to change or set aside for a while and share a couple of goals for June as well.
Send out three writing submissions. I sent out one. However, I did make a list of places to submit, and I’m currently revising a piece to send out in the next week or so. Sometimes you just don’t have the right thing to share, either because the publication has a certain theme or you just haven’t found the right place for what you have. But I’m excited to be taking steps, even if they’re slow baby steps for now.
Finish my Daria zine. I’ve got all of the text laid out in InDesign and ready to print, but I started second guessing whether or not I want to finish this project the way I’ve set it up so far. I’m not feeling enthusiastic about the pieces I’ve written, and part of me would like to open it up to submissions for a bigger comp zine. I’m nervous to do it, though, because the last few times I’ve tried, I haven’t gotten nearly enough submissions. So I think this is going to sit around on my laptop for a while until I decide where to take it.
Write another 3,000 words on my novel. Close! I got through 2,000 words, which is more than I’ve done since about February, so I can’t fault myself for it. The first thousand flew by, which was of course exciting and encouraging, but then as I moved onto the next thousand, boy, was that a slog. But I managed that much at least, so at least I’m that much further along with the book.
Finish writing and revising Whatsername #4. I’m thrilled to work on this issue of my perzine because it’s all about my relationship with horror and being a weirdo goth/emo/punk kid in school. I started working on this before I’d even finished issue three simply because I’ve been getting so deep into horror again, and it’s brought back a lot of nostalgia for me over the past couple of months. I’ve got a rough outline, and I’m having such a blast writing each piece, so I think this one is definitely achievable for me.
Write for at least fifteen minutes every day. I have a little row of habit tracker boxes specifically for this, and it’s kind of a dream for me to fill out every one of them for June. I’m going to count all kinds of things, too: blog posts, journaling, poetry, novel work, whatever–just maybe not my grocery list. I’ve never had a good habit for my writing, at least not a lasting one, and I’d like to start making it a more regular part of my day. I’m hoping to go back over the bit on writing in Lauren Graham’s book because that made such a difference for me when I first read it that I think it’ll be helpful to take another look.
Read five books. I’ve been a very slow reader this year. By this time last year I’d read about twice as many books as I have now, and while it’s not a contest, I do love to read. I just haven’t been making it a priority, instead letting myself get sucked into way too many shows on Netflix or listening to podcasts and coloring (which is fine and relaxing, but maybe something I need to take a break on, especially now that I’m caught up on my favorites). It’s just unusual for me not to read more than I have been, so I’d like to get back to my usual self. My tbr right now only has three books for the month, but I’m sure I can find more once I finish those.
I really wanted to include something that wasn’t “write…”, but I guess the best I could do was a reading goal instead. What can I say? I’m a lover of the written word.
What are some of your June goals, big or small?