Six Things Saturday: Mini-Interview with Author/Musician Ben Fitts

I switched things up a bit this week! Enjoy the awesome “Six Things Saturday” interview with author and musician Ben Fitts!

Willow Croft: Bizarro as a literary genre is still somewhat new to me (but I’m working on remedying that!). What appeal does the Bizarro genre hold for you as a writer, and, if you were looking back on it years from now, would you classify it as a literary/artistic movement, a subculture movement, or both?

Ben Fitts: Bizarro first appealed to me as a reader because I’ve always loved offbeat art and entertainment, especially when it came to comedy, so bizarro essentially felt like a more extreme version of something that I already knew I liked. It was kind of the same way I felt when I first heard Black Flag as a teenager after years of already listening to the Ramones. But the thing about bizarro that really appeals to me as a writer is the sense of absolute freedom I have when writing. Not only do I feel no pressure to make sure that everything feels believable as I do when writing more realistic fiction, but I’m free to revel and find humor in intentional lapses of logic, paradoxes, and general unbelievability. When all of that is on the table, then I’m really free to make just about anything I want happen in the story. Regarding the last part of that question, I’d call it a literary movement more than a bonafide subculture, because it’s not really linked to other artistic practices or self-identity the way full-fledged subcultures are. You can read punk authors like Kathy Acker and John Cooper Clarke, listen to punk bands, dress in punk fashion, call yourself a punk and more, but you can only really do one of those things with bizarro, at least as of now.

Willow Croft: How would you see the punk rock movement and DIY mentality persisting into the year 2021 and in the current/next generations?

Ben Fitts:  I think music and art in general is starting to become more genre-fluid, and punk is no exception. With the internet and streaming services, it’s way easier to come across new music nowadays, especially the more underground stuff. Because of this, young musicians are coming across and are influenced by a far wider range of different musical styles than many musicians from past generations have. A lot of those really niche genre labels you hear floating around nowadays, like blackgaze or hypnagogic pop, come from people having to come up with ways to market their music after the fact. So I do see punk rock musical and cultural influences persisting in DIY music scenes, but I also see it continuing to blend further with outside influences and with more and more microgenre labels popping up, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Willow Croft: What’s the most “Bizarro” i.e. surreal, humorous, and strange situation you have found yourself in, in real life?

Ben Fitts: I went to a rural college where we had lots of parties deep in the woods. These woods parties were a ton of fun, but it was often difficult to find your way out of the woods late at night, and I often got lost when I decided it was time to head home. When leaving these parties, I on two separate occasions accidentally stumbled upon a bonfire around which a bunch of furries were having an orgy while fully in their animal costumes. I’m guessing these furries were probably students who did this sort of thing in secret, but since everyone had their masks on, I guess I’ll never know for sure. 

Willow Croft: How do your music projects (your bands Capra Coven and War Honey) tie into your writing ventures? Are they complementary of each other, or separate?

Ben Fitts: They are pretty compartmentalized for me. Music is what I went to school for and how I pay my bills as an adult, while my writing started out as a casual hobby that ended growing more serious than I would have anticipated at first. So my musical endeavors end up taking up more of my energy and add to my stress levels, while my writing is more like a playground for me to have fun and be creative without really worrying about marketability too much. 

Willow Croft: One of the little bits of me that I still feel is a little bit “alternative” is that I despise the standardization of the educational system, which strips kids of any sort of individuality in some insane quest to be perfect—perfectly conformist—and deprives them of any opportunity to explore all the selves they might want to be. Personally, I see you as a great role model for kids in regards to living a creative, exploratory life, so what would you say to kids and young people as they begin to take over the fucked-up world we’ve left for them?

Ben Fitts: First off, thanks for saying that! I hope I’m a good role model to the kids and teenagers to whom I give guitar lessons, but it’s obviously something I worry about sometimes, as I think everyone who works with kids does. My main advice to kids is to question everything you’re told and to keep your critical thinking skills sharp. Between school, parents, belief systems, and other institutions, we have a lot of information and opinions dumped on us as we grow up. Some of it is helpful and some of it is bullshit. Part of becoming a capable and happy adult who contributes positively to the world around you is sorting out all of the bullshit you absorbed as an adolescent, and then adjusting your worldview appropriately. 

Willow Croft: To end things on a lighter note, I’ve included my usual food-based question! I noticed that your Goodreads profile mentions “you put too much hot sauce on everything”. So, please share, what’s your favourite form of liquid torture (aka hot sauce)?

Ben Fitts: I do like hot sauce! There’s a great brand from Pennsylvania called 22 Peppers that I love. 

Keen to know more? Visit Ben Fitts at his links below:

A Million Biting, Stinging Deaths…

*Possible Book Spoilers Ahead* (book links at the bottom of the post)

Before I started reading this anthology, I erroneously equated Crypt Gnats: Horror You’ve Been Itching to Read with delightfully gruesome (and ravenous) killer insects. Yes, I know I was quite wrong in my conclusions. Instead, these horror stories were dug up out of the the graves of the authors’ imaginations. But they were no less gruesomely delightful.

Emphasis on “grue”. As in Dan Lee’s story “The Grue,” which opens with the my-generation-nostalgic first line “You are likely to be eaten.” (If you have to ask…*shakes head*)

Crypt Gnats brought me back to a a simpler time, all the way back to magic nights of blood-thick Jagermeister and clove cigarettes and we all “looked good in ribbons”. Nights where we were immortal and painfully mortal all at once. And we thought the night would never end. We thought we would always be safe in the dark.

But it did end, for some of us permanently, and maybe it ended for the ones left behind to grow old, and alone, and stripped of that immortal magic we once held in our black-hued hearts.

And that’s what seeps out of the pages of Crypt Gnats, as oozily as a graveyard fog. Every reader reads with different eyes, and mine read the heartbreak (Art Lasky’s stories get me every time), the futility of the human condition, and that death always comes with a twist. Even if death is the means we come to life, as related in Ben Fitts’ “Born in a Casket. Or death as a means of liberation, as revealed in Beverly T. Haaf’s “The Saint”.

But, lastly, Crypt Gnats reminds the reader to not tempt fate. Because the dead are lonely, too.

If, though, you’ve finished reading Crypt Gnats, and still want to have a dance or two with death (or more!), pick up a copy of Choose Your Own Death–an interactive horror zine by Ben Fitts. The reader may not be “eaten by a grue” but, rest assured, death is imminent no matter what choice you make. Speaking of nostalgia, remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from the 80s? This is like that, except for grownups. Or weird kids like me that read Clive Barker and V.C. Andrews at a very young age.

It will definitely provide you with a macabre laugh or two, to take your mind off the fact that you didn’t die before thirty like you were supposed to, and spend all your time wandering around saying to yourself “What the f**k do I do now?”

Oh, and if you want to continue on this morbid-yet-humorous literary path down memory lane, pick up one, or more, copies of Ben Fitts’ Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine. (I just finished reading Issue #6).

Because, you know, we were never as cool as we thought we were. But we were cooler than a band that performed at a Tampa nightclub in the 1990s, led by some singer who called himself Marilyn Manson. Right?

Crypt Gnats: Horror You’ve Been Itching to Read: https://bookshop.org/books/crypt-gnats-horror-you-ve-been-itching-to-read/9781948899055

Check out Ben Fitts’ Rock N’ Roll Horror Zines (and more!) over at his website: https://therocknrollhorrorzine.blogspot.com/.

I’ll be reading his My Birth and Other Regrets soon. Or digging out my fishnet gloves and flailing, I mean, dancing, around my living room.

Because I’m THAT cool.

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author Angelique Fawns! #WIHM

 

afawns
https://www.instagram.com/angeliqueiswriting

Willow Croft: I’ll start off with a question that probably plagues many of us writers out there—time management! How do you balance life on a working farm (not to mention parenting!) with writing and your day job?

Angelique Fawns: Balance? What balance? If I am into a writing project, it’s like a mania grips my life. Eighteen hour days, seven days a week, until the story or book is finished. I get up early, write until I have to do my day job, then get right back to it after I’m done cutting TV promos. I only stop when my neck and back get so sore, I have to quit. Then I lay awake obsessing about the next words….

The dust bunnies grow to monster size under my furniture, my husband scowls until he has to make dinner, and my daughter takes over the farm chores.

Willow Croft: Your topics for writing speculative fiction, et al, seem to be pretty diverse—what’s your favourite source of inspiration(s) and is there an overarching theme to your written works? How do you tailor your writing space to nurture your creative writing?

Angelique Fawns: The majority of my stories will have either animals or farm life flavouring the piece. Readers are touched by authenticity, so the old adage “write what you know” is solid advice. I’ve been working as a freelance journalist–writing equine and farm stories–for years. Those stories seem to be what “other” people want me to write, and the weird speculative stuff is mainly for entertaining myself. My current strategy is to take what I have a lot of experience with–reporting, interviewing, journalism–and combine it with my true passion; writing the tales that lurk in my subconscious. Hopefully I am creating a hybrid product that is unique and helpful.

I really don’t have a “nurturing” writing space. I write everywhere, every chance I can get. Before Covid, I used to love tucking myself into a corner of a pub and type for hours. The background noise is brilliant, no one bothers me, plus I can sip on a glass of chardonnay. Heaven.

Willow Croft: Here’s the food-based question I always try to include! I imagine, perhaps romantically as an urban-raised individual, that life on a farm offers some exciting meal opportunities/food-based pathways. What culinary adventures do you/your family embark on?

Angelique Fawns: We aren’t really “foodies”, and I suffer from the omnivore’s dilemma. I am an animal lover, and have many pets. Some of our beef cattle often become lifers. (I name them. We have some REALLY old cows on our farm.) I also keep freeloading chickens that don’t lay eggs, retired horses that can’t be ridden, and barn cats that live in the house and refuse to catch mice. That being said, I am not a vegetarian. I do eat what we grow, but I make sure they have a quality ethical life. We raise free-range meat birds on grass, and they live far longer than conventional chickens. “They only have one bad day.”

Willow Croft: If you time-travelled into the future, how would the world, or worlds, look like? How would you wish the world would have changed by then?

Angelique Fawns: I would love to see a world where humans live in eco-sustainable tree houses with carbon neutral power sources. Animals would reclaim the sea and land and we would live in harmony with them. Pollution, extinction, and war would no longer exist. Other planets would be discovered and peacefully colonized. Now there’s a fantastic (if unrealistic) vision for a future…

Willow Croft: What creepy monster would you want to have as a pet? Alternatively, what sort of paranormal entity would you want to share your livespace with? If you already have a supernatural entity sharing your livespace, or a creepy monster haunting your landscape, tell us all about it!

Angelique Fawns: Well, there are those monstrous dust bunnies… How about a real life creepy monster? I recently lost my llama (to old age). Coco was the most ferocious creature I’ve ever lived with. She had huge long teeth, and sharp talons on her hooves. Llamas are the best guardians for other livestock. If a coyote threatens, they will rip them open with their teeth, and slash them with those hooves. She would bugle like a motorcycle revving if she saw any suspicious animal at the far end of the field. We had ZERO livestock loss when she was alive. Now I’ve lost quite a few chickens, and predators are getting precariously close to the house.

I also believe in ghosts. They lurk everywhere…

 

Find ghosts, animals, and more on Angelique Fawns’ website, and around the web!

Author Website: www.fawns.ca and www.fawns.ca/farm

 

Check out her great guides for submitting stories (and spooky places to submit them) here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08QDX1PD6
 
 

Riding the Carousel ‘Round and ‘Round and ‘Round Again…

I’d forgotten that the Villa Linda Mall (yes, yes, I know, it’s the SANTA FE PLACE mall now) in Santa Fe used to have a carousel–merry-go-round, as I usually call it.

But reading G G Collins’ Reluctant Medium reminded me of that. Because, of course, it’s set in New Mexico. Mostly in Santa Fe. That, and I keep misspelling “Reluctant” even though I rarely misspell anything. Chalk it up to COVID-staring-at-the-same-four-walls-for-too-long fugue.

*possible spoiler alert*

It was strange reading a book with little odd parallels running through it—the book’s main character, Rachel Blackstone, runs from Oklahoma back into New Mexico, chasing a spirit she accidently awoke through a ritual she was conducting.

You know, like in those movies when you’re like “Don’t open the door” and the fool opens the door and he dies? Well, maybe it’s nothing like that, but in any case, Rachel Blackstone has to go back to New Mexico to save her friends and family from the very angry spirit. Because, of course, the spirit is seeking revenge for some wrong inflicted on him. Mainly, death.

Anyway, I ran the other way–from New Mexico into Kansas–though I didn’t awaken any vengeful spirits. This place(s) might have them already, from the “dead bodies found no witness” line on the public police report I acquired. I can handle death in books, but in real life? Not so much. I would say that I can imagine that it was a pair of deceased goldfish that were found, except that makes me just as sad, if not sadder, in a way.

So, real life made reading G G Collins’ Reluctant Medium: A Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery late at night pretty gosh darn spooky, even for this spooky lit lover. And, of course, the wind was howling outside my window. And the snow kept falling, along with the temperature. And I kept hearing bumps in the night (just the cats playing–I think!).

But at least I could indulge in some nice character-envy to take my mind off the unexplained thuds in the night, and within the pages of the book. Rachel Blackstone gets her job back as a journalist, she gets to stay with her friend in a luxe Santa Fe home for a while, she snaps up what sounds like a charming, cozy home, and she gets to eat lots of chile-laden New Mexican cuisine! (I hope my new state proves to be as welcoming!) And, best of all, there’s a cat character, too!

I’ll have to wait until I get some unexpected windfall (or win this year’s HGTV Dream Home) to get the next book(s) in the Rachel Blackstone series, but until then, who wants to meet up at the Sopaipilla Factory with me? http://www.sopaipillafactory.com/ ? (It’s not mentioned in the book, but it just happens to be one of my favourite eateries back in New Mexico, and it’s one of the few things I miss about New Mexico.)

Yearnings for a life, and place, of my own aside, it’s a wonderfully spooky mystery to read on during this winter-storm nightmare out there.

Here’s the links (clickable) to the book and to the author’s website:

Reluctant Medium (Rachel Blackstone #1) by G.G. Collins | Goodreads

Reluctant Medium (bookshop.org)

Author Blog: https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com

Stay safe, stay warm, and read lots!

Now, does anyone know how to get off this carousel? It keeps going ’round and ’round and I can never quite seem to get off.

The “Normal” World vs. Otherworldy Ones: A Mash-Up of Book Looks.

And then there’s the world that belongs to writers, who have to straddle both the “real” world, and the “unreal” ones.

Which leads me to the first book I’ll take a looksie at.

I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. (Link: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King | Goodreads) I loved the stories he shared. And I wished things were still “old-school” when it came to writing: pen, paper, hard copies, mailed-in submissions, things like that. But I don’t have much to say about the book, overall. Except my takeaway is that writing is private, until the day comes when it can’t be private anymore. And reading books on writing is also a private experience. I can’t share what I was thinking and feeling when I read his book. Maybe some can. There’s a whole bunch of people that have written about it on Goodreads. I think why I struggle in writing reviews sometimes is that my experiences with literature tend to not only be personal, but multilayered and multidimensional and that writing about how I felt when I was reading a book is like sharing that wonderfully vivid dream you had last night that ends up being profound and mystical and discernable only to you.

And I was thinking about the need for a certain level of privacy, either as a writer, or as the person undergoing an intensive deconditioning process to find their real selves. Living in both my past livespace, and my current one, has helped me realize that, as much as I’d like to have the low-maintenance condo-type livespace to own, it’s just not private enough. I feel like I’ve lost an imagined, perhaps never-had, autonomy.

Then I was cleaning out some of my files on my computer, and deleting the blog posts I’d saved back from when I first started blogging. (Ouch!) And I realized that maybe privacy is old-school, but one habit I still like to indulge in, even though everything in today’s world seems to demand otherwise. But I had one thought while scanning through my old blog posts: “This shit belongs in a diary.” So I’m going to try to unearth at least one diary from my unpacked boxes, and have a place for my private thoughts. And for my dreams of a livespace surrounded by wilderness and animals and no neighbours that go bumping around in the daytime.

This talk of privacy is a segue in to my next book look: Normal People by Sally Rooney. (Link: Normal People by Sally Rooney | Goodreads )One of the characters, Marianne, is defined as a private loner in contrast to the other main character,who is one of the more popular kids in school. These two characters have an off-again, on-again relationship, and I wanted to relate to Marianne, but I couldn’t. Maybe just memories, the past, I don’t know. It has nothing to do with the writing or the quality of the book, which was excellent, but I felt so sad and sometimes irked reading about the characters’ fates and life choices. I have a hard time getting into literary fiction these days, despite the fact I loved reading the classics back when I was a kid. But maybe it’s the drama I struggle with. I can’t bear the reality, even as displayed through fictional characters, of their pain, their struggles, their heartbreak, their…drama. I can handle it through other genres but literary fiction is just too…real?…maybe. And Marianne reminded me of an certain friend.  With literary fiction, I come with oversensitivity baggage (I feel every little pinprick of people’s hurt and confusion and moods), and it’s difficult for me to read books, no matter how good they are, that vicariously provide an examination of emotional baggage through their characters and the story. So I’ll just have to leave the literary fiction analysis to more experienced, and, perhaps, more impartial readers. Readers who are okay with life being a little messy in their fiction.

Which is not to say I can’t handle messy loss and emotional upheaval or even messier blood-n-guts in genre literature. It’s different somehow, in genres like speculative fiction.

I read somewhere online that people are really turning to thrillers (Found it! Link: Now, More Than Ever, Is the Time for ‘Escapist Fiction’ ‹ CrimeReads) right now, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that not only do I like “escapist fiction” it’s okay to like it, and it doesn’t make me unintellectual and such (part of my current deconditioning process).

It’s okay not to embrace literary fiction right now, if ever. It has its place among readers, definitely!

So, in the words of the author of the above article, V. M. Burns (Link: VM Burns – Mystery Writer) I much prefer books that  “…create an imaginary world that the reader can escape into rather than focusing on the deeper realities/issues of the characters imaginary existence.”

And two books I recently read were perfect in that role.

Mrs. Perivale and the Blue Fire Crystal and Mrs. Perivale and the Dragon Prince–both by Dash Hoffman. They are the first two books in the series. I think there may  be at least another one coming, but I don’t have too much information on forthcoming books. I do know that I can’t wait to read the other books this author has penned.

The book series opens with seventy-three year-old Mrs. Alice Perivale who feels undervalued in the world, but is about to begin her biggest adventure(s) yet! Even better, she’s accompanied on this fantastical new adventure by her seven cats! Check it out to see if the knitting-needle-wielding Alice Perivale saves the magical village from a dire fate: Got-Moxie Bookshelf (got-moxie.com).

The only problem with escapist literature is that I haven’t yet found the key to a magical world of my own imagination…yet!

But I’ll keep looking…the portal has to be around here, somewhere!

A Close Encounter of the Real-Life Kind…#WIHM #ThrowbackThursday

It’s Women in Horror month. As it’s been said many times, and as I stressed in my blog post yesterday, horror is not some abstract concept in movies and books. Our threats are real, as is our fear, though many tell us it’s imagined. Or in our heads.

(This is an old essay on Tor.com, but I loved it. I still have the hard copy I printed out. https://www.tor.com/2017/04/13/the-peril-of-being-disbelieved-horror-and-the-intuition-of-women/)

In the case of this remembered experience, the fear this individual experienced was real. I have heard this story told and retold for as long as I can remember. And I asked the individual if I could share their experience here. I transcribed it from this individual’s recollection of their memory of the events during a recent phone conversation, typed it up, and am now posting it here, with their permission. Given the content of their remembered experience, I am keeping this source anonymous.

I have transcribed it verbatim from the original telling to the best of my ability (using a pen and paper and then typing it). I recorded this passage using a pen and paper on February 1st. I made a typewritten copy of the passage today, February 2nd. I have not edited, rewritten, or altered the transcript text as pasted below in any way, except for introducing ellipses to represent breaks and/or shifts in thought, and using brackets to enclose information to clarify certain items in the narrative text passage.

*begin transcript*

“I’m coming out of Publix [a grocery store]…it was summer…I know what dress I had on…I still remember it…sleeveless dress, burlap-type fabric…I had long blond hair and I had it down because I’d just washed it…This guy, getting into his car…a yellow Volkswagen beetle, a Bug, getting to our cars, he said ‘Hi’ I said ‘Hi’ thinking it was probably a theatre person. Get into my car, he gets into his. I got…I turned onto Siesta Drive [in Sarasota, Florida], out of the parking lot I turned east, and he followed me, follows me out onto Siesta Drive, which made me feel uncomfortable. While we were side by side, I looked over, and he was staring at me. Scared me to death, the eyes were just scary, hate…It just unnerved me…strange eyes, really strange eyes. When it [Siesta Drive] narrowed down to one lane and I was going faster than he was, and he fell behind. I was ahead of him. I was so very uncomfortable with the man; at Webber, a very short lefthand turn lane; at the last minute I jumped into the lane and there was no traffic coming so I made my turn. He had traffic behind him and he couldn’t move over and as he passed me; the glare, and the hate in his eyes. When I got home I was nervous cause it was an open carport…I was scared, shaking…I calmed down, not seeing him on the street; he hadn’t followed me.

The next day, he’d gone into the sorority house and killed two women. I still did not connect the dots until he was arrested some time later. I believe they arrested him in Colorado, I think, and brought him back to Sarasota. At the time of the arrest, they took a picture of him and when his picture appeared in the paper, it was like an electroshock…I recognized the eyes–the glare, and the hate–and realized how close I came, I guess. I immediately recognized the eyes, and I knew it was him.”

*end transcript*

I transcribed this interview faithfully, as is protocol, and to the best of my ability, and have not deliberately edited, rewritten, or changed the transcript of this remembered experience in any way.

This individual and I haven’t officially confirmed the actual picture that they saw in the paper, but I provided a couple of links that were close to what this person thinks they remember of the actual picture. I’ve also included a link to the Volkswagen beetle and a link to the Wikipedia article about Ted Bundy. I had actually tried to print it out for myself to read, and, a little spookily, the printer went haywire. I got an alert message I’d never seen before, and I could print everything out except the article on Ted Bundy. I even went on later and discovered one issue that I troubleshot (troubleshooted?) and fixed that, and the article still would not print out. But another document of the same type did without any problems. Creepy, and definitely gave me the chills late last night!

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Bundy#/media/File:Ted_Bundy_volkswagen.JPG

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Bundy#/media/File:Ted_Bundy_headshot.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Bundy#/media/File:Ted-bundy.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Bundy

Review-ish of Alex Berenson’s The Power Couple

 

Well, I don’t really understand the whole “I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway with no request for a review” disclaimer.

I’m speaking rhetorically, and I don’t really need it explained to me even if I didn’t understand it. Which I kinda don’t. I really don’t think anybody would send out a free book or an A.R.C. with the adverse intention of saying “Hey, shove my book on your bookshelf without even cracking the spine open. Better yet, don’t even read it. It’s perfect as an absorbent coaster so you don’t mar your antique writing desk by putting your piping hot-ten-thousandth cup of coffee directly on its wood surface!”

I say this, when that’s pretty much what I did. Not using a book as a coaster *gasp*, but setting it aside. Only it was into a banker’s box labeled “Unread”–one of about eleven boxes marked “Unread”–and it was only a follow-up email asking me how I enjoyed The Power Couple that I received a few weeks ago (I received the email on December 10th) that I remembered and then I had to forget about it because I moved to another state and was/am searching for a day job so I don’t have to move back to the land of no internet because it just took me almost three months to catch up on all the things I had to put aside because of three years of non-functional internet (thanks, Comcast and HughesNet!) and another year of limited once or twice a week of internet off-site.

And then I forgot which “Unread” box it was in. And I’m envious of all the other readers here in Goodreads and in the Goodreads groups who not only have time to spend all day on Goodreads and Instagram and Twitter and WordPress and commenting in Goodreads Groups and posting Goodreads reviews but also have the luxury of spending all day curled in a cozy chair by a fireplace, eating bon-bons and reading countless numbers of books.

But I found it, and of course I’m going to review it, especially if it’s a free book. I would feel badly otherwise, despite my lingering feelings of envy. At least I can review The Power Couple even in advance of the release date (February 9th, 2021).

The book link, in case you want to skip the rest of the review and get right to reading: .https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Power-Couple/Alex-Berenson/9781982103699

 

*Here Be Spoiler Monsters*

And if I wasn’t envious enough of all those readers/writers with unlimited time (or who have somehow acquired Hermione’s Time-Turner or Doc’s Delorean), then I get to be envious of the power couple Rebecca and Brian Unsworth who “have it all” despite the book’s attempt to convince me they don’t have it all during a traumatic event that occurs while the family is on a European vacation.

Envy. Greed (wishful thinking as it is). I’m well on the way to ticking boxes on my deadly sins list.

So I had really mixed feelings about this book. I didn’t want to dismiss and belittle the Kira Unsworth’s, the daughter, terrible experience while she was being kidnapped and held for ransom. No matter how fictional it was.

Nor did I want to take away from the proactive strength and resilience of the daughter, and the mother, as these horrible events unfolded. And I was happy with how Rebecca Unsworth, the mother, resolved things at the end. Well, in a way.

“But, but…,” my mind said. What about all the other young women kidnapped not even for ransom, but forced into the sex trade and never to be heard of again, because there is no escape. There’s no mother that holds a government agency position powerful enough to marshal every available resource overseas to find her daughter.

For these young women, and even children of both genders, there is probably no escape from a life in the sex trade or as a modern-day slave worker.

But I love thrillers. I love staying up past my bedtime to read yet another chapter. And I love that the right baddies got their well-deserved comeuppance–and that this book’s author didn’t hold back in meting out justice.

But, although the book is fiction, it’s also real. Real for us women. Kidnapping is a real horror that we have to face every minute of every day. And, again, for many of us, a rescue may never come. For many of us, we won’t even be able to save ourselves.

No matter how hard we fight back.

Still, it’s good to be immersed in a world where that doesn’t have to be completely true. Even if it’s for a little while during the wee hours of the night, immersed in a book where women win.

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author David Lee Summers!

Here’s the next “Five Things Friday” interview with speculative fiction author (and astronomer) David Lee Summers! Hope you enjoy!

Willow Croft: One thing I hated to give up in leaving New Mexico was the clear skies, especially with the occurrence of the conjunction event (Wichita has an absolutely obscene amount of light pollution!). So, in honour of all things galactic, what’s your favourite astronomical phenomenon to date, from your astronomer perspective?

David Lee Summers: I would have a hard time giving up the clear skies of the Southwest and I’m sorry you missed the conjunction event. It was very cool. That said, I think one of the most exciting things I’ve seen through a telescope was Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 just a few days before it hit Jupiter back in 1995. The comet itself resembled a cosmic string of pearls. On top of that, I was working with Vera Rubin, the woman who made the observations that led to the discovery of dark matter.

Willow Croft: If you could dine on any fictional off-world (off-Earth) cuisine/dish, what would it be, and what would you imagine it tastes like?

David Lee Summers: In my novel Heirs of the New Earth, a character brings a dish called ruas’ordah to a party. It’s purple mush from a planet called Rd’dyggia. I imagine it tastes like green chile hummus. I would totally make this. I may have to experiment with some recipes and post it to my blog if I create something I like!

Willow Croft: Since you are a speculative fiction author, and with a nod to your “2020 Foresight” blog post (https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2020/01/11/2020-foresight/), how do you foresee the events of the next ten years unfolding? How would you wish they would unfold, and how do you imagine society being ten years from now? Where do you envision yourself being in ten years?

David Lee Summers: This is a good question, since I think we’re at a real crossroads moment in history and a lot depends on how well we’re able to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control and how people respond to recent events in Washington D.C.

Taking a hopeful stance, I think we’ll bring the pandemic under control in the next year or so. I hope our experiences with remote work and remote events will allow us to continue these things to a certain extent after the pandemic. I look forward to seeing people again at in-person conventions, for example, but I’ve also had the opportunity to attend and speak at conventions I couldn’t have if I had been required to pay for transportation. I’m also hopeful that the dramatic political events surrounding the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential win will help politicians bridge the exaggerated “aisle” they dug between the two American parties so they can actually get some good work done.

Within the next decade, I’m betting we’ll find evidence of life outside the Earth. Such a discovery will help us better understand our place in the universe. I fear climate change will worsen, but hope we can make changes that will slow it down. In short, I hope the world will be a better, safer place in ten years than it is today, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find we have new challenges that we can’t even begin to imagine now.

As for me, I still plan to be writing. I hope to try my hand at expanding what I do into comics, audio and maybe even some video of some form. I hope to wrap up my Wilderness of the Dead horror series and maybe work on some other steampunk projects I have in mind.

Willow Croft: Would you travel into space, or are you content with being Earthbound? Why, or why not? Alternatively, what region of space would you like to visit?

David Lee Summers: I would definitely travel into space if I could. I feel like travel on Earth has always expanded my consciousness and given me new perspectives. Going into space would take that to a whole new level. I would love to visit Mars to see the deserts and experience the night sky from its surface. I’m enough of a rock hound to know it would be exciting to wander its surface and see what stories the rocks tell.

Willow Croft: And, of course, have you ever seen an UFO or had any close encounters? What kind of Earth food is their favourite, if so?

David Lee Summers: I have never personally seen a UFO, but I did meet a man who claimed to be one of the beings seen by Lonnie Zamora during the Socorro “close encounter of the third kind” from 1964. Does that count? He liked fresh grilled salmon and really liked his beer!

Find out more about David Lee Summers and his writing/publishing projects, here:

Website: http://www.davidleesummers.com

Blog: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidleesummers

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/davidleesummers

Company: http://www.hadrosaur.com

The Wall*–An Essay by Willow Croft

*Read while listening to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”.

I was chatting with someone about a nonfiction book we are hoping to collaborate on, and we both have ADD so the conversation turned to social media (Okay, so I may have steered it a bit onto that topic).

But it has been on my mind lately, accentuated by an article/essay by Peter Derk I recently read, titled “Writers Don’t Need Social Media”: https://litreactor.com/columns/writers-dont-need-social-media.

I have been circling on this topic in my mind for a while now, and I finally got some clarity. “I want to have more control over my content,” I said. And the heavens opened and angels sang. (Well, not really, it was just another bland day in my rickety, stinky apartment.)

“I want to have more direct contact with people,” I continued. “Like through my blog.” And a bunch of other thoughts that sounded really good in my head.

And then I read Peter Derk’s post. And I picked up one of the books he recommended from the library: Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Now by Jaron Lanier. (I read it last night.)

And yesterday I was on Twitter, and I saw this tweet flash past–something about about how people have finally hit the wall in the COVID situation. And I paused, and scrolled back up, but then Twitter refreshed and the tweet was gone forever. And then I got really frustrated. And then I got mad at myself for how ridiculously frustrated I was and how much time I spent looking for that gem of a post. And I realised that this happened way too often with Twitter, and with elusive tweets from the people I follow. I realised how much I was missing out on even during the small window of time I allotted to Twitter.

And I thought, “What is it that writers really want me to do? They want me to read their books.” (Or artists with their art, etc.)

And that it is a very simple discussion, without all the noise of Twitter and social media.

Fantastic Author #1: “Willow Croft, buy and read my book.”

Me: “Okay!”

And the only complicated part of that process is that I (according to the actual quoted State of New Mexico standards back when I was living in that state) am classified at 153% below the national/state poverty level, and I generally have no money to buy books.

And that’s with a day job, before I was furloughed. Who knows what my classification is at now, here in Kansas, with still no day job.

But I still began thinking about the “wall” people have hit.

And I read Luther M. Siler’s venting-themed blog over his latest experience with online teaching. https://infinitefreetime.com/2021/01/26/venting-ignore/

This is probably not related to his point(s), but for years now I have decried the standardized educational system. In fact, I have vehemently spoken out against the increasing standardization of most things in society these days.

In fact, one could look at the whole COVID situation and think “Jeez, ‘they’ have us right where they want us.” And, no, I am not espousing any sort of conspiracy theory or dark forces behind the pandemic–besides, I am too busy trying to find work to entertain any thoughts about that on even a writer-inspiration front.

Talk about standardization, though.

I have witnessed the job hunt go from paper applications you fill out in stores to digital employment kiosks you have to stand there and fill out to “fill out the application online”, which I now interpret to mean that an algorithmic software that “fires” you before you can even say “Here’s my one-page CV/Resume that I have spent eons on consulting with experts and tailoring to the job at hand and even picking the correct font and layout and which your system is telling you I’m complete garbage even though I have an INCREDIBLY vast array of skills, talent, and experience.”

And now even many job search sites, which I considered a refuge in which to submit an actual resume/CV now have links that send you to the employer’s website, where it takes an hour to complete one application (ten times as long as it took me to fill out a paper application in the old days) so they can then “fire” you algorithmically.

And now, at least one of these job sites has a feature now where I have to take a STANDARIZED test to “prove” that I’m good enough to work for this company. (And I’m not even getting reimbursed for my time and energy and work. Hours wasted.)

Which I never am (good enough). In fact, let’s look at it statistically (even with my mad skills I think I have), I have been applying for a job-any-job-liveable-wage-job since 1995. I have been back to school twice (a BA and a Masters) On average, I’ve applied online for about five to six jobs a day, seven days a week. I even, back in the 90s, went through the phone book and dropped off/mailed letters and resumes to a wide variety of companies (One interview, where I was offered 4 dollars an hour.)

Temp jobs, substitute teacher, an educational aide job, where I earned $600 a month, hell job teaching sixth grade (re Luther Siler’s rant: teachers get it from all sides: parents, students, supervisors, staff, and other teachers), and jobs where I was told I had to keep to a verbatim script or I’d face wage or hour-reduction penalties (Florida’s Right to Work state at…non-work), and interviews where the conservative business clothing I borrowed money to buy was deemed “not good enough to work in her office”.

And I still have no job.

So back to my discussion about the wall.

Yes, the COIVD shutdown has been terrible in many different ways; job loss, social isolation, separation from friends and family, and even the painful, heart-wrenching illness and deaths of loved ones. It’s been well covered by better writers than I, and I don’t mean to belittle what you are going through.

But what I want to say–what the whole point of my blog post is that it’s not just COVID that is creating a terrible situation for all of us.

It’s that we are now face to face with the awareness of how bad things have been all along. Of what society has become. Of what we have become, and accepted, in order to live in the world today. And we hate it, all of it, no matter what our personal, political, and/or religious and spiritual beliefs are.

We have ignored the price we had to pay with the planet, with the lives of animals and nature and unpolluted water and air, with the lives of children and their health and minds and their free, creative spirits; and even with our own physical and mental health.

That the systems we created suck.

That, for many, our jobs suck.

That, for many, our lives have sucked and we didn’t even realize it.

That even if we thought our lives were great on the surface there was still a small, disquieting voice that whispered at us in the wee hours of the night: “Wake up, something’s wrong.” And you get up and check the already-locked doors and the alarm system and that the kids are sleeping safe in their beds and the pets are fed and the refrigerator door is closed and nothing is out of place, so you go back to bed and wait for the light of day. To wait for things to change. To be different.

But it isn’t. Because the truth is the world, too, sucks and by our own hands.

And COVID is a brutal reminder that we are now having to pay the price.

But things don’t have to continue to suck. We can sacrifice, shake off the sleep of rote conformist jobs and standardized school systems and social media and binge-watching and hate and fear and misery and commercialism.

We can build a new world, or we can just sit here in our isolation and hope and pray for the day when things can to go back to the same-old same-old sucky system.

Which will you choose?*

*As long as it isn’t storming the U.S. Capitol. Just sayin’.

Spooky Sunday Updates!

 

Since I’m still trying to play catch-up after the limited internet access back in New Mexico (Yes, STILL!), I’ve been meaning to post updates about the recently published anthologies that my short stories have appeared in. And I have one or two coming out sometime in the near future in a mystery anthology(ies).

Here are the recents!

A Lovecraftian-inspired eerie collection of stories: Outsiders Within, edited by Dave Higgins. https://www.amazon.com/Outsiders-Within-Dave-Higgins/dp/1912674122

The Hollow Volume 3: Where All Evil Things Lie (Horror short stories of course!) https://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Vol-Breaking-Rules-Publishing/dp/B0892DHP2J

The Trench Coat Chronicles from Gemini Wordsmiths: https://geminiwordsmiths.com/the-trench-coat-chronicles/

Happy Reading! (Got new releases of your own? Share them in the comments!)

And, I also am hard at work outlining (and, eventually, writing) my horror book which will definitely involve demon(s) of sorts, and maybe get mashed up with a cozy mystery. We’ll see how the outlining process goes. But I am very excited to have my Spooky Writers’ Planner (https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2020/12/18/new-release-spooky-writers-planner/) to help me through, especially when (if?!?!? *crosses fingers*) I land a day job in my new city to help support my writing. Or, more truthfully, to help me keep a roof over my kitties’ heads. *laugh*

MoonPiePosing

(Moon Pie says bye for now! Or, more likely, she’s plotting her next heinous crime…)