Such a wonderful sort of haunting.

So a few minutes ago I was doing a Fantastic Strangelings Book Club zoom with Virginia Feito while we discussed serial killers, true crime documentaries and I vomited all of my ridiculous Mrs. March theories on her and it was so much fun but then this thing happened that I have to write down because you need to know why I’m maybe crying a little.

So I’ve written here before about how my late granny was the inspiration for the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club and how she shared all her strange and wonderful books with me when I was young (possibly too young, but there is no greater guilty pleasure than reading a book you shouldn’t be reading) and how whenever I pick a book for the club I pick the one I think my granny would like the most. Mrs. March was one of the most grannyesque-books I’ve ever read so I knew instantly it was the one even though it was a wee bit darker than my usual picks because as soon as I read it I had a thousand theories and desperately wished that granny was still around so I could share it with her.

A few years ago when she moved into a memory home (fuck you, dementia) she gave me a small stack of the books we’d loved together. Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King. All first editions in terrible shape because she (like me) believed good books should be used and loved and carried everywhere and shared with everyone you know.

One of the books she gave me was Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives and during the zoom call I thought I saw that exact book right behind Virginia. Like…the exact same book. But that would be weird as hell because that book is so specific and was printed before we were even born and also Virginia lives in Spain but it felt so much like a small wink from my granny that I couldn’t ignore, so I emailed Virginia and was like, “Weird question but is that the 1972 edition of The Stepford Wives behind you? This one specifically?”

And she was like, “That’s exactly right! I got it at the wonderful second-hand bookstore ‘Desperate Literature‘ in Madrid. Mine says ‘book club edition’ on the inside flap?”

And I looked inside and guess what? So does mine.

So this amazing book club that I started in homage to my grandmother who inspired me to take chances on new books and that saved my bookshop and my sanity during the last year and a half? The books that my grandmother passed on to me that shaped my love of books were from her book club…one I didn’t even know she’d ever been in. And her copy of The Shining from 1977? Book club edition. The 1978 copy of The Stand? Book club edition. All of them were new and untested books mailed to her when she was not much older than I am now. And now I mail new and untested books to people all over the world to keep the story going.

I know it’s just a coincidence, and that book-of-the-month clubs were very popular in the 70s and that probably there are lots of copies out there even as far away as Spain, but this feels too on-the-nose not to at least acknowledge, because these strange moments are what make life seem a little bit magical, and they’re too rare to not hold close and celebrate.

So I thought I would share this one with you.

The world is so small and beautiful sometimes.

Thank you for being part of mine.

PS. If you missed our live talk on zoom we’ll put it up on the Nowhere Youtube page soon and you can see me and Virginia getting progressively drunker as we make plans to impersonate Charles Dickens. Related: I shouldn’t be allowed to interview authors.

Step into my office. It’s time for a break.

Today is Friday so let’s step into my office so I can show you all the instagram videos I saved for you because this week has been long as fuck and we deserve a laugh, don’t we?

WE DO, FRIEND.

Also, apparently Instagram chose this week to make embedded videos not work everywhere so you may have to click on the links to see the videos. *sigh* This week, y’all.

Still…it’s worth it.


Related, I was seeing SO MANY videos of people with “the last video of my spouse” on it and I was like, “WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DEAD PEOPLE?” but turns out there is this trend where you post the most recent video you took of your spouse with a specific song on it and I guess that explains why my comments of, “I’m so sorry for your loss” were surrounded by laughing emojis.

Relatable:

Better? Me too. Happy early weekend!

It’s never too early for horror.

There are two kinds of people. Those whose only thought of fall is pumpkin spice and those who start celebrating Halloween in August and scream “SPOOKY SEASON!” when the first cool breeze hits and don’t have to bring out their Halloween stuff because it’s become a regular part of their house decor. (I say this as I stare at a three foot tall skull on one side of me and a life-sized ghost I’m building from scratch on the other side of me.)

One of my favorite things about October is that I have an excuse to binge horror movies and Hailey is finally old enough to appreciate them and inherited my strange tastes, so I now have a willing participant to snuggle up on the couch for my October fest where I try to watch one horror movie every day.

Normally I sort of let my Netflix and Hulu accounts choose them for me but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut so I thought I’d ask you…what are the best horror flicks we can’t miss? Hailey likes slasher and supernatural. I like supernatural and psychological thriller. Gothic is a plus. Campy is fine. So-bad-it’s-good is too. (I’m looking at you, American Horror Stories.) Torture p0rn/home invasion is a no-go and I don’t even classify those as horror because I hate them.

Some of my favorites: The Others, Get Out, Cabin in the Woods, Shaun of the Dead, The Tale of Two Sisters, Trollhunter, Border, Housebound, Grabbers, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Let the Right One in, Crimson Peak, Carnival of Souls, The Changeling, The Witch, The Golem.

Okay, your turn…what should we watch? What are some of your favorites? (Old, new, popular, unpopular…it’s all good.)

Step into my office. It’s Friday.

It’s Friday, which means no real work is getting done so why don’t you come in my office for a five minute break and I will show you the instagram posts I saved for you all this week:

I need a chinchilla:

I feel personally attacked by this meme:

She really thought she was going somewhere.

I would die for Big Chungus. (Chungus isn’t slang for genitals, is it?)

An oldie. But you know what? I think we all need to hear this:

Happy early weekend, y’all. Let’s go to the park.

There’s something about September that wants to kill you.

I’ve been blogging steadily for almost 15 years now. I blogged when people didn’t know what blogging was. I blogged when it was popular. I blogged when blogging was declared dead and was sneered at. I blog now when it’s being rediscovered by a new generation. And in that time I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world and I’ve been able to see patterns that I maybe wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

One of those patterns is the quiet and terrible danger of September.

If you look back you will see year after year of me saying that September is one of my worst months for depression. I’m not alone here. Some of it is the stress and the change of school starting back up, of realizing all the things you were going to accomplish that summer didn’t get done…but what I’ve learned is that one factor is simply a seasonal change of less sunlight that can really fuck with your head. It sounds ridiculous that even a small lack of sunlight can mess with you but about a week into September I start feeling wobbly and remember it’s September. I always feel like an idiot for pulling my light box out of storage to put on my desk (because how can a box of light for 20 minutes a day make a difference?) but then I go back and look at all my previous September posts and realize that every little thing counts, and that I am worthy of the work it takes to stay slightly less crazy.

I look though 15 years of posts and it makes me think about how far we’ve come. What we’ve accomplished. What we continue to fuck up. The amazing things we’ve seen. The horror we survived. The joy and laughter and everything in between. I can see patterns of joy and lessons that I’ve learned and have forgotten and learned again.

Last week I was cleaning out my computer photos and found the original photo that I’ve always used as my icon since I first started this blog.

Here is how old it is…if you look at the bottom you can see the top of the camera flash because this was before I even had a cell phone.

I remember exactly where I was…blow-drying my hair for the billionth time to go to my HR job that I knew was not my calling. The house was dark and quiet because it was 4am. I would leave the house before 5 so that I could avoid the horrific Houston traffic and so I could leave work early enough to pick up Hailey from daycare. Victor worked a late shift so he could avoid traffic and take Hailey to daycare, so we barely saw each other. I was exhausted and the idea of having to blow dry my hair and get ready every morning just to do it again tomorrow seemed like a pointless and Sisyphean task and so I decided to take a picture and make that my icon for two reasons. One, because then it would somehow have meaning…even if I was the only one giving it that. And two, because I wanted to make myself remember where I was…so that I could remember how hard life was in the dark, quiet hours, and how strong I was for making it through them and that one day I would look back on this moment and be glad it was over. And I am. But I also look at it with love and longing. I can practically smell that house and hear Hailey’s baby laughter and I remember staying up until midnight to binge watch Battlestar Gallactica and the time(s) I almost set the house on fire.

The good thing about blogging is being able to see these things again at a distance. To realize that even if I’m now exhausted or sad or struggling, that there are also amazing things in my life that I will one day miss. It makes me look through new eyes to appreciate where I am. It makes me remember the lessons I’ve learned and reminds me to stop making the same bad decisions when I’ve already learned them. (Or at least to make new and exciting bad decisions instead of the normal, boring ones.)

As I’m clearing out old photos I come across this one my talented friend Robin Jerstad took this year.

15 years have passed. I quit the job I was never right for. I became a full-time writer. I opened a bookstore. Victor and I both work from home and listen to Hailey’s laughter as they play Dungeons & Dragons and write their own musical. I almost never blow dry my hair. The blow dryer sits (broken) in a bathroom drawer. I can’t quite make myself throw it away. I still spend a lot of the time in the dark. I still struggle. I know you do too. We move forward and backward and sideways but the important this is that we keep moving.

If you are reading this then you survived the first week of September. And so have I. And for some of us that is a very big achievement. So stop and smile in the knowledge that September has not eaten you.

Get out your light box. Go for a walk. Refill your meds. Allow time for therapy and self-care. Reach out if you are struggling. (To friends, family, doctors or the suicide hotline if things get rough. I’ve relied on all four myself.) Carve out time for joy. Look at how far you’ve come. I’m proud of you.

PS. I think sometimes it’s hard to see what we’ve accomplished unless we really look. So in the comments, feel free to share something you’re proud of. It can be something giant or something small. It can be a book you finished reading, or a hobby you’re perfecting, or a lesson you’ve learned. But whatever it is, stop and acknowledge the fact that in spite of it all, you are still here, my friend. September has not won. And that? Is something to be celebrated.

I don’t know how to make the emoji of a brain exploding but if I did I’d make it here.

Hello!

If you are a member of the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club you should check your email because you just got a special invitation to come hang out online with me and July’s book pick author, Virginia Feito as I ask her a million questions about Mrs. March, including “WHAT TIME IS THIS SET IN?” and “OMG WTF VIRGINIA BUT IN A GOOD WAY?”

I’m opening up discussion for Mrs. March on the Fantastic Strangelings Facebook page but you can feel free to leave thoughts here if you’re not a Facebook person. (I’ll leave my thoughts in the comments and I have A LOT.) And as always, there are no rules to Book Club so no worries if you haven’t read it yet or if you are a quiet lurker. Honestly 70% of the club love this place because it is a true introvert’s delight and you never have to talk to anyone but still get to be part of an amazing community.

Yesterday we thought we’d sent out the email I wrote you about this month’s book pick (plus a small rant about videos games and hallucinations because I am easily distracted and my emails are ridiculous – sorry) but turns out we accidentally sent that email to the members of our new romance bookclub, whose logo makes me giggle like a 12 year old every time I see it…

…and it was probably very confusing to them, but there’s a lot of overlap of people in both clubs (FUCKING BLESS YOU, YOU GLORIOUS OVERACHIEVERS) so I guess it wasn’t confusing to those people but probably will be when they get a second email from me and wonder if I’ve been drinking more than usual and am stalking them.

So if you’re an honorary member or you haven’t opened your email yet, do you want to see this month’s pick?

I think you do because it is gorgeous in every way and you are invited into a very special story:

It’s The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova.

It’s a lush mystery filled with magical realism and Ecuadorian roots.  Here’s a little summary:

“The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.”

I loved it and it reminded me a bit of Ray Bradbury’s From the Dust Returned mixed with The Umbrella Academy.

Oh, and I always give you an optional bonus book or two for those of us who need several to get us through the month.  This month’s book choice was actually really hard for me because there was another book that I LOVED but I was worried it might be too dark for everyone so let me just say that if you love horror, Native American #ownvoices, strong female leads and amazing storytelling you 100% need to order My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones right now.  It’s a love letter to slasher films on the surface but it is such a deep, and well-written book on race, gentrification, class, family and more.

Some other September books I loved that you may want to check out this month?  Archer by Shruti Swamy (coming-of-age novel set in 1960s and 1970s Bombay), Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller by Nadia Wassef (a memoir about the women who founded the first modern bookstore in Cairo), Ballad for Sophie by Felipe Melo (a graphic novel exploring the cost or success and rivalry and flying pianos), The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward (a psychological thriller with so many twists you cannot put it down), How to Wrestle a Girl by Venita Blackburn (short stories exploring race, queerness, community with the most beautiful prose), Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo (“The Fast and the furious but make it gay and Southern Gothic”). So many good ones.

Happy reading!

PS. You are always welcome to join (or rejoin) the Fantastic Strangelings and all new members will get this month’s book and some lovely gifts. Come read with us.

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