Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author E.F. Schraeder

Join me this week as I talk plant poisons, tasty flowers, and (fictional) animal besties with author E.F. Schraeder!

Willow Croft: As a nod to the title of an anthology one of your short stories is in (Moonflowers and Nightshade: An Anthology of Sapphic Horror, what’s your favourite lethal plant, and why?

E.F. Schraeder: Oleander is lovely, but I’d have to say my favorite lethal plant is definitely hemlock. If it’s good enough for Socrates, it’s good enough for me.

Willow Croft: Contrary to your poisonous pick from above, there are plenty of edible flowers out there that are safe to eat. Have you ever used edible flowers in a recipe, and which ones/what was the recipe? Or, have you ever actually eaten a flower, recipe or no, and what did it taste like?

E.F. Schraeder: I’m basically obsessed with gardening and wildcrafting, so I’ve eaten plenty of edible flowers. Most are subtle in flavor and texture, some sweet. Pansies, dandelions, chamomile flowers, daylily, nasturtium, squash blossoms, rose petals, chicory, and others. I’ve made a lot of teas, nibbled some just as they are. To me, lavender registers as a strong taste— a pinch goes a long way. A little lavender to roasted or mashed potatoes is delightful.

Willow Croft: Another story of yours is in a techno-horror anthology called Lost Contact What modern-day tech most terrifies you, and what tech could you not live without?

E.F. Schraeder: I love being offline for stretches of time, but I have gotten used to email, so it might be hard to do without email forever. When it comes to techno-horror, there are plenty of modern technologies I find anywhere from annoying to unsettling: tracking and surveillance tech, embedded tech… disentangling the objects of daily life from the cloud-world sounds more appealing to me than where things seem to be headed.

Willow Croft: You mentioned that you’re a big animal lover. If you were cruising around the dark regions of space, what fictional animal (literary or movie) would you want to be your companion(s)?

E.F. Schraeder: There are so many wonderful creatures, that it’s hard to choose. Jonas from Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle has a practical appeal, but I think the fierce and loyal Aslan would be a marvelous travel companion.

Willow Croft: And, lastly, have you ever taken up residence in a house with a ghost, and what were they like?

E.F. Schraeder: I have not lived with a ghost, though I have seen some over the years. Though startling, I don’t recall being frightened.


Find out what else E.F. Schraeder grows in her spooky (and literary!) gardens by visiting her at the links below!

Ahoy, Mateys!

Pirate Map

X marks the…date!

Yes, it’s finally here!

The day I’ve you’ve been waiting for all year!

It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Ready to set sail over the briny deep? I am!

Pirate Ship

Mateys, looks like we nabbed ourselves a fine prize! Lots of “claps of thunder” to go ’round…and pieces of eight, of course!

Pirate Book

And plenty more exciting pirate adventures to sail (the pages) through! or find the entire Space Pirates’ Legacy series here:

Shiver me timbers, there’s a fierce storm a-brewin’! Batten down the hatches, ye scallywags, else we’ll all end up in Davy Jones’ locker! The sea witch shows no mercy…or does she? Read on to find out:

Blimey, we was almost scuttled, we was. Time for a nice cup of tea with those beckoning (and lovely) lads and lassies, especially after all that grog. If in favour, say “aye”! *chorus of ayes*

Aye, me hearties, it seems we’re destined for Davy Jones’ locker after all. Who knew a mermaid tea would be at the bottom of the ocean?

*glub glub*

If you want your maritime magic delivered safely to your livespace, check out Enchanted Living’s “Nautical” issue here: I just read it over the weekend (did I mention I’m way behind in my reading?) and it’s fabulous!

Your turn…share your favourite pirate lingo and pirate- or maritime-themed books/sites in the comments below!


Need a Creativity Boost for Autumn?

Photo courtesy of

The Horror Tree accepted another one of my posts!

Check out “Cultivating Autumnal Magic for Writers” here:

And, if you want to feel even more witchy for the upcoming autumnal season, this article has some wonderfully spooky tips!

Witch Shadow
Photo courtesy of

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author and Journalist Ray Van Horn, Jr.

For this week we’re going “old school” with classic video/arcade games, lightsabers of choice, vinyl record-spinning (backwards, of course)…and orange creamsicles!

Better hurry up and read this interview with Ray Van Horn Jr., because I just heard the ice cream truck!




Willow Croft: If you were stuck with only one arcade game or video/computer game from the 1970s/80s, which would you pick, and why?

Ray Van Horn Jr.: In the ‘70s, video games were still fledgling experiments before the big boom in the 1980s. As a young ‘un, the rage was Pong, as in the electronic ping-pong game with head-to-head, block-shaped “paddles” and a square blip representing a ball. Same concept, get the blip past the other player for a point. Your family was considered an up-and-comer in the social strata if you had one then. My family wasn’t up-and-coming nor poor, and we had a Pong console, which we entertained people with at social gatherings in our home. Sounds crazy, but it’s true! We were much easier occupied than today’s generation. We also read books, spun vinyl records you had to take the time and energy to flip over and we went outdoors to play instead of an Xbox portal, just saying.

Pong was played with a console that hooked up to the t.v. and mind you, this was the age of floor cabinet tube televisions or medium-sized shelf or stand models. It was still an era of black and white picture televisions, as color models weren’t always a given in each household. I won’t bore you to tears over the rabbit ear picture control antennae mounted on top the t.v.s, but anyone who lived it won’t forget it. Younger generations would be astounded by the primitiveness of it all, though there’s been a newfound fascination of our archaic ways courtesy of Stranger Things.

While there was an early-on version of the Atari 2600 gaming console in 1977, it really blew up in 1982 once arcades became a huge thing. Arcades were a way of life and if they were worth a hoot, they were decked in neon piping and low-lit from above, so the machines could bask with the neon like Space Port and Space Station in my area. In other words, like Tron brought to life. Back then, you’d pay a quarter a play for an arcade machine, and adjusting for the times, we had miniscule (by comparison to today) allowances, i.e. a dollar or two. You found a game you could get really good at in order to make that quarter last, since most of the time, our parents dropped us off in an arcade while they shopped elsewhere. Otherwise, an arcade was tween and teen social hour.

Then you had to deal with the “quarters up” syndrome, which also applies to billiards play, as in someone claiming dibs on your machine. If you were really good, people would gather around you to cheer you on, but also to plant their quarter down on the edge of the video game screen to bid for rights to next play. That being said, the three arcade games I ruled at then and still shred today in retro arcades which we go to, are Ms. Pac Man, Galaga and Mat Mania.

Willow Croft: Imagine you were in a “galaxy far, far away” and were surrounded by a small force of the Empire’s minions, what would be your weapon of choice, if any?

Ray Van Horn Jr.: I’m old school, and nothing beats the original trilogy, yet Count Dooku’s lightsaber from the prequel set with its arched hilt where you can look gallant planting a forefinger before the saber projection…it’s just boss, man. For combat logistics, the configuration of that curved hilt sounds absurd, but Christopher Lee sold his regal saber hold as he did any project he appeared in. I have complete reverence for Lee as an icon of Hammer horror films, Saruman from Lord of the Rings and his other film works. The man even recorded a heavy metal album before he passed. Legend!

Now, any Star Wars geek like myself is going to cry foul at my choice, since Dooku was not only a Sith also known as Darth Tyranus, but he spearheaded the Trade Federation’s coup of Naboo, fostering Palpatine’s subversive hijack of the old Republic en route to the new Empire, of which you propose. My purposeful shenanigans here are predicated on the presumption I’d learned the Force and snagged Dooku’s saber for Imperial credits on the Old Republic dollar, using a Jedi mind trick against a drunken Rodian junk dealer hocking it on some backwater planet generations later.

Willow Croft: Let’s talk about food “less travelled”! It’s a three-parter, so take your pick, or answer all of them (sadly, no bonus prize, though)! What tasty treat to you remember from your own summer camp adventures as a kid? Alternatively, what’s your favourite trail snack(s), or what’s your go-to camping cuisine recipe?

Ray Van Horn Jr.: I never really went to summer camps, or a sleepaway camp (outside of those zany horror movies of the same name, ha!), but I went to plenty of swimming and nature day camps as a kid. What sticks out the most in my mind are the orange creamsicles we were gonzo about. Good Humor used to have an orange, gelatinous glob crammed inside a cardboard tube called a Push-Up, which many of us kids of the day of loved.

Favorite trail snacks, since we do a lot of hiking: bananas, kiwi or a nut mix filled with cashews, peanuts, dates, raisins, coconut shavings, M&Ms, almonds and such. When I do solo hikes, I likewise have these on-hand or a bag of Craisins. A turkey sandwich on wheat with stone ground mustard for the long haul hikes.

Willow Croft: A visitor from the future has loaned you their time travel machine and unlimited credit for a one-time shopping trip to the original Hunt Valley Mall you write about on your blog ( What store do you head for first, and what would you buy?

Ray Van Horn Jr.: First, I would toss my benefactor a gnarly hang-loose sign with my thumb and forefinger shaking about by way of thanks. With a shout of “Mega rad!” I’d aim right for Camelot Music to scout for the newest heavy metal cassettes of whatever day I landed in. I’d save some of my cash for a drop into Big Sky, which had cool jeans at a reasonable price (even for a mall), then look for my friends at the food court for pizza, then, of course, a raid at the arcade. Assuming I hadn’t overspent, I would dip into Friendly’s for a mint chocolate chip ice cream sundae!

Willow Croft: Speaking of fictional time travel, how would you envision the world in about 50 or even 100 years?

Ray Van Horn Jr.: I’m very concerned about the ongoing rape and careless abuse of our planet. I think the garish dystopia of Blade Runner 2049 is alarmingly on the money of where we’re headed if we don’t pay attention to Mother Gaia’s rising ire and subversive plea to get our selfish, polluting heads jerked out of our bums. I believe our natural resources stand to dwindle with exponential population growth and lackadaisical care in restocking and cleaning after what we reap. Replanting is key if we want our atmosphere to provide for us. Some people tend to think sectors of heavily forested areas means we have nothing to worry about. This is blind arrogance. I foresee more synthetic agriculture and animal cloning as time progresses, species die out and humans are forced to subsist on whatever science can give them, instead of nature. A world with ashy, burnt skies awaits us, ushered by wars and human negligence. Gaia provides all which we need; we need to treat her with far more respect.

I think modern society has become far too dependent on technology and I try not to worry about my son and his generation, who can’t go a single day (much less 15 minutes) without a glowing gadget within reach. Then again, people of all ages are glued to a device more than they set their eyes free to behold the beauty of their live habitats. My fiancée always posits the solar flare theory, which could wipe out the collective motherboard worldwide, shutting electronics down and forcing us back to the primitive. If we’re one day out of fossil fuels, oil, herbs, potable water and what we need to engineer horticulture, we’re done for on this planet. Less time inside the virtual, people, seriously.

I hope we evolve as futuristic society, learning from past mistakes and embracing our differences. I doubt I will see it in my lifetime, but I dream of a purge of bigotry, racism, homophobia and religious persecution. Those folks who can’t get with the program can leave the Earth and cultivate Planet Hate, as far I’m concerned. A lack of empathy is what mankind today suffers the greatest from, and if that doesn’t change, expect a barbaric purge more in tune with the murder spree movies of the same name. I hate getting on my high horse in such a fashion, but people have to want change, embrace diversity and treat our planet and its thousands of species like the gift it is if we’re ever going to survive your timeline.


I hope you enjoyed this interview with Ray Van Horn, Jr. but if you’d like to learn more about this author/journalist and his adventures with icons of heavy metal, punk, and more, visit him at his website: and check out his collection of short stories here:…/dp/B0B7QPFYJ1.





On [Not] Labouring Away…

Tomorrow’s Labor/Labour Day, which for us in the U.S. and Canada, we take a day off work in honour of the labour rights movement and unions and such.

Although I’m usually a very industrious worker bee, lately I’ve just been feeling less than motivated to do, well, anything.

And my circumstances have changed, and I really need to hustle to find a source of income, so I can’t really afford to slack off.

But if there was ever an argument against not working, I’d say it’s my mock horoscopes for September, for sure!

Who wants to join my utopian community? *passes out copies of William Morris’s News from Nowhere*

Here’s my tarot card reading for September, over at Horror Tree, if you need some more inspiration for the coming times.

Eco Tuesday: Carol’s Foodie Adventures with her World-Traveling Slow Cooker

This week’s guest for Eco Tuesday is the world-traveling Carol Taylor! Many of you may know her from her blog or from her food column over at Smorgasbord, but you may not know that both her slow cooker and her cooking pans have been around the globe with her. Read on to discover what makes Carol’s Kitchen “green”!


Carol is a foodie who is passionate about the environment and the right to buy food without chemicals and preservatives…wherever possible she cooks from scratch using food that is either home grown or purchased from sustainable sources…She states she will never be a vegan/vegetarian but increasingly eats less meat and more vegetable based dishes. Waste is something that she is also very aware of and uses every part of the food she cooks and eats…if it can be pickled and preserved then it will be plus also to reduce the amount of energy that is used in her kitchen she batch cooks not in such great quantities as she did when her family were all young but always cooks enough to freeze at least 2 portions this all saves energy and time…she is also a believer in letting children help in the kitchen and children who help to cook eat what they cook no fussy kids in her house…On her trip to the UK recently it was such a pleasure for Carol to see her children and grandchildren cooking and to be able to swap ideas and recipes…

Thank you, Willow for inviting me to answers some questions for your blog…

The Interview

Willow Croft: I see from your blog/your column on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine that you sometimes take the “Green Kitchen” on the road—collecting regional recipes and visiting local farmer’s/food markets. What’s your favourite market you’d like to return to, and/or what’s the most interesting recipe you’ve discovered?

Carol Taylor: I am blessed with having great fresh markets here where I live but my favourite markets are Borough Market in London where the stall holders interact with the shoppers and even make a quick dish with mushrooms for example…not only does it show you the customer the wide variety of mushrooms you can use but what tasty dishes you can make very quickly and of course for recompence the stall holder sells lots of mushrooms…Likewise the cheese. bread and other stalls all put on a demo for the customers…it is a great market visit with lots of history and great eating places.

Also it has to be the floating markets in Bangkok of which there are about 13 where you hop on a boat and the pilot of the boat can guide you close to the stall if you are interested in his wares plus there is the excitement of when the trains pass through one of the markets and as if by clockwork the stall holders raise their canopies in unison and remove their track side goods back a little…

Most interesting recipe…that’s a difficult one for me Willow as I cook all the time plus we like most fruits and vegetables but for me learning to shop my fridge which is not actually a recipe but having for so many years been recipe driven I have now learnt to look at the food I have and think about what I can make from that… this often means that instead of shopping and buying everything a recipe quotes I may only need to buy 1 or 2 items if that… this in turn means that I never throw food away and use what I have before I buy more…If I discover I can for example use strawberry stems and make a powder to add to ice cream or a muffin mix or pickle watermelon rinds that to me is interesting and using the whole fruit wasting nothing.

Willow Croft: As I need to ditch my own toxic Teflon frying pan, I loved the part of your post (I have pans that date back to the 70s I think, if not older) on Teflon-free alternatives: So, in tribute to that post, what’s your most-used cookware in Carol Taylor’s Green Kitchen?

Carol Taylor: I stir fry most days and cook curries in my wok on other days; But because I cook every day my pans are in constant use… but numero one is my wok…Closely followed by my slow cooker which has travelled the world with me but now has finally been retired due to some small cracks so for safety she had to go but I will be replacing her…
However I do believe in buying the best pans you can as mine have been around the world with me and are still in constant use and as good as new.

Willow Croft: In addition to your tips on buying local, growing your own food, and recycling/composting, you’re a strong advocate for conservation, especially of the ocean and marine life forms. If you could transform yourself into any creature from the deep ocean depths, which would it be, and why?

Carol Taylor: Most little girls want to be a mermaid but now I’ve grown up I haven’t given a thought to what sea animal I would like to be…but as you have asked Willow…as I like people and am sociable as most bloggers are so I think a “Dolphin” because they follow boats and are very friendly but also as a dolphin I love to eat squid, fish, cuttlefish and crustaceans although I have to be careful that sharks or other predators don’t eat me however we keep the balance in the ocean and without us the natural balance and the health of the ocean would be negatively affected plus dolphins are very graceful and almost as pretty as a mermaid…


Check out Carol’s other tips to reduce food waste and how to make your kitchen more green:

Carol also sent a video link about the floating markets in Thailand:

Getting Even More “Cryptic” at the End of the World!

Since the world’s ending (or, at least, according to my latest creative inspiration tarot read), Iet’s really get away from it all during this last summer on Earth*. Prepare to be completely transformed as a result of your astrological journey!

*Like my tarot readings and mock horoscopes; fictionally speaking, of course.

Oh, and if those horoscopes whetted your monstrous appetite, check out this anthology called The Cryptid Chronicles, where I not only have a short story, so does Horror Tree’s very own Stuart Conover! And lots of other great stories/authors, of course!

A Surprise Cameo Appearance for Eco-Tuesday…

For one of my short stories, I followed along with the adventures of an animal liberation group…with a twist.

(Here’s the link to the anthology that the short story was in:

So, when I received a call-to-action email from PETA to send a letter to my representative(s) about supporting the FDA modernization act, I, of course, did send the form/letter. 

As some of you may know, I’m in Kansas, a very conservative red state here in the United States. For example, it often appears that Representative Ron Estes and I could not be on farther ends of the spectrum in terms of key issues, based on their earlier responses to other letters I’ve sent.

But here was Representative Estes’s response–a response that, admittedly, surprised me:




Try Not to Be [Green] Starstruck!

*poses for the paparazzi*

Cheesy jokes aside, guess what?

I’ve been interviewed over at the Green Stars Project blog!

Oh, and I won one of the Ethical Consumer magazine subscription prizes that are available for doing Green Stars reviews!

I chose products for the reviews as a way to wean myself from as many single-use plastics as I can.

Check out the interview here:

Don’t be “green” with envy….come join me in the emerald spotlight! You can do your own reviews as part of the Green Stars Project…and be entered to win a subscription too!

I promise I won’t upstage you…much!

Let me know if you’re planning (or have done) your own reviews in the comments below (or, better yet, over at the Green Stars Project blog), and I’ll check them out!