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

 

I have a confession, fellow bloggers and blog readers.

I have committed a dreadful cardinal sin.

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

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

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

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

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

51DsqTbwhaL

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

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

Too funny!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think this book was part of the book selection I acquired with my Amazon gift card windfall (Are you tired of hearing about that yet? *laugh*) but aside from being published by Grinning Skull Press (of the Deathlehem submission calls fame), I could not find any information on the author S. Gepp aside from what was listed at the back of the book.

No mention of the author anywhere on social media, and now I want to know the author’s magic secret on that accomplishment as well!

So, no author links here, but if you’d like to check out this book and the other literary offerings (pun intended!) Grinning Skull Press has to offer, visit their website: https://grinningskullpress.wordpress.com/.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

So, off into the darkness we descend!

The First S: Supernatural!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Second S: Sisters!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…) 

 

Monday Mayhem and Magic

So, the universe’s longest move is down to the final days. I’ve mixed feelings about leaving New Mexico…mainly revolving around health care coverage, which I have in New Mexico, but may not have in Kansas. But I’ll have internet, and things look promising on the “day job” employment front.

In all the mayhem, I’m trying to keep up with the business and social media side of my writing career…and the exciting news is that I’m still getting stories published! And I have a story published in Excalibur Books’ awesome anthology–The Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown 2020.

The story that appears in this anthology was inspired by a notable event in my grandmother’s boyfriend’s, Ernie Scribner, life.

This anthology was meant to be released with the Tokyo Olympics, which had to be rescheduled for next year (the Olympics, not the anthology). Check out the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Games-Dimensions-2020/dp/B08KQP53X2

As Ernie’s  story goes, as I was told/remember the tale. He worked at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, where he laid the flag under the ice in the skating arena. Being an excellent ice skater, he also had the opportunity to escort Sonja Henie onto the ice.

To commemorate his contribution to the Winter Olympics, he was given this ornament.

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Hope your Halloween had lots of magical mayhem and wonder!

Signing off for now…

Aether and its Feline Minions…

A quick-as-air post this week! 

I don’t know how I did this before the shutdown: juggle writing and the day job and all the other life stuff. Right now, even without the day job, it feels like I have too many balls up in the air. But I’m submitting to lots of great writing opportunities, like this call for “Whodunit” mystery stories, hosted by Jersey Pines Ink: https://www.jerseypinesink.com. (Click the Submissions tab or just scroll down.)

Annnd, it looks like I might have my manuscript polished and ready for #PitMad. I don’t want to rush it, though, because I’d rather have a finished manuscript over submitting something that’s not as best as I can (re)write it.

In the meantime, I’ve been writing about the air element and kitty cats! Check out the elemental-themed post on Mookychick (https://www.mookychick.co.uk/health/witchcraft-spirituality/exploring-the-aether-realm-when-all-is-shut-down.php), and the story I wrote for Katzenworld (https://katzenworld.co.uk/2020/05/21/the-cat-that-watches-through-time/)!

Have a fantastic rest of the week, and hope it’s filled with lots of flights-of-fancy!

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

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

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

(Spoilers ahead—Willow Croft)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Bloody Red Nose: 15 Fears of a Clown

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Edited by David Higgins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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