Halloween Coloring Contest

My very talented sister and fellow Horrorfeminista, Kristine Scheiner, is drafting her latest color book, The Occult ABCs, and we’ve decided to hold a coloring contest during our hands-down favorite month, October.

Enter the Occult ABCs coloring contest and win big!

Step 1: Download the coloring page E is for Exorcism: Occult ABCs_E

Occult ABCs_E

Step 2: Color to your heart’s content—go gross, go pretty, go CRAZY!!!

Step 3: Tag your page on Instagram with #occultabcs @horrorfeminista for a chance to win. Entries must be posted by October 31, 2015, midnight EST. If you don’t have an Instagram account, you can scan your coloring page and send it as a jpeg or pdf file to horrorfeminista@gmail.com.

The winners will be announced November 5, 2015.

And here are some of the awesome prizes that you can win:

First place—An Occult ABCs T-shirt, a Horrorfeminista T-shirt, plus a tote bag of swag

Second place—An Occult ABCs T-shirt and a tote bag

Third place—An Occult ABCs T-shirt

10 Runners-Up—Occult ABCs pin

If you want to donate to Kristine to help her with publication costs for The Occult ABCs, hit this clicky link: paypal.me/KristineScheiner

This first entry comes all the way from Edolo, Italy. Very good coloring is happening there.


Look What I Got in the Mail Today!

This crawled into my mailbox today from littlest K, another Horrorfeminista.

Cockroach Letter 1We sent her some swag for her birthday.

IMG_0739And unbeknownst to us, she had a surprise coming our way—our cockroaches ended up crossing in the mail. This is the other side of her paper roach with legs that stick up and eyeballs.

Cockroach Letter 2Its wings and body open up into a letter.

Cockroach Letter 3Now I need to figure out how to display it. It’s a 3-D piece of art, and I want to be able to see its legs, wings, and eyeballs, and open it up to read the letter once in a while. The fridge doesn’t seem like the right place to put it. Any ideas?

Where Are the Seventeen-Year Cicadas?

About a month ago, the news started hyping the seventeen-year cicadas, code name Magicicada, which would be emerging from a long slumber. Supposedly, the East Coast was going to be deluged with them, and New York magazine ran an article about dealing with the brood once it hatched, warning against things like running a lawn mower because it would sound like a mating call to these love bugs.

My sister Kristi adores cicadas—almost unnaturally so—and she started getting really excited. She’s been making art of empty cicada shells since we lived in Iowa City, where their low thrumming is a part of the Midwest’s summer sounds, and still does.

cicada art

She knew exactly what temperature the ground had to be for these seventeen-year cicadas to hatch, and before Memorial Day weekend, she was sure they were going to emerge and took off after work with the Maglite to go investigate. Hours later, she came back puzzled, wondering why the cicadas hadn’t hatched. They’ve popped up in Staten Island, New Jersey, and other parts of New York, but so far Brooklyn’s been a no-show.

I feel so bad for Kristi that when I walk through Prospect Park I search the tree trunks looking for empty shells and strain my ears listening for that click-whir sound that is special to cicadas. At the very end of my walk today, I thought I heard a whisper of them, but cicadas never whisper. I had no good news to report.

With the arrival of summer, Kristi’s changed our door art. Instead of cockroach and bedbug snowflakes, we’ve now got a flock of paper cicadas that Kristi drew and colored (I got to cut out a few). This may be the closest we’ll get to the seventeen-year cicadas, and it prompted the next-door neighbor to ask, “What’s with the bugs?”

cicada art

It’s a difficult thing to explain. For me, it’s half repulsion and half fascination. A wasp or mosquito might chase me from the room, but I can spend twenty minutes watching a spider do its spider things. And I would feel cheated if I didn’t get to see and hear the seventeen-year cicadas. I’m still hoping they’re just being shy and will make their appearance in Brooklyn soon.


The Care and Maintenance of a Shrine, Part II

I’ve used my shrine to help me focus in later years during twists and turns of my life: moving, new job situations, death, and writing. I’ve accumulated many objects that litter the top, and I’m constantly shifting things on and off of it. Permanent things include coins, especially those leftover from traveling overseas; railroad spikes that my sister found; a rusty nail; a metronome that my mother picked up at a garage sale; the ashes of my first cat Venus, who lived to be twenty years old; and one-half of a set of ceramic hands that I like to prop against Venus’s tin so she receives pets into perpetuity. Most of the objects on my shrine have been given to me, and I think that makes them more powerful and loaded with magic.


For the last couple of years a green wooden birdcage that my mother gave me has been taking up prime real estate on my shrine, and I was slowly trying to fill it with a thousand origami cranes. I did this before in Austin when I was getting ready to move to New York. I found an old rusty birdcage at a thrift shop in Texas, and in the months leading up to my move, I folded origami until my fingers got sore. After that move, the cranes were set free by Valerie, when she was about three and didn’t want to take a nap; she sailed them out our attic window one at a time. I was trying to re-create this powerful surge that came from the move, its momentum, by folding another thousand cranes, but the shrine does not want repeats. It wants something bigger and better than the last performance, and it let me know.


With spring coming this April, I was noticing an uptick in my energy levels, and I put the changes off on the different seasons, April being my special birthday month, etc., etc. I was having bouts of insomnia and had one night where the ticking of the clock was driving me crazy. For years, I’ve been using an IKEA alarm clock that I bought for $1.99—one of the best investments I have ever made—but its ticking never bothered me before. Sometimes I actually have to hold the clock up to my ear in order to make sure that it’s working. Eventually I was able to get to sleep, but the next night the same thing happened. I felt like the narrator of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” who’s slowly being driven mad by what he thinks is a dead man’s beating heart.

I got up from my bed and discovered that the ticking was coming from a different direction than where I had placed my IKEA alarm clock. It came from my shrine. I turned on my light and located the source of the ticking—a Virgin of Guadalupe clock that had been on my shrine for almost five years. When Sarah and I visited our friend Flannery in San Francisco back in 2008, we found the Virgin of Guadalupe clocks in some store and each bought one. I put a battery in the clock when I returned home and propped it up on the shrine, but eventually the battery died and I never replaced it, having much more reliable clocks. Somehow it had recharged itself after four years.

I’m a big believer in signs, and shortly after this, I came up with a mantra involving transformation, and kept saying it to myself over and over again, waiting and thinking. My birthday came the last day of April and my sister gave me all shrine-themed presents: peacock feathers to help with the all-seeing eye, a Virgin horseshoe for luck, and a grim reaper in the shape of the Virgin of Guadalupe because I had Death as the final outcome in a tarot reading—not a card of literal death, but one symbolizing change and transformation. A friend gave me a few gifts wrapped in butterfly-printed paper, and I carefully saved the wrap, something I almost never do.

About a week ago, I finally realized what I needed to do and took that saved paper and cut out all the caterpillars and butterflies, with a lot of help from Kristi. (She can do some mean scissors work and was actually able to cut out two butterflies’ antennae, which I had given up on.) She also has shelves full of art supplies and gave me a bottle of shellac, with directions that promised a nice, shiny coat after two applications and three hours’ drying time between each.

I cleared everything off the shrine and cleaned the top of it really well. Sarah had sent me some very potent dried sage that she picked by hand off a reservation in South Dakota, which has special associations for me, since my family was stationed there for two years and my sister Karla and brother Randall were born there. I put a little pile in a seashell and burned it to spiritually cleanse the shrine, and then I spent an afternoon turning a boxful of butterflies and caterpillars into this decoupage surface.


I added gold antennae to the butterflies missing them, and then I wrote my mantra around the corners of the tabletop, signing it Aunt Kathi and drawing an ant. I think the shrine is happy now and has decided that it wants to go to my niece Phaedra next.


The Care and Maintenance of a Shrine, Part I

During my family’s last dark days in Germany when my father was getting ready to leave the military and we didn’t know where we would be living, my mother became involved in a hard-core Catholic group called Cursillo. She says they are known as Charismatic Catholics.

The first time she attended a weekend retreat at Saint Wenceslaus, we went to pick her up on a Sunday, excited to see her after having no mom for a couple of days. I could tell the difference that the retreat had made in her right away—she was more relaxed and happy than before she went, like she had gone to a spa treatment (though we didn’t know about spa treatments then, and definitely couldn’t afford it on my father’s tech sergeant salary). We went for a walk around the grounds later, and that’s when I encountered my first shrine to the Virgin. There was a small grotto with a statue of the Virgin inside, lots of lit candles, fresh flowers, and a large crystal.

I knew this was a special place. I had spent a lot of time playing in cemeteries before, finding a sense of peace there, but this was even better. The magpie in me wanted that crystal, and rather than leaving it at the shrine—not knowing the purpose of one yet—I toted it home. It ended up sitting on a desk or a table in a room—probably my first attempt at a shrine.

During those days I used to get terrible headaches, which were diagnosed as cluster headaches, migraine headaches, chronic sinusitis, or a psychosomatic condition, depending on which doctor I saw. My mother had a bottle of holy water from Lourdes that she had either received from her church or ordered away for, and when I was home from school with one of those headaches, she anointed me with the water, hoping to cure me. She said that the sun came in through the windows, shone through the crystal on the table, and projected an image of the Virgin on the wall above my head. Since then, me and the Virgin have been tight.

I think everybody has a little shrine to themselves, though they may not think about it this way. Their shrine is the place on a dresser where they put their wallet, pool change, accumulate movie ticket stubs and sticks of gum, showing what they’re doing in life. I remember being fascinated by my parents’ dresser top and the life I could see reflected there, and soon enough I was accumulating my own self-detritus—there was change, a house key, and other trinkets and treasures that seemed especially precious to me, a pretty rock or a small ceramic figurine of a cat. Later, grooming products were added to this, but the arrangement of items was still not a formal shrine.

The summer before I went off to college, my mother had a very close call with a gangrenous appendix. She was in ICU for a week and in the hospital for more than a month total. When she got out, we did a series of college-shopping trips before I moved on campus, always finding joy when we could score a wheelchair at the Kmart, Target, or Walmart because my mom still tired easily after her ordeal. One of the things my mother insisted on me having was a trunk for college, and since she was buying, I didn’t put up a fuss. I’ve had that trunk for more than twenty years now, and it forms the base of my current shrine. When I was in Texas, I ended up adding another trunk to elevate its tabletop.


My last year in Iowa, after graduating from the university and in my second year at a full-time job, I found religious candles at a dollar or grocery store, and I started accumulating them, along with various pictures and objects that spoke to me. That’s when I first started formally keeping a shrine. My favorite candles featured the Virgin of Guadalupe and were rose scented, and there was something about her image and what she represented that made me dedicate my shrine to her.


I was going through a particularly rough year when I started keeping my shrine. I realized that I was stuck in a dead-end job, and if I didn’t do something immediately, I would still be there fifteen years later with a crappy journal of about forty pages, whining about how I wasn’t doing what I wanted and married to a guy at my workplace who was very persistent. So I lit candles, propped up images of artwork that I found inspiring, and waited. Soon Susan came a-visiting from Portland, pregnant with Valerie, and asked me to come out to the West Coast. She only had to ask once—it was the opportunity, the chance, that I had been praying for, and my shrine had been instrumental in helping me focus and figure out where I needed my life to go.

Evil Genius to Produce Zombie Color Books

Kristi and I are ripe with plans right now as we write (me) and draw (Kristi) our upcoming zombie color books. When we were kids we were always into the spooky things, but sadly, color books never really reflected our interests. I think my best one was a Scooby Doo coloring book that had a happy-looking ghost in it. We had to make do with what we had, and still being coloring fans to this day that sometimes involves subtly changing preexisting color books. Hee-hee. Check out this bastardized color book page by Kristi.


Well, now we’ve decided we need to help out the youth of America and coloring fans everywhere by putting out some scary-themed color books. And first up, we’re doing our favorites—zombies!!! We’re hard at work writing and drawing and coming soon will be Zombie Apocalypse in Ditmas Park and Zombie Pet Parade.

A New Year’s Eve Mix

I found this old New Year’s Eve playlist from long ago, but thanks to new technology and sites, I can share it. If you click on the link below, you can hear all the tracks.

I’ve always had a peculiar playlist system where a female artist has to follow a male artist and so on. Actually, it’s not so peculiar. Our population is pretty evenly divided at 51 percent/49 percent, with the ladies slightly leading.



I know what I’ll be listening to tonight…

Pimping Out My Apartment

I love beautifying my apartment, and in the last year, my sister and I have kicked it into overdrive. The centerpiece of our apartment has always been ammo crate bookshelves. When Kristi and I were in high school, my mom would buy these ammo crates for five dollars apiece at a local store that had hideous things like camouflage overalls and fishing lures. She loves a sale and the ammo crates were a deal, but they sat in our garage for a long time. Kristi was the one who figured out that they made fabulous bookshelves when staggered and stacked up on top of one another. And each crate had rope handles on the ends so it was easy to move them by stacking the crates and lifting them up by the rope loops. The last time we moved and the movers saw all of the ammo crate bookcases, I thought they were going to pass out. I could see them mentally calculating how many crates there were and how many flights of stairs they would have to walk down with them. Then we showed them the trick, and suddenly they were all smiley faces.

Our ammo crate bookshelves.

Last year, I spent August in Berlin and had a fine time glutting myself on German art from the Weimar Republic. I picked up a few posters of artwork by Otto Dix and George Grosz, a couple of my favorite artists, and brought them home with me. Kristi and I also had a poster of one of our favorite Caravaggio’s from a trip to Florence a few years earlier, and we had never had it properly framed. I took the art to the Frame Shop at Pearl Paint when Kristi was working there, and she helped me pick out really great frames and mats and then had the great idea of using a circular mat for our Caravaggio shield of Medusa.

Caravaggio in our kitchen.

Once we had all this fabulous artwork to hang up, we wanted the walls to look festive, so we went to the hardware store and picked up a few gallons of paint—banana yellow for our kitchen and a really saturated turquoise for my bedroom. Around the beginning of the year, Susan Godfrey had a Kickstarter campaign for the last funding she needed to start her coworking studio, the Productive, and she had a set of drawings by artist Maya Edelman as a prize for a certain level contributor. I fell in love with one particular drawing—The Sadness of Not Fitting—and had to have it. I wanted to support the Productive, but I wanted to own this particular drawing even more. When I got the drawings, I had Kristi evaluate them once again and she came up with the perfect frame treatments, which cost under twenty dollars and look great against our yellow walls.

Maya Edelman’s drawings.

The ammo crate bookcases still look wonderful, but I was getting sick of the rest of our living room. We had used the same blue futon cover and curtains for several years, and they were starting to get dingy and yellow. Our friend Sarah was coming to visit in October for Kristi’s birthday, so this became the perfect time to fix up the living room a bit. I had it in my head that I wanted skull curtains, and Kristi, the master seamstress, said okay and that we could go pick up some material and she would stitch them up. We went to the Fashion District in Manhattan, where skull fabric was all the rage a few years ago, and found nothing but a chichi silk fabric with a very subtle skull pattern after visiting a half-dozen stores. One proprietor told us to come back in a week because the stock is always changing. We just couldn’t wait that long. We went home and Kristi found some nice-looking fabric online with the bold, dramatic skulls that we craved. We decided to take a risk and order it, and the fabric really did turn out to be lovely and worth it. Again, it cost less than twenty dollars, and Kristi whipped up these babies in an evening.

Our skull curtains.

In this same week, I also decided that I had to have a leopard-print couch—probably because I’m reading all these heavy metal biographies and autobiographies right now as research and animal prints are a big part of the style. Also, my mother started buying us leopard-printed things starting in high school. I have a leopard-print cigarette case from her that I use for my laundry card, and we both have matching leopard-print comforters from Christmas one year. Now, it’s turned from Mom buying me leopard to me buying it, so maybe the fetish is just something I’ve inherited from my mother—a genetic predisposition for leopard print. The leopard-print futon cover that I ordered online looks so nice, and now we have the old grungy blue one as a spare so Kristi can rip it apart and make a pattern for new futon covers. I’m imagining zebra print and snakeskin print, a skull print. Maybe we’ll change the futon cover every time a new guest comes to visit us.

Our new and improved leopard-print couch.





I Feel a Character Coming On; Time to Make a Notebook!

I always have about three notebooks going at any one time: a tiny one (palm sized) for taking notes and making lists and schedules; a medium-sized one for blog entries or ideas, articles, all my rough drafting for nonfiction writing; and another medium-sized notebook that’s a little bit thicker for my journal. These notebooks have come to feel like an extension of me, and I put a lot of effort into picking them out and decorating them.

I’ve gone through stages where I liked certain notebook brands—there was a quad-ruled spiral notebook that I favored in college with green-tinted pages. I could make these notebooks last forever with my cramped, microscopic writing, and I still find those written-out pages to be a thing of beauty. These days, though, I like Clairefontaine and Moleskine notebooks because they come with quad paper (a requirement for me) that’s thick enough to take fountain pen ink without bleeding through to the next page. The Moleskine notebooks are a bit stiff and formal, and I find I have to dress them up a bit, break them in, before I can commit to writing in them.

Along with my usual three notebooks, sometimes I have a fourth when I’m working on a novel, and there’s quite an intimate ritual involved when I make one of those.

I’ve been using origami paper for decorating recently. I’m attracted to the bright colors, the tiny three-inch shape of the paper, and the memories behind it. I’ve been obsessed with origami for most of my life. When I was little, maybe five or six, my mother showed me and my sister Kristi how to fold cranes out of sparkly silver wrapping paper. I’ve always loved paper and drawing, but to be shown a way to make something three-dimensional out of paper—that was revolutionary. And maybe that’s why I chose to decorate my notebook for The Foot Book with origami paper—after all, I’m trying to make my character a three-dimensional person.

While crafting this particular notebook, it reminded me of the opening scene from Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (probably my favorite of the whole series), where the main character Kristen keeps herself awake by crafting a replica of the house that she sees in her dream. I chose a humble composition book for this notebook, and shockingly, the paper is lined.

The first thing I do is number the pages—just in case something gets torn out or I get another idea and turn the notebook upside down to work on something else. When I’m deep in a project, my notebook can start to look like football diagrams so it’s good if I have page numbers to refer to. Then there’s my favorite part—scissoring, deciding where everything should go, and gluing. Finally, to preserve my notebook design from coffee rings and cat slobber, I use clear adhesive tape that’s an inch and a half thick to tape over my glued-down cutouts. Shiny!

Another thing I’ve started doing since the iPod revolution began is to create a playlist of all the songs that remind me of my character or the story that I want to tell. One of my first choices for my character Maggie was CSS’s “City Grrrl.” I’m always humming this now.

I can’t listen to music while I’m doing the direct writing, but when I’m typing it up later or doing some light revising, I like to listen to the playlist. It’s a work in progress, and I’m constantly adding songs or deleting them while the novel progresses. Also, sometimes when I write myself into a corner or I’m psyching myself up to write a big scene, I’ll take a long walk around Prospect Park and listen to the playlist, trying to think through something.

So now I have my notebook, and interesting things are starting to creep in. Like this jotted on one side, and I have no idea now what it was about: “I will kill on Monday! Kill!”