Magpie Monday

“He is outside of everything, and alien everywhere. He is an aesthetic solitary. His beautiful, light imagination is the wing that on the autumn evening just brushes the dusky window.” ~Henry James

Here are some shiny things that caught my eye recently:

All Hallow’s Read.

Today is the last Monday of October and the last day of book recommendations for All Hallow’s Read. I thought it appropriate to end where All Hallow’s Read began, with two recommendations written by Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book and Coraline.

Even though the grade level for Coraline is younger than The Graveyard Book, I think it is the scarier of the two novels. Certainly, Coraline is just creepier, and deliciously so. Buttons for eyes, scuttling creatures, kidnapped parents—what’s not to freak readers out? Coraline has been extremely popular, spawning both a graphic novel adapted by the great P. Craig Russell and a wonderful animated film from Laika. The official word:

“Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house. . . .”

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

The Graveyard Book, which I’ve written about before (regarding its structure, naturally), is in some ways both lighter and darker than Coraline. The novel opens with the murder of a family, but most of the novel is October country—by turns sweet and haunting, and a little sad. Here’s the official description:

It takes a graveyard to raise a child.

Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family.

You can watch a video of Gaiman reading the Newbery Medal-winning novel here.

The Monster Mash.

Jeremy Enecio‘s Cthulu kind of freaks me out, and no finer compliment could I pay it. Via.

Cthulu by Jeremy Enecio

Lots of monster articles this week: Trolls, 10 legendary monsters of North America, The History of Sexy Monsters, and Dybbuk or Demon: Knowing Your Jewish Ghosts and Ghouls.

Find out more about Tituba, the Early American Witch.

Preserving childhood?

Andy sent me the link for this Buttersafe cartoon, which just cracked me up!

The Reading Spot.

 Reading suggestions this week to tantalize and terrorize:

Trophy Wife by Samantha Murray at Daily Science Fiction

The Terrible Old Man by H.P. Lovecraft at

Who Could That Be At This Hour? (excerpt) by Lemony Snicket at

Ghosts in the Machines (essay) by Neil Gaiman, reprinted at Gaiman bonus: a free download (through October 31st) of Gaiman reading his story Click-Clack the Rattlebag at (each download at Audible means a charitable donation at

The Chosen One by Huston Lowell at Daily Science Fiction

Too Fond by Leanna Renee Hieber at

Thirteen at Table by Lord Dunsany at Weird Fiction Review

The New Kid Is No Angel by James Valvis at Daily Science Fiction

My Mother’s Body by Christie Yant at Daily Science Fiction

Phone Booth by Holli Mintzer at Daily Science Fiction

Flax-Golden Tales: Long Fingers in Dark Shadows by Erin Morgenstern

Wide Open (excerpt) by Deborah Coates at

The Shadowy Third by Ellen Glasgow at

This past week AlphaBooks, an alphabetical tumblr exploration of fictional characters curated by Ben Towle, moved to the W’s. I liked several of the illustrations this week, like Walter Mitty by Leah Palmer Preiss, the Wicked Witch of the West by Marc Basile, and Willy Wonka by Troy Jensen. In honor of Hallowe’en, I decided to share with you Axel Medellin Machain‘s Wilhelmina “Mina” Murray Harker from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

W is for Wilhelmina “Mina” Murray, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, by Axel Medellin

Longing for something outside of the classic anthologies? Flavorwire has a list of 10 essential alternative anthologies for the modern reader that might be just the ticket. On an aesthetic note, these anthologies have some fantastic covers, like the one below. I’m ready to buy it right now for the cover alone (and, okay, the title, too):

She Blinded Me…with Science!

Psychology: Psychopathy’s Double Edge (thanks to Laura for the link!); 5 psychological conditions named for Disney characters (or for the original source material?); Folie à deux: When two people go insane together; How to get inside the mind of a serial killer.

Biology: Why we get shivers up our spines; How many plants would you need to generate oxygen for yourself in an airlock?; New research suggests that premenstrual syndrome is a myth

Microbiology: Your pillow is a lot like a toilet seat, microbial speaking.

Medicine: How intestinal microbiota transplantation could someday save your life (they’re talking about poop transplants, people—sounds gross, but it’s really interesting!).

Zoology: For all you cat lovers, Mike Walton has the kitty of your Hallowe’en dreams:

Neuroscience: Exercise may be the key to preventing brain shrinkage in old age (Sterling, this one’s for you).

Genetics: Researchers may have just identified a genetic basis for the placebo effect.

Evolution: Why do humans blush? (video)

Dental: 10 things you didn’t know about teeth;

Environmental: The “London Fog” that killed over ten thousand people.

Meteorology: What you need to know about the upcoming “Frankenstorm” and Eastern U.S. braces for “Frankenstorm” Sandy’s strike.

♦ Les Contes des Fées.

Pulling from her fantastic anthology Bluebeard Tales From Around the World, Heidi Anne Heiner shared a shiver of scary tales at the SurLaLune Fairy Tales blog last week, including: The Lord of Rosendal (Sweden), The Lonton Lass, The Silk Nightcap, and The Cannibal Innkeeper (Romania).

News of this tumblr’s shown up in a variety of places, and it looks pretty fun: Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings takes a very modern approach to the old tales, which means snarky and sad and all kinds of things. Here are some examples that tickled me:

Beauty wanted to bring the Beast to meet her friends but she was nervous because they all had these super-hot boyfriends who worked in finance. She loved the Beast for who he was, she really did, but her friends were shallow and judgmental.

“Maybe you should get some new friends,” Siri advised.


Thumbelina never got much bigger but she did get her own reality TV show, so that’s cool.


snow white had lost her infatuation with the prince. they only had sex maybe once a week now, and even when they did it was eh. she found herself looking at photos of ryan gosling online, remembering when she felt about the prince how she felt looking at him.

but the prince loves me, she thought. and if i were with ryan gosling he’d be prettier than me and that wouldn’t be cool at all.


hansel and gretel dumpster-dived and got hepatitis.

A new trailer for The Snow Queen has surfaced—not the forthcoming Disney movie, despite how much it feels like a Disney movie (the sidekick, the humor), but one made by the Russian company Wizart Animation. I like some of what I see here, but some of the changes from the original story I find inexplicable. The official website for the film (link above at the title) has the most wonderful “page loading” image. Via.

♦ The Pumpkin Patch.

The origin of jack-o’-lanterns. Also, how dangerous is pumpkin carving? Science investigates with severed human limbs (of course)!

Check out artist Ray Villafane‘s life-size zombie pumpkin carving in the picture below. Now that’s some carving! At the second link above, Flavorwire has several more pictures of the zombie lord  (those zombie’s intestines are something to see!) and a video of Villafane at work. The first link takes you to Villafane’s website, where you can see even more “of the most gorgeous pumpkins on the planet.”

Check out this equally terrifying pumpkin by Jon Neill (via):

The pumpkin below was carved by Chris Dugas; click here to see many more of his pumpkin carvings—very fun! Via.

I’ll close out the Pumpkin Patch with a non-gruesome image—Wonder Woman pumpkins, courtesy of DC Women Kicking Ass (more WW pumpkins at the link)!

The Ninth Art.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, check out The Newsstand at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics: enter the month and year and you’ll get a page of covers of the comic books that were for sale. I had a lot of fun clicking through (and I found several of the first comics I ever read, too, like Action Comics #431, which I’m sharing because it’s got a monster on the cover). Via.

7 short and spooky webcomic stories to keep you awake, including two I’ve posted about before: a piece from Mike Walton’s False Positive and the absolutely fantastic His Face All Red by Emily Carroll I’m not kidding, folks—Carroll does wonderful and creep and wonderfully creepy like nobody’s business. Her stuff makes me so happy!

Super-Team Family had a fun mash-up last week featuring Wonder Woman and Captain America in “The Break-Up!” I like the pairing up of two American-appareled super-heroes, and I especially like Wonder Woman’s line, “Saving the world has ruined our marriage” (and, apparently, their super-hero careers). I’m also a big fan of the original Wonder Woman cover that inspired this one. Great stuff! has a seventeen-page excerpt from the graphic novel Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol that you owe it to yourself to check out—it’s a great book, and a good graphic novel for Hallowe’en, too! Here’s’s description to whet your appetite:

Anya is embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and has given up on fitting in at school. Her normal life isn’t going so great until she falls down a well and discovers that any friend—even a ghostly one—might be better than no friends at all. Hopefully, she’s right….

Viewers’ Paradise.

Jack Skellington by peteandco

No doubt some of you are planning a horror-film marathon on Hallowe’en, and why shouldn’t you? If you’re looking for some fine choices, check out Cameron Cook’s Month of Horror series, chock full of fine reviews: Evil Dead II (1987), a guest review by Allison Pregler, aka Obscurus Lupa; Halloween II (2009); The Nightmare Before Christmas, a guest review by Timothy Hooten (one of my favorite Hallowe’en films); and The Paranormal Activity Series; 

Lists! The 55 scariest moments from science fiction and fantasy movies (Cameron, do you agree with this list?); Horror films you didn’t realize were based on true stories—or maybe you did; 5 horror movies so gruesome the makers were investigated for cruelty and murder.

15 of TV’s most elaborate inside jokes. rewatched one of the best episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer last week: “Hush.” Glorious.

♦ Someone’s in the Kitchen.

25 fun-size facts about classic Hallowe’en candy. While you’re at, make yourself some  homemade Snickers bars with this recipe at Leite’s Culinaria (and then send me some; I promise to enjoy them).

Look at Gremlins’ own Gizmo—so sweet and cuddly and completely edible. Who wouldn’t want to eat Gizmo when he’s a cake that looks this delicious? Barbarann Garrand is the artist; be sure to check out her flickr account (linked at her name) for more images of her wonderful cake-artistry, like her zombie skin cake or her skeleton couple wedding-cake toppers. Via.

The Writers’ Desk.

Scary tips: Frightening Writing: Tips for Scaring Off Pants by Susan J. Morris

Elizabeth Spann Craig had more excellent advice this week, including Don’t Be Boring (we should all live by the Project Runway motto, “Don’t bore Nina!”) and 7 reasons to use writing prompts (from guest Gabriela Pereira)

Chuck Wendig on why writers must beware quackery.

Full Stop’s Teaching in the Margins interview series continues with Jane Sprague.

David B. Coe has 6 non-writing things that might improve your writing (some of these are good thing to be doing regardless)

Stumped?’s got you covered with 10 ideas for alternative history scenarios.

Because it can’t hurt to brush up: 19 confounding discrepancies between American English and British English and, for all y’all, 8 English ways to make “you” plural.

LitReactor gave a personality expose of the personal essay, helped us understand the objective correlative, and made us care about dynamic settings.

Krissy Brady lists 8 red flag rules writers should never break.

Apparently, someone’s declared that “portal fantasy” is out (a portal fantasy is one wherein a character passes through a gateway from the “real” world into a “fantasy” world, like Narnia or Wonderland), which I think is just silly and I don’t even write them.

♦ Some magical videos for you, in the spirit of the season: first is a great head-drop trick by magician Rich Ferguson (via):

 The second video isn’t magic but it might as well be! Here’s Akihiro Yanai performing “contact juggling.” Mesmerizing! Via.

Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!

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