Reading Binge and Other Favourite Things…

Well, things are still shut down here in some ways. Mainly because my life has been in shutdown mode since circumstances dictated I had to move to the land of no internet and no cell phone service, otherwise known as the state of New Mexico. *laughs*

But I’m still keeping up with the (now exclusively out-of-state) job search and still writing and pitching as much as I can in the meantime.

And, of course, I’ve been participating in the reading binge a lot of us literary-loving souls have been indulging in since the shutdown started!

In addition to tackling my book to-read pile, I’ve jumped into my magazine/journal to-read stack: Witches & Pagans, Renaissance Magazine, Smithsonian, Preservation Magazine, Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, Stonecoast Review, Fireside Quarterly, Celtic Life International, Sirens Call, Apex Magazine, and even Reader’s Digest, as well as many more, both online and in print. (Gone are the days, it seems, when I read the magazine as fast as it arrived in my mailbox.)

Some of these I’ve had subscriptions for a while now, and just never had time with working the day job and trying to launch, and foster, a writing career to finish reading them. Some I got for sample copies to preview.

Some are both, which I carry on a subscription for because I not only want to support magazines and journals, but for which I’ve also become a dedicated fan of.

Among my new favourites are the Ellery Queen/Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. The stories are so good! And perfect for pandemic reading!

On that note, then, I’m considering doing a “Favourite Things” feature on my blog here for a little while. I mean, there’s so many great bloggers out there doing interviews and feature pieces on authors already, and I wanted to do something a little different (which, yes, has probably been done before too LOL).

So, if you’re a writer/blogger, reach out to me and I’ll add you to one of the features that I plan to post on Fridays. With each feature I’ll have a new “Favourite Things” question, and I’ll post up answers, and links to your blog and such. It’ll go until I run out of questions to ask!

It’s National Pen Pal Day!

Hello there, spooky followers, it’s National Pen Pal Day here in the United States!

I love penpals and writing letters and such, so I’d love it if you become my penpal!

If you send me your email, I’ll put you on my mailing list for my (18+ only) newsletter full of delicious nightmares and looming storms…

I also have a limited number of horror-themed snail mail postcards, if that’s not too creepy for you in this day and age…

And, if you send me a photo of your copy of an anthology and/or journal/magazine my short story is in (Click here for list and links, or find me on Goodreads or Amazon), next to your pet(s) or favourite plant/tree, I’ll send you a bonus nightmarish surprise! (I love nature and animals, so I’d thought I’d ask for a twist on the traditional selfie!) You can also share your photo/email with me via Twitter: @WillowCroft16 #NationalPenPalDay.

The Not-So-Fine-Print: If I get my middle-grade manuscript accepted during #PitMad this 4th of June, I’ll eventually have a website that’s kid-friendly. Keep watching for updates on my book for kid (and their supervising parents/guardians) who love horror/suspense! So, let me state again that this particular mailing list is just for grown-ups–18+ grown-ups–and might have content that falls more on the adult side. Please don’t sign up for this newsletter unless you are 18+ years old.]

 

Aether and its Feline Minions…

A quick-as-air post this week! 

I don’t know how I did this before the shutdown: juggle writing and the day job and all the other life stuff. Right now, even without the day job, it feels like I have too many balls up in the air. But I’m submitting to lots of great writing opportunities, like this call for “Whodunit” mystery stories, hosted by Jersey Pines Ink: https://www.jerseypinesink.com. (Click the Submissions tab or just scroll down.)

Annnd, it looks like I might have my manuscript polished and ready for #PitMad. I don’t want to rush it, though, because I’d rather have a finished manuscript over submitting something that’s not as best as I can (re)write it.

In the meantime, I’ve been writing about the air element and kitty cats! Check out the elemental-themed post on Mookychick (https://www.mookychick.co.uk/health/witchcraft-spirituality/exploring-the-aether-realm-when-all-is-shut-down.php), and the story I wrote for Katzenworld (https://katzenworld.co.uk/2020/05/21/the-cat-that-watches-through-time/)!

Have a fantastic rest of the week, and hope it’s filled with lots of flights-of-fancy!

Comic Books and the Gender-Fluid Dreams of Children

I came to read comic books rather late in the game of Life. The early 80s world that I was a kid in still had very demarcated gender classifications [you could either say that not much has changed, and yet everything is (finally!) starting to change.] But it was a weird dichotomy. Girls did also seem to have the choice to be tomboys back then, as a way to avoid pink-is-for-girls rubber-stamping.

And the world of comic books and D&D was still very much a boys’ club. Girls were definitely not allowed. Tack onto that that comic books back then weren’t seen as “smart” reading, and the lonely child that I was wanted so very badly to be smart, to be well-liked; to be something, at least.

When I watch Stranger Things, I feel nostalgia and the pangs of loss for a childhood I could have had if there wasn’t so much relentless stress put on kids to conform to external, gender-based classifications and standards of behavior.

So, my decision to expand my reading into the world of comic books was complicated by a huge array with emotions.

Quite a few years ago, I went on a comic-book-buying binge, adding to my very sparse collection that included copies of JTHM and Emily the Strange (to date myself completely!).

I wanted to know what I else I missed out on.

During this shutdown, I finally got the chance to catch up on reading from my piles of magazines and comic books that I had stacked around. (The magazine pile is never-ending, though!) And, I like to read comics. Well, kinda, anyway. I arrived at the realization that I like books better. I love the comic book art, but it’s so visually stimulating for creative-minded, visual-orientated readers like myself that I lose myself in the art and the text takes a backseat.

I’ll clarify that further by saying I like to read certain kinds of comic books. And it wasn’t the comic books I expected to like.

The Sandman comics (which I’d started to read one summer from a collection at a local library in my hometown) were probably a given. The Walking Dead? Maybe. I kinda want to see how the world had originally developed differently than the TV series. (Without giving away too much in case there’s others out there like me that still need to catch up on the series, I think a certain incident with Glenn made this graphic-horror film lover a little—well, you know, if you’ve seen that episode. I haven’t yet been able to pick up where I left off after that episode. Whew.)

If I ever get a stable day job that pays a livable wage, I want to expand my Emily the Strange collection. And fill in the few JTHM comic books that I’m missing. But my all time favourite from the diverse collection I bought? It wasn’t Spiderman, the X-Men, or even the X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It was the Tomb Raider comic books. Holy cow, I’m hooked.

So, they’ll go on my shelf next to my (incomplete) Calvin and Hobbes collection and my (also incomplete) MUTTS collection and my Emily the Strange and JTHM.

The worst part of all this was that I while I was reading the Tomb Raider comics, something crawled out of the dark recesses of memory and childhood and whispered something to me.

“Those are girls’ comics.”

 Seriously. That really did happen. Even after all these years, that little voice that had been internalized in my subconscious was still there, judging me, and upholding an unrealized and terribly sexist bias.

That’s how insidious and long-lasting this gender-based conditioning that we slather children with, not only in the home, but in the media, in classrooms/schools, and in society as well. And the courage and the strength of the individuals as they challenge and overcome such invasive and deeply-rooted conditioning? It’s what makes them true superheroes, outside of the ones on the pages of comic books.

And it brings up the deeply troubling and, perhaps, eternal question:

How much of ourselves is what we actually are?

(This is why I endlessly reinvent the standardized school system in my head. It’s the only thing that gets me through the day as a substitute teacher. I imagine an educational process comprised of two-week immersive pod learning that students can “try on” areas of potential interest—everything from writing to marine biology to interior design to being a private detective or an artist or a carpenter and anything else in-between that they want to explore as they figure out who they are in a safe, judgement-free zone.)

Swimming Away From the Current…

I had planned to use this shutdown time to write article pitches and submit them to magazines. Good intentions, right?

I began to realize that I wasn’t current enough on what’s trending write articles for some of the places that I’d hoped to draft pitches for. That, in fact, I’d never really been that up-to-date in terms of pop culture and current trends and the like, barring a brief period as an uber-cool (*cough* pretentious little snot) goth in the early 90s. So I was stuck trying to get ahead of a different non-pandemic-related curve.

But I realized was fine with not being trendy. I mean, sure, I spent way too many years trying to be the cool kid in the room, instead of the quiet nerd in the corner who had closet dreams of playing D&D and collecting comic books. And, as an adult, I spent too many years trying to conform so I could just “get a job.”

Not that getting a job isn’t important. I couldn’t write without my day job, even though I still struggle to support myself on that income. But I’ve conformed and worked hard and been outstandingly tenacious in my quest for a decent-paying job, and I still have nothing to show for it.

And, at risk of downplaying the importance of an author platform, or, even more importantly, the amazing and loyal followers that support the author, I realized that I don’t have to be current. There are plenty of talented writers out there that have their finger on the pulse of society, are on top of trends in movies and pop culture and even in writing, and they write it well.

In light of that it’s my responsibility as a writer to find my niche. (Which writing-tips articles galore also cover, of course!) But more than finding a niche is finding yourself. After all, what is writing for but a way to explore all the parts of yourself that aren’t seen in your day-to-day interactions with people.

For a few years after I overcame past conditioning and allowed myself to write (and even now, on some days) I wanted so badly to make up for all the time I lost in the thirty-some years that I didn’t write. And that’s where I could have sank and not swam.

Oddly enough, most of the development I’ve undergone in the past few years has been through a cyclical process of elimination–a whirlpool that gets tighter and cleaner as I get closer to the core. (I wrote a poem about this process, which was also inspired by a recent experience at a local convention. I’m not even sure if the poem is still posted on my blog or not.)

And that it’s perfectly acceptable to like classical music and comedies and outline by hand and write the first draft out by hand and have refillable pens and pencils or even a quill pen and (recycled) paper and get lost in the past and prefer tiny, cozy kitchens in old homes over culinary expanses with gleaming stainless steel appliances.

So, I’m exploring more old-school ideas and approaches to networking and mailings and establishing an author platform which may not even be trending at best, or at worst, be an utter failure, but that’s okay too.

We don’t all have to be trending.

We just have to be successful at ourselves.

And, for me, right now, that’s writing horror.

What’s your “you” right now, during this time of potential reflection and reassessment? Share if you wish to, in the comments.

 

 

 

Getting Lost in a Good Goodreads Binge…

AbandonedArmyBase
A potential site for my upcoming middle grade horror book? Or is this what the world looks like out there without humans after a month? *laughs* (Photo Courtesy of Canva 2020)

 

I’m starting to get a little rambly with the shutdown. And I was pretty bad for rambling on and on even before the pandemic restrictions…

Anyhoo, I’m finally getting caught up on everything that got pushed to the wings when I was working the full-time day job and trying to write full-time on top of that.

I finally found enough time to squeeze some reading in: Beautiful Darkness by Jay Wilburn (which I read in order to review on Madness Heart Press) and so that may be posting sometime soon (at that website’s/publisher’s discretion, of course).

And manage my social media on top of all of that. But now I have plenty of time to waste! Well, not really, as I seem to be even busier than before the day job. 

When I’m not wasting time pining over homes for sale on Old House Dreams and Circa Homes, I am spending more time than I should on Goodreads. I love that site almost more than reading everybody’s blogs. If I didn’t set a timer, I could spend hours there reading reviews and checking out new books…

But, I got my middle grade horror/suspense manuscript back from the editor (Lady Knight Editing: https://ladyknightediting.com/) and so it’s back to the grind on the next round of edits and rewrites. Hopefully (ha ha :-p) I’ll be done in time for #PitMad.

So, I’ll have to start minding my “Ps & Qs” on my blog, and work on my blog’s tone so that it can also appeal to a younger audience. But maybe by then, I’ll be able to get a custom website to go with the book’s release. 

And it’s time to go shopping, pandemic-style, soon. And who doesn’t want a kitty-cat mask to wear out and about?

Other than that, I’ve been re-watching Psych, and I just love Dulé Hill for the class and polish (well, mostly!) he brings to counteract James Roday’s goofball character.

And, that’s it. That’s enough rambling. Gotta go order supplies for my spoiled, fat, ex-feral kitties. And get back to writing and editing and snacking in-between!

I Would Say I’m “Eating Crow” Except that I’m Vegetarian…

SwirlCats
from Canva 2020

 

What a rollercoaster everything has been. And I’m not talking about the pandemic, though I suppose I should be more focused on that…

….but I had to come crawling back to WordPress for the time being. There were issues with Weebly that weren’t able to be surmounted, not even with the help of the great tech support they have.

I’m still a little spun around by the whole thing, and haven’t processed it.

So, onto you. How are you managing your writing time lately?

As a close, I’ll just leave you with a bit of the post I was putting up onto the other site.

(It’s about animals, of course.)

“During this lockdown, there’s the opportunity to give a shelter animal a foster home. Animal shelters are also most likely feeling the burden caused by these new restrictions. Many of the shelters may not be able to adopt animals out during this time. And, it’s getting into kitten and puppy season—a time when animal shelters are busier than ever, due to people still not getting their pets spayed and neutered. Plus, shelters are probably going to be flooded with more and more animals in the coming months, as people have not only lost their jobs, but may lose their homes as well, due to the financial instability that is facing us all.

So, please, reach out to your shelter and offer to provide a foster home for an animal if you have the space. Or make a donation online to the shelter. Or, even better, offer to adopt a specific animal when the shelters are able to resume their adoption process. It’s a stressful time, but let’s try not to overlook the needs of those who can’t ask us for help; our animal companions.”

Find your local shelter via Petfinder: https://www.Petfinder.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Writer’s Website On Weebly… (and a sort-of farewell tribute to WordPress)

You can find my new author page on Weebly here: https://www.willowcroft.org.

I haven’t been on Weebly yet long enough to uncover all its glitches and problems, but I’m sure they’ll crop up sooner or later. Right now, I LOVE it! It’s so simple and easy and hassle-free that I’m rolling in clover (I had to sneak in a little nod to St. Patty’s day, since the shutdown prevented any green-beer celebrating on that day.)

So, fellow WordPress bloggers, I’ll be on reading, still, and posting blogs/reviews (I hope!) for Katzenworld and Madness Heart Press; and hopefully commenting a lot more on your blogs now that I’m not mired in WordPress glitchy glitches. I’ll have to rebuild my follower list over there, and I haven’t tested yet if my website pops up as high-ranked (?)/immediately on browser searches as it did with WordPress.

But, oh, WordPress, how I’ll miss when you tell me I’m not following a blog when I am. You especially love to target bloggers that I’ve followed/have been following me for a while (waves at Pacific Paratrooper/GP Cox–yes, I still remember that!), and then suddenly, inextricably, mysteriously (I could go on forever, but I won’t.) unfollow them. Without rhyme or reason.

Or when I was just on the Blessings By Me blog yesterday (check out the hand sanitizer holders in her shop: https://www.shop.blessingsbyme.com/product/hand-sanitizer-holder/ )and the “Accept Cookies” bar was drifting up and down the screen, no matter how many times I accepted it. I guess WordPress didn’t want me to have any cookies with my dairy-free milk, or, better yet, make some awesome things on a budget while the nation closes down.

Another favorite thing I loved about was to tell me I wasn’t logged in when I was, while the nation closes down.which made it especially fun when I was trying to like a fellow blogger’s post. I loved having to reboot the page several times before it accepted that I was logged in, which WordPress told me I was logged in only when I went back to my profile page, or even when I went to post a blog post of my own.

Again, I could go on, but I won’t. I’m sure you’d rather be offline reading a book or paying attention to your long-neglected Netflix queue or doing puzzles (https://mutts.com/search-results/?fwp_global_search=puzzles) or working from home or taking your dog (but not your cat!) for a nice long walk through some welcoming nature spot.

In any case, stay safe and healthy and weather the isolation with aplomb or indulgently wonderful mopey misery, whichever you prefer, and I’ll start posting more on my new website soon!

And, if you’re feeling lonely, you can’t get Coronavirus from a cat or a dog or another cute animal waiting in a shelter for a forever home! You can browse adoptable animals in your region on Petfinder.com. Remember, adopt, don’t shop! And you can get all your pet supplies online at Chewy.com.

 

(None of these links are…what is it? affiliate links?…just stuff I like or happened to come across the past few days–Willow)

 

 

 

 

Well, That Didn’t Take Long…

 

I thought it would take a lot longer. Although, it’s been a move that I’ve been talking about for…how long, fellow bloggers? A year, or more…

It was SO easy to set up with Weebly (the web builder I went with)! A third of the time I spent messing around with WordPress (and their not-very-polite “Happiness Engineers” or so they used to be called.

Still, I’m a little sad to be leaving behind my WordPress blog, since I’ve had it through different incarnations over the years (since…2013?). I’ll still have it as a free blog when my paid plan expires, so that I can guest post and things like that, but…

You know, the older I get, the harder time I have with change. I used to live for it; now it’s just very confusing. Like those lines from that Ferlinghetti poem in A Coney Island of the Mind.

The plan was a little more pricey at Weebly, and I had to get a new domain because the “.blog” wouldn’t transfer over, but I’m happy with the new “.org” actually. And I fell in love with the free template from first glance!

It took like minutes, seriously, to set the whole website up. It’s taking longer to write this post, so I am very happy. Time is so limited in my world these days that anything that makes my life easier is fantastic!

So, here’s the new website: https://willowcroft.org.

I hope things continue to go well with my new professional partnership with Weebly!

 

 

Spring…Building?:(Re)Constructing My Author Platform

So, I’m in the process of working out a social media plan as part of that necessary evil, the author platform!

Plus, I need to fine-tune it to get a handle on my online interactions as, thanks to Comcast and other internet service providers, and the state of New Mexico, I cannot get reliable internet access to run my business and my writing career.

Until I get a working plan and schedule in place, some of my blog reading (and other social media interactions)  will be pretty sporadic. But, once I weather through this process, I hope to be interacting a lot more online, and a lot more efficiently.

In addition to the above process, I’m working as hard as I can to find employment out of state (feel free to talk up the wonders of your home state!), and I hope to relocate sometime this summer. There’s tons of other motivating factors: I miss the ocean, I can’t find a decent-paying job here, etc. etc., blah blah blah, whine, whine. *laughs* But, again, the main reason is that I cannot get internet service at my house. Who knew that being without internet would make such an impact on things, but it has been very stressful lately.

It’s not helped by the fact that it’s like Mad Max out there in trying to commute to the place where I can get online for a couple of hours in the morning before the day job. (And I’m from Florida, where we all drive like jerks). But my goodness, I’ve nearly been run off the road by people passing me on the double yellow line, I’ve also nearly been run off the road by people coming the other direction. (Apparently it’s a thing where New Mexico drivers like to take up the whole road, regardless of whatever traffic happens to be coming the other way–other vehicles, commercial trucks, school buses, you get the idea, and they are all fair game to the typical New Mexico driver playing the game of chicken.)

And, for some reason, even when it’s just faintly twilight, New Mexico drivers cannot live with darkness. It’s not even dark and it’s all “OMG YOU’RE DRIVING WITH ONLY YOUR PARKING/SAFETY LIGHTS ON” (or whatever they’re called) and New Mexico drivers are suddenly concerned with driver safety to the extent that they will honk, flash lights, and slow down and gesture to you frantically out of the window (as they almost run themselves off the road) to get you to turn your full lights on.

And, speaking of lights, oh boy, are New Mexicans addicted to their high beams. I have some vision damage, and I don’t have any problems driving around with no brights on at night. But, my guess is it’s something to do with the fact that they are going 90 to 100 miles an hour down some tiny rural road (and, no, for once I am not exaggerating about the speeds here) and these drivers will not only not budge an inch as they take up the whole road for themselves, but will refuse to turn off their brights. And these drivers, boy, if they are behind you, they just love to tailgate you with those brights on. You almost wish they would pass you, even if it means they run you off one of New Mexico’s crumbling, pothole-ridden roads and into a tumbleweed the size of your car. The only time they slow down is when it rains, and, even if it’s just a tiny sprinkle, it’s like it’s an end-of-the-world deluge to these sun-dependent New Mexicans.

I’m actually quite terrified to drive anywhere in New Mexico these days, and I’ve driven across this country multiple times: Manhattan at rush hour, Atlanta, Connecticut with their aggressive commercial truck drivers, and Florida, of course, and I have a death grip on the wheel the entire time I’m commuting to my internet service location or to the day job.

No wonder why I write horror these days… *laughs*

Anyway, back to the point of this blog, feel free to share any author platform building tips, or even talk up the wonders of where you live, as I’m open to moving almost anywhere there’s a water source and job possibilities!

Happy almost Friday!