Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Haunted Halloween

I’m sorry to say that with a deadline looming tomorrow morning, I’ve been too busy editing my manuscript to post these past two weeks. But I couldn’t let Halloween pass without so much as a BOO!

So on this auspicious night of ghosts and goblins . . .


Family Pumpkin Carving 

Roommates Haunted Gingerbread House

My Halloween Costume:
Alice from Resident Evil 

And from the Houston Museum of Natural Science 
Halloween Party:

 Me and Julie 
(Check out her wonderful blog

Me and my ladies - Tina, Annie, Shelby and Kaiti

Julie and Rob (aka. Chuck and Sarah)

My favorite judge and Muppet (minus the head from his costume) - Andy and Sami

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Zombies vs. Vampires vs. Werewolves

Last night my roommate and I were watching Halloween Wars on The Food Network and the challenge was Zombies vs. Vampires. I found really interesting since you most often see vampires in contention with werewolves rather than their flesh-eating brethren. This got me thinking – of the three species, who’d come out the victor in the Undead Battle Royal?

Let’s check out the contenders . . .

Over in the right corner of our triangular boxing ring we have the vampires. Now, there are many different myths about vampires, so there’s some debate when it comes to their strengths and weaknesses (Note: I will be referring to their traditional descriptions rather than their modern, occasionally sparkly counterparts). They are typically gifted with incredible strength, speed and a seductive quality that draws in their prey. Furthermore, in some mythologies (such as the progenitor of their species – Dracula), they can both scale walls and shape shift into other forms, something which would come in incredibly handy in the battle of the undead.

However, vampires do have several handicaps. Most notable is their sensitivity to the sun and inability to come our during daylight hours. They also need to feast on human blood to survive or they fall into a weakened state that would inhibit their fighting abilities. And while their seductive techniques might help them with werewolves when in their human forms, I highly doubt it would have any affect whatsoever on the mindless zombies.

References: Dracula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, Underworld, True Blood and The Vampire Chronicles.

Next up are the anthropomorphic, shape-shifting werewolves. They are incredibly strong and savage beasts, and a match for any undead foe. Their superior sense of smell and tracking abilities would give them a distinct advantage were the fight to take place in the darkened woods. Though they are allergic to silver, that shouldn’t pose a problem as zombies aren’t cognizant enough to use it against them, and vampires are similarly affected, so it’s unlikely either species will use it as a weapon (other than the liquid bullet form seen in Underworld of course).

Unfortunately, werewolves do have one very unique shortcoming – they can only turn into their hair-covered, predatory form three nights a month when the moon is full. So unless the battle took place on one of those nights, the werewolves would be goners. However, considering that vampires are nocturnal creatures as well, the probability that the fight would occur during the necessary evenings greatly increases.

References: The Wolfman, And American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Underworld and True Blood

Last but not least are the zombies. Now, though they’re a member of the Homonus Undeadicus, they maintain more of their human weaknesses than their undead rivals. For example, zombies are not typically very fast, nor do they have superior strength or agility. They are typically mindless creatures searching for little more than human brains to consume, and therefore lack the cunning skills of either vampires of werewolves. And though they are able to walk in the daylight, neither of their adversaries can, making it unlikely that a battle would take place at such a time (and therefore nullifying this as an advantage). However, were to begin in the night and last until sunrise, zombies would of course emerge victorious.

Still, zombies do have two chief assets in their favor. One, they don’t really need anything to exist. Unlike vampires, who must feed on human blood, and werewolves, which need the same nourishment as ordinary humans when in their non-furry form, zombies do not require sustenance. They of course long for the tasty delight of flesh and brains, but don’t require it for survival. And second, they have but one singular drive or purpose – attaining the desired flesh and brains. Unlike vampires and werewolves, zombies do not crave power, dominance or companionship. They merely long for the taste of blood-soaked guts, whether they be male, female, vampire or werewolf. This single-minded devotion to their goal would prove a powerful advantage in the battle ring.

References: Zomieland, The Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later and Resident Evil

When it comes to a Battle Royal between the living dead, it’s hard to say who’d emerge victorious. If I were a bookie taking bets, who would you place your money on???

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pay It Forward Bloghop

Well, it’s finally arrived – the Pay It Forward Blogfest

For those participating, we’re supposed to spotlight three (or in my case, five) blogs we enjoy reading and think others would enjoy as well. So, without further ado . . .

Missed Connections – I’ve already written an entire post about Sophie Blackall’s fabulous blog (check it out here), but thought I’d share it again for those who missed it. An incredible artist, Blackall illustrates the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist, creating lovely and poignant odes to lost love.

Mina Burrows – A blog devoted to the paranormal, Mina Burrows and I share a love of Joss Whedon’s work and the creepy classics. She gives incredible reviews of Gothic literature, such as The Fall of the House of Usher and The Turn of the Screw, and constantly brings new (and classical) paranormal books to my attention.

Another Slightly Scary Story – I actually came across Draven Ames’s blog through this very blog hop (he featured my blog a few days ago). He features interviews and short stories, as well as tips about the book publishing industry. He’s already introduced me to more than a few great sites. Check it out!

Wicked and Tricksy – Yet another of the blogs I’ve only recently come across, this one is hilarious! From the moment S. B. Stewart-Laing, one of this blog’s five writers, mocked human/vampire relationships (“Didn’t your momma tell you not to play with your food?”), I was hooked.

From Pen to Paper – Last but certainly not least, my good friend Julie Tuovi’s blog. She’s a witty, YA novelist who discusses movies, reading and the perils of writing. She’s definitely worth checking out!

Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting this amazing blogfest. I hope you enjoy these blogs as much as I do!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Gothic Weekend

October is one of my favorite months, bringing with it an interest in the fantastic and paranormal. Every year around this time I always turn to of some of my favorite Gothic pieces of literature, enjoying their focus on the supernatural. Edgar Allen Poe often reigns forefront in my wind with his The Pit and the Pendulum, The Black Cat, and legendary The Raven. And of course I always revisit Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

However, arguably the best pieces of Gothic literature all derive their origins from the same weekend nearly two centuries ago. In the summer of 1816, George Gordon Byron, better known as the famous Lord Byron, rented the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, Switzerland. There he played host to several guest, including his personal physician John William Polidori, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shelley's future wife Mary Godwin (aka. Mary Shelley), and her stepsister Claire Clairmont. 

Bored and closeted inside due to near incessant rain, the group spent their time reading horror stories and discussing the possibility of corpse reanimation. They decided to have a contest in which they would write their own ghost stories to entertain one another. Inspired by a dream, the eighteen year-old Mary Shelley wrote a short story that would later be fleshed into Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, one of the greatest examples of Gothic fiction of all time and a time-honored piece of classic literature.

For his own contest submission Lord Byron wrote a short, uncompleted piece which was vampiric in nature. Though it was quickly abandoned, this piece would later inspire John Polidori’s The Vampyre, a novel with an obscure history. Unfortunately, when published in the New Monthly Magazine in 1819 the piece was accredited to Lord Byron rather than the unknown Polidori. Despite the fact that Byron wrote of his personal dislike for vampires and published his original “Fragment of a Novel” in an attempt to clear up the misunderstanding, the tale remains strongly connected with him, an association made stronger by the fact that the main character, Lord Ruthven, resembles the Lord Byron himself. Despite its hazy origins and initial lack of recognition, The Vampyre goes down as the first British vampire novel and one of the progenitors of vampire literature, eventually inspiring Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

It continues to amaze me that one dreary weekend in 1816 would found two such important pieces of Gothic literature, paving the way for an explosion of writings and interest in the supernatural genre. To this day Frankenstein’s monster and the night-roaming vampires inspire constant fascination and allure.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Okay, I don’t normally post three times in twenty-four hours, but it just so happened three blog fests fell on the same day for me. I’m sweating bullets trying to keep up with the blog-o-sphere today!

But anyways, I’ve decided to join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group because, let’s face it, aren’t we all? This group is put together by Alex J. Cavanaugh so that we poor, unconfident and self-doubting writers can share with and support one another. Today, the first Wednesday of the month (and thus the reason for my final post today), I am supposed to share some of my writing insecurities – of which there are legions.

I thought I’d start by talking about something I love. I LOVE to read. I’d read all day every day if people would let me. Most people have a favorite genre they stick to, but I don’t. I’ll read pretty much anything with words. Still, like most people I do have my favorites – both books and writers.

If I had to chose a list of my top five favorite writers, I’d have to go with Joss Whedon, Mary Shelley, Lewis Carroll, Aldous Huxley and, of course, the fabulous J. K. Rowling. Not only do they tell one hell of a story, but they write in such an amazing and vivid way that I flat out get lost in their work.

But then, here’s the problem. There’s no way I’m as good a writer as these five – they’re incredible. They’re famous and world-renowned, while meanwhile I’m still struggling with adverbs and repetition. Sure, I think I come up with some cool stories, but my writing . . . let’s just say it’s not up to their standards.

I remember the day I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (about twenty hours give or take after it came out at its midnight release). I put the book down, looked over at my desk where my current manuscript sat waiting and said – no way. There’s NO WAY I can finish it knowing how terrible it is in comparison to Rowling’s masterpiece.

Now, I will admit over time I stopped whining and got back to work. I mean, my characters were still inside my head throwing tempter-tantrums as they wait to get out. But that little nagging fear in the back of my head that says “you’ll never live up to your idols”, well, let’s just say it stays with me daily.

But hopefully, with the support of other insecure writers like myself, I shut it up with a cookie or something. Fingers crossed . . .

Road Trip Wednesday - Secondary Characters

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link -- or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week's Topic: What supporting character in a YA book would you most like to see star in their own novel?

When I first read this topic, I thought a lot about the prompt, wondering what my answer would be. And then I thought through all the YA novels and series I love reading – Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Peter and the Starcatchers . . . the list goes on and on. And while, yes, there are many characters I’d love to hear more from (Team Neville all the way!), I quickly realized my answer involved someone a little different. Maybe it’s because I have witches on the brain (check out my previous post for the Monsterology Blogfest), or maybe its because my own novel is all about Supervillains, but the characters I’d most like to see star in their own series are –

The Wicked Witches 

I really enjoy stories written from the villain’s perspective – like Megamind, Despicable Me and Wicked. It’s really interesting to get the story from their point of view. I’d love to hear more from Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, and the Evil Queen from Snow White. They might be evil, but they sure are interesting . . . perhaps more interesting than the one dimensional princesses that headline the tales. Or what about the witch from Hansel and Gretel. I mean, she built this amazing house out of candy and gingerbread and these bratty little kids keep trying to eat it. I’m sure that’s no picnic.

So if I were going to read a story with a side character as the lead, I’d love to hear more from the Wicked Witches.

* Just to be clear, this does NOT mean I am dropping my guard when it comes to witches. I maintain my vigilance and fear of said characters, interesting or not.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

This October, Sommer Leigh is hosting a Monsterfest. That’s right, we’re tracking down and categorizing monsters and demons alike, forming a “Field Guide of the Weird”. And while I was tempted to write about vampires or werewolves (both of which will be covered by other Monsterologists), I decided to do something a little different. I’m going to discuss witches.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. Witches aren’t monsters. And you’re right – modern witches mostly aren’t. But I’m gonna kick it old school here, and go back to a pre-Potter time when witches were gruesome and demonic beings that were not – quite – human.

Of course, I’m not talking about the poor men and women persecuted during the witch trials in Europe and Massachusetts from 1580 to the late 1690’s. They were merely caught in a rapidly evolving and highly suspicious time where anyone remotely different was feared and accused of devilry. When I use the term “witch”, I’m referring to the incredibly creepy and terrifying creatures from our nightmares, classic literature, sinister movies, and – strangely enough – the fairy tales of our childhood.

I want to first point out that, besides the dark and sinister sorceresses I’m categorizing, there are of course “white witches” as well, benevolent creatures that follow the code “and it harm none” in their practice. Also, I’d also like to note that many dark witches come in sets of three – Shakespeare’s Macbeth witches, Hocus Pocus’s Sanderson sisters, Lloyd Alexander’s witches of the Marshes of Morva. A magical number, it's not much of a surprise that they come in triads. 

Now that that’s been said, I’d like to move onto a list of their dark powers and practices:

It was a long existing belief that witches would sneak into nurseries and steal babies from their cribs, much like the enchantress from Rapunzel. Upon her birth, the evil witch took the baby girl from her desperate parents and locked her away in a tower. Furthermore, in Roald Dahl’s The Witches, the sub-human witches snatch children from their homes, trapping them in paintings and making sure they’re never to be found.

Animal Control:
Witches are often depicted with familiars – animals they can control and aid them in their sorcery. A black cat is the most typical example, though there are many others. In Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent has a black crow which she uses as a spy. And in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West is able to control many different animals, using a magical whistle to unleash a pack of wolves, a flock of crows and a swarm of bees on Dorothy and her friends.

Stealing of Youth:
Witches, sometimes referred to as crones or hags, often desire youth and beauty. It is therefore a great fear that in order to attain their desires, they must take it from another. For example, in Hocus Pocus, the Sanderson sisters find a spell that allows them to steal the youth of all Salem’s children, sucking out their lives and subjecting them to death in order to obtain beauty and immortality. Similarly, in Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, the three witch sisters wait for a star to fall to the earth, murder her and eat her heart in order to be young once more.

Political Upheaval:
Part of what lead to the witch hunts and trials was a fear of witch’s corruption of political and religious systems, and their general demonic powers. These fears make their way into many of classical literary works, granting us demonic creatures that seduce, enchant and destroy many. In Arthurian legends, Morgan le Fay is often portrayed as such. Sometimes written as Arthur’s half sister, she is depicted as calculating, coveting her brother’s rule for herself. She, and her sometimes-son Mordred, are integral to the destruction of utopian Camelot.

Poisoning and Potions:
What is one of the most recognizable symbols of a witch’s dark powers? – A bubbling cauldron? A poison apple? Yes to both. Our fear of witching potions has long since influinced our archetypal image of a witch, making its way into many of our modern stories. The Evil Queen from Snow White used her knowledge of poisons to cast a spell over Snow White, making her appear dead for many years. Similarly, in Roald Dahl’s tale, the witches come up with a potion to turn all the children of England into mice.

There has always been a great fear in a witch’s power to enchant and enthrall us. In Sleeping Beauty, the wicked witch Maleficent casts a magical enchantment, causing Aurora to fall into a deep, one hundred-year slumber after she pricks her finger on the spindle. Furthermore, in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The White Witch casts a spell over the entire land so it’s always winter in Narnia.

One of their more gruesome and terrifying traits, witches are sometimes feared as cannibals. They are mostly seen eating children, much like the oh-so-scary gingerbread-house-owning witch of Hansel and Gretel. She sets out traps for small children, making her house the ultimate childhood fantasy in order ensnare them, fatten them up and cook them for supper, illustrating the cannibalistic aspect of traditional witchery.

More than anything, our fear of witches stems from our belief in their supernatural and demonic power – as they often straddle the line between the real and the supernatural worlds. In William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, he depicts some of the most famous witches of all time. These three witches are prophetesses, closely connected with the supernatural. They represent darkness, chaos and conflict, and are devices of impending doom. Though it is not clear in his work if they are masters of fate, or mere agents, but either way, they seem to always know more than they should, and give the other characters murky advice that most always leads to their impending doom.

Now, I will not go so far as to say that ALL witches are evil and to be feared. Harry Potter and his friends seem super cool, and it’s possible that, as Gregory Maguire suggests, the Wicked Witch of the West is merely misunderstood. However, based on the evidence at hand, I’d say Mad Eye Moody had the right idea.

Constant vigilance my friends. Constant vigilance.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Commencing Holiday Season

Today is the first day of October, and the beginning of what I like to call –

HOLIDAY SEASON - (n.) the months of October 1st to January 1st where we celebrate a friggin plethora of holidays from Halloween to New Years.

Now that it’s finally October, it’s time to kick the holiday celebrations into high gear – starting with Halloween. This means it’s time to figure out my costume (I already have a list going), bake delicious themed treats (like candy apples and pumpkin pie, yum!), put up spooky decorations, and . . . read and watch all of my Halloween favorites. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Hocus Pocus (My very favorite Halloween movie!!)
The Witches
Harry Potter
It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
The Haunted Mansion
Adams Family
Nightmare Before Christmas
Scooby Doo
Sleepy Hallow
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Dracula 2000
Nightmare on Elm St.
The Craft
The Poltergeist
The Exorcist

The Witches – Roald Dahl
The Crucible – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Macbeth – William Shakespeare
Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling
Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Lewis Stevenson
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Gallows Hill – Lois Duncan
And Anything by Edgar Allan Poe – namely The Black Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Raven

As you can see, I REALLY enjoy the holidays, and can’t wait to get into this month’s spooky spirit. So heads up, just about all my blog posts for the next month will be Halloween related. Let the spook-tacular begin, muahhahahaha!