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halloween

The last few days of October found me – perhaps unsurprisingly – very busy, but I had a good month and, ultimately, a good birthday and Halloween, despite some setbacks, and the fact that we are now in the Second Year of the Plague. Even though I was frankly incredibly busy, I managed to watch a lot of movies during the month of October, with an average of just slightly more than half of them being first-time watches for me. Highlights from those include Antlers, Last Night in Soho, The Boneyard, Sweet Home, Fatal Frame, Possession, Seance, and the various Fear Street flicks.

Just in time for Halloween, my story “Screen Haunt” went live at Pseudopod. I’m proud of this one, which was originally published in It Came from the Multiplex by Hex Publishers. And, as always, the folks at Pseudopod did a bang-up job producing the story, with Alisdair Stuart pulling together themes maybe more eloquently than I ever could have in his outro, and Lalana Dara doing a perfect job on the narration.

Over the preceding month, we had a successful Kickstarter for the latest installment of the Iron Kingdoms RPG, for which I wrote… a considerable amount. And we also had a rousing subscription drive for Unwinnable (technically still going through the end of the day), where we unlocked not only a “monsters” themed issue (which I am, to no one’s surprise, thrilled about) but also a Doom issue and more. In fact, we’re only a tiny handful of subscribers shy of the final goal, so if you’ve been on the fence before now, go toss in a few bucks. It’s more than worth it.

On my birthday, in what I can only assume was a gift meant directly for me, my publisher opened an honest-to-Godzilla brick-and-mortar store selling all the best stuff in the world, including big piles of my books. Sadly, it’s all the way out in Petaluma, California, so I haven’t been there yet, but I am sure I will go someday.

For Halloween itself, I had a relatively quiet night with my adopted family, handing out candy, scaring trick-or-treaters, watching House on Haunted Hill, and playing Campy Creatures. On the drive home, I listened to ghost stories read by the mellifluous voice of Vincent Price himself. It was a good night.

Among those who share my predilections, the day after Halloween can be a somewhat dismal prospect. It is, after all, the longest possible time of the year before more Halloween. And yet, we would all do well to remember that Halloween is not the end of the spooky season; it’s the beginning.

We stand now at the gateway of a season in which the days are short, the nights are long, and spirits or branches or spirits that we tell ourselves are branches scratch at the windows. From now until the spring thaw, we are deep in ghost story weather. And we shall all remember Halloween, and keep it in our hearts all year long.

Each tick of the clock brings us ever closer to the Great Event, that grandest of all nights, Halloween. In the meantime, though, there are a few other things that are ticking down, too, and some will be over before that one comes to pass.

For those who have been following along, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the new, 5e-compatible Iron Kingdoms: Requiem books for Privateer Press. These tomes not only bring the classic Warmachine and Hordes setting to 5e for the first time, they also update the setting itself to the way it exists today, in the aftermath of the Claiming – also for the first time. And if you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry, the books will explain it.

Anyway, the latest installment is currently on Kickstarter and it’s entering its final hours. In fact, as I write this there’s only about a day left. It’s already funded, so at this point we’re just blowing away stretch goals, and while the stretch goal that’s a new adventure written by yours truly isn’t likely to materialize, there’s still some pretty cool stuff within reach. So, if you’ve been on the fence about it, now’s the time to get involved.

Plus, if you head on over to the Kickstarter page and check out the updates, you can get a gander of artist’s renditions of just a tiny handful of the many weird creatures I got the pleasure of designing this time around. And there’s plenty more (and plenty weirder) waiting in the wings where that came from.

And that’s not all. While the Kickstarter for Iron Kingdoms: Borderlands & Beyond closes up shop in about a day’s time, the Unwinnable subscription drive runs through the end of the month. For those who don’t know, Unwinnable is an incredible indie publication that pays its writers and publishes some of the best, smartest crit, essays, and cultural appreciation around – all based on an ad-free model that relies on your subscriptions.

We’ve already done really well on the drive, unlocking the “monster” theme issue that I absolutely had to get unlocked in order to survive, but we’ve still got more cool stuff up our sleeves, including a Doom-themed issue that’s about a minute away from unlocking. Besides movie reviews and my regular column on board games over at Unwinnable, I’ve also written long-form essays on everything from Monster Squad to my love of dungeon crawl games to, most recently, the weird fact that the original Universal Mummy sequels are actually set in the 1970s through the ’90s.

Few other publications would give me such free reign, so if you like reading the random nonsense that comes pouring out of my head, toss a coin to the folks at Unwinnable, who help to prop up such bizarro “journalism” from me and plenty of other incredibly talented writers and artists.

That may be the last you hear directly from me in this space before the one-two punch of my birthday and Halloween, but I’ll be very active on social media over the next few days, and there’s still a whole lot going on, so stay tuned…

For seven years now, every October I have gone to a local event called #Nerdoween, hosted by my favorite local theatre, the Screenland Armour, and the fine folks from the Nightmare Junkhead podcast. The gimmick is always the same: one night, three horror movies, all on a pre-chosen theme, but you don’t get to know what you’re going to see until the movies play.

In past years, the themes have included demons, sequels, anthologies, “sleazy sci-fi,” killer nouns, and Satan. This year, to celebrate the fact that movie theatres are kinda, sorta able to be open again a little bit, the theme was movies that take place, well, at the movies.

And I’m gonna warn you, one of the three movies we saw is a film best experienced as cold as humanly possible, and just knowing that it’s included in this list constitutes a spoiler of sorts for it, so I’m not going to say the title. If you follow me on Twitter or Letterboxd you can figure it out, but there’s only so much I can do to protect you from a movie from 1987.

I am a skeleton of few traditions, and #Nerdoween is one of the things that brings me the most joy each year. Every one of those seven years, my friend and adopted brother Jay has accompanied me. Unlike me, he is almost always exposed to entirely new things – across 21 movies, we determined that he had ever seen three of them before. And even I get introduced to at least one new film more often than not.

In fact, every year save two (this year and “killer nouns”), I’ve seen at least one new-to-me film, and sometimes (indeed, on three occasions) two. This year, the poor hosts set themselves a nearly impossible task if they wanted to show a movie I hadn’t seen, given the theme they picked, as I think I’ve seen most of those. At the same time, they came surprisingly close, as I had only seen one of the films for the first time earlier this year.

We kicked off the night with Popcorn (1991), perhaps the most obvious choice given the theme but also a perfect way to start things off. It was a blast to see in a theatre, as a movie that has always felt more like a Halloween party in a movie theatre than an actual movie.

That was followed up with Porno (2019), a movie I had previously seen when it made its debut at Panic Fest. I wasn’t a fan then, and I’m still not, but it was a good crowd movie. (It may surprise you to learn that it is remarkably difficult to perform a Google image search for stills from the movie Porno and actually turn up pictures from that movie.)

The last film of the night is often the weirdest and/or the heaviest – as is only right and proper – and this year it was both. I’m gonna refrain from saying its name here because, again, I think that to even include it on this list is to lose something of its magic, but for those who want to know, feel free to drop me a line, or you can check Letterboxd or my Twitter, where I spilled the beans.

Perhaps more so than any of the others, it was a real pleasure to see this in a theatre, especially given that literally no one else there had ever seen it besides me and one other person. Also, the sound mix was amazing.

So props to the Nightmare Junkhead crew for always putting on a great show, and I’m already looking forward to next year, when hopefully COVID will actually be a thing of the past and the only anxiety will be what’s up on the screen.

“What’s hidden just beyond the veil? A bloody good time, of course.”

I’ve talked, often and at length, about how what I want to write, when I sit down to write, is “fun horror.” And because of that, I’m often asked in interviews or casual conversation just what I mean by that. The ethos behind it, sure, but also for examples, so I’m always pleased when I find some.

Jonathan Raab is not only one of the best living practitioners we have of the form, he’s also a testament to the fact that “fun horror” can also be smart horror, political horror, character-driven horror, psychological horror, cosmic horror, thinking person’s horror, you name it.

Raab refers to himself as a “hack horror writer,” and that affection for B-grade horror shines through in his work, but he’s never just making lazy pastiches of the slasher flicks that decorated our screens when we grew up. He’s taking the subtext that was often there – or that we saw there, even when it wasn’t – and making it text. Repurposing camp into paranoid, conspiracy-laden, doom-synth chronicles of the secret world behind the world, the scratching at the back of your brain, on the other side of the tube, on the outside of your window as you fall asleep.

As with so many writers I first got to know via social media, I can’t remember how Jonathan and I first met. We were already on friendly terms by the time he solicited a story from me for Terror in 16-Bits, drawn together because we shared a similar set of references, a similar cache of filmic, video game, and tabletop inspirations, a similar set of aesthetic and thematic fixations – yet also different enough to keep things from overlapping too much.

Aside from conventions, I’ve only ever met Jonathan in person once. I was spending some time in Boulder, Colorado – my significant other attending a flute workshop, myself tagging along to explore the environs and write in the hotel room – and I drove down to his house, past a prison, into a setting from a Jonathan Raab story, even though, at that time, I’m not positive I had yet ever read one.

We walked down the street and had a big breakfast at a crowded greasy spoon, then back to his place where we talked all manner of subjects high and low. By then we were already friends – I can’t remember yet if I was a fan.

I wrote a blurb for one of his books, The Lesser Swamp Gods of Little Dixie, but it was his novel Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI that fully sold me. That converted me. As I read those pages – part fictionalized novelization of a late-era slasher movie that never was (or was it?), part conspiracy-laden meta-fictional journal, part cosmic horror – that I realized that Raab had risen to the ranks of one of my favorite working authors, the kind where I would eagerly seek out each new thing he did.

And given that short story collections are about my favorite type of book, well, I was damned excited about the release of The Secret Goatman Spookshow, Raab’s first such collection. I preordered the book, but I forced myself to wait to read it until we were nearing the Halloween season – which wasn’t as hard as it might otherwise have been, because I was buried in freelance work when it arrived.

Along with it, I had secreted away another little treasure. A zine-length special he had put out for the season called The Crypt of Blood. I’m bad at guessing word counts, but it was maybe a novella. An ideal length, spooky and short, but not too short. Enough so that there was some meat on the bones…

As summer gave way to fall, as September dwindled down to October, the month of rubber bats and autumn moons, of grinning pumpkins and cotton candy cobwebs, I read them both, one after the other. The Secret Goatman Spookshow would have made a convert of me, had I not been one already. The stories inside travel around, from those told prosaically to those presented in a more experimental fashion – there is a story in the form of the rules for a tabletop roleplaying game, episodes of a cable access show, an oral history of a video game – interspersed with fragments that often directly address the reader.

Yet all of them bear the unmistakable stamp of authorial voice. Whether he’s channeling the buckets of so-fake-it’s-real gore of a SOV slasher or the high strange horror of The X-Files, whether he’s simulating the techniques of found footage so effortlessly that it becomes unnoticeable, or peppering in references to Ghostbusters 2, every story is fun until the exact moment that it isn’t – pulling the rug from under your feet to show you the maggots that have always been squirming beneath.

The same is true of The Crypt of Blood just… focused. For an idea of what you’ll get with Crypt of Blood, imagine if the WNUF Halloween Special were a Hammer vampire film. Then imagine that they were entirely committed to the bit – so much so that the actual narrative was the stuff that took place off screen. Instead of faux commercials full of local color, you have bizarro interstitials that devolve into Ligottian weirdness – interstitials where the real story is being told, because in a Jonathan Raab story, the real story is always the one behind the curtain.

In other words, the perfect read for a dark and stormy Halloween night. (If a dark and stormy Halloween night is not available, please contact your local cable affiliate.)

Today and tomorrow are big days here at the Grey Crypt, for reasons that probably don’t need explaining here. While the pandemic makes the usual Halloween festivities prohibitive, there’s still stuff going on and not even 2020 can shake the Halloween spirit out of these bones entirely.

For those who may not be aware, today is my birthday, and if you feel like getting yourself a present to mark the occasion, it seems like a good time to remind you that (for a very limited time) both of my nonfiction books Monsters from the Vault and its sequel Revenge of Monsters from the Vault are on sale for cheap via Kindle. Plus, since electronic delivery is instantaneous, you can use ’em for reference if you need help planning your Halloween viewing.

Last night, I watched the dubious seasonal “classic” Hack-O-Lantern for the first time, live-tweeted it at the hashtag #HPCGoesDark, and then Tyler Unsell and I did an off-the-cuff live episode of the Horror Pod Class on it, which mostly amounted to us talking about everything from the Satanic Panic to bathrobe etiquette.

If you followed along live, thanks for joining us! If not, the episode will be up on YouTube and all the usual podcasting places in the near future. In the meantime, I was also a guest for a very special Halloween episode of the Haunted Hangover podcast, so check that out.

Plus, today marks the launch of Marta Oliehoek’s long-in-progress Horror in the Eye of the Beholder, which combines a series of colored pencil portraits of the eyes of horror writers (including yours truly) with in-depth interviews with same about horror practice, film, literature, and much more.

I’ll be doing a lot of festive stuff around the house this year – I already carved a pumpkin – and there’ll be some other announcements to celebrate the holiday, but for the most part I won’t be on social media a lot until after All Hallows.

(Which, incidentally, is going to be a full moon for what I hear is the first time in 76 years. So, I dunno, go worship the devil or something. Turn yourself into a werewolf. Whatever it is you do.)

If you’re having trouble getting into the spirit, though, I have a couple of recommendations. The Screenland Armour, my kickass local movie theatre that just got named the Best Theatre in KC by The Pitch, is struggling during the pandemic, but they have nonetheless put on some amazing, socially distanced October programming, including a special online Tricks and Treats edition of Panic Fest that’s happening all weekend long. The eagle eyed might even catch a glimpse of yours truly in a segment.

If that’s not your thing, Unwinnable is doing their annual Halloween subscription drive, including their Hallowstream event, where members of the Unwinnable crew do everything from a spoopy live-reading of The Importance of Being Dracula – like The Importance of Being Earnest, but with Draculas – to live games of Call of Cthulhu and a late-night viewing of bonkers flick The Boneyard (that’s the one with the zombie poodle), to name just a few.

Go, watch, subscribe. It helps them keep paying me to do things like writing about board games I haven’t played, movies that I have watched, and my recent “Dungeons & Dollhouses” article. Plus, Unwinnable is just an awesome publication put together by great folks, and the Hallowstream event should be a blast, even if I won’t be in attendance.

Living in the slow-motion apocalypse may make it a little harder than usual to get into the Halloween spirit, but even COVID-19 can’t completely eradicate the Nerdoween triple-feature, hosted each year by the fine fellows from the Nerds of Nostalgia and Nightmare Junkhead podcasts.

Now in its sixth year, Nerdoween has become as much a part of my seasonal traditions as grinning pumpkins or spooky movies. Indeed, it always shows a few spooky movies, and I’ve gone every year.

And every year – with one exception – I have always been introduced to at least one picture that I had never seen before. The first year’s theme was “demons,” and I saw both the Lamberto Bava film of that name and also Night of the Demons for the first time.

The theme of the second year was “sequels,” where I saw both 28 Weeks Later and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 fresh. The third year was anthologies and managed only a single new-to-me film in the form of the very great Tales from the Hood (the other two were both favorites, however – Creepshow and Waxwork).

They followed that up with “sleazy sci-fi,” where they again managed only a single new-to-me flick, in that case the absolutely wild Xtro.

Last year’s theme was “killer nouns,” and it was the first year where I had seen every movie on the lineup: Maximum Overdrive, Cooties, and Arachnophobia. Which brings us to this year and Nerdoween 6(66) – the triple feature that almost didn’t happen because the world was coming to an end.

Suitably enough, the theme of this year’s triple-feature was the figure who could have been the architect of 2020 himself; none other than the dark lord Satan. And the guys at Nightmare Junkhead nearly managed a hat trick, going two-for-two with movies I had never seen before with our first two features.

We started with The Car, from 1977. Prior to last night, I was (somehow) unaware that the eponymous evil car in this film is overtly demonic, even if they never make even the slightest pretense of explaining its presence in the film.

I was also unaware that, in addition to James Brolin, The Car also stars Ronny Cox, of cops both Robo and Beverly Hills fame.

Then they followed that up with Evilspeak from 1981. If The Car was Duel by way of Jaws by way of The Exorcist then Evilspeak is Carrie + Satanic panic + computers.

A good example of the “movies from the ’80s that go completely bonkers in the last act” subgenre, as near as I can tell the director of Evilspeak had two main interests: People getting eaten by pigs and making Clint Howard sweaty and/or otherwise damp.

In his defense, people getting eaten by pigs is scary and so is damp Clint Howard. This was also an inadvertent (?) double-feature of movies featuring R. G. Armsrong. If the third film of the night had been Warlock: The Armageddon they could have been three-for-three.

Alas (?) it was not, nor was it something I hadn’t ever seen before – and really, a triple-feature of things I hadn’t seen before seems like an awful lot to ask. Instead, it was recent subgenre entry Ready or Not, part of the mini boom of “rich people are literal Satanists, actually” movies of the last few years.

I saw Ready or Not when it first came out and liked it then. I still like it, for most of the same reasons. Underneath its many very modern sensibilities, it has lots of delightfully old-fashioned deal-with-the-devil stuff going on that I adore.

Getting into the Halloween spirit may be harder than normal this year, but three Satanic shockers from the Nerds of Nostalgia guys always makes it a little easier…

Look, a lot has been going on, and it’s not about to stop going on in the immediate future. It’s already five days into the month of Halloween and you haven’t heard from me!

So, what have you missed? Well, the horror Storybundle from Word Horde that I mentioned last time is still going on, albeit not for very much longer. In fact, as I write this, you’ve only got about three days left to pick it up – just in time for Halloween!

Speaking of things that are arriving just in time for the spooky season, the first issue of Weird Horror is out now from Undertow Publications. You can pick up the first issue or get a subscription, because this issue and every subsequent issue will feature a column by yours truly! This time around, I’m writing about the Crestwood House monster books.

Plus, my two book-length collections of essays on vintage horror film are, once again, on sale for less than a buck on Kindle if you want some quick, hopefully-pithy guides to your holiday viewing. You can grab the first one on the cheap here and the inevitable sequel here. They make great trick-or-treat handouts! (They don’t.)

If you’re not feeling like putting up with me for that long, you could always pick up the latest issue of Exploits (an Unwinnable publication) and read my very brief thoughts on Junji Ito’s latest or my even briefer thoughts on the remake of Child’s Play.

If fiction is more your thing, there’s always the first installment of my occult cyberpunk novel Neon Reliquary, which is available now via the Broken Eye Books Patreon. Or you could put your money toward the Tales from OmniPark Kickstarter, which is back from the dead after an untimely COVID-related early demise!

It’s already funded, so you know you’ll be getting a book sooner or later, and that it’ll feature stories by Gemma Files, Brian Evenson, Jesse Bullington, and yours truly, among others. Also, the title of my story is “The Robot Apeman Waits for the Nightmare Blood to Stop.” If that doesn’t sell a copy, I don’t know what to tell you.

So, this has been less a countdown to Halloween and more a series of “buy my book” news flashes, but I promise that I have been preparing for the season in those ways that I can, and more festive content shall soon be on its way…

Yesterday was the official book birthday for It Came from the Multiplex, an anthology of stories inspired by ’80s midnight movies and the places where we watched them, edited by Josh Viola and released by Hex Publishing.

Back when I was first approached to contribute a story for this anthology, the plan was to release it in tandem with the Colorado Festival of Horror. Then 2020 happened. But, even if we’re stuck in our homes, menaced by an invisible threat and devastated by natural disasters, at least you can still read about movies and monsters and monster movies.

My story “Screen Haunt” follows a filmmaker whose best friend vanished years ago, making a movie inspired by notes in her missing friend’s journal, and maybe conjuring up more than just memories.

I’m far from the only name in the credits, though. My story is joined by tales from the likes of Betty Rocksteady, Stephen Graham Jones, Mario Acevedo, Steve Rasnic Tem, and others. Plus, the book looks amazing, with a cover by AJ Nazzaro and interior illustrations by Xander Smith.

While some copies have already made their way out into the world, you can order yours now by clicking right here.

Speaking of great-looking books, Word Horde always puts ’em out, and now you can try an impressive sampling of their titles, including my own Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, on the cheap – while also supporting Planned Parenthood, if you feel like it!

I haven’t read all of the books included in this impressive Storybundle, curated by Molly Tanzer, but I can vouch for Word Horde, in general, and tell you that everything I have read from them has been imminently worth your time. (And I’m not just saying that because they often publish my stuff.)

Paying just $5 gets you a pretty nice spread, including John Langan’s must-read epic novel of cosmic horror, The Fisherman, as well as Nadia Bulkin’s bombshell of a collection, She Said Destroy, and three other titles.

For the full effect, though, and to snag a copy of Guignol, you’ll only need to pony up $15, which will get you Kristi DeMeester’s Beneath, Tony McMillen’s An Augmented Fourth, Scott R. Jones’ Stonefish, Livia Llewellyn’s Furnace, Molly Tanzer’s Vermillion, and others. It’s a hell of a deal, and should keep you in good, shivery stories long into the night for many nights ahead.

Speaking, as I was back toward the beginning of this post, of film festivals, we’re coming up on the Halloween season, and with it the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon. Normally, I try to make it out to the show, an event I love so much that it features prominently in the opening story of Guignol, but this year, the show is going online instead of in person, which has the advantage, for everyone who can’t make it out to Portland (which is currently on fire anyway), of being much easier to attend.

If you want to get your tickets and support some cool, weird cinema, you can do so by hitting up their Kickstarter, which is live as I write this. Because of the streaming nature of the event, airtime is at a premium, so I am not currently planning to do any panels or readings this year, though that’s subject to possible change.

What I am hoping to be involved in is the Screenland Armour’s annual Shocktober programming, which will be happening via a dynamic and mixed methodology in order to try to still have Halloween in the midst of social distancing.

I’ll have more news on that as it develops, but for Kansas City readers of “Screen Haunt” in It Came from the Multiplex, let’s just say that the Galileo theatre in that story may seem pretty familiar to devotees of the Screenland…

As we all grope blindly in the dark for silver linings amid all the peeled grapes and cold spaghetti of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve seen a lot of people excited that we’re halfway around to Halloween – though I’ve seen an equal number wondering just what Halloween is going to look like this year, with a plague on and all.

In fact, we’re excited enough about the date that we did a special “halfway to Halloween” episode of the Horror Pod Class, where Tyler and I talked about the 2019 movie Haunt and he history of commercial haunted houses. It’s honestly worth it just for the bit from a pamphlet for parents organizing haunted houses back in the ’30s, which suggests, among other things, nailing raw liver to the walls.

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Whatever happens with the pox and all that, we keep Halloween alive in our hearts as much as in our celebrations, right? And we can all watch scary movies and read spooky books anytime, even when we’re in quarantine.

Speaking of which, since this is also Walpurgisnacht, I usually take this evening to talk a bit about the story I wrote of that name, which originally appeared in The Children of Old Leech and can also be found in my second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts – both from Word Horde.

It’s a night for revels and devilry and old, black-and-white witchy movies like Night/Curse of the DemonCity of the Dead, or Haxan. Over on Facebook, I saw someone watching The Devil Rides Out, and that’ll also do.

* Image from a manga that I don’t know the name of, courtesy of Haunted Horror‘s Steve Banes.

As regular readers are already aware, I got sick the day before Halloween. It followed a busy October in which I probably spread myself a little thin, and I’m sure it’s no more than I deserved.

I’d had a good month, and I was willing to let it tank my birthday and Halloween. What I wasn’t prepared for was that it would hang on for another entire month and then some.

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I got, apparently, the same thing a lot of other people have gotten – a cold that went away in relatively short order but left behind a cough seemingly caused by nothing and improved by nothing. I’m not writing this for advice. I’ve had it all. I’ve been to the doctor several times, tried every medication under the sun. They say that it may just hang on for up to six weeks.

So, I lost November. Pretty much entirely. I’ve been able to keep my head above water with freelance work, but everything I had been putting off because October was too busy got put off further because November was too sick. If you’re one of those things, I’m genuinely sorry about that.

Every time I tried to go out, the cough got worse, so I paid for every excursion with rough days and nights. It’s minor, in the grand scheme, but it’s also exhausting, frustrating, and depressing. For the most part, I’ve kept it together decently well.

If it’s gonna last for six weeks, I’ve got another week or two to go. I’m hoping that’s not the case, but we’ll see. Pretty intense rest seems to decrease the severity of the cough, but any activity sets it off.

In spite of that, I’ve done a few things. Put up the tree in the living room, hung Christmas lights inside – not outside, cuz it’s cold out there. I’ve kept caught up on my work, even if I haven’t gotten into some longer-term projects that I had hoped to by now.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s kind of contractually obligated to be. Just as autumn is my favorite season. But Christmas is my (perhaps more unlikely) second favorite holiday.

Not for any religious reason – I’m an agnostic, and pretty much always have been. And not because I like receiving – or even giving – presents all that much. In fact, I rather despise the crass consumerism of the season, just as I rather despise crass consumerism more generally.

But I love the atmosphere of Christmas. I love Christmas lights more than just about anything. I love the cold, crisp nights. The green of pine needles and the red pop of berries. I love driving through town and seeing everything lit up against the long, dark night.

I love Christmas ghost stories and Christmas horror movies. I love the muffled hush of snow piling upon snow. I love the artificial isolation of a snowstorm.

I don’t mind Christmas music or all the Christmas decorations in the stores – if I ever complain about them, it’s only the creep that gradually replaces Halloween earlier and earlier every year.

I like this time of year – from the beginning of October through New Year’s Day. I like to participate in it as much as I can, but if I’m sick I’m sick, there’s not much I can do about it. Today, I put up the tree and watched Krampus. That’s a good thing to do on December 1.

Tomorrow, I’ll do something else. One day at a time, until this stupid cough is gone. That’s all I can do, and for now, at least, it’s good enough.