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    The distinctive Texas accent has long been a point of pride and identity for citizens of the Lone Star State. But a KUT News story on a University of Texas comparative study speculates that the twang is less common than it used to be.

    “What’s changed over the past few decades is that you don’t automatically have a twang because you’re from here,” said Lars Hinrichs, a linguistics professor at the University of Texas. He leads the Texas English Project, and he has a German accent. He’s been comparing recordings of the way Texans used to talk to how they talk now.

    Hinrichs has found marked changes in Texan pronunciation over recent decades. The story also cites how some Texans change their accents over time or as a result of context, such as when they move from a rural area to a city. Other studies suggest that transformation of regional accents isn’t limited to the Lone Star State.

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    Whether your Halloween costume is a charred zombie, the virgin in a horror movie, or Katniss Everdeen if something went terribly wrong on her chariot ride, it’s surprisingly easy to create a realistic looking burn.

    The makeup and special effects department at The House of Torment demonstrate how to create this simple effect using nothing more than a bottle of liquid latex, a pair of tweezers, a paintbrush, a cheap paint palette and a stipple brush.

    You can pick up the liquid latex, paint palette and stipple brush at any of the pop-up seasonal Halloween shops for about $10. Curling up under a blanket and waiting for your spouse to find you like this on a random Tuesday night, on the other hand, is priceless. 


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    Not all the big Formula One money changing hands here in Austin is related to the debut Grand Prix race and attendant hubbub coming soon from November 16-18. The Teachers Retirement System of Texas has invested $200 million in the holding company for the Formula One Group, giving TRS a three percent of so share in the entity that sanctions and oversees Grand Prix racing, the American-Statesman reports. The investment is not in the local track and the company, Circuit of the Americas, holding next month's F1 race. But the event can have an effect on the investment.

    “Now the teachers win when F1 makes money and when new dollars come into our state as a result of the Grand Prix,” said Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein.

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    Book signing for Nina Godiwalla

    At one point in the 1990s, there were seven Barnes & Noble bookstores, three Borders and one BookPeople in Austin. Today, there are half as many Barnes & Noble, Borders is out of business, and BookPeople still stands.

    What was founded in 1970 as a small, near-campus Eastern philosophy and politics bookstore has grown into one of the best-loved institutions in Austin, and a model independent bookstore. BookPeople manages to maintain relevance in the digital age and continues to grow its customer base thanks to a knowledgeable staff and a commitment to the community, said co-owner and CEO Steve Bercu.

    BookPeople was originally known as Grok Books, named for a term in Robert Heinlein’s "Stranger in a Strange Land," and was located at 17th and San Antonio. True to the times, from 1970 into the ’80s, the store mainly sold books on philosophy, religion, politics and health. In 1985, the store went more mainstream when it moved to a new location in the Brodie Oaks neighborhood, becoming the largest bookstore in Austin at the time, and was renamed BookPeople. Bercu came into the picture in 1994, the year before the store moved to its now-iconic 6th and Lamar location.

    “When we opened, not only was there no Internet, but there were no book chains in Austin,” Bercu said. “Since that time, both things have happened. Chains have come and one has gone, and the Internet has created more competition.”

    BookPeople stays relevant by creating an experience the customer can’t get from a chain or the Internet, Bercu said, by hosting book signings, supporting local authors, taking an active role in the community and employing knowledgeable staff who are able to make a person-to-person recommendation.

    “The staff at BookPeople is super helpful and always have great recommendations,” said shopper Jenna Henson, a financial analyst for Whole Foods. “It's amazing that it’s stayed independent for so long; I love that. It’s really an Austin institution.”

    Around 2000, BookPeople began focusing strongly on the Austin community, and in 2002, Bercu and others founded the non-profit Austin Independent Business Alliance, of which he is president. BookPeople donates to silent auctions for non-profits and local groups, sponsors local 5Ks and sports events, provides books for school book fairs and libraries – “all sorts of things that keep us part of this community that we support because we live here,” Bercu said.

    “Austin is extremely receptive to its local businesses, and most of the successful local businesses have been strong partners of the community,” he said. “The chains never made any meaningful effort, and of course, the Internet’s return to the community is zero.”

    BookPeople gives local writers support they don’t receive anywhere else, said Julie Wernersbach, a publicist and bookseller for the store, who added that the most meaningful part of her job is being able to witness the moment when a reader connects with an author.

    “Amazon doesn’t host author signings,” she joked. “We serve as a place for the community to come and meet.”

    One thing Amazon does do, though, is sell e-books, which during the first quarter of 2012 surpassed adult hardcover books in sales, according to the Association of American Publishers. Although BookPeople has been selling e-books for the past year, Bercu said they compose only a small portion of the store’s sales. But that could soon change.

    In November, BookPeople, through a partnership with the American Booksellers Association, will be one of about 800 independent booksellers to offer the Kobo e-reading device. Readers will be able to purchase the device in BookPeople and have the store set up as their physical store, meaning that a cut from any e-book a customer purchases on their Kobo will benefit BookPeople. Bercu said that having the device itself in the store will probably provide a bump in e-sales.

    “Every market study shows that a book store needs to have the device itself, as well as the e-books,” he said. “We want to continue to be the place to buy physical books, but we also want our customers to be able to continue to shop locally.”

    Even with the proliferation of e-books and the ability to support a local bookstore without even setting foot in it, the folks at BookPeople are confident that customers aren’t going anywhere.

    “Going to a bookstore is a different experience than having an algorithm figure out what you like,” Bercu said. “You walk around and browse, you look at the covers, you pick things up. You can find stuff online, but you can’t look around the same way. That’s a big deal difference to a lot of people who shop in our store.”

    BookPeople to being selling e-readers in November
    Related Articles: 

    Go Local Experiences Fast Growth in Austin's Local Shopping Scene

    By Stephanie Myers / Sep 19, 2012

    Go Local was started in 2008 and in only four years, the local-shopping rewards program has sold hundreds of thousands of cards, with more than 100,000 currently in circulation driving customers to more than 550 participating local busines

    New Central Library Designed as 'Living Room for All of Austin'

    By Stephanie Myers / Sep 27, 2012

    When Austin’s central library, the John Henry Faulk Library, was built in 1979, it was mainly a place to house books. Over the years, the library added computers and installed Wi-Fi and last year added a whole new collection of downloadable books for e-readers.

    Austin Public Library Prizes Tech Despite Limited Budget

    By Stephanie Myers / Sep 12, 2012

    Today you’re as likely to see someone reading a book on their iPad or Kindle as you are to see them sitting down holding an actual book. As it changes everything else, technology is also changing reading habits, but that’s not a bad thing according to Austin library officials.

    Local Independent Pharmacy Peoples Rx Thrives After 30 Years, Despite Competition

    By Stephanie Myers / Sep 26, 2012

    Bill Swail of Austin is 70 years old and doesn’t take a single daily medication. Swail says he’d be happy never to fill a prescription again.

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    We’ve trolled Facebook, LinkedIn and odd corners of the Internet looking for the tech jobs you won’t find on Craigslist. Most of these come from people at the company in question hoping a friend of a friend can help them find a good person to hire. Luckily for you, The Austin Post is your friend.

    HomeAway is seeking a SEM Analyst.
    Zynga Austin team, if any of you are looking for a tech or operations job in Austin with a rockin' team, ping jobs [at] theelevationgroup [dot] com.

    We're a small group of entrepreneurs that empowers the middle class with the wealth strategies of the ultra-rich. 2 years old. We're looking for one or two more rockstars to join our team and do something meaningful and big.
    Evernote Austin is looking for Engineers, Visual/UX Designers, and a few more roles. Austin is focused on building our Skitch product line across Android, iOS, OS X, and Windows.
    360Partners is looking to hire an Online Marketing Account Manager for our agency. Ideal person can dive into the technical PPC stuff and manage relationships with clients.
    SecureNet is looking to hire a Mobile Application Developer.
    Amazing company ready to hire Senior Software Engineer - Embedded. Contact Cindy [at] ppaac [dot] com for additional information and immediate consideration.
    I've held this position as an editorial assistant for about 2 years now, and I'm changing jobs soon (which is a good thing!), but the change means sadly leaving working for this website. I greatly enjoyed this job - it's not full-time, perfect for a freelancer. Check out the job posting - ideal for a writer plugged into Austin & active on social media.
    Searching for an entry level (or near entry-level) data analyst for a fun and exciting start-up located downtown with lots of company perks. Need solid SQL skills: reporting SQL (select) and SSRS knowledge would be nice, but not a deal breaker. Contact melissa [dot] gadd [at] arc-is [dot] com.
    I'm looking for a Javascript Developer for a permanent position with a fantastic company in town! Please email resumes to elena [at] lunadatasolutions [dot] com for more info.
    Looking for quality candidates for an Automated Testing Engineer in an awesome location in Austin. Send your resume to Cindy [at] ppaac [dot] com for additional information and immediate consideration.
    Mutual Mobile is hiring iOS Developers in Austin, TX.
    ___ is hiring a content assistant. It's probably a 3-month gig max.
    Mason Zimbler is looking for a Motion Graphic Designer to craft video executions that engage, educate and entertain. Candidates must wield an impeccable command of the production process: initial concept, design, animation, art direction and final render. The ideal candidate will have a strong visual aesthetic and a mastery of motion and timing. Our Motion Graphic Designer must be an imaginative and capable designer with strong communication skills.
    HomeAway is looking for a Marketing Specialist.
    Looking for a Mid Level Java Web Developer for a direct hire permanent position in Austin. Please email resumes to elena [at] lunadatasolutions [dot] com for more info.
    One of my clients needs an advanced developer with CSS/SASS and Node.js experience. Let me know if you are interested and we can discuss deets: rdiaz [at] vitamintalent [dot] com.
    Jellifi is looking for a graphic designer to help on some immediate short-term projects. Job requires converting existing image assets into HMTL for backend development. Compensation will be determined based on speed of completion and experience. Email martin [at] jellifi [dot] com.
    Just saw on the Twitters that Demand Media in ATX is looking for a web developer. Get in touch with @devinsays on twitter or through their site.
    Mid level Java Developer needed. Please send qualified resumes to elena [at] lunadatasolutions [dot] com.
    Hangar Inc, a prosthetics company, seeks an IT Project Manager with 5+ years of software lifecycle experience.
    Spawn Labs is seeking a Gaming Onboarding Specialist.
    FlexRadio is looking for a Software Engineer with extensive .NET and WPF experience.

    If you didn’t see anything that looked like a good fit, other good tech job resources in Austin include:

    Startup Hire
    Launch Pad Job Club


    Related Articles: 

    What Recruiters Recommend: Modern UX/UI Skills

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Oct 5, 2012

    Door64 recently hosted the Painpoint Job Fair for companies at the “pain point” where they couldn’t move forward with vital projects until they hired new coders.

    What Recruiters Recommend: Why Austin is Flooded with $10 Social Media Jobs

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Aug 16, 2012

    A shocking number of social media job listings ask for five years of experience, two pages of skills, and a 24/7 dedication to the job. In exchange, they offer $10 an hour and no benefits.

    Eye in the Sky

    Austin Mavens Dish on What Makes Our Tech Scene Work

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Oct 4, 2012

    Technology is a notoriously cutthroat industry. The nonstop battles for venture capital and industry attention are known to split marriages, end friendships and start bitter rivalries. 

    Except here. 


    CEOs and Tech Pros Confide Their Favorite Austin-Born Technologies

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Oct 10, 2012

    Austin’s tech scene is known for being friendly, outgoing and collaborative. We gave eight technology professionals ranging from CEOs to Community Educators the opportunity to brag about their favorite technology to come out of Austin. 

    Dan Graham

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    Photos by Camille Akin

    Little Bit and Toby are best buddies and share a kennel at Austin Animal Center. They have been at the shelter for five months despite being potty trained, affectionate, gentle, easy on the leash, good with other dogs and trained in basic obedience.

    Toby is a six-year-old lab mix with an affectionate personality and eagerness to please people.


    (Photos by Camille Akin.)

    He is gentle and patient with Little Bit, a seven-year-old Beagle mix, who enjoys entertaining herself with tennis balls. This can include punting them around with her nose and rolling on top of them. These bonded cuties should be adopted together.

    You can meet Toby and Little Bit in kennel 21 at Town Lake Animal Center (1156 Cesar Chavez), or visit them in Hard Luck Hound's booth 4 at Sunday's Pittie Pride Event at Republic Square Park.

    Like all Hard Luck Hounds, the adoption fees for Little Bit and Toby are waived, and they come with crates, new collars and concierge service from the Hard Luck Hounds team. They are spayed, neutered, microchipped, up-to-date on their shots and ready to go home today.


    Mannerly Pair Are Affectionate and Entertaining

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    Sarah Pitre had a lifelong love affair with young adult literature, but couldn’t find a place online to connect with other people who understood that reading about first kisses and the trials of young-adulthood wasn’t just for thirteen-year-olds. Already a blogger and a high-energy organizer (she’s the one on the Alamo Drafthouse team responsible for public events at The Highball and Girlie Nights), once she realized there wasn’t something out there that fit her needs, she decided to start it herself.

    Forever Young Adult is an Austin-based blog and international online community for adults who enjoy sipping on a cocktail, reading their favorite YA books and discussing why the world of YA literature can be so satisfying for an adult audience – whether people appreciate YA authors' taking risks with content and structure, or because they just want to re-experience the excitement of a first romance.

    The site organizes book clubs in cities around the country and overseas and provides tons of content reviewing YA books and TV shows, ranking popular romances of classic literature, creating drinking games and generally writing about anything deemed “Badass.” The book reviews that form the core of the site shun the star system in favor of relationship-status ratings (is this book a soulmate, or that annoying friend who keeps bugging you for a date?), and quick hit info to help you decide whether this book has what you need in your YA reads: a sexy romance or love triangle? Plenty of magic and swashbuckling? Sci-fi action? The purpose is to make adult readers of YA feel like they have a home, and that home is Forever Young Adult.

    We interviewed Sarah Pitre about starting the blog, building community and why she loves YA.

    Austin Post: When and why did you start Forever Young Adult?

    Sarah Pitre: I started it in July 2009 because I had had a longtime addiction to YA, and I got really tired of people making fun of me or being like, “Oh, YA – so, you like Twilight.” I thought, there’s got to be someplace online where I can go where people understand that YA also means Sarah Dessen or David Levithan, but I couldn’t find it. It doesn’t mean it’s not out there, but I couldn’t find the kind of community that I was looking for, which in my mind was a cross between, like, Jezebel and a book blog.

    I was talking about it to my then-boyfriend / now-husband, and he was like, why don’t you just start your own? And I said, “Oh, I guess I could do that!”

    So I thought a lot about the structure of it, and what I wanted to cover and how I wanted the book reviews to be different than everything else I saw online, and I came up with the structure that we use. Then I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do this by myself, so I reached out to a couple friends so that we could all do this together. I didn’t want it to be just me posting once a week, I wanted it to be a community of people.

    Austin Post: What about Young Adult books draws you in?

    Sarah Pitre: I think it’s because of, as Jenny (one of the site’s writers) likes to call it, the purity of firsts. I think there is something really electrifying about that. Reading about someone’s first crush or first kiss or the first time they realized their parents were human beings, the first time they realized they lived in a sheltered world. There’s just something really intense about that.

    I actually had a really great adolescence. Being a teenager, I had a great time in school and didn’t have a lot of angst. So I don’t know if it’s because I had a great adolescence that I really enjoy reading about people who don’t. But there’s something special about that age where you are figuring things out, and you still have a lot of space to figure that out.

    And another thing that I love about YA is that authors are a lot more adventurous, and they take more risks in what they write. Just because, I feel like there hasn’t been as much of a critical spotlight on YA until recently, so authors have been able to try new things and they don’t have to fit a specific mold.

    I just reviewed a book called “Every Day” by David Levithan that’s about someone who changes bodies every day, and it’s a very gender-bending book. And I’m sure there are adult books like that, but they’re not as well-known as a book by David Levithan. They can really bring provocative issues to the floor in a way adult authors may not be able to.

    Austin Post: Since you mentioned “Twilight” earlier, what’s your opinion?

    Sarah Pitre: I did read the books, so I’m not one of those people who doesn’t like it but hasn’t read it. I read all four. I’m a huge fan of romance, so that part of the book didn’t bother me at all. I’m a fan of love triangles, and I’m totally Team Jacob. But what I don’t like about those books is Stephanie Meyer's writing style and I don’t like her portrayal of Bella at all. I don’t think she’s a girl I would have wanted to read about when I was a teenager, and I definitely don’t want to read about her now. She’s boring and feckless and she doesn’t become a strong character until she’s a vampire, and by that point, I was like, I can’t handle this.

    Austin Post: Does it bother you that that’s what people think about when they think of YA?

    Sarah Pitre: It did bother me, but now I view it as a tool for YA-angelism – evangelism of YA. It’s a great gateway book to YA. Because most people have read it, and if they are talking to me about it, I can say, “Well I didn’t like it, but if you liked that, you might like this,” and recommend a book that I think is better but has some similar themes or elements to it.

    I think a lot of the credit goes to Harry Potter, but Twilight did open up a lot of people’s minds to the idea that they might want to read YA. And YA is such a huge hot market, and it’s given a lot of authors a chance to get published – some of them better than others.

    Austin Post: Forever Young Adult has spread outside of Austin since you started, right?

    Sarah Pitre: Yes, we’re national and international. We started book clubs all over the place, so that’s a way to extend the virtual community into people’s real lives. Now people can go to a YA book club in their home town, and we all read the same book and we send out discussion questions to the leaders. That’s been really awesome, and a huge boost to our community. It has connected people. We even have clubs in the UK and Australia and Canada.

    Austin Post: Was it your goal to spread like that, or did it just happen?

    Sarah Pitre: It kind of just happened. My goal was always to build a community where people like me would feel comfortable talking about YA without feeling shamed or weird, so the fact that it expanded was awesome. We want the site to feel like a place where people can come and not just read our posts, but talk about them with each other. I’m happy that it spread. It just shows that there are a lot of adults out there reading YA.

    Austin Post: Is the blog financially supportive, or is it more of a hobby?

    Sarah Pitre: We did start running ads a couple months ago, but you don’t have any pop up ads or something. We tried to do it tastefully. And we also have a store that we opened where we sell T-shirts. But I call it champagne money. It’s not enough for any of us to quit our jobs, but we make a little bit of money. We can go out and all meet up and buy each other drinks.

    Austin Post: You said you wanted to change the way book reviews were done. What bothered you about other book reviews?

    Sarah Pitre: One thing is that, when I read a book review, the star system doesn’t mean anything to me. Unless it’s five-star or one star, what’s the difference? So I wanted it to be more personal. So we made it a relationship status, because it’s how we feel about the book and it’s easy to explain that. You can be like, “I really want to marry this book” and people know you love it, or you can say “Booty Call!” And people know it’s fun for the night, but you don’t want to see it again. It made it more fun, but it’s also a better way to communicate our feelings about the book.

    There’s so many books out there that it’s overwhelming to just read reviews, so I wanted a review where things would stick out to me that I was interested. So we have bonus factors – if you’re into books about sisters or tasty business, those things you can see right away at the top of the review. You can see, this book has magic, and I’m into magic. And we have the swoonworthy scale, which is important to me. Because I like romance, and I want to know if a book is high on the swoon. I’m more drawn to books that are like an 8 or a 10. I’m just speaking for me too, the other girls on the site have different tastes, so with all of us reviewing, I think people who read the site have aligned themselves with [different writers].

    Austin Post: How often do you read a new book?

     Sarah Pitre: I read at least one book a week, sometimes two. All of us only do one review a week, but then there’s books that I just want to read because like, Megan reviewed it and I really want to read it, or the book club is reading one. Fortunately, YA is typically a quick read.

    Austin Post: Do you find all your money going to the book stores?

    Sarah Pitre: No, because publishers send us the books. They send us review copies, and a lot of times that’s their way to try to get us to read an author that we haven’t experienced before, but we can always request books that are coming out. I do buy the book club books from Book People, because I feel like I want to support them, but for the most part I don’t ever have to buy books, which is pretty sweet.

    Austin Post: Is that the biggest perk of the blog becoming successful?

    Sarah Pitre: That is a perk, but my favorite part is just having the community. I would still buy the books, but it’s so much fun to write a post about Finnick in “Catching Fire,” and how Sam Clayfin isn’t hot enough, and have other people say, “I know, right?” It’s so validating.

    Austin Post: Any advice for people with an idea who want to start a blog?

    Sarah Pitre: I think once you have something you are passionate about, go online and see what is out there about that passion. See if other people are doing it or writing about it. I did that with YA, and once I saw that no one out there was doing what I wanted to do, it gave me the motivation to start. I’m not saying every site has to be completely different, but I think it’s important to express what you are passionate about in a unique way. And then, I think building community is the most important thing. If people write a comment, write them back. Go to similar sites and comment there. If you are doing it to build a community, and you really want other people involved, social media is really important. Having a Facebook and Twitter audience.

    Find out more at Forever Young Adult online or check out the FYA book club at Book People

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    In an ideal universe, every book would find an audience on its own. You the author would sit alone in your cork-lined room painting pictures with words, and then your publisher would handle all the publicity and marketing details to draw the eager attention of the reading public. And maybe it is that idyllic for J.K. Rowling, E.L. James and a fortunate few others.

    For the rest of us, however, getting any level of attention for a book is a grind, whether it’s a book you’ve put out yourself or one that comes out through a publisher. I should know, because I’ve done it both ways. There really isn’t that much difference because the truth is that no one else is going to care as much about your book as you do.

    I’d always wanted to write books, going back to my time in Austin when I was writing for the Daily Texan and the Austin Chronicle while getting a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Texas – class of 1985, hook ’em. A decade later, I finally started writing a novel called “Off The Record.” It was a roman a clef set in the music business about a fictional one-hit wonder, and kind of a crazy late-night hobby from my day job as rock critic for a daily newspaper, the Raleigh News & Observer.

    I spent three long years writing the first draft and a fourth year pitching it. Hooking up with an agent seemed like a breakthrough, but he could never sell it. “Rock novels are a tough sell” was a phrase I heard repeatedly before he bowed out and we went our separate ways. I’m not sure if I was his last straw, but he left the field not long after that.

    Faced with a choice between letting it languish in a drawer or putting it out myself, I opted to go the do-it-yourself route and published “Off The Record” in the fall of 2000 through the print-on-demand publisher iUniverse. It cost me all of $134 (a price that has since risen to about $400), and what I spent on wholesale copies to sell at bookstore readings. Most people bought copies online via My only other expense was web-hosting, about 100 bucks a year.

    I promoted it the way you would an underground rock record. Inspired by the faux-realist approach of “The Blair Witch Project,” I did a website that masqueraded as a fansite for the fictional band in the book. I wrote a fake music-encyclopedia entry, band member’s tour diary, newspaper feature; even had a friend record some songs I posted as “bootlegs” of TAB, the greatest band you’ve never heard of. The message board was disabled long ago, but 12 years later the site is still there.

    Despite the vanity-press taint, “Off The Record” met with a surprising amount of success. I scored reviews in some fairly sizable outlets, including the Los Angeles Daily News, Hartford Courant and Arizona Republic. And in the thrill of a lifetime, legendary rock scribe Greil Marcus included my book in his “Real-Life Top-10” column on one week. Most (but not all) of the reviews were kind, and I sold enough copies to make a little money.

    This fall, I had a book come out on University of Texas Press, as part of its new American Music Series. Titled “Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown,” it’s a rather idiosyncratic biography of the musician Ryan Adams, with whom I have a long and intermittently painful history (in a further example of irony or synchronicity or both, Adams was also one of the real-life models for the crazy rock-star character in “Off The Record”). It’s still early in the cycle, and so far the response has been good. I actually had more and bigger reviews of the self-published book, but I’m hoping a few more “Losering” reviews will come through before it runs its course.

    I should say that I am thrilled to be working with UT Press, and I’m also co-editor of the American Music Series that “Losering” is part of. I had to do everything myself last time, so it’s great to have a publicist and marketing folks in my corner on this one (and also not have to lug boxes of books around myself). They’ve been wonderful to work with.

    Nevertheless, to this point most of the press attention I’ve gotten for “Losering” has been from me getting out there and flogging it myself, just like last time. If you think there’s an audience for your book, it’s up to you to go find it, even if you’re on a major publisher. You should start laying the groundwork up to a year before your publication date – after first making sure your book is as good as it can be, which is obvious but worth repeating. Unless a book is burning a hole in you to get out, don’t bother writing it. But if it is and you’ve written it, here’s what to do to get started:

    1) Get Ready to Blog. I was talking to someone recently who was gearing up to launch a self-published book, and he said he thought blogging was a waste of time and the province of charlatans. “I never bought a book because of a blog,” he sniffed. That’s a mindset to get over, pronto.

    Thanks to social media, people expect a certain amount of interaction and transparency to go with their culture. They want to know who you are and what went on behind the scenes (if you’re lucky). And chances are that you’ve got a lot more material than you had room to fit into your book. That’s perfect fodder for a blog, where you can give people a peek behind the curtain.

    The blog can also be a place to link to coverage of your book when it comes up; to respond to reviews, if it seems appropriate; and to post pictures that people send you when they see your book in a far-away bookstore somewhere. Doing a blog takes planning, and a commitment to posting every day (or as close to that as you can manage) during the initial launch period. But it can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be a huge drain of either time or money.

    My blog for the Ryan Adams book is at Worth noting: Wordpress is free to use. Other than paying for the photo at the top, I’ve not had to pay a dime for it.

    2) Get Social. Speaking of social media, if you’re not plugged into maximum usage of Facebook and Twitter, you’d better be. The people you’re already connected to there will probably be your most avid fans. And you’ll need to be prepared for the people who hear about your book and go looking for you. Facebook is where they’ll search.

    You should also set up an author page on that’s linked to your book. You can link that to your blog and Twitter feed, publicize your bookstore readings and check sales via Amazon’s “Author Central.”

    Bookstore readings, by the way, are kind of a best-of-times-worst-of-times proposition where you’ll experience both the highs and lows of the process. There’s nothing better than a good hometown crowd, when you can count on friends and family to turn out; see my account and pictures on the "Losering" blog on the reading I did at Raleigh's independent Quail Ridge Books & Music, a night that could not have gone better (and I sold 75 books).  But those crickets can be deafening on those nights when you wind up reading to the store clerk and no one else. My advice is to do every reading you can, within reason, but don’t expect too much. Maybe you'll get a review or a blurb somewhere you otherwise wouldn't have. And if it’s a disaster along the lines of Spinal Tap opening for the puppet show, consider it a rite of passage and a funny story for the memoir someday.

    3) Network. If you want to know the future of marketing and publicity, read this essay by author Michael Ellsberg on the single most effective exposure he received for his book, "The Education of Millionaires," and take it to heart.

    Ads in newspapers and magazines are nice, especially if you have a publisher willing to pay for them. But you’ll probably get more immediate results by figuring out the right corner of the blogosphere to troll.

    After you figure out where you want coverage, you need to cultivate relationships before you go asking for anything. If you wait until you have something to sell, then you’re just another faceless person who is asking for that most precious commodity – time. But if you’ve already established a relationship with the right gatekeeper, you’re far more likely to catch a break, even if it’s not as dramatic as what Michael Ellsberg experienced via Tim Ferris.

    David Menconi will discuss “Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown” at Shangri-La, 1016 E. Sixth St. in Austin, at 9 p.m. Saturday as part of the Texas Book Festival’s “Lit Crawl.” Also on the bill are Sylvie Simmons, author of “I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen”; and Ken Caillat, author of “Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album.” Raoul Hernandez will moderate. Admission is free. See or for details.

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    Austin's unique petri dish nurtured a culture that made it world-famous for art, music and creative possibility, from the Armadillo World Headquarters to "Slacker" to Spoon. Not to mention a place to have a good ol' time.

    Writer (and friend-of-Austin-Post) Richard Parker wonders in the New York Times whether its notoriety will destroy that which made it famous in the first place:

    It’s hard to pinpoint just when Austin entered the American field of vision, but a good guess would be with the release of the first two feature films from the director Richard Linklater, “Slacker” (1991), a day in the life of the city, and “Dazed and Confused” (1993), about the last day of class at an Austin high school. Both films showed townsfolk letting their freak flag fly, intent on having a good time, unaware of things like money, status and material possessions.

    Viewers saw Mr. Linklater’s Austin as another outpost in what the music critic Greil Marcus called the “old, weird America.” Back then, that might have been all anyone outside Texas ever knew about the city.

    Twenty years later, it is hard to overstate just how popular Austin has become in the American psyche. When I travel and tell people where I’m from, I almost invariably hear that it is either the coolest town they have ever visited or the place they most want to go on their next vacation.

    And yet, for all that so-called success, "Austin is in danger of losing the simple, quirky vibe that made it special in the first place.

    With the convergence of Lance's disgrace, Formula One about to take over the town, this season of music fests and the changes wrought by Austin's incredible boom that we see on streets all around us, it's hard not to wonder how much of Austin we get to keep.

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    Top Gear got the chance to run a super-hopped-up Caddy and a wicked-fast Chevy up and down the about-to-be-opened toll road SH 130 the other day and got them up to 220 MPH and 203 MPH respectively. Looks like a lot of fun.

    Good thing they did their speeding before we found out that wild hogs unused to vehicular traffic happen to frequent this stretch of road, perchance to get in the way of speeding cars. According to KXAN:

    High speeds and wild hogs on the newly opened stretch of SH 130 made for a dangerous combination the very first night the road was open.

    Four crashes between vehicles and hogs were reported to authorities. Three were in the Lockhart city limits and a fourth was in Caldwell County.

    One of the crashes totaled a vehicle. No serious injuries were reported, but authorities worry this problem will continue to get worse as traffic increases on the new highway connecting Georgetown and Seguin. The speed limit on the toll road is 85 mph. 

    This toll road has been reported as the fastest road in America, although we know that you can also drive 85 on I-10 in West Texas.

    Zoom Oink!

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    This Halloween, dress as your version of LESLIE in his honor--let's not let 6th St. be Leslie-less this first Halloween since he left us. We will traverse together in mass-Leslie-ness to bring joy to all downtowners.

    What's a rampage? It's a WHOLE bunch of folks dressing similarly & can be done around any one entity... Santa name it, then trekking en masse from bar to bar and up and down 6th St. The important thing is RESPRESENTIN' Leslie in your own special way. Gather your Leslie costume together (tiaras, fishnets, boas, mini-skirts, g-strings optional!) and be prepared for a little chaotic, Leslie-style FUN! 

    But it's not just a's an ATTITUDE--interactions with folks, Leslie-style!

    Thereare not many rules associated with them, and no one's in charge shy of calling a meet-up spot, but lets borrow the guidelines from the Austin Santa Rampage (starting with, "don't make children cry" - Leslie sure didn't!).
    MEET UP INFO: At 7pm, we'll gather at Headhunters (720 Red River St); from there, at 7:30pm, we'll trek down Red River to El Sol y Luna (corner of 6th St.) to Leslie-ize the bar and get some appetizers for anyone who's around 8:15pm, we'll go over to Lipstick - where Leslie's portrait hangs (where we had LeslieFest: 606 East 7th St.). About 8:45pm, we'll head from there to tromp around 6th St. - if you arrive later, just look for a hordes of Leslies traveling together! (We'll twitter too at #LeslieRampage).
    Dress as Leslie and Join the Rampage
    Related Articles: 

    Sad News: Leslie Dies at 60

    By Austin Post Staff / Mar 8, 2012

    Sad news indeed today: Leslie Cochran, Austin's favorite thong-wearing denizen, died last night at 1 a.m. Leslie had been in hospice care for several weeks after a recent fall probably related to an earlier head injury.

    It's Beard...It's Weird...It's Leslie's 60th Birthday Party!

    By Deb / Jun 21, 2011

    Birthday celebration Wednesday evening on behalf of Austin's icon of "weird," Leslie Cochran. Toni Price headlines...................

    Hell Not Weird Enough for Leslie: Decides to Stay Put

    By Deb / Mar 5, 2012

    "It's not what happens to you, it's what you do with it that counts." - Leslie Cochran

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    We sent our intrepid reporter out to Comic Con to see what costumes you were wearing a week before Halloween.  There were plenty of Banes, a fair number of Doctors (mostly Eleven, though you can never go wrong with a Four), a little bit of Steampunk and a whole lot of clever comic book costumes. Check out Austin's costumed crusaders. 


    Related Articles: 

    Superman, Batman, X-Men Artist Neal Adams on Comics Taking Over the World

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Oct 22, 2012

    Eisner Award-winning comic book artist Neal Adams will be in good company with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and three of the biggest badasses from The Walking Dead at Austin’s Wizard World Com

    Behind the Scenes at Scare for a Cure

    It takes over 1500 volunteers working 15,000 hours to make Scare for a Cure happen. Founder Jarrett Crippen took the Austin Post on a behind the scenes tour so you can get a glimpse of what it takes to create 45 minutes of terror. 


    Behind the Scenes at the House of Torment

    For the last five years, The House of Torment has been ranked as one of the top five haunted houses in the country. On popular nights, the lines to get in can last over an hour.

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    Whether your Halloween costume is a decaying zombie, a post-apocalyptic plague victim, or the Baron Harkonnen from David Lynch’s "Dune," it’s easy to make realistic pus filled boils.

    The makeup and special effects department at The House of Torment demonstrate how to create this simple effect using nothing more than a bottle of liquid latex, a cotton ball, a paintbrush, a cheap paint palette and a stipple brush.

    You can pick up the liquid latex, paint palette and stipple brush at any of the pop up seasonal Halloween shops for about $10. 


    Related Articles: 

    How to Look Like a Burn Victim for only $10

    Whether your Halloween costume is a charred zombie, the virgin in a horror movie, or Katniss Everdeen if something went terribly wrong on her chariot ride, it’s surprisingly easy to create a realistic looking burn.

    Behind the Scenes at the House of Torment

    For the last five years, The House of Torment has been ranked as one of the top five haunted houses in the country. On popular nights, the lines to get in can last over an hour.

    Behind the Scenes at Scare for a Cure

    It takes over 1500 volunteers working 15,000 hours to make Scare for a Cure happen. Founder Jarrett Crippen took the Austin Post on a behind the scenes tour so you can get a glimpse of what it takes to create 45 minutes of terror. 


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    There aren’t many tricks up this Halloween week, but there are plenty of treats in the form of user groups, an eBay-backed Hackathon and a ton of free classes from the good folks at Capital Factory.

    Tech Tots: Carnival
    Oct 30, 1:30 p.m.
    Microsoft Store                            
    3309 Esperanza Crossing
    During TechTots we will have digital story time, hands-on technology learning with Tech Mouse, and a snack time for children ages two to five years old. Join Tech Mouse in our Carnival class. Children will have fun and learn about smell, taste, touch, sights and sounds. Parent or caregiver must remain present.

    Curing the Insanity of RFIs with Keith Pearce
    Oct 30, 6:30 p.m.
    Monkey Nest Coffee
    5353 Burnet Rd
    If you think RFI stands for "Recipe For Insanity," you should come out to the October meeting of the Austin Content Strategy group. Keith Pearce from Intel will share his recent experience with researching, writing and reviewing responses to a Request For Information from suppliers of content and Web design services for Intel's Human Resources intranet. If you have any horror stories or success stories from RFIs, RFPs, RFWTFs, we'd love to hear them. Keith Pearce is an Experience Architect and Content Strategist for Intel Human Resources, where he designs employee experiences with HR related to content.

    Austin ISSA Board Meeting
    Nov 1, 11:30 a.m.
    Crowne Plaza Hotel Austin
    6121 North IH 35
    The ISSA Capitol of Texas Chapter (Austin ISSA) is the community of choice for Central Texas information security professionals to advance individual growth, manage technology risk, and protect critical information and infrastructure.

    South Austin C++ User Group
    Nov 1, 7:00 p.m.
    Join to learn the location
    This month we'll be speaking with engineers David Schwarz & Josh Housh, and HR coordinator Denise Vasquez from ARM-based server-on-a-chip startup Calxeda, Inc. They'll give us some insights into Calxeda's high-efficiency 5-watt servers.  These machines are based on the same CPUs found in smart phones and tablet computers.  48 of these tiny processors can fit comfortably in a single 2U chassis (twice the height of a typical low-profile blade server).
    Calxeda is looking for approximately 10 software engineers total.  

    Drupal Dojo
    Nov 1, 7:00 p.m.
    Mangia Pizza
    8012 Mesa Dr
    The Drupal Dojo is for anyone interested in hanging out with other Drupalistas in a "hive mind" environment. There is no set topic or presenter so bring your laptop, a pet project and an appetite.

    Node.js Meetup
    Nov 1, 7:00 p.m.
    Capital Factory
    701 Brazos St
    Topic: Adding Application(s) to the Document - Why can't our websites be platforms for user applications? Join me for a discussion of Web Workers, Content Security Policies, IFrames, and LinkAPjs, a framework to tie them into a safe operating environment.

    JavaScript Austin November Meetup
    Nov 1, 7:00 p.m.
    Capital Factory
    701 Brazos St
    Topic: The Lambda Calculus and The Javascript - In this talk, I will introduce lambda calculus, explain how everything we do as functional programmers can be reduced to simple lambda calculs substitutions with no variables, no state and no types. This talk will explain concepts like church numbers, currying and combinators (including the elusive Y-combinator).  I will do this with examples done using Leisure, a lambda calculus engine written in Javascript and runnable in the browser or in NodeJS.

    The Robot Group
    Nov 1, 7:30 p.m.
    The Heritage at Gaines Ranch Loop
    4409 Gaines Ranch Loop
    Meetings at the Heritage are on the first and third weeks of the month, and are structured to start about 8:00 to 10:00 PM. Announcements, show-and-tell, and other group functions are carried out during these meetings. There is free parking at the La Quinta hotel next door. When you enter the Heritage, please sign in the guest book by the receptionist.

    Agile Leaders SIG - Getting engineering teams to participate in agile processes
    Nov 2, Noon
    CA Technologies
    5001 Plaza on the Lake, Suite 102
    Alchemy development and SQA managers announced that engineering would be using agile methods for producing software about 2 years ago and adoption was slow. At the start of this year, awareness and adoption has increased when Irma discovered Agile Austin and took the workshops and discussions back to Alchemy. Speaker Irma Rojas is the SQA Manager at Alchemy Systems. A few years back, Irma worked on an agile team at the Texas Education Agency and got hooked on the whole agile methodologies concept.

    UT Austin Hackathon: Sponsored by eBay
    Nov 2, 5:00 p.m.
    UT Austin: NHB building, Room 1.720
    Free food, free drinks, lots of prizes and a chance to hack the night away with your fellow geeks while working on a good cause. What more could a CompSci student want?

    Intro to the Austin Startup Community
    Nov 2, 6:00 p.m.
    Capital Factory
    701 Brazos St
    Joshua Baer presents this free orientation to help newcomers to the startup scene get acquainted with the exciting world of tech in Austin. We will canvas key events/meetups to attend, people, companies, VCs, blogs, hot issues and more. Learn the role of key players such as Lean Startup Machine, Startup Crawl, SXSW as well as Capital Factory and the Accelerator / Incubator ecosystem. After class you are welcome to network with a number of prominent folks in the ecosystem.

    ATX 2600
    Nov 2, 7:00 p.m.
    Spider House Cafe
    2908 Fruth St
    If you’re familiar with 2600 magazine you already have a good idea what these white hat hackers are all about. They set a very high and specific bar for knowledge, so check out their page for more details.

    Why User Experience Matters
    Nov 4, 10:00 a.m.
    Capital Factory
    701 Brazos St
    Looking to make your website more user friendly? User experience is at the heart of building a successful company. Being able to express design ideas by utilizing sitemaps, user flows, and wireframes is a skill that is in increasingly high demand, and a requirement for any serious career in interactive design or product management. If you're an aspiring entrepreneur, a visual designer, or a product manager or developer seeking to expand your skill set, then this workshop is for you. This class is intended for people with no formal background in user experience or design. It will focus on giving students an overview of how User Experience fits into creating compelling digital products followed by collaborative hands-on exercises demonstrating how you can apply these skills in the real world.

    3 Day Startup Austin: Final Pitches and Networking
    Nov 4, 7:00 p.m.
    3925 W Braker Ln
    The 3 Day Startup Austin Final Pitches and Networking on November 4th at 7:00 will be a presentation of the startups and prototypes created during the 3DS event. Companies from previous 3DS events include Famigo Games, Tamyca, Hoot, and more. The pitches will be followed by an opportunity to network with the 3DS participants and other attendees.
    The idea of 3 Day Startup is simple: start a technology company over the course of three days. We invite students from numerous backgrounds--MBAs, computer science, design, engineering, neuroscience, law, etc-- and provide guidance through the early stages of the startup experience. Over one intense weekend, 3DS participants brainstorm ideas, conduct market validation, devise business models, build prototypes, create branding, and pitch to investors and successful entrepreneurs. The result is an experience that challenges participants to innovate, build and launch real companies. Alumni of 3DS events have founded numerous startups and have collectively raised more than $2M in investment. Think you can start a company in 3 days?


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    Josh Baer: Laid Back Culture and Real Profitability Keys to Austin Tech

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Jun 26, 2012

    Serial entrepreneur Joshua Baer is on a mission to help people quit their jobs and become entrepreneurs. He founded his first startup from his college dorm room and has started or backed over a dozen since.

    This Week in Geek - October 25-31: Halloween-O-Rama

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Oct 25, 2012

    Austin’s geek scene is outdoing itself for the Halloween season. In fact, there’s so darn much going on I had to split the events between an all-Halloween listing and your usual action packed geek-o-rama.

    Halloween Event Roundup-O-Rama

    Halloween may fall on a Wednesday this year, but that’s not stopping grownups from throwing nonstop parties the week before the kids go begging for candy. The Austin Post has rounded up over 20 Halloween themed events crammed into six short days.

    Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal on Philanthropy, Villainy and Sea Monkeys

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Oct 23, 2012

    South by Southwest just announced they’re bringing us Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal as a keynote speaker. Luckily, you don’t have to wait five months and spend hundreds of dollars in order see him.

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    Once a week, We Are Austin Tech presents a short video interview with the people who help put Austin on the national map. Their love for Austin and its culture shines through. This week, enjoy their interview with Bryan Mennell, co-founder and managing director of Capital Factory and publisher of Austin Startup.  

    Want to learn more about Austin’s own Bryan Mennell? You can cyberstalk him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn.


    “Take advantage of all the things in our ecosystem here in Austin today that weren’t available even five years ago. There’s a huge list, between things like Capital Factory and Bootstrap Austin and all the social technology people, the Geek Austin meetups, there’s just something for everybody that is looking to get involved.” 

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    We Are Austin Tech: Richard Garriott

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Jul 30, 2012

    Once a week, We Are Austin Tech presents a short video interview with the people who help put Austin on the national map. Their love for Austin and its culture shines through.

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    TV is full of post-apocalyptic disasters. The Walking Dead. Revolution. Doomsday Preppers. Are things really that bad?

    With Halloween around the corner and Austin Comic Con just passed, the Austin Post asked 10 people why Americans are so gosh darn eager for an apocalyptic event that will end civilization as we know it (with or without zombies). In addition to our usual roundup of Austinites, we also heard from Michael Rooker, who knows a few things about surviving the end of the world.

    Michael Rooker (Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead):

    It’s part of our genetic makeup where we have this fear and these thoughts of bad things happening, and when they don’t, it’s really marvelous. Really, I think The Walking Dead is...a feel good show. It really is. It’s beautiful. At the end of it, you’re like, wow, I’m glad I’m not her. I’m glad I’m not pregnant in the zombie apocalypse. I’m glad I don’t have to cut my own hand off. I’m glad I’m not any of them. I’m glad I’m me.

    Tom Gordon:

    I think it's not so much the zombies themselves, but the breakdown of civilized society and being forced to retreat to the wild, to rely upon one's personal resourcefulness to survive. This romantic individualistic streak is a very long-held American tradition, and while the imagined settings may change with cultural winds -- Daniel Boone wilderness, Commie-occupied Amerika, post-nuclear highway Autoduelling, etc. -- that desire for a guns-and-hazards-filled freedom remains the same.

    Hope Clark:

    Ever since "Night of the Living Dead" we have been fixated on the media version of zombies. Before that it was books and different religious beliefs such as voodoo and even Christianity. The idea of the dead walking the earth has actually been around for some time. Also Americans tend to love their guns, so the idea of being free to use them all willy nilly could be quite intriguing for some. I think mostly, though, as humans I think we try to find excuses to feel alive, to feel a rush, which I think is why I have lived through three "end of the world" claims at this point. I think the unknowing of when exactly things will end (because we all know everything must end eventually) brings about a fantasy of every kind of scenario. We like the idea of being a warrior/survivor. It also drives us crazy with anticipation.

    Marc Majcher:

    Humans have basically no evolutionary pressures on us right now, and I think that our deep brains rebel against that somewhat. A fictional world full of predators tickles that itch in an entertaining way.

    Erika Haynes:

    Personally I don't like zombies. The monster with the face of someone you love is, in my humble opinion, a childhood fear myth, a very simplistic "why does mommy yell and spank me?” sort of thing.

    JJ Eggers:

    We are not much different from people going all the way back to ancient Greeks. As a group we are always intrigued by our own demise. I think we are just taking a fun look at that same fear and wonder of the end. Also zombies (and vampires in some ways) are seen to be something that could happen. I think RadioLab did the show about how rabies causes some behavior similar to both vamps and walkers.

    Samantha Reisz:

    I think Americans like the sense of adventure. Mostly, I agree that it’s all about that American individualism and sense that you can survive anything and make it on your own. I know some guys who are legit prepared for a comic zombie apocalypse and have special boots, special weapons, practices and the whole nine yards.

    Brian Tinsman:

    I think it's a fun fantasy to break laws and other social conventions. Smash a store window and grab all the merchandise you want, drive a bus the wrong way on the freeway, tell your boss to shut up and listen. While you're doing all this rule-breaking, you're the good guy since you're doing it to ensure your group's survival.

    Roger Fingas:

    I'd think the apocalyptic beliefs of devout Christians would have a lot to do with it. It also reflects secular views that society is about to collapse, and/or lingering Cold War-era fears. On top of that, an apocalypse allows for all the mayhem an audience could possibly want!

    Kevin Butler:

    Nathan Fillion had an interesting comment that might apply here. When asked about the difference between Canadians and Americans he mentioned that he thought Americans were generally much more afraid. They were afraid they'd lose their jobs. Afraid of other people. So there's a possible reason they’re afraid of the end of civilization.


    Related Articles: 

    Zombie Hunters Save Austin so You Can Sleep at Night

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Jul 20, 2012

    Tomorrow, post-Apocalyptic Austin could be overrun by the shambling corpses of your coworkers, many of whom are still bent over their desks at Dell, while former drug cartels raid the few pockets of survivors in search of food, water, weapons and women.

    Behind the Scenes at the House of Torment

    For the last five years, The House of Torment has been ranked as one of the top five haunted houses in the country. On popular nights, the lines to get in can last over an hour.

    Ecopocalypse turns Dirty Sixth into Post-Apocalyptic Halloween Hellscape

    Civilization crumbled. The survivors fell back into suspicious tribalism and fight for the last scraps of food and access to the few untainted sources of water. You, with your soft hands and clean clothes, have been flung into the middle of the post-apocalyptic struggle.

    How to Make a Gross, Pus-Filled Boil

    By Chris-Rachael O... / Oct 29, 2012

    Whether your Halloween costume is a decaying zombie, a post-apocalyptic plague victim, or the Baron Harkonnen from David Lynch’s "Dune," it’s easy to make realistic pus filled boils.

    How to Look Like a Burn Victim for only $10

    Whether your Halloween costume is a charred zombie, the virgin in a horror movie, or Katniss Everdeen if something went terribly wrong on her chariot ride, it’s surprisingly easy to create a realistic looking burn.

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    Researcher and writer Jeff Belanger has investigated the paranormal both for work and for pleasure. A former journalist, he has written books for adults and children and worked as a researcher on the Travel Channel’s ghost hunting show, Ghost Adventures.

    While Belanger was in Austin for the second Central Texas Paranormal Conference recently, he answered some questions and gave tips for amateur paranormal investigators.

    Austin Post: If someone wanted to do an investigation, where should they start?

    Jeff Belanger: I personally don’t recommend investigating in your own home – it’s opening a can of worms. Even if you feel like there might be a ghost in your home, there’s a psychological effect of looking for a ghost.

    When I talk to people about investigation, I steer people away from homes, because they aren’t qualified. I’m not qualified. There’s usually other things going on – psychological things, alcohol, violence. If people think they have a ghost and they feel afraid, we say, call your doctor, call religious leaders, call a psychologist first.

    If people are kinda happy and like the ghosts, [investigating] may just be a novelty.

    And you don’t solve a ghost problem in one night. Like the only time we did, it was people were hearing footsteps in their attic. I went up there and stepped in the house and immediately heard it. I went up to the attic, my flashlight shaking, and there was a huge raccoon. It really sounded like footsteps. I was wondering how this huge raccoon got up there.

    Austin Post: What are the big do's and don'ts of investigating?

    Jeff Belanger: Investigating on your own is not a good idea, because of safety for one. If you’re in a creepy old building, and you break your leg, who is going to drag you out?

    And if you have a personal experience (with the paranormal) by yourself, you’re always gonna wonder if you were just seeing things. [Co-investigators] can validate it and say if they see it too.

    Three is a good number. Once you get bigger groups, that’s hard too. With three, you can get everyone to shut up. With five or 10, it’s tougher to manage. People get bored or talk while you’re trying to get something on an audio recorder.

    The problem with TV shows is, people get used to seeing things happen every 7 minutes before the commercial break. But it’s like they say, the worst day of fishing is better than the best day of work. You have to enjoy the experience. I’m experiencing local lore, in a building with history and I’ll have a story to tell even if I strike out.

    And don’t trespass. Stay within the laws. Whoever calls themselves a paranormal investigator represents all of us, so use common sense.

    Austin PostWhat equipment do you need? Are a lot of gadgets necessary?

    Jeff Belanger: Pen and paper. You probably already have what you need. An audio recorder and a camera. You don’t need to invest a lot of money.

    An EMF meter is a good investment. There’s even an iPod app EMF for like a dollar. If there are major fluctuations in the electromagnetic field – say if you put it up where someone says there’s a ghost in their headboard and find that’s where all the electricity is coming into your house, then you can move the bed and see if that takes care of the “ghost.”

    There’s two ways to go. There’s "very technical," where you aren’t interested much in Ouija boards and psychic energy, or there’s the esoteric where you use Ouija and psychic energy and mediums. Or a mix of the two. In reality, it’s not a science. It’s a very spiritual thing we’re doing, and psychological.

    If you’re in a creepy old building, you’re naturally afraid. Adrenaline courses because you have fear. Maybe that’s why [hospitals and asylums] are more active. You’re freaking out. Your psychological state affects the outcome.

    When you’re looking for ghosts, you are becoming part of the story. You go to investigate because you heard a great story and part of it rang true for you.

    Austin PostHave you ever had an experience with a true apparition, that wasn’t a raccoon or electric fields?

    Jeff Belanger: The first one I could validate for myself was in an old TB sanitorium in Louisville, Kentucky, and I had three people with me. One of the things I thought about as we were walking through was, imagine nothing but coughing all around you, constantly. It would drive you insane in days.

    We had cleared the floor and it was a big open hall. We were at a bend, and you could see down one way and the other. We were talking and suddenly we stopped. And I looked, and said, do you see that? Third door down? We see a man walk into the hall and walk back.

    First thought is always, it is a real man – a homeless or vagrant. I could say, there was maybe a 2 percent chance that we missed someone when we went through. But there is zero percent chance that he could have gone anywhere before we got to that room. We looked.

    There was validation – four of us saw it. Ghost.

    Austin PostWhat about fakes?

    Jeff Belanger: Earlier, we had a really high-tech, expensive thermal camera. Saw this glowing ball of light, just out of “Ghostbusters.” It was doing figure eights and moving closer. Suddenly I hear “pffft-pfft-pffft.” It’s a bat. I hate bats.

    And people will interfere. Like at a hotel for a big paranormal convention. And 90 percent of the people staying there are for the convention. The other 10 percent who aren’t there for it, they mess with you.

    I get it. It offends the sensibilities of some. It’s too bad. I think it’s similar to saying, you’re a different religion, so we can’t get along.

    Austin PostWhen you’re investigating, what’s the best way to get proof for others?

    Jeff Belanger: Ghosts have been proven to millions of people. We all have a threshold of belief. For some it’s way too low – they see a curtain blow and think ‘Oh! It’s Grandma!” For others, it’s too high. Abraham Lincoln could walk up to them and say “Hey! I’m on your money,” then POOF! And they wouldn’t believe.

    I trust my senses. I proved ghosts are real for myself years ago. I gave up trying to convince anyone else.

    Ghosts exist. No one can dispute it. The question is, what are ghosts? If you walk into any restaurant in America and ask, “what is a ghost,” they will have an answer.

    Accept the possibility that we don’t know everything about the universe. If we can just agree on that, then the dialogue can begin.

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    Every town has its ghost stories. In Austin, probably the most famous are of the hauntings at the historic Driskill Hotel, from the senator’s daughter who some say still plays in the halls and on the stairwell where she died to Colonel Driskill himself, who reportedly leaves the smell of cigar smoke behind him as he inspects his legacy. A visiting musician even wrote a song about her encounter with “the ghost of a Texas ladies’ man” while staying at the hotel.



    But those are far from the only ghost stories in Austin. Chris English, a follower of the paranormal and the darker side of history, has been researching local ghosts and legends since he moved to Austin in 2004. He now leads Haunted ATX tours from the back of tricked out hearse limo.

    “Austin was a very dark city when it started,” he said. “There are so many (haunted) places in Austin. We had a medium tell us we even have a couple ghosts that supposedly hang around the hearse and go on tours.”

    English isn’t squeamish or easily spooked. When he started up his business, he was working as a phlebotomist, drawing blood from people who are more easily spooked during the day, and driving his hearse at night. He hasn’t ever seen a specter on his tour, but he is a believer in the spirit world.

    The Scarlet Woman of the Clay Pit

    One of his favorite tour spots is the Indian restaurant The Clay Pit downtown. The Clay Pit started out as a trading post in 1856, English said. It later became a dry goods store with a parlor upstairs.

    “When I go into The Clay Pit, I’m not a medium or a psychic, but I am open to it, and I get shivers and tingles,” English said.

    In the basement of The Clay Pit is a tunnel with a boarded-up entrance. It used to lead from the salon and store to the brothel and speakeasy next door, so pillars of the community could have their fun and not be seen. English said one of the ghosts in The Clay Pit building is said to be a woman – possibly a slave or a scarlet woman – who was murdered in the tunnels.

    The upstairs floors of The Clay Pit are said to be roamed by more benevolent spirits – a playful young boy who died of typhoid in the 1800s has been reported in the dining rooms, and when the building closes at night, some say they still hear the echoes of parties on the top floor of the building.

    To hear English tell it, even Austin’s ghosts seem to be mostly happy to be here. Of all the ghosts visited on his local tours, he said only the one in the basement of The Clay Pit has a negative energy.

    The Heidi Fleiss of Oilcan Harry's

    Back in the 1880s, the warehouse district downtown was a sprawling red-light district called Guy Town. Oilcan Harry’s on 4th Street is said to have the ghost of a famous madam – “the Heidi Fleiss of the 1880s,” English said.

    “It is said she will manifest as a beautiful woman at the bar, and dance on the floor, but she doesn’t understand why the men won’t dance with her,” he deadpans.

    Congress Avenue in Austin, circa 1888.

    Students at UT tell stories about the Littlefield House, a darkened Victorian home in the middle of campus where some say they can hear the screams of a woman or see her shape in the attic windows, and the Tower, which has been home to a number of tragedies. But English prefers the less well-known stories.

    “I love it when I can tell a local something they don’t know,” he said.

    A lot of what English tells is history with an eye to the possibility of the supernatural. Like the history of Pease Park, which was an Indian burial ground and is said to have a secret treasure of gold that was collected from an old mine north of the city buried along Shoal Creek.

    The Shoeless Spirit Who Taunts The Tavern

    The Tavern at 12th and Lamar openly recognizes their ghost, Emily. The story goes that Emily worked at the tavern when it was a speakeasy and brothel during prohibition, and was accidentally killed during a bar fight. Now she pinches waitresses, knocks over glasses and changes the channel on the TV.

    When the bar was renovated, they found a pair of 1900s style shoes under the floor, English said. If you visit the bar, they keep the shoes in a display case on the second floor.

    “One reason they say she goes back is she wants her shoes back,” he said.

    A Suitor's Suicide at the Governor's Place

    The Governor’s Mansion has a few ghosts, including the nephew of Civil War-era governor Pendleton Murrah. The young man was devastated when his marriage proposal was turned down, so he shot himself in one of the back bedrooms. The servants at the time refused to clean the bedroom, and the room was saturated in his grief for five years until the next governor came in and ordered it cleaned, English said. Reports from those inside the mansion say that you can still hear his sobs.


    Mischief at Metz 

    Metz Elementary on the East Side, which was first opened almost 100 years ago, never had any reports of a haunting until the school was torn down and rebuilt in 1989. Suddenly, construction workers reported hearing children’s voices in the walls and mysterious accidents with construction equipment. There are stories about whose ghost might be haunting the school, but there’s no clear front-runner.

    “These are stories, and things get changed up,” English said. “The thing with the paranormal is, people will see things, but it’s not an exact science. It’s not like history where you know, this happened at this time.”

    English calls himself a skeptic who believes, because he has never actually “seen” anything. But he has had his fair share of strange experiences. There was the time Emily left his initials on a computer screen at The Tavern. Or the time a spirit followed him from the Museum of the Weird to a séance at the club and bar Elysium downtown. And when he and his family first moved into their new home, they were woken up one night by strange rumblings and banging noises.

    To Reason With a Wraith 

    Being old hat at paranormal events, English and his wife calmly addressed the spirit and told them they were the new owners of the home and whoever the ghost was waiting for no longer lived there. The next morning, they woke up to find that the front door which had been locked and closed was standing wide open, as if the ghost wanted to let them know that it had left.

    “Stuff like that, I chalk up to the paranormal,” English said. “People come up with other explanations, but it was a ghost. Let me believe what I want to believe.”

    If he could take a medium and explore anywhere in Austin, English said he wants to find the ghosts that live in the tunnels that once ran under Guy Town and the Texas State Hospital.

    “I think there’s a lot down there to be discovered,” he said.

    If you want to check out Haunted ATX, find info and reservations onlineIf you have your own favorite local ghost stories, let us know about them in the comments or on Facebook!

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    In honor of Halloween, our kickstarter of the week is The Ghastlycrud Zombies.

    A lot of people forget the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales were incredibly gory, graphic cautionary tales that gave kids and adults alike a chance to experience a little vicarious thrill without actually, say, stuffing your little sister into an oven and trying to blame a local witch. A new breed of kids books are popping up in that spirit, where they acknowledge bad things happen while also making them funny. This one seems to fit nicely into the same mold as classic fairy tales or the Lemony Snicket books, but with the modern monster none of us can escape: zombies.

    Artist and writer Martin Whitmore used zombies as an excuse for a basic reader teaching kids their ABC’s. It’s perfect for goth parents or any grownups who love a kid with a nice sense of the macabre.

    Whitmore is using his kickstarter to fund printing the book. For a mere $4, you can get a digital copy. Bump that up to $29 and you get a nice hardback as well as the digital download. For $5 more, he’ll both sign the book and draw a personalized zombie in the front. You can get all that plus a page of the original artwork for $163. At $181, you get all that plus a hand painted zombie grenade.

    This is a fun, well illustrated book aimed at geek parents who want to make sure they nerd their kids up from the very beginning. The art is still cute and kid appropriate while being weird and fun enough to keep geek parents happy. If you want to make sure your kid doesn’t end up like Carl in The Walking Dead, support this Kickstarter now and get your copy of The Ghastlycrud Zombies before civilization falls.


    Curious how our previous Austin Kickstarters did?

    The Live Action Jem and the Holograms Movie was over 250% funded! Mind you, they were only asking for $200. Go ahead and throw them a couple more bucks just to be part of something awesome.

    Jumpshot made an amazing 500% of their goal! They raised more than $147,000, putting them in the top tier of all Kickstarters.  

    My Education was fully funded!  Our instrumental band is set for their European tour.

    Rockrgrrl Magazine’s GRL Talk Book was fully funded! They made over 120% of their original goal.

    Strange Kid Comix was over 114% funded! They raised more than $2850 for their taste of pure pop culture nostalgia.

    Wholly Kabob was 100% funded. They raised $15,250 to start a tasty new food trailer.

    Texas or Die: An Anthology of Horror is about 14% Funded. They have a few weeks to make $6000.

    The Anachronist sadly didn’t reach its goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

    Stabil-i-Case sadly didn’t reach its goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

    The Doctor Who Review Project sadly didn’t reach its goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

    Taskbox sadly didn’t reach it’s goal and therefore didn’t recieve funding.

    The original Spinferno Kickstarter was cancelled and replaced by a new Spinferno for Android kickstarter.


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    How to Run a Kickstarter: Lessons From a $22,000 Success

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    Man, do I hate crappy Halloween candy – the stupid little peanut butter things in the orange and black packaging, candy corn, candy pumpkins, off-brand chocolate. Who do these budget-watching neighbors of mine think they are? Your kid needs braces and you can’t afford to hand out Snickers all nilly willy? Not my problem!

    That’s why this year, I’m spending my Halloween trick-or-treating in the neighborhoods of Austin’s One Percent. You might be wondering why a 30-something writer would be trick-or-treating at all. And to that, I would say first, I’m really short and can pass for a pre-teen, given the right costume. Second, what are you, the fun police? Mind your own business already!

    Thanks to the Austin Business Journal, I have a list of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city, so let’s get started.

    The fifth wealthiest neighborhood in Austin is Grandview Hills, or 78726. Here, the median income (median means the middle number, separating the lower half from the bottom half - so half of the population will make more than this and half of the population will make less than this) is $116,249. With that kind of dough, I figure houses are giving out only name-brand candy – Snickers, Milky Way, Three Musketeers, Skittles – and in full-size packages. None of that snack size bullshit for 78726. They’re going all out. Hell, if your costume is really good, they might even throw you a king size!

    Austin’s fourth wealthiest neighborhood is 78746, the zip code that encompasses West Lake Hills. Here, the median household income is $118,892. I hear tell that this year, homes in West Lake Hills will be giving out not candy but cuts of grass-fed, hormone-free, all organic premium beef. This is tartar-quality stuff here, folks. Who needs pedestrian chocolate when you can have high-quality sirloin?

    78732, known as Steiner Ranch, takes the cake for third-wealthiest Austin neighborhood, with a median household income of $123,523. Not to be outdone by other Austin neighborhoods, Steiner Ranch is handing out puppies. That’s right; each trick-or-treater will get an 8-week-old purebred French Bulldog puppy, in costume. Will you get puppy Dracula? Or puppy ghost? I’m holding out for puppy Frankenstein.

    With a median household income of $125,472, 78739 is the second-wealthiest neighborhood in Austin. I heard the houses in this neighborhood are giving out a Faberge egg to each child dressed like Mitt Romney non-ironically. If you’re not dressed like Mitt Romney, you get a beheaded Big Bird. Actually, now that I think about it … I might skip this neighborhood. I don’t think they’ll find my sexy crazy cat lady costume amusing, and I like my Big Birds head-included.

    Finally, the wealthiest neighborhood in Austin is 78730, with a median household income of $134,080. In this neighborhood, the richest of the rich are handing out jobs. You’re never too young to start working, and these households require a lot of upkeep. So if you’re dressing up as a maid, a chauffeur or a gardener this year, definitely head over to 78730 and earn your keep.

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    The leaves are falling from the trees and it’s starting to be sweater weather, at least at night. That can mean only one thing – we’re nearly upon the time of year when girls and women across the country put on too much makeup and take off too much clothing under the guise of “Halloween.”

    Do It Yourself! Easy Costume Ideas for Halloween

    By Stephanie Myers / Oct 24, 2012

    Austin is overrun with thrift stores, which I love. Almost every piece of furniture I own came from a thrift store, as did a large chunk of my closet.

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