marthawells: (SGA Team)
* I wanted to remind everybody that the price for World Fantasy 2017 in San Antonio goes up on Nov 1, so this is a great time to buy your membership. I'll be toastmaster, so you should totally go to the con.

* Halloween photos:

* I can't remember if I posted this here or not: The TAMU newspaper did an article on the worldbuilding talk I did for the Hal Hall Lecture Series:

* Congrats to the World Fantasy 2016 winners! Excellent award list all around!
marthawells: (SGA Team)
First news: The Serpent Sea, the second Raksura book, is on sale on US Kindle and Nook for a $1.99. So if you ever wanted to get the ebook, this is a good time.


Book recs:

* Juliet E. McKenna's collection about Victorian monster hunters is also on sale: Challoner, Murray & Balfour: Monster Hunters at Law

* Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan
Thai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.


We're not having a party tonight, but we are having a few people over for Halloween dinner, and I'm going to decorate the house and yard. So I'll take pictures.

Here's a few pictures from previous years:

Finished Bat Cave
That time I built a bat cave in the hallway.

Vampire hunter's kit

marthawells: (SGA Team)
The signing in Austin for Star Wars Reads Day went very well. They gave away a bunch of prizes and there was some great costumes.

That's me and Aaron Allston


And if you've read Razor's Edge (or any of my other books), if you get a chance, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, B&N, GoodReads, LibraryThing, or wherever you leave reviews. Or just tell somebody else about it if you think they might like it. It really does help a huge amount.

And if you want to read a book at your library and they don't have it, remember that you can request that they buy it for the collection, or get it for you through interlibrary loan. And that lots of libraries now also have ebooks and audiobooks for check-out.


* Scare for a Cure is getting ready to get started in Austin! There are three haunted attractions this year, with net proceeds going to The Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Central Texas, and they are also collecting dog food and treats for local Animal Shelters. The massive interactive haunted attraction, (this year it's called Fairy Tale Nightmare) only sells tickets online and may already by sold out. The two others, Murder at Ghost Town, where you solve a murder mystery in a haunted town, and The Boneyard, where monsters chase the crap out of you, sell tickets at the gate as well as online, but you may want to buy in advance because these events are extremely popular.
marthawells: Atlantis in fog (Atlantis)
When we were in Galveston one year during October, we took a special tour of the Ashton Villa. After the 1900 hurricane (which killed probably around 8000 people) they raised the grade of the island and built the seawall. The story always was that the short wrought iron fence in front of the Ashton was actually eight feet tall, with most of it being buried when they raised the street level, and that there was a basement to the house that had been completely filled in. (This made sense at the time, because the Moody Mansion and the Bishop's Palace on that street both have large stone basement areas. The Bishop's Palace's basement (which is built like a bomb shelter) was restored after hurricane Ike, but the Moody Mansion's basement was damaged and still weeping water a year later.) No one was sure what was in the Ashton's basement, but everyone assumed it was a kitchen.

Most of the stories surrounding the Ashton Villa were about Miss Bettie, who lived there with her sisters and nieces and nephews, was very rich, and did whatever the hell she wanted. There's also a story that during the 1900 storm, she stood out on the balcony with a pole and a rope and tried to rescue people who were floating by in the storm surge. (I don't know if it's true, but there are a lot of stories about people being rescued this way. There's one about the convent near the house during the hurricane, where the nuns took the nun who was the best swimmer, tied a rope around her and when they saw a body in the water, threw her out toward it. She would swim to it, grab on, and they would pull her back in.)

Then hurricane Ike happened in 2008 and the Ashton Villa was flooded. While restoring the first floor, they found a rock tomb under the house. We saw the opening in the floor while we were there, but never did hear anything else about it. The historical society doesn't have much money after Ike and they don't do tours of the house anymore. But it sure did put a different light on why the family might have let them fill in the basement after 1900.

They told us some ghost stories about the Ashton, but I had never heard any stories about it before that Halloween, and the house never did feel spooky or haunted to me. It felt like an old, well-cared-for house, even with the dark gaping hole down to the basement tomb in the dining room. This was while being there in the dark, with only a few people, with the lights mostly turned off and a security system's motion detector that kept going off for no apparent reason.

But the tour guide we had that time had actually been in Galveston during Ike. He told us that right after it, after a day of trying to triage the damage on the historic houses, he found his apartment was full of mud, so he and another guide stayed the night in the Menard House, the oldest existing house on the island, which had come through the hurricane in good shape and really is supposed to be haunted. The guide said he laid there trying to sleep, watching the pendant lights sway to the left, pause, sway to the right, pause, then stop in the middle, then start again. He said that after a while he just didn't want to see what else was going to happen, and he was so exhausted, he told the house to please leave him alone and got up and took a valium.



Bounty Sinks Off NC Coast This is why they didn't try to move the Elissa out of Galveston before hurricane Ike. They're still dealing with the repercussions of it (the sails were rolled up and secured to the spars, but the wind still shredded them, and the hull was damaged and now has to be repaired) but it's still intact and nobody died.

Geek Tyrant: Creepy Halloween Photos from 100 Years Ago

Book rec:

Mirage by Jenn Reese. This is the sequel to her MG SF novel Above World.

On Kirkus: The Book Smugglers 10 Recommended Halloween Reads
marthawells: (Miko)
We had a Halloween party last night and as usual went pretty big on the decorations. We had the fog machine set up outside but didn't go as big on the lighting and sound effects as we usually do, since the trick-or-treaters won't be here till Wednesday.

The food was a beef and leek pie, King Ranch Chicken, a corn-bean-avocado salad, deviled eggs, a chicken casserole, a root vegetable casserole, chips, hummus, homemade bread, plus beer, and a homemade apple-pomegranate soda.

lots more photos )


Oct. 7th, 2012 09:23 am
marthawells: (Jack and Teal'c)
It's October and suddenly it's gray and cold (cool, in the 50s) here. Of course, later this week it'll be back to the 80s, but it's kind of nice while it lasts. (Except for the horrific effect on my sinuses.) It always makes me want to watch black and white 40s/early 50s horror movies on TCM, but today TCM is failing to cooperate.

They did show some the other day, and the trick to picking them is finding the ones that are still fun and cheesy but not so awful that you need Mystery Science Theater 3000 to help you get through them. The ones that have a real delight in telling a fun yet scary story.

William Castle movies are usually a safe bet for cheestastic fun. Early on, he did The Whistler series and the Crime Doctor series but I always felt his top fun scary movies were The Tingler and The House on Haunted Hill. He also did the original 13 Ghosts but that one I just didn't feel was as good. It didn't have Vincent Price, which is always a disadvantage.

There's also Val Lewton, whose movies were in the early 40s and tend to be more serious and not fun, but are definitely worth watching. He was Russian and went more for mystery/psychological horror than haunted house type scares. He's known for Cat People but I always thought The Leopard Man, set in New Mexico, was much scarier and a better story and mystery. It has some incredibly tense scenes that pretty much rival anything being made at the time. (Note: the titles were forced on him by the studio and have little to do with the content of the movie.)

One of my favorites is Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon, which is from 1957 and was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who also directed some of Val Lewton's best movies. It's from an M.R. James short story, and it's a mystery plot with a strong supernatural element, with a psychologist trying to discover who is committing apparently cult-related murders.

There's also the Spanish version of the original 1931 Dracula, which was filmed at the same time as the English language version, on the same sets, but with different actors and a much, much better director. (the English version of Dracula is still good, but the director didn't go to the trouble to move the camera much (the early sound cameras were much bigger than the silent cameras and hard to move, which is why some early sound remakes of silent movies tend to look weirdly static compared to the originals -- Kenneth Brannagh narrates a great documentary that talks about this, called Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood)

And one of my other favorites which is hard to find is Mark of the Vampire from 1935. It's a sound version with the same basic story of the famous lost silent London After Midnight (1927) (which despite what the TV series White Chapel said will not kill you or turn you into a serial murderer and the print of it they were supposedly casually screwing around with would have been worth a crapload of money) though with different characters. It's also a mystery, and seems like a typical cheesy vampire story -- until the end, when suddenly it's awesome.

Beast with Five Fingers is also a good bet, more fun, more cheesy than Lewton, but not quite to Castle's nutty peak. It's from 1946 and starred Peter Lorre. It's set in Italy, and again the title doesn't really convey what the movie is about.

And if you already like these kinds of movies, you must watch The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

[personal profile] eldritchhobbit is doing her Halloween Countdown, with links to stories, audio files, (including James Earl Jones reading The Raven, articles and more great scary stuff.
marthawells: (Default)
Yesterday's Halloween Photos Post is here with the outdoor photos.

These blood splatters and footprints were the new thing we got this year, and were amazingly cheap for the effect. I think the package was $2.99.

Close-up of Bat Cookie

more photos )
marthawells: (Miko)

Tasha is unimpressed by our preparations for the party.
marthawells: Atlantis in fog (Atlantis)
We have officially started our Halloween preparations with the cemetery and the hanging skeleton being installed in the front yard. For a lot of houses, this would be the entire decoration, but our tolerant neighbors know that for us it's just the beginning. We have a fog machine and we know how to use it.

We're having a Halloween party this weekend and a houseguest, so I need to clean the house so there will be a clear field for us to tear it apart when we decorate.

It was our sixteenth wedding anniversary on Friday, so we drove to a small restaurant in a tiny little town nearby, run by a chef and patisseur originally from England. Across the street from the restaurant, he has a separate building for doing the chocolate work, and we were lucky enough to get a quick personal tour and to see a couple of the chocolate showpieces he's making for events in Houston. We also got to try a few of the new truffles he's still working on, and they were fabulous. So that was a really nice anniversary.

These are my Halloween galleries from previous years: Building a Bat Cave in Your Own Home (Troyce made the vampire hunter's kit) and previous years
marthawells: Atlantis in fog (Atlantis)
I've been watching Halloween shows, as I am likely to do at pretty much anytime of the year. There have been some interesting ones on the DIY channel.

There was one on people buying haunted houses to live in (if I had the money, I would totally buy a haunted house, unless the ghosts were actively ax-murdering people.)

There was one on converting an old building into a haunted attraction, that pointed out one of the first steps was a highly sophisticated fire suppression system, including a giant water tank to supply the sprinklers.

One of the most interesting ones was about a company that designs set pieces for haunted attractions. They display them at Halloween Trade Shows (like this one described on the Black Gate blog) that are strictly for Halloween retailers and haunted attraction owners. It's a fun creative business, and like all fun creatives businesses, was filled with work and stress. Their ability to survive depends a lot on how many pieces they sell at the trade show, and if the installation at the trade show has any problems, then that piece won't sell. (The company has a basement basically filled with failed pieces that seemed like good ideas at the time.) Even after the pieces sell, they can have problems. The company sold two evil talking animatronic trees to a haunted attraction, had them taken there by a shipping company while they drove up separately to help unpack and install them. They arrived to find out that the shipping company had managed to bang the crates around so badly, the welded steel arms of both trees were bent, and they frantically had to rebuild one tree out of the remains of the other so the attraction could reopen on time.

We will be decorating the house this year, since I won't be at World Fantasy. One of the best Halloween house decorating shows I've seen was on HGTV, where in a decorating competition, a woman designer turned a two story suburban house into a haunted Spanish mission for Dia de los Muertos using painted canvas on a two-story wooden frame. It was awesome. We won't be doing that.

Halloween links:

Atlas Obscura's 31 Days of Halloween Blog: Day 1: the Devil Walked Here

and [personal profile] eldritchhobbit's Daily Halloween Links.
marthawells: (Dr. Orpheus)
It's the first day of Halloween month, the most important holiday of the year for my people, i.e. people who like Halloween a lot.

We won't be doing are usual destroy-the-house decoration frenzy this year, because I'm going to World Fantasy, which the weekend of the 28-31, and I won't be back until Halloween night. Since we won't be doing a party, we'll probably just do the outside decorations for the trick-or-treaters.

Past Halloween picture galleries here and here.

And [personal profile] eldritchhobbit is doing her month of Halloween posts starting here


Alma Alexander posted this link on twitter: Terry Pratchett: 'I'm open to joy. But I'm also more cynical' Discworld's creator on his new novel, living with Alzheimer's – and why he should be allowed to decide when to end it all

"I've lost both parents in the last two years, so you pick up on that stuff," says Pratchett. "That's the most terrible thing about being an author – standing there at your mother's funeral, but you don't switch the author off. So your own innermost thoughts are grist for the mill. Who was it said – one of the famous lady novelists – 'unhappy is the family that contains an author'?"


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