Friday, October 31, 2014

Forget the Usual Scares. Here's What's REALLY Terrifying in 2014.

by Sara N.

Forget about ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties this Halloween. Let's take a look at what's really scary in the first quarter of the 21st Century:

In addition to Twisty, who is, of course, terrifying thing No. 1.

  • The next season isn't available on Netflix yet
  • Having your credit card hacked and trying to remember every place you set up automatic online payments
  • Never being able to unlearn the concept of pink slime
  • Reading the comments section
  • Song on radio is not Werewolves of London, is instead Kid Rock
  • The knowledge that Avengers 2 might very well be terrible
  • DVR hard drive crashes, taking years of saved shows with it
  • Someone took a screenshot of your SnapChat
  • Amazon no longer carries your favorite shampoo; must travel to store to buy it like an animal
  • Remembering that Firefly didn't make it one season but The Big Bang Theory is on season eight
  • Accidentally hitting "reply all"
  • The possible demise of net neutrality
  • The inevitable demise of Stan Lee
  • Every piece of news you hear about the Terminator reboot, Terminator: Genisys
  • The spelling of Terminator: Genisys
  • Having an official countdown for the end of the Colbert Report
  • The hard truth that Game of Thrones will reveal the end of the story before the book series does
  • Sending that text to your mom by mistake
  • Social media privacy settings too high for truly effective online research of ex
  • Website you're trying to use says it's optimized for Internet Explorer
  • No free shipping
  • Acknowledging that if they make an 11th season of Supernatural, you'll watch it
  • Knowing that someone, somewhere is putting on clown makeup right now
  • Guy messaging you on OKCupid says he sympathizes with the Gamergate cause
  • Realizing that Katie Sackhoff might not be cast as Captain Marvel
  • 50 Shades of Gray. (Nothing specific; just its existence)
  • The wi-fi is down

So how about you, dear reader? What terrifies you in 2014? (Thanks to Meghan for getting me started on this!)

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kitty Cosplay: Orphan Black

by Megan S.

SPOILER ALERT! It looks like the Dyad Institute has been meddling around with more than just human DNA and these new clones are adorable.  Just kidding.  It's actually Lilly wearing this year's Halloween costume(s).  Yep, the cosplaying kitty and I had to step up our game after last year's Sherlock, 2012's Rainbow Dash, and 2011's Ewok. And what could be better than paying homage to the best series on television and the amazing Tatiana Maslany?

So, without further ado, here's Lilly as Sarah, Alison, Cosima, and everyone's favorite serial killer, Helena.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Not So Lonesome Night In October

I may be a little bit biased, but A Night In the Lonesome October is the best Halloween book in the history of ever. It has everything you could possibly want from a book; elder gods, titans of horror fiction and talking animals. What more could you ask for?

As everyone knows (and is probably tired of me talking about), I re-read A Night In the Lonesome October every Halloween. The book is broken up into 31 chapters, each representing a day in the life of these odd characters, so it's perfectly made for a monthly read-along. The story is dead simple and involves greats of history and literature like Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, Victor Frankenstein, Rasputin and Dracula fighting to control the dread elder gods of Lovecraft fame. The book is told from the view point of Snuff, Jack's trusty hound. It's a clever little story, full of quick wit and in-jokes.

I've read it for so many years that I know it as well as the back of my hand, yet I'm always completely enchanted and surprised every year by what a lovely, fun book it is. It's perfect. Sadly, the book was out of print for many, many years and made my yearly suggestions to read it sound like the ravings of a madwoman. I wanted all of my friends to experience how wonderful it was. Finally, this year, A Night In the Lonesome October came back into print. Imagine my tears of joy. I bought myself a new copy, gifted a few and demanded in all caps that everyone on my Twitter feed should read it.

Guess what? Some of them took me up on it! Since I've spent many, many years talking about this book I was fascinated to learn what my friends thought of it too. After some gentle haranguing on Twitter, I have three victi- er, friends who agreed to share their thoughts. Dan B, Jessie H and Stellar Four's own Kathy F are all very good friends of mine who, for some reason, allow me to shout at them about books on social media. Let's all give them a round of applause for not killing me out of sheer annoyance and selling my organs on the black market. They are all incredibly awesome people.

A Night In the Lonesome October is very dear to me and I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the years of hype I gave it, but it won everyone over! Dan B said "I think it lived up to the hype. I do know that I enjoyed it enough to read it again this year, and I only reread books I enjoy quite a bit." while Kathy F said "I loved it. I think I read it years ago when it first came out, a fact I remembered as I got into it. I really loved the POV from the animal companion.". Snuff is definitely a fan favorite!

Since the core of the story involves characters from other famous works of fiction, I was curious how everyone would react to the melding of those icons. Kathy F and I share a brain on most things and I think she's spot on with her assessment, saying "Many of my fav books juggle or mishmash mythologies, so this was perfect for me.It had so many of my favorites too: the Great Detective, the Count, the Werewolf. What made it great though was that none of it was from their POV. Animal companions are a fixture, but rarely do you get to be in their heads. It was fun."

Dan B brings up a good point though, saying "The book is an excellent read. I liked how it's a slow build, and everything and everyone is slowly revealed to you. I think if the book has a failing, it's that if you aren't familiar with the various literary and horror mythologies, you aren't going to enjoy the characters quite as much. Part of the joy is recognizing who is who from descriptions and clues. But, since I did recognize everyone, it's a delight." Dan B hits the nail on the head here, as my fear is always that people won't recognize a character. When you do recognize them though, it's such a cool moment. It really elevates the book. I really think each character was picked with care for their part of the story.

Of course, there's also the fear that I really put the book on a pedestal and no one would see why I thought it was so good. Jessie H, who has her own excellent blog that you should check out, thankfully assuaged me of that fear. "As much as I’ve come to trust Meghan’s excellent book recommendations, [ed- aww, thanks] I was afraid that I wasn’t going to like this book. It’s not something I would have normally picked up on my own and she has certainly hyped it up the last couple of years. I’m glad to report that I’m loving it! I was a bit confused at first with trying to keep all of the characters straight. I’m enjoying the fact that most of the characters are from classic horror and gothic novels! So it’s been fun connecting each of them to their original novel! It has also been delightful trying to figure out which characters are participants in The Game and which side they are on."

A Night In the Lonesome October unfurls and drags you in and it's hard to resist. I am so relieved that everyone enjoyed it! When asked if they were going to join the October re-read club with me, I got a resounded "yes" from everyone! Jessie H started it the right way, "I’ve been doing the one chapter a day thing so I won’t finish it until Halloween night but I need to know what happens! I can’t wait to read it again next year!".

And Dan B? He knows me all too well. "It's quite likely that I will read it again next year. If I choose not to, I'm sure you will be quick to disabuse me of the notion." You are correct, sir!

While October is nearly over this year, it's not too late to pick up A Night In the Lonesome October and see if the world can be saved from Cthulhu by Jack the Ripper! And don't worry, I'll be sure to remind everyone about it next Halloween!
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Prep

It's Tuesday, Friday is just four days away, and the women of Stellar Four are getting ready for the big night in their own ways.

Sara N.

I don't have kiddos, so I don't have costume pressure or any plans beyond sitting at home and handing out candy while making awkward small talk with the chillruns who come to the door. (I'm stiff and awkward around kids, so my Halloween small talk is pretty weak.) But this year, since it's on a Friday night and all, I'm seriously considering playing this Halloween drinking game:


Upside: I probably won't be so tense around the kids. Downside: I'll probably die.

Megan S.

I don't have a costume to contribute, but I did get a cute Dia de los Muertos hair clip. Mine is customized with a fuller flower, but looks similar to this one from Etsy:

From SugarySkullsBoutique


Kathy F.

It's been years since I dressed up for Halloween other than wearing a tiger ear or devil horn headband. This year, however, after lots of asking and prodding from the kiddos and friends, I've decided to dress up. I have a few costume rules. It has to be cheap, comfy (I will be out in the cold running after kids hopped up on adrenaline and candy), and it has to come together in my typical half-assed fashion.

My costume: BAMF Red Riding Hood

Need: red hood, axe, jeans, combat boots, "Bad Wolf" t-shirt

So far I have the hood ($10 at Party City), the axe ($1 from the Dollar Store), jeans (got 'em already), boots (have my savvy shopper friend looking for deals), and the shirt.

 The shirt I made. $2 shirt from a sale at Jo-Ann's or Michael's + a Chlorox bleach pen. Luckily, I already have the scrawl of a serial killer, so just wrote out "BAD WOLF," rinsed the bleach out, washed it, ready to go.

Booyah.

I also anticipate that the consumption of hot cocoa will rise exponentially this week. Of course, if you're going to have cocoa, you have to have marshmallows. The kids love the mini marshmallows, so I get the cocoa packs that already have marshmallows. Unfortunately, most of the marshmallows melt as soon as you add the water. I hear whining about it often.

With this, that I just found for $1-something at the grocery store, melted marshmallows are a thing of the past. I can them after the cocoa loses some of it's molten tendencies.



And the family rejoices!

Note: I am well aware that cocoa tastes way better if you first heat some milk and whipping cream, then add the good 60% or better chocolate chips. I make it for myself often, but if I let the kids have that, then they will expect the good stuff all the time. They've become freaking locusts in the kitchen. Gotta take the easy steps when I can.
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Monday, October 27, 2014

Making a Monster with Sara Amundson


Drawing of Constellation Cetus, the Whale or Sea Monster by Samuel Leigh, 1824

Here we are in the home stretch, counting down to the best holiday of the year. What is Halloween without monsters? Is there a better time of year for scary stories? Okay, monsters and scary stories are excellent year-round, but they are especially potent at Halloween.

Horror writer Sara Amundson asks, "Have you ever wished you could be the proud parent of a monster, with none of the fuss and muss of actually giving birth to and raising a savage, deadly creature?"

Why yes, yes I have.

With Amundson's Make a Monster you get to suggest a physical feature or power. If Sara picks your monster, she'll write a piece of flash fiction featuring your spawn killing someone and give you credit as a monster parent on her website and social media. If your monster ends up in any of her Dreamer series books, then you'll get a Monster Parent credit in the book's acknowledgements. The Dreamer books are about monsters born in our dreams that end up in the real world.

Previous monsters include a Unicorn (of course), Razor Blade (heatbreaking), Hair, Circus Tent (holy shitballs), the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and more. I'm pretty sure that more than one of these is real.

I had to try it out, of course. My monster progeny's special power is spraying acidic glitter. Showtunes might also be involved.

If you want to try getting the Sara Amundson treatment for your monster, head over to her site or follow her on Twitter @saraterror and use the #MakeAMonster hashtag.

Happy monster making!


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Friday, October 24, 2014

Scare Yourself Silly With These Unsung Horror Films

by Sara N.

Rupert Everett in Dellamorte Dellamore
October's the season for scary movies, and if you're not thrilled with the offerings at your local megaplex (coughAnnabellewasprettybadcough), I've pulled together a list of some smaller horror films that you may have missed. These are all good: either scary, gory, funny, scary/gory, scary/funny, gory/funny or scary/gory/funny. And their level of obscurity to you all depends on how deep down the horror rabbit hole you tend to fall. Anyway, read on for a list of spooky viewing options.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kid Readers Are Awesome

The author of that article might not like Percy, but a
whole bunch of young readers love it,
read it & rec it to their peers.
This week another article came out about how horrible it is that kids are enjoying reading the books they've chosen and not ones that some people have decided they should like. Or at least that's what I've gotten out of the New Yorker op piece. (I'm not linking to because it's all just clickbait anyways. I fell for it, why should you?)

Today I got to speak to a group of 9 year olds about books. Nonfiction, fiction, biographies, historical fiction, fantasy, mysteries, I talked with them for an hour. AN HOUR. And the kids participated in the conversation, asked questions and were really excited to learn about some new books.

You can teach a kid to read, but that doesn't necessarily turn them into a reader. The mechanics aren't enough. Leave out the joy of discovering and falling into a new story, and you might make reading seem like a chore. I'm a big fan of letting kids choose the books that most interest them. Seeing 30 kids excited about reading was a ginormous boost to my day. Here's to our future readers!
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wonder Woman Is Coming to the Big Screen

This past week, DC unveiled a massive list of films they expect to release going all the way into 2022. It had everything from the Flash getting his own movie to the Justice League. DC is desperately playing catch up against Marvel and it's universe and time will tell if DC can pull it off. (Personally, I'm not betting money on it). The biggest shock was the addition of a Wonder Woman movie, slated to come out in 2017.

FINALLY! Finally someone heard our pleas and is bringing Diana to the big screen. Now, who knows if it will be any good or not, the important thing is that a female super hero movie is finally on the docket. It's official. It's going to happen. That's completely awesome. It's also shocking that DC beat Marvel to that milestone. Marvel, as wonderful as it is, doubled down and said they still have no plans for a Black Widow film or any other female super heroes. What?

In this superhero movie arms race, DC just won a major battle. Shots fired. It's disappointing that DC got there first and it's really frustrating that Marvel isn't responding in kind. Female superhero films still seem to be a complete pipe dream. It's so shocking because Marvel currently has a more cohesive universe than DC does. A Black Widow film could be incredible and everyone is clamoring to see Ms Marvel get her time in the spotlight. Why the hesitation?

Now more than ever, female super heroes are moving comic book units. The revamped (and awesome!) Ms Marvel has been hailed as a fantastic turning point in comics and sells very well. Batwoman and Batgirl (that costume!) are both making waves. There are more women in super hero comic books than ever and yet that isn't being reflected on the big (or small!) screen. So what gives? Why the disconnect?

Studios claim they're wary of female super hero stories because they've been burned in the past by shows and films that flopped. Elektra and Birds of Prey both come to mind. This is, again, one of those double standards for women in film. A lot of male super hero movies flopped and yet they still kept making superhero movies. Green Lantern was abysmal but that didn't stop DC from going forward with Superman. The second a superhero movie led by a woman fails, the studios shrug and trot out that tired old "women stuff just doesn't sell" trope. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I'm glad Wonder Woman is going to get her time on screen and I hope it's a massive success... because if it's not, it might be many, many years until we see another female superhero movie again.
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Monday, October 20, 2014

TEQUILA!

by Megan S.


I love a good tequila.  Not the stuff you slam at a bar or use as a mixer in a margarita.  No, I enjoy the full flavored, aged (añejo) tequilas that are best savored slowly.  So you can imagine how excited I was to stumble across this bottle of Los Azulejos's limited edition Skeleto añejo tequila at Costco!  Not only is it delicious, the ceramic container is perfect for Halloween and Día de los Muertos!

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Here's What You'll Be Carving Into Your Pumpkin This Year

by Sara N.

We're a little over halfway through October, and that means two things. First, that Halloween candy you bought a little too early to hand out on the 31st? You've already eaten most of it. Just admit to yourself that you're going to have to buy a second bag  — but maybe don't buy it until the morning of. And second, it's time to start thinking about what you're going to carve into your Halloween pumpkin. Here are some of the best new geeky patterns for 2014.

Orange and Black Pumpkins has some cool stuff this year, including the 12th Doctor ...



... Groot ...



... and Tyrion Lannister. (He always pays his debts.)



Keep reading for more ...

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Desperately Seeking Leia


Do you recall the outrage back around May of this year when the Disney Store unveiled their Star Wars line and Leia was no where to be found? How could there not be an abundance of merchandise for the most badass Disney princess? Then, the new hope in June when they announced that our concerns had been heard, and that Leia toys would be coming soon (I first heard about it on The Mary Sue). Ever wonder what happened next?

Yesterday, I visited my local Disney Store and took a look around. Here we are, in October, just a couple of months from the biggest gift giving and toy buying holiday of the year, and I couldn't find anything with Princess Leia on it. I asked a helpful employee. She pointed to a toy above the clearance rack in the back. It was a slave Leia figurine. After a quick query to the stock powers that be, she informed me that there was nothing else, "nothing for girls."

Seriously? They are pulling this?.
What the hell? Slave Leia? That's it? That's the "toys" we were promised? I'm not buying my not even a tween yet daughter a freaking slave Leia. I don't want one. (Laurie wrote a post a few years ago that pretty much covers my reasons why.) It wouldn't be so bad if there were other figurines or a t-shirt or a New Hope costume for the kids, but no, we get one Leia-in-a-metal-bikini toy.

Also, the "nothing for girls" bit. I'm going to be pissed off about that one for a while.

It turns out that if you go to the Star Wars page of the Disney Store online, you can get a Leia costume, Leia figurines in a couple of sets (New Hope and Jedi), and you can make your own shirts, bags, and iPhone covers with a small selection of Leia images.

That's it, though, and you will never convince me that this is "enough." I still remember my daughter's face when we visited the Disney Store back in early June. We saw the Vader and Stormtrooper costumes, as well as the R2 and Chewbacca toys. She then announced that she was going to look for the Leia stuff and I had to tell her that there wasn't any, but that they said they would have some "soon." She's starting to notice the huge disparity in "boy" vs "girl" SFF merchandise and representation. The industry is missing out on a huge market. They could be helping to create lifelong fans. They could, if they manage to pull their heads out of their asses before they alienate future buyers.

I know, my jaded self should have realized that this would always be the outcome (like after what happened recently with Gamora and DC's shirts at Walmart), but I'm not going to stop wanting things to be better.

I sent an e-mail inquiring into our promised Leia merch. We'll see if I get a response.

What happened? Did they think we would just go away? I think it'll be a very long time before we head back to the Disney Store, so in a sense, yes, we will be going away. Usually I do a decent amount of shopping at the Disney Store around the holidays, but I don't feel like doing that right now.

As the very nice Disney Store employee mentioned, "I think they really dropped the ball on that one."

Yes, yes they did.

Update: I got a boilerplate response to my e-mail that never mentions anything about my request other than to say "I'd like to invite you to visit our Store as we may have other Disney items that may interest you." Somehow I don't see myself visiting their store.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Make It A Scary Godmother Halloween!

Do you love Mary Poppins but wish she was a little more... spooky? Have I got news for you!

Jill Thompson, accomplished illustrator and author, has created a Halloween icon and I am head over heels in love with her. Friends, have you met the Scary Godmother?

Scary Godmother is a series of comics, storybooks and two delightful Halloween cartoons all about the wonderful title character and he household of zany friends. She's a Halloween fairy tasked with making sure the holiday goes off without a hitch. She knits cobwebs and bakes crunchy autumn leaves. She's funny, charming and fully in charge of her domain. When a frightened girl named Hannah Marie stumbles into her realm, Scary Godmother takes her under her wing and helps her discover that scary stuff can be fun and that she's stronger than the things that frighten her.

The world of Scary Godmother is a Halloween delight. She lives in a perfectly gothic Addams Family style Victorian with Mr. Skully Pettibone, her campy skeleton roommate. He's the lovingly sarcastic counterbalance to Scary Godmother's exuberance. The bane of their existence is an ill-mannered British werewolf named, what else, Harry.  The last residence of the Halloween house is Bug-A-Boo, a huge fuzzy monster with a heart of gold.

The best characters, apart from Scary Godmother herself, are the vampire family. They're modeled on old silent movie vamps and just do not understand anything in this century. Count Maxwell (an illusion to Count Orlock from Nosferatu) and his wife Ruby (an illusion to Vampira) have a son named Orson who befriends Hannah Marie. The characters are all amazingly developed and sincerely fun to read and watch.

I was introduced to Scary Godmother by two animated specials that run on the Cartoon Network every Halloween. Despite a bit of wonky animation, the specials are full of heart. They're funny, adorable and have become a bit of a Halloween tradition. Likewise, the Scary Godmother comics have become their own tradition. Branching out from Halloween, they also include Scary Godmother and friends dealing with such shockingly strange and bizarre holidays as Valentine's Day and Christmas.

This is your formal invitation to the Fright Side! It's time to get to know Scary Godmother. Your Halloween is incomplete without her!
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Temporary Tattoos Perfect For Halloween or Everyday Geek Life

by Megan S.


Maybe it's commitment-phobia, maybe it's an aversion to needles,* but some of us just won't get a tattoo no matter how much we want one.  Thank goodness crafty crafters on craft site Etsy have come up with a solution for those who want to be inked without all the hassle.

That's right, kids, geeky temporary tattoos are real and they're the perfect way to complete your outfit or your Halloween costume.  I've combed Etsy and found 17 awesome ones perfect for cosplaying or just a night out with friends.
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Friday, October 10, 2014

Seriously, Are We Living the Opening Credits of a Zombie Movie?

by Sara N.

Look, I know we're not all going to get Ebola and die. The CDC has assured us that the chance of a widespread outbreak in the United States is very low. Experts in the news tell us again and again that Ebola has an extremely low transmission rate and that we should worry more about influenza. Well-reasoned pieces of journalism give us a host of reasons that we shouldn't fear. Heck, even The Onion has tips for avoiding Ebola, in case you're still worried.

I understand all this and truly don't believe the average American is at risk. And yet ...

And yet I've seen the news montages in the movies, you guys! 12 Monkeys. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. World War Z. Shaun of the Dead. Dawn of the Dead. 28 Days Later. Pretty much any zombie movie ever. These movies all start with news reports explaining how the world descended into flesh-chomping chaos. They're usually innocent at first, maybe a little eyebrow-raising but not overtly terrifying. But then they escalate to a horrifying cataclysm that leaves the world a shattered, shambling wasteland.

And I've got to be honest, when I see the steady trickle of Ebola news — It's in the U.S.! We're sending more troops! Look out, Spain! — it does seem a little cinematic. Below are actual headlines from the last week or so.



Be honest. Doesn't this steady stream of terrible news seems a tiny bit like the early part of the news report montage in a disease outbreak movie, like so?




The culprit is in part, of course, the media and their fear appeals. Scary stories get you to tune in and keep you coming back to see how much worse things have gotten. Heavy exposure to "scary" news stories can cultivate skewed audience beliefs that the world is a scarier place than it actually is. (In fact, cultivation theory could even help explain why a heavy viewer of zombie movies makes the link between media in the films and the worst-case scenario in real-world reporting.) And in extreme situations, fear-based media can be used as a form of social control of the public.

So in the end, we're seeing stories about a serious issue reported through the lens of a media desperate for audience numbers. It doesn't mean we're headed into a pandemic of cinematic proportions — even if it feels a little like it to zombie fans.  
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Axes and Monsters and Tentacles, Oh My!

There are lots of books that I like reading this time of year. I've found a new one for the favorites list in my current read, A Night in the Lonesome October. Another fantastic read for the best month of the year is Cherie Priest's MAPLECROFT.

The blurb: "Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.... 

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe."

I wasn't completely sure what to expect, other than I read a tagline somewhere on twitter that this story was Lizzie Borden meets Lovecraftian horror and I knew I had to read it. I've read Priest's Clockwork series, which feels like a modern dime novel, and the Chesire Red books, an Urban Fantasy with a snarky vampire thief. Both series are fast-paced, action-packed reads.

MAPLECROFT is a different animal. I thought that we would mostly be viewing the story from Lizzie's perspective, but the book is told through the journal entries and letters of several characters. The letter approach isn't always my favorite. Sometimes I find it interrupts the story, or slows everything down to a snail's pace (like, say, Frankenstein). Not the case here. The book kept my attention, but was less non-stop action and more creeping, rising tension.

We have characters isolated from society because of a scandalous murder as well as a town geographically separated from the larger metropolises. They are also facing a Problem that is completely outside their known history and experience. To think on it is to risk sanity, but they have to figure it out if they have any hope of stopping it.

Something is transforming the residents of Fall River. Lizzie killed the first two, after her parents were afflicted. Since then she has studied as best as she could with the equipment at her disposal, looking to myths to try to explain the impossible. Her parents weren't the only victims, though, and soon Lizzie and her small group of allies must fight for their lives, minds, and souls.

Emma, Lizzie's sister, is frail but surprisingly resourceful. She and Lizzie have a complex relationship. They have been sequestered together, sharing terrible secrets. They crave help from others but have a very realistic fear to opening themselves to the outside world. Doctor Seabury is the town doctor whose testimony helped keep Lizzie from a murder conviction. He saw Lizzie's stepmother shortly before her death, and knew she was different, that she had changed into something horrifying, even though he couldn't bring himself to mention the truth. Nance, Lizzie's lover, is an actress and a force of nature herself with an inextinguishable curiosity. Lizzie and Nance had so many forces pulling them apart, societal and supernatural.

So much I would love to discuss here but can't because spoilers.

I definitely felt the rising dread as a monster stalked towards our little group. The transformation and murders, while horrifying, were the kind that leaves quite a bit to the reader's imagination. And my imagination tends to go into overdrive in these situations. The whole setting felt claustrophobic as everything came pressing down. Tense, at times heartbreaking, I really fell in love with the mythology here, the historical twist. While we do get a conclusion, there is room for more.

If you are looking for something creepy, engrossing, and refreshingly different, go pick up MAPLECROFT. I will be pre-ordering book 2 as soon as it is available.

MAPLECROFT  Amazon | B&N | Kobo | BAM | Powell's | Indiebound

Cherie Priest:
website: http://www.cheriepriest.com/
twitter: https://twitter.com/cmpriest

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fall in Love with Gravity Falls

It's no secret that I love cartoons. I can't help but adore them and they can often tell much better stories than the run of the mill thrillers and dramas on network TV. If you want interesting story telling and fascinating characters, you're going to want to watch some cartoons.

Not all cartoons are created equal. Some are nothing more than pandering dreck trying to cash in on hot trends and action figures. That's what makes the good cartoons all the more special. They are a pure diamond in a field of cubic zirconia. They're to be treasured, shared and obsessed over. It's cause for celebration when you find a good one.

Friends, I have found a cartoon that's better than any cartoon ever. It's perfect in every single way and currently has my complete and undying devotion. That cartoon is Gravity Falls.

Gravity Falls premiered on Disney XD on June 29, 2012 and began to gather a small but devoted following. It's an excessively intelligent show. The best way to describe it is that it's like a mix of HP Lovecraft, Twin Peaks and Portlandia all filtered through a child's point of view. There are tons of conspiracies, hidden messages in each episode and monsters that would give even old Lovecraft pause. It's BRILLIANT.

Created by Alex Hirsch, who also does some of the voices, Gravity Falls takes place in a small forest town in Oregon. The main protagonists, twin siblings Dipper and Mabel Pines, are sent there by their parents to get some fresh air with their Great Uncle ("Grunkle") Stan, who runs a local tourist attraction called The Mystery Shop. Dipper discovers a mystery journal in the forest one day that details all the weird stuff that happens in the town and we're suddenly plunged into adventures featuring lovesick gnomes, zombies, dinosaurs, six-headed bears, time travel and lake monsters.

The show is animated beautifully. It's full of bright colors and interesting characters. Dipper and Mabel are the core of the show and they're nothing short of amazing. Dipper is analytical and logical to a fault while Mabel is hilariously random and completely thrilled with all the weird stuff they encounter. Grunkle Stan is one of my favorite characters, though. He's a deadpan, money-hungry grifter who uses his terrible attractions to bilk idiot tourists out of money. He also cares very much for his great niece and nephew. He has some of the best quotes in the entire show as well as some MASSIVE secrets that have only begun to be uncovered. The major cast rounds out with Wendy, a cool girl who works in the shop and Dipper's crush, and Soos, a delightfully optimistic handyman.

While the main cast is outstanding, it's the secondary characters who really elevate the show. Gideon Gleeful is the main antagonist of the first season and he's amazing. Gideon is a pint sized psychic obsessed with stealing the Mystery Shack from Stan. The townspeople are just as bizarre as you'd expect from a small mountain town. There's a crazy old kook (Old Man McGucket), a spineless newspaper editor, a gaggle of teenage miscreants and a two man police force that is hilariously bad at their job.

The show is also exceptionally well written. The characters, even the most minor townsperson, is fully fleshed out. Gravity Falls doesn't rely on the usual worn out cartoon stereotypes. No one is what they seem in Gravity Falls. Each episode stands alone but also gently feeds into a larger narrative that pays off in spades to observant viewers. The show is genuinely funny and sometimes rather heartfelt. While running from dinosaurs or a villainous magical triangle named Bill, the characters learn important things about themselves and about the power of family and knowledge. It sort of reminds me of Welcome to Night Vale in that way. Crazy things happen but the core of the show is the bonds between the cast.

One of the coolest parts of Gravity Falls are all the conspiracy theories. Everything in the show is a hint to a greater plot. The team behind the show inserts cryptic, coded messages into random frames and offer tantalizing hints to a greater mystery in such random places as Stan's weird tattoo and the way the Mystery Shack's windows are shaped. Even the credits end with a coded message and many websites and Tumblrs are dedicated to figuring out the mystery. I know so much more about cryptology now because of this show.

Gravity Falls is one of the best shows on TV right now. It's intelligent, very well plotted and incredibly well written. You need to go visit Gravity Falls as soon as possible!
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Batgirl Prints Special!

by Mike Maihack
I'm a huge fan of the adorable Batgirl and Supergirl webcomics by Mike Maihack. They're exceptionally well drawn, full of humor and heart and honestly how I think DC should do more of their comics. No grimdark here! Just a good joke and some absolutely incredible art.

The sunny, adorable personality of Supergirl is contrasted perfectly against the more practical, and long suffering, Batgirl. Together they make the best team ever. (Seriously, DC, I will give you money for these to be real, canon, comic books).

 There are currently only eight mini comics and each one is a masterpiece. My favorite is at left.

I only mention this because for ONE WEEK ONLY Mike Maihack is selling PRINTS of his awesome strips. Each limited edition print is $10 or get all eight of them for $60. You have until October 14th to grab one!

One week only! You know what you have to do. Now, someone help me make room on my wall...

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Day Of The Dead Movie Brings Life To Your Wardrobe

by Megan S.


We've talked about this, right?  How much I want to see The Book of Life?  Not only do I love the look of the film, I have always been fascinated by Dia de los Muertos, the holiday on which the movie is based.  From October 31 to November 2, friends and family gather to celebrate and remember loved ones who have passed on and calaveras (the decorated skulls often made out of sugar), marigolds, and feasts play a big role in the festivities. 

So you can well imagine my response when I found out Torrid, the plus size sister store of Hot Topic, has an adorable new line of clothing inspired by the movie and incorporating themes from the holiday.

I'm not ashamed to say I bought one of the pieces as fast as my internet connection would allow.
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Friday, October 3, 2014

Celebrating October's Most Halloweenish Monthly Observances

by Sara N.

OK, fine. I see how it is, fellow Stellar Four women.  Let's just go ahead and dedicate this whole week to "How You Doin', October?"

The list of national monthlong observances are always lengthy and comically random, but I found several of October's designated celebrations on this list to dovetail nicely with all of the spooky, Halloween-ey things we love so much around here. And I've complied the most appropriate ones with suggestions for how best to celebrate them.

Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

You should absolutely adopt a shelter dog if you're in the market for a pet, and if you do, you should buy your new buddy a Bantha dog costume for Halloween.




National Bake and Decorate Month

Get your Halloween cupcake decorating ideas right here. I'm particularly fond of Frankenstein's monster.




Bat Appreciation Month

You'll certainly appreciate these cardboard cut-out bats adorning your walls. Dana Made It has the how-to.




Keep reading; there's more to come ...

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

More (Cheap) October Merriment

So far this week we've had 21 things to get you in a Halloween mood and Halloween resolutions. I can't stay away from the fun that is this most glorious month and fantabulous holiday.

I would love to construct ornate displays, however, those will last all of twenty seconds in the inevitable maelstrom that is my house on days ending in "y." This little guy is well-nigh indestructible. Should something untoward happen, my glittery, webby friend also only cost $1.49 at Party City.

Read on for more fun, but inexpensive ways to celebrate the best month of the year.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

HELLO OCTOBER!

IT. IS. FINALLY. OCTOBER!

October is the best month of the year. It's the official debut of autumn, of falling leaves and chilly nights. It contains pumpkins and Halloween! It's the perfect season for spooky stories and cuddling up with a cup of tea and a book. It's not too hot, it's not too cold. It's just gloriously perfect.

October is 31 days of Addams Family movies, candy and ghost stories.

Last year I asked everyone to make Halloween resolutions. This year, I think we should do the same! October is like my New Years and resolutions for Halloween are much more fun than the ones you make for January 1st. Lose weight? Pfft, eat more candy! Halloween resolution! As I said last year...

There's no disappointment or judgment here. I feel as if Halloween resolutions are when you resolve to do things you love more, to overindulge in things you can't get enough of. Don't resolve to lose weight, endeavor to eat as much Halloween candy as you can get your hands on. Don't resolve to clean and organize your house, make it a priority to decorate it in the most epic ways possible. Reach out to old friends with warm Halloween greetings. Sit down and write actual letters to people. Find new friends to terrorize share your love of Halloween with. Watch all the Halloween movies you can. Sing songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas at the top of your lungs. Succumb to the darkness. Harness the demon steed that is your creativity and dive into drawing and painting and writing.

Maybe take your resolution cues from some of the sacred pantheon of Halloween. Should you resolve to be more like the noble Jack O'Lantern or the charming ghosts and ghouls? Perhaps take a leaf from the books of such go-getters as the vampires and werewolves? Dabble in villainy?

I think a Halloween resolution is anything you want it to be as long as you resolve to have fun and Monster Mash like no one's watching.
So make a Halloween resolution in the comments! I want to hear what you are going to do his beautiful October! 

My resolutions? Read more HP Lovecraft, carve a pumpkin and BASK in the joy that is October.
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