Fiction and Genre Panel – 3rd Indie Author Day Event

Moderator and horror author Brian McKinley is joined by science fiction writer William Gold, humorist Loretta Wish, mystery and thriller author J. Lauryl Jennings, dark fantasy author Kristin Battestella (yes that’s me! Your trusty Kbatz!), and urban fantasy storyteller Laura Kaighn for the Fiction and Genre Panel at the 3rd Indie Author Day hosted at the Heggan Library in Sewell, NJ.

You can see the entire 7 part video below or also view the Childrens and Non-Fiction Panel from the Indie Author Day.  For more photos and author events, visit the South Jersey Writers Conference, Facebook Page.

 

 

 

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How Not to Make a Spooky Spell Book – A Kbatz Kraft!

How Not to Make a Spooky Spell Book

by Kristin Battestella

Inspired by having extra tea stained pages from my Spooky Bottle Labels project, Old Kbatz here decided to make a Spooky Spell Book. Not having some of the right materials, however, led to some time consuming mistakes.

First I selected a book to decorate. Many bibliophiles and macabre folks love the idea of these often expensive stacks of creepy looking books but none of us really want to damage a book to make one! You can go to a local library sale of thrift store and choose an old outdated encyclopedia or reference book. However, even after purging my books for a move, I still had several cookbooks I wasn’t using.

This one was large enough on the front to do the design I had in mind on the outside and I intended to stick my tea pages in the middle of the book. In theory, it’s still perfectly usable as a cookbook should I ever need some kind of hamburger recipe that can’t be found online. I sketched out my wording with a marker and then traced over the lettering with Tacky Glue. Maybe the hot glue gun would have been quicker, but Tacky Glue allowed me a little more time with a toothpick as I perfected the letters. If you’re doing this with the kids, it might be easier to paint first and then make some lettering with a more friendly glue and some glitter, however I didn’t want this to be sparkly glam, just an old innocuous book with a goofy plastic scorpion I glued on the front.

Once the glue was dry, I colored over the white glue with black marker so it would stand out more as I painted the rest of the book. It was okay if I got some on my letters or scorpion, because I intended to go over them at the very end with a final coat of black. Using red paint, I went over the book cover. Unfortunately, the red paint peeled and chipped off as it dried, and another coat did the same thing. I wondered if there was a sheen to the book that should have been sanded first or if it was the paint itself. I liked the contrast of the bright red with the black, but this poster paint kept peeling and never had good coverage. I debated doing a third or fourth coat and having to go buy some kind of artist spray sealant. By time I did all that, I could have just bought a spooky spell book!

The next day, I let all the red paint chip off and decided to try using a smaller tube of acrylic paint I had called Berry Wine. I did small sections on the back of the book and let them dry – sticking and with better coverage! I like the aged, deeper color more than the bright red, but I thought because I had a smaller quantity that there wouldn’t be enough for the book. Instead, the acrylic paint covered more and went further without all the terrible peeling. After a few coats of the berry paint dried, I went over the lettering and scorpion with one coat of black. Lesson learned: I’m not an artist at all, and knowing which materials work together and having the right supplies to do a project is paramount.

Now I was able to work on my interior pages. At first I was going to trace assorted ye olde symbols, but that is also out of my artistic area of expertise and I didn’t want anymore mistakes. Instead I wrote Macbeth quotes on the pages in colored pencil making slightly oldeth calligraphy style lettering before going over the wording again in brown marker. Here I was careful of the order I wanted for the pages and which quotes I wanted to be showing when the book was opened flat. I also didn’t use both sides of the pages or use the marker when they were stacked together lest any ink bleed through. It was back to the Tacky Glue as I made a line down the left side of the pages one at a time, gluing them together to be inserted in the exact middle of my cookbook. I trimmed the right side of the pages so they wouldn’t stick out as much and made a line of glue on the inside of the book to insert the pages.

This was a spur of the moment project that took several days longer than it should have thanks to my painting errors. It looks great now that it is complete, and once I realized which paint worked best, I was able to make another spellbook that took less than a day. Although I had gotten rid of several old Writer’s Market editions in my move, I still had a beat up hardback 1997 edition on my shelf that was thick enough to do some spine wording. Again I sketched my letters and traced them in glue. This time I used a green marker to make the lettering stand out, for I was painting this book with black acrylic paint that covered in less than two coats. For the letters, I wanted a contrasting yellow, however, the yellow paint and green marker have blended together to create a creepy looking color. I may go over it again to make it more golden, but I kind of like the icky look. This book I can also use again if I wanted, however I’m tempted to use it as the base of a spooky cloche – but that is another Kbatz Kraft!

Batty for Bats – No, Really!

Batty for Bats – No, Really!

By Kristin Battestella

 

 

I knew I couldn’t stay for the whole program, but when the Free Public Library of Monroe Township posted about a special presentation called Batty for Bats, well I knew I had to take a gander!

Ms. Mary, a naturalist from the Rancocas Nature Center, 794 Rancocas Road, Westhampton, NJ 08060, quizzed local children at the library on what they knew about bats and tested them with some true or false statements. When I asked Ms. Mary if the kids attending these programs were usually creeped out, she said that the snakes and reptiles were actually quite popular – and the youths tonight agreed that bats were “cool.” After all, bats groom themselves just like cats do!

The children – and let’s be honest the parents there, too – were curious to see some of the bat materials on display. Facts on bats such as wing span and heartbeats per minute were hit home for the kids by donning some costume wings to test their own wing spans and putting on stethoscopes to hear their own heartbeats in a “How a Bat Compares to Me” activity. Everyone had a good laugh while learning the basics about bats from Ms. Mary – who confessed to not actually being a bat expert because she prefers bugs.

Based in Burlington County within the 200 acre Rancocas Park and formerly part of the New Jersey Audubon Society, The Rancocas Nature Center puts on a variety of nature and educational programs in South Jersey. For more information, visit rancocasnaturecenter.org or follow facebook.com/FriendsofRNC to support their programs.

 

And no, there are no vampire bats in New Jersey, thanks for asking.

 

A very special Thank You to Ms. Mary, the Rancocas Nature Center, and the Monroe Library for allowing me to stop by the program and take a few pictures!

Creepy Cloches – A Kbatz Craft!

Creating Creepy Cloches – A Kbatz Kraft!

By Kristin Battestella

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz here again to show our Horror Addicts Community how to make your very own Spooky but affordable cloches for Halloween or year round macabre décor!

For us alternative folks, it really pays to shop at thrift and second hand shops to find off the beaten path accessories. I lucked into finding two actual cloches, one large and one small, at two different Goodwill stores. The smaller cloche was $1 and already had the orange floral décor inside, so I put a fun orange spider from a Dollar Store party favor pack inside, keeping the orange theme for Halloween rather than something more realistic like a black spider.

The larger cloche was $3 – a steal when more elaborate Halloween cloches in stores cost $10 or more for whatever generic creepy is inside them. This actually had an unusual Good King Wenceslas doll inside that looks slightly creepy itself. I don’t trust him, so he’s going right back inside a homemade Christmas cloche! Once he was out, I put a Dollar Store skull on a pedestal inside and used hot glue to surround the skull with glittery Dollar Store branches and stems. I originally wanted to fan the branches all the way around, but obviously, the glass lid has to fit over the design, so the branches became a more compact bunch with smaller pieces in front going inside the skull’s open mouth for full effect.

Naturally I intended to have a bat perched on top the skull, but it was too big for the glass and I used a plastic ant instead. Next I used Dollar Store moss to cover the pedestal base. Some of it sits where I need it, but other places I again hot glued strategic moss in place. As this is a three dimensional glass display, the back must look just as nice as the front. I planned a realistic spider below in front to create visual balance. However, I found the large stick inside my moss bag and went with it as a perch for a bug from my spooky favors assortment. I could have gone outside and used natural leaves, moss, and branches, but I’m quite pleased with how this cloche came out. It looks like a skull was once preserved, but it’s as if something grew around it and died – a pleasingly morose display I might keep out year round!

In addition to these two lucky finds, I also saved several large party mix plastic barrels to make homemade Halloween cloches. Truly, the most difficult part of all these DIY crafts was getting the darn labels off these jugs! Fortunately or unfortunately, the most expensive thing in all these projects for my wallet and waist was eating these snacks! Instead of trying to fit everything through the jar opening, I cut the top off so I could turn it upside down. The edge didn’t have to be perfect because I would cover it with moss, but I did get cut doing this. It’s official, I’ve bled for HorrorAddicts.net! I put a Dollar Store glow in the dark skull on top of more natural green moss with glittery green branches and added glow in the dark spiders. My base for this was a simple plastic plate, and it is a little flimsy compared to the wood bases of the real cloches. In the future I might get wooden plaques available at the craft store or natural rounds. One can set a homemade cloche on something fancy like a silver platter or cake stand, but obviously we’re not permanently gluing the base with those.

To cover the lingering label lines on my jar, I strategy placed more moss as if it was growing up the outside and top of the cloche complete with a glow in the dark bat as the piece de resistance. My idea here is that this was something alive but now overgrown. Naturally, the cutting and hot glue are not family friendly crafting, and different materials can be used if a child has any allergies. Since this is fairly lightweight, I wouldn’t put it where kids or pets may knock it over or keep it out year round – and be warned the moss may attract real spiders and the like! I quite like how this cloche turned out, however, side by side with the real glass cloches, you can tell it is plastic and homemade. Then again, in cutting off the tops of two party mix jugs and putting them together, I ended up with a bonus orb which, as I posted on our Horror Addicts.net Facebook community, I was unsure how to use.

I debated using bloody drips to make it look like something bloody escaped or filling it with spider webbing like there was something cloudy and unseen inside before filling it with assorted plastic bones. I glued brown ribbon on to cover the jar rims and seams and then tied rustic yarn around it for an apothecary style, adding a ‘Do Not open until October 31’ tag and leaving off the top lid. My theory is that something was alive inside, but opening it early turned what was within to bones. Although that might not be immediately apparent, the beauty here is that it was a free bonus project that can be changed next Halloween.

By being thrift savvy and using affordable materials, I have several creepy cloches providing the most bang for my Halloween buck, and I hope you have some ideas for your own one of kind cloches, too!

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles – A Kbatz Kraft!

How to Tea Stain Labels and Make Spooky Bottles

by Kristin Battestella

Who has the money to buy all those fancy potion bottles and apothecary accessories in stores? Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz is here again to show how YOU can make some customized, old fashioned labels and aged Halloween bottles for your spooky display.

First, let’s focus on making the creepy labels, Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog and all that. I made up some Shakespeare inspired labels with a few clip art pictures and printed them. Of course, stark white printer paper doesn’t work for our aged apothecary, so we need some tea staining.

I brewed a pitcher of tea – using a few ginger flavors that I don’t really like, which actually left the paper with a nice spice smell! I dabbed the steeped tea bags all over the pages, soaking them to different degrees. Some of them I went over several times to darken them more, or to make even more aged lines and stains. You probably did this as a kid to make some kind of old looking paper, and it is totally effective for Halloween décor!

You can see I stained the whole pages, rather than cutting out all the labels first. Cutting them would have left a lot of paper to waste, and by staining the whole piece, it gave me scrap paper that was also tea stained after I cut out my labels. Now I have extra if I want to hand write some tags and do something else fancy!

I left my pages to dry, and in fact, had enough tea left over that I went ahead and stained some more blank pages, inspiring me to make up some kind of old fashion spooky spell books – but that is another Kbatz Kraft!

Once my labels dried and I cut them out, you can see some of the places where the ink ran. For some of them, it did ruin them as too illegible, but for others, it was just a little old touch that added unexpected character. Most of these I intended as labels, but a few others I planned on making tags to tie around my bottle necks.

Well, what bottles, do you ask? You can go to the thrift store or dollar shop and get some plain or unique bottles, but really, if you save some of your household bottles, you can recycle them into something spooky. I’ve spent the last few months saving anything unusual looking – from medicine bottles, shampoo, and bubble bath to wine, bug spray, and candle jars.

I still have some spice bottles and stained paper left over, and initially planned to match specific bottles with labels before wondering if I should mass theme everything by spray painting them all a uniform gloss black or old fashioned brown. Instead, I took each bottle one at a time, using craft paints in several colors and foam brushes. Some bottles were already nice colored glass and I just went over them with a bit of dry bush to dab an etched, age glass kind of look. I’m not an artist and it took me some trial and error do overs on some before I was happy, but others I simply had to paint the whole bottle one color to cover up a label, more stark white, or an ugly bottle cap.

Once my bottles were painted, I began matching them with labels. Some shapes and sizes I had in mind didn’t go together and I ended up switching them around. Some labels became tags, and other labels that were too big ended up with the written label on the bottle as well as the matching picture as a tie tag. It maybe wasn’t as I had intended, but a happy accident as Bob Ross says, as the bottle colors, assorted labels, and extra tag ties created more variety in my little apothecary collection.

I’ve mixed the bottles I made in with some fancy bottles as well as other wine and soda bottles that I had put on other store bought labels. I’ve put them all across the top of my refrigerator, giving my kitchen a bit of a Halloween double take. By not being overtly all black typically Halloween looking from a far, guests get a little WTF when they are up close and see Tooth of Wolf, Baboon’s Blood, or the eyeball I put in one of those amber medicine bottles!

In addition to collecting the bottles and making up some of the labels in advance, this took me about a weekend. I spent a couple evenings painting the bottles with acrylic paints, then a Saturday doing the tea staining, and a Sunday using tacky glue and yarn for the labels and tags. This is family friendly or classroom safe Halloween fun as well, just perhaps messy with maybe the adults handling the hot tea or any strong smelling paint or glue.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can recycle what you already have and print out something to make look ye olde without having to spend a lot of money to look potion proper. Heck, I may just leave my bottles out year round!

 

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins – A Kbatz Kraft!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz steps outside of her Frighten Flix beat at HorrorAddicts.net to show how YOU can make your very own Affordable, Stylish Stuffed Pumpkins! 

 

 

“Puffed Stumpkins” by Kbatz!!

 

Since you can’t see all of the pumpkins in the video frame, here are a few pictures of my pile:

 

 

How to Make a Pumpkin Cat House – A Kbatz Kraft!

How to Make a Pumpkin Cat House – A Kbatz Kraft!

By Kristin Battestella

When doing some of our seasonal Halloween Shopping, I’ve seen several types of fabric cat houses in assorted pumpkin shapes. Some are just orange tent styles and other are more rounded, so I decided to give it a go and make my own sort of insulated cat house. It didn’t come out perfectly like I expected, however I hope this gives you an idea on how you can make something fun and fall inspired for your pet.

First, I had to gather my sewing supplies and cut my fabric. I made a football-shaped pattern to create a dozen ovals, sewing them together to make the outer section of the pumpkin. For the bottom I cut two circles from the orange baby blanket I bought at Goodwill for $4 (Don’t judge me, fertile people without four legged children!) One circle was sewn to the outer sections, then the other was sewn on top and I stuffed between the two with styrofoam to make a little padded base before sewing it closed.

Next I sewed the inner flat wall along the bottom circles’ rim. This left a channel that I could being stuffing with plastic bags – insulation along with heaps of catnip sprinkled inside the sections as I went. I began sewing the top of the inner wall and the outer section top together as I stuffed, adjusting to make the outer sections plump like a pumpkin on the outside while the inside remained flat and smooth. Once I was satisfied with the stuffing I sewed the entire top of the walls closed. Of course, you don’t want your wall to go all the way around – there has to be an opening for the cat, Poe fans!

Finally, I sewed another circle of fabric to the top of the walls and went around with the last of my fabric on top of that. Like the base I stuffed the top before gathered the fabric closed. I glued artificial leaves on top of my seam and added coiled pipe cleaners for whimsical stems and tendrils.

As I said, there were a few places where I was somewhat unhappy with the project, mainly some of my seams in the front that were a little unsightly and the final gather at the top. At first I thought it looked okay to be a little off to one side – a little off center whimsy! However, it just looks…off center.

Of course, you may expect something designed for a pet to get chewed on or messy perhaps, so I figured it doesn’t matter if there are a few less than perfect spots in this a quick weekend project you may only use for a few months out of the year. Unfortunately, my familiar is a very finicky little feline…

He doesn’t like his pumpkin cat house and won’t go in it!