When The Reverie Breaks

Things I think about when I'm not thinking of other things.

SG/NT July 2017: For the Coffee Is Life, Mr. Harker

Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee.

We all love our coffee.

Well, I love my coffee, anyway.

I use it to lure Muses.

It could be a Goth thing; honestly, I know very few Goths that don’t enjoy a lovely brewed beverage, be it coffee, tea, beer, or perhaps mead. Or it could be a writer/artist thing; the words do seem to flow better when there’s coffee on hand, and art ideas also seem to flow as well, though the chances of spillage on a  piece are a danger I don’t like to contemplate. Art and coffee are best combined in the idea and planning stage, in my opinion, or at least for someone of my (limited) ability, anyway. Or it could even be that coffee is a joy when it’s cold outside, and it’s nearly always cold here…cold being relative, of course.

The coffee of choice is brewed at home by Der Mann on a lazy Sunday morning, and sipped leisurely while I Skype with Herself during our weekly Best Friends KoffeeKlatsch.

But there is much to be said about coffee shops – much, much, maybe too much to be said. While I drink brewed/drip at home, I do love a latte, and for me, the best place for that is a coffee shop. (Mostly because I don’t want to go to the trouble of buying and learning to use a latte maker.)

So, coffee shops. Shall we begin with Starbucks?

I will never, ever denigrate Starbucks. They gave me a job when I needed one, and that will always mean something to me. The fact that I was miserable working there is not a reflection on the company, it’s an illustration of the fact that I am completely unfit to work retail. Also, much of the initial work on the Perfect Coven Series was done in a Starbucks up the street from my house in Atlanta. That particular location is near and dear to my heart.

That said, while I can and do enjoy a cup of Starbucks, they are not my top choice for a coffee shop. The advantage to Starbucks is that you can find one pretty much anywhere. The disadvantage to Starbucks is that you can find one pretty much anywhere. That means that all Starbucks use the same coffees, the same syrups, and make the exact same drinks. There’s very little variety from shop to shop, whether it’s in Atlanta, Michigan, or Virginia.

And speaking of Atlanta, Michigan, and Virginia, I have favorite coffee shops in all three places.

Let’s visit Atlanta first. There, my favorite coffee joint is Chocolatte. That  is where I go to have coffee with my friends, an event that usually stretches to several hours. There’s a little side room where you can go if you’re in a group that will give you some privacy, especially if you tend to laugh loudly, as we do. They have a black & white cookie that I love and make a mean raspberry mocha.

My father lives in Virginia, so when we go to visit him, I always manage to include a trip to Zazzy’z. Zazzy’z is located in historic downtown Abingdon, in an old Victorian-esque farmhouse.


While they are, admittedly, a bit hipster (as in big on the gluten-free everything), they make wonderful coffee. There, my favorite drink is the Irish Creme (not at all gluten-free, I’d bet) and a kilfli from the lovely Balkan Bakery that shares the space with the coffeeshop (again, pastry most likely not gluten-free, but I don’t care, I don’t have celiac disease nor am I a hipster. I’m a Goth.). I have a terrible tendency to also acquire a tiny, hand-painted Matryoshka doll for my collection every time I visit.* 

*I meant to take a picture, but forgot. Sorry.

Zazzy's Coffee

Since it’s a 9-hour drive to Virginia, Der Mann stocked up on Zazzy’z coffee last visit!

The best thing about Zazzy’z, according to Der Mann, is that they roast their own coffee on-site. They carry a large variety of roasts in the shop, bagged and available for purchase. As I acquire nesting dolls, Der Mann acquires bags of his favorite roasts every time we visit. 

And finally – Michigan. By far the best coffee shop here is Brewed Awakenings. While they don’t roast their coffee on-site, they do buy from a local roastery.* They also offer an array of pastries – it’s a different selection every day — baked in-house. Their scones are divine. Any day I can get a Drunken Irishman and a sweet cream scone is the best day EVAR.

BA Scones!

On the bottom left are the coveted sweet cream scones. NOM!

Der Mann and I have gotten Herself and BB addicted to the Brewed, to the point that BB, when on a site visit, drove 45 minutes to have dinner with us and get herself some scones to take home to Cinci.

*Note to self: find out the name for Der Mann.

Brewed Awakenings is family-owned and operated. On any given day, at any given time, you’re apt to run into the owner, her husband, or one of her sons. They’re all friendly, warm people, and deeply invested in the cafe. It makes the shop a place you’ll enjoy visiting.

Here are some other pictures of Zazzy’z and Brewed Awakenings:


SG/NT June 2017: Working and Gothing

So – I finally found a job here in Ann Arbor. It’s with UMich, in the health system real estate department,and this month is my first work anniversary. So, I’ve been here a year, more or less (I temped in this job for six months before being hired full time).

It’s been a long, tough haul, and I feel like I lost a part of myself in the process. Being out of work in general is difficult, but when you feel like a useless burden on someone else (and you’re newly married to that person), it’s that much worse. You lose your sense of worth and your perspective. You begin to deny yourself things for reasons that you say are good though you won’t admit it’s really a punishment, and that becomes a habit.

Working at the university has been good for me in many respects. I enjoy my job, and I like my boss, except for one, tiny thing: I cannot get The Boss-man to call me by my preferred name. In fact, most people in the office use my given name and it completely weirds me out. I feel like they’re chiseling bits of me away. I have requested that they use my preferred name, but The Boss-man says it’s unprofessional to use a nickname. I’ve never heard this reasoning and I don’t understand it at all. It’s got to be some weird Northerner thing, or perhaps it’s too Goth. I don’t know – it’s not like I’ve requested he call me Mistress Onyx of the Ultra-Dark or anything.

Der Mann has suggested legally changing my name, but I think that’s a bit drastic, just to make a point. In his turn, Der Mann argues that it’s disrespectful to not use my preferred name and secondly, if it’s impacting my sense of self, then it’s not mentally healthy for me. However, I’ve begun telling people to call me by my preferred name, and it’s slowly taking. We will see how it works out. If I can get 50% or more to call me what I want to be called, I’ll take it as a win.

Another thing that upsets Der Mann is that I haven’t bought clothes in a long while, unless Der Mann insists I need something, like a pair of shoes. He would like to buy clothes for me because I won’t buy stuff for myself. However, he knows my choices in clothing tend to be eclectic, so he generally sticks to jewelry or art supplies, unless it’s something he can’t resist, like my kitty-paw fingerless gloves. (Love them!) However, he has finally persuaded me that I need to update my wardrobe. I’m going to do it over time, buy a piece here and there, and – for the first time ever – I am going to plan. I’ve been studying Goth fashion blogs, especially those targeted at us older Goths that have to somehow make it in the corporate world. This is a new thing for me. Wish me luck.

I’m also studying Elder Goth corporate make-up. In the summer, I tend to not wear much, usually a swish of mascara and some lip color is about it, because I’m Southern and I’m used to makeup just melting off my face and staining my clothes (yes, makeup shows on everything, even black…especially when you’re pale and therefore, so is your foundation). While it’s a bit cooler up here, I haven’t deviated from that routine. I even keep up the daily moisturizer with sunscreen. However, in winter, I do wear full makeup most days. So while planning a wardrobe, I’m also planning a makeup regime, with updates to my eye and lip palettes. I do so love the Urban Decay matte and creme lipsticks, especially Gash and Blackmail. Yummy!

I have started doing some things for myself. (Der Mann mutters “about time” under his breath every time I mention/do a thing).

I have (with much urging from Der Mann) gotten my hair done; it’s dyed a violet-red, darker than my usual Crayola color, but it works. It’s Goth enough and red enough to make me happy.

Der Mann bought me a muff for Christmas this year, as I wear a cape instead of a coat. So my winter wear now consists of a black cape, a dark-green muff lined with black (fake) fur, and a fuzzy hat with kitty ears and paws. (I am aware that this is very Goth.)

I’ve decorated my desk with Monster High minis, but I can’t do too much with my workspace because I’m situated out in the front. One must be “professional” (or utterly devoid of character, but that might be just my personal definition). I had quite a collection, but had to take them down because of the aforesaid “professionalism” issue. (Yeah, someone complained about tiny dolls. Go figure.) However, I will come up with a new idea soon. You can’t keep a Southern Goth-girl down!*

*(Or her cube undecorated!)

SG/NT May 2017: Coke vs… No, It’s All Coke

We are talking about soft drinks here, not…other things.

“Coke”, in the South, covers a variety of fizzy soft drink products. Northerners do not know this.

If you request a coke in the South, you’ll be asked, “What kind of coke? We got diet, we got sprite, we got orange, we got lemonade….” and so on down the drinks list. If you want the actual, branded product, you request a “Coke-cola” or “Co-cola”.


Cokes. They are ALL cokes.

(If you’re a heathen, you request a Pepsi.)

(And then you are shunned.)

(And you feel shame.)

Anyway, I learned this the hard way.  I learned that if I ask, “What kind of coke do you have?”, I’m going to get a funny look and, “Diet or regular.” For a short while, I thought that Northerners only drank diet or regular Coke, no other kinds of drinks. Then, I was at the grocery store buying Mountain Dew for my sister, and the cashier asked me if the “pop” was mine, too.

Pop. They call coke “pop” or sometimes “soda”. Which is also weird. A soda in the South is an ice cream soda or sometimes a float. It’s cool and creamy and glorious, especially in the summer. Nothing beats a (proper) soda in a southern summer.

Okaaaaaaaaaay then.

I have learned a thing. It’s a strange thing, but now I know – though I really doubt I’ll ever be able to request a pop without giggling or a soda without disappointment at the lack of ice cream. And my first impulse will always and forever be to request a coke.

Now, since we (meaning me, on this blog) are discussing drinks, let’s address tea.

First off, in the South, a request for tea means iced tea. One might drink hot tea if (1) there’s no coffee, (2) you’re sick and need a honey/whisky/tea toddy to feel better, or (3) you’re a transplant from somewhere else, probably Britain. These are the only acceptable reasons for drinking hot tea.

(Yes, even in winter.)

(No, I don’t know why. Just trust me on this.)

Moving on.

Secondly, there is the sweet tea vs. unsweet tea issue.

Let that sink in, those of you in the South. There is a thing called unsweet tea.

UNsweet tea.

This is weird. C’mon, even I know there’s only one kind of tea (and that kind is sweet) and I don’t drink tea of any kind because it all tastes like dirt. Unsweet tea is an abomination of the worst kind according to the tea drinkers I know*.

*(They’re all from the South).

So, beware, all of you. Do NOT ask for tea in the North. You will receive unsweetened iced tea, and everyone knows you can’t fix that, no matter how much sugar you dump in your glass. It won’t dissolve. The sugar will just lay there, in the bottom of your glass, taunting you with all that glorious sweetness that you aren’t having. Tea has to be sweetened while being brewed or it isn’t sweet tea.

And if it isn’t sweet tea, who wants to drink it, anyway?

SG/NT April 2017: A Visit To Hell

When Herself visited for my birthday, we went to Hell.

R&M Hell

Herself & Der Mann in Hell; it wasn’t quite frozen over, but the snow indicates that it was, in fact, a cold day in Hell

Hell, Michigan is a nifty little place. It’s literally a wide spot in the road, and consists of a saloon, a diner, a gift shop, a mini-golf game, and a chapel where they do actually conduct weddings. They go above and beyond to lure victims welcome visitors with everything from hats and sunglasses to an ice cream bar for those really hot days.

It’s kitschy, it’s cute, and it calls to my little black heart. You can get an exit visa, t-shirts, magnets, even a (scorched) postcard that you can send from the tiny post office so it’s actually postmarked Hell. I love it there. There’s just something wonderfully Gothy – though it’s not particularly gothic – about visiting Hell. One of these day, I must convince Der Mann to dress so we can take some photos in Hell. Then perhaps a picnic on the border of Hell? Hmmmm….

I’ve been to Hell several times since Der Mann and I moved here. What made the birthday trip special was that I found someone who was Of My People.

This is a real thing; one doesn’t realize how tribal we are until we are separated from Our People. It makes a difficult situation (say, moving several states away) even harder if we cannot find people that share our interests or lifestyles.

So, the person working in the Hell Gift Shop was One of Us. She turned me on to several things and events in Michigan, including the Lansing Zombie Walk, and The Dark Art of Michigan group, and Detroit’s Science Fiction convention, ConFusion. (I knew about the Renaissance Faire already, having attended last year…and there’s another blog post for later). There is the Dark Arts Bizarre in May – just what it says: creepy, gothic artwork and crafts, then Hell-O Summer Fest in June (in Hell, of course), that is about art, entertainment, and Halloween in the Heat. This should be much fun, as well as an opportunity to meet some people.

While no one will replace my real tribe, it will be nice to (perhaps) find an alternative place to belong.

Now, the important question: what am I going to wear to these events?

And then the vital question: what boots am I going to wear?

R&M Coffee

While the Cold Day in Hell was fun, I believe Herself enjoyed the coffee at Brewed Awakenings more.

SG/NT March 2017: WHO Can’t Drive in Snow?

This post isn’t going to be so much about Southern Goth as just Southern. You have been warned.

The South gets  a lot of heat, so to speak, from other parts of the county for Southerners being unable to drive in snow. Granted, parts of the South get very little snow, so unfamiliarity is an issue. However, what most Northerners don’t see is the ice under the snow, which is extremely detrimental to driving conditions.

Still, I’m not writing this to make excuses, justified though they are.

I’m merely tracking some observations I’ve made over the two (admittedly rather snow-less) winters I’ve been here.

First – y’all Northerners only think you can drive in snow.

You can’t.

Nor can you drive in rain, wind, or sunshine. I thought drivers in Atlanta were bad…until I moved here. In Michigan, I’ve seen some of the worst driving in any kind of weather. In fact, Ohio has replaced Tennessee in my list of Places I Absolutely Hate to Drive.

Second – traffic rules do not apply. Neither do speed limits, no matter the weather conditions. Turn signals are optional. And if you hit someone, it doesn’t matter, just keep on going; Michigan is a no-fault state, so it’s not like there are any repercussions for hitting someone (I mean, hit someone’s car; obviously, it’s disastrous if you hit an actual person, no-fault state or not). Seriously, most cars up here look as though they’ve done at least one round in the Demolition Derby. I’ve driven bumper cars with better drivers – and bumper car drivers are usually ten or so.

Third – do I even need a third? Isn’t this enough?

Okay, wait, I do have one more thing to say. It’s even positive. And believe it or not, it’s about traffic.

While people drive like maniacs up here, at least they’re not driving like maniacs in backed-up, bumper-to-bumper traffic. Traffic here is light, comparatively. People at my work come in complaining that the commute was an extra fifteen minutes today because of weather or a wreck or construction, and they’re genuinely indignant when I laugh.

Really loud.

And can’t stop laughing.

Sometimes I even laugh so hard my eyes water.

Fifteen extra minutes on your commute…which is usually around fifteen minutes in good conditions, twenty if you hit all the lights on red – and you live twenty miles away. They don’t believe me when I say my commute in Atlanta was forty-five minutes on a good traffic day, and I lived eight miles from my office.

So, to tally it up: two bads, one good. Unfortunately, the one good doesn’t make up for the two bads. Der Mann does most of the in-town driving as he’s much more patient than I am, and even he rants about drivers up here.

So, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to wrap this up and realized I forgot to mention one important thing: this is all very definitely tongue-in-cheek*, so I do hope no one is offended. If you are, then I just have one thing to say:

Well, bless your heart.

*(Okay, except for the bit about comparative commute times. That’s a true story.)**

**(Oh, and the bit about black ice in the South? That’s also a true thing.)***

***(And, um, Michigan is actually a no-fault state. And insurance rates are commensurate. But that is a post for another time.)

Commonplace Book(s)

So, I used to do this thing: I had a notebook, usually cheap, and often unlined; it lived in my bag and went everywhere with me. I’d scribble down anything I found interesting or important – phrases, names, dreams, writing or art ideas, notes from books or about books (including my own or my friends’ WsIP), lists, words I liked the sound/spelling/meaning of, song lyrics that spoke to me…anything and everything. I also doodled in the margins and on the covers.

I called it my idea book. I had no idea that what I was doing was keeping a commonplace book, albeit a somewhat disorganized one.

Unfortunately, I fell out of the habit a few years ago. Just…things weren’t going well in my life, and I wasn’t doing many of the things I used to do, so when the notebook was full, I put it away and never started another. (I also stopped keeping  my journal, stopped writing, stopped socializing – like I said, it wasn’t a good period of time.)

But now, my head seems to be coming back online. I’ve suddenly found myself scribbling on anything handy, and then, well, losing the notes – so maybe not completely rebooted.

I’ve been exploring art journaling for the past year or so, and that seems to have broken down the dam*. But now I need to stretch. While I never stopped working on my novel, now I’ve embraced it again, and am enthusiastic about working on it (in my third round of revisions right now – so close to a good, complete manuscript!). I’ve been dreaming, and ideas pop up, germinated from anything and everything – hence the scribbling on whatever is handy.

I decided that I need a new idea book.

I did what I usually do; I grabbed up a blank, wirebound sketchbook, one of the $5 ones from Barnes & Noble that I had lying around, and started scribbling away.

But it felt wrong.

Then I remembered that Der Mann backed a kickstarter a year or two ago.  A kickstarter for a new type of notebook. And it got funded. And he received the notebook. And it was still in a box on my bedroom bookshelf.

So I got it out and looked it over. The notebook is bigger than the ones I’ve used before, being closer to 8.5 x 11 inches, but it’s thinner, so it evens out in terms of carrying.

Notebook 1

The cover is cloth, and feels nice in the hand.

The paper is glorious. It’s thick and creamy, and holds ink well. It’s a stone paper, meaning, from what I’ve googled, that the paper is made from actual stone; per their website, the paper is calcium carbonate “collected from waste material at existing limestone quarries and ground up into a fine white chalk powder”. It smells different than paper, perhaps a bit stronger, but not unpleasant. The paper itself is smooth and silky. It always seems to be cool and feels almost wet to the touch. The notebook is split; one half of the pages are lined, the other half are not, so I have the best of both worlds. There’s a pocket in the front for stashing all those scribbles I’ve lost so I can transcribe them later, two elastic bands (one on each side), and an attached ribbon bookmark. 

Of course, it’s such a nice book that I was leery about using it, until Der Mann also bought me a set of multicolored Frixion erasable gel pens and a set of Frixion erasable markers**. Now I can write and doodle in this notebook with impunity!


Frixion erasable gel pens and markers

So – that’s my new commonplace book. Does anyone out there keep a commonplace? If so, what do you collect? Tell me about your experiences!

*Also, researching art journaling led me to the phrase “commonplace book” and then I had to research that, and here we are.

**They do write and erase quite well. I recommend them, as long as you don’t overheat the notebook (that will erase everything) or put it in the freezer (getting it super cold brings back all the erased stuff). I use them for my planner and for my commonplace. I do not use them in my art journal; I prefer my alcohol markers because I’m usually working on gessoed, painted, or watercolor-crayoned backgrounds.

SG/NT February 2017: What Happened to the Snow?


What happened to all the snow?

Today is the 21st of February and the outside temperature is 61 degrees.

In Michigan.

In February.

I was informed that in Michigan there would be cold. That in Michigan there would be snow. That in Michigan there would be no place for my knee-high, coffin-heeled, Demonia boots.

This is my second winter here…and the second winter with hardly any snow. I’ve had to wear snow boots exactly twice. I don’t know what to make of this.

I am a confused Southern Goth in a Northern Town.

New Idea! A Monthly Feature: Southern Goth in a Northern Town

I’m trying to get back to blogging somewhat regularly. I’ve been very lax about keeping up with this blog, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is… dum…dum…dum…regular employment!

I like my job, but it does cut into my time for scribbling blog posts, working on my various art and writing projects, reading, and general lying about.

Therefore, I’m attempting to plan a bit, and try to do some outside-of-Perfect-Coven writing. I’ve decided to turn my Southern Goth/Northern Town category into a monthly feature where I talk about something up here (Michigan) that strikes my Southern heart as strange, or adversely something up here that makes this Southern girl feel at home. That said, I have the February post prepared and will post it um, posthaste.

Deep Water

I pulled out my (old-school) iPod the other day. I needed some music because things haven’t been good recently. I forget how much music helps with the coping.

One of my favorite songs popped, a song called Deep Water by the Finnish black metal band, Charon (who have broken up, by the way; very  sad day).

An idea popped into my head when I heard the chorus on this particular day. While I know the band themselves would laugh hysterically because, believe me, the song has nothing to do with Arthurian myth, it’s a compelling phrase and I had to get the image onto paper, in my own inadequate way.

I suppose, really, that’s what art – whether it be stories or painting or music – is all about: the resonance a piece creates in your mind.

Deep Water

I don’t normally name my art journal spreads, but I’m calling this one Deep Water after the song that inspired it.

Ghostbusters Review

ghostbusters-2016-girlsWhy not – everyone else has “thoughts” about this movie, so let me show you mine.

Der Mann and I went to see it on the Sunday of its opening weekend, mostly because neither of us wanted to deal with crowded theaters on Friday or Saturday night. That said, I was surprised at how full the theater was, even on Sunday at noon.

I went in not really knowing what to expect. There have been rave reviews, meh reviews, and scathing reviews. As I don’t consider the original one of the seminal events of my teenage years (I think I was 15, maybe 16, when it came out?) I didn’t have much invested in it. I will say that I find the original difficult to watch as an adult because Bill Murray’s character (Venkman) skeeves me out so damn much with all his misogynistic, sexist posing. And yes, I’m aware that it’s supposed to be over-the-top, that it’s an exaggerated stereotype, and all the other defenses; doesn’t make it any less skeevy. Give me Egon’s brains or Ray’s enthusiasm any day. Still, I enjoy the premise of busting ghosts, and the out-and-out silliness of it, then and now.

As for me, I saw a pretty entertaining movie. It was funny, the effects were great, and there were a lot of nods and winks at the original. Many of the cameos were deft touches, except for Bill Murray, who always goes over the top. The bust of Egon outside Erin Gilbert’s office was a poignant touch.

That said, the movie wasn’t without flaws. There was some rushing of the story (really, how did the tour guide get out of the mansion?) and the character of Patty was underdeveloped. I will say, however, that she wasn’t left hanging out there on her own like Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore, thankfully. I loved that she was the historian of the group, and was able to tell them why ghosts were showing up at certain places. If there is a sequel, I want to see more of Patty and her historical knowledge.

Then there was Holtzmann. Oh, Holtzmann. Wonderful, wacky, weird – the real genius in the group. The reviews were correct – Kate McKinnon stole every scene she was in. There are no descriptors descriptive enough for Holtzmann. Go. Watch. See.

Chris Hemsworth was decidedly un-Thor-like as the ditzy dumb blond receptionist, Kevin. I swear, I think he based at least part of his performance on the Kevin the Minion (you can’t tell me you don’t get the reference). It was funny to see the stereotype turned around and the actor himself seemed to be having such fun with the character. (The behind-the-credits scene is not to be missed.)

After the movie, Der Mann and I saw a woman with two young girls, around 8 and 9, taking pictures with the stand-up display. Der Mann asked the children if they liked the film, and the answer was a loud and excited, oh-so-very enthusiastic, “Yes!”. For that alone, I’d consider this movie a success.