Monthly Archives: October 2021

Danse Macabre Around the Sundial Tonight

A couple reviews of books I finished a last weekend during Readathon:

Danse Macabre by Stephen King

Back in the late 70s, after Stephen King had become the go-to horror guy, he was approached to write a book about the phenomena of horror: why some people like it, why some writers write it, and why horror works. King decided, judiciously, to focus the field and write about horror between 1950 and 1980, both written and on film.

I first read this book back in college. At the time, I hadn’t read or watched much horror at all. Much of what King discusses was not really in my realm of knowledge (though weirdly, reading about horror media has always been almost as fun for me as consuming it). This book was, in fact what turned me on to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Anne Rivers Siddon’s The House Next Door, both of which I happily found in UNL’s library. It was definitely interesting to revisit Danse Macabre now that I’ve read and watched more of the titles mentioned.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

Speaking of Shirley Jackson . . . A second reread for me this month. This isn’t decreasing my “# of owned and unread books”.

I have in the past confused this book with We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Not hard to do, I feel. Both involve a very insular group of people living in big old house. The difference: Merricat (from Castle) knows the world isn’t ending because she’s not lucky enough for all the people she hates to be so quickly wiped out.

This book is wild. As I mentioned the first time I read it (in 2006), I’m pretty sure there’s a satirical element, but, other than pointing out the lunacy that can come from classism, I’m not sure I’m neurotypical enough to puzzle it all out. It is a very funny book with moments of WTF and a dollop of terror when Julia tries to break for town.

Unstructuring

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

I’ve been reading over old journal entries. Really old. Entries from back when this blog was actually a LiveJournal. I used to get so much done! Okay, that may be truth, but it’s mostly illusion. I used to get different things done. I did more housework. I wrote more fiction. (Probably.)

I might spend more time on social media these days, but I used to spend *a lot* of time on LiveJournal. Same goes for online gaming. I can lose a day to Minecraft or EverQuest2, but the same went for Arrant Destiny back in the day.

I used to watch less TV. I’d have some morning television on, then a movie or a show around dinner time. Now, with two monitors and huge library of streaming content, I can have something running all day.

I used to read less. In the early days of living in Arizona post-college, I was reading 30-ish books a year. I read about 50 a year now. That’s partly due to readathons and reading challenges. My reading is so very structured sometimes. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading events, but sometimes I’m really just using them to have something to blog about.

And I didn’t used to “blog.” I wrote on LiveJournal (sometimes 3–4 times a day), but LiveJournal was a journal. It didn’t have structure. I wasn’t worried about Monday Miscellanea, Cinema Saturday, or getting a book review up each week. I started doing those things because, well, that’s what bloggers did. The first piece of advice you hear about running a “successful” blog is to have a schedule. Is my “blog” more popular than my LiveJournal was? Eh, probably a little, but I’ve never really cared about growing audience. The big thing is, though, blogging with structure takes time and effort. Instead of just writing about something I “plan the post,” and I wonder, since I’m not very audience focused, if my time could be better used elseways.

So, as I approach NaNoWriMo this year, I’m going to try to leave some structure by the wayside. Read more of what I feel like, when I feel like. Write here when I have something to go on about. And maybe that means I don’t post as much. Or maybe it means I’ll post more.

[Edit: I also wasn’t the web/social media person for VOTS back then . . .]

Monday Miscellanea, 10/25/21

From Around the Internet

I had no idea there were so many cinematic Edgar Allan Poes.

Reading

I mostly survived the 24-hour Readathon on Sunday. I got about 16–18-ish hours of reading in. I’m a slow reader so this means I finished up a couple books and a half dozen short stories.

Nonfiction November is coming up and I’m starting early due to always-ill-timed library holds. I didn’t realize there was a collection Shirley Jackson’s letters. I’ve dipped in this morning. And if I’m determined, I should be able to finally finish Books of Blood (at least the three volumes I own).

Listening

Listening to The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack today, because ’tis the season of course, but also in memory of my college friend Jeff. Jeff usually listened to country or rock, as is usual in Nebraska, but showed up to our Calc study group, plunked down his walkman in the middle of the table, volume turned up, and announced, “This is the best soundtrack.”

Getting Back to It

Do you know what this week is? It’s the return of Nebraska basketball! Just exhibitions this week, but I’ll take it.

What Am I Promo-ing?

I need to get back into the habit of promoting my work *blech* and also regularly checking sales numbers. So:

Lucinda at the Window was my first novel, a gothic mystery. You see, Lucinda Harris is dead. She doesn’t want to be, but there’s nothing for it now. Worse, though, her friends think she’s still alive! What’s going on? Well, Lucinda has nothing better to do than figure that out.

It’s available at Amazon (and for free if you have Kindle Unlimited).

24-Hour Readathon October 2021

Image for Oct 2021 Readathon

. . . Sunday, 02:30

Nope, I didn’t make it any longer than usual! I was toast by 2:30.

Closing Survey

  1. How would you assess your reading overall? It went well! I still haven’t gotten to The Ceremonies, but that was a stretch goal.
  2. Did you have a strategy, and if so, did you stick to it? Stuck to it pretty well. Maybe, I need a new strategy, maybe I’m just fine reading, like, 18 hours.
  3. What was your favorite snack? Totino’s Party Pizza was so good!
  4. Did you add any new books to your TBR/wishlist after seeing what everyone else is reading? I did not. I’m trying to be very good about not adding to my TBR (she says the week before Nonfic November).
  5. What was your favorite book or experience from this readathon? I love Lavie Tidhar’s Judge Dee stories. They’re fun creepy mysteries, perfect for the season!

Saturday, 21:00–Sunday, 01:00

Worked well earlier so I read another Clive Barker story, followed by the 3rd (and sadly last (for now?)) Judge Dee tale. My hands haven’t been super happy with holding books so in a complete change of plan (shocking, I know!) I’m listening to A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher and do some light EQ2 gaming.

Saturday, 17:00–21:00

(I was a little late with the last update and early with this one . . .) Finished “Floating Water,” “The Skins of the Fathers” by Clive Barker (From Books of Blood), and “Judge Dee and the Three Deaths of Count Werdenfels” by Lavie Tidhar. No snacks in this period, but a diet Mountain Dew toward the beginning and a shot of cinnamon whiskey in the recent past. Alcohol is a gambit during Readathon. I hope it will loosen me up, but it could just put me to sleep.

Some Stuff I’ll Probably Read

Saturday, 13:00–17:00

Finished Danse Macabre by Stephen King and then read my Deal Me In story for the week: “Red Sky At Morning” by Alanna Smith. I also ended up watching a game of ultimate frisbee while reading and eating dinner (a Party Pizza, hash-browns, and a Sleepy Dog Brewery peanut-butter stout). Started “Floating Water” by Koji Suzuki before going out and throwing a disc myself with my husband.

Saturday, 09:00–13:00

I got back up at about 9:15. I’ve read 69 pages of Danse Macabre and am pretty close to finishing it. Food & drink: left over piece of pizza, a pear, second cup of coffee, a diet Dr. Pepper Cream Soda, and lots of water. Also took out the recycling.

Saturday, 05:00–09:00

Finished the last three chapters of The Sundial by Shirley Jackson (47 pages). Had donuts and a cup of coffee. And then I went back to bed!

Opening Event Survey

I “slept” terribly, but here I am at 04:54! I foresee a nap in my future.

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Tempe, AZ
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Probably the Judge Dee stories I’ve bookmarked.
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? A Totino’s Party Pizza for “lunch.”
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself! I really enjoy playing ultimate frisbee and right now I’m the oldest woman playing in our local rec league.
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? Well, I wanted to go to bed early, but I’m a terrible sleeper!

Friday

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon starts at 5am on Saturday for me. Will I be up that early? Probably not. But we’ll see. I have nothing going on this Saturday, not even a football to watch/listen to, so it’s pretty much perfect.

Writing & Reading Notes, 10/21/21

Writing Notes

Yeah, I’m going to do NaNoWriMo. I plan on revisiting a project I’ve been tinkering with for *years*, but this time from a different angle. Between now and Nov. 1, I have a couple short stories I’ll play ping-pong with. Currently, I have one short story out in the world; it has racked up one rejection thus far.

Finished Reading

The Ones Who Are Waving by Glen Hirshberg

I’m happy any October when I realize that one of my favorite horror authors has an anthology out with some material I haven’t read yet. I was just about to pull out The Two Sams again. Even better? A sequel “Mr. Dark’s Carnival,” one of the standouts of that previous anthology. Hirshberg also introduces his own take on the supernatural detective with a trio of “Normal and Nadine Adventures.”

Deal Me In

Speaking of supernatural mysteries, I finally picked the ace of spades which was “Judge Dee and the Limits of the Law” by Lavie Tidhar. Judge Dee is the final word in matters of vampire law, which aren’t always straightforward. There are two other Judge Dee stories online and I might get to them this weekend.

Currently Reading


I’ll probably do Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon this weekend, so I’ll have a more in-depth “currently reading” post on Saturday.

Monday Miscellanea, 10/18/21

Classic Club Spin

On Wednesday, I posted my list for Classics Club Spin #28. On Sunday, the random roll was revealed: 12! Which for me is King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard. Haven’t read any Haggard before and, as I commented on my list post, I love “spooky season,” but I’m definitely ready for a change of pace.

Nonfiction November

Speaking of changes of pace, we’re only a few weeks away from Nonfiction November! Five weeks of reading and appreciating nonfiction. I might even finally read In Cold Blood.

Getting Back to It

Last Monday was our first fall ultimate frisbee league game. It was super windy which made for a very discombobulating night. We won, though. Game 2 is tonight. Other than that, not much going on with me. I fired up EverQuest 2 because I enjoy MMO holidays. I’m thinking about doing NaNoWriMo, but I haven’t quite decided on that.

R.I.P. Bingo ~ Haunted House

To misquote a tagline, what’s better than one haunted house? Four haunted houses! I’m not against remakes and I had the opportunity recently to watch some classics back-to-back with their turn-of-the-century remakes. How do they stack up?

House on Haunted Hill (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960) were both directed by William Castle and written by Robb White. Castle was rather well known for promoting his films with gimmicks. House‘s gimmick was Emergo: in certain theaters, at a certain point in the film, a skeleton would be made to fly over the audience. Ghosts‘ had Illusion-O: a viewing device that audience members could use to see the ghosts in the film. Honestly, 13 Ghosts loses a lot without its gimmick because there isn’t much going on other than seeing the ghosts.

House on Haunted Hill is by no means a great movie, but it generally serves as a bit of schlocky seasonal fun. Vincent Price is delightfully wicked, the exterior of the house is a Frank Lloyd Wright design, and it has a few actually creepy moments. The plot (spoilers) isn’t exactly supernatural, but it has enough double dealing and betrayal that , if the house wasn’t haunted before, it is now. It’s also the easiest to view now. A copyright SNAFU has led to it being in the public domain.

In 1998, genre heavy-weights Robert Zemeckis, Joel Silver, and Gilber Adler founded Dark Castle Entertainment. The production company’s first two films were remakes of the two William Castle films mentioned above.

House on Haunted Hill (1999) was directed by William Malone and written by Dick Beebe. While the basic plot stays intact (stay over night in the haunted place, win money) the “house” is actually a former insane asylum, a trope that’s wearing thin for me. One of the criticisms of both of these movies (and of a trend in horror films that started during this period) is that they become too reliant on CGI effects. Yes, the ending of this movie is very over-wrought as our survivors flee from a Rorschach-test-like dark cloud. Luckily, there are some uncanny moments earlier in the film and there are also a few nods to the original. Winner of the Vincent-Price-level evil award: Famke Janssen.

Thir13een Ghosts (2001), directed by Steve Beck and written by Neal Marshall Stevens and Richard D’Ovidio, diverges even more from the original, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As in the original, a hard-up family inherits a haunted house, but in this case, what a house! It’s all glass, glowing runes, and clockworks. The set design is really the star of this movie. The titular ghosts have back stories, which the movie doesn’t really worry about fleshing out. That’s fine, those details go into the character design where they belong. While the ghosts may not be that scary, they are interesting. Like House on Haunted Hill, the ending is the weakest point in Ghosts, but it’s kind of a fun ride while it lasts.