“Help me cut this head off.” ~ mom

I was going to write this awhile ago because people asked me for a tutorial on how to make an invisible woman but then I sort of went missing mentally and now I’m back. Apologies. But I am here right now to tell you all about my adventures in dismemberment and…whatever the opposite of dismemberment is. Rememberment? Is that a word? Fuck. Ignore this paragraph.

So one of my very favorite things about being a proprietress of Nowhere Bookshop is making ridiculous window displays and my favorite window displays are for Halloween. Last year’s theme was fortune telling:

This year I wanted something a bit spookier but not creepy enough to make kids pee themselves so I decided to make a ghost reader. I saw a bunch of tutorials for ghosts made of chicken wire and I was going to try that but then I remembered how stabby chickenwire is and I couldn’t remember if I’d had a tetanus shot recently and then Hailey pointed out that you can make people out of seran wrap, which was news to me.

Apparently you just wrap cling-wrap over an actual person and then you put duct tape over that and then you cut the person out of the tape mummy and stuff it with newspapers or bubble wrap. And I was thrilled, and Hailey was less thrilled when they realized that they had just accidentally volunteered to get wrapped up in seran wrap and duct tape. I thought it was a wonderful trust exercise and I would recommend it to anyone, but maybe while you’re cutting your child out of their duct tape bondage don’t let your husband tell them the story of the time you tried to cut a knot off of the cat and accidentally cut a cat flat in them instead because then you’ll only end up with arms because your child will get spooked and run away when you want to move on to the torso.

Luckily I had an extra torso on hand because I had an old dress-makers dummy from the time I was making ballgowns out of damaged books (that’s another story) and was able to attach Hailey’s fake arms to it, and after I dressed it up and stuffed some gloves so the ghost could read The Invisible Man it was apparently realistic enough that Ferris Mewler decided to snuggle with her.

I asked the internet for their opinions and they were very complementary but mentioned that it would look better with mannequin legs or starched stockings and that’s when I was like, “OMG, I forgot I already have human legs!” and Victor was like, “…Wtf. We all have human legs. What is wrong with you?” and that’s when I reminded myself that I should stop talking to myself out loud because then I had to explain that I was talking about the invisible woman I was building and that I was referring to the extra human legs I kept in the kitchen.

Well not really human legs, but close because years ago this shoe store was closing and so I bought a bunch of fake feet that they’d used to display heels on but I stuffed them with fake flowers and made weird vases and the lesson here is that you should always buy what you love when you see it because you never know when you’re going to need a torso or human feet.

Victor disagrees with this lesson.

The people on instagram also pointed out that you could kind of see the neck of the dummy poking out and it would look better without it so I yelled, “Hailey, help me cut this ladie’s neck off!” and Hailey were like, “Most moms just make cookies for Halloween” and that’s probably true but in the end they held onto the torso while I sawed the neck off and then I realized that my new neighbors could see directly into my office window to see the silhouette of us dismembering someone but then Victor pointed out that from that same window they could see Ruth Badar Ginsbear (a giant taxidermied bear in judge robes) so that’s probably distracting enough and honestly they probably just avoid looking in my windows at this point.

And then it was ready.

But I had to take it up to the store and that meant it had to ride in the car and frankly, the looks we got from other people on the road were worth every moment.

Also, the Texas Department of Transportation should send me a dollar because we totally matched their “ARRIVE ALIVE” theme they had blinking on all the highway signs.

And then Victor said that I needed to get her a Dismembers Only jacket and I threatened to stab him, but a an hour later I’d finished the Halloween Window and couldn’t stop myself from calling it a Halloweendow and this is how I know we deserve each other.

PS. The Invisible Man is a good book, but I think our update is better:

PPS. Halloween related fun…Nowhere is currently having a literary themed costume parade online so if you have a book-related costume I want to see it. Tag us with the hashtag #nowherecostumeparade. Also, I’m working on a literary costume myself and it is ridiculous. Never stop being ridiculous, y’all.

The really embarrassing thing is that I’m sure I’ve sung this out loud with friends before and no one ever told me I was wrong, so maybe I’m right all along. Update: I was not right all along.

Victor and I in the car singing along to Talking Heads Wild Wild Life:

me: ♪ I’m wearing…her vagina… ♪

Victor: Wait stop. No.

me: Those are the lyrics.

Victor: Nope.

me: Yeah. “I’m wearing her vagina. I’m riding a hot potato.”

Victor: What.

me: It’s about sex right? He’s wearing her vagina. Because if you’re wearing someone’s vagina you’re having sex with them.

Victor: Ew.

Me: Don’t “ew” me. I’m not the one who said it.

Victor: NOBODY SAID IT. NOBODY SAYS THAT.

me: I’m pretty sure it’s all sexual innuendo. Like, what else is Cat Fancy supposed to be? That’s obviously vagina.

Victor: WHO SAID CAT FANCY?

Me: TALKING HEADS SAID CAT FANCY. HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THIS?

So I looked up the lyrics and apparently this one of many songs I’ve been singing this song loudly and wrongly because for the last 30 years I thought this was about a Dutch woman named Eliza who has a lot of pubic hair and is having an orgy with the Talking Heads guy until her husband walks in and then the Talking Heads guy convinces his to join them and then they all have cake.

PS. Here is the actual song and below are the lyrics as I hear them:

I’m wearing her vagina

I ride a hot potato

I take a little Cat Fancy.

Speak up, I can’t hear you.

Here on this mountain top, oh, oh, I got some wild, wild life

I got some news to tell you, oh, oh, about some wild, wild life.

Here come the dutch woman in charge oh, oh, oh, she got some wild, wild life.

Ain’t that the way you like it, oh oh, women and wild, wild life?

I wrestle with a llama (I know it says conscience but it always feels like he’s going to say llama and I don’t know why)

You wrestle with your barber.

Satan on your windowsill but the tense says it’s time for ardor slower

Check out pepto bismuth man, oh, oh, he bought some wild wild life

On the way he got stuck in a stage oh, oh, he got some wild wild life

Break it up when he opens the door, uh oh! We’re doing wild, wild life.

I know that’s the way, Eliza, oh oh, baby, wild wild.

He’s a man. With a piece of cake.

Thought control. You get them both then! Time of your life.

Back to sitting on pins and needles. Break them apart. It’s scientific. (I don’t know what this means but I assumed it was something kinky)

Sleeping on the edge of the stage oh oh getting wild life

Breaking in her chicken ah, oh oh oh, I got a wild wild life

Spraying it all over my money in time. Oh, oh. Too much wild wild life

We wanna go but we don’t wanna go, oh oh I gotta wild wild life

High and knowing it. That’s how it starts, oh oh, got some wild wild life

Paint a picture, it ain’t a tale, oh oh, they got some wild wild life

You’re one to talk, You go so fast, oh oh, wild wild life.

And I know that’s the way you like it, oh, oh

It’s just a wild, wild, wild, wild, love.

This week, y’all.

Things that happened this week:

Sent an email to Elizabeth and Vicky at Nowhere saying, “I’m reading an arc of Beasts of a Little Land and it is so good but making me realize how little I knew about Korean history. Nothing like books to make you realize how stupid you are”. Elizabeth emails back, “You cc’ed this to a random journalist”. Because of course I did.

My phone internet has been out all morning. Sent several texts to my sister telling her one of our old friends died. None of the texts went through. Sent another text blaming the ghost of our friend. It also didn’t go through. After spending 30 minutes trying to fix everything I realize I’d accidentally put my phone on airplane mode and tried to blame ghosts for it.

Was very proud of setting a reminder for a podcast I needed to record today. Realized that New York is an hour ahead instead of an hour behind about 30 minutes after the hosts (who luckily know me enough to realize I’m an idiot) have been waiting in their closets for me to call in.

Saw a spider on my computer at the same time Ferris Mewler saw a spider on my computer. Learned that my computer can survive being knocked to the ground by a cat. Spider jumped off the monitor and onto my lap. Walked outside to brush it off. It got scared and ran inside of my dress and now it lives inside me, probably.

Took Hunter S. Thomcat to get his teeth cleaned and the doctor said she’s going to have to remove several of them, which is apparently fine because I guess cats don’t need all their teeth but it’s thousands of dollars so I asked the vet if I could keep the teeth since technically they’ll be more expensive than any of my jewelry and she was like, “Sure. Do you want more teeth?” and I was like, “…I don’t want you to pull out extras just so I can make tooth jewelry” and started to worry if I’d chosen the right doctor but then she was like, “No, I just have a bunch of old dog teeth if you want teeth” and then I realized that I’d totally picked the right doctor.

And how has your week been?

Step into my office. It’s Friday.

It’s Friday so that means we can sneak into my office and pretend we’re doing work while I’m actually just showing you the instagram videos I saved for you.

Unless Instagram goes down again, in which case that is a sign that you are done for the day.

Happy weekend, y’all.

Hello, strangelings!

If you’re a member of the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club you already know what wonderful book we’re going to send you this month because I sent you a bizarre email about it, but in case you missed it or are an honorary member, it’s Sister Song by Lucy Holland and it gave me strong Circe and The Witch’s Heart vibes. (And if you have not joined yet this is totally your sign to come be a Fantastic Strangeling.)

I don’t know what the actual cover looks like because there are two and my copy was digital but both covers are amazing so let’s just bask in the glory of both of them:

 This is a reworking of the Twa Sisters, a old murder ballad (Did you know there were such things as murder ballads?  Because I did not and now I want to listen to all of them).  Set in the dark ages of Britain, it blends historical fiction with magical realism/fantasy in an amazing way and explores feminism and identity and belief and betrayal and family with a fast-paced story and wonderful characters. 

Here’s a quick summary:

535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador’s children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans. Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, when born a daughter. And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance. All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, magic, love and ultimately, murder. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.

It’s one of those books that you see as a movie in your mind as you read it.  And if you have a fear of reading historical fiction because you are history illiterate please know that I am as well and other than looking up a paragraph in Wikipedia (“Siri, what is a Saxxon?”) the book gives you everything you need. I think you’ll love it.

And if you are like me and need more than one book to get you through the month then you are in luck because October has a shitload of great new books. Here are all the October books I read and loved: Under the Whispering Door (gorgeous tale about love and grief and death that is also somehow uplifting and lovely), Slewfoot (supernatural horror revenge tale you need to read immediately), Light from Uncommon Stars (weird as hell), Reprieve (a full-contact haunted house tale that dissects race, class, politics), The Last Graduate (this is the 2nd scholomance book to read after Deadly Education and it’s very good and now I want the next in the series), Cackle (a sweet sort of halloween read about friendship), The Death of Jane Lawrence (gothic horror ala Jane Eyre but with more math? I’m not describing it right.), Shelf Life (a memoir about the woman who opened the first modern bookstore in Cairo), A Spindle Splintered (a small fairy tale where the villains are not who you remember), When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky (death defying Cherokee horse diver uncovers a mystery that spans centuries. #ownvoices), Lore Olympus (graphic novel about Persephone that will SUCK. YOU. IN), Hyde (a reimagining of Jekyll and Hyde. Very Scottish) and Death at Greenway (a mystery set in the holiday home of Agatha Christie.)

Now no worries if you haven’t read last month’s book yet (The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraido Córdova) because there are no deadlines in book club but I know a lot of you have so I’m opening up the discussion thread on the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club facebook page in case you want to talk, and if you don’t do facebook you can always leave your thoughts here. I’ll leave mine in the comments below.

PS. In case you missed it, we’re doing a free fantastic strangelings zoom with horror master Grady Hendrix later this month so check your email to rsvp if you want to hear Grady and I talk all about fear and explore his latest book, The Final Girl Support Group. And follow Nowhere Bookshop on instagram because I might be doing another fun mystery October zoom with one of my favorite people that will be open to honorary members as well. 🙂

PPS. As a little bonus, here’s an author-suggested cocktail to try while settling down to read The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina. Dorothy Barker approves.

Happy reading!

The world is changing. And that’s a good thing, I think.

Yesterday was Victor’s birthday and since covid numbers are finally starting to drop we decided to go to a Japanese place that we’d never been to. It was nice but much more crowded than I was used to and the many shower curtains hanging from the ceilings (for real) to stop germs from spreading made it feel even more claustrophobic and suddenly the panic attack I’d managed to fight off at the doctor’s office that morning when the nurse couldn’t find my veins in either arms started crawling out of my throat.

I have anxiety attacks pretty regularly. Heart pounding, feelings of dread, some nausea. They don’t last very long. Panic attacks are different. I only have one or two a year but they are so severe it literally feels like dying…like an actual heart attack. I’ve spent enough nights in ERs sure I was dying to know that this was a panic attack but I didn’t want to ruin Victor’s birthday so I explained that it was too loud and went outside to get some air. I walked to the back of the restaurant and paced, trying in vain to walk away from what was inside me and doing all the meditation practices while cursing the fact that I’d stopped carrying xanax with me. I suddenly felt incredibly nauseous and light-headed but I knew that if I started to throw up I wouldn’t be able to stop so I sat down on the curb at the edge of the parking lot and put my head in between my knees and prayed Victor and Hailey wouldn’t come out because I didn’t want them to see this.

And then I heard footsteps and I knew it was them but it wasn’t. It was a couple getting in their car nearby. The girl asked if I was okay and I nodded yes but she said I didn’t look okay, which was fair, and I considered just saying I’d had too much to drink or that it was the flu but instead I said, “Panic attack” and she said, “Oh, yeah. He has them too” and the guy was like, “The worst. Do you want us to sit with you or call someone or do you need to be alone?” And I said, “Alone” because being with people makes it worse somehow and they nodded and when they drove off he said from their car window, “You got this! You’re doing great!”

Reader, I was not doing great. I was on the side of the road trying not to vomit. But somehow that small encouragement from a stranger helped. I mean, it didn’t stop me from eventually getting violently sick but it helped to know that I was not alone. Or more accurately that I *was* alone because they understood what I needed but that we’ve come so far in talking about our issues that I could say “Panic attack” and have people easily understand and not treat me like a freak and instead just act like it’s okay to have a breakdown on a curb…to cheer me on rather than pity me.

I went back inside after the worst had passed and Hailey and Victor were kind and worried and I felt bad, but also so grateful to have a family that understood when I explained that I wasn’t doing well and needed to go hang out in the car. Dinner ended early. The trip to get cake was cancelled. I barely made it home before my body decided to get rid of everything inside it, making taking anti-anxiety meds impossible. Hours later I lay in bed and felt badly for Victor but he was fine, and understanding. A birthday present he ended up giving to me. Hailey snuck in and checked on me later, our normal roles reversed.

Today I am a limp rag of exhaustion and my brain is mushy…the usual after-effects of a truly bad panic attack. In spite of the fact that I know this isn’t my fault I still feel some guilt and shame. But whenever I do I remind myself of that kid in the parking lot cheering at me like I was a football player making a goal (is that what they do? I don’t know sports) while the girl he was with smiled encouragingly like all of this was perfectly normal.

Panic attacks are not normal. And I hate them. But I love that we’ve come so far that empathy for a person’s struggle is normal…and that we’ve come to a place where it’s not a shameful secret but something that brings us together. It makes me hopeful.

If my mind was less mushy I would make this all wrap up in a lovely way and add something funny but I’m still not entirely myself (but getting there) so instead I’ll just say that I wanted to write this down in case that couple from the parking lot happens to read this. So that they understand how they helped. And so that you understand that you are not alone. That none of us are, really, if you know where to look.

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