Wednesday’s Book Looks: Evil and Sin and One Weary Conference-Goer…

 

I have a confession, fellow bloggers and blog readers.

I have committed a dreadful cardinal sin.

I quit reading a book before I was even through. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t any of yours!)

The sinned-against book was the first volume of a massive two-volume history book set. I was almost to the end of the first volume (page 700 and change) and I just couldn’t continue with it. It’s not as if the book was dated (although it was), because I’ll continue reading since I’m a historian, and will persevere through the most dry, academic, smelly, and, yes, dated book there is.

Point in case: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57659405-picture-history-of-the-u-s-navy.

I rescued the above book from being tossed in a dumpster.

It’s the perfect manifestation of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The book’s cover was godawful. I forgot to upload the picture of the book’s cover when I entered the book into Goodreads, but here it is:

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And it kinda smelled too. The book, not the book’s entry on Goodreads. Not of garbage (I didn’t dig it out of the dumpster) and not even of that old-book smell. But it definitely smelled pretty attic-musty. Or of something else I really don’t want to think about.

But I actually enjoyed reading that book. Some of the captions that went with the pictures were hilarious! I loved when the author(s) did the 1956 version of caption-trolling for some of the naval captains included in the book.

Too funny!

Unfortunately, the Civil War book after the above one was kind of a letdown. The Civil War book even had actual photos (been actively trying to un-see the photos of the horse casualties*)–of Civil War camps, cannons, locations, and participants to liven up the (definitely dated) text and I still couldn’t get into the text portions. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7283408-the-photographic-history-of-the-civil-war-vol-1—the-opening-battles

My focus in grad school was maritime history, and military history often goes hand in hand with that, and I still found the book hard to get into, and so I quit. Maybe it was because the history of the Civil War was written in a glamourizing and glorifying manner, and we all probably know it wasn’t like that at all. Even if we weren’t there.

The photos in the book, at least, don’t “lie”.

Please forgive me for committing such a literary cardinal sin as to not finishing a book! I will atone, I promise.

(And by atoning, I mean taking a nap because I am still tired from attending the absolutely awesome virtual steampunk conference over the weekend. The organisers/hosts must be three times as exhausted as I, a mere attendee, am!)

However, before I do that, I’ll mention another book I read during all this history journeying, which actually had at its core a real cardinal sin, albeit a fictional one. (And, so I don’t commit another literary cardinal sin, possible spoilers ahead.)

But it was no less chilling for all that it was fiction. The circle of friends in S. Gepp’s Sins of the Fathers commit a terrible act in a quest for power and status. (Much like many of the world’s wars, don’t you think?)

As we all can guess, power always comes with a price. And sometimes a twisted sort of redemption.

I enjoyed this novella as released from Grinning Skull Press, and can’t wait experience more of Grinning Skull‘s horror vision.

If you’d like to check out this book and the other literary offerings (pun intended!) Grinning Skull Press has to offer, visit their website: https://grinningskullpress.wordpress.com/.

Now it’s time for full-on immersion into evil!

I read the Breaking Rules Publishing anthology The Hollow: Where All Things Evil Lie (Vol. 3), and not just because my own story was in it. Because, you know, it’s horror! And I love “all things” horror. (See what I did there?)

Check it out here…they’re selling it for a discounted price of $5: https://www.breakingrulespublishing.com/store/p428/The_Hollow_Anthology_Vol_3.html.

I wish I could talk about it a little more thoroughly but I generally read anthologies a second time to fully immerse myself in the individual stories, and Breaking Rules Publishing really picked some great ones. I can say this–it is definitely going to be worth the second read. Especially now that I’m freed up from reading about real-life Civil War horror…I mean, history.

My only critique of The Hollow 3 is that I wish it had a table of contents.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a traditionalist book nerd as well as a book-sinner-against.

So, now I’m going to do what all evil things do after a day of chaos and destruction! Yep, you guessed it…take a nap!

*No horses were harmed in the creation of this blog post.

 

I’m at the Steampunk CommuniTea Weekend!

I have to tell you, when David Lee Summers posted up about the Steampunk CommuniTea Weekend (https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/steampunk-communitea-weekend/), I was a little skeptical about my ability to get immersed into a virtual conference. I have ADHD, and I’m also a visual/Kinesthetic type, but it was free, and, to be honest, what the heck else am I doing right now (well, aside from writing and work, and pestering my kitties during their afternoon naps)? 

But, to my surprise, I am LOVING the conference. It’s my first virtual conference, and it is rocking. I love the discord panels best of all, but the Zoom events are so wild and fun as well!

Definitely would recommend that you all check it out! It’s a blast! And most of the events are free!

And, besides, it’s your kitty’s naptime. Stop bugging them, and come chat with us at the conference!

It’s today and tomorrow!

https://madame-askew.ticketleap.com/steampunk-communitea-weekend/

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Brian Gene Olson

I spy with my little eye…something pink! It’s kidlit author (and speculative poet), Brian Gene Olson!

pink glasses (3) (1)

Willow Croft: In the dramatic world, there’s something called the “triple threat”—thespians who can not only act, but also sing and dance. You’ve almost achieved a “triple threat” status in the literary world in that you write AND compose music (such as the songs for kids that you’ve had accepted by Ladybug Magazine). So, what would be your third “threat” (aka talent) that you possess?

Brian Gene Olson: Oh man, I’d love to do just one thing really well! I still feel totally out of my depth with the songwriting thing, but that’s part of why it’s fun. I’m learning as I go. But I learned music theory from YouTube, so I won’t be composing my first symphony any time soon.
The speculative poetry is fun to write because I can be a lot more experimental and bizarre than I can with children’s poetry, which is more structured and regular in its rhythms. A children’s poem, at least the metered rhyming kind I write, is like a song. I think of an iambic poem as a song in duple meter, an anapestic one as a song in triple meter. A lot of my songs, actually, start out as children’s poems, but the rhythms are so bouncy I end up singing them in my head.
But another talent? I’m not sure I have one, unless the ability to annoy my family by tapping and slapping a drum beat all day long on whatever’s in front of me can be considered a talent.

Willow Croft: If you suddenly found yourself in an unexplored wilderness, what mythical creature would you like to meet?

Brian Gene Olson: It’s not a classical mythical creature, but there’s a tiny humanoid thing in fantasy author Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth called a twk-man who rides on the back of a dragonfly. He’ll give you information, so long as you have some salt to trade. I’d find out what’s in the wilderness, where to go, what sights to see, and how to avoid The Dying Earth’s flesh-eating deodands.

Willow Croft: What are you and your family’s “go-to” favourite meals/mealtime themes (i.e. Taco Tuesday)? Share up a recipe if you wish!

Brian Gene Olson: Yes! The food question!

Okay, so I was on kidney dialysis for ten years, and once during that time I ended up in the hospital because, I don’t know, my sodium was too low or something. And so I’m in the hospital for like a week, and they put me on this special restricted kidney disease diet, and, of course, all the food’s nasty–all except for this one awesome dish, this chicken veggie quesadilla with green and red peppers, onion, sliced mushrooms, jalapeños, black olives, cilantro, and just enough melted cheese to bind it all together, everything perfectly balanced, folded into a warm tortilla, with a side of salsa and sour cream. So good! Once I discovered it, I ordered it for every meal.
But then they take me off the restricted diet and put me on the normal one. And I order the quesadilla, but it’s just not the same anymore. All the veggies are gone and it’s just chicken with a thick layer of congealed cheese. I’m like, “Can you please put me back on the restricted diet?”
Anyway, once I got home I recreated the killer version for my family, called it a “Killer Quesadilla,” and everyone loves it. It’s one of those dishes you can customize to everyone’s taste, where you just cook up all the ingredients and lay it all out for everyone to assemble the way they want. You want more jalapeño, you get more jalapeño. You want more cilantro, you get more cilantro. And if it’s my wife, she gets a whole cilantro garden.

Oh, and I got a kidney transplant in 2019. I guess I should finish that part of the story!

Willow Croft: If you had a spaceship that could traverse both space and time, where would you go to first, and why?

Brian Gene Olson: I’d go to Paris on May 29, 1913 and witness the epically disastrous premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Then maybe I’d go check out Black Sabbath in the ‘70s.

Willow Croft: And, lastly but not…leastly?, we all know how weird cats can be, sometimes seeming that they are from some another planet. What’s the strangest (or funniest) thing your cat Pharoah has done?

Brian Gene Olson: Definitely the strangest thing he does is eat plastic bags. Grocery bags, thirty gallon lawn bags, whatever, he doesn’t care. Those and plastic needles from fake Christmas trees and wreaths. We can’t have a real tree or a fake tree because he’ll eat the needles, so instead we have to have this reusable stick-like structure that’s vaguely in the shape of a tree with lights built into it.

Fly on over to Brian Gene Olson’s website to discover more: https://briangeneolson.weebly.com/  !

Or say hi to Brian on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BGOwriter.

Where the Wind Takes You…

I don’t know about you, but my focus has been very off this week or two.

Maybe it’s the time change, or the gut-churning clamour of big and little worries, or some combination of those things with the vivid dreams I’ve been having leave me feeling displaced in time and space.

I was sad to see winter go a while back, but this week so far has been lovely and cloudy and rainy and even thundery out.

The wind here in Kansas blows pretty fierce and I usually love wind, but ever since I left Florida, it feels like I’ve forgotten its language.

Or maybe I am hesitant about listening, because I wish it could carry me somewhere else, and yet it’s impossible and therefore silly to get my hopes up.

But in books, nothing is impossible. You can talk to the wind, and the wind answers. And it can even carry you far away; away from danger, away from a static existence, and into a new life full of adventure and unbreakable friendships and where you have a chance to save the prince.

*definite book spoilers ahead*

Or, in Kyla Cren’s case in the book Mistress of the Wind, save the powerful yet short-sighted mage. Kyla Cren has power and magic of her own–she can speak to the wind. She uses her skill at windspeaking to protect the other townspeople from danger from creatures called mindstealers. Usually, the wind merely passes on the location of encroaching mindstealers or the whereabouts of lost livestock. It isn’t until Kyla is forced out of the town she grew up in until she starts to come into her own identity and power, eventually achieving the ability to not only speak to the wind, but to rise it…all the way to another realm. Kyla Cren’s journey isn’t the typical happily ever after of fairy tales, but she discovers not only that her magic is more powerful than she realizes, but that she can also be a fierce warrior, a survivor, and a loyal friend to her newfound travel companions that are equally as loyal in return.

And that, even though she is successful against all odds, Kyla Cren’s adventures are just beginning. Mistress of the Wind is just the first book of eight total in the Arucadi series penned by E. Rose Sabin.

I have been dying to read at least one of E. Rose Sabin’s books ever since I attended a Necronomicon conference in Florida probably too many years ago to even remember when, and she was one of the authors featured at the conference. I finally got a Amazon gift card windfall in 2020 and was able to buy the first book in this series to read. And it did not disappoint. I loved reading a fantasy tale where the main character was a strong female character with agency and determination and she was resourceful and courageous and fiercely protective without falling into the “I’m doing it all for the man I love” sappy motivation trap.

I was a little sad towards the end of the book about one event, but, luckily, it didn’t have the outcome I had feared, at least.

If I had a daughter, I’d be letting her read whatever she wanted, and this book would be one of them, for sure!

I hope that someday I’ll have unlimited money to buy books and I can catch up on the rest of the series!

And I hope you check out the Arucadi series and the other books by E. Rose Sabin. Let me know what you think (but don’t give me any spoilers *laugh*).

Links to E. Rose Sabin:

http://erosesabin.com/

https://erosesabin.wordpress.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/347316.E_Rose_Sabin

(P.S. In the comments below, E. Rose Sabin not only visited the blog, but mentioned that Book 9 of the Arucadi series is coming out soon and we can anticipate three more books!)

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Rebecca Rowland

Next up in the “Five Things Friday”  interview: Horror Author (and Animal Advocate!) Rebecca Rowland! (And she’s an editor, too!)

Willow Croft: In your Ginger Nuts of Horror interview (https://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/bits-and-pieces-an-interview-with-michael-aloisi-and-rebecca-rowland), you make a passing reference to a roller derby jammer. Do you have a favorite roller derby team? And/or, if you were a roller derby jammer/athlete, what would your roller derby skater name be?

Rebecca Rowland: What a fantastic question! The team I have gone to see most often is the Western Mass Destruction (WMDs), and two years ago, I started putting their try-out dates on my calendar. (https://www.pioneervalleyrollerderby.com/teams/western-mass-destruction/) Then, CoVid hit, and well, we all know how that sentence ends. New England has mostly flat-track derby, so it’s a smidge tamer than the derbies in the Midwest or South, but the Northern women still bring it. The sport is a lot like rugby in the sense that it takes a lot of bravery to put your body out there for guaranteed bruises and scrapes, but as I have no desire to jump out of a plane or bungee jump off of…well, anything, I suppose this would be my adrenaline outlet. And my derby name is Rita Slayworth, of course!

Willow Croft: Somewhere in your corner of the virtual world, you mention that you go travelling at times. And that you count Flannery O’Connor as one of your favorite authors/key literary influences. Have you been to the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home Museum (It’s in Savannah, Georgia, and it’s awesome!) or do you have another author/literary historic site that you’ve visited that you enjoyed?

Rebecca Rowland: Yes, I have visited! It’s funny: I traveled to Savannah for the first time during one of the hottest summers up here in New England. I went to Georgia in July and my weather app listed the temperature as “feels like 106.” I know it gets that hot in the Southwest, but I’ve been to Las Vegas in the summer: the heat in the South is a completely different world! It truly felt like I was walking through soup, but everything about the city: the O’Connor museum, the riverfront, the people, the food—it was all so beautiful and interesting that the weather didn’t bother me. And the bonus was, when I returned home, our “heat wave” here felt refreshing!
You and I have exchanged our frustrations with being grounded these past months. I love traveling and normally try to venture somewhere a good distance away two or three times a year. Every place I visit, I make it a point to see a famous author’s homestead or museum. I drank a shot of Wild Turkey outside of Hunter S. Thompson’s former Kentucky home (much to the amusement of the neighbor, who told us that he sees quite a few tourists do the same), stood on the second-floor balcony of the courtroom in the To Kill a Mockingbird museum in Alabama and imagined Atticus Finch walking by below, pet the ubiquitous feline residents of Hemingway’s estate in Key West, and wrapped my arms around Poe’s gravestone in Maryland. However, one of the coolest literary places I’ve been, I have to say, is right in my backyard: The House of Seven Gables in Salem is right on the waterfront and it features a hidden staircase that tourists can climb. That architectural detail didn’t appear in Hawthorne’s novel, but it’s a fun experience to wiggle up anyway!

(Interview resumes after the photos–Willow Croft)

MonroeCourthouseRR
Rebecca Rowland sitting in the galley of the courthouse in the Monroe County Museum, Alabama https://www.monroecountymuseum.org

HemingwayRR
Rebecca Rowland at the Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West, petting one of the famous cats https://www.hemingwayhome.com

PoeRR
Poe’s original burial site, Baltimore https://www.eapoe.org/balt/poegravd.htm

SevenGablesRR
A photo of The House of Seven Gables, Salem, MA https://www.salem.org (Photo taken by C. Grygorcewicz)

Willow Croft: One of your guest blogs is titled “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste: Insanity as a Horror Trope”. (https://ninasoden.com/2020/07/21/the-horrors-hiding-in-plain-sight-by-rebecca-rowland/) As a lighter spin-off of that post, what is the vilest foodstuff you’ve ever eaten? What’s something you’ve sampled, food-wise, that you would never eat again?

Rebecca Rowland: I have been a vegetarian for almost my entire adult life, so I do have to say, the few times I have eaten meat haven’t been the most…pleasant ones for me. I’m always up to try new things, though, and one experience in particular sticks out. I was in my early twenties and was dating someone who wanted to take me for sushi. I had never tried it, so I ordered the sampler plate. I ate the tuna. I ate the mackerel. I ate the yellowtail. I ate the cucumber roll (and wondered why all sushi couldn’t just taste like that). They all went down fine, and I continued through the plate. The final piece was salmon. I wasn’t loving the experience of eating sushi, but I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound. I’m not sure what it was: the taste, the texture, or the color, but after swallowing the salmon, I nearly projectile vomited. It took everything in my power to keep the food down. Since then, I can barely look at a plate of sushi without feeling a bit queasy. But at least I can say, I tried it.

Willow Croft: When I read through your guest blog posts and interviews, I saw a mention of events and happenings in the real world that you draw from to create your horror—where writing horror acts as a catharsis to those tragic events (https://transmundanepressblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/13/should-writers-write-what-they-know-by-rebecca-rowland/). I know, personally, that writing darker stories is beneficial to coping with things out of one’s control, but that I also have to take a break from it (like, I can’t watch gut-wrenching TV/movie dramas). So how do you take a break from the darkness within, and in the real world? What are some of your favorite non-horror books and TV shows, or other pastimes you take part in?

Rebecca Rowland: I’m a fan of edgy comedies and crime shows. I loved Fleabag, Schitt’s Creek, and Shameless, and right now, I’m catching up on Flack and am excited to start the new season of City on a Hill (because…Boston, Kevin Bacon in a bad porn mustache, and early 1990s hair and fashion: what’s not to love?). But there is one other television staple that is my guilty pleasure: I will not mention which author this is, but a fellow horror writer and I are die-hard fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race. We watch it together every Friday night when a season is airing. The show is beautiful and bright and juicy and creative, and it never fails to take my mind off of anything that might be plaguing me.

Willow Croft: And, lastly, do you have pets [or a beloved plant(s)]? Who are your animal companions, and do they help or hinder your writing?

Rebecca Rowland: (Sigh) This pulls at my heart-strings a bit. I have always had a cat companion; at one time, I had five living with me: all rescues. People would tease me about being a “cat lady” constantly, but now that I’ve had to say goodbye to all but one of them in the past decade, I think, what was missing in those people’s hearts that they thought it was silly or crazy of me to share my life with animals? I can’t say any of my four-legged friends have been particular helpful in my writing, however; even as I write this, my lone survivor has pushed his way onto my lap and is trying to rub the keyboard. However, I think it’s imperative that writers have someone to care for, whether it’s a pet, or a child, or a special partner. Writing, at its bones, is about connecting. We don’t write and shove our stories under the rug; we write and want others to read and feel. Writers who have never truly loved someone or something…their readers can sense it in their work. The stories are missing something. Even if the tale is a gory slasher or a science fiction set in a sterile, metallic world, if the story lacks that ingredient, readers don’t have the essential piece needed to empathize with the characters.
Also, I am going to take this moment to climb up on my little soapbox and ask readers to spay and neuter their pets and to adopt shelter pets! Mine have been sources of true joy for me…and so in that sense, I guess they have been a help to me in my writing after all.

Books and short stories that Rebecca Rowland has coming up/out:

The Half That You See (anthology, edited), released March 15
“Thug,” short story premiering in the Australian literary magazine Curiouser, April 10
“The View Master,” short story written with Pieces collaborator Michael Aloisi, releasing on Kindle April 21
Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction (anthology, edited), releasing June 1
Visit RowlandBooks.com for all the info, and follow her on Instagram @Rebecca_Rowland_books for, as she puts it “horror recommendations and random ridiculousness.” https://www.instagram.com/Rebecca_Rowland_Books/

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Stay tuned for my “Book Look” of Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction when the ARC gets “unburied” from my to-read pile! “Unburied”–get it? *nerdy laugh*

Where did March go?

March has vanished in the blink of an eye, hasn’t it?

Spring seems to have sprung.

I bought a ten-gallon container of bug spray at the local hardware store. Die, spiders, die!

I’m going to be barbequing up nice thick beef steaks on the old grill tonight to celebrate the arrival of Spring. Actually, I’m just going to skip the grill because I like my steaks raw and bloody!

I can’t wait to roll around in pesticide-laden turf grass. I just love the fresh smell of Round-up in the Springtime, don’t you?

I’m tired of being destitute, so I’ve bought shares in the oil and gas industry. Frack on!

I’ve decided to join the Republican Party because the far right could really use a nice warm hug right now! Poor rich politicians!

Oh, and big news! I’ve signed up to take shooting lessons at the local gun range in preparation for the awesome trophy hunt I’ve signed up for. Can’t wait until my maskless summer vacation! FREEDOM!

Let’s see, now, what else have I been up to?

Oh, yeah, just one more thing…

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HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Elinor DeWire

Egmont Key Light
Egmont Key Light: https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/things-to-do/outdoors-nature/lighthouse-egmont-key-st-petersburg-fla.html

St. Augustine Light
St. Augustine Light https://www.staugustinelighthouse.org/

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I am absolutely thrilled about this week’s interview! I had the amazing opportunity to chat with Author (and Lighthouse Historian Extraordinaire!) Elinor DeWire!

Her book that I’ve had forever (I have the first paperback edition of Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers for you book nerds out there!) was luckily not among the books damaged/lost in a flood. And it was the first book of my maritime history collection, and which eventually led to me getting a Master’s degree in history. While I’ve moved into other academic areas of interest (very recently!), I still love lighthouses, and have used them as settings for a couple of my (unpublished) short stories. And I love to read about lighthouses in fiction, too! (https://willowcroft.blog/2020/12/16/journeys-in-the-round/)

Willow Croft: So, we’ll get this out of the way, straight off. What’s your favourite light you’ve visited and/or lighthouse/light station you’ve stayed over at? What was the best part of your experience?

Elinor DeWire: I usually tell people my favorite lighthouse is the most recent one I’ve visited. That would be Cape Frehel in Brittany, France. Beautiful place and architecturally fascinating tower. That said, I must confess I REALLY love Nauset Beach Lighthouse on Cape Cod. (https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/nauset-light-beach.htm) It was the first lighthouse where I did extensive research and even assisted–ever so little–the NPS with saving the Three Sisters lighthouses that preceded the red and white tower currently at Nauset Beach. I’m still hoping they will fabricate lanterns for the two capless Sisters. Nauset has a storied history and is pretty. I am a sucker for a pretty lighthouse!

Willow Croft: I always find a way to work in a mention of food, of course! Could you tell us about some common dishes and/or foodstuffs the lightkeeper and/or their family would eat while in residence?

Elinor DeWire: Keepers at remote or offshore light stations were given a standard supply of nonperishable staple foodstuff from the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment–dried beans, rice, sugar, flour, potatoes, turnips, molasses, salt, etc. I think a lot of fish was eaten, as it was handy nearby in the sea. Soups were served to stretch meat and have something hot on hand on cold days. The late Barbara Beebe gave me her mother’s rose hip jelly recipe, made from the beach roses growing at Old North Lighthouse on Block Island, RI. (https://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=40) Her family also ate blanc mange, made from seaweed. The late Connie Small gave me her apple pie recipe. There were apple trees on St. Croix Island where her husband was assigned in the 1930s. Of course, chowders were popular too, and coffee was always at the ready.

Willow Croft: As I gathered from your blog, you have a novel in the works. What has been the challenges (and benefits?) in conducting research in regards to the pandemic? Also, I understand that you’re on the board of directors for the United States Lighthouse Society. Were there any challenges with continuing work on lighthouse preservation, continued conservation of existing sites, and fundraising within the former political climate and with the pandemic shutdown and precautions? How have you tackled these challenges?

Elinor DeWire: I have written so many lighthouse books, I am growing a bit jaded with that…not that I have any less love for lighthouses; it’s just a bit of writer’s weariness and the fact that the lighthouse genre is saturated at the moment. I have three novels in print now, all set in late Regency and early Victorian England. I write under a pen name–J.J. Scott–as I feel “Elinor DeWire” should remain dedicated to lighthouses. My novels are heavy on history with a serving of romance and intrigue. My first one, Saving Lord M, was and remains quite popular, a romantic and even a bit supernatural story of William Lamb, Viscount Lord Melbourne, prime minister of England in the 1830s. I was inspired to write about him by the PBS series Victoria, which inaccurately portrayed him. The popularity of the novel surprised me, though I should have remembered that I won short fiction prizes years ago. I’m at work on a 4th novel at present, set in Cumbria, England in 1830. Fiction has recharged my researcher and scribe battery!

U.S. Lighthouse Society–I was brought onto the Board a few years ago to develop the society’s education initiative and bring kids and families into our fold. (Also, the board had been composed of all men for decades, so a woman’s touch was needed!) So far, my education efforts have been well received, and we’re bringing youth into the fold. We expect to offer a kids’ membership soon and do some events expressly for kids. The pandemic has been tough financially. Lighthouse tours are the backbone of USLHS’s income, and of course we haven’t been able to do any tours for over a year. I think the last one was in the southeast USA about 14 months ago. The society has been solvent in the last decade; we have been able to trudge through the pandemic. Tours will resume late summer 2021. The Board will have its first face-to-face meeting this late June in Florida. As for fundraising, we relied on our loyal membership to tide us through the previous administration’s lack of humanities funding (and lack of sanity, period!) and through the pandemic. We are solvent, and we are even in the process of awarding $30K in increments of $1000 to needy lighthouse groups hit hard by lack of tourism. We will slowly resume our normal ops this year.

Willow Croft: In your book, Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers, you include stories and photos about the keepers and their animal companions, and you have also included them in your The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses. What’s the most memorable companion story you remember from your research? Also, please tell us about your own animal menagerie!

Elinor DeWire: I grew up on a small farm in Maryland; thus, I LOVE animals. My two kids had every kind of pet imaginable as they grew up, though my one requirement was “legs.” No pets without legs! (I am not fond of snakes.) I wrote Lightkeepers’ Menagerie because I had SO MANY little anecdotes about animals in my research files. They seemed so important in lighthouse history. I suppose I am biased toward the stories of cats at lighthouses, as I love kitties and have had many in my lifetime, Currently, I have a tabby and a Maine Coon. In the book, there is a story about Jiggs the cat, who was born at Pigeon Point, moved with the Henderson family to Point Sur, and then died there. He was exhumed when the family moved to Point Pinos and reburied there. I included a picture of his little grave in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I think this is my favorite animal story because Jiggs reminds me so much of one of our cats, ignobly named Warhead by my husband, a retired Navy ordnance officer. The mention of Jiggs climbing a woman’s legs under the dinner table is priceless. Warhead did the same thing to an insurance salesman who weaseled his way into our house many years ago. Warhead somehow realized we didn’t care for this man and had no intention of buying insurance, so he did his best to make the man leave. Success!

Willow Croft: I’ve visited a few lighthouses in Florida and up into in Georgia, but I haven’t experienced anything paranormal or supernatural at the ones that I’ve visited. Not even during the St. Augustine nighttime tour that included a visit to the grounds of the St. Augustine Light. (I say I haven’t, even though I did see big, glowing blue “orbs” bouncing around the base of an old oak tree, because it doesn’t really feel like it counts.) Have you witnessed anything paranormal at any of the lights, lighthouses, or light stations you’ve visited? If you haven’t, do you have a favourite ghostly tale to share about a lighthouse you’ve researched?

Elinor DeWire: No ghosts have allowed me to meet them at lighthouses. I am not particularly receptive, though I think the ghost tales and supernatural stuff is fun to write about, and it definitely has an audience. I did several lighthouse ghost tv shows years ago. I wish there was more interest in the real history of lighthouses, but people DO like the scary stuff! Knowing all that I know about lighthouses, I can usually explain away ghosts and supernatural events at lighthouses. A couple of years ago I visited St. Simons Lighthouse in Georgia, famous for its stairway ghost and a dog named Jinx that responded negatively to the poltergeist. (https://www.coastalgeorgiahistory.org/visit/st-simons-lighthouse/) I climbed the stairs alone after hours and heard the clanking and creaking sounds attributed to the ghost. It was just the iron stairway cooling down from a hot summer day. Metal expands in heat and contracts when cool. Bang, screech, groan!!! My favorite lighthouse ghost is a little gray kitty that haunts the upstairs of the keepers’ house at Fairport Lighthouse in Ohio. (http://www.fairportharborlighthouse.org/)  It’s a long story. You’ll find it in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I interviewed the woman who lived in the upstairs apartment in the 1980s, a curator at the museum. She was truly convinced the feline ghost was real, especially after repairmen came to the quarters and found the mummified body of a small cat in a wall. Ooooooh! Who am I to say…

ElinorDeWire

Elinor DeWire Links

Find her on Facebook as “Elinor DeWire, Author” and here: https://www.facebook.com/J.J.Scottnovelist/
Find @ElinorDeWire on Twitter
Visit her Author Blog on Blogspot: http://elinordewire.blogspot.com/
Find her Author Website here: https://www.elinordewire.com/
View her lighthouse videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoDc9cP-B8oKTF05jg9t3Iw
Visit her “Lighthouse” Pinterest Boards: https://www.pinterest.com/fineshine/
Find her on Amazon here https://www.amazon.com/Elinor-DeWire/e/B000APJJ0M and here https://www.amazon.com/J-J-Scott/e/B07QQ36XBT
View her education page at U.S. Lighthouse Society (full of resources for teachers and kids): https://uslhs.org/education/educational-materials

Wednesday’s Book Looks: The Four S’s: Supernatural, Sisters, Scotland, and Synchronicity!

*possible book spoilers ahead* (None of these are affiliate links, and weren’t requests for reviews.)

It’s probably something to do with the recent time change here in the United States, but I have been feeling especially discombobulated and spacey this past week or so. I’ve been slogging through my social media at a snail’s pace, and my work and writing schedules are all out of whack. (Plus, I REALLY don’t like eating while it’s still light out!)

So, off into the darkness we descend!

The First S: Supernatural!

Okay, so back A LONG TIME AGO in the 1990s, vampires were all the rage. As much as we goths pretended to be too dark and spooky for the more…romantic?…stylized?…view of vampires, we loved Anne Rice. (But, you know, vampires are MONSTERS.) I didn’t even mind Tom Cruise as Lestat in the movie version, but probably because I only knew him as Jack from the movie Legend previously.

Vampirism, though, had shifted from monstrous (and damned) creatures of the night that we related to as like misfits into something more mystical and otherworldly. The “damned” had evolved into alluring creatures that were admired, not despised, and I reckon maybe we wanted to feel like that for a while.

For a very little while. Because TV cameras and news crews descended onto the clubs, to capture the “depraved” shenanigans of this sub-subculture Vampire movement.

So, it was a real treat to read a collection of vampire stories that didn’t involve sparkly vampires as written for the next generation(s). And it’s a collection of bloody tales that could have been complete moldy vampire cheese, but, luckily for me, wasn’t.

Anyhoo, The Vampire Connoisseur took me right back to those days where I both felt shunned by mainstream society (Oh wait, I still feel like that!), and felt a longing to be immortal and therefore immune to pangs of emotion and the nibblings of a conscience and the ravening bites of aging. (Full title: Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseurs)

Here, most of the vampires within are unequivocally monsters, either via their own awareness, or through the awareness of the characters that observe them. And sometimes the death at the hands of the monsters is welcomed, as illuminated by the arc of the stories.

And sometimes the vampiric monsters are creatively reimagined, as in Priscilla Bettis’s tale “The Sun Sets Nonetheless” which had the double spook factor of being set in the state where I live. [Earthquakes, tornadoes, and now mysterious blue-skinned “creatures”?!?!?! Maybe Priscilla Bettis will let me camp out in her (completely imaginary and fictional) back yard in Virginia, where they only seem to get the occasional rogue hurricane! *wry laugh*]

Pick up a copy of Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseur on Amazon https://bookshop.org/books/todd-sullivan-presents-the-vampire-connoisseur/9781649050090 or on Bookshop https://bookshop.org/books/todd-sullivan-presents-the-vampire-connoisseur/9781649050090.

And, if there’s something I love as much as REALLY GOOD vampire stories, it’s GHOST STORIES! Here in Kansas, we had storms and grey skies and fierce winds wailing outside the window and the only thing lacking to read Ghost Stories for Starless Nights by is a crackling fire! And toasted marshmallows, of course! (But a little ghostie told me that you can find virtual haunted campfires over at Haunt Jaunts. But that may just be a pesky poltergeist starting rumours! https://www.hauntjaunts.net/virtual-haunted-campfires-2021-line-up-and-schedule/#Virtual_Haunted_Campfires_2021_Cost)

Sadly, the starless nights here are not due to the storms or anything else natural or supernatural but to the obscene levels of light pollution here in Wichita, but at least I can escape into the atmospheric and haunting world(s) of Ghost Stories for Starless Nights. Join me around the fire, won’t you? https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Stories-Starless-Nights-Publishing/dp/B088N4WKL5

The Second S: Sisters!

Speaking of romantic notions, I, when I was real young, wanted a sister so badly. Especially a twin sister. I had a pretty lonely and isolating childhood, and I thought that having a twin sister would have given me a ready-made friend. (I blame Trixie Belden, Little Women, and even Anne of Green Gables with all that “kindred spirit” blather.) Once, I dreamed of a girl that lived in the attic and I swore that she was real. So did a psychic who did a reading for a family member once. I at least had an imaginary sister. For a little while, anyway.

However, the sisters in Tochi Onyebuchi’s War Girls are sisters in the most complex, complicated, powerful, and real ways. And the world they navigate–a 2172 Earth ravaged by climate change and military conflicts–provides an equally harrowing setting for the two young women.

War Girls not only captures the bond of sisters but also the heartbreak of that powerful bond.

And it made me want a sister even more, despite all the complications and pain that seems to be involved.

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/War-Girls-Tochi-Onyebuchi/dp/0451481674 and on Bookshop https://bookshop.org/books/war-girls/9780451481672

The Third and Forth S’s: Scotland and Synchronicity!

I have wanted to live in Scotland ever since the 90s, when I visited. Finances and cats and a lack of more shrewd and focused life planning have complicated the issue, but at least I got to take a tour of the Glasgow School of Art before the terrible fire. (<—loves Mackintosh)

So, when I read The Cracked Spine (Scottish Bookshop Mystery #1) by Paige Shelton I just about died! Essentially a woman who works in a museum in WICHITA, KANSAS gets the job offer of a lifetime to work in a rare BOOKSHOP in EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND and, well, I think there’s a mystery involved somehow. But all I could think about was THAT’S ME!!!!! Well, a me in another life, anyway. And I was torn between loving every word of my alternate universe and being supremely envious of my own alternate self! Mock jealousy aside, it was such a lovely, hopeful, escapist read! In my next life, I’ll be sure to have more clear vision of who I am, and how to build a life and make choices to nurture and preserve that innate self.

The Cracked Spine on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Cracked-Spine-Scottish-Bookshop-Mystery/dp/1250057485/ and on Bookshop https://bookshop.org/books/the-cracked-spine/9781250118226

On the heels of reading that book, I had a dream where I was hanging out with a soulmate-type person and they liked me exactly how I was. It was a very pleasant dream.

So, to sum up, supernaturally spooky adventures, “kindred spirit” sisters, Scotland and synchronicity, and hope for a “maybe someday” that’s all my own.

Wednesday’s Book Look: The Heart Stone Chronicles (The Swamp Fairy Book One) by Colleen M. Chesebro

Whew, this week’s blog title was a mouthful. I needed a gator’s gaping maw to say all that!

(Definite book spoilers lie ahead.)

I’m reading books faster than I can chat about them on the blog, but the other soon-to-be-two books aren’t fantasy, so they’ll get their own lightning-bolt look in another post.

And, before I get started, I found the hippie house of my dreams! Who wants to give me 1.5 million dollars? (Yes, it really is that much!) But maybe we can start a writer’s commune where we ignore each other as we huddle over our microwaved meals and our books. Unless, of course, we steal each other’s bookmarks, then, watch out for our old stink-eyed glares!

https://www.oldhousedreams.com/2021/03/16/1961-missile-silo-base-in-eskridge-ks/

Speaking of stink-eyes, I have an especially fierce one reserved for Florida’s developers, and the politicians that cater to them. And, believe me, I know all about their antics and tactics firsthand. (I was born and raised in Florida.)

Like the time a local county commissioner was determined to build a brand-new stadium to house/attract the Baltimore Orioles, and nothing, not even the tree with a pair of nesting bald eagles, was going to get in the county commissioner’s way. (I tried to locate the original news article, but did not find the correct one, so I had to relate the circumstances from memory.)

And so, even though the Heart Stone Chronicles is described as a read for “upper middle grade and the young at heart” by a reviewer on Amazon, it was a deeply personal read for me. Because the main character, teenaged Abby Forester, is having to take a stand against not only the menacing pressure of a local developer when she inherits a parcel of magical swamp land (But what swamp land ISN’T magical, I ask?!?!?!) as well as pressure from her new friends and other locals to sell up the land for a housing development. (As if Florida needs any more of those either, right? Or cheaply and hurriedly built gaudy McMansions, speaking of vile housing developments.)

The worst part in addition to the continued destruction of Florida’s shrinking wildlife areas is when beautiful 100+ year old oaks are cut down. It was supposed to be illegal, but nobody seems to care, and the perpetrator just pays the fine.

I did, though. My heart broke so much while I was living there. I tried to fight it in my own way, but it seems money will always win in Florida. What the development didn’t take care of, the newcomers to Florida took care of with their slavish devotion to Roundup and pesticide-laden green lawns. The local extension department even fully embraced Round-up. Even in a newly established, so-called “wetlands restoration” of someplace called Celery Fields was subjected to extensive Roundup spraying. I witnessed this myself. A golf cart with tanks on the back and a big sprayer was driving up and down and around the lake watering every square inch of the so-called “wetlands” with what was in the tanks (the tanks were even labeled “Roundup”. I called the county and even contacted the Sarasota Audubon Society.

I don’t think I even heard back from the county, as memory serves, but I did speak by phone with a spokesperson from the Sarasota Audubon Society and the spokesperson was in full support of the Roundup spraying as necessary maintenance for the Celery Fields site. https://www.sarasotaaudubon.org/the-celery-fields/

For myself, It was awful to see egrets and herons and other like birds wading and feeding in the areas that had just been liberally doused with Roundup.

So, in light of my above experiences, Colleen M. Chesebro’s book became my own “Heart Stone” read. Because in her book, the evil developer doesn’t win by virtue of money and his greased-palm political allies. Chesebro’s “swamp fairies” are protected, and, as I imagined, so are all the other swamp wildlife and trees and waterways.

I can close my eyes and pretend that none of the trees I loved as a child were cut down. I can pretend that majestically regal alligators don’t lose their tails to poachers. I can pretend that the terrible day never happened where the residents of Oaks Club in Venice, Florida intentionally shot fireworks into island bird rookeries. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2306348/Oaks-Club-Residents-private-country-club-shooting-fireworks-rookeries-scare-protected-birds.html

I can pretend that none of the animals who were here first are losing their homes and their habitats because there are little checks on Florida’s rampaging developments.

I can pretend that Colleen M. Chesebro’s swamp fairies are real. 

In fact, I can believe that her fairies are real. Because the Heart Stone Chronicles are inspired by her real-life encounter with a swamp fairy.

I can believe in the possibility, even as a skeptic, because I’ve seen something similar in Vermont and I have not found a way to discount what it was that I saw. Yet, anyway. Feel free to ask me about my fairy-ish sighting, even if you want to try to debunk it yourself.

In any case, Abby Forester wins out, and the swamp is turned into a protected wetlands site. One that is, hopefully, not doused with pesticides and Roundup that even park rangers seem to love to utilize.

But, in addition to the environmental theme within the book, there’s a strong social message in there. Some might argue that the messages about drug use (Abby’s father became an addict) and other elements are not appropriate for kids, but I strongly disagree. As if such things like that and contact with Department of Children and Families and blended families or whatever the term is aren’t something many kids today have to deal with in their daily lives. Heck, even back in the 1990s, there were elementary-school aged drug dealers (recruited by an older brother or sister or relative in their lives) or they had stolen drugs from a family member’s medicine cabinet to sell or trade. So I like that the main character has to navigate a similar situation. It handles the material well, and I believe it is a book that is current and relatable to younger readers, especially given that Abby not only finds a positive living environment, but has her own agency, knows/discovers her own mind, and makes her own decisions accordingly without succumbing to peer pressure and societal pressure. 

And, of course, we all know that fairies exist! So, it’s totally okay to believe in fairies and unicorns and mythical creatures and whatever else the hell you want to! Because if there’s no magic-made-real in this world, how can we find the hope and strength and creative vision to change things and make a difference for the better? To create a life and a world WE want to live in? Am I right or am I right? (I’m right!)

Here’s the links to Colleen M. Chesebro’s websites and book-buying options!

Author Website: https://colleenchesebro.com/

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16254415.Colleen_M_Chesebro

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Colleen-M-Chesebro/e/B01N9MV2RX/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author Jnana Hodson!

It’s another “Five Things Friday” interview! This time I sat down to chat (well, if “chatting” involved exchanging emails) with author, journalist, and poet (and Quaker!) Jnana Hodson.

Willow Croft: Based on your blog(s) and author profile(s), you have both past and present ties to the “hippie” counter-culture, and the Quaker religion. How would you determine the place and/or the need for a like counter-culture and/or spirituality in today’s world? What societal trends would you identify that point to a need for such social, metaphysical, and character-based “sea change” in light of the recent/current events?

Jnana Hodson: Freeing ourselves mentally from advertising-driven consumerism would be a huge start. Just how much is enough for you to be happy and healthy? Or secure? Sometimes less really is more. Our unease is really a disease that sits atop fear.

The environmental crisis, especially, has been compounded by widespread denial. For one thing, it’s technically “climatic instability” rather than “global warming,” something the Texas deep-freeze demonstrates while exposing the real costs of high-level greed and hypocrisy. Closer to home, many of those monster pickup trucks we see are macho insecurity, no? A Prius or Tesla or bicycle becomes a defiant corrective act, as does an electric lawnmower rather than a conventional gas-powered cutter. Small steps can add up.

As my friend Steve Curwood contends, environmental actions are ethical, much more than economic. They can be lifestyle, too, as in choosing to live in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood or raise an organic garden.

Racism, another big issue, has its roots in a desire to get ahead – quite simply, ahead of everyone else. You see it in the compulsion to move in a better neighborhood– one with better schools. Or on to a better job, better clothes, a better car, whatever. And for many of us, racism includes an unacknowledged assumption of Northern European superiority. It’s even embodied in the myth of the self-made man, to the exclusion of all who contributed to his rise. Or should we call it his attempted escape? Racism undermines the shared commonwealth – meaningful community – we need.

Fear also underpins the growing and costly militarization of America. It’s accompanied by soaring gun ownership, which becomes a matter of faith for many who have no intention of hunting, along with rising domestic violence.

You mention my Quaker practice, which I came to as a young adult, not knowing it had been the faith of my Hodson ancestors from the beginning of the movement in 1600s’ Britain. The Society of Friends, as it’s more formally known, avoids dogma and creed and instead emphasizes personal experience of what we sometimes call the Inward Light of the Divine. For Friends, this applies to every facet of everyday life and is embodied in simplicity, equality, peace, non-violence, and a community of kindred spirits. Not that we don’t have our shortcomings, but it does come down to an alternative Christianity of a radical sort.

One thing that it’s taught me is that individually, we’re pretty powerless. But put us together, and it’s like those bundles of bamboo, as the illustration goes. Nothing, apparently, can break them.

Willow Croft: I always try to include a food-based question, so how has old food pathways (via recipes and traditional/borrowed culinary practices) influenced your own eating habits? Do you uphold specific culinary traditions or has it evolved based on your current geographical location (e.g. your moves from the yoga ashram to the Pacific Northwest to coastal New England)?

Jnana Hodson: Oh, what a delicious question! I’ll warn you, though, I’m married to one of the world’s great cooks and she’s greatly expanded my awareness.

[There’s been quite a] revolution that’s occurred in American taste. When I turned vegetarian back in 1970, broccoli was exotic, and nobody could understand the concept of giving up meat. When I was growing up in the ’50s, most of my food came out of cans – even spaghetti! Chinese? It was chop-suey. I even remember my first pizza. As my dad would say, it was EYE-talian. I was maybe six or seven, and the aroma of oregano was exotic – I still recall that, all these years after raising our own herbs.

So vegetarianism opened me to new flavors, especially once I moved to the yoga ashram and lentils and dried beans were added to the mix. There I soon developed a knack for making bread each week. One Monday, I produced about 120 loaves, with a lot of kneading provided by my fellow yogis. Oh, yes, we were lacto-vegetarian and raised our own eggs. There’s a vast difference between those and what you find in the supermarket.

Region has definitely impacted my eating habits. Living in the Pacific Northwest introduced me to Dungeness crab and salmon as well as wild asparagus, which grew along the irrigation canals. I glutted out every May, knowing there would be no more fresh spears for another year.

Around then I came upon the Confucian ideal of no food out of season or place, which essentially points to freshness. The secret of great cooking across traditions, by the way, is the matter of respecting the ingredients, and that’s where freshness is crucial, as is knowing the difference between butter and margarine or the oils we apply. As my wife repeats, fat carries flavor. Just make sure it’s not rancid.

Regional influences include picking our own fruit in local orchards and obtaining unpasteurized apple cider, in season, as well as local cheeses. At one point, I lived near several large Amish communities in Ohio, where Swiss cheese was produced. In New Hampshire, a small country store a town away produces its own delightful cheddars and is well worth a visit. For several summers, we subscribed to a local sustainable fisheries delivery. Each week, we’d pick up a pound of what the local fishermen were harvesting rather than the common commercial varieties. Monkfish, anyone?

Gardening has had a huge impact, from asparagus to strawberries and buttery lettuces and early peas on to the range of real tomatoes – not those things you buy at the grocery. One year, we had fourteen varieties, each one distinctive. From the beginning of August till the first hard frost, I pretty much live on mayo-and-tomato sandwiches. Forget the bacon.

Joining in our Quaker Meeting’s once-a-month participation in Dover’s soup kitchen has also been eye-opening. Nobody serves soup these days, and for our turn, we do a chicken, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw dinner, which seems to be very popular. Cooking for sixty or seventy is quite different than a home dinner, but we try. We’ll be happy when we’re back to table service rather than the Covid-induced takeout.

With the kids now gone, my wife and I are downsizing and moving on to a place where scallops and blueberries are major harvests. She’s already planning the garden, as well as autumn trips northward to Aroostook County for fresh potatoes, with skins that simply melt away in your mouth.

Willow Croft: As a former journalist, how do you feel about the state of journalism today, what with the digital news trends, the howls of “fake news” heard ‘round the world, and the role social media plays in the process of journalistic integrity (or lack thereof)?

Jnana Hodson: Former? Please make that “retired.” I might not be on the payroll these days, but it’s still in my blood – and my dreams, too, usually with frustrations of trying to make deadline or fit everything on a page or adjust to a new computer system. Besides, much of my blogging can be seen as small-scale journalism.

Widespread anonymity and the lack of face-to-face accountability in social media have so far eluded the legal redress of libel and slander laws. Often, avoiding basic civility, too. Reputations can be destroyed overnight, without penalties to the perpetrators. That has to change, and likely will with some big court cases.

On the other hand, the video on smartphones has lifted the cover on police brutality and other injustices. So we do have a mixed bag.

Journalism has been in a tailspin for some time, even before the Internet whammy. We’ve had a declining level of literacy – folks simply reading – on one side. In the newsroom we used to grumble about the “bean counters” who kept expecting more output at lower cost from fewer resources. One thing for certain – the watchdog function has been seriously wounded – with consequences that will prove costly to the public at all levels. Good reporting is hard work, and sharp editing is essential. It’s a fulltime job, not an amateur role, and often needs some strong backup when those in power seek retribution. 

For the right entrepreneur, there’s potential to create a revolutionary digital news vehicle, if enough subscribers can be convinced to pay what they now do for printed paper. It could be a hybrid of written and spoken, with no reliance on advertising. I have some thoughts, by the way, on how it might differ from the generic newspaper we too often encounter today. It could certainly give rise to some fresh ways of covering a community.

Willow Croft: As a poet myself, I am always intrigued about the sources of inspiration other poets draw upon to create their poetic works. With your own poetry, is the past and personal memories more of an influence, or is your current life experience(s) more of a muse?

Jnana Hodson: Very much the now, even when that has me looking back. It’s been a discipline for exploring what’s before me, often from quirky or playful perspectives, before I let go and move on.

The clearing of my mind through meditation has been a strong factor, allowing intuition to bubble up. Sometimes I’ll scribble a short note to myself during the silence of Quaker worship, something I’ll develop and explore later. Similar things happen while showering, walking, or even driving.

Much of my work was done as a reaction to the constraints of daily journalism – often on the fly, like graffiti I revised and distilled later.

Sometimes they stayed short, like a headline. Maybe I wasn’t getting as far away from the newspaper as I thought. Other times, though, they were thrown into a blender – there’s good reason I’ve been called a Mixmaster Supreme. 

What evolves is often something like a dream, which has one foot in the past and the other in the present, not that they’re always obvious.

Willow Croft: Some of your blog topics touch on economics. What sort of economic model, or revolution, is needed to help transform the dual worlds of employment and community (social structure)?

Jnana Hodson: The poets Donald Hall, Gary Snyder, and Wendell Berry are important influences here.

Hall sees work as an embodiment of passion or a meaningful engagement, even when it doesn’t reward you monetarily. Writing a poem is work, as we know. In contrast, a job is something you do to pay the bills, and chores are unpaid things you have to do as a matter of life.

Gary Snyder has what he calls the Real Work. He also titled an early collection Earth House Hold, noting the Greek meaning of “economy.” Shall we start with its environmental awareness?

And Berry looks closely at family life as well as agriculture and community.

As Hall says, we’re really blessed when our work and our jobs come together as one. Unfortunately, what I’m seeing is a widespread denigration of the work aspect of our daily employment, and many of the higher paid positions are way out of line with their greater value to society.

Public policy has put labor and its compensation under attack for the past fifty years. All of the productivity gains have gone into the pocket of the top five percent of the population – much of that going to the one percent. People who still have jobs have been working longer and harder for less than before. And the reality is that most of those touted “entry-level positions” are dead-end jobs with no upward mobility. I’m really miffed when the employers demand “reliable transportation” while offering minimum wage. It’s an unhealthy situation, leaving many people desperate. Wonder why Megabucks are so popular? Or illicit drugs?

Raising the minimum wage is a good step but hardly enough. Quite simply, drastic corrective income redistribution is necessary. Not that we’ve really been able to talk about that. Wages in general can’t go up as long as we’re competing with Third World labor – and that extends to those call centers overseas. Yet just think of the inhibiting, negative emotional whammy the label “socialist” invokes.

Meanwhile, high-tech is eliminating many employment fields – think of travel agents, local stockbrokers, professional photography and developers, or print shops, all already gone, along with the local video stores. I’m wondering how long most local retailers can hold out once we’re free of Covid.

When I look at young graduates entering the job market, I’m grateful I’ve made it to retirement. I have no idea what I’d do in their place or how they’re ever going to afford a place of their own.

Surprisingly, some right-wing economists are reluctantly coming around to admitting the necessity of a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. I would see that as including universal health care – as others have noted, pegging medical insurance to one’s employer greatly discourages entrepreneurs from stepping out on their own unless their spouse has independent coverage – and that becomes a damper on economic growth. The redistribution should also include higher education. Graduates today are saddled with impossible debt for skills their potential employers expect scot-free. And that’s before we get to non-competitor clauses.

I’m still believe in E.F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful,” which was actually happening until cargo-container shipping from China, abetted by “free trade” deals in Washington, wracked the American economy. Bernie Sanders, drawing on labor union economists, nailed that one.

Respecting all honest work is important. Covid showed us how essential trash collectors and nursing home staff are in the big picture. As a cub reporter, I learned that secretaries and janitors often know far more about an operation than the suit in the corner office does. That hasn’t changed. I’ve long come to see a good carpenter or plumber as an artist. ‘Nuff said?

One big shift I’ll encourage turns away from accumulating more possessions – most of us have too much stuff anyway – and toward services and activities instead. That is, quality of life over quantity. Individually donating to local causes and volunteering run along those lines. In short, we can use our time and our money to enhance the place we and our neighbors inhabit.

I’m anticipating that when the Covid restrictions are lifted, we’ll burst out into renewed social connections. It feels like ages since I’ve been to a poetry reading, a contra dance, or a pub sing. How ’bout you?

If you’re keen to hear more from Jnana Hodgson, please follow his Jnana’s Red Barn blog at https://jnanahodson.net/ or check out his book(s) on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jnana-Hodson/e/B088BWJ35Y) or on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6916110.Jnana_Hodson).