Halloween Costumes: Humanity, Identity, and the Monstrous

Another Halloween has come and gone, but in this corner of the internet, Halloween never ends. I was particularly proud of my costume this year, and in thinking about how I’d share it, I realized something: the majority of my Halloween costumes have been quite… monstrous.

I take a classic view of Halloween: costumes are meant to be scary. I was never one to dress as a princess or box of crayons, opting even as a child for creatures that walk the night. I distinctly remember my ninth Halloween when I wore a homemade werewolf costume, with fur tearing through my flannel shirt and a wolf mask, to a Halloween party for children at the local community center. None of my friends knew me until I lifted the mask. I was someone else—no, something else, entirely. And I loved it.

Recent costumes have taken advantage of face paint rather than masks, but they’re still monstrous: Harley Quinn, a zombie, a sugar skull, and this year, the Babadook. So, you see, my costume choices are not only creepy but also monstrous.

There’s a pleasure in subsuming your identity into something foreign, which people like me take advantage of on Halloween. Perhaps this is partially the writer in me; after all, I spend my favorite moments immersed in fictional characters’ lives anyway. So it goes with Halloween: you can become anyone, or anything, and live almost vicariously through this new being. Halloween offers us the chance to melt away our identities into something else, to transform… to become something other, an annual becoming of which the Red Dragon could only dream.

I’ve always been fascinated by the monstrous. The term monstrous, you know, actually comes not from horror but from a notion of hybridity: something that is two things at once. Hence the perfect monsters, to us, retain some semblance of the human while also being decidedly inhuman, which is what makes them so horrific. Sure, we all love our Cthulhus and our chupacabras, but the monsters we come back to over and over again are those which retain the human form while being simultaneously, and unnervingly, inhuman (vampires, werewolves, witches, Frankenstein…).

That, I realized, is how I’ve been subconsciously choosing my costumes. Harley Quinn is human, sure, but she’s also a clown—something removed from humanity. A zombie was once a human but is no more. A sugar skull? Sure, same thing. The Babadook, being a boogeyman character, looks like a human but surely is something far, far different.

What is our fascination with the monstrous? The inhuman masquerading in human form? I think it plays on our deepest fears. Something that does not look human will flag something in our brains right away, but what about something that looks human, that could almost be human… but isn’t? That type of creature tricks you into believing it’s human until it’s too late to realize your mistake. What of the shadow figure in your bedroom watching you sleep, or the grinning man in the top hat whose mouth is just… far… too… large?

And what happens when we get to pretend to be something completely other? Something so far removed from ourselves that we can dissolve our own humanity and exist in an implausible realm where anything is possible? What happens when I can roam the streets of North Hollywood as the Babadook? Some laughs and disturbed looks, apparently, and even the odd photo or two, but that’s not the whole of it. I am me, but I am not me; I am become something entirely other, a being that can exist only on Halloween night. My face is painted and no one sees me; they see only the monster I have become. A monster roams these streets masquerading as Joanna Parypinski, but it is not she. It is a deception. You realize only too late your mistake in assuming that it was, indeed, a mere human. It grins at you, grinning clownishly, with only death in its eyes.

And I wish, oh I wish, that Halloween were more than one night a year.

I mean, who doesn’t want the chance to wander around looking like this and freaking out everyone they meet?

Babadook

Happy post-Halloween, everyone, and remember: if it’s in a word or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook!

Advertisements

Indian Summer

This is the time of year—you know the one. When the leaves turn and the air makes its subtle shift into fall. But not here. These are the brutal weeks, the drought’s revenge. Fool me once, okay, surely fall is just around the corner. Fool me twice, shame on me for forgetting there is no fall in the land of always summer.

These are the weeks, late August and September, when you think summer is over, but—surprise!—it isn’t. These are the weeks of hellish heat. Of sweat-slicked hours and lukewarm showers.

My thermostat can’t keep up; the red line is off the edge somewhere past ninety. My AC unit can’t keep up; the heat absorbs cool air in its sedating trance. The bare floor bakes. The heavy soporific sponge of heat yet prohibits sleep.

Elsewhere, the world slides into autumn, slides towards beautiful death.

I can’t breathe. My brain is soup. And where is the cool reprieve of sleep? Not here. My skin sweats and sloughs off. My muscles melt. My soul oozes out between pores. My volcanic heart runs lava through my veins. My eyes burn out of my skull but still I cannot close them.

My neighbors turn to skeletons. They float among drowned termites in chlorine. Our pipes evaporate. Two ants feast on the corpse of a third, hungry, mindless, gnawing life away. Trees curl up and die, dry, clawing for the scorched blue sky. The neighbors steam and sink and lie on the pool bottom’s concrete.

Then the dust on the cars, in the windows, on the streets. Coffee ground grime in the cracks of the earth. We water the dead while the living drink their own sweat.

Then the fires on mountaintops. We burn, but we don’t die. We slouch on, live, charred. We feel we must be dead, we feel we missed the freeway exit somewhere back there, and we live but we are not alive. The air is ash and we burn and we listen for the fine soliloquy of death.

It never ends—but we forget that it does. As all things. And when it does, we drink the cool and bask again in the lustful gazes of our neighbors.

Our lizard skin grows back. We breathe the fine clear air and sweep away the dust. And we forget how we ever felt anything but this, anything but this alive.

The Matter of Words

“Words, words, words,” said Hamlet when Polonius asked him what he was reading. To which Polonius asked, “What is the matter, my lord?”

Hamlet never tells us the subject matter of his reading material, but I’m guessing he wasn’t about to say, “The matter is whatever you want it to be” or “These words mean whatever you want them to mean.” In fact, one of the best comic devices used by Shakespeare (and his clever character, Hamlet) was the pun, which can only be funny if a word has a specific meaning—or, rather, double-meaning.

But we do not live anymore in Shakespeare’s time, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in modern culture: the idea that words and language can mean whatever you want them to mean.

This seems to me an effect of poor critical thinking, the current “every opinion is sacred” epidemic, and the narcissism pervading social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. No one needs to look to experts anymore because we all have the internet, so doesn’t that mean we’re all informed enough to come up with the right answer to any problem ourselves?

Let’s look at this issue at a linguistic level. My example here will be the word “blessed,” or, to put it into a context every Facebooker will understand, #blessed. Picture of a couple moving into a new house? #blessed. Got a promotion at work? #blessed. Made a really good soup for dinner after your husband went to the grocery store? #soblessed.

I recently read an article explaining what is wrong with using #blessed in this context: the idea that because you are privileged enough to live a comfortable life, the hand of God must have chosen to grace you, specifically, to receive these blessings. The insidious underbelly of this idea brings up the question: what about the poor and the hungry? Are they not worthy? (In the Bible, these are actually the people who are being called blessed—not those with material comfort). “Blessed” brings with it a wholly different connotation than, say, “grateful” or “lucky.” But when someone tries to write an article explaining how this blatant humblebrag also ties into the sinister idea that those who are well-off deserve to be so by divine order, there is immediate backlash in the comments from people who refuse to entertain criticism of something that they do or say.

These comments include the question, “Why shouldn’t people be allowed to express their gratitude?” (They should, by the way; that’s not the issue. The issue is the manner in which they express their gratitude—and, perhaps, your reading comprehension). Then there are the comments that claim the meaning of “blessed” has changed simply to mean grateful (because they see other people use it in this way, and we all know no one has ever misused language in the history of the internet). Worst of all is a comment claiming that “blessed can mean whatever you want it to mean!”

And here is my problem.

A word does not mean whatever you want it to mean. If we go by this logic, I can claim that “blessed” means “cursed” or that a “chair” is actually a “table.” Now we’re getting into a problem of semiotics, and I’m sure Saussure would roll his eyes our bumbling misapprehension of sign, signifier, and signified. Regardless, you could never convince this person that “blessed” doesn’t mean whatever she wants it to mean because that’s her opinion and, remember, every opinion is sacred!

Everyone is entitled to her opinion, but opinions are not facts and no opinion should be treated as fact, unless there is solid evidence to back up the validity of said opinion. Opinions are wonderful things to have, but they are by no means sacred, and they should by no means be unchangeable. Many people cling fervently to their opinions under the assumption that their opinions should not ever change. Yet isn’t it the mark of intelligence to be willing to change one’s ideas based on new evidence and experience?

Just because you’ve used a certain word in a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t look in a dictionary and change your mind about the definition based on the evidence given by good old Webster. It doesn’t mean you can’t rethink the way that you use certain words and what unintended effects or meanings you might be delivering by using them in that way.

Language is organic and fluid, but words do have specific meanings; they don’t meant whatever you want them to mean. If that were the case, then my life’s passion (writing) would be utterly meaningless. I would never be able to convey a single coherent idea to anyone, for my readers could simply decide that my words mean something else. Sure, people have created the meanings of words because we created language; it is a wholly human construct, a way of rendering reality in a logical way, by an agreed-upon code. But you cannot deny that words carry meanings, resonances, and ideas. Who wants to live in a world where no one is able to communicate with anyone else? We would all be alone and disconnected, screaming pointlessly into a deaf and uncomprehending void.

Coffee & Wine: Elixirs of Creativity

Must a writer always have a drink in her hand? No, but it sure helps.

Coffee and wine are a writer’s best friends, depending on the time of day. We can easily imagine a writer hunched over her desk with a blistering cup of coffee or a glass of red wine. Both seem to be quintessential artifacts of a writer’s life.

In college, wine was my drink of choice, mostly because I never drank coffee. Yes, I was that rare breed of student who never pulled an all-nighter, was always well-rested, and had her essays done on time. I had no need for coffee. I liked to write in the evenings, when my school work was done, and this was best done accompanied by a glass of wine.

Liquor has that wonderful uninhibiting effect that frees your creativity. Let loose, write whatever comes to mind! It’s easy to feel stymied by your own inner critic, and liquor certainly does quiet that voice and let you run wild.

We could theoretically substitute any liquor here, in that case. So why wine? Well, I suppose wine makes us feel classy. Writerly. Dignified. Everything looks more elegant with a glass of wine, doesn’t it? Plus, it doesn’t get you drunk quite as quickly as, say, a glass of whiskey, so you can loosen your mind without immediately putting it to bed.

On the other hand, wine makes me sleepy.

At some point, after college, my writing clock reversed. I could no longer write in the evenings; now, my best writing is done in the morning or early afternoon with a cup of coffee. Perhaps I’ve become solar-powered, that the morning sun recharges my writer’s batteries. But my writing ritual just can’t get off the ground without coffee.

What’s great about coffee is its ability to induce a laser-like focus, energy, and intense joy: the perfect creative concoction. I can literally be wallowing in my own mediocrity one moment, drink some coffee, and suddenly believe that I am a literary genius. This inflated confidence, similar to the uninhibiting effects of wine, can soften the self-doubt; the energy can get your fingers running across the keyboard; and the focus allows me to lose myself in a story for hours at a time, barely resurfacing for air (or food).

In fact, being hungry helps, too. I’m never as inclined to write when I’m full. This is terribly inconvenient for someone who is trying to put on weight and also finish a novel.

Strangely, the uncomfortable effects of coffee (or hunger) seem to feed my workflow. Ever since I quit my job at Starbucks, if I have more than one cup of coffee, I am immediately a jittery mess. Well, bring it on. This is the perfect way to write: when my body is vibrating so much I can’t keep still, and it all comes out through my fingers.

Wine makes me too comfortable. That’s death to my writing. It’s the discomfort that keeps me going, the drive to push on, push on, that you just don’t have when you’re feeling wonderfully complacent (or full). The discomfort of being overly caffeinated has spawned some of my greatest writing binges to date.

Maybe some writers need to feel cozy and at ease to do their best work. Me, I thrive on the discomfort. I suppose if my anxiety is good for anything, it’s that. What else drives us forward but that feeling of discontent? I think writers exist in a state of constant dissatisfaction, and maybe this is where great work comes from. The need to always be better, improve, create a more pleasurable life. Of course, once we’ve found our pleasure, inevitably, we will need to find some other source of dissatisfaction to draw upon for the next great work.

Whatever your poison, it’s best to know what works for you. Perhaps you are one of those writers who cannot work with any type of liquid elixir. All I know is, I’d better go have another coffee, because I have some writing to do.

Fictional Cartography: the Art of Mapping Imaginary Settings

Recently I taught a creative writing lesson to a group of high school students about creating and mapping fictional places. The kids loved it; they came up with some wildly imaginative places (one of them includes a military base with no doors, an inactive volcano, and an entire town fenced in by barbed wire). Then they wrote stories taking place in their towns.

I realized, as I was crafting the lesson, that there are a few different kinds of fictional places. I broke them down like this:

Type 1: Fictional towns, cities, countries, and continents that take place in another world from our own and have no connection to our reality.

Some examples of a type 1 fictional setting include Westeros from Game of Thrones and Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings. Often these kinds of places are used for fantasy novels, although I would also include the setting from Star Wars here. China Miéville also utilizes this kind of fictional setting, and he does a fantastic job of world-building in his vivid, surreal writing: check out Perdido Street Station to see what I’m talking about.

Science fiction and fantasy are notorious for using these kinds of fictional places. Thankfully, many of these books also include maps to situate the reader in the fantastical land, since we have no other reference point aside from the descriptions given by the writer. Here’s a map of J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth, given so that we can see Frodo’s journey from the Shire to Mordor:

Middle Earth

Type 2: Fictional towns, cities, countries, and continents that take place in another world from our own, but which can be accessed through our reality.

In this case, the reader is introduced to the fictional land by way of the real world, usually through some magical or unusual form of transport. For instance, in The Chronicles of Narnia, we start out grounded in the real world; then we go through a wardrobe and arrive in Narnia. This technique works well to introduce readers to these purely fantastical and imaginative landscapes by taking their hands and transporting them away from their solid footing in the real world. Children’s stories often use this type of fictional setting because it is easier to grasp than a type 1, where you are thrust without context into a strange new place.

Here are two examples of type 2 fictional settings from children’s literature. The first is Neverland from Peter Pan:

NeverlandHere we begin in the real world (London), and then Peter and Wendy fly off to the fictional realm of Neverland.

Likewise, in Alice in Wonderland, we begin in the real world, and then Alice falls through a rabbit hole and winds up in Wonderland:

Wonderland

Type 3: Fictional towns and cities in real states/countries in the real world.

While the other two types of fictional places are largely used for speculative fiction in the science fiction and fantasy genres, this type is used more frequently by writers of all genres. Being in the real world, the cities and towns of a type 3 place must therefore abide by at least some laws of reality. Thus, writers from Stephen King to William Faulkner have all created imaginary towns in the real world.

Some writers even set multiple works in these places, creating a sort of alternate world to our own. Take, for instance, H.P. Lovecraft’s Arkham, a sinister little town in Massachusetts:

“What lay behind our joint love of shadows and marvels was, no doubt, the ancient, mouldering, and subtly fearsome town in which we live—witch-cursed, legend-haunted Arkham, whose huddled, sagging gambrel roofs and crumbling Georgian balustrades brood out the centuries beside the darkly muttering Miskatonic.”
The Thing on the Doorstep

This eerie town, which is home to Miskatonic University (researcher of all things “weird”), appears in many of Lovecraft’s stories, from his Cthulhu mythos to the Dream Cycle. Naturally, Lovecraft needed to know where everything was in the town, if he was to write about it consistently. Maps are useful not only to help the readers, but also to help the writer keep everything straight. It’s pretty obvious that Lovecraft never intended on publishing this scrawled piece of chicken scratch:

Arkham Map LovecraftBut hey, as long as he can read his own handwriting! Thanks to computers, others have cleaned up this map and made it legible for Lovecraft fans everywhere:

Arkham Map CleanI had a blast teaching this lesson because, over the years, I’ve acquired an increasing interest in fictional cartography. Each novel I’ve written takes place in a type 3 fictional setting. Like Lovecraft, I’ve found myself sketching out these places, crafting them for my readers, my characters, and myself. This is why the towns from my two in-progress novels feel much more real to me than my first attempt with Pandora‘s Sickle Falls. Unfortunately, Sickle Falls feels half-complete because I never mapped out the town itself.

Hopefully these novels I’m working on now will be published in the future, and you can see for yourself how real the places feel. Let me transport you to Bryn Du Bluffs, West Virginia, where legends of an evil cemetery on a hill and the ancient Moon-Eyed People spook the superstitious folks in town. Let me take you to Rockhaven, Nebraska, where abandoned farms become the playground of meth-heads and an old crone guards her haunted well.

Let me take you there. These places have become real now. They’re all mapped out… and waiting for you.

10 Commandments of Writing

As part of the final project for a class I recently took, which focused on various aspects of the writing life, I was instructed to compile 10 commandments for writing well. Each student in the class made a list, and each one turned out different from the next, proving that there is no one ideal method for how to write. We took our cues from similar lists made by established writers, such as Elmore Leonard, Neil Gaiman, John Steinbeck, Joyce Carol Oates, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, and Richard Bausch.

You can find a few of these lists online, perhaps at the websites of these authors. Reading and discussing the lists helped my class to understand that these are not hard and fast rules for writing. Some writers contradict each other; some tell you not to follow rules at all. These commandments are for the writer who made them.

So I want to preface my own list by saying that these commandments were written for me. They are things that I’ve learned over the years, which have helped me become a better writer, and which I try to adhere to. They won’t work for everyone. But maybe someone else will stumble across this list and find it useful. Maybe they’ll work for you, too.

Joanna Parypinski’s 10 Commandments of Writing

1. Forget that tired cliché, “show don’t tell.” It’s “show and tell.” Great fiction includes elements of both, and there are some things you really don’t need to show.

2. Speaking of clichés, forget that other one, too: “write what you know.” Write what you don’t know. I’m going to quote Richard Bausch again here, for he said it so elegantly: “Write to discover what you don’t know about what you thought you knew.”

3. Strive not for realism but for believability. However fantastical the tale, believable characters and emotions generate the strongest suspension of disbelief, and if these elements are believable, your reader will follow you anywhere. This is so important because we must remember that fiction is never reality.

4. One good noun/verb is worth ten good adjectives/adverbs. That’s not to say you should never use them, but use them sparingly. When they can be replaced or dismissed, do it.

5. Wherever possible, allow the characters to react in the way that feels most natural to them, without trying to direct the story to where you think it should go. If the characters are functioning, the story will go where it needs to go. Too much authorial navigation can seem contrived.

6. Forget the idea that there is a muse only using you as a conduit. You are the writer, and everything coming through your fingertips originated in your mind. This is your work. Don’t forget that. At the same time, try to disengage from yourself as much as possible and allow the story to take over.

7. A one-sentence description is almost always more powerful than a three-sentence description. Say what you want to say, but say it only once: the right way.

8. Make the reader feel something. Fear, hopelessness, hilarity, love, repugnance. If the reader feels nothing, no matter how literary or well-written the piece may be, then the story isn’t doing its job.

9. Revision is just as important as writing from scratch. Don’t burn yourself out on the first draft. Let it sit for a while and come back. But make sure you always come back. Don’t let it sit for too long, or it will die.

10. Just keep writing.

September is the New October at Starbucks

As we enter the month of September, the Halloween season is officially upon us (yes, Halloween season starts in September). If you’re reading this, then you already know how much I love Halloween. What you might not know is that my day job is a barista at Starbucks. Ah, the corporate horror… but oh, the free coffee! And, with that, the freedom to create my own drinks.

Writers are notorious coffee fiends (a writer’s best friend is either coffee or wine, depending on what time of day you choose to write. Or how much of an alcoholic you are). Horror writers are notorious lovers of all things Halloween—including pumpkins and pumpkin-flavored everything.

So, with my knowledge of creating fancy custom-order coffee drinks and my love of pumpkin, I present to you my top 5 things you should be getting at Starbucks this fall that aren’t on the menu.

pumpkin spice latte

3. Orange Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee

If pumpkin and orange is kind of your thing, then I’ve got the perfect iced drink for you. It’s a twist on this summer’s new offering of orange spice iced coffee, which consists of a dried orange, cinnamon, and iced coffee—shaken, not stirred. Ordinarily, this drink comes sweetened with classic syrup, but you can substitute that for pumpkin spice for a cool autumn treat.

5. Pumpkin Banana Smoothie

I’m drinking this as we speak, and as far as I know, my coworker recently invented it. It’s a light, refreshing, and fairly healthy coffee alternative if your fall is turning out to be like the one in L.A. (read: hot, hot, blazing hot). This is basically just the standard chocolate banana smoothie, but with pumpkin spice substituted for the mocha.

3. Salted Caramel Pumpkin Spice

Okay, now I’m just making things up. I admit, I haven’t tried this one—nor have I seen anyone order it—but hey, it sounds like a good mix, right? If you’re not a fan of the toffee nut/mocha mixture in the regular salted caramel mocha, why not put the two fall drinks together by making a pumpkin spice latte with caramel sauce and the sea salt topping? It’s the best of both worlds.

2. Chocolate Pumpkin Chai

Three flavors in one drink? Surely you can’t be serious! Well, I am serious (and stop calling me Shirley). It’s especially easy to make now that we’ve got our new chocolate chai drink. Just ask your barista to put in a little less of the chocolate chai and add a few pumps of pumpkin spice to compensate. Voilà! Insta-fall in a glass.

1. Pumpkin Pie Latte

If you love drinking your desserts, then look no further. This one tastes like pumpkin pie in a cup. It’s just a mix of pumpkin spice and white chocolate mocha sauce. I’d recommend getting more pumps of pumpkin spice than white mocha, since the latter is overpoweringly sweet, and you don’t want to lose that perfect pumpkin taste. It’s a creamy, decadent alternative to the regular pumpkin spice.

pumpkin foam art

Now that you’re armed with a few ideas, go forth and drink pumpkin! I guess you could always just go with a plain pumpkin spice latte, but if you’re feeling creative, give one of these a try. Remember, none of these are on the menu, and chances are your barista will give you a strange look if you try to order it without explaining what goes into the drink, so make sure to be clear about your custom order. It’s extra work for your barista to figure out your off-menu drink, but they will be happy to make it for you… as long as you don’t forget to tip!

Happy Septober, everyone!

Cimetière de Chamonix

There aren’t enough apologies to go around for how long it’s been since I’ve made a blog post. Part of the horror of real life is when it gets in the way of writing about your love of horror. As it is, I’m currently doing a three-week workshop abroad in the beautiful mountain town of Chamonix, France, nestled in a valley between the sharp peaks of the Alps. In fact, I’m right below the tallest mountain in Europe: Mont Blanc.

Aside from the Gothic imagery of the jagged mountaintops (currently clouded in mist) and the proximity to where Mary Shelley penned the immortal Frankenstein (just over in Geneva), there’s a fair bit of creepiness in this quaint little town—thanks mainly to the old cemetery, which is only a five-minute walk from my apartment. If you’re a fan of cemeteries (like myself), then I can’t stress how awesome this little place is.

IMG_0334

There are two sections: the “ancient” part, and the newer area. I didn’t even venture past the old graves. There were plenty of cool stones to see: some old, crumbling, shapeless rocks; some weathered crosses; some leaning against the cobblestone wall that encloses the cemetery.

IMG_0316

IMG_0332

On a side note, I find it interesting that the ground of this entire cemetery is gravel… I wonder if this makes it easier or harder to keep? I’m reminded of other such oddities, like the aboveground cemeteries in New Orleans.

IMG_0335Perhaps it’s because I’ve always been fascinated by horror as a genre, but I love discovering beauty in the macabre, and this cemetery is no exception. Yes, it is a place where we lay to rest those who’ve passed on—it is a place where the dead lay just beneath the soil—but something about it is eerily picturesque. It’s lovely, in its own creepy way.

Not far from the main cemetery of Chamonix, I also happened to stumble upon a little church with a few graves of its own adjacent to the stone structure. Those are the kinds of churches I’m interested in—the ones with little churchyards attached, just begging for someone to say they’re haunted.

IMG_0170

And that’s my virtual tour of the cemeteries of Chamonix, France! While I’m here, I hope to get some good writing done. I’ve been working on my new novel, which is shaping up nicely, as well as a short story about the Jersey Devil.

I’ve also recently gotten some good news: my short story, “Graveman,” is going to be published in The Burning Maiden 2, an anthology by EvilEye Books. I’ll keep you posted as to when that one will be available, but in the meantime, you might want to check out the first Burning Maiden anthology to whet your appetite for more…

An Afternoon of Horror: Book Signing & More!

Pasadena 2Come one, come all, and enjoy an Afternoon of Horror at the Pasadena Public Library!

This Saturday, April 27th, I will be doing my first book signing at “An Afternoon of Horror,” an event run by the L.A. chapter of the Horror Writers Association. If you’re in the Southern California area, stop by the Pasadena Public Library around 1:00 pm for panels on the horror genre and publishing, and stick around for the book signings that start at 3:00.

I’m joining Bram Stoker Award winning authors and editors, and there will be plenty of great books to check out. If you didn’t make it to the L.A. Festival of Books this past weekend, this is a perfect opportunity to grab some new reads!

I’ll be signing copies of PANDORA, which will be available to buy for a discounted price (read: cheaper than what you’ll find online). I’ll also have some free swag such as bookmarks, pens, etc. for anyone who stops by. And if you’ve already read the book, you should come see my replica of the box itself, hand-crafted by my very own sister, Mallory Parypinski.

Free panels? Free swag? Signed books? What more could you want on a sunny Saturday afternoon?

See my Events page if you need the address, or join the event on Facebook.

If you want to see which authors will be there, check out the details at the official Pasadena website. Trust me when I say there will be some amazing writers at this event.

Can’t wait to see you there!

Hoosier Horror Blog Hop

Happy October, folks!

Now’s the time for pumpkin carving, apple picking, fallen leaves, and haunted houses. A breath of autumn chills the air, forests turn to livid splashes of color…

Wait.

That’s how it should be. But it’s not.

I moved to L.A. over the summer, and… well, it’s basically still summer. Today, the first day of October, we’ll be hitting 100 degrees over here in southern California, a time for tank tops and air conditioning and sunscreen. Much as I love the consistent weather here, this is not how it’s supposed to be. Fall is supposed to be the way I described it above, crisp and spiced and cool.

The Midwest is perhaps the perfect location for the fall, where the season progresses just as you would expect. The most beautiful fall colors I’ve ever seen were in Indiana; the only apple orchard I’ve been to was in Indiana; and yes, the most corn-maze-friendly spookfest (Hanna Haunted Acres) was, you guessed it, in Indiana.

So as we enter the Halloween season, and I continue to wear shorts and sit in front of the fan, let’s take this first week of October to celebrate a place that truly epitomizes the autumnal season: Indiana. There’s a lot more horror in the Hoosier state than you probably think.