Talkin’ Turkey #TurkeyFreeThanksgiving

Well, I don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving, but I did kinda want to have something a little different then my usual burritos this week, so I kitchen-indulged in a “Stir-Fried Radish” recipe that was posted up over at Tanooki Homemade Cafe:

I tweaked the recipe a teeny bit, and used fresh radish and mushrooms–mainly because I decided to do this last-minute–so if you want the authentic dried ingredients the recipe suggests, they’re on the original blog post link I shared above.

And I didn’t have any sake to accompany the meal. The grocery store didn’t carry anything other than “some beer” according to the staff person I asked. They suggested going to a local liquor store, but, you know, going to a liquor store during these (COVID/Mass Extinction/Climate Emergency/Liberal-Democrat-Vegetarian-Living-In-Red-State/Insert-Your-Own) times would have probably meant I would have walked out with not only sake, but something like this or just the whole kit and kaboodle.

Anyhoo, the stir-fried radish dish was heavenly, so thanks again, Tanooki Homemade Cafe, for the great meal opportunity! I’d definitely make this again.

So, yeah, it probably goes without a reminder that I’m vegetarian, and even if I weren’t, being up close and personal with a family member’s rescued (They were strays. Seriously.) turkey(s) would make me have second thoughts. Who knew turkeys made such interesting and charismatic pets?

These turkeys were (with a turkey-ton of creative license) the inspiration for the story I wrote for Jersey Pines Ink’s Whodunit anthology (“Two Smart Turkeys”). Care to feast on your own copy? Check it out here:,

And, I have successfully (well, as of today) weaned myself off TV. I already didn’t have cable, but I’ve been renting DVDs from the absolutely fabulous Wichita Public Library System (my most favourite thing about Kansas, so far), so I switched them out for audio books. But for some reason, my quirky calico Moon Pie is not so fond of lap- and brushie time to the accompaniment of audio books, so I may cave and go back to renting DVDs.

The things we do for our pets, right?

And with the cold weather, I’m enjoying curling up with a book (and a few cats!).

As I commented on Twitter, I think this book titled Omens would be a good choice for winter reading, right? Check out the Antimony and Elder Lace Press store, for Omens and all their other great books:

Yes, it’s got my story in it, too, but I am so thankful for all the publishers that have included my stories in their anthologies, journals, and online publications. I need to update my “Wordcraft” page with my more recent publications and, yes, I’ve being meaning to redesign it…

Thank you to all the great publishers/publishing companies out there, including the absolutely amazing one my alter ego (alter alter-ego?) works for, Bronzeville Books. I’m endlessly grateful for the opportunities you all have provided.

Happy feasting, everybody! Thanks for all the support over the years/months/days!


Where was I?

I have been just all over the place this week. And feeling pretty unmotivated to do anything but sit in front of the fire, with a cup of hot cocoa. I don’t have a fireplace, but I can dream of zipping off to a posh ski resort. Who’s with me?

Untitled design (3)
Photo courtesy of

I don’t know why I just can’t get back in gear. C.M. Saunders came up with a fitting explanation as to why, here, with his response comment to mine on his own blog, here: Makes complete sense…

I didn’t even post up about a recipe on Friday, either, like I had planned.

I just forgot. *gasp*

I did try a fellow blogger’s recipe for pumpkin rigatoni a little while ago, and now I can’t find it among the blogs I follow, to share the link. I’m visual, so I know what the blog looks like, and when I come across it again, I’ll put in the link for the post with the recipe. (If you’re the pumpkin rigatoni creator, let me know!)

It looked amazing, except I totally made a mess of the recipe, and didn’t get the ingredients…down-portioned?…correctly, and even used the wrong-sized pot…so it was a complete disaster.

I’m sure the recipe would have been really good, though. I love pumpkin.

So, I’ll just share how I make red (or green) tofu curry:

  1. Sauté a bunch of your favourite veggies and tofu in a frying pan. I like to use olive oil for frying. I’ve tried other oils and I do notice the difference in flavour. My go-to veggies are onions, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and some kind of greens, like kale or spinach. Sometimes I’ll add in bamboo shoots. And tofu, of course. I just put it on a fairly low heat and wander off while it cooks (probably shouldn’t recommend that, eh?) because I have ADHD.
  2. Anyway, when the veggies are all done frying (I like it when the carrots are cooked until they are soft and a little caramelized around the edges), I take them off and cover the the veggies so they stay warm, because I usually cook off a single burner hot plate. Plus, it helps me with timing so I don’t burn anything while I’m wandering around my house doing four thousand other things.
  3. I then boil up some rice noodles. I like the red rice noodles variety the best. Yum. Plus, rice noodles cook so fast I don’t have to worry about wandering off and burning down the house. Drain the noodles and leave in the colander.
  4. Next, I spoon in some coconut milk from a can into the pot the rice noodles were in, and add red or green curry powder (paste works too) into the milk. I heat it up, stirring frequently. I probably don’t need to stir it, but it gives me something to do while I’m waiting for the mixture to heat up. It should still be liquidly, maybe just reaching a boil. Then I raise the heat a bit, stir in the sauteed veggies, till they are coated and warmed up. Then I add the noodles, stir, and let it cook until the liquid reduces to a macaroni-and-cheese type consistency (I.e. not too watery. It’s not supposed to be soupy.).

So, that’s it. That’s my makeshift curry recipe!

If you try it, let me know!

How’s ya’ll’s writing going? I’m a little behind, but I already knew I wouldn’t make the word count…my book project is a little complex for NaNoWriMo, but I wanted to at least get motivated to start writing on it. And so I resolved some problems I was having with the book’s concept and have already written an amazing 427 words! Woo hoo!

Now if I could just remember where I put my pencil…

Warhol/Factory Series: Girls of the Years by Willow Croft

A big thanks to Fevers of the Mind for posting my poem!

Fevers of the Mind

Girls of the Years

I was you,
a hippie friend said,
just like you, when I danced.
I didn’t believe it, until
she dressed me up in Edie clothes.
And I saw me, through Superstar eyes
We sparkled in the same way
We looked lost in the same way
We’d said Ciao to everything we’d ever known,
everything that had ensnared us,
but it still wasn’t enough, and so I
didn’t want to believe
(no such thing as reincarnation, I said)
but really because
I’ve dreamt of her through a million pasts,
seen her in a thousand mirror ghosts,
saw she knew me
Inside and out and very far
From the world’s stage
From the critics,
the ocean hid us away, where
we dreamt in unicorns
star-wished above the clouds
danced like kindred spirits under full moons
Barefoot and wild and free and holding
a million futures in our…

View original post 50 more words

Enjoy Halloween with Eva Pohler’s The Shade of Santa Fe

I signed myself up to do this book tour thingy…I guess it’s good practice, right? But I’ve seen other bloggers’ “Book Blitzes” and they all look so glitzy and polished.


Makes me realize my blog is a little low-key. But I like it that way.

Anyhoo, as you can see from the banner, the author that’s being book-toured is Eva Pohler. Yes, the very same Eva Pohler that I interviewed as part of my infamous “Five Things Friday” author interviews.

She’s got a new book out today…the seventh in her “Mystery House” series, and it’s called The Shade of Santa Fe.

Hopefully for Pohler’s “Ghost Healers, Inc.” characters, the ghosts they seek won’t be as elusive as internet and cell phone service is in New Mexico!

Here’s what I do know, from the “case file” information I received from Xpresso Book Tours:


A haunting in Santa Fe will either reunite Ghost Healers, Inc. or disband the group forever.

When Ellen decides to buy a fixer-upper in an art community in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she’s reassured by the realtor that nothing evil has ever occurred there. What she doesn’t know is that the bridge near the back of the property is notoriously known in the town as Suicide Bridge. As she and her friends try to uncover why so many people have taken their lives there, they are shocked by what they find. Can the reunion of Ghost Healers, Inc. untether the troubling spirits near Ellen’s fixer-upper, or will their discoveries be too much for them this time?


After earning her Ph.D. in English and teaching writing and literature for over twenty years, Eva Pohler became a USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels in multiple genres, including mysteries, thrillers, and young adult paranormal romance based on Greek mythology. Her books have been described as “addictive” and “sure to thrill”–Kirkus Reviews.

I don’t know about you, but this picture is exactly how I’m hoping to spend my Halloween evening. Unfortunately, it’s too late for me to get a print copy of The Shade of Santa Fe (even if I did have the money), but you can find digital versions at the links below (or wait for your print version to arrive!).

So, that’s that! How’s my first hosting of a book tour go?

That great, eh?

*wry laugh*

Hope you have a wonderfully spooky Halloween, however you spend your magical evening! (You are spending it reading, right?)

Real-Life Horror: Wildlife Welfare in Kansas

Note: This post contains graphic images and text regarding animals and wildlife.

I knew that moving to a small town in a red state would be a challenge for this leftist, liberal, environmentalist.

But as I’m pretty dedicated, I would at least try to work towards change, even in my local community.

I’ll sum up the recent, and preliminary, events that have lead up to the posting of this blog entry, and to my letter-writing actions.

I was leaving town and I spotted an injured owl on the side of the highway. It was standing upright, and when I pulled off and got out of my car, it turned its head and looked straight at me. Although I have worked in both pet shelters and in a wildlife rehab and rehabilitation center, I was currently not licensed to handle wildlife in the state of Kansas, I also did not have the proper equipment to handle large birds like owls. I could not tell what kind of owl it was,  from this distance, but it looked like a Spotted Owl. (Feel free to help ID the owl if you know what sort of owl it is.)


When the big trucks sped past (they barrel through on this highway, going way over the speed limit), it would be buffeted and flap its wings to try to stay in place. Once it was briefly airborne so I did get a good luck at its feet. It did not look like it had any broken wings or legs.

I called animal control. I got the dispatch as it was a Sunday.

They told me that Animal Control/Law Enforcement could not act on behalf on wildlife. As I understood what they told me, they were not allowed to rescue/handle wildlife, or come to its assistance, or take any action involving the owl.

(Just as an aside, a local animal control officer told me even more recently that “it was impossible for feral cats to be socialized”. Talk about misinformation persisting in the branches of local law enforcement, and being passed around to the general public! *head bap*)

Dispatch/a law enforcement officer told me this, and that they had put in a call to the warden and it was up to them to respond (or not). They told me nothing more could be done, and that I should leave. (I was pulled over on the side of the highway.)

I pulled out, but only to get the mile marker or a more exact location as to where I was, to add to the report.

When I circled back around, I saw the police officer pull over to the side of the road. I thought this meant the warden was on the way and the local law enforcement officer was merely watching over the owl while the warden was to arrive.

Remember, they told me that the law enforcement/animal control officers could do nothing for the owl. Again, Dispatch told me they were not allowed to intervene in the owl’s fate, by law.

I considered pulling over, but was confident that help was coming for the owl.

This was a mistake I will forever regret.

When I returned to town, I circled back around to check on the owl.

I found the owl’s body, very close to where I had last seen it. It was mangled and flattened and I remember thinking “It looks like it was run over.”.

I called the dispatch again, and they were still telling me that the law enforcement couldn’t have done anything in regards to the owl. I told them, between sobs, that I was not going to let this rest until I got justice for this owl. That it was terrible that they just left the owl there to suffer (temps that day got up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and demise by being run over. I was going to do everything in my power to make sure that this owl’s death wasn’t for naught. I started a letter writing campaign. I sent a letter that included a relation of the events of that day, and a request to have a wildlife rehab organization in place to deal with injured wildlife, and community education programs to help raise awareness about injured wildlife, among other items.

I sent the letter to the following people/organizations. The Pratt Tribune office was not accessible by mail, as the cc’d letter I sent to the editor was returned.

  • Pratt Operations Office/Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism
  • Office of the Secretary/Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism
  • Governor Laura Kelly
  • Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism Commissioners Lauren Queal Sill, Aaron Rider, Gerald W. Lauber, Emerick Cross, Warren Gfeller, Gary Hayzlett, and Troy Sporer.
  • Jennifer Stultz, Pratt Tribune Editor

I only heard back from one individual, (so far) a lead official from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Here’s the scan of the letter. Please read the letter and then the points/questions I raise after the letter.

KDWP Letter Scan

  • I was told multiple times that local law enforcement could not get involved with the owl in any way. Again, they were very insistent that they were not permitted by law to intervene in the case of this injured owl, and that nothing could be done. That it would be illegal for them. That the only thing I could (and should) do was leave the area. Not once was I told that “local law enforcement may take action in our stead” as the parks official that wrote this letter here states. It was very firmly stated to the opposite by the dispatch. So why did the officer act as he did, outside of the “law” dispatch lectured me about, and kill the owl? Why did Dispatch, then, and the officer that responded to my call, state they weren’t able to do anything about the owl, and then have an officer arrive on the scene and kill the owl? Who gave that deputy permission in between the time I spoke to them and to Dispatch, and the time which the owl was killed? (I do not know whether the Sheriff’s Office vehicle I saw arrive on the scene was the one that killed the owl. I did not witness the actual killing of the owl, just the aftermath.)
  • If the deputy was not allowed to work with wildlife in any way, I have to wonder if they even had the training to assess injured wildlife. How, then, was this deputy able to “determine the owl’s injuries were beyond available treatment options”? Plus, there is no mention of the treatment options that were available to help the owl in the parks official’s letter.
  • Also, from my conclusion on the scene, the animal had been run over in the same area it had been the last time I saw it. It was far enough over on the side of the road, that it had to be deliberately run over, if so.  Are the wardens also permitted to dispatch injured wildlife by running over them with vehicles, if that is what happened?
  • If the owl hadn’t been run over, how was it killed? The letter I received does not state how the owl was “dispatched” by the deputy in question.

I included these questions and points, and pressed for reform in regards to wildlife in my town and the surrounding area/Kansas in general. in a letter to Secretary Deb Haaland, and cc’d to the following organizations:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
National Park Service
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
Sierra Club
The Nature Conservancy/Nature Conservancy Magazine
World Wildlife Fund
National Wildlife Federation
National Audubon Society
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

From the date this blog entry was posted, I’ve only received one more response (from the cc’d group on the second letter). This was from a membership correspondent with the PETA Foundation. (Here’s a direct link, should you want to support them:

Peta Response Letter

My next step, after the second round of letters went out (in which I included a copy of my original letter, the response from the top official at the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and the second letter), was to post up about it on this blog.

I failed to get the owl the help I had promised I would, and I feel so much guilt about it.

And, even though this is my writer blog, I could at least try to get justice for animals, and advocate for better treatment of wildlife in my current home state.

I can’t get the way the owl turned and looked at me out of my head, even as I write this blog. It was so majestic and haunting.

And I was devastated to find the owl, mangled and murdered, when I returned to the scene.

I’m so, so sorry, Owl, that you have to live in a world with us.


Please reach out if you have any more tips on how to advocate for wildlife both locally, and nationally. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this heart-breaking situation.

Preptober and NaNoWriMo, and Some Announcements

Best wishes to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo this year!

I hope your “Preptober” went well!

(As a pantser who is trying to be more of a plotter, I thought this article over at Dragon Soul Press was great!

So, I haven’t fully committed to NaNoWriMo yet. I did commit, and then I changed my mind, and then I accidently deleted my former NaNoWriMo participatory projects (I’m really having an off week!) and now I’m changing my mind again. Either way, I’m hoping that I can regain some focus in my writing, whether or not I “win”.

And, dang, I swore there was another post that examined the NaNoWriMo phenomenon (pros and cons) that I wanted to put in, but when I went back to the blog I swore it was on, I couldn’t find it. (But I really enjoyed the read, I promise!)

So, to all my bloggers out there with recent NaNoWriMo-themed posts (or Preptober, even), please share them in the comments!

And if you’re in need of inspiration, check out my “Tarot Cards for Inspiration” posts over at Horror Tree. The next one will come out in November!

I’m going to take a quick break from the “Five Things Friday” author interviews. It’s just for November, and I’ll be attempting to make different recipes and my opinion of said recipes, because we’ll need some tasty (and quick!) meals to get us through NaNoWriMo, right?

Lastly, I wanted to let you all know that my upcoming Wednesday post is going to be an intense one, and will contain graphic images and text regarding a local situation that had developed with an injured owl. It was difficult for me to write, but I am still determined to advocate on behalf of this owl, to ensure that other wild animals do not meet the same fate. Even just to raise awareness of the state of things here in my new town would be an important step.

I hope you read it, nonetheless. But I will completely understand if you skip it.

(I cried, a lot, while writing both the post, and the letters I mentioned in the post-to-come.)

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author C.M. Saunders

Come in and have a cup of “cofftea” with this week’s “Five Things Friday” author, C.M. Saunders!

“What’s ‘cofftea’,” you may be wondering, but you’ll just have to read on to find all about it, and what sort of “dead things” this author loves to eat!

Willow Croft: Since I’ve been mourning the recent demise of my old VHS tape of Sid & Nancy, I gotta open with a question inspired by your RetViews (Retro Review) series ( You’ve reviewed a lot of great films on there, but if you were stuck in a weird horror loop in one of those films, which would it be, and why would you choose that particular fate?

C.M. Saunders: I’m so glad you are enjoying my RetViews! I started the series out of pure indulgence, and also as a kind of experiment. I wanted to re-watch some movies that had a profound affect on me as a kid or a teenager, and see how they stand up years later. Plus, there are so many great movies out there that don’t get the attention they deserve. The series has been picking up more attention month-by-month and now it’s probably one of the most popular things I do. Back to your original question. That’s such a tricky one to answer! I’m tempted to say John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) but the arctic would be so cold, and not fun at all. I know horror movies aren’t really supposed to be fun, but I do love a splash of humour with my horror. An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (2011) are perfect examples of what floats my boat.

At the end of the day, though, I’m going to have to go with Lost Boys (1987). Coolest. Film. Ever. What could be better than hanging out with the Frog brothers in Santa Carla chasing vampires and Jami Gertz? If I’m going to be doing that forever, it would also be a nice little tie-in with Peter Pan who also never grew up, and where the title came from.

Willow Croft: In your Redrum interview (, you mention wanting to start a “massive open-air splatterpunk festival combining music, literature, performance art, and comedy”. While I would love to hear nothing but Cure covers (they’re my favourite band, and were actually really awesome to meet in person), what bands and performers would you add to your lineup?

C.M. Saunders: Previously, I said Alkaline Trio should be headlining. But I’ve since relegated them to ‘special guest’ spot in favour of The Wildhearts. I don’t know how well-known they are outside the UK but they’re well worth checking out. Their new album is amazing, and they have a song called Splattermania which is destined to be the festival’s unofficial theme song. In a recent interview Ginger (the singer) said he didn’t believe in God but knew something must be going on because it’s the only thing that could explain him still being alive. Brilliant. I’d also find slots for Senses Fail and Silverstein, and I’m a big fan of The Dangerous Summer. Not least because they wrote a song about the music industry called Fuck them All and went indie. That takes balls.

I think the comedy slots would be hardest to fill, because everyone is so easily triggered these days. It’s taken millions of years of evolution for us to arrive at the point where our first reaction is to be triggered, usually on behalf of someone else. We’d probably have to settle for a mime artist making balloon animals.

Willow Croft: Time for the food question! I’ve eaten some terrible food concoctions back when I was young and wannabe punk rock/squatter (for example, one staple was a soup made from ketchup and Taco Bell sauce.). So, have you ever created your own mash-up of unlikely foodstuffs that turned out to be just as terrible—or absolutely delicious? Share your concoction here!

C.M. Saunders: I had the innovative idea once of mixing tea and coffee together and calling it ‘cofftea.’ I was convinced my invention was going to take the world by storm. The only problem was that it was absolutely disgusting.

I used to be a very fussy eater, until I went to live in China in 2007. There, I was struck by how many things are not only edible, but delicious. We waste so much food in the west. We don’t even think about it. For example, most people only eat the prime cuts of an animal. Fatty bits, ew! But in China they eat every single part from the ears to the ass. Fat is a delicacy because there’s less of it on an animal. Chicken feet, which are literally just skin and bones, are insanely popular. One day, a friend came over to my apartment to cook a meal, and brought a bloody pig’s nose with her. I’ve learned not to be squeamish, and in my time there I ate tons of things I wouldn’t have got to try otherwise. Boiled brain, fried bamboo worms, chicken hearts. I lived in a place called Changsha in Hunan province, and they have a specialty there called ‘fried live fish,’ where they cook and gut a fish, and then serve it before it actually dies. That was pretty gross. After I saw that I changed my personal rule from, ‘I’ll eat anything,’ to, ‘I’ll eat anything as long as it’s dead.’

Willow Croft: What I miss most about my travels outside the U.S. was/is the absolutely amazing train travel. So, if there were an intergalactic train trip offered, what places, real or fictional, in the universe would you want to visit, and why?

C.M. Saunders: Does it have to be intergalactic? I’m not a big fan of space. It just seems like a whole lot of nothingness to me. There might be aliens, but I think you’d have to work hard to find them and when you do they might look like sticks of celery or something. You might think I’m boring but I’m quite happy with normal trains. I’m from the UK which isn’t very big. You can take a train from one end to the other and it would only take a few hours. On the other hand, when I lived in China some train journeys would take days. Days! You’d buy a ticket, look at the arrival time, and it would just say “Thursday” and you had to pay extra for a seat, otherwise you’d have to stand up the entire way. Ooh, how about a time travel train? Can I go on one of those? Can I? Hmm? Can I? There are so many places I’d like to visit, like late-seventies New York when the Ramones were taking off, the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 with Jimi Hendrix and The Who, Live Aid in ’85, the list is endless. I think I’d give Woodstock a miss, though. It might be iconic, but it looked like a living nightmare to me.

Willow Croft: One of the things that I’m navigating as I get older is making sure I don’t fall into a life that’s too, I don’t know the words, traditional or conformist—to not fall into a certain state of ennui about how things are. I don’t want to get too comfortable—I want to keep fighting against the pricks—literally and figuratively, and one of the ways I try to do it these days is by picking up the pen. What ways, if any, does that sort of “punk rock”, alternative, or “change the world” mindsets find its way into your writing, and/or any other creative areas you explore? Does horror, as you write it, fit into that aesthetic (how and why)?

C.M. Saunders: Right now it’s a very difficult time to be artistic, or put yourself ‘out there’ in any way. Every time you do so, you set yourself up for a world of shit. Just one misinterpreted line in a story, or a comment or social media post taken out of context, could end your career. Everybody is so eager to be offended. In one of my novels, Sker House, a character complains about being friend-zoned by a girl he liked. A reviewer read it, found the whole ‘friend zoning’ concept offensive, and called me a misogynist, completely missing the point that it was fiction. I wasn’t putting across my personal views, I was speaking through a character, who happened to be a frustrated 18-year old college student. Things like that affect your later work, because frankly, I don’t need the drama. The social climate at the moment is so precarious that whatever anybody says or does, someone somewhere will get pissed about it. I find this confusing. People love to be offended, usually on behalf of someone else, under the pretense of being a ‘good’ person. And then they take great delight in stomping people who don’t share the same views as them into the dirt, which isn’t what good people do.

Find out where C.M. Saunders has put themselves “out there”:

Here’s the RetView posts C.M. Saunders mentions in the interviews:

Oh, and just in case you were still hungry (you all know that this longtime vegetarian sure as heck isn’t. Ha!), take a look at “Eating brain”:

Wildhearts – Splattermania:

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author and Historian Elaine L. Orr

So, while all of the authors that I cajole into getting interviewed on this blog are fantastic, this week’s author is even more exciting, because . . . we’re related! Yes, really! According to her, we are “fourth cousins once removed” because my father and she are fourth cousins. It gets better, though, continue to read the excerpt from Elaine L. Orr’s most recent correspondence to me:

“Our common ancestors are Paul Orr and Isabella Boyd who never left Ireland. At least she didn’t. I descend from their son William, you from their son George . . . We’re some kind of double cousins. I also descend from Elliott Hickman and Nancy Isbell, but through their daughter Artemissa. You are [descended] via their son Temple Elliott Hickman, I believe.”

So, without further ado, please welcome my cousin, Elaine L. Orr!

Willow Croft: As you state on your blog, the “Irish Roots” references your family genealogy, of which you’ve extensively researched, and published your findings in a book. ( So, if you could go back in time, what family member would you most like to meet, and why?

Elaine L. Orr: That’s a tough question. It would probably be Sarah Frances Reynolds, daughter of Artemissa Hickman and Jonathan Reynolds. She was a great grandmother on my dad’s side. During the Civil War, Sarah Frances’ father was killed by Confederate Bushwhackers (deserters from the regular Confederate Army). Her mother (someone I’d also like to meet) packed up her kids and drove them in a wagon to Lawrence County, Missouri, where some of her siblings had settled.

Sarah kept a brief diary of the 475-mile trip. They crossed three rivers (the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi), the latter at Cairo, Illinois. As the oldest of nine (four of whom were seven or under when her father died), I figure she had a lot of responsibility for younger kids. I imagine her keeping track of them during river crossings.

Sarah had seven children of her own and helped raise a granddaughter after her own daughter died. Despite her size (perhaps four feet ten), she was said (by one of my aunts) to have been “a ball of fire.” She learned to quilt from her mother and taught all six of her daughters to do the same. I have a tattered quilt that my own grandmother made – a skill she learned from Sarah Frances.

Willow Croft: Which of the fictional/fictionalized locations in your (multiple!) cozy mystery/mystery series would you most want to live in?

Elaine L. Orr: I finally placed a series in my original home state of Maryland. It’s a family history mystery series, set in the Maryland mountains. I might like to live there, but I’m not big on driving on curvy roads in snow – and it snows a lot at those altitudes..

So, I’d probably pick the Jersey shore, where the Jolie Gentil books are set. However, I would want it to be a town similar to my fictional Ocean Alley, perhaps the real-life Ocean Grove. I love the ocean, especially when it’s stormy – though not during hurricane season.

Willow Croft: Keepers of historical archives can be a unique class unto themselves. What’s the oddest situation you found yourself in while conducting research into your family history (either in person, or online)? Alternatively, what’s the most unusual story you’ve come across in your research?

Elaine L. Orr: In addition to my immediate family’s history, I’m also the historian for the Orr Reunion Association of Mount Vernon, Missouri. Six families from Ireland stayed in touch after coming to America. Thanks to the Internet, I’ve learned about a lot of relatives who went to Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. It’s given me a real appreciation for how thousands of people can grow from a few. We’ve also married into other race and ethnic groups, including Native Americans. It’s been neat to learn all that.

The oddest situation…Because I post family trees on ancestry, a lot of people contact me with questions. Two have been looking for parents! One had been adopted. The person she thought was her father had passed, so I couldn’t make the connection for her beyond what she had seen in my tree. I was kind of glad, because I had no idea if he ever knew he had a daughter.

The other wanted contact info for a first cousin. I said I would pass on the information (and did), but would not give her a living person’s email or phone. She did track the cousin down on her own. He let me know that, but I didn’t ask about their conclusion. I didn’t like being in the middle.

By far the ‘best’ story happened to a third-great aunt and her family. They just missed a steamer that was to take them from Ireland to the USA because they had not received a communication about a departure time change. They ended up on a sailing ship, which took much longer, and one family member died. However, the steamer was never heard from again. If they had made the first ship, they would have all died.

Willow Croft: If you have family artifacts in your possession, have you ever felt any of them to be haunted?

Elaine L. Orr: I had a teapot that belonged to my great grandmother (mom’s side). While I never thought of it as haunted, it was later stolen. I hope to heck it haunts whoever took it.

Willow Croft: If you had to pick one recipe or dish from any of your mystery series to eat for the rest of your life, which would you pick? Or, what’s the strangest recipe/foodstuffs you’ve come across in your family research?

Elaine L. Orr: Oh, heavens. It would probably be the boardwalk fries that Jolie and Scoobie eat – she with ketchup, he with vinegar. Obviously, I don’t have the recipe! In Final Cycle (a Logland series book), I include a chile recipe that is attributed to Nick, co-owner of a diner. However, I like the chile of a friend (Jodi Perko) so much, that I asked for her recipe. I made it at home; it’s great.

Recipes say a lot about the original cook. My Great Aunt Stell’s (Estella Cochran’s) fruitcake recipe has more ingredients than I would have thought possible, listed in precise amounts. My cousin Doug’s handwritten barbeque beans recipe has ingredients such as:

Various kinds of beans: pinto, lima, butter…whatever
Mustard (not much, just a dash)
Brown sugar
The above two are linked with a note that says, “Balance these two.”

Bottom line, a recipe is yours once you make it, so you can improvise!


I don’t know about you, but I sure hope that purloined teapot is haunting whoever stole it, too. Check out Elaine L. Orr’s included bio (below) for more information about her mystery series and her other literary works, as well links to her websites! Hope you enjoyed the visit from my cousin . . . I sure did!

Elaine L. Orr writes family and local histories as well as four mystery series: the Jolie Gentil series at the Jersey shore, the River’s Edge series along Iowa’s Des Moines River, the Logland series in small-town Illinois, and the Family History mystery series in the Western Maryland Mountains. She also writes plays and novellas, including her favorite, Falling Into Place. Two of her books have been shortlisted for the Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Awards, and The Unscheduled Murder Trip received an Indie B.R.A.G Medallion in 2021. Elaine is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Indiana Writer’s Center.

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Katherine Pritchett

This week’s interview is a writer from Kansas (the state where I now reside). I miss some things about New Mexico–the local cuisine, the great social support programs, and more! But Kansas has the internet access I need for work, so…here I am! But I chose to revisit New Mexico via this interview…at least by way of the first question.

Willow Croft: We’ve both been to a few of the same historical sites in New Mexico (according to one of your blog entries). Which historical site, in general, made you feel like you’ve been there before (or which most resonated with you)?

Katherine Pritchett: I felt the stories at Fort Union the most. It was probably occupied the shortest amount of time, but I felt a presence there the most, like their stories were untold or the mission unfinished. At Frijoles Canyon, I felt peace around the cliff dwellings long abandoned as though, and at Los Alamos Laboratory, I felt the weight of the history and of the future, while just a few miles away lived the old ones.

Willow Croft: I see from your blog, that you spend time watching our bird friends. If you could be any bird for a day, which would you pick?

Katherine Pritchett: I think I’d pick a cardinal. They seem to stay with me wherever I go. My sister-in-law believed they were visitors from heaven. If so, my whole family–mom, dad, Aunt Betty, my brother and sister-in-law–may be watching over me. Lord knows, I need it! But it may also be my fiance Charles Durham, my kindred soul who passed after we had only been seeing each other five months. But we lived a lifetime together in those five months, because once he was diagnosed with leukemia, we only dealt with the important things.

Willow Croft: I’m fairly new to Kansas, so I’m curious, what’s your favourite “local cuisine” dish you like to, eat, make, or have made for you? Alternatively, what local vegetables or fruits find your way onto your plate?

Katherine Pritchett: Well, I love to eat more than cook, so there are lots. My daughter and one daughter-in-law always frequent Taco Delite when they visit. It’s been a staple of Pratt for years and is consistently good and filling. I’m not that much of a cook, so I like to eat what others prepare. My youngest son is a firefighter, so he has learned to cook dishes that feed a family. My daughter in Tennessee married a great guy who cooks rich southern dishes like dump cake, and we are regulars at a Thai restaurant there. My oldest son served in the Army and married a Canadian woman he met in Vietnam. They cook a lot of fusion cuisine. Now the whole family cooks and shares recipes and cooking tips. When we are all together, which is at least once a year, more if we can swing it, each family cooks a meal. Curiously, all my best friends are also good cooks…

Willow Croft: What’s the oddest thing your pet (or pets) have done?

Katherine Pritchett: What haven’t they done? The horse I had from the time she was about 10 minutes old took up jumping fences when she was 28 years old, starting with her first encounter with an electric fence. She decided that little wire couldn’t hold her, but a few seconds after walking into it, she felt a zap. She spun around and stared at it a couple of minutes, then took two more strides back and cleared it. She later jumped a woven wire fence the same height. But when she cleared the fences, she put herself in her stall. Her mother just looked at her as if to say, “Fool!” and resumed eating grass.

A cat I had set the couch on fire trying to catch a moth. The moth was fluttering around a lamp, she attacked it and knocked the lamp over. The lampshade fell off and the bulb sat against the foam cushion until it began to smolder. Another cat follows us on our walks. I believe she thinks she is security, our own secret service detail. Sometimes I think I see her putting a paw to her ear to hear the ear bud.

They all have unique personalities. I guess I communicate with animals well because they were pretty much my only playmates when I was little. I remember sitting under the honeysuckle vines with the mama barn cats. They would nap while I cuddled their kittens. When I walked home from school, all the loose dogs in town would follow me. Now I know all the neighborhood cats and dogs by name and history. Don’t always remember the names of their humans.

Willow Croft: Your books on Amazon are crime/mystery/suspense in genre(s). Have you ever encountered a real-life mystery or true crime that fascinated you and which you wish you could solve? (Well, aside from the “missing” sandwich case you mentioned on your blog that involved a dastardly canine culprit!)

Katherine Pritchett: What the River Knows was inspired by a murder that occurred in Hutchinson, Kansas, over 40 years ago. A suspect has never been arrested. Dennis Rader, Ted Bundy and other serial killers deny killing her. Yet every time I cross the Arkansas River bridge south of Hutchinson, I remember her. I couldn’t bring her justice in real life, but tried to do so in the book. The detective in that book is in the process of getting involved in another mystery now, one that may land him in hot water. Or worse.

And there is the constant mystery of where I left my glasses. Or phone. Or coffee cup.


Maybe you can help Katherine Pritchett find her missing items at one of her social media sites! Here’s the links–pay her a visit if you’d like! She’s also on Amazon, but this weird inset window pops up when I try to put in the link, so you’ll just have to do a search over there for her.

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author S. Alessandro Martinez

Flying in on bat wings is this week’s Five Things Friday interviewee, horror and fantasy author S. Alessandro Martinez.

Willow Croft: If you could be any species of bat, which one would you choose, and why?

S. Alessandro Martinez: I love bats! My favorite animal. If I were going to be a bat, I’d either choose a vampire bat, for obvious reasons. Or a Livingstone’s fruit bat, which are adorable, fluffy, and have awesome-looking eyes.

Willow Croft: What with the pandemic, I definitely missed playing board games at the local comic book shop. (I’m still irked with myself for not being able to make it to your Helminth escape room challenge event!) So, what’s your favourite board game, and do board games and/or video games ever inspire your writing?

S. Alessandro Martinez: Our Helminth live online escape room was a ton of fun to put on, but also a ton of work. I’m still glad we did it, though. My favorite board game of all time would be Arkham Horror (2nd Edition). Most people who know me know I’m a huge Lovecraft fan. I have many Lovecraftian board games, but Arkham Horror will always be number one. As for whether they inspire my writing? Definitely. A novel I’m working on at the moment was inspired by a tabletop role-playing game campaign I wrote a few years ago. I enjoyed the story I came up with, and decided to turn it into a novel.

Willow Croft: Helminth got pretty gruesome at times (not that I minded, of course!), so, in real life, what’s the most gruesome thing you’ve ever eaten (or strangest recipe you prepared)?

S. Alessandro Martinez: I don’t know about “gruesome”, but I’ve eaten plenty of things that would be considered weird to Americans like me. For example, I’ve had blood pudding and blood sausage, both good. Sea urchin, which I would not recommend ever. Whale, it was okay. Horse is one of the most delicious meats I’ve ever had. In Iceland I had hákarl, which is Greenland shark that has been fermented and hung to dry for about five months. I probably wouldn’t eat that again, but I would recommend experiencing it.

Willow Croft: As a horror and fantasy writer, your imagination must take you to some spooky, and wonderful, fictional places. In real life, though, what’s the most fantastical/frightening thing that’s happened to you?

S. Alessandro Martinez: When my wife and I visited Canada, we decided to go on a caving tour. During the tour, I somehow ended up in front of everyone as we were crawling through these narrow passageways. From the rear of the group, the guide sent up instructions to go down a certain passage. So I attached myself onto the safety line and went down that way. Well, what we found out later was that the guide had said “DON’T go down that way.” But the message had altered on its way down to me. Turns out the safety line I had attached to wasn’t connected to anything on the other end and there was a pretty significant drop right below where I had gotten to. Thankfully, only my wife and I had gone down before the guide realized what happened. We had to wait for the guide to come and lead us out a safer way.

As for fantastical, when the wife and I were in New Zealand, we got to see many Lord of the Rings filming locations, climb to the top of Edoras, and have a hobbit feast at the Green Dragon. We also went caving (again) to see the glowworms. That was amazing sight! And when we were in Iceland, my wife and I got to swim in a stream that had been recently created through volcanic activity and was being naturally heated. This was a practically a private spot in the middle of nowhere that a guide had taken us to. A truly amazing experience.

Willow Croft: And, lastly, if you could travel to any (presumably) cursed or haunted location in the world for an overnight stay, where would you choose?

S. Alessandro Martinez: It’s a dream of mine to visit Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) one day. Who wouldn’t, right? I’ve also been wanting to visit the Waverley Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky. That seems like a super creepy place I’d love to explore. I would happily spend a night at either of these locations. Or maybe several nights when it comes to Bran Castle.

Take a dark draught with S. Alessandro Martinez over at his blog: