Haunted Holidays is Coming

Saturday, November 18, starting at 6pm, writers from Houston Writers Guild and Women in the Visual and Literary Arts will be at Brazos Bookstore for the annual Haunted Holidays Short Story Reading. This event began as the brainchild of the amazing ELLEN SEATON.

This year’s flyer, which you can enjoy here, was designed by Melody Locke. Her hauntingly beautiful artwork has given the event a whole new look. The partnership with Brazos Bookstore was originally for Haunted Winter Stories but last year the event was expanded to include any holiday tale with a haunted twist.

If you are a writer and would like to read a story that evening, there are still some spots available. You can register on the information page on the WIVLA website: https://www.wivla.org/calendar-from-mw#!event/2023/11/18/haunted-holiday-readings

The truth is that this year I will be reading a slightly revised version of the first story I ever read aloud for this event. Last year, I made up a whole new holiday for Thyrein’s Galactic Wall because… well I do love world building. But with my new full time job and my second novel waiting for me to finalize the edits from my editors I just didn’t have the time to do a fresh tale.

Original artwork from previous years.

The first year I participated in this event, it was held via zoom because we were mid-pandemic. So it will be nice to see how this winter witchy tale does to a live in person audience. Since I first read it, the characters have, as they often do, taken on a new life of their own. There’s a backstory now of the lady that leaves the cottage to the protagonist of the tale I will read next Saturday at Brazos Bookstore. I am certain that if I’m not careful this could become a whole new series of novellas. Not that I could keep them from blossoming if I sat down in earnest and wrote on it. They might well end up epic novels.

Just because I won’t write again until after the coming Thanksgiving break.

But, I must keep them where they are now — short tales. I have to get the two connected series I already have books published on out before I go off into yet another story line.

Last Halloween Blog Of 2022

It’s a little sad. This will be the last Halloween Blog for 2022. It also saddens me that some of you still do not know how to decorate for the season. Below you will find some sample of the kind of decorations that should be displayed in October:

As you can see in this following picture, even Starbucks knows how to celebrate the season. This picture was taken on October 27th and there weren’t any patches of red or green, no Christmas holiday cups, and no Cranberry Bliss bars. I have discovered new respect for my overpriced coffee. I will go back sometime before Monday.

I will note that I did vote for my favorite decorated pumpkin. I won’t tell you which one I voted for. We will just have to wait and see.

Now for the real scary abomination that I saw this year. This picture was taken on September 22nd. Yes, you read that correctly. September 22nd. That was before the start of the 31 days of Halloween that most of us observe. I like to celebrate October by watching all of my favorite Halloween movies on television. Why else would I subscribe to Disney Plus except to see Hocus Pocus 2? Now the Hallmark Channel has started airing Christmas movies 24 hours a day. How rude!!!!!

I also noticed one other sad state of affairs when I went to at least 5 local stores looking for some Thanksgiving decorations. I did not want a pumpkin and I did not need any fake fall leaves to scatter around. I need turkeys! No, not the kind you cook in the oven. I have been looking for silly hats and other turkey accoutrement, because the skeletons want to dress up after Halloween and commemorate the fowl holiday. They always enjoy dressing up for all holidays, but this is the first year they have asked about Thanksgiving. Finally I found a few items on Amazon. DO NOT JUDGE ME! I shopped locally first, but could find very little in the way of the November feast day. Amazon was my last resort. Anyway, you have to admit these skeleton turkeys are awfully cute. Next week, I should have received the Turkey Hats and will let the skeletons model them for you.

Except for overeating, parades and football it seems as though Thanksgiving has less and less importance in our fall holiday schedule. What will all of the live turkeys do who want to receive a place of honor in the middle of the dining room table? How will we burn down houses if we don’t deep fry the turkeys? So many questions and so few answers.

Until next time.….……Happy Halloween!

OCTOBER IS HERE!!! OCTOBER IS HERE!!!

October is here and I couldn’t be happier! Both I and several of my neighbors are in the midst of pulling out our Halloween decorations for all the world to see! Grim Reapers, hard of hearing Skeletons, Ghosts, Goblins, Witches and all variation of spooky creatures are popping up everywhere. Have you and your neighbors started with this annual tradition? Scary and spooky movies are beginning to pop up everywhere as well. The weather is beautiful. Why not go outside and try to scare somebody?

Of course, if you’re like me, you’ve had decorations up all year round. I just add a little bit more every year and tweak a few things. However, witches and skeletons remain my favorites. It is always fun to see how many ways I can include Halloween decorations in all aspects of my home decor. Then when September 1st comes around, I slowly begin to move things outside. Slowly at first. Nothing too showy. Until Now!!! Once October 1st shows up, then all bets are off.

Here are a few of my friends just sitting outside enjoying the beautiful (for Houston) Fall weather. As long as the days are sunny and the temperatures stay below 95 degrees, I decree that Autumn has arrived. Up until now these skeletal folk have remained pretty quiet. That’s all going to change this weekend. I have lights and I have sound effects and I intend to use them! It used to be that I never saw Halloween decorations in the stores until September. This year I found really cool stuff out early — which is fine as far as Halloween is concerned. For years people have chided me for decorating too early or too much. My dreams have come true. I am now the crazy old cat lady with just a few too many skeletons and I don’t care. Enjoy!

It gives me hope to see my neighbors enjoying this Holiday as much as I do. I personally always think about Halloween as that time when we can look at scary things and enjoy them. Maybe have a good laugh. Share the joy with friends. Some might say that there is so much to be scared about this year, that we have to have Halloween so our own ghosts and goblins can scare away the frightening events that we can’t control. Enjoy the season! My biggest regret this year is that I don’t subscribe to the Disney channel. I am working on ways to see the movie Hocus Pocus III might have to come up with a spell in order to get it on my television. Or will I break down and subscribe to the Disney Channel? What would you do?

Have lots of spooky fun! Halloween is here and I plan on enjoying every second of it!

Until next time.….

Happy Halloween! Are You Scared? I’m Chillin’

It’s here! It’s finally here! Tomorrow is Halloween! Yes, I have been preparing for this day ever since November 1, 2019. I am currently sitting in my home listening to Halloween music and looking at my Halloween decorations. I found this little kitty in downtown Houston in a place called Market Square. Have you ever been there? If you haven’t, you should make plans to go. Even if you are one of those who still doesn’t want to go to restaurants or bars (like me) you can still view some of the spookiest spots in town.

If you wonder why this section of Houston is so haunted, it’s probably because it is one of the oldest parts of town. This particular building is called La Carafe. It is known as one of the most haunted spots in Texas. Over the years it has been any number of businesses, but now it is a famous local bar. It’s trying to reopen in light of Covid. It’s been a long time since I was in there, but it is a very friendly place. Even the ghosts that hang out there are supposed to be very friendly residents. Actually all of the ghosts that call Market Square home are supposed to be some of the friendliest critters around.

Then there is the Magnolia Ballroom. This one building used to be a compound of about 10 buildings that made up the Magnolia Brewery. Then during prohibition, they made ice. Now it is one spot on the second floor of a building where folks can rent space for parties, weddings, and such. Reportedly there are ghosts who like to dance around the ceiling of the large ballroom.

Market Square is not only the spookiest part of Houston, but it is also one of the oldest spots. It sits right next to Allen’s Landing. Houston was founded by the Allen Brothers and here where two bayous meet was the original port of Houston. The original Houston City Hall was located in Market Square.…all three of them. Each of them burned down before it was decided to find a new location.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s there were a few shops that sold merchandise for the growing group of hippies in Houston. Reportedly, one store sold cook books that instructed you how to make LSD in your kitchen. I’ve never found or talked to anyone who actually tried to do that. I hope whoever did is okay and survived to see the 1980s.

So those are my tales for this Halloween 2020. Isn’t this much more fun than listening to hours of news reports about the once again growing pandemic or the upcoming election. I think after I post this blog, I will turn off all screens and just relax and enjoy the ghosts and goblins. I only converse and make room for the friendly spirits just like Market Square. I will be wearing my lucky skeleton bracelet that I wear every year at this time. It must be lucky, because I have never faced any mean or ornery spirits while wearing it. I wouldn’t dare go out on Halloween without putting it on my wrist!

Enjoy your weekend and holiday! Stay safe!

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Witch Holiday or Which Holiday?

Seriously? Really? I tried to warn everyone. I both begged and cajoled. I specifically said Do Not Do It! Did anyone listen? I don’t think that I am the only one who cares, but yet here we are. This picture was taken last week when I was out running errands. A big old red Christmas bow on the top of a building. Two or three weeks before Halloween! Before Halloween!!!

In the immortal words of Gomez Addams (Addams Family Values, 1993), “Has the world gone mad? I seek justice.….Denied!”

Also, you can see the tree limbs in this picture. Many of the leaves are still green. Some have just begun to turn brown. Here in Houston, we have barely begun with fall weather. Today, as I write this, it is a brisk and chilly 79 degrees outside. A cold front (or what passes here for a cold front) is due towards the end of the week. The temperature might drop into the low 50’s.…..maybe once. Check out this weather map:

Please note that this “cold front” brought snow to my friends in Colorado. Here in Houston we still don’t have any plans for putting the snow tires on our cars.

Also, please turn you attention to that big red thing in the lower right part of the picture. There is yet again a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Let me repeat that. There is another hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Zeta. Hurricane Zeta. For the umpteenth time this year, everyone in Houston is blowing real hard to make the storm go into Louisiana. It’s nothing personal to any of the nice folks in Louisiana. But it’s been a busy and disturbing year and we just don’t have time for the nonsense this year.

Well, because 2020 is such an unusual year, I conferred with my friend and we have come to a decision. If you really must start your Christmas shopping early.……Before Halloween.….we will allow it on one condition. You are allowed to shop either in person or online if you frequent locally owned businesses. No box stores and for sure no national department stores. Period. That is our last and final offer. I don’t want to say anything bad will happen to you if you purchase all of your holiday gifts from some corporate giant of the retail industry. But if you look closely at my friend, you might be able to figure out that this is one critter you don’t want to upset.

If that doesn’t do the trick for you, please note that my friend has many other friends in the neighborhood. I don’t know the humans who live with these skeletons, but I believe they are members of my soul tribe. Don’t you agree? Before this year, I had never seen a mermaid skeleton. I can only imagine the sea voyage where these two met. I can’t get either one of them to tell me their tales.….not even the “fishy tales”! Get it? Fish tales! Yes, I amuse myself. How else am I supposed to survive a global pandemic, murder hornets and Christmas shoppers in the middle of October?

I remember back when I was a young child (why yes, that was a long time ago. I am old. I believe we used feather quills for pens if I remember correctly). We weren’t allowed to even think about Christmas or any other winter holidays until Thanksgiving was over. That meant that after we drew ghosts and pumpkins in school art classes, then we had to draw those ridiculous turkey pictures by outlining our hands. Egad! Childhood was so weird back then. It took a lot of patience to be young that long ago.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: October!!!

Guess what day it is? Are you enjoying it as much as I am? I hope so, but I’m not convinced. It’s the first day of October!!! If you don’t know the answer to my first question, please refer to the picture of my assistant helping me with this blog for a clue. It’s the first day of Halloween Month!!! What? You don’t celebrate Halloween all month long? I’ve been celebrating and decorating since Labor Day. Technically, there are some Halloween decorations that I leave up all year, but I really start decorating the day after Labor Day. No! You cannot judge me! If the Hallmark channel can start showing Christmas movies before Halloween, then I can start Halloween festivities after Labor Day.

October is also exciting, because we are drawing to a close on the 2020 Hurricane Season. Oh, sure there are two more storms headed to the Gulf of Mexico, but I have decreed that those storms will not bother me in any way. We have had our first cool front that really made it all the way through Houston. Temperatures are cooler. I am walking full force again around the neighborhood, at the Arboretum, at Hermann Park among other places.

The walks have been great, but there are already a few signs that things are getting spooky out there. I am beginning to see proof of ghosts and goblins afoot. Take this little Teddy Bear for example. Most Teddy Bears are cute and cuddly. Yet, this one looks a little angry and quite wet. Did this bear jump out of whatever car or stroller as it moved down the street? Does it intend to haunt the neighborhood? Or is it just angry, because no one bothered to pick him up after he hit the ground. As you can see it was able to walk safely to the side of the road where it could plan its next actions.

Then there is this little guy. In case you can’t read the sign in front of the fence, his name is Riblet. Yes, a Texas Longhorn named Riblet. We are being told that we cannot enter the corral, because Riblet is shy. Hmmmm… If my name was Riblet, I would not be shy, but I wouldn’t want any humans coming close to me. The name sounds like someone has plans for turning this little guy into dinner and that does not sound like fun for any critters in the Longhorn clan. I think Riblet should try to hurt anyone who gets too close with those mighty horns. I hope Riblet joins the Teddy Bear in haunting and Trick or Treating the neighborhood.

As the month progresses, I will do my best to keep us with all of the spooky goings on around here. I still have more decorations to put up and scary movies to watch.

Until next time.….

Pandemic Road: Week Five

By Jove! I think I’ve got it! Covid Choreography!

Will someone please contact the Houston Ballet? By the time the dancers return to the stage in the fall, some brilliant choreographer will surely come up with a dance about Covid-19.

I realized this the other day when I was walking around my neighborhood. Walking is something I have been doing a lot of lately. It is my major form of exercise now. I can walk alone or I can walk six feet apart from my nearest and dearest friends. Although, I notice that even while walking, I am not getting away from the global pandemic. Before Covid-19 I never would have noticed this protective mask sitting on the grass. But now I noticed that it was not an N95 mask. It was used; I did not dare pick it up. I left it on the grass.

But, I noticed something else while walking. Many of my neighbors are also walking. We smile and nod. Good morning wishes are exchanged. During the pleasantries, we dance! One moves to the right and the other to the left. One stays on the sidewalk while the other moves over to walk on the street. “Social distdancing.” It’s our new dance.,

I am reminded of the movie Rocky Horror Picture Show when they perform The Time Warp dance. Again, I may be showing my age, but

.….It’s just a jump to the left

And then a step to the right

With your hands on your hips

You bring your knees in tight.….……

That’s a bit of the song from the movie. With so many out walking by themselves, with children, with baby strollers, and with spouses, the possibilities for dance moves are endless!

Then there are the long lines for groceries. The really nice stores have put up awnings so customers can stand protected from the sun and rain. Wouldn’t this be a great place for a line dance. Only instead of standing shoulder to shoulder on the dance floor, we could stand six feet apart in only two rows. I am envisioning the line dance for Achy Breaky Heart. Or maybe you would prefer a Harlem Shuffle?  Maybe the Macarena? Crowd consensus should set the tone and genre for the dance.

Of course once you get inside the store, you are once again dancing with others. Maybe you want to go after your toilet paper and cleaning supplies while moving Gangnam Style.  Then while standing in line to check out and being careful to maintain the six foot safety distance, enjoy dancing The Twist!

At home, you can free style your dance while you clean your groceries, wipe down the kitchen counters and apply hand sanitizer for the gazillionth time that day. Hannah, my cat, does not care how I dance as long as I stock up on her cat food. We all have our priorities in life.

I do try to keep a daily balance during this time of global pandemic. When not walking, I have been reading a good deal. Since I am a lover of all things Halloween, I celebrated Quarantine-O-Ween the other day. Ah, yes. We must all make concessions to these pandemic times.

What have you been doing to entertain yourself during this time of Covid-19?

Until next week.….

Women Artists On The Road Together!

On Wednesday of this week, I finished an 8‑week collage course at the Art League Houston. It was taught, lead and inspired by Sasha Dela. Here is my final 3‑D art piece which of course shows Halloween art, because I love Halloween! As much as I love it, it pales in comparison to the works of my classmates. We were a class full of women all interested in expanding our artistic knowledge and experience. They were all wonderful and I learned so much from every one of them. So, in honor to my wonderful classmates and artists, here is the work they showed on the last day of class. All of the pictures were taken by me. They were sometimes taken at weird angles during our class critique. Please forgive my photography and I hope you enjoy the art as much as I have.

What a great group of artists! What a great group of women! I was so fortunate to spend my summer with them.

Until next week.….

Tintype Field Trip

Remember when you were a kid in school and went on field trips? Weren’t they exciting? As an adult I have perfected the art of the field trip.

Enter Laura Burlton and Houston Tintype Studio.

Who is Laura Burlton? A very talented photographer here in the Houston area. She does all of your basic types of photography. However she also has developed crazy mad skills when it comes to Tintype Photography.

What you may ask is Tintype Photography? Think about all of the photos that were taken during the mid to late 1800’s. (Yes, including the Civil War.) A Google search told me that the photograph is made by “…creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated.….dark lacquer or enamel.….photographic emulsion.….”. Better yet, here are some examples of work by Laura Burlton.

For those of us who are not technologically inclined, this is a fun way to have your picture taken.

These are not your run-of-the-mill digital photos. These are not selfies. The pictures are taken one at a time. With a camera. Not taken with a phone. There is skill and artistry involved in these pictures. To have my picture taken, I sat on a stool in front of the camera. I posed. Laura Burlton put a metal plate into the camera. There was a bright flash of light and a mild puff of warm air. Then Laura took the plate into her darkroom and re-emerged with one photo.

The trickiest part of this whole process had nothing to do with the artist or the photography process. It had do to with me. For many years I have hated to have my picture taken. I have never liked any picture ever taken of me. Yet, I have recently undergone gastric sleeve surgery and have lost a bunch of weight. What the heck do I look like? Other people see a difference, but I don’t always feel any different. Pictures are good for comparisons.

Here is my favorite picture. Why yes, I am wearing a Bowler hat. Why? Does anyone need to give a serious answer when wearing a Bowler hat? Obviously, I am still exploring this surrealistic phase of life that I have entered. It’s fun. I really don’t understand why more people don’t wear Bowler hats. I’m pretty sure it would help lead to world peace if more people would just wear Bowler hats. What do you think?

I like the fact that these are black and white photos. Black and white photos are developed in a dark room. This involves time and patience. A dramatic play between light and dark and shadows that cannot be found in color digital pictures.

Here is another fun picture from the Tuesday field trip. I think this one makes me look mysterious. This is the one I should bring out at Halloween and use to scare small children. Boo! I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would mess with this woman. Yes, I am still wearing the Bowler hat; however, I could throw this hat at you and it just might hurt you. Who knows? As always, I am really looking forward to Halloween. Here in Houston my favorite holiday is just one hurricane season away.

Many thanks to Laura Burlton and Houston Tintype Studio for allowing me to have such a fun time Tuesday morning. Here is Laura talking to me from her dark room. This was towards the end of our session when all of the magic of the darkroom was finished. I can highly recommend this experience and will definitely go back myself for more fun and frolic.

Until next week.….

The Road From Spring Into Summer

I don’t care what the calendar says. I know what I know.

This is the last week for Spring weather here in Houston. Except for a few monsoon floods, we’ve had a pretty good run. In between rain storms, there were many days where morning temperatures were in the upper 60’s with low humidity. I walked. I opened windows and enjoyed fresh air.

Yet, the weather forecasters are all telling us that by next week the temperatures will rise and it will definitely feel like summer.

So during these last few days of not only tolerable, but lovely weather, I decided to visit some of my favorite strolling spots. I wound up going back to the Rienzi with some of my writing friends. We received a brief tour inside the house from Ms. Ryan Hernandez. I have to admit this was my second tour of the house and it was just as fascinating, if not more so, than the first time.

After our indoor stroll, we were free to roam around the grounds. Some of us stayed inside to write and others of us went outside to be inspired by the nature that fills the lovely grounds.

Carroll and Harris Masterson lived in this house during the post World War II years through the 1960s and beyond into the 1990s. These two were major philanthropists helping the growing city of Houston develop both culturally and with a social conscience.

Carroll Masterson served on many boards for the fine arts including the Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera among others. She also supported charities that supported both the elderly and also women and children.

Learning about this family reminded me of the research I conducted a few years ago on local poor farms and pauper cemeteries. There were many charitable organizations that were supported by local society matrons. Now that I am retired from the rigors of Social Services and local government, I now spend a lot of time at the arts organizations that the Masterson family helped to create. No wonder I felt so comfortable walking around the Rienzi House and Gardens.

There is one last field trip this weekend when I will go to the Houston Symphony to hear Blue Beard’s Castle. Then I will retreat underground and inside with lots of air conditioning. I will even switch from walking outside to enjoying water aerobics at an indoor pool. Even when I do venture out to attend the Summer Chills play at the Alley Theatre, I can get there through a parking garage and a downtown tunnel.

Not to worry. I will continue some road trips and all blogging activities before re-emerging into polite society sometime in the fall. This will be just in time for Halloween! Since my favorite holiday is just a mere 168 days away, the days will fly by quickly.

Until next week.….