Magpie Monday

Here are some shiny things that caught my eye recently:

♦ All Hallow’s Read.

Ah, it’s October again, and time for recommending books for Hallowe’en and All Hallow’s Read. Each Monday this month I’ll recommend something spooky or scary to give to someone you love. Our starter is one of my favorite fairy-tale novels, Fitcher’s Brides by Gregory Frost, part of The Fairy Tale series created by Terri Windling. The novel is based on two dark fairy tales: “Bluebeard” by Charles Perrault and, mostly, “Fitcher’s Bird,” collected by the Brothers Grimm. The horror here is a slow build, and Frost packs a lot of detail into a realistic world that’s not quite right. The back cover copy:

1843 is the “last year of the world,” according the Elias Fitcher, a charismatic preacher in the Finger Lakes district of New York State. He’s established a utopian community on an estate outside the town of Jekyll’s Glen, where the faithful wait, work, and pray for the world to end.

Vernelia, Amy, and Katherine Charter are the three young townswomen whose father falls under the Reverend Fitcher’s hypnotic sway. In their old house, where ghostly voices whisper from the walls, the girls are ruled by their stepmother, who is ruled in turn by the fiery preacher. Determined to spend Eternity as a married man, Fitcher casts his eye on Vernelia, and before much longer the two are wed. But living on the man’s estate, separated from her family, Vern soon learns the extent of her husband’s dark side. It’s rumored that he’s been married before, though what became of those wives she does not know. Perhaps the secret lies in the locked room at the very top of the house—the single room that the Reverend Fitcher has forbidden to her.

If you like horror films, drop by my friend Cameron Cook’s blog. Every day in October he’s going to post a review of a different horror film he’s never seen, and he’ll have some guest posts, too. I can’t believe 31 horror films exist Cameron hasn’t seen, so I’ll be tuning in daily to see what makes the cut.

Speaking of horror, enjoy 11 legendary monsters of Asia. Gotta love the monsters.

♦ The Reading Spot.

This past week AlphaBooks, an alphabetical tumblr exploration of fictional characters curated by Ben Towle, moved to the S’s. While I liked Sam Wolk‘s Scarecrow and Troy Jensen‘s Sherlock Holmes, I’m sharing with you S is for Shardik, the ginormous cyborg bear from Stephen King‘s Dark Tower series, drawn by Axel Medellin Machain.

Some very fine online fiction for your ocular sensors:

The Whisper by Douglas Sterling at Daily Science Fiction

The Leaf by Erik T. Johnson at Electric Velocipede 

Professor Jennifer Magda-Chichester’s Time Machine by Julian Mortimer Smith at Daily Science Fiction

The Department of Alterations by Gennifer Albin at

Where You End and the World Begins by Sam Ferree at Daily Science Fiction continued with excerpts from Catherynne M. Valente‘s new novel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, with Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and Chapter 5.

Jabberwocky 14, chock full of stories and poems.

A new flax-golden tale from Erin Morgenstern: Dirty Laundry

Town of Shadows (excerpt) by Lindsay Stern at Weird Fiction Review. My friend Adam wrote a review of Town of Shadows and conducted an interview with Stern. Check it out!

Russell Hinson has added two more chapters to Edward & Amelia vs The Vampire King, the novel he’s serializing online: Three: Time Flies and Four: Westering. continued its Magic & Good Madness: A Neil Gaiman Reread series with a discussion of chapters three and four of American Gods along with the mix tape for those chapters.

The New York Times‘ By the Book had a lovely interview with Emma Thompson, who just published The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit. I just adore her, and her responses—sweet and sometimes cheeky—just confirmed that I’d like to live next door to her and have tea. My favorite of her responses was to the question What’s the best book your mother ever gave you to read?: “I had my hear broken for the first time when I was 16. My mother gave me War and Peace, which, in three volumes, soaked up a lot of the tears.” And I can’t resist the response to What was the last book that made you cry? “I was on holiday years ago with Corelli’s Mandolin. Rendered inconsolable and had to be put to bed for the afternoon.” 

♦ The Book Nook.

Library by Lori Nix (2007)

Coming out at the end of this month is a book I’m pretty excited about: Marvelous Transformations: An Anthology of Fairy Tales and Contemporary Critical Perspectives, edited by Christine A. Jones and Jennifer Schacker. The official description: “Marvelous Transformations is an innovative anthology of fairy tales and related criticism that reflects current, interdisciplinary scholarship on oral traditions and the cultural history of the fairy tale. In addition to the tales, original critical essays, newly written for this volume, introduce students to differing perspectives on key ideas in the field.” You can’t beat that with a stick. Also, the cover is more than delicious:

♦ She Blinded Me …. with Science!

Natural, Social, and Weird

Human Biology: How humans lost our chance at a third eyeSometimes people explode during colonoscopies (your risk levels are acceptable—fear of colonic explosions is not a reason to forgo a colonoscopy). Why do we have fingerprints? Why do we experience physical pain? Conversely, should we eliminate the human ability to feel pain?

Animal Biology: Enslaved worker ants fight back through acts of sabotage. Why does this fish’s penis resemble a medieval weapon?

Genetics: Your baby could be leaving DNA in your brain—I’m talking ’bout fetal microchimerism! The phone call is coming from inside your womb!

Psychology: How should healthcare providers respond when their patients say they’re waiting for a miracle? Wendigo Psychosis: the probably fake disease that turns people into cannibals (the first time I ever heard about the Wendigo was in The Uncanny X-Men #140!). The real reason why you won’t eat green eggs and ham (actually, I ate one of Cadbury’s Screme Eggs and didn’t bat an eye).

Philosophy: 8 great philosophical questions that we’ll never solve (definitely not science, fair enough, but still interesting!)

♦ Viewers’ Paradise.

Today is Cartoon Network‘s 20th anniversary, and they’ve created a birthday music video to commemorate the occasion. (The video makes its TV premiere tonight at 6:58 p.m. EST on Cartoon Network. A fun way to start the week, no? Via.

Malcolm Reynolds by Rubbish-Designer

This year is the tenth anniversary of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, a series I liked quite a lot (though I’m not really a Western kind of guy), and of course lots of interesting things are popping up. First, fans will enjoy these minimalist vector portraits of Serenity‘s crew by Rubbish Designer (via); to the left, of course, is Captain Mal Reynolds (click to embiggen). Second, here’s a bit about what Firefly teaches us about contract law. And tomorrow sees the release of Firefly: A Celebration, which collects three of Titan’s Firefly books—I assume these are Firefly: The Official Companion Volumes 1 & 2 and Firefly: Still Flying—and sounds pretty lush: “This huge, 544 page full colour volume is simply one of the most lavish books ever produced for a TV show, and is presented in a foil-stamped leather-effect binding. Plus, as an exclusive bonus for this edition, a pocket at the back of the book contains 9 frameable photo prints of the cast, featuring rare and previously unseen images, and a facsimile of one of the prop banknotes used in the show.”

♦ The Horns of Elfland.

Check out the latest single, “I Used To Sing,” from The Indelicates (via):

♦ The Ninth Art.

Lots of good comics-related stuff today!

Wondermark #874; Gentlemen, My Rebuttal by David Malki ! I laughed out loud, folks.

Over at The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe REDUXE Edition, I really liked a lot of the re-imaginings last week, like The Falcon by Maris Wicks (cute!), The Wraith by Tom Read, and Spymaster by Rusty Shackles. But the one that caught my eye the most was Joel Priddy’s version of Living Tribunal. I’m all kinds of in love with this image:

Fun concept art! Artist Ryem “gave almost the entirety of the New 52 universe a makeover that evokes Cartoon Network’sYoung Justice animated series.” Below is a teaser, but check out all of his designs at the link above or at io9.

I enjoyed Warren Ellis’s analysis of infographics in Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptations (The Score and The Outfit in particular; also, Amazon currently has The Outfit at 60% off). Cooke’s work is phenomenal, and I love the Parker adaptations. Read them!

Enjoy a comic at by Mark Siegel, whose first graphic novel, Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson, comes out tomorrow! In “Steamboat Willy,” which is as cute as it wants to be, “a lovesick sailor requests divine help in showing his affection to a beautiful mermaid. What the sailor receives is … exactly what he asked for.” (If cartoon breasts offend thee, be well warned.)

Also over at, Tim Callahan continues The Great Alan Moore Reread by focusing on one of my favorite Moore works, Promethea. The essay is insightful and enlightening, and I feel like I ought to reread the series myself (also, check out the comments, which are equally insightful). Here’s a teaser: “But [Promethea] does have a problem, and its problem is that it’s an essay about magic and love and imagination and life in the form of a millennial Wonder Woman saga.”

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a new serialized graphic novel by Faith Erin Hicks, based on a YA novel by Prudence Shen, updated every week day. Hicks has approached graphic novels like this before—serialized them on the web before the print edition comes out—and been successful. Here’s the official description:

You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders, and the cheerleaders retaliate by making Charlie their figure-head in the ugliest class election campaign the school as ever seen. At stake? Student group funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.

Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not! Nothing can possibly go wrong.

I’m not familiar with Shen, but I do love Hicks’ work (like Friends with Boys). Do give Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong a look, won’t you?

Here’s a strange confession for you: when I read Fantastic Four and other Marvel comics where Galactus was featured, I liked him just fine, though I wouldn’t have claimed to be a fan. However, I am nuts about paintings (digital or otherwise) of Galactus, some of which I’ve featured before. Here’s a most excellent painting of the Devourer of Worlds (can you spot his herald, The Silver Surfer?) by Gerry Obadiah Salam. Click to see this beauty in all its mammoth glory. Via.

Galactus (and the Silver Surfer) by Gerry Obadiah Salam

Comic Vine posted Who is Wonder Woman: A Look at the Character Pre and Post New 52, which is a good overview and raises lots of good questions while getting at the heart of her identity issue. Here’s a teaser: “There are few characters in comics that have experienced as much change to their identity as Wonder Woman has. Over the course of the last 60 plus years, Diana has been written in a plethora of different ways—not all of them good. Still, the character with such a convoluted history has come to represent strength, independence and feminism. The question is not only whether she should, but also who is she?”

Do you know how excited I am about the upcoming third volume of Bryan Talbot‘s Grandville series, Bête Noire? I am super-excited, people. Grandville is an anthropomorphic steampunk scientific-romance thriller series that follows Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard, who’s a serious badger. Here’s the official description:

The baffling murder of a famed Parisian artist in his locked and guarded studio takes the tenacious Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard and his faithful adjunct, Detective Ratzi, into the cutthroat Grandville art scene to track the mysterious assassin. As the body count mounts and events spiral out of control, the investigation points to Toad Hall, where a cabal of industrialists and fat cats plot the overthrow of the French State . . . by use of steam-driven automaton soldiers!

The stories are fun and the art is amazing, as one expects with Talbot. Also, Dark Horse produces some beautiful books. Below check out the book trailer (via) for Grandville: Bête Noire, which has some silly moments but I don’t mind. December can’t come soon enough for many reasons, but a big one is this book.

♦ Writers’ Corner.

My friend Andy sent me the link to this wiki for Literary Journals and Rejections, which—if you practice rejectomancy—you’ll find very useful.

Courtesy of my Alison McMahan on Facebook: 7 things readers can tell about your script on page one (applicable for novelists as well!).

What is success for a short-story writer? asks Wendy Wagner.

A lot of writers swear by Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth or the Journey of the Hero as a way of structuring character arcs or novel plots. For those of you who do, too—and for those of you who want an easy reference—here’s an infographic from The Royal Society of Account Planning, courtesy of Modern Mythology. Via.

LitReactor examines the secret lives of little words—specifically, discourse markers like “well,” “so,” “okay,” “mm hmm,” and more! Speaking of details, LitReactor also shines a light on the art of the content edit: 10 ways to make sure you’re doing it right.

Full Stop’s second installment of Teaching in the Margins is with Vanessa Place.

Chuck Wendig checks off 25 things you should do before starting your next novel. Also, he writes on cultivating instinct as an ink slinging story spinning penmonkey type.

L.B. Gale has been writing a series of posts about managing chapters, “designed to get writers to question their assumptions about chapters and push them to look at their own chapter structures critically.” The first post was “End of Chapter Moments”; followed by Writing Chapters Like a Symphony, which was an unusual way of thinking about structure but it sure made sense; and Page Breaks Are Prime Real Estate. A fourth and final post in the series is forthcoming.

Virginia Woolf reads:

In case you need it: 27 cowboy slang terms for things you eat and drink.

Mythic Scribes on what fantasy writers can learn from horror.

As usual, Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Twitterfic has a whole slew of great links about writing; here are a few that stood out to me: The Skill List Project: Characterization Skills and Sources (the first two sources he suggests are top-notch) and Characterization Tools by James Alan Gardner; Character Development: Exploiting Weaknesses by Ava Jae; a quick-and-easy reference guide for how not to make silly grammar mistakes by BubbleCow; The Influence of History on Epic Fantasy by Anthony Ryan; Every Time I Talk about Depression: Being Brave by Chris Brogan; Writer, School Thyself by Chris Abouzeid (about research for writers, particularly in subjects we might have last studied in high school); Advice on Writing Mentors by Cat Rambo; and Fantasy Influences: Ancient Greek Mythology Part 1 and Part 2 by Victoria Hooper

♦ Episode five of the fantastic Super Best Friends Forever (“Solomon Grundy Don’t Fight Girls”) is now online for your viewing pleasure:


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