Lisa's May 2017 Newsletter (#5)
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In this issue:

Hi Gang!

Holy crap, Groan. Argghh. Zowie. It's why this newsletter is a few days late.

Yes, it was all of the above. I think it was great, but I've never worked as hard on a convention as I did on this one, and it was really too much. I got to hang with a few friends both old and new, and I undertook a five-hour paranormal investigation into the spirits said to haunt the Queen Mary, but I also woke up the day after with aching.swollen feet (the QM has only two rattling old elevators, so I did lots of rushing up and down stairs) and overall exhaustion.

It's over now, though, and the reception was astonishing. When writers at all levels of their careers start telling me how much they got out of the convention, that's the ultimate payback.

So it's back to the writing for me (and you can help me out with that by entering this month's giveaway - see details below)! And hopefully that will shortly lead to news I can share with all of you.

Thanks as always for hanging with me.

Still Life
In which I rhapsodize about favorite movie photos from my collection
So far I haven't covered a movie here made prior to the '50s, so it's time for a real classic. And what better film to designate as one of the horror genre's authentic classics than Bride of Frankenstein

When I was a kid, I watched the Universal horror movies over and over. They were first syndicated in 1957 (yes, that predates me!) as "Shock Theater", a package that included 52 of Universal's classics. These films - which included the Dracula, Frankenstein, Mummy, Invisible Man, and Wolf Man movies - were shown during summers every day at 3 p.m. I was out of school and glued to my television every afternoon. It didn't matter if how many times I'd seen these movies - I'd happily watch them over and over (and then peruse my copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland for stills and information). 

Although the Creature From the Black Lagoon was my favorite monster, James Whale's 1935 Bride of Frankenstein was my favorite movie. I loved its scares, its humor, its images...everything about it. Decades before I understood anything about camp and/or Whale's homosexuality, I delighted in Ernest Thesiger's outrageous performance as Doctor Pretorius, the mad scientist and mentor who has created a whole menagerie of homunculi, tiny people who perform curious little routines in glass jars. Of course the justifiably famous ending - in which the Bride rejects her monstrous mate with a bird-like screech - chilled and enthralled me. As a little girl who loved monsters, I wanted more movies with the Bride. I didn't get that, but at least I had this one.

Sometime in the '90s, a friend with an extraordinary collection of movie memorabilia gifted me with a collection of stills from the Universal horror films. I truthfully don't know if these stills are reproductions or originals from a re-release (I do know they're not from the 1950s Realart re-releases, since those were identified as such). Whatever...I still pull these out from time to time and just enjoy the glorious pictures and memories all over again.
The Halloween Spirit
Tips for keeping it going all year 'round
Halloween is big business. And big business always means trade shows and conventions.

Fortunately, trade shows and conventions dedicated to Halloween are as much anarchic, spooky fun as the holiday itself. Sure, there are vendors and panels and lots of the same stuff you find at other shows, but the best Halloween gatherings now also include mini-haunts, workshops on crafting your own haunts, Halloween art displays, and much more.

I've never been to Transworld, which is the world's biggest Halloween trade show (every year I swear I'm going to go, but somehow I just never find the time). Transworld is THE place for professional haunted attractions to check out new products and order up before the Halloween season hits. This show has now spun off into a number of smaller shows held throughout the year, including a separate conference dedicated entirely to room escape attractions.

However, if you can't get to Transworld or one of their other shows, there are other events to eyeball as well. Here in Southern California, we now have two Halloween conventions, both of which take place in summer and feature vendors (many of whom sell incredible original art). ScareLA happens in Los Angeles August 5 and 6. Midsummer Scream takes place in Long Beach one weekend earlier, July 29 and 30. Last year, during Midsummer Scream's inaugural event, I gave a presentation on Halloween history with fellow expert David J. Skal (to a packed house!), so these events aren't limited to costumed revelers jumping out to scream, "BOO!" 

Although there's plenty of that, too, for those of you who love the playful scare!
Midsummer Scream
Strange Fruit
The weirdest thing I've recently uncovered in my research
A few years ago, I read a story about a spider expert. The story, which appeared in The New Yorker, was about a woman named Greta Binford who happened to be one of the world's leading experts on venomous spiders. The story followed Binford as she hunted Loxosceles laeta, a South American cousin of the brown recluse, in the basement of a thrift store in downtown Los Angeles. The story absolutely captivated me, and Binford - at one time a born-again housewife - was a compelling and courageous character.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with spiders. As a kid, they really creeped me out. My family lived for a while in San Diego, at the edge of a new housing development nestled into the hills at the far eastern edge of the city, and we used to find tarantulas in the backyard and scorpions in the kitchen. As I grew older, I lost my fear of arachnids, though, and began to find them fascinating. Still, the notion of this woman going around in a dank, dark basement capturing deadly spiders in glass vials so she could study them in her laboratory was just one of the freakiest things I'd read in a long time.

A fictionalized version of Greta Binford became the protagonist of my story "Silk City", which originally appeared in the 2009 anthology The Bleeding Edge. The South American spiders had originally come to Los Angeles with a troupe of Brazilian actors, hiding in their costume trunks. I saw a way to use the spiders' migration to play on how some Americans fear human immigration, and "Silk City" was born.

"Silk City" will soon be reprinted in a major anthology (more details to come), and so I thought it worth revisiting Greta Binford. She's now a highly-regarded teacher who uses her knowledge of spider venom to engage her students in the study of evolution. In 2011 she was named Oregon Professor of the Year. She is an admirable woman who doesn't deserve what I do to her fictitious stand-in in "Silk City".
Read more about Greta Binford
My current works-in-progress
My story "The Wash" will appear in The Beauty of Death 2: Death By Water, edited by Alessandro Manzetti. If you remember me talking about L.A.'s washes and the Los Angeles River in a previous newsletter, this is the story that research was conducted for.

I'm currently working on a short story that will be part of an anthology of Southern Gothic stories, all inspired by a single photo. I'm excited to be part of this book because the other contributors come from the mystery genre, so I'll be holding up the horror end! More on this one when I can reveal the title.

CD Select: Lisa Morton

Cemetery Dance is now offering my mini-collection in a signed and limited edition . The four stories included are "Joe and Abel in the Field of Rest", "Pound Rots in Fragrant Harbour", "Black Mill Cove", and the Bram Stoker Award-winning "Tested".
Reserve Your Copy NOW!
My acclaimed book Ghosts: A Haunted History will be available this September in an affordable trade paperback.
Hunt Ghosts!

Haunted Nights

This anthology of all-new Halloween (and Dia de los Muertos/Devil's Night/All Souls' Eve) fiction features sixteen stories by some of the genre's hottest authors. To be released on October 3rd, 2017. Stay tuned for announcements of signing events, launch parties, and giveaway celebrations!
Haunt Your Nights!
Dark Screams Vol. 6 includes my story "The Rich are Different". Just released!
Scream x 6!
Congratulations to Dianne Casey on winning last month's giveaway - her signed copy of Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times is now making its way to her (I'd like to say it's coming via broomstick, but USPS is the truth)!

For this month, we're going to try something a little different for the giveaway: I want to feature original fiction here from time to time, so you're going to help me write the newsletter's first all-new short story.

Here's how it'll work: send me a topic. Don't send me a complicated plot (keep that for your own work), just a broad topic or subject. Deadline is 5/25, which will give me one week to create a story around the topic I select. As an additional bonus, if I choose your topic I'll also make you a character somewhere in the story. Then, on June 1st, the newsletter will go out, and let's see what I've come up with!
Sorry - this contest has ended
  • Thursday, March 1st through March 4th, 2018 - StokerCon in Providence, Rhode Island!
Stay tuned for information on signing dates for Haunted Nights, the HWA Halloween-themed anthology I co-edited with Ellen Datlow!
Copyright © 2017 Lisa Morton All rights reserved.

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