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.

TheShadeofSantaFeBlitzBanner

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. https://willowcroft.blog/2021/06/18/five-things-friday-mini-interview-with-author-eva-pohler/

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:

Synopsis:

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?

AUTHOR BIO:

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?)

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! https://dragonsoulpress.com/2021/10/24/preptober-as-a-pantser/)

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!)

https://worddreams.wordpress.com/2021/10/18/nanowrimo-this-year/

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. https://horrortree.com/?s=tarot+cards 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 (https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/coming-soon-retviews/). 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 (https://www.redrumreviews.com/post/interview-with-c-m-saunders), 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”:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/CMSaunders01

https://www.facebook.com/CMSaunders01

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

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/retview-37-the-thing-1982/

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/retview-3-an-american-werewolf-in-london/

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/retview-17-tucker-dale-vs-evil-2010/

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2017/08/13/the-lost-boys-at-30/

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”: https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/i-want-to-eat-your-brains/

Wildhearts – Splattermania: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu6_0n4rXbY

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. (https://elaineorr.com/orr-family-history/). 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
Molasses/sorghum
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.

www.elaineorr.com
http://elaineorr.blogspot.com

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.

http://katherinepritchett.com/

https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/Writer/Katherine-Pritchett-Author-108014189234379/

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: https://salessandromartinez.com/.

Thursday Thoughts…

…anybody heard anything from “Book ‘Em Jan O” lately? I’ve noticed that Jan O’s blog has gone quiet. https://bookemjanoblog.wordpress.com/

…did I mention that I have an eye phobia? Apparently, so does this author. https://horrortree.com/jennifer-anne-gordon-on-her-biggest-fears/ I haven’t met anybody else who has similar fears about eyeballs as I do, and for once, I’m not ashamed of it. I’m terrified of anything getting anywhere near my eye. And, ironically, I had a very similar experience as a kid when I got my eye scratched. I had to wear a patch and everything. And, in 2015, I lost part of my field of vision (more than I probably would have if the doctor hadn’t initially dismissed it as a “floater”) due to optic nerve swelling. As if I wasn’t anxious enough about going to the eye doctor before, you bet your routine eye exam that I am now! I even wear safety glasses when I’m doing anything where harmful substances can get in my eyes: changing lightbulbs, dusting, cleaning! (Okay, I’m exaggerating on that last bit. But only slightly. *laugh*)

…I wish the 21st Century lived up to the promise many authors, artists, inventors, and designers saw for it way back when. Improvements to health care, society, conflict resolution, and so many more issues that are still going on today, and which make daily life feel like the same old, same old.

…I’m hoping autumn comes soon. And I’m still not very familiar with the flavour of a Kansas autumn, so it will be nice to see it in a smaller town. It still feels like summer here…just look at all that green in this post from a cool blog about prairies: https://prairieecologist.com/2021/09/27/a-leisurely-trip-to-kansas/

…I love libraries so much. My library offers this recommendation service that I took advantage of, and my first set of recommendations were great! https://www.wichitalibrary.org/recommendations

Speaking of reading, it’s still hot here, but all I want to do is curl up under my new pumpkin-orange sheets (orange is my favourite colour!) and read books. It’s like autumn is my summer vacation.

Especially cozy mysteries: https://theglorioustrainwreckmom.com/2021/09/30/witchy-cozy-mysteries-for-spoopy-season/

But I was intrigued by the premise of this post on Tor that states that “fall…is for pensive books full of powerful change”. https://www.tor.com/2021/09/23/mark-as-read-fall-books/

I’ve been pensive about all the usual things–the environment, animals, COVID–but also about the owl I tried to save. Eventually, I’ll blog about it, but it’s too soon for me, emotionally. And also because I’m still in the process of “going to the mattresses” by way of a letter-writing campaign and such, so I hope that makes a difference in how such things are handled, in the future, here.

So, that’s it for me.

How are you celebrating autumn? Any fall-themed books on your reading list?

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Suzanne Craig-Whytock

This week’s interview is with spooky-tale-teller (and pretty “dang” funny!) author Suzanne Craig-Whytock!

Willow Croft: Writers tend to have pretty active and wild imaginations, and I think your blog captures how free ranging our minds are. So, I was curious, what kinds of inventions have you filed imaginary patents for in your head? (Inspired by your post about the underground network of nefarious kayak thieves: https://educationalmentorship.com/2021/09/12/rendezvous-with-destiny/.)

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: I don’t think I’ve ever really imagined an actual invention—I’m more of a “MacGyver”, which is to say that I use other people’s inventions to solve problems of my own. I get that from my dad, who was a trained toolmaker, and he could make any tool you could think of with an Allen key and some contact cement. Me, I’m good with SOS pads, pushpins, and paperclips, which you can do just about anything with. Zipper pull on your boot broken? Paper clip. Screen on your hair dryer clogged? Paper clip. Feel like poking a hole in something? Paper clip. Bored at work? Paper clip. I could fashion a chain to keep my kayaks safe from those nefarious kayak thieves with paperclips twisted together, and it would make them crazy trying to undo it. Enough said.

Willow Croft: At risk of upstaging your “theatrical metal chair” *drops voice to a stage whisper*, who would you want to portray you in a stage play of your life?

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Yes, I have to keep this on the downlow because I have several melodramatic or obnoxious pieces of furniture in close proximity to my computer. But to be honest, if someone was going to make a stage play about my life, it would be an absurdist play along the lines of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, and I would want Tina Fey to portray me. I think she understands how to take weird and sometimes awful things and find the humour in them. Also, in any play about my life, I have forklift arms and everyone calls me by my superhero name, Heavy Metal.

Willow Croft: As a teacher/substitute teacher, I know that the classroom environment can be pretty surreal at times. So, what’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened while you were teaching (that you can share)?

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: I taught for almost twenty-five years and loved every minute but yes, there were certainly some strange things that happened during that time. Two things come immediately to mind:

I had been studying the Greek play Lysistrata with my senior IB students. I always had my kids perform whatever they were studying, and this group insisted that they stay true to the original when it came to costumes, which of course meant togas and masks, as well as large fake breasts for the female characters (played by the boys) and exaggerated ‘manparts’ for the male characters (played by the girls). I had no problem with this and gleefully helped them use balloons, soccer balls and whatnot to get that ‘authentic’ feel. We were right in the middle of a particular scene where one of the boys was jumping up and down, accompanied by the bouncing of his chest balloons, and the girls were swinging their own balloons around quite proudly, when suddenly my principal came to the door. We looked at each other, me slightly aghast, but she didn’t bat an eye. “I’ll come back later,” she said, and we carried on.

I was also the supervisor of a summer school site for several years, and I’ve had numerous encounters with students under the influence of a variety of things, which I’ve written about on my blog (Weeks 89 and 90, when I was still calling things ‘Weeks’). Some of those encounters are incredibly humorous.

Willow Croft: In all your antiquing/Big Junk Day adventures, have you ever acquired an item that was haunted?

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Ooh, what I wouldn’t give to have found something haunted at the side of the road! I did have an issue with a baby monitor once when my daughter was little—I actually used that situation as inspiration for a chapter in my latest novel The Seventh Devil. And I had a Wizard of Oz music box that would randomly start playing, to the point where I buried it in the garden. There was definitely a ghost in my last house, although the current one, despite it having a doctor’s office in it at one time, is remarkably ghost-free, more’s the pity. I guess no one ever died from malpractice here. We did have a few days after my husband and daughter demo’d the front porch of our 1906 house where there were some shenanigans in a back room (doors randomly opening, chandelier flickering), but I told whatever it was to cut it out, very sternly, and we’ve had no problems since. The noises in our attic are all caused by critters. Obviously.

Willow Croft: And, last, but definitely not least, if you were magically transported into one of your Paris paintings, what would you order at your favourite Parisian café? Alternatively, or in addition, what would you be reading?

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Ah, Paris! I’ve never been there, but I dream of the day, and I live vicariously through my gorgeous, drippy, impressionistic paintings. I imagine myself sitting there along one of those streets—it’s raining lightly but I’m under an awning, sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I don’t know if I’d be reading anything–most likely I’ll be writing–but if I was reading, it would be my favourite poet, T.S. Eliot. And my husband Ken is there too, enjoying a glass of Merlot and taking photographs of the scenery. Maybe one day…

~~~

Haunted by this interview and want to investigate Suzanne Craig-Whytock’s spooky books? Check out this link, here, if you dare! https://canadianauthors.org/national/mbm-book-author/suzanne-craig-whytock/.

Also, explore another dimension of Suzanne Craig-Whytock’s “weirdly wonderful aspects” (her words) at her funny-as-all-get-out blog, “My Dang Blog”: https://educationalmentorship.com/.

Now, go find some haunted antiques. Or just drink wine and pretend you’re in Paris. (I know that’s what I’ll be doing!)

Fight Climate Change with Your Fork: Meatless Monday

Speaking of diet changes to “Fight Climate Change”–sharing this blog to follow up on my earlier post…

Platform Number 4

Source: Pixabay

Extreme weather, rising sea levels, and species extinctions are all signs of climate change. Many scientists agree that greenhouse gases are a major threat. What can we each do to make a difference? Fight climate change with your fork! The livestock industry contributes about 14.5% of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, which is even more than those brought about by transportation. Tweaking our diets away from animal products and towards plant-based eating is one way we can each help!

Source: Pixabay

Check out Meatless Monday for more details about the following:

*Adopting Meatless Monday

*Eating more plant-based meals

*Reducing food waste

*Composting

*Eating sustainable foods

And make sure to use the links for great recipe ideas!

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Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Bibiana Krall

For this week’s interview, we’re journeying through the evocative flavours of Bibiana Krall’s “mysterious world”. Enjoy the voyage!

Willow Croft: I read on your website that Tangled Webs (Book Two of your Haunted Series), has autumn-themed recipes and cocktails at the back of the book. So, without giving away any spoilers, what’s your favorite autumn flavor/foodstuffs to include in recipes?

Bibiana Krall: I grew up on a farm in Michigan and the flavor that most represents harvest for me will always be the apple. We had our own fruit trees and pressed apples into cider at the local mill to drink with breakfast and sip on chilly evenings with mulling spices. There is nothing more comforting than a warm slice of homemade, apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In the bonus pages of Tangled Webs, I included a recipe with a savory twist on a classic. Enjoy!

Willow Croft: I see that you’re a collector of objects. For a twist on the topic, what’s your favorite memory, or story of place, or even a memory of a particular scent, that you’ve collected?

Bibiana Krall: It’s true. I have an oddball collection of art, coins and even a few first-editions. Scent carries my strongest memories. The green-resin of a pine forest snoozing under the snow, the mellow earth after a gentle rain (petrichor) and oh… how I love gardenias. I planted some bushes in my yard, as they remind me of my grandmother. Creamy-white petals with notes of vanilla and exotic spice, what’s not to like?

Willow Croft: How does your writing transform not only your world, and the world of the reader, but the world at large, perhaps in terms of cultural, social, environmental change, and the like?

Bibiana Krall: I’ve been a storyteller ever since I can remember. The world is a mysterious and mystical place that holds a tradition of verbal and written stories that helps humans understand our past, present and future.

My hope is to change the reader’s perception that someone in another culture or a person who looks or lives differently than we do, may understand us more than we’d previously imagined. Heroines are an important part of what I do, as without strong and resilient women in our lives where would any of us be?

I gravitate towards themes of: ‘good versus evil’ ‘haunted houses’ and ‘a stranger comes to town’ to talk about fear of the unknown, overcoming and also to show that often there’s more to something than what you initially notice or believe. The greatest gift in fiction and hopefully in my work as well, is to discover that you aren’t alone in your struggle.

Willow Croft: If you could travel anywhere in the Cosmos you sky-watched as a child (as quoted from your blog), where would travel, and why?

Bibiana Krall: When I was a child, I yearned for a quick trip to Venus or to skateboard across the rings of Saturn. Now my wish is to travel to the Pillars of Creation and watch the EGGs zing across the darkness as they are born. The Eagle Nebula in the Serpens constellation is seven thousand light years away from us. To witness stars being created in real-time would blow the mind, so I included my wonder for the ‘Pillars’ in the mysticism of the Irish Phantom Series.

Willow Croft: If you were reincarnated as one of your literary heroines (or from another author’s works), who would you decide to be?

Bibiana Krall: That’s a tough one! What woman wouldn’t want to be Rebecca before she clashes with the horrible Mrs. Danvers or Jane Eyre living life on her own terms? In my own stories, I admire Ayanna in Prospect Hill for her intelligence, magic and herbal skills and Mary in the Irish Phantom Series for her courage to face terrifying situations and her ability to find happiness, friendship and true love after a breakdown.

Thank you for making space for my creative world. Your insightful questions made me think, smile and dream. Hopefully y’all know me a little bit better now. This was an honor and great fun! – Bibiana

Website: www.bibianakrall.com

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/bibianak