We traditionally kick off the New Year by listening to Blues music (post-holiday blues) while we take down our Christmas tree and decorations. I found the perfect song for it this year, too: Going Down by Freddie King.
As always, we competed to find the Christmas Pickle*.
*Legend has it that the Christmas Pickle tradition comes from Germany. A pickle was hung in the Christmas tree and the observant child that found it received an extra gift from Santa and a year of good fortune. Apparently that’s bogus, but that doesn’t stop my wife and I from our yearly contest.
I am ‘The Observant Child’ of 2021!
I also combined my two holiday loves, Eggnog Lattes and Boozy Eggnog, for a homemade boozy eggnog latte. It was magnificent, and I am desperately searching for more eggnog as all the stores flip their stocks over to…I dunno, 4th of July stuff?
What I’m watching
I really enjoyed ‘Sweet Home’ and ‘Alice in Borderland’ on Netflix, but felt that they both went off the rails towards the end. They’re based on manga, which probably explains the difficulty in adaptation.
We’ve also started watching ‘Search Party’, and we’re hooked.
What I’m playing
I ran a holiday themed one-shot for my virtual roleplaying group and wrapped up the first story arc for our game. Tonight I’m kicking off the next leg of the journey, and as always I’ve included some riddles and puzzles.
Here’s one of each for you (answers are at the end of the post):
Where can you find roads without cars, forests without trees and cities without houses?
Which Letter Do You Miss? BCDGPTV
What I’m working on
Speaking of superhero stuff, I’ve begun outlining a new novel. The ‘high concept’ central to the story prevents it from coinciding with the story universe established in ‘From the Barrel of a Gun’ and ‘Criterion’, but it promises to be just as dark. Fans of my horror work should enjoy it.
I’m in talks with a publisher about a game project that I can’t wait to dive into, and I am nearly done writing for a VR Horror project that should wrap up soon.
The next collection that I have planned will gather my stories set in the Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.
I am looking forward to being a guest on some of my favorite podcasts soon – I’ll post links when those are up.
Reviews continue to roll in as the Christmas Spirit draws nigh. I especially enjoyed this article at HorrorFuel.com.
Every year we put out our Christmas Specials, and even though they were virtual this year it was a great boost to my holiday spirits.
Part One of The Six Demon Bag 2020 Christmas Special is up (Part Two drops next week), and we’ve also posted a winter themed episode of Put Up Your Spooks. Click on the pictures to listen!
My family checked out the Holiday Road immersive drive-thru light show in Calabasas.
Fun Fact #1: Calabasas, site of the ‘Biggest Loser Ranch’ near Malibu, Ca, was the original location of the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride. I was lucky enough to be there both years before they moved to Griffith Park.
Fun Fact #2: ‘Calabasas’ is from the Spanish calabaza for ‘pumpkin’. Legend has it that in 1824, a Basque rancher spilled a wagonload of pumpkins on the road en route to Los Angeles. The following spring, hundreds of pumpkins sprouted alongside the road. The area was named Las Calabasas—the place where the pumpkins fell.
The event was delightful, but I couldn’t help but compare it to the Halloween events from this year and long ago. What winter wonderland wouldn’t be improved with a horde of zombie elves?
We bailed halfway through Netflix’s Jingle Jangle but enjoyed Hulu’s Happiest Season, and have plowed through the holiday episodes of The Great British Bake Off. There is homemade cookie dough in the freezer that we are saving for Christmas Eve.
Speaking of homemade, I ran a special homebrew one-shot RPG for my friends full of zombies, chest-bursting elves, Christmas themed puzzles and a Big Bad from a very obscure holiday horror movie (1983’s Blood Beat).
Podcasts & Interviews I have had some great reviews and conversations about the Christmas book, and I’d love you to check out, follow, and subscribe to these fine folks…
Hot Off the Presses
My story ‘Candy Cane’ also appears in A KRAMPUS CAROL: Gothic Blue Book IV from Burial Day Books. This collection is packed full of creepy yuletide tales by amazing authors with a gorgeous cover by Abigail Larson.
I’ve managed to stay somewhat sane during quarantine by working on a variety of projects which I can’t wait to share with you.
There may be some changes to my household in the near future, we’ll see what 2021 has in store.
This is the year that I started making Egg Nog Lattes at home.
Yesterday, I ordered one at Starbucks and I received a terrible shock – they’re going to permanently discontinue Egg Nog Latte’s nationwide!
Of course, I’ll manage as long as my own Nog rations last (Note to self: throw out earthquake supplies to make room for emergency egg nog storage), but if Starbucks doesn’t give us something comparable, like Figgy Pudding Lattes, there will be trouble.
October is the perfect season for horror marathons.
The two are almost synonymous. Not even Christmas, that twinkling 800-pound gorilla, can boast such round-the-clock programming. Of course, wintertime itself is a constant reminder of the year-end holidays, and there is truly no escaping all of the Christmas music, commercials, office parties, decorations, rampaging Krampi, etc.
Horror marathons are important because they set a mood, or what I like to call ‘Halloween Spirit’. Even if you can’t enjoy cascades of brilliant leaves and cozy hayrides, you can always open a portal to the moon-kissed realms on your television.
Here are 13 TV mini-series or single seasons for you to freshen up this year’s marathon.
Ultraviolet – BBC
This stylish techno-thriller is only six episodes long. It stars Idris Elba (!), with an appearance by Stephen Moyer as a vampire (!)
Hemlock Grove – Season 1
The first season of this show has werewolves, vampires, monsters, and mad-science. The cast is great (Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgard, Dougray Scott, Lili Taylor) and so is their chemistry. And it’s DARK.
This sleeper hit from the late 80’s was the most elusive thrill of my childhood. Every rare once in a while I’d manage to catch an episode and watch transfixed as colossal werewolves battled for dominance.
This low-key BBC series is about a werewolf, a ghost and a vampire who share a flat. The show runs for several seasons and was adapted in America, but Season One is a strong mix of character and horror.
This Israeli production is a horror-comedy about a small time criminal who returns from a trip in Romania with new problems, powers and a terrible thirst. It’s suffers from a lower budget but makes up for it with mad-cap performances.
The Frankenstein Chronicles
Also from BBC, this mystery set in the grimdark Victorian era follows Sean Bean(!) as he tracks down the one responsible for a rash of mutilated bodies. Season One is phenomenal – fortunately it is a complete story, so you can avoid Season Two.
This vampire thriller only lasted one season on Fox, but the relationship between leads Mark-Paul Gosselaar and child actress Saniyya Sidney was fantastic. The secret power struggle with the psychic vampire master Jamie McShane is also great – the entire cast kills it in this one. Don’t worry about the show being cancelled – it wraps up at the end.
This NBC adaptation starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers is bonkers in a wonderful way. It functions almost like a prequel to the story we know, re-mixing and re-contextualizing the relationships and motivations between all the classic characters.
The last vampire show on this list is a 90’s gem about a vampire cop. One of the vampires from Forever Knight even made a blink-and-you’ll-miss it cameo on Buffy.
The first season of this show was more brutal, clever and fun than I expected it to be. If you like the ‘Scream’ franchise, you’ll like season one of Slasher.
I’d also recommend MTV’s first season of Scream! A worthy addition to the franchise.
The animated adaptation of Death Note floored me, even though I’d already read the manga. This twisty supernatural saga about dueling geniuses and death gods has a global body count.
MTV made a COPS style mockumentary show about an LAPD task force that handled the werewolves, vampires and zombies in the San Fernando Valley. Bizarre, gory, silly, fun.
A twisted faerie finds a lost child, a teenage werewolf sneaks out during a full moon, and a legion of monsters begins the downfall of man. Explore Halloween from Appalachia to the Arctic Circle and journey from the Old West to Mars.
This spooktacular goody bag harvests all the joys and terrors of the best night of the year. If you love air crisp as cider and scented with burning leaves, if you greet the darkness with a jack o’lantern grin, and if you yearn for the veil between worlds to grow thin, then you bleed orange & black.
Anyone who’s ever seen a spooky scary skeleton rattle its bones or turn a friend into a xylophone knows that they are a jazzy bunch. After 10 years I’m thrilled to get some Jazz into the mix, but it’s not all dooting horns and startling shrilly screams – you’ll find many genres in this bone-nanza.
Here are 13 spine-tingling tracks to get your guests shaking their hip bones.
The Skeleton in the Closet – Louis Armstrong
Who better to strike up the band than Satchmo?
Rattlin’ Bones – The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
I heard these guys play while packed like a crawdad in a po’boy between the sweltering ramshackle walls of Preservation Hall in New Orleans.
Spooky, Scary Skeletons – Andrew Gold
The foundation stone of the Triple S tradition.
Skeleton Fight – Mack Allen Smith
Things escalate quickly in this odd-ball 60’s jam.
Graveyard Boogie – King Flamingo
You take your chances when you bring a date to the cemetery.
Nobody Likes You (When You’re Dead) – Zombina & The Skeletones
Don’t cremate, appreciate.
I’ve Got A Bone – Dan Bull
Apparently this is a Minecraft thing, I’m probably the last one to hear it, but I’m glad I did. I love the manic energy, brilliant word play, hilarious performance, driving synth and pitch-perfect theremin.
Do the Skeleton Scat! – The Wiggles
Do the Wiggles always kick this much ass? I think I’m a Wiggles fan now.
Cumbia de los Muertos – Ozomotli
If I get a chance to show some love for LA’s hometown heroes ‘Ozomotli’ I’m taking it.
Dead Man’s Bones – Dead Man’s Bones
Did you know that Ryan Gosling had a band? Did you know they’re spooky as hell?
Graveyard’s Full – The Growlers
This band’s sound is called ‘Beach Goth’. I don’t know if that’s an oxymoron, but I like it.
‘Taint No Sin – Lee Morse
This song may seem corny, but it gives me ‘Hellraiser’ flashbacks.
Skeleton Sam – LVCRFT
And finally, a little more saxo-bone and scare-emin to close this year’s list.
Click here to get my book ‘We Bleed Orange & Black: 31 Fun-sized Tales for Halloween’, including my Top Ten Tips for Becoming a Spooky Scary Skeleton.
There’s a great review of We Bleed Orange & Black over at All Hallows Geek and my in-depth interview just popped up on The Big Seance podcast. I wanted to post those links here before the swirling newsfeeds and social media moved on.
“the perfect collection of short stories for Halloween in quarantine.”
All Hallows Geek has become a vital source of news for me amid the constant changes and upheavals with this year’s Halloween. I highly recommend you sign up to stay updated (and enjoy reviews and long form entertainment like the live streaming concert and behind the music with Sean Keller!)
I had an absolute blast talking with Patrick on The Big Seance podcast. He’s working hard to present a bonanza of Halloween entertainment this year and is always keeping it spooky with paranormal investigations and ghostly topics. Listen to find out what happens when fudge meets salad!
I’ll have a few more interviews and reviews to share in the coming weeks, but these two were definitely highlights!