Thursday, 31 August 2017

Ten TV Shows to Binge-Watch This Fall - The Jay Edition

It's no secret that the hubs and I have very different tastes when it comes to most things, television included. I was discussing my list of Ten TV Shows to Binge-Watch This Fall and, since he was less than impressed with my choices (there may have been an eye roll), I asked him to make a list of his own. This is what he came up with:

Tales from the Crypt
"A huge show in its day with massive stars and clever stories. Normally a good laugh. The Cryptkeeper alleviated the heaviness of the stories. I loved the one with Arnie as a school teacher."
"Is tinged with sadness because of the way it ended. One of those shows that was going from strength to strength, getting better and better and then, to be told halfway through the season that you're going to be cancelled, it drives you mad. Its infuriating that something like Ash Vs the Evil Dead whose second series was crap got renewed but this got cancelled when it had so much potential. The idea of the wesen was genius, even if the CGI could be a bit hokey."
"Nasty. Gritty. Adult. One of the surprise series of recent years. It didn't shy away from real visceral violence. Lucas Hood was such a great, clever character. It's about guy and girl do a robbery and steal from a criminal lord called The Rabbit who is the girl's father. The guy does fifteen years for the robbery but doesn't tell anyone where the loot is. He goes looking for the girl when he gets out and fate intervenes. He's in a bar where Banshee's new sheriff is killed by thugs so he takes the sheriff's place and, because he's a criminal, he goes after the town's criminals in a criminal way. Superb brutality."
Friday the 13th (the series)
"I always used to catch this late on a Friday night, coming back from the pub. In the end, I was looking forward to it. It had clever story lines. It's about a shop selling cursed object and the two people whose jobs it was to get the cursed objects back. Nothing to do with Jason, of course."
Sleepy Hollow
"I've only watched the first three seasons so far but I still recommend it. I stopped watching when they lost Nicole Beharie, when it lost a bit of momentum and had an overhaul of characters. It doesn't work as well but anything with the Headless Horseman has got to be fun, right?"
"Another one of those really annoying series because it was cancelled after only one series. Such an excellent idea and well. A clever storyline about a policeman who goes to Hell because he's taken revenge on the man who killed his wife. The Devil offers him a deal: more than a hundred souls have escaped from Hell and if he brings them back, the Devil will give him a second chance. In the same mould as Buffy but gruesome. I guess there were too many supernatural shows out there at the time like it."
Batman the Animated Series
"This worked because it was so stylistic. The imagery was sleek and almost Film Noir. Timeless, like you could watch it today and still think it was new. Bringing in Mark Hamill as the Joker was immense. It brought in all the old villains, plus villains I'd never heard of before. Being a marvel boy, I hadn't known of Scarecrow or Killer Croc until I watched this series so I'm glad I did."
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel
"It's hard to find something new to say about a show that's so iconic. Buffy was one of those shows that, although for teens and being in my twenties when it came out (hard to believe it's twenty years ago!), but I liked it because it spun a whole new mythos on vampires. Although it had a couple of awkward episodes, the story arcs were very good and they kept bringing characters in that made it better. Spike was one of those characters. You couldn't wait to see what he did next. Angel, the spin-off was the better, darker show. "Hush" and "Showtime" were my favourite episodes."
Forever Knight
"Here's one that came out during the supernatural glut of the Nineties. It's a little hokey but good pulp fiction viewing. It's about a cop that works the night shift who is a vampire - but a good vampire. Lacroix was always my favourite because he was an out and out bastard. I watched it because my mum made me but I grew to enjoy it."
The X-Files
"Must-see television in the 90s. Lost its way after the first five series but the return of the new series was nice to see. Absolute iconic show. One of those series that spawned a glut of similar shows."

I like quite a few of the shows on Jay's list, even if they didn't make mine. What do you think? Whose list do you prefer? Want to contribute one of your own? You know what to do.

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: LOCKED IN

My short story about possession, "Her Daughter's Demon", will be appearing in this anthology.

Locked In is still open but nearly full so get your submissions in before it's too late.

Locked In - all sorts of stories about being locked in, with someone, without someone; a thing locked in; feelings locked in; lives locked in... this could go in a hundred directions and still be startling and new. 

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Locked In – ‘your story title’”. 
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to:
Deadline: until full
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Songs for an Autumn Walk Playlist

As yesterday's playlist focused on autumn-themed songs (or songs with autumnal titles), I wanted to create a playlist that felt "autumn-y" but didn't necessarily use the word - the kind of music you'd want on your iPod when you take a stroll in the autumn. This is what I came up with:

Feel free to share it around!

Wanna listen along? Here ya go:

What do you think of my playlist? Want to share your own list? Let me know!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

World Record Breaking Attempt Anthology

My short fantasy, "Queen Muirgheal’s Curse: A Faerie's Tale", will be part of a record breaking attempt hosted by Celenic Earth Publications.

Queen Muirgheal is long gone - but her curse remains. Will her only living descendant, Elissa, break the curse or be its final victim?

Eventually, "Queen Muirgheal’s Curse" will be developed into something much bigger but you can see it in it's original form by pre-ordering your copy of the antho here.

There are nearly one hundred authors from around the world taking part in the attempt, with just today and tomorrow left to submit. Our success depends not just on the number of stories in the anthology, but people (that means you!) getting behind it so please help us spread the word!

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: Ashes

Still open! Get those submissions in!

Ashes - Whose  ashes, what ashes, where did they come from, what are they, who created  them, who needed to destroy something and why. Go for it! No More Phoenix Stories! It's too obvious.

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Ashes – ‘your story title’”. 
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to:
Deadline: until full
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thirteen O'Clock Press is an imprint of Horrified Press.

Autumn 2017 Playlist

Autumn is upon us once more and that means it's time for a spanking new autumn playlist!

If you want to listen along...

What do you think of my list? Are there any songs that make you think of autumn? Let me know!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Ten TV Shows to Binge-Watch This Fall

If you're anything like me, you're eagerly awaiting the new fall line-up. There's no denying that TV is best in the fall, with so many new shows to choose from. But, while we wait, why not binge-watch one of these excellent older shows?
Gilmore Girls
I'm a latecomer to Gilmore Girls. I only watched it last year but immediately saw the appeal. If you haven't discovered Lorelai and Rory's unique kind of humour yet, this fall is the perfect time to do so. (And, if you have, it's never a bad time to revisit the series.) Gilmore Girls is heavy with literary references and Stars Hollow has that quintessential New England town thing going for it, which makes it a great set to cosy up with this fall.
Friday Night Lights
I won't lie and say Friday Night Lights is unlike anything you've ever seen. Especially since, you know, there's already a movie about it and all - but that doesn't take away from the series at all. You go into the television version of Friday Night Lights with a vague understanding of what's going to happen and what it's going to be like, which makes for a nice kind of familiarity. And we can never get enough football in the fall, right?
Sleepy Hollow
New England will always be part of autumn for me and the legend of Sleepy Hollow will always be part of New England. This new take definitely shakes up that old legend up. Without even mentioning how brilliant the yummy Tom Mison is as Ichabod Crane (but he totally is), there are so many reason to binge-watch Sleepy Hollow - not the least of which is the fact that it's both creepy & comical.
Vampire Diaries
Damon Salvatore. Need I say more? When the Vampire Diaries series was released, I pretty much lost my shit because I was a massive fan of the book series. Was I wrong about how much it sucked? Of course I was. Vampire Diaries quickly grew on me, even though it was nothing like the books and, yeah, Ian Somerhalder as Damon Salvatore is a major selling point.
I love Scream. It's one of my favourite movies. When I heard that they were making a TV version I had two conflicting thoughts: 'Yay! More Scream!' and 'It'll never be any good without Matthew Lillard and Skeet Ulrich!' Wrong again! The television version of Scream doesn't have the nostalgia or the humour going for it but it really works. They did a very good job of bringing it up-to-date for modern teens.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Believe it or not, I didn't watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer until the series had come to an end. Weird, right? Vampires are so my thing. Well, that was what put me off. I didn't want to watch a show about vampires getting killed. (I know I need help. No one is arguing with you there.) Eventually, the hubs convinced me to watch it and I fell in love. We're talking about having a Buffy marathon this autumn. You in?
Pride and Prejudice
I'm sure I've said it before but I'll repeat myself: autumn is a time for the classics. Not that there's a bad time for the Pride and Prejudice mini-series. You can easily watch this one all in a single day. (Trust me, it's been done so many times. Lol.) Then, you know, do it all over again the next day. Pride and Prejudice has that golden glow of days gone by that makes it a perfect watch in the autumn.
Freaks and Geeks
It's a shame that there was only ever one series of Freaks and Geeks because it captures the essence of growing up on the outside absolutely brilliantly. Freaks and Geeks is a memory of another time but is still relevant today. And, it has Claudia Christian, which is never a bad thing! This is a great quick watch for back-to-school season.
Stranger Things
If you want a creepy series to spend those long, dark autumn nights binge-watching, Stranger Things is exactly what you've been looking for. You've got all the creepiness you could want, with a massive dose of Eighties nostalgia. The second season will be out at the end of October so you've got plenty of time to catch up!
My So-Called Life/Party of Five
I just couldn't choose between these two so... pick one. Both My So-Called Life and Party of Five are on this list for the nostalgia, for starters, but also because they capture that teen angst that brings back memories of high school. I can't pick between the two because they both focus on intense relationships, in different ways. If you've got the time, why not try both?

What does your fall binge-watching list look like? Do you have any suggestions for me? Let me know!

Monday, 28 August 2017

31 Days of Horror - The Longlist

There's talk here at Castle Vanian of having a horror marathon in October. The plan is to pick one classic horror movie to feature each day of October and, by classic, we mean made from 1930-2000.

Turns out thinking up just thirty-one classic films is harder than we thought!

After a couple of days of discussion, we managed to narrow down our options to a list of about 200. Good thing October's so far away!

While we argue our way down to sixty or so, check out our longlist and weigh in. Any you agree with? Any you disagree with? Have we forgotten any biggies? Let us know!

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 1920
Nosferatu 1922
Phantom of the Opera 1925
Dracula 1931
Frankenstein 1931
The Mummy 1932
The Invisible Man 1933
Bride of Frankenstein 1935
The Wolf Man 1941
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941
The Thing from Another World (1951)
House of Wax 1953
Creature from the Black Lagoon 1954
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The Curse of Frankenstein 1957
Night of the Demon 1957
(Horror of) Dracula 1958
The Blob 1958
The Mummy 1959
House on Haunted Hill 1959
The Brides of Dracula 1960
Psycho 1960
Village of the Damned 1960
The Curse of the Werewolf 1961
The Pit and the Pendulum 1961
Captain Clegg 1962
The Day of the Triffids 1962
The Birds 1963
The Raven 1963
The Masque of the Red Death 1964
Dr. Terror's House of Horrors 1965
Dracula Prince of Darkness 1966
The Plague of the Zombies 1966
Quatermass and the Pit 1967
The Sorcerers 1967
Succubus 1967
The Devil Rides Out 1968
Night of the Living Dead 1968
Rosemary's Baby 1968

The Dunwich Horror 1970
The Abominable Dr. Phibes 1971
Let's Scare Jessica to Death 1971
The House that Dripped Blood 1971
Twins of Evil 1971
Vampire Circus 1972
Horror Express 1972
The Last House on the Left 1972
The Crazies 1973
The Exorcist 1973
The Legend of Hell House 1973
The Satanic Rites of Dracula 1973
The Wicker Man 1973
Black Christmas 1974
It's Alive! 1974
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1974
The Ghoul 1975
Jaws 1975
Race with the Devil 1975
Carrie 1975
The Omen 1975
The Town That Dreaded Sundown 1975
Burnt Offerings 1975
To the Devil a Daughter 1976
The Hills Have Eyes 1977
Damien: Omen II 1978
Dawn of the Dead 1978
Halloween 1978
I Spit on Your Grave 1978
Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978
Alien 1979
Phantasm 1979
Prophecy 1979
Zombie Flesh Eaters 1979
The Awakening 1980
The Fog 1980
Friday the 13th 1980
The Monster Club 1980
Night of the Demon 1980
Prom Night 1980
The Shining 1980
The Watcher in the Woods 1980
An American Werewolf in London 1981
Bloody Birthday 1981
The Beyond 1981
The Burning 1981
Dark Night of the Scarecrow 1981
Dead & Buried 1981
Deadly Blessing 1981
The Evil Dead 1981
Friday the 13th Part 2 1981
Ghost Story 1981
Halloween 2 1981
Hell Night 1981
The Howling 1981
My Bloody Valentine 1981
Wolfen 1981
Amityville 2 1982
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch 1982
Cat People 1982
Creepshow 1982
Madman 1982
Poltergeist 1982
The Thing 1982
Christine 1983
Cujo 1983
House of the Long Shadows 1983
Psycho 2 1983
Sleepaway Camp 1983
Children of the Corn 1984
The Company of Wolves 1984
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter 1984
Gremlins 1984
A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984
The Bride 1985
Day of the Dead 1985
Demons 1985
Fright Night 1985
Lifeforce 1985
The Return of the Living Dead 1985
Silver Bullet 1985
Aliens 1986
Critters 1986
The Fly 1986
The Hitcher 1986
House 1986
Link 1986
Maximum Overdrive 1986
Trick or Treat 1986
Angel Heart 1987
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 1987
Hellraiser 1987
The Lost Boys 1987
Near Dark 1987
Prince of Darkness 1987
Child's Play 1988
Phantasm 2 1988
Pulse 1988
Pumpkinhead 1988
They Live 1988
Waxwork 1988
976-EVIL 1989
Black Rainbow 1989
Leviathan 1989
Pet Sematary 1989
Puppet Master 1989
Warlock 1989
The Woman in Black 1989

Flatliners 1990
Hardware 1990
Misery 1990
Night of the Living Dead 1990
The Silence of the Lambs 1991
Needful Things 1991
Braindead 1992
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1992
Candyman 1992
Bram Stoker's Dracula 1992
Dust Devil 1992
Innocent Blood 1992
Wolf 1994
The Prophecy 1995
Seven 1995
Species 1995
Village of the Damned 1995
The Craft 1996
The Frighteners 1996
From Dusk Till Dawn 1996
Scream 1996
Thinner 1996
An American Werewolf in Paris 1997
The Devil's Advocate 1997
Event Horizon 1997
I Know What You Did Last Summer 1997
Mimic 1997
The Night Flier 1997
Wishmaster 1997
Deep Rising 1998
The Faculty 1998
Halloween H2O 1998
Urban Legend 1998
Vampires 1998
Deep Blue Sea 1999
End of Days 1999
The Haunting 1999
House on Haunted Hill 1999
Lake Placid 1999
Sleepy Hollow 1999
Stigmata 1999
Virus 1999
Stir of Echoes 1999
Hollow Man 2000
Final Destination 200
Ginger Snaps 2000
Pitch Black 2000
Shadow of the Vampire 2000
What Lies Beneath 2000

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: BOUGHT AND SOLD

Here is a spanking new call for submissions!

Bought and Sold - What's bought? What's sold? Who's bought? Who's sold? Send a story about selling your soul to the Devil and it will be rejected. Don't go for the obvious, be different, be daring, be outrageous even, but don't be boring. 

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Bought and Sold – ‘your story title’”. 
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Rie Sheridan Rose will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to:
Deadline: until full
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thirteen O'Clock Press is an imprint of Horrified Press.

Monday's Meme of the Week

A friend shared this meme, which is a brilliant Star Wars/Shakespeare crossover.

How could it not be this week's winner?

Autumn Wishlist

You know who doesn't appreciate autumn? Britain.

What's up with that?

Since autumn doesn't get the love it deserves here, it leaves little ole autumn baby, me, longing for things I can't have unless someone loves me enough to send them. *sigh*

(Subtlety is not one of my strengths.)

So... here's my autumn wishlist:

I'm not picky. Any of Bath & Body Works's autumn lotion range would be beyond amazing. After all these years, B&BW still don't accept orders from the UK. WTF?

And, it just so happens that I'm about to run out of my spiced pumpkin lotion from last year...

Although it's not sold in stores around here, I can actually get canned pumpkin if I order it online (for £5 a can.)

This one is more of a reminder to myself/suggestion for the hubs. Must buy! 

What is wrong with British people?! How can you live through autumn without candy corn?! It's just not right!

I've been wanting this one for awhile but, well, it's not cheap. Llewellyn do a whole Sabbat Essentials collection that I'm dying to get my hands on. I wouldn't even mind if they were second-hand!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Movie Review: Bedeviled (2016)

Bedeviled (2016) is about a demonic app that terrorizes a group of friends. The app (called, if you hadn't guessed, Bedeviled) which the five teens receive invites to from their recently deceased (and the app's previous victim), Nikki, takes each one out in turn by using their worst fears against them - whether that fear be of their mentally ill grandmothers or even "white people."

Luckily for them, one is a technological whizz kid and manages to create an uninstall program for the app - but only when all but he and one other have already given in to their fears. Speaking of fear...

My husband likes to amuse himself by counting the number of times a film makes me jump. Apparently, the record is 11. Bedviled came so close to beating that record, matching it at 11.

The videography used in the making of Bedeviled was outstanding. Unlike so many horror movies, the lighting was clear and the film was clearly good quality. Even in the darker portions, the use of light & shadow was handled masterfully. You rarely see a horror film that's lit as well as this one.

Space was also cleverly manipulated in the filming of Bedeviled. No space on screen is wasted, either adding to the atmosphere or foreshadowing what's to come. And, yes, the foreshadowing in Bedeviled was done well, not giving too much away too soon. It was done so well that I didn't even see the twist coming - though that might have been because I was covering my eyes... 😉

Bedeviled has just enough humor to keep scaredy cats like myself from dying of fright like the app's victims. Most of that humor is provided by Mitchell Edwards's Cody, the tech master that saves Alice but who's too clever to save himself. Cody knows that he's the, pardon the phrase, "token black guy" and even cracks a joke at one point about how he's still alive. (There might also be a little victory dance involved...)

While all of the actors are good in their roles, Edwards is the one who carries the movie. His portrayal of the world-wise, cynical teen is spot on. It can be difficult to manage a larger cast, like this one, but the creators of Bedeviled did a great job. The characters are believable and, for the most part, likeable.

Bedeviled was 100% a winner here at Castle Vanian. Definitely one of the best films we've seen this year. It's so good that I can't figure out why I hadn't heard of it before now. Everyone should be talking about this film. If you haven't already, go and give it a watch!

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: X ANTHOLOGY VI

If you want to submit to Thirteen but your piece doesn't fit any of the current calls, this is the antho for you.

X ANTHOLOGY VI - This is for the ones which won't or don't fit anywhere else. Any theme. Horror only, no science fiction.

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – X Anthology VI – ‘your story title’”. 
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Rie Sheridan Rose will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to:
Deadline: *until full*
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thirteen O'Clock Press is an imprint of Horrified Press.

A Song for Sunday: Woodkid - Run Boy Run

The beat to this song is hypnotic. I can't get it out of my head this week.

What do you think? Does it feel like the beat is driving you forward and making you want to... well, run?

I've also got to mention how clever this video is. Truly superb visual storytelling.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: BLUE GONK III

Got some flash fiction banging about? How about submitting it here?

Blue Gonk III - 5 flash fiction stories, not over 500 words. Every so often, the café holds a story telling day. There are five storytelling sessions: Breakfast, Mid-Morning, Lunch, Afternoon Tea and Tea Time. Your 500 word stories (preferably one for each session) should be complete little tales that you would tell to someone, so nothing too poetic, too involved, definitely needs a story and a rounded off ending.

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Blue Gonk III – ‘your story title’”. 
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to:
Deadline: *open*
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Movie Review: The Control Group (2014)

Let's get a few things out of the way...


Okay. I think we can move on to the rest of the review for The Control Group (2014) now.

The Control Group starts when a group of friends (we'll use the term loosely) wake up in an old asylum after a party. With no idea of where they are or how they got there, they have to put aside their differences as they go in search of answers. As you might expect, that does not go well.

Turns out, the friends have become part of a secret government test led by Brad Dourif's Dr. Broward. There's a crazy, dead criminal locked in a machine bringing people back as zombies when they die and- You know what? It doesn't get any better than that.

The worst part of The Control Group is the acting. With the exception of the always-brilliant Brad Dourif, the acting is just downright terrible. Most of the characters are over-acted, while one or two are so wooden Geppetto nearly made puppets out of them.

You can blame it entirely on the actors, though. Even the best actor can't do much with a lousy script. The dialogue is unoriginal and unnatural, which makes The Control Group painful to watch.

The special effects are almost as bad, with glowing yellow eyes and blue bolts of electricity straight out of the Eighties. I did like the use of the plague doctor masks, though. Those things always creep me out.

There are issues of friendship, trust, and suicide hidden in The Control Group but they're so deep under the bad acting that it's not worth looking for them. Give this one a miss.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Autumn Poetry #2

Autumn Contemplation

I rake fallen leaves into a pile
that almost reaches my knees
organizing Nature's choas (well, a bit)
then take a moment to regard my handy work
an hour's labor well spent
before I let go, tumbling recklessly
into the pile of leaves
slightly damp from yesterday's drizzle
a childlike giggle dancing on the crisp wind
as leaves fly up and out
I kick out with arms and legs
to speed the leaves along
and, when they settle once moe
I lay still many minutes, grinning
while a leaf tickles my cheek
inhaling the decaying scent of fallen leaves
I reach deep into contemplation
draw out thoughts of life
selfish as I am, my thoughts are of me
my life - and, eventually (too soon), my death
if someone could get joy from my death
they way I take joy from the death of these leaves
does that make life worth it?
but the day is too beautiful to waste on rumination
rising, I shake the leaves from my hair
and begin all over again

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Movie Review: Ghosts of Darkness (2017)

Every now and then you come across a movie that just shouldn't work but does. Movies like Monster Man and Dead Birds. And Ghosts of Darkness.

Jonathan Blazer (Paul Flannery) and Jack Donavan (Michael Koltes) are ghost hunters. Donavan is a sceptic, while Blazer is a kooky psychic. They're thrown together when they get invitations to an old house in Scotland where a mysterious man challenges them to discover the house's evil secret.

The banter between Donavan and Blazer is just spectacular. Paul Flannery's delivery makes the film. I laughed so hard at his antics! He's like a cheeky mix of Captain Jack Sparrow and Marcus from Babylon 5. So much fun!

Some people have complained about the ending of the film but I don't get why. I thought it fit the story well - and Blazer's wry grin makes it. Also, it's totally worth sitting through the credits. No special Marvel-style extra but the copyright notification and "Dedicated to Jack Donavan" made me laugh out loud.

Ghosts of Darkness is a ghost story with a good story line and effects. It's atmospheric, the camera angles work to that end, and the film was shot well. Although it's not terribly frightening, Ghosts of Darkness is an enjoyable watch. I'd certainly watch it again!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

15 Fiction Writers That Have Most Influenced Me:

Several of my FB friends are also authors so, occasionally, things like this will pop up on my feed and, hey, I'm a child of the 90s. I will always take part.

15 fiction writers that have most influenced me:

1. Alvin Schwartz - my first ghost stories
2. Christopher Pike - creepy can be sexy
3. R.L. Stine - and scary can be funny
4. Tamora Pierce - girls can be bad ass & bad can be good
5. L.J. Smith - made me an author
6. Diane Duane - there's magic in everything
7. David Eddings - what it means to be a hero
8. Stephen King - how to shape horror
9. Neil Gaiman - to think outside the box
10. Jane Austen - you can have a happy ending
11. Ray Bradbury - unlocked universal wisdom
12. J.K. Rowling - anyone from anywhere can change the world
13. Cassandra Clare - unleash the fangirls
14. Holly Black - break the moulds
15. Laini Taylor - break the hearts

I did this more or less chronologically.

There are many brilliant authors missing from this list because, while I love to read their stuff (take Connie Mason and Kim Harrison, for example), it didn't exactly shape my life. These ones did.

Movie Review: Ghost Note (2017)

Ghost Note is set against the legend of a blues musician who records an album so evil that anyone who hears it dies shortly thereafter. The musician, Eugene, is unable to die but, instead, is captured and imprisoned by a preacher, Milton, who holes Eugene up in his shed.

Fast forward a couple of decades and it's Thanksgiving at the Summers house, where everyone is arguing over what a horrible father old Milton was. Mallory is a teen witch (We're coming back to that later.) who's pissed off for no discernable reason - until her parents drop the bombshell that they're taking off on a romantic holiday for a week and leaving her at Grandma's house until they get back.

It doesn't take Mallory long to renew the friendship she once had with local boy, Rodney - though how often, exactly, she stayed with her grandmother as a child is unclear, especially since everyone else runs off the first chance they get. You don't get the feeling it's a place any of them spent much time at, which makes Mallory and Rodney's relationship unconvincing.

Anyway, Mallory accidentally wakes the demon snoozing in the shed and he's released to wreak havoc. While she's at it, Mallory also uncovers Eugene's legendary cursed record, which certainly doesn't help the situation at all.

Right. Now that we know what's going on, let's talk about Ghost Note.

Ghost Note is one of those movies that should be absolute rubbish. It's got a low budget, the videography isn't great, and the acting is downright terrible. (With the exception of Eugene's Kenny Gardner and Grandma's Allyn Carrell.) So, why doesn't the movie suck? Because, despite its flaws, it's a damned good story.

The legend of Eugene, his evil guitar, and cursed record feels familiar. It's almost as though it's an urban legend you half-remember, rather than the plot of some B-movie. And Eugene is one creepy motherfucker. I had terrible nightmares about that bastard the night we watched Ghost Note. *shudder*

For a low budget film, the special effects in Ghost Note are actually decent and they pull off some pretty good scares. Yup, I jumped like the little coward that I am. 😉 Overall, I enjoyed it. But, there are a few things I just couldn't get over.

One, the transitions are horrendous. I don't know what possessed them to do hard breaks but it doesn't work; it just makes the movie feel really awkward and disjointed.

Two, the moment Rodney pulls out a guitar and starts to sing about how much he loves Mallory is beyond cringe worthy. There's no need for that shit.

Three, if you know that a record can't be destroyed and you know that anyone who hears it is going to either die or kill a bunch of people, then die, you don't freaking throw it into a shallow river. Oh. My. Freaking. God. You wanna set up the twist, I get it. But you can not make it that obvious. It's insulting.

And, four. This is the big one for me - the one that almost got the movie turned off less than five minutes in. (Yeah, I'm gonna climb on this soap box.) Mallory's so-called Wiccan angst is total bullshit. Trust me, I was a teen witch. Portrayals like this are exactly the reason I got so much hassle growing up. Wicca is a religion, not a gimmick you can whip out to explain shit in movies. Not. Cool.

(Okay, I'm done now.)

So... have you watched Ghost Note? I'd love to know what you thought of it. Drop me a comment below.

Wondra's Top 10 Books for Fall 2017

Fall is a time for readers. It's perfect for cozying up with a hot beverage, a warm blanket, and getting lost in a favourite book. Here are some of the books I love to read in the fall:

Autumn Equinox: The Enchantment of Mabon 
by Ellen Dugan

This is my favourite book for autumn. Dugan has a magical way of making a book that could be very dry come alive. I've read plenty of books with similar information - correspondences, recipes, spells, etc. - but Dugan presents it in a way that readers can immediately relate to. Autumn Equinox: The Enchantment of Mabon is an essential book for witchy folk.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
by J.K. Rowling

We all love Harry Potter, right? Before you settle down for a Harry Potter movie marathon this fall, why not revisit the book series? You should at least read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It combines the excitement of back-to-school with the witchiness of the season to create the perfect fall read.
The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle
by L.J. Smith

I read at least one of these two every fall - often both. LJ was my favourite author growing up and these are still two of my favourite series. The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle are both distinctly YA reads, which will make you feel like a kid again. Take my advice, though: walk away from Vampire Diaries after book 3 and don't expect it to be anything like the TV show.
M is for Magic
by Neil Gaiman

Autumn always makes me think of things that go bump in the night because it's a time of growing darkness. M is for Magic is here for its supernatural element. As you're reading about trolls, ghosts, aliens, whatever, you just accept them as a reality because Gaiman MAKES them real. In his stories there's always a sense of whimsy closely twined with a feeling of deep melancholy - which is probably what attracts me to his writing!
Slasher Girls & Monster Boys
by April Genevieve Tucholke (ed.)

With the nights getting longer and daylight getting shorter, autumn is the perfect time to get your freaked out on. Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is a dark collection of creepy, nasty, humorous short fiction. Unlike M is for Magic, Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is an anthology with many different authors, which means something fresh with each story. This one'll get you in the mood for nights of snuggling under a blanket, watching horror movies.
The Cider House Rules 
by John Irving

You've probably seen the movie adaptation of The Cider House Rules and that's okay. You liked the movie, right? Read the book; it's better. While the movie has all that gorgeous imagery, the book is deeper, richer, and more intense. It isn't exactly a warm, squishy read, though. It deals with some pretty serious issues and will probably piss you off at some point or another.
Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Bronte

This is one of my favourite novels of all time. I had a teacher once who described Jane Eyre as "the closest thing we'd ever read to a romance" in her class. She didn't tell us we were about to be introduced to one of the greatest love stories of all time. There are a million and one reasons to love Jane Eyre - not the least of which being that the "plain Jane" stays plain while the hunky love interest gets taken down a peg - but, really, it's on my list for the sheer snuggly goodness.
The Woman in White
by Wilkie Collins

Okay, let's get this out of the way now: I don't like crime novels. Mysteries and thrillers are barely acceptable. It takes a lot to get me to read anything that doesn't have, you know, fangs. But, since this was required reading, I didn't have much choice in the matter. And I'm so glad it happened that way because I love The Woman in White. One of the reasons is that it doesn't feel like a crime thriller; it's more like a ghost story. It's dark, creepy, and thoroughly engaging.
The Crucible or The Scarlet Letterby Arthur miller/by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Autumn is a great time to re-visit the classics. Especially classics like The Crucible or The Scarlet Letter, which both invoke a New-England-in-the-fall kind of feeling. They'll get you thinking about pilgrims and the early days of America, which leads us brilliantly right up to Thanksgiving. It's impossible for me to chose between these two. The Crucible is good for the witchiness, while The Scarlet Letter is just terrifying.
Farewell Summer
by Ray Bradbury

The ability Bradbury had of making a story into a metaphor (Or is that making a metaphor into a story?) never ceases to astonish me. Farewell Summer isn't my favourite Bradbury book but it's still intensely powerful. It deals with death and life (in that order) and tries to make sense of it all. I felt older and wiser after reading this.

What do you think of my list? Do you approve? Do you have suggestions for books I should be reading? Leave me a comment below!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Movie Review: Heartless (2009)

My husband will sometimes lose interest in a television series because it "doesn't know what it wants to be". Does it want to be for adults? Does it want to be family friendly? Shows that can't make up their minds really drive him up a tree.

So, let's talk about Heartless.

Heartless (2009) is a movie that doesn't know what it wants to be. One moment, you're watching a horror movie - the next, you're in the middle of a romcom. Beyond frustrating. Even more so when it bounces back to horror, then romcom again.

Pick. A. Freaking. Genre.

(I'm not an idiot; I understand why the bounce - I just don't like it. I think you could've gotten the same effect without the sappy montages.)

How about a plot? As they go, Heartless has a pretty good one.

Jamie Morgan is a socially awkward young man who has been singled out his whole life because of a large, heart-shaped birthmark on his face. All Jamie wants is someone to love (hence the rom com crap) but is convinced no one ever will.

Cue a city-wide demon infestation and Papa B, who promises to give Jamie everything he ever wanted if he does a little favour for Papa B. Too bad Papa B isn't great at keeping his word. He asks for more and more until Jamie is forced to chose between the woman he's come to love and Papa B's "gift", which (Jamie thinks) is the only reason Tia loves him.

Turns out, Papa B and Jamie aren't the only ones around who have trouble keeping their promises. Heartless twists again, just when you think you've got it all figured out. I really like the premise, just not necessarily the execution.

Heartless had a lot of potential that, unfortunately, it just didn't live up to. It could have gone to some really dark, disturbing places as a straight up horror movie. But, it didn't, which is too bad. I was hoping for a lot more than I got with this one.

Autumn Poetry #1

Autumn Nymphs

leaves of green and leaves of gold
struck by sunlight bright and bold

from the treetops great and old
Nature's glory to behold

little nymphs atop the trees
dancing gaily in the breeze

unaware that they must die
in the autumn drop and fly

Monday, 21 August 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017 Playlist

Music is life here at Castle Vanian so when we saw NASA's interns had created an eclipse playlist, it seemed like a good idea to make one for ourselves. Here are our picks:

You can enjoy the whole list here:

(Hey. Don't forget to give my channel a follow for other great playlists, yeah?)

What do you think? Did we miss any of your favourites? Got any suggestions for us? Let us know in the comments below!

Monday's Meme of the Week

With the solar eclipse imminent (at least in the US), there was only one choice for today's Meme of the Week spot:

Sadly, we're not going to be able to see the total eclipse here but they say we should see a partial eclipse, at least for a while, before sundown - as long as clouds don't get in the way. (Ha, ha, ha. This is Wales.)

I hope you all enjoy the eclipse safely!

Autumn Date Night Ideas 2017

Fall is the perfect time for snuggling. If you need any help thinking of reasons to cwtch up with your honey, here is a list of date night activities. Grab your coats, blankets, and/or cameras and...

  1. Take a walk or go for a bike ride. Leave the phones at home and spend an hour or two alone, surrounded by the beauty of fall. Even a path that you've travelled a hundred times can look different when you're looking together.
  2. Check out your local farmer's market. Pick out fresh produce together. Maybe scope out some handmade items for your home.
  3. Grab a coffee while shopping for fall clothes. Hello, sweater season. Grab something toasty in to-go mugs and get your shop on. The hubs and I get pretty excited about fall fashion because, let's face it, we're not built for summer. 
  4. Watch the sunrise or sunset. No matter what time of the year it is, there's nothing more romantic than watching the day start or end together. 
  5. Attend a harvest celebration. Sometimes it's nice to get out and be part of the community. Join in with your neighbours as they celebrate the harvest. 
  6. Clear out your closet and donate unwanted clothes to charity. Not only is it great to help others; it's also a great way to get each other undressed. I mean... you have to try them on, right?
  7. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Every now and then, you need a reminder of how lucky you are. Volunteering together can be a good reminder. 
  8. Have a fall photo shoot. Either have someone take photos of you and your partner playing together in the leaves or, grab your cameras and go hunting for the perfect autumn pics. 
  9. Visit a corn maze. If you can. Nothing like getting lost in a place that's both fun and a little spooky. 
  10. Enjoy a hayride. Again, if you have any available. Cuddle up, enjoy the scenery, and listen to the sounds of autumn. 
  11. Watch a football game. In person, if possible. Autumn is football. Cheer for your favourite team. Get riled up. Tailgate, if you can. If you can't get to a game in person, rustle up some snack foods and watch the game together at home.
  12. Go apple picking. This is one of our favourites. Wandering through an orchard is incredibly serene. You can make a game out of trying to nab the highest apples. Try different types of apples. Find out which is your favourite and talk about the experience.
  13. Have a bonfire. Get messy making s'mores over a crackling fire. Snuggle up close and let flames warm your cheeks. Just make sure you don't get too close! (To the fire. You can get as close to each other as you want.)
  14. Go camping. If that's your thing. It's not mine. I can see why so many people love getting away from it all for a couple of days, though. 
  15. Have a picnic. Ahh... now we're talking. This is definitely a favourite at Castle Vanian. There's a lovely park by a lake that we love to picnic at when the leaves start to change.
  16. Watch an autumn movie. When you've got jobs, and kids, and everything else going on, it's nice to curl up together and watch a movie. Check out my list of Best Movies for Autumn for suggested viewing. 
  17. Binge watch a show you've never seen. The new fall schedule is a pretty exciting time at Castle Vanian. What can I say? We're couch potatoes. Rather than waiting for each new episode to be released, why not binge watch a finished series together? 
  18. Take turns cooking fancy meals. It's time for what my husband calls ''stodgy food''. Thick, hot, and rich. The kind you avoid all summer because it makes you feel like a blimp. Yup, that. Never fails to bring on a serious cuddle session here.
  19. Make caramel apples together. It's playful, it's cheap, it's juicy and sticky - you know what I mean.
  20. Visit a pumpkin patch. Always a great bit of fun. And a great place for cute couple photos. Plus, there's always the chance that you'll stumble over a vine and fall into your companion's arms. (Or, have to save your chronically klutzy wife from breaking her neck when she trips over a vine.)
  21. Carve pumpkins. Obviously. I mean... you've got the pumpkins now. This is a tradition at Castle Vanian. We pick them out together, we carve them together. Always a laugh.
  22. Have a horror movie marathon. Fall is the best time for horror. And horror is always better when you've got someone to share it with. Or, you know, hide behind when things get too spooky.
  23. Go to a haunted house. A good scare gets your heart racing and makes you cling to one another for safety. Sounds like a good time to me.
  24. Celebrate Oktoberfest. Because beer. I'm not a beer person myself, but who can say no to drinking and dancing? 
  25. Create your own bucket list for winter. As a couple. Make plans together. Think about the future. Winter will be here before you know it. What do you want to do when it arrives?
(Reposted from 2016 because it's a damned good list.)