The Dark Side is Not So Dark After All: The Need for Satanism in the Twenty-First Century

Not too long ago, I was doing research for a short story involving demons and the Christianized concept of the devil, and I came across the tenets of the Satanic Temple.

The tenets resonated with me from the first read, especially as I’m entering into middle age, and, after some (non-philosophical) musing, I made the decision to become a member of the Satanic Temple.

The civic-minded nature of the Temple, the respect for others’ rights and freedoms, and, especially the “compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason” (as quoted from their tenets on their website: https://thesatanictemple.com/pages/tenets), which, of course, appealed to my nature as an animal rights activist and tree-hugger environmentalist.

In addition, I think organizations like the Satanic Temple are essential to combat the alarming trends and shifts in the world today (or, a continuance of imperialism and intolerance that is history’s long-standing legacy, but we can engage in that deep philosophical/intellectual conversation some other time) such as Donald Trump’s insane and greedy hate-filled antics, and the widespread climate change and loss of valuable non-human species.

As a card-carrying Satanist now, I decided to submit an essay for a Satanic voices anthology put together by publisher Daniel Cureton at Forty-Two Books, and edited by Faustus Blackbook, and I was very excited to learn it had been accepted for inclusion in this anthology.

Check out the diverse collection of essays, short stories, poems (and a fascinating creative nonfiction piece) to learn more about Satanism today!

Satan Speaks! Contemporary Satanic Voiceshttps://www.amazon.com/Satan-Speaks-Contemporary-Satanic-Voices/dp/1734006714/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=satan+speaks%21%3A+contemporary+satanic+voice&qid=1583328273&s=books&sr=1-1 )

I also greatly appreciated the review a fellow blogger, Assholes Watching Movies, posted (a blog which I’ve followed for years now) about the movie Hail Satan? Read the review here: https://assholeswatchingmovies.com/2020/02/28/hail-satan/

I’ve included the link for the Satanic Temple, should you wish to learn more about this organization: https://thesatanictemple.com/.

Just for posterity, here’s the link to the form of Satanism that continues to follow in Anton LaVey’s footsteps: https://www.churchofsatan.com/.

 

 

Polka-Dot Sized Reviews of Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown

Deadman Humour: Thirteen Fears of a Clown by [Mizia, R. M., Snider, Henry, Pirie, Steven, Munro, Donna J.W., Stanley, Christopher, Coley, N. D., Jackson, Roger, Degni, Christopher, Glenwright, Lee, Bryant, Samantha, Bernard, Charles R., Smith, Joshua R., Lomax, G.K.]

Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown is another clown anthology published by Dave Higgins that is bursting with, what else, clowns.

(Spoilers ahead—Willow Croft)

It’s easier for me to break down the review by focusing on each of the individual stories, rather than review the collection as a whole. (Which I loved just as much as the companion short story collection Dave Higgins has published—Bloody Red Nose: 15 Fears of a Clown.)

This collection was aimed at tickling the reader’s funny bone with more stories that made clowns not the objects of fear, but the victims of things more comically terrifying than they are.

R.M. Mizia’s “The Living Dark” sets the stage with a birthday party celebration that sounds like one I should like to attend, but which doesn’t bode well for the clowns hired to entertain at the event.

“The Clown” by Henry Snider captures the simultaneously alluring yet seedy feel of the fairway in his story, which serves up a haunting twist at the end that stays with the reader.

Like the companion anthology, Deadman Humour offers an immersive darkness that gives me a chance to escape the darkness in my own life. And it works because it’s darkness with heart and longing and emotion. Such is the case of Steven Pirie’s “To Pull a Child From a Woman” definitely has both darkness and heart, and has an ending for Hobo the clown that I almost envy. (Oh, the poor emus, though…).

The poignant telling of the funeral services of King Giggles the clown in Donna J.W. Munro’s “Funeral for King Giggles” is both touching and fitting reminder that when, despite the evolution one would expect from the 21st century society, it remains a world where many still have to wear masks. I loved the acceptance and the passage of self at the end of the story.

“Auguste in Spring” by Christopher Stanley for me, alludes to the clown version of the #MeToo movement, where a young clown starlet turns the tables on a sleazy director who is expecting sexual favours in return for his making her a star. On the night of her eighteenth birthday, she begins to transform into something much less alluring (by clown performer standards, apparently) yet invariably more powerful, and it’s then that the young starlet comes into her own.

“Giggles for Bimbo” by N.D. Coley is horror that uses a man who is impressed into clownship to create a story that examines the actual nature of children, raised by a society that emphasizes power, control, conformity, and intolerance. It’s a heartbreaking commentary of what we do to children who are sensitive in a world of cruel callousness and demanding expectations that are nearly impossible to live up to—a world that does not encourage gentleness of spirit and richness of soul and feeling in children of any age. This is a horror story that, again, stays with the reader after it’s over.

Having grown up in a theatrical environment, the next two tales sit very close to home with their depictions of horror on the page. Both Roger Jackson’s “Being Funny Is a Serious Business” and Christopher Degni’s “A Mime Is a Terrible Thing to Waste” are evocative in the reminders that there is no price too high, and no sacrifice too great, in the practice of one’s craft.

Lee Greenwright’s “You Don’t Choose the Circus Life, the Circus Life Chooses You” takes this dedication to craft to a whole other horrific level. The story lures you in with what many of us may want: finding the place where we belong, the chance to be part of a family, to find our “home” as the author puts it via his main character Varley. Greenwright, though, reminds us to be careful what we wish for. (I’m still going to wish for my own place that I belong; my home, despite the cautionary tale Greenwright has offered, here in this collection.)

Samantha Bryant’s delightfully crafted tale, “The Gleewoman of Preservation,” had a lot more to offer than a barrel of chuckles. I loved that she wrote the story around an older couple, I loved her inclusion of more real-life based bits of what life for a retired couple was life (the bit about her husband’s snoring was truly mirth-inducing), and I loved even more how she turned the male-dominated “Gentlemen’s Club” into the 21st century, with a truly speculative twist. I can’t wait to read more from Samantha Bryant. (My grandfather was a Shriner, incidentally.)

The dark giggles take on a whole other hue in Charles Bernard’s “auguste” tale. It’s a story that doesn’t paint over the secret life of clowns with any sort of romantic gloss. (I’ve learned, now, that “Auguste” clowns are “red clowns” in contrast to the clowns wearing white facepaint and white costumes.) And the final, violent end to one clown’s loneliness—well, that just makes the bitter, blood-drenched end of the story that much more powerful.

I also loved the dark humour in Joshua R. Smith’s “Bag of Tricks,” aka “The Inner Life of People Who Are Forced to Work With Kids.” Lots of giggles to be had at this author’s too-close-to-home depiction of kids—and their parents! It’s stories like this that I love, because I am granted permission to laugh at realistic depictions of children in ways that I don’t have the freedom to at the day job.

Then, the anthology fittingly wraps up with G.K. Lomax’s story titled “Alas, Poor Yorick.” Again, I practically grew up in a theatre, so I couldn’t avoid knowing the gist of Hamlet’s tale via osmosis even if I wanted to avoid it. This tale is a skilled expansion of the clown(s) behind the scenes of Shakespeare’s notable dramatic play. Even though I’m not a trained thespian or a Shakespeare scholar, I thought this tale was really well done, and provided a delightful finish to the anthology. Like the rest of the authors I’ve been introduced to by way of this anthology, I’m looking forward to reading more tales of his in the future.

Explore the inner trials and tribulations of clowns for yourself with your own copy:

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Deadman-Humour-Thirteen-Fears-Clown-ebook/dp/B07XJ5H2GL/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=deadman+humour&qid=1582141043&sr=8-1

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48117863-deadman-humour?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=ZKbUZtQP5O&rank=1

Bookshop Link: https://bookshop.org/books/deadman-humour-thirteen-fears-of-a-clown/9781912674060

 

 

Rejections, Acceptances, and Other Things I’m Grateful For

 

 

The hardest thing about being a writer is not all the short story rejections, the pitch rejections, and even the agent rejections–I actually don’t mind all of that, because it’s all part of the writerly process.

It’s discovering all these amazing books to read (via the short story submission opportunities), and not enough money to purchase them!

(And I hate not having enough time to write, but this is supposed to be a kvetch-free blog post!)

So, thanks to all the people and publishing companies that are out there, providing plenty of opportunities for writers to write and submit, and even those who share submission opportunities via databases and email newsletters/online postings, like The Horror Tree and the Submission Grinder. And thanks for dedicating the time to read/review all the submissions, and for taking the time to write said rejection letters out of what must be a very busy schedule.

And, so, I also want to thank those who accepted/are accepting my stories and articles over the past several years (in no particular order): Renaissance Magazine, Catster, the Rio Grande Sun, Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine, Mad Scientist Journal, Speculative 66, Mt. Misery Press, David Higgins, Z Publishing House, Fantasia Divinity Magazine, EconoClash Review, Forty-Two Books, and Excalibur Books. I would also like to extend the thank-yous to the blogs where I guest blog at:Katzenworld blog, The Green Stars Project, and Madness Heart Press. (Also check out blogs I follow, which have supported me for…years, now!)

I’ve added all their links, above, so feel free to explore!

Apologies if I’ve overlooked anyone, and please post up in the comments or send me an email if I need to add you. I’m cramming in a week’s worth of work in the mornings before the day job, and any oversight was not intentional.

So, publishers, writers, fellow bloggers and blog readers, and everyone else in the writing community, I hope you’re having a wonderful Friday!

Keep the words, and the books, journals, and zines coming!

Taking Flight With Ufology Books

I’ve never even had anything close to a UFO sighting, or even had any one of the numerically classified encounters with extraterrestrials and their transports of choice.

I have the iconic poster, though; you know the one, the poster that was hanging in Mulder’s basement office (with no work area for Scully, mind you) that says “I want to believe.”

I’ve been to the UFO museum in Roswell for one of their anniversaries—I think the 50th—and picked up a bunch of books written by UFO experts and aficionados. Some were nice, one was rude and dismissive (I immediately regretted buying their book), and most of the speakers there had interesting presentations on the topic of UFOs and alien visitations. But, overall, it still had a “boy’s club” feel to it, and, as a woman, I didn’t feel very welcomed in the house of Ufology. Like it’s a grown-up version of a secret fort, and there’s a big sign out front that says “No Girls Allowed”.

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Anyway, I also paid a visit to the crash site while I was in Roswell. At least there was nobody out there to suggest that I, as a woman, didn’t belong among all the self-titled “UFO scholars.” It’s desolate out there—there’s nothing for miles, until the land runs into the mountain. And spooky, even in the daytime. For anyone who’s been out to New Mexico, you know what I’m talking about. It’s very quiet and the silence and the wind gives you chills. It’s easier to imagine paranormal activity courtesy of old-world spirits rather than any residual physical traces of the UFO crash hiding beneath the desert soil. Now, apparently, you can tour the site of the crash. But when I was there, there was just a sign, and the site of the Roswell crash was on private property.

 

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So, regarding UFOs, I still remain a little more on the skeptical side, despite my intellectual curiosity. I do not want to detract from anyone’s experience who has had a sighting of aliens/extraterrestrials, undergone an alien abduction, or seen a UFO in the sky or on the ground. I, myself, have seen some things that I am still trying to come up with a rational explanation for, but, for me, the allure and magic of fantasy and anything else one’s imagination creates relies on the fact that it is unreal and not of this world. I mean, if I saw unicorns and fairies and krakens every day, they wouldn’t have a strong a hold on my inner spirit and psyche. I am quite comfortable with the unsolved, the mysterious, the unknown, and undiscovered.

I mean, it was exciting to entertain ideas that the transport in the bible was actually a UFO; that the gods and goddesses from lore and myth from various cultures and religions (including the bible) were actually visitors from outer space; and that the Mayan carving was a figure piloting a  ship. But I also feel intrigued by theories that alchemical magic was behind some of the great architectural feats that created the pyramids and other such massive structures.

But then I “want to believe” in the science that can rule out such fanciful explanations, and there does seem to be too many holes in the theories of UFOs that have not even being explored as an alternative, rational explanation and either thereby suggested as an area for future study or eliminated thoroughly as a cause.

I think of Barney and Betty Hill. The soiled and torn clothing, and other elements of the case could also point to an attack by very human individuals. And I couldn’t help but think if the UFO explanation was simply a protective façade created by the mind for a similar situation where they both felt powerless but couldn’t come to terms with the reality of a brutal assault by people very much of this world.

Which leads me to my most recent reads into the clandestine world of UFOs, and the secret agenda of…extraterrestrials? Or some as-yet-unrevealed sinister force that has been at work since the dawn of (human) time and memory?

I’ll start with the first of Ken Hudnall’s books, The Occult Connection: U.F.O.s, Secret Societies, and Ancient Gods.

 I liked the main part of the book, and I would probably keep it on my shelf for a while as a research resource, where all these conspiracy tidbits and theories  I’ve read about over the years (And taken with a grain of salt—or is it sand? I forget how it goes.) are condensed into one neat volume. And Hudnall’s tracing of the “Men in Black” phenomenon into history (though not comprehensively) is an interesting theory to add to my research database.

Generally speaking, and not necessarily in Hudnall’s book, I have the problem when U.F.O. sightings and speculation, and extraterrestrial visitation cross over into props used to support the “superior” technical, scientific, and engineering knowledge of what Ufology scholars and abductees, et al, refer to as a suspiciously “ Great White Aryan” race of people. This race is depicted as not only “white” but one that was so advanced it was classified as divine. The whole history of U.F.O. and extraterrestrial sightings reads like a tribute to the wonder of the European races—a racist, revisionist area of study and oral history/stories that erases the knowledge and accomplishments of people like the Maya or from China, for example, as well as many more. (A family member, once, told me about an March 26, 1880 article in the Santa Fe New Mexican that related a sighting of a “fish-shape balloon, with ten human occupants in it from which strong singing, music, and shouting in an unknown language. The article reports that a rose tied to a letter written with ‘unknown characters’ and a cup of ‘unusual workmanship’ were dropped from the vehicle. According to accounts the following day, a person unknown to the residents purchased both items for a ‘large sum of money,’ declaring them ‘of Asiatic origin’.” The context of this was that U.F.O.s could, in fact, be touring balloons launched from China and/or Japan and reaching the coast of the United States. This family member referenced this as a potential explanation for some U.F.O. sightings in more recent history).

Ultimately, I would like to know what side Ken Hudnall falls on, more specifically. Because some of the points included in the appendices, especially, seem a little too extreme even for my “I-want-to-believe” curious mind. He terms the mysterious author of Appendix D Bruce Walton (presumably the whole section, or does Walton leave off and Hudnall chimes in, at the end of the appendix?) as an “outstanding researcher” (Occult Connection, pp 173). What does he think about the “Globalist conspiracy” of which “Satan and his Demons” are using to “enslave the world” that is mentioned at the end of Walton’s appendix? (Occult Connection, pp. 181-182). This seems to be a little less balanced even for the what could be termed as fringe topics in Hudnall’s book. But I’m going to move onto Hudnall’s second book I picked up recently.

Like Occult Connection, Hudnall’s Beyond Roswell is a compact summation; this time of other U.S. UFO crashes and the one that happened in Mexico, right across the border, which makes it a handy reference for my bookshelf. It’s accentuated with oral transcriptions and interviews from the witnesses and others whose lives were impacted by the things they witnessed during, and after, the UFO crashes. As a historian whose field is public history, especially oral history, those included firsthand reports made the book that much more interesting. And, again, the chapter on the Men in Black made the sometimes confusing appearances of these mysterious figures a little more clear in their sinister connection to UFOs. And, of course, being visual, I love having a book with photos and illustrations!

The last book I picked up at NecroNomicCon here in New Mexico, was Travis Walton’s Fire in the Sky: The Walton Experience.

This was a very detailed, comprehensive book about Walton’s recollection of his abduction by purported aliens on November 5th, 1975, and the resultant aftermath of his traumatic experience. So detailed, in fact, it’s hard not to accept that Walton did go through something very extraordinary. When I read most of these books that are written about, or record, a person’s alien abduction experiences, I wonder who would make up stuff like this. Especially someone like Travis Walton, whose experience seems to come right out of the blue (or out of the sky) for just an “average guy” type (No offense—I’m sure Travis wasn’t average, but you know what I mean.). I don’t question that these purported abductees think they experienced something, and far be it from me to question the validity of their experience, but it seems that if they had an event of this magnitude happen to them as a figment of their imagination or state of mind at the time of the purported abduction, there would be signs leading up to it. Signs their mental state was fraying—paranoia, previous experiences, talk of being followed or persecuted, feelings of being surveilled—things like that. Imagining alien craft and abductions doesn’t seem to me the hallmarks of a psychopath/sociopath, whom (or so I’ve read—I’m not in any of the licensed mental health professions) are pretty good at hiding their true mental state from the general public.

The only thing I can think of is that it was a very vivid dream after some traumatic event. But a dream that his fellow workers also had? It doesn’t even seem likely. Maybe it’s the result of stress—stress can do funny things to a person’s mind, and Travis, himself, mentions that their job is a stressful one. Maybe their tired, stressed minds triggered some sort of visual hallucination.

But by now I’m circling back to my Betty and Barney Hill argument. Could something so terrible happen at the hands of our fellow humans, especially those that we know and trust, and live among, that our minds can’t handle it, so we reach for a handy scapegoat like aliens and UFOs and alien abductions?

Finally, Travis Walton lays out several points that many of his debunkers have raised, and presents evidence as to why those skeptics’ counterarguments aren’t feasible. Still, though, as I reached the end of the Walton book, I’m not sure I was convinced, but through lack of any other feasible theories as to his abduction experience, who am I to say that it didn’t happen?

In reading another tale of an abductee’s experience, Flashbacks: An Artist’s Memoir of Alien Abductions, Native Spirits, and Enlightenment, I remember thinking that some of the events seemed very farfetched. Also, when (in the book) there was a chance to get concrete medical evidence after Sean Bartok’s abduction experience, and I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t jump at the chance to get the tests done. They would then have proof, or at least, an alternate explanation that would ease one’s mind after what seems to be a very frightening experience.

So, I still am not convinced there’s aliens out there, gliding through our skies, and abducting humans and animals and conducting tests on them. But sometimes, as I look around at our world, I wish there were. Not up there wasting time on humans, but floating up there as an extraterrestrial Noah’s Ark; rescuing animals that are on the verge of extinction thanks to us humans, and that their ships are also big arboretums full of trees and plants and grasses we humans love to hate. That the aliens are taking these non-human life forms back to a peaceful Eden where they can flourish and evolve unmolested.

That’s what I want to believe.

Willow’s Latest Read–Bloody Red Nose: 15 Fears of a Clown

Bloody Red Nose: 15 Fears of a Clown

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Edited by David Higgins

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bloody-Red-Nose-Fifteen-Fears/dp/1912674092

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48118011-bloody-red-nose?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=CebaWWmi5x&rank=1

David Higgins’ Blog: https://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/

As opposed to David Higgins’ experience in his intro for this anthology, I don’t think I ever had clowns for any birthday parties. None that I can remember, anyway. Mostly we just saw the clowns in parades, or at the circus. I grew up in Sarasota, Florida—the winter headquarters for a certain notable circus. But I don’t remember any real fear of them, or any real love of them, either. I liked the animal acts and I can still remember the smell of the elephants as mixed with the smells of the Big Top. These fond memories sit uneasily with my later (and continued) dedication to animal rights causes.

But I love stories about clowns. And of course I read Stephen King’s It when I was in middle school, and remembered feeling a little disappointed in the movie, despite Tim Curry’s appearance in the film.

So I was so excited when David Higgins put out this anthology (I haven’t read the other clown anthology he put out, so please no spoilers! I’m just as keen to read that one, as budget allows.)

And for more than just that my own story appeared in it. Having the clowns be, as the back cover blurb puts it “the victims or heroes of the story” made the collection even more appealing.

I’ll just do a quick summation of each tale, and leave you to discover the chills and spooks for yourself. (Although, there might be some slight spoilage going on, so maybe just go out and buy the book before you read on!)

Eleanor Cawood Jones writes the kind of tale I love to read; plus I (half-shamefully) giggled through the capers of Kipper the clown almost to the very end of the story.

Ben Fitts (Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine) kept up the laughs with “Naughty,” though at times I was probably more closer to crying, given that I work in the school system on a daily basis. The naughty children Poodles faced were wonderfully real in their description. Hence the half laughter/half crying sensation I felt while reading his delightfully dark tale.

It’s perfect that Fitts’ “Naughty,” is followed up by Casey Douglass’ “Life of the Party” where the tables are horrifically turned once again, against some not-so-naughty partygoers.

Simon Peterson’s “The Killer Clown Massacre” really hit the horror spot for me, as the violence in the story mirrored the typical violence that unfolds in the state of Florida.

“Freckles” by Kathleen Palm, “Beneath Black Balloons” by Jeremy Megargee, “Fear the Clown” by Ray Kolb, and “Corn Stalker” by Dan Allen help descend the book into that sort of darkness I love…like sipping a rich horror scotch.

The poignant tales “I, Clown” (Robert Morgan Fisher), “Replevin” (Misha Burnett), and “The Distinguished Gentleman” (M. Kelly Peach), and “Clowns on the Run” (Daniel Scott White) made my heart break as well as speed up. One of them was even kinda romantic (I’ll not tell you which one, though…).

Gord Sellar’s “Alone with Gandhari”—goodness gracious, I don’t think I’ve ever read a tale quite like that (in a good way). I definitely have to check out the Korean speculative fiction he and Jihyun Park have co-translated, and, as a fan of Korean cinema, especially horror, I really want to see The Music of Jo Hyeja (he wrote the screenplay for it).

Trying to pick a favourite from any sort of written story is nearly impossible for me, but the one that really got to me was “Bingo” by Andreas Hort. Bingo the misfit who finally found his place in the world and held onto that dream no matter what the consequences.

David Higgins has done a great job in not only selecting the tales for this anthology, but also placed them in just the right order, which made it a fantastic read!

I hope to be able to purchase Deadman Humour: Thirteen Fears of a Clown (Another clown anthology edited by David Higgins) very soon!

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On Muses, and the World Not Seen

A short blog today; if you’re in the U.S. it’s a holiday for some (but not for the poor turkeys!).

We’ve had a rare heavy snowfall here in New Mexico. It’s lovely and overcast for once, but I am still pining for rains and a stormy ocean outside my door.

I (successfully!) made pumpkin muffins, courtesy of a recipe from Blessings By Me, a blog I follow: https://www.blessingsbyme.com/2019/09/13/pumpkin-muffins/. They are scrumptious!

I’ve had a new muse show up in the other-dimension space. I’m enjoying having a new source of inspiration. Got a poem titled “Tidal Pool” out of it, and even a short story that I’ve submitted to Sirens Call Publications (the irony, right?). The deadline is not until November 30th, so if you’re looking for a home for your dark fiction, check out the latest theme:  http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/open_subs.htm.

Speaking of sources of creative inspiration, I also had the chance to read poetry by Alex Vincent. The book is titled Below the Surface, and it’s available here: https://alexvincent.bigcartel.com/product/poetry-book.

It’s not a full-on review, I’m afraid.

When I read poetry, it’s like looking at art. It’s an…impressionable…experience. Very right-place-right-time, in-the-moment happening. Visceral and yet symbolic synchronous experience.

And there’s a little part of me that, when I read poetry, I want to keep it all to myself. The feelings and thoughts inspired by the poems. I don’t like to talk about it much with others. But I liked the poem about the horror convention (it brought back memories of when I met one of my muses in real life), and a darker one that (if I’m remembering correctly) was set in a motel room.

So I’ll leave it a secret between me and my muse(s). But I’d recommend reading his poetry for yourself. https://alexvincent.bigcartel.com/

But, I’m grateful to all my amazing (imaginary!) muses that keep showing up in dreams and the odd serendipitous, synchronous moments. (Until next time, in our shared alternate dimensions…)

Keep writing, keep creating, and keep dreaming…

(You’re welcome to share your sources of inspiration and your personal muses in the comments if you wish…)

 

Reviewing Books for Madness Heart Press (And Other Changes)…

I’ve written a couple of reviews over at Madness Heart Press’s blog–check it out, here: https://madnessheart.press/blog/.

I’ll be working on rewrites and edits on my horror manuscript for the next couple of months, as well.

And, I’m considering a move to another realm in the internet world, and I’ve comparing Wix and Weebly and other such website homes. I’ve not been happy with WordPress for a while–I could use a ton of words to describe it–but I’ve put it off and put it off, because packing up something as simple as an internet presence is overwhelming. 

Speaking of packing up and moving on, my internet issues and phone issues (i.e. I can’t get internet at my house, and won’t be able to get cell phone service early in the next year), and a myriad of other issues with New Mexico have forced my hand in terms of relocation. Not to mention that it’s been difficult to break into the job market here, in terms of finding a job with a liveable wage.

So I’ve been looking at different cities around the country (and the world!) to begin a multiple-step move.

If where you live is absolutely fantastic, feel free to share your locale and what you love about it, in the comments, and I’ll add it to my research list! Also, if you use Wix or Weebly or have another suggestion for a blog/website host, please share those as well.

Meet My New (Imaginary) Friends—The Little Fears (created by author/artist Peter Edwards)

(Caution: Sleepy-writer thoughts lie ahead.)

Writing.

More isolating than I expected.

And I love being alone.

It feels safe.

But writing brings on a whole different kind of aloneness.

It’s not a very still and quiet alone.

Too many pesky thoughts and ideas. Too many noisy inner voices.

Things start to get muddled up.

In a surreal Dali-esque mad artist kind of way.

You begin to want a real presence. (As I allude to in my poem Tidal Pool).

But people are also distracting.

And you have a book to write.

Unlike your characters, you can’t customize your interactions with people.

Which makes you feel lost. Full on, fairy-tale-waif-in-the-woods lost.

And, so, when I sat down to compose this review of Peter Edwards’ books, I was trying to figure out where to start.

Then a thought spoke.

Just one.

It said “The Little Fears are good company.”

Granted, probably not the kind you would bring to the office party.

Or to your neighbourhood potluck.

But they are, strangely enough.

The quirky nature of the Little Fears helps banish the feeling of alienation you get from the day job and the real world.

“I’m not so odd, after all,” you tell yourself. (Even though you have developed the bad habit of talking to yourself ever since you first decided to become a writer.)

Oh, the art, too. It tickles something in my (Jungian, I hope, not Freudian) subconscious. Like when Peter invited his blog followers to create something based on his art and characters.

Durthi, the plant shaman, was very evocative for me—I love the idea of plants and animals having powerful agency against humans.

Overall, in decrypting the pun-based humour of the little stories, your mind focuses; becomes grounded. And then the laughs come. Or groan, as the back of some of his Little Fears books proclaim.

But I find myself chuckling more often, when I read his books and his blog posts.

They not only take the edge of my ever-circling mind, they take the edge off my horror-in-real-time, confusing, mucky mess of a life.

And I don’t feel so lost.

Or alone.

For I have Edwards’ Little Fears to keep me company. (Visit his blog here: https://littlefears.co.uk/)

(My favourite pun was the Stephen King cameo, by the way. In case you were wondering…)

Adopt some of your own Little Fears on Peter’s Etsy page: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LittleFears.

Little Fears books by Peter Edwards:

Capricorn

Grey Moon

January

Seeking Hydra

Spiders

Are there ANY bad restaurants in France?

 

Why, yes! Well, according to Alexander McCall Smith in his latest Paul Stuart novel, The Second-Worst Restaurant in France. (I still find it hard to suspend disbelief that France could have a terrible restaurant. Hence the appeal of Smith’s great title!)

But this book was delicious enough to make up for the book’s restaurant that’s being run into the ground by a restauranter-hopeful named Claude.

It reminded me of how much I love to read. More than that, though, it also appealed to my former self that used to work in the restaurant biz, and loved shows like Restaurant Impossible and Kitchen Nightmares back when I had access to cable in a non-rural, non-frontier locale. This book is a great literary version of that.

But, more than that, I found that the side character of Chloe (Paul’s mysterious and unconventional cousin) upholds what Alexander McCall Smith does best–using the main character to develop secondary characters that are just as interesting, if not more so, than the main character. And, without giving away too much, I also related to the character of Hugo–a sensitive individual trying to create his own life based on his ideals and passions. During the course of his journey, he’s aided by Paul in fulfilling these dreams. And I can really relate to Hugo at his stage in life, even though he’s a lot younger.

(This review contains spoilers!)

This is where I struggled with the book. I love the works of Alexander McCall Smith that I’ve read but my own life development stage and mindset as I enter middle age sometimes made The Second-Worst Restaurant in France an emotionally fraught read. And, boy, did I have bias in spades that was hard to put aside while I read the book that I won via a Goodreads giveaway hosted by the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

But that’s also the great thing about reading. It’s just you and the book and the characters that feel real enough to debate with in the privacy of your own mind and feelings.

As most writers will agree. Especially when you find out that Paul Stuart can’t work in his apartment where, for some reason, his girlfriend has decided to bring her noisy two cats for a staycation at his apartment, even though she has a flat of her own.

Anyone who’s ever had cats would be like “why on earth would she do that?” Naturally, the cats complain a lot to Paul about the situation, but he’s got a book to write, and eventually has to relocate his writing space into another apartment that Chloe offers him use of.

Poor Paul.

But the apartment doesn’t suit him either, as there are a bevy of young people upstairs doing what they do best–making sure everyone knows they are there with lots of loud music. 

And poor Paul ends up in a silly man-predicament with the younger woman, where he swears the interaction they have in the store is “innocent” to his girlfriend Gloria, who witnesses the weird olive-feeding interaction that somehow gets mistaken for a kiss. Let’s hear it, everyone: a big, resounding “Innocent, my a**!” *laugh*

So, poor, poor Paul has to pack up and relocate to the French countryside to finish his book that he doesn’t even want to write, but in between lecturing his experienced, worldly secret agent cousin about how to act and think, and nurturing poor, belittled, sensitive, chef-hopeful Hugo in fulfilling his cooking-promise, he realizes he doesn’t want to write the book he was working on, about the philosophy of food, and he also realizes that nobody will want to read it, either, despite the fact that his influential editor/girlfriend Gloria has pulled strings and gotten a publisher to back it.

So, wonderfully understanding and supportive Gloria arranges a whole other wonderful project for Paul to undertake, all the pieces fall into place, and everything is happily ever after–all thanks to Paul, presumably, not Gloria and Chloe (who comes to the aid of a local mother-to-be in an unconventional and fascinating way)–in the idyllic French countryside villa that I, and a million other hardworking writers who are also working day jobs (like me) and (unlike me) also trying to raise kids and maintain romantic relationships, are probably thinking that poor Paul is anything but poor.

But it’s proof positive that a main character doesn’t have to be likeable in order for you to fully engage with a book. And that’s why I like books so much. So much diversity there that gets left out of movies.

And, despite my mixed critique of Alexander McCall Smith’s book (which, again, I liked so much I read it twice!); yes, I’m a fan! I would definitely read more of the Paul Stuart series, including his first book in the series, and others. It comes down to the writing, which is, as always with Smith, so good!

And the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is fabulous, of course! Visit Alexander McCall Smith and discover his fantastic writing and compelling characters for yourself, here: https://www.alexandermccallsmith.com/.