Lisa's August 2017 Newsletter (#8)
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Hi Gang!

Well, it was an eventful July for me.

Some of you know that, for nearly three years now, I've been the live-in caregiver to an elderly parent (Mom). My mother suffers from a combination of ailments, none life-threatening...to her, that is. However, ask any live-in caregiver how much sleep they get or how much time they spend on their own health, and I'm betting you'll get a weary head-shake. My only writing time came after I got her into bed, usually around 10 or 11 p.m.; at that point I might have (on a good night) an hour to work before I could no longer hold my head up. I was getting by on 4 or 5 broken-up hours of sleep a night, which doesn't exactly aid in concentration.

On July 2nd, Mom suddenly became unable to respond to simple questions or commands. We got her to the hospital, and after a week in the regular hospital and three weeks in a skilled nursing facility, the diagnosis was pneumonia (contracted after a urinary tract infection failed to respond to antibiotics). Last week she was moved to a small board-and-care facility. The doctors all told me it would be a lengthy (if ever) recovery, and that she would require more care than we could give her at home. Given her continuing delirium/dementia and weakness, it's entirely possible that the board-and-care (which is gorgeous and staffed with fantastic caregivers) will be her permanent home.

Friends tell me not to feel guilty. What they don't understand is this: I'm far, far removed from guilty. We took care of her in the home longer than we should have, and now she's in the hands of 24-hour experienced and committed professionals. 

And I couldn't be more relieved, because I've gotten my life back. I no longer have to wonder how many hours of sleep I'll get before I hear my name called, or find her confusedly shuffling into my bedroom at 4 a.m.. I no longer have to worry about what I'll come back to if I dare to make a ten-minute trip to the store to get something (the elderly tend to panic if left alone). I don't have to endure endless bad television (if I never see another episode of NCIS or The Bachelor it'll be too soon). And, for the first time in three years, I think I might actually be able to write a novel again.*

First, I have to catch up with a lot of short fiction and article assignments I've taken on, and of course there's the work as the president of the Horror Writers Association that never ends...but writing something longer is not an impossible dream anymore.

I think the best in my writing career is yet to come, and I'm so thankful to have you with me on this journey. 

Lisa

*Yes, I know what the novel would be about. I even know what the title is. Maybe I'll share more details soon...but I'm not quite ready to spill yet. 
Still Life
In which I rhapsodize about favorite movie photos from my collection
The Avengers.

If you hear that and immediately think of a team of superheroes that includes a green hulk, a brainiac in an iron suit, and blond hunk with a hammer, well, that's not The Avengers I'm talkin' about.

Emma Peel. John Steed. Those are The Avengers  that live in my head.

Long before Diana Prince tossed soldiers around like toothpicks in Wonder Woman (and created a box office bonanza in the process) or Charlize Theron donned an Atomic Blonde wig to punch out some bad guys - even long before a certain teenager proved that girls could both graduate high school AND slay vampires - there was The Avengers.

In case you aren't well-versed in this version of The Avengers, here's the CliffsNotes: John Steed (Patrick Macnee) is a professional spy working for British intelligence. Emma Peel is a "talented amateur" (as the voice-over announced over the credits of the first Emma Peel season) who is also essentially perfect - ridiculously smart, fearless, artistic, beautiful, and - oh yeah, she can kick ass. 

When The Avengers hit the airwaves in the mid-1960s, there was no one else out there like Emma Peel. Over on Star Trek, Lt. Uhuru (Nichelle Nichols) was resolute and gorgeous, but seldom had more to do than act as a glorified switchboard operator. The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. had a capable actress in Stephanie Powers, but too often reduced her to comical ineptitude. In movie theaters, only one James Bond heroine - Goldfinger's Pussy Galore - was more than a strutting model there to serve the leading man, and guess what? Pussy was played by Honor Blackman, who'd been Diana Rigg's predecessor on The Avengers (playing the character Cathy Gale). (Rigg would later play possibly the best Bond girl ever, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.)

Although Blackman's Mrs. Gale was also capable and kicked ass, she was aloof and a bit snide. With Diana Rigg and Emma Peel, being perfect seemed fun and supremely stylish. She was her male partner's equal in every way, rescuing him as often as he rescued her. They had a true partnership, and in the process influenced millions of little girls.

Like me. 

The Avengers remains my favorite television series of all time, one which doesn't just hold up amazingly well fifty years later - it now seems ahead of our time. It wasn't only exciting, fun, and full of genuinely progressive notions; it was also supremely well shot, crammed with guest stars like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and even John Cleese, and the scripts were top-notch (thanks in large part to a genius named Brian Clemens).

If you've never seen an episode, do yourself a favor and check one out (almost any Emma Peel episode is excellent, although I personally prefer the color season, not her first black-and-white run). 

The still I've chosen, by the way, seems to have come directly from the BBC - there's a stamp on the back that reads "THE AVENGERS - DEATH'S DOOR - 1ST COLOUR SERIES."

Just watch the opening credits in the video I've linked below. Is that just the greatest or WHAT?
The most stylish opening credits of all time. Shut UP.
The Halloween Spirit
Tips for keeping it going all year 'round
Last month, I promised to tell you all about my pumpkin-growing.

Wellll...it's been a tough month in PumpkinLand. My poor little seeds barely had time to get situated in the soil before my area was hit with incredibly high temperatures - we spent weeks in the 100s and 90s. Next came a beetle infestation - these things didn't just go after the few pumpkins that sprouted, they ate right through the base of a four-foot-tall agave. Lastly, I discovered why two of my five mounds had zero sprouts when I glimpsed one of my cats (who accompany me outside when I water in the mornings) using those spots as an outdoor litterbox.

Fortunately the temperatures dropped, some neem oil and insecticide slowed down the chewers, and I've tried to keep my little furry darlings away from that area. As you can see in the photo above, the pumpkins are finally starting to grow, although I'm worried about how much fruit they'll be able to produce in time for Halloween. As of this writing, I have a total of four plants - three of the giant varieties, and one regular jack-o'-lantern. Here's hoping that by next month I'll be able to post photos of huge madly-vining monstrosities!

In the meantime, here's another Halloween tip: now is a good time to pick up stuff for your October celebration. Some stores - Michael's, Pier One, Target - are just now getting their Halloween stuff in, so pickings are still good (yes, they sell out early on many items). 

And over at the Spirit Halloween website, you can get some good deals on clearance items. I've checked this site twice and a lot of the stuff from the first visit is gone now, so grab 'em while you can!

 
Spirit's Clearance Stuff
Strange Fruit
The weirdest thing I've recently uncovered in my research
Not all research involves digging endlessly through old books and articles. 

Current case in point: I'm working on an academic essay centering around how Winona Ryder's image has changed from her early work to her performance as desperate mother Joyce Byers in Stranger Things, and how that change comments on the portrayal of class in American films. While this paper will certainly involve plenty of digging through texts, it also means I have to re-watch a lot of my favorite films from the '80s and '90s. Films like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and - most particularly - Heathers.

As with another film I commented on in this newsletter a few months ago - The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane - Heathers doesn't just hold up well, it remains genuinely subversive. Both films create a universe in which murder is acceptable as long as the victim is a jerk. Whereas Little Girl plays it straight, though, Heathers has to be one of the downright nastiest comedies ever made, with a massive repertoire of quotable lines that are NSFW (and a handful that are safe, like the immortal, "What's your damage, Heather?"). 

I'm fascinated by how Ryder - the ultimate '80s upper-class princess - transformed into a 1980s blue-collar mom for Stranger Things. I expect to unpeel a lot of interesting layers about both Ryder and Stranger Things as I work through this paper; that process - like digging down for buried treasure - is why I love writing non-fiction. 
Read more about Heathers
WIP It
My current works-in-progress
In addition to the afore-mentioned Stranger Things paper and an eventual new novel, I'm working through a boatload of shorter pieces I've promised to various editors. There's a new interview for Nightmare Magazine, two new pieces of Halloween fiction (one of which will be out this year), several non-themed short stories, and a novelette (my second, in fact) for a new series edited by Stephen Jones.

And speaking of Mr. Jones, I had the great pleasure of writing the chapter on "The Evil '80s" for this new book, coming on October 2, 2017: 
 

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.
Haunt Yourself
This great new anthology edited by multiple award-winner Joe McKinney and Mark Onspaugh includes my story "High Desert", about some cult madness in the not-so-Old West.
Get Lost!

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". 
Scream and Scream Again!
Open the pages of Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders and step into the world of "LaRue's Dime Museum", about a young photographer's encounters with some very special people. 
Step Right Up!
Congratulations to Kay Bennett on winning last month's contest for a hardcover of The Museum of Horrors!

This month's giveaway is for an e-book copy (.MOBI or ePUB format, your choice if you win) of the just released anthology Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders. This great book includes stories by Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and many more, as well as a foreword by one of my favorite newer writers, Josh Malerman. Click the button below to enter!
Sorry - this giveaway has ended
  • Sunday, October 8th - Signing Haunted Nights (with a bunch of the contributors) at Dark Delicacies
  • Thursday, March 1st through March 4th, 2018 - StokerCon in Providence, Rhode Island!
Copyright © 2017 Lisa Morton All rights reserved.

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