Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Ellen Hawley

Join author Ellen Hawley and I as we go digging for treasure and getting into lots of trouble in Anglo-Saxon England!

Willow Croft: If you unearthed a treasure chest on your property, what would you hope would be in it, and why?

Ellen Hawley: Instructions on how to fix the structural problem in the novel I’m working on. I mean, why be greedy in a fantasy?

Willow Croft: Sometimes I see mention of historically based foodstuffs on your blog (like cake!). What would be your favourite recipe of yore (either mentioned on your blog, or not)?

Ellen Hawley: I can’t help wanting to be around when oat cakes were first made. I want to watch over some woman’s shoulder as she makes them over an open fire in the middle of a stone-walled house with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.

Then I want to run outside to get a few lungfuls of smokeless air.

Willow Croft: Imagine you’re getting together with friends or family on a weekend—what’s the board game you most love to hate?

Ellen Hawley: All of them. I grew up playing board games with my brother, who was (and oddly enough, still is) a couple of years older, so I always lost. It left me with a lasting dislike of them all. I’m the person who’d curl up in the corner with a book and try not to look too grumpy.

Willow Croft: If you created a fictional city of your own, and had to design a tourism brochure, what would be the main selling points of your city (and what would you call it)?

Ellen Hawley: Hang on. I create the city, right? So who gets to tell me I have to design a tourism brochure? I’m designing a city that doesn’t need a tourism brochure. Cancel the brochure. Let’s go out and eat cake.

Willow Croft: Some of your blogs takes a closer look at Anglo-Saxon law (Example: https://notesfromtheuk.com/2021/08/13/law-in-anglo-saxon-england/). What would you have done back then that might have gotten you outlawed or punished?

Ellen Hawley: That’s a tough one, since Anglo-Saxon England was–well, basically, it was a mess. It was one kingdom, it was five kingdoms, it was seven kingdoms, it was probably more kingdoms than that but I lost track somewhere in there. And part of the time large parts of it were run by Vikings, so it stopped being Anglo-Saxon and became Norse. And if that doesn’t confuse the picture enough, part of the time it was Christian and part of the time it was what Christians like to call pagan, which as far as I can make out is a Christian word for not-Christian, not something any group ever called itself. Let’s say it was pre-Christian, although that’s also a problematic label, since it uses a different religion as the reference point.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that the laws changed from one period to the next and from one kingdom or king to the next. But I’m sure I’d have found a way to get in trouble.

In Christian Anglo-Saxiana, it could easily have been for not being a Christian. I’m not sure that was illegal, but it wouldn’t have made me popular.

In any Anglo-Saxon period, although free women were way freer than they were under the Normans, I doubt I’d have kept within the bounds.

Slavery was widespread. I don’t imagine myself as the Harriet Tubman of Anglo-Saxon England–I’m too old to kid myself about having her courage–but whether I was free or enslaved, I’d have had a few problems with it.

And then there’s that awkward business of being attracted to women instead of men. I’ve never read anything about how they felt about same-sex relationships–there may not be any record of it–but again, I doubt it would’ve made me popular.

So many ways to get in trouble, and gee it’s hard to choose.

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Photo courtesy of Canva.com

Free cake at Ellen Hawley’s blog! (I’m kidding. I made that up. But there are blog posts over there that are just as delicious as cake, I promise!) https://notesfromtheuk.com/.

Want more than just cake? Glad you asked!

Ellen Hawley is an American novelist and blogger living in Britain. Her current novel, Other People Manage, was just released by Swift Press: https://www.waterstones.com/book/other-people-manage/ellen-hawley/9781800750975.

No-hitter and Still a Miss*

*Disclaimer: I have never seen a baseball game.

I have been completely self-rejecting these past few weeks.

I wrote two poems for this website’s call for poems from women: https://masticadoresusa.wordpress.com/.

I thought they were both terrible. And by terrible, I felt like they were just too revealing. Yes, poetry is very personal. But it was so wrapped up in the fear and distress being in this red state that I was embarrassed. Or maybe I felt I didn’t have enough emotional distance.

I felt the same way when I received a request for an essay. I wrote it, and I just couldn’t bring myself to share-post in a public forum.

And, I’d like to say I’ve been too busy with my work as an excuse to why I haven’t written since I’ve moved to this small town, but I was similarly working full time in New Mexico, and I was still able to write and submit short stories.

Again, I can’t even describe how difficult it is on my psyche to be subjected to a constant, loud, vibrating-my-entire-house droning hum from the nearby grain elevators from about six a.m. to five or six at night.

About halfway through the day I start getting nauseous from the droning hum vibration. I start feeling disorientated and I get this odd sensation in my ears. It’s almost like going up in a plane where your ears pop except there’s no pressure, it’s just, I don’t know, your ears just can’t make sense of the noise anymore and they just start to shut down. It’s a very creepy sensation–like static on a television screen but in your ears.

And that’s not taking into account to the trains that pull up after the grain elevators shut down, which picks up with the droning vibrating hum (with the addition of loud bangs and thuds that sound like mini-explosions going off) until the next morning when the factory takes over from the trains.

And now I’ve written something a little personal, and I haven’t self-rejected.

So, I missed putting the word out about the climate change anthology my short story is in  (https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/extinction-notice-tales-warming-earth) on Earth Day and I just couldn’t get organized enough to upload 101+ photos of my precious rescue cats for National Pet Parents Day.

And I don’t know what else I missed.

But you know, coming up soon (April 30) is National Shelter Pet Day here in the United States, so I’d love it if you go take a look at my 2022 Astrological Guide to Shelter Cats over at Katzenworld: https://katzenworld.co.uk/2022/04/26/2022-astrological-guide-to-shelter-cats/

Remember, #AdoptDontShop! https://www.petfinder.com/

The Nightmare that is Kansas

Having been born and raised in conservative Florida, I absolutely had no illusions about moving to a red state.

It was also a rock-and-a-hard-place situation, in a way. I needed internet, and Kansas was the closest, and the most affordable.

I was, however, under the illusion that I could work for change here to help make things better. I’ve been in animal rescue work for years, and I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But this place just broke my heart in a whole new way that I wasn’t expecting. I have to admit that I’m feeling quite defeated and very isolated, even for this introvert.

I have my work, though, and I’ve been focusing on lighter writing venues that take my mind off things here. Like the tarot card readings and horoscopes over at Horror Tree, and the ones I do for Haunt Jaunts.

(Here’s the latest batch, for April, at the Horror Tree: https://horrortree.com/april-2022-horoscopes-portents-omens-and-the-curse-of-the-trope/ and https://horrortree.com/april-202-tarot-cards-for-writing-inspiration/)

So, I try to make sure I do other fun things in addition to writing quirky guest blog posts.

About two or three years ago, I was in a discussion with someone, and I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of Twitch and just watching people do things–like people playing video games and such.

And here I am, doing it. Guess you can teach an old gal like me a few tricks, and so I have been enjoying Luther Siler’s playthrough of different video games over on their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQdhd8gNyeAswOS6Nb4Wo3A. They’re interesting and entertaining video playthroughs (yes, even the holy-cow-another-frickin-catacombs almost unbelievable extensiveness of the Elden Ring world), and they’ve been a great help back when I was just feeling very disheartened and discouraged.

What fun activities do you schedule for yourself when things get rough?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Cheers!

Here in the United States, St. Patrick’s Day is generally an excuse to get soused! (As if we needed one, after Mardi Gras, right?)

The Rosetta Stone website lists 21 ways to say “Cheers!” in a variety of languages: https://blog.rosettastone.com/say-cheers-21-different-languages/.

However, if you’re like me, you may be hoping to encounter spirits of a different nature this St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s my guide to having the party of a (paranormal) lifetime! Hope you enjoy these St. Patrick Day’s horoscopes I created for Haunt Jaunts!

https://www.hauntjaunts.net/st-patricks-day-horoscopes-2022-your-signs-haunted-pub-or-inn/

(Been to one, or more, of these haunted locations? Let me know in the comments!)

Prefer a quiet time at home? Why not curl up with a cup of tea and some hauntingly great Celtic-themed short stories? Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy

(It’s also available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Neon-Druid-Anthology-Celtic-Fantasy/dp/1791884172/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Beware of Snapdragons!

Having a wee garden was always a maybe-someday wish…so far, it’s not to be, but it did inspire this week’s horoscopes over at Horror Tree.

Hopefully you’ll dig up some inspiration for either your garden, or your manuscripts, with these fun posts!

https://horrortree.com/march-horoscopes-what-grows-in-your-spooky-garden/

And, if you’re like me, and have a “brown thumb” when it comes to growing things, here’s March’s “Tarot Cards for Writing Inspiration”.

https://horrortree.com/march-2022-tarot-cards-for-writing-inspiration/

What projects do you all have lined up for Spring?

The Pandemic Looks Pretty in Pink (A Diary)

It’s been, hmm…well, I don’t know how many days since the pandemic started. I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

I just know it’s been plenty of days to ruminate on every bad decision I’ve made over the entirety of my forty-eight years on this planet.

Of course, that’s the number I can always keep track of, no matter how much I try to forget.

And for how many hours a day the neighbour’s dogs bark.

I mean, why have dogs, you know, if you’re just going to ignore them for, say, eight hours, twenty-three minutes…and forty-three seconds.

There, the dogs have finally stopped barking. I should probably get out of the house, go for a walk in the park, but I have a best-selling novel to write.

It’s shaping up pretty good. Draft eleven, here I come! But first, I just need to check my social media for the sixteenth time today.

You know, I’d better turn off the computer completely and get writing. Right after I give my cat her brushie time she’s been meowing at me for. After all, I don’t neglect my pets.

Well, apparently, she doesn’t want brushies, now. She just ran off into the other room, chasing after whatever probably imaginary thing she heard. Gotta love cats, right?

Wait, I heard it too. Sounds like crumpling paper. I hope my cat’s not tearing apart my best-selling manuscript draft number eleven.

Whew, it’s okay. Right there on the desk where I left it 37 days ago. But, you know, I had all that research to do online.

Just thinking about all that research has made me too tired to tackle draft number twelve. I’ll take a quick nap and then I can get a fresh start on today’s writing. It’s only, well, sometime after two in the afternoon. Plenty of time.

Oh no, how long did I sleep? It’s dark out, but it can’t be too late, right? That’s right, it’s winter, so it gets dark early. I’m fine. Besides, I’m determined to rewrite at least a couple of chapters today. Still, it’s strange that kitty didn’t wake me up to scoop her litter box 2.5 seconds after she used it.

I can hear her in there, scratching and scratching and scratching as if she’s trying to bury one of the great pyramids in Egypt.

I stop when I see her white blur dart across the dark room. “Where you going, kitty?” I call out. “I’ve got treats.” I shake the treat bag but she doesn’t answer.

I flick the light switch but the house remains dark. Just another urban brownout. I fumble around on my nightstand for the flashlight and hear something clatter to the floor as I grab the light. I turn on the flashlight but can’t find what fell.

“Kitty,” I call out, shining the light around. There’s no sign of her. Wait, there she is. I swing the light back around to the white glow I’d spotted.

Oh no.

“Kitty, what did you do?” I forget to use my best-pet-owner-ever voice and I’m glad the windows are closed so the neighbour can’t hear me almost-yell at the cat.

I feel nauseous. I know it’s not because I’d forgotten to eat. There, on the floor, are hundreds of scraps of paper. I can only hope it’s not draft eleven.

“It’s okay, kitty, I’m not mad.” I finally find her, crouching behind the TV. “Come on out.” But she still won’t come out, not even for her special treats.

And then I hear more paper rustling, somewhere behind me. If I was already a best-selling author, I wouldn’t have to live in this vermin-infested house. I mean, the mice are cute and all, and even my kitty seems fond of them. At least, she never hunts them, as far as I know.

“Shoo,” I said, but the rustling continued. Flashlight in one hand, I start picking up the bits of paper. The scraps are so small I can’t even tell which page it is.

But I’ve got tape and plenty of time with the pandemic isolation. I can put it back together, I tell myself. I get down on my hands and knees and start scooping up the paper bits. One big piece catches a draft and floats away.

The paper-rustling noise is louder, now, and I hesitate before feeling around for the missing piece under the desk. The noise stops just as I realize what it is. It’s not rustling, it’s . . . chewing. I get low to the floor and shine the light underneath the desk. Something glows, there, and it’s not white. It’s not even the faded gray of a house mouse. It’s…pink?

“What are you,” I say to the strange little creature that still has a scrap of paper hanging out of its mouth. The scrap falls to the ground and the creature ignores it.

“Well, whatever you are, you’re a pretty little thing.” It looked like a teeny pig, or maybe a cow. I waggle my finger towards it. “Come here, critter.”

Based on the seventeen stitches I had to get at the urgent care, it didn’t like me poking it. Luckily, by the time I got back to the house, the strange creature had disappeared.

I could only hope that my cat had broken the truce she formed with our wee fuzzy roommates and eaten the vicious little thing.

Until the next day, when the news was full of dire warnings about supply chain issues and paper shortages–which were blamed on the pandemic.

But we knew the real reason, me and my cat.

That these little pink creatures reproduced as fast as they ate paper. And, who knew, maybe someday, another new lifeform would come along that would have an insatiable taste for plastic.

That natural evolution would succeed where humans had failed, in regards to the planet.

*********

If you all haven’t figured it out by now, this was my entry into Evil Squirrel’s “Ninth Annual Contest of Whatever”, inspired by this (not-so?) pretty-in-pink creature: https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/01/30/the-ninth-annual-contest-of-whatever/!

Go check out the original post(s) about this mysterious creature, complete with illustrations, and the other participants’ posts about this cute pink nightmare!

You have until tomorrow to write up something yourself . . . come join in the fun!

All sightings (and posts) of this strange creature can be found in these posts/comments:

https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/03/02/five/

https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/02/27/one-more-plug/

https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/02/18/the-two-week-warning/

 

Five

Hey writers, come join in the mystery critter fun. I’m working on mine right now…

Evil Squirrel's Nest

We’re now up to FIVE entries in the 2022 Contest of Whatever with just two days to go!

The magic number, as always, is eight.  There’s never been fewer than eight entries in any past CoW….

If we don’t make it to eight, I just may cry… and do you want to be responsible for making a grown squirrel cry?

Of course you don’t….. you’ve still got plenty of time to create an entry for this year’s Contest of Whatever!

Just CLICK HERE to go to the official CoW page and help give this critter an identity!

You’ll be glad you did, and you can take satisfaction in helping to keep a much beloved Evil Squirrel’s Nest institution alive!

Thank you and good luck!!!

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Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author C.I. Kemp

This week I’ll be howling at the moon with author C.I. Kemp as we explore the secret lives of wolves!

Willow Croft: I recently lived in New Mexico, where I learned about George R.R. Martin’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary for (as quoted from their website) “displaced, unwanted, and non-releasable captive-bred wolves, wolfdogs, and other wild canid species”. (Link: https://wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org/) In your guest blog post on Antimony and Elder Lace’s (AEL) website, you mention learning about the “biologically correct” nature of wolves and how this inspired your werewolf-themed book Autumn Moon. Do you have any similar sanctuaries in New Jersey, and are you a volunteer/supporter of those sanctuary(ies)?

C.I. Kemp: I’m an avid supporter of the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, New Jersey, so much so, that (shameless plug alert) a portion of all sales from Autumn Moon are channeled to that organization. If you’re in the area, or plan to visit pay them a visit. You’ll get a tour of the facility and see wolves close-up.  Right now, you’d have to book online and there may be a wait, but the visit will definitely be worth it. If you can’t get there, consider donating or sponsoring a wolf.

Another site you might want to check out is the Wolf Sanctuary in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  As with Lakota, you’d have to book online.

If you’re not close to either of the areas I mentioned, and you want to learn more about / helping wolves, check out Inhabit to find a wolf preserve near you.

Willow Croft: I see that you do a lot of hiking and other outdoor activities. Have you had any close encounters with wildlifeof either the natural, or supernatural, variety while on a hike?

C.I. Kemp: Not with wildlife, but I did have a paranormal experience while camping with a buddy of mine in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Something you need to know about the Berkshires: it’s an area replete with ghostly legends and supernatural sightings.

Well, we were sitting around a campfire chugging beers. I reckon it was about midnight when I looked up and for a split-second, I thought I saw an old man in American Revolution clothing holding an old-fashioned gun with a short barrel and flared muzzle, a blunderbuss I think it’s called. It faded as quickly as it appeared and I was about to write it off as a trick of the light, when I saw the wide-eyed look on my buddy’s face.

I don’t recall which of us spoke first, but the first thing either of us said was, “Did you see it?” followed by “What did it look like?” “What was it wearing?” “What was it carrying?”

As if by unspoken agreement we only asked open-ended questions of each other; nothing that could be answered with a simple yes or no. After a few more give-and-take questions and answers, the conclusion was clear – we’d each seen the same thing.

To this day, I have no explanation for what we saw – and no, you can’t attribute it to the beers. Beer isn’t a hallucinogen and even if it were, it wouldn’t account for us having the same hallucination. In any case, I used the experience for an event in my first novel, (shameless plug alert number 2) Demon Ridge, available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and AB Film Publishing.

Willow Croft: The food question! What’s your favourite meal to rip into** to devour under the full moon (or at any other time)?

C.I. Kemp: If you asked me this question a year ago, I would have said it would be a tie between spare ribs, chili, pizza, and salad (hey, you gotta throw something healthy into the mix). Also beer, particularly under a full moon (see my response to the last question).

Today, however, I’d say black beans have become my new go-to food. Black bean burgers, black bean soup, black bean chili, black bean tacos – the list goes on.

Don’t be fooled, though, I’m still a devout carnivore, only no longer exclusively so.

Willow Croft: If you had a time travel machine, what era of history would you visit, and why?

C.I. Kemp: There’s no one era I would wish to visit, but there’s a looonnngg list of unsolved mysteries I’d like to resolve.  Below are just a few.

Of course, it is presupposed that my hypothetical time machine will allow me to return to the present time before any harm befalls me.

1587; Roanoke Island, NC:  In 1587, the colony of settlers led by John White made their home on Roanoke Island. Three years later, the colony was deserted. What happened? Your guess is as good as mine and will remain so at least until I get access to my time travel machine.

December 26, 1871; the Gaiety Theatre in London: The premiere of Gilbert and Sullivan’s little-known operetta, Thespis. The reason it’s little-known is because Arthur Sullivan’s libretto has mysteriously disappeared. As a music buff (and a Gilbert and Sullivan buff), I’d love to see the piece in its entirely before the music gets lost to posterity forever.

November 3, 1872; Staten Island, NY: It was on this date that the Mary Celeste departed on its ill-fated voyage to [Genoa]. It was discovered off the Azores completely deserted. I would book passage on the ship to learn just what happened at [on her last voyage].

August 4, 1892; 230 2nd Street, Fall River, MA: The murder of the parents of Lizzie Borden has intrigued morbid minds (including my own) for over a century. I’d love to see who truly was responsible for those forty-plus whacks.

August 6, 1930; Billy Haas’s Chophouse at 332 West 45th Street, NY: Judge Crater was last seen getting into a cab at this date and place and never seen again. I’d want to share that cab and find out just where he disappeared to.

Willow Croft: Since it’s Women in Horror Month (WIHM), what are your favourite spec fic tales by women/women identified authors?

C.I. Kemp: First and foremost is Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, not only because it’s a great read, but because it set the ground rules for the man-made monster sub-genre. Other favorites with which most readers of the genre are familiar are “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, although I would characterize these as Conte Cruel rather than spec fic.

Other favorite novels which may not be so universally known are…

  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The title character is a ghostly specter who haunts a small English town and whose sighting foretells disaster. Her existence is the result of a life of cruelty and tragedy, with which she visits the narrator with jarring force.
  • The Good House by Tananarive Due. A young lawyer inhabits the ironically named house to discover that it exerts an influence over the town which is anything but.
  • The House Next Door by Anne River Siddons. Another untraditional haunted house story. A new house is built on a vacant lot next door to a young couple. They befriend each new family who occupies the house, only to watch them deteriorate in horrendous ways.
  • Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten. Much as I’d like to say that Autumn Moon is the groundbreaker when it comes to treating wolves (and werewolves) sympathetically, Kelley Armstrong beat me to it. She does it with such reverence that I can’t resent her for it.

…along with the following short stories:

  • “The Curse of Yig” by Zealia Bishop. A collaboration with H.P, Lovecraft. A young wife incurs the wrath of the snake god, Yig. Or does she? Either way, she pays a terrible price.
  • “Ev’ry Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep” by L.A. Banks. A man is haunted by violent visions must undergo rigorous psychic training (a la Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid movies crossed with Dumbledore) before he can bring justice to a beautiful woman.
  • “Ghost Summer” by Tananarive Due. The story starts leisurely, then takes a nasty turn as three children become endangered when a grisly discovery comes to light.

Visit C.I. Kemp at their blog: http://www.ci-kemp.com/index.html

Autumn Moon can be found at the Antimony and Elder Lace Press website: https://aelpress.com/index.php/ebook/autumn-moon/ or visit C.I. Kemp’s Amazon page here: https://www.amazon.com/C.I.-Kemp/e/B00HQ5HCGW.

More Horoscope Fun–Just in Time for the Weekend!

Yep, another “shameless plug”, but I have to tell you–I’m having such fun making these horoscopes for Haunt Jaunts and Horror Tree!

Check out the latest ones down below and let me know what you think! (I also do a monthly tarot card reading for writing inspiration at Horror Tree, as well).

Haunt Jaunts Horoscopes: https://www.hauntjaunts.net/where-you-would-haunt-based-on-your-zodiac-sign-ghostly-travels/

Horror Tree Horoscopes: https://horrortree.com/february-2022-horoscopes-dead-in-the-water/

Horror Tree Tarot Reading for Writing Inspiration (February): https://horrortree.com/february-2022-tarot-cards-for-writing-inspiration/

Enjoy your weekend–hope it’s filled with lots of mischievous monsters, creepy crawlies, and ghoulish ghosts!