Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author C.I. Kemp

This week I’ll be howling at the moon with author C.I. Kemp as we explore the secret lives of wolves!

Willow Croft: I recently lived in New Mexico, where I learned about George R.R. Martin’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary for (as quoted from their website) “displaced, unwanted, and non-releasable captive-bred wolves, wolfdogs, and other wild canid species”. (Link: https://wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org/) In your guest blog post on Antimony and Elder Lace’s (AEL) website, you mention learning about the “biologically correct” nature of wolves and how this inspired your werewolf-themed book Autumn Moon. Do you have any similar sanctuaries in New Jersey, and are you a volunteer/supporter of those sanctuary(ies)?

C.I. Kemp: I’m an avid supporter of the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, New Jersey, so much so, that (shameless plug alert) a portion of all sales from Autumn Moon are channeled to that organization. If you’re in the area, or plan to visit pay them a visit. You’ll get a tour of the facility and see wolves close-up.  Right now, you’d have to book online and there may be a wait, but the visit will definitely be worth it. If you can’t get there, consider donating or sponsoring a wolf.

Another site you might want to check out is the Wolf Sanctuary in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  As with Lakota, you’d have to book online.

If you’re not close to either of the areas I mentioned, and you want to learn more about / helping wolves, check out Inhabit to find a wolf preserve near you.

Willow Croft: I see that you do a lot of hiking and other outdoor activities. Have you had any close encounters with wildlifeof either the natural, or supernatural, variety while on a hike?

C.I. Kemp: Not with wildlife, but I did have a paranormal experience while camping with a buddy of mine in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Something you need to know about the Berkshires: it’s an area replete with ghostly legends and supernatural sightings.

Well, we were sitting around a campfire chugging beers. I reckon it was about midnight when I looked up and for a split-second, I thought I saw an old man in American Revolution clothing holding an old-fashioned gun with a short barrel and flared muzzle, a blunderbuss I think it’s called. It faded as quickly as it appeared and I was about to write it off as a trick of the light, when I saw the wide-eyed look on my buddy’s face.

I don’t recall which of us spoke first, but the first thing either of us said was, “Did you see it?” followed by “What did it look like?” “What was it wearing?” “What was it carrying?”

As if by unspoken agreement we only asked open-ended questions of each other; nothing that could be answered with a simple yes or no. After a few more give-and-take questions and answers, the conclusion was clear – we’d each seen the same thing.

To this day, I have no explanation for what we saw – and no, you can’t attribute it to the beers. Beer isn’t a hallucinogen and even if it were, it wouldn’t account for us having the same hallucination. In any case, I used the experience for an event in my first novel, (shameless plug alert number 2) Demon Ridge, available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and AB Film Publishing.

Willow Croft: The food question! What’s your favourite meal to rip into** to devour under the full moon (or at any other time)?

C.I. Kemp: If you asked me this question a year ago, I would have said it would be a tie between spare ribs, chili, pizza, and salad (hey, you gotta throw something healthy into the mix). Also beer, particularly under a full moon (see my response to the last question).

Today, however, I’d say black beans have become my new go-to food. Black bean burgers, black bean soup, black bean chili, black bean tacos – the list goes on.

Don’t be fooled, though, I’m still a devout carnivore, only no longer exclusively so.

Willow Croft: If you had a time travel machine, what era of history would you visit, and why?

C.I. Kemp: There’s no one era I would wish to visit, but there’s a looonnngg list of unsolved mysteries I’d like to resolve.  Below are just a few.

Of course, it is presupposed that my hypothetical time machine will allow me to return to the present time before any harm befalls me.

1587; Roanoke Island, NC:  In 1587, the colony of settlers led by John White made their home on Roanoke Island. Three years later, the colony was deserted. What happened? Your guess is as good as mine and will remain so at least until I get access to my time travel machine.

December 26, 1871; the Gaiety Theatre in London: The premiere of Gilbert and Sullivan’s little-known operetta, Thespis. The reason it’s little-known is because Arthur Sullivan’s libretto has mysteriously disappeared. As a music buff (and a Gilbert and Sullivan buff), I’d love to see the piece in its entirely before the music gets lost to posterity forever.

November 3, 1872; Staten Island, NY: It was on this date that the Mary Celeste departed on its ill-fated voyage to [Genoa]. It was discovered off the Azores completely deserted. I would book passage on the ship to learn just what happened at [on her last voyage].

August 4, 1892; 230 2nd Street, Fall River, MA: The murder of the parents of Lizzie Borden has intrigued morbid minds (including my own) for over a century. I’d love to see who truly was responsible for those forty-plus whacks.

August 6, 1930; Billy Haas’s Chophouse at 332 West 45th Street, NY: Judge Crater was last seen getting into a cab at this date and place and never seen again. I’d want to share that cab and find out just where he disappeared to.

Willow Croft: Since it’s Women in Horror Month (WIHM), what are your favourite spec fic tales by women/women identified authors?

C.I. Kemp: First and foremost is Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, not only because it’s a great read, but because it set the ground rules for the man-made monster sub-genre. Other favorites with which most readers of the genre are familiar are “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, although I would characterize these as Conte Cruel rather than spec fic.

Other favorite novels which may not be so universally known are…

  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The title character is a ghostly specter who haunts a small English town and whose sighting foretells disaster. Her existence is the result of a life of cruelty and tragedy, with which she visits the narrator with jarring force.
  • The Good House by Tananarive Due. A young lawyer inhabits the ironically named house to discover that it exerts an influence over the town which is anything but.
  • The House Next Door by Anne River Siddons. Another untraditional haunted house story. A new house is built on a vacant lot next door to a young couple. They befriend each new family who occupies the house, only to watch them deteriorate in horrendous ways.
  • Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten. Much as I’d like to say that Autumn Moon is the groundbreaker when it comes to treating wolves (and werewolves) sympathetically, Kelley Armstrong beat me to it. She does it with such reverence that I can’t resent her for it.

…along with the following short stories:

  • “The Curse of Yig” by Zealia Bishop. A collaboration with H.P, Lovecraft. A young wife incurs the wrath of the snake god, Yig. Or does she? Either way, she pays a terrible price.
  • “Ev’ry Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep” by L.A. Banks. A man is haunted by violent visions must undergo rigorous psychic training (a la Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid movies crossed with Dumbledore) before he can bring justice to a beautiful woman.
  • “Ghost Summer” by Tananarive Due. The story starts leisurely, then takes a nasty turn as three children become endangered when a grisly discovery comes to light.

Visit C.I. Kemp at their blog: http://www.ci-kemp.com/index.html

Autumn Moon can be found at the Antimony and Elder Lace Press website: https://aelpress.com/index.php/ebook/autumn-moon/ or visit C.I. Kemp’s Amazon page here: https://www.amazon.com/C.I.-Kemp/e/B00HQ5HCGW.

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Priscilla Bettis

The “Five Things Friday” interviews have resumed!

We’re getting things “rolling” (do hay bales even roll?) with horror author Priscilla Bettis, whose spooky novelette The Hay Bale was recently released on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hay-Bale-Priscilla-Bettis-ebook/dp/B09P4PJQLT.

Willow Croft: I read on your Amazon author page that you now live on the northern plains of Texas. I think that every geographical locale has its own inherent spookiness to it; so what defines the Plains area of the country in terms of creepiness?

Priscilla Bettis: The wind is constant, first one direction then the other, like a Lovecraftian entity breathing in and out. Sometimes the breath hisses through the trees. Sometimes it just howls.

Willow Croft: I’m always very curious when it comes to science and other fields; could you tell me what sort of projects you engineered as part of your work as an engineering physicist?

Priscilla Bettis: We live in a world where nuclear war is a horrible possibility. My job was to ensure nuclear survivability of military airplanes. It means I had to be well versed in electromagnetic fields and radiation and all sorts of dire subjects. On the positive side, I met a kind, brilliant, sexy man who was a reliability engineer for the same airplanes. We’re now married. 🙂

Willow Croft: I see in one of your interviews (https://marciamearawrites.com/2022/01/19/tenthingsyoumaynotknow-about-priscilla-bettis/) that you like dark chocolate and dark coffee, but I’d love to know what local Alaskan dish, since you grew up there, is your favourite?

Priscilla Bettis: Do drinks count? Because I’d pick hot Christmas eggnog. When I moved to the lower 48, I was astounded to learn everybody drank it COLD! There’s nothing like wrapping your hands around a warm mug of sweet, fattening eggnog at Christmastime.

 Willow Croft: I love taking walks in cemeteries, especially when they are historic cemeteries! What’s the most interesting historic cemetery that you’ve visited?

Priscilla Bettis: In Lynchburg, Virginia, there is an old city cemetery with Civil War graves. Antique roses planted in 1860 line the wall of the cemetery. A cottage sits among the graves. It was a pest house in the 1800s, and the floor is deep with sand. It’s not like they had Depends and Maytag washers back then, so patients close to death lay on the floor, and the sand absorbed the, um, effects of dysentery and was easily shoveled away. It’s a beautiful cemetery with all the roses, and it’s a sobering cemetery with the War graves and the conveniently located pest house.

Willow Croft: Let’s talk about your interest in angels and miracles: have you ever received a visit from an angel-type being, or witnessed any miracles yourself, personally?

Priscilla Bettis: Once, on a sweltering summer day, my full-sized sedan broke down in bumper-to-bumper traffic. A handsome fellow with long, wavy hair pushed my car into the next driveway which was a church entrance that slanted UPHILL. I don’t know how he did it! Then he disappeared. I wonder to this day if he was an angel. Also, a kind lady stopped and gave me a bottle of cool water while I waited for the tow truck, so THANK YOU, kind lady, whoever you are!

Discover more about how Priscilla Bettis “rolls”–her literary adventures, book reviews, and more cemetery strolls here:  priscillabettisauthor.com.

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 Dragon!) Nenekiri Bookwyrm

This week’s “Five Things Friday” interviewee/dragon is Nenekiri Bookwyrm!

Willow Croft: What’s the best convention you’ve attended? And what’s the oddest, fantastical, and/or wonderful thing that’s happened to you at a convention?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: One of the best was Anthrocon 2018 for sure. I was only able to go for Saturday the previous year and in 2018 I was able to go for the full convention. It was also the first time I had been published and the feeling of getting to see my name in the contributors to the con book was something magical. It made my entire weekend and the con had just started.

I’ve had a lot of adventures in my many con trips, but this story from my first ever convention is still one of my favorites to tell. I had never been to a convention before but went with my group of friends to Magfest 2016. We had just gotten to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center after checking into our hotel rooms and thought it would be a good idea to get something to eat. The problem was that we didn’t know the area very well. So after wandering around the streets just outside of the convention center, and nearly getting lost looking for a restaurant, we settled for Subway. We grabbed our sandwiches and headed back to find a place to eat them. We decided on sitting around the fountain that was set up next to the entrance on the lower level of the building. It was around supper when we sat down to eat our meal, close to 6PM but not quite. Everyone was glad to be off their feet for a while and the conversation was light and jovial.

Then the clock struck 6PM. And the music swelled behind us.

Instantly, we were all showered with water as the fountain came to life and started performing a laser light show while alternating spraying water from different fountain jets. There was screaming, laughing, and a good deal of soggy bread as we rushed to get out of the way of the musical water works. I tried to cover a friend with an outstretched wing, but the water just splashed off and into their face. We found out later that apparently the fountain turns on and does a show at set times in the day. It certainly made for an unforgettable start to my first convention!

Willow Croft: There’s a saying that dragons like their snacks “crunchy, with ketchup”, so–what’s your favourite snack, with or without ketchup?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: I’ve been eating a lot of Cheez-its lately. Or really any kind of cheese cracker. I like the crunch (without ketchup) and it reminds me to drink more water to offset all the salt I’m eating. Some folks have a sweet tooth, but I’ve always had a salt fang.

Willow Croft: When you need a break from all the game-designing, salt-laden snack munching, and writing, where do you and your other dragon friends like to go for vacation?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: Conventions are usually where I go to meet up with my other dragon friends, but outside of that I’ll sometimes take a trip to Pittsburgh to visit a long time friend and his fiancé. The last time my roommate and I were out that way they took us on a tour of the city that was lovely. We toured the Phipps Conservatory, rode the incline all the way to the top of the city at night, and walked around a college that looked like an old castle had sprung up in the middle of the city. There’s still a bunch of places I’d love to visit for the next time we get a chance to go out that way.

Willow Croft: Now that you’ve finally taken a vacation, what game (board game or video game) do you bring along while you’re “sunning your scales”?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: Magic the Gathering is a game that a lot of my friends play, so I usually have a deck for that packed in my suitcase somewhere. Since it’s been around so long there’s a lot of different formats and play styles to choose from. I usually play a format called Commander with a deck that runs five different colors of dragons. It’s chaotic and silly and getting to see all the different color cards make a kaleidoscopic rainbow as I play them is a good deal of fun. And the idea of having a spellbook that you curate yourself over time, adding or subtracting pieces as you learn and grow is one that is very interesting to me.

Due to the portability of the Nintendo Switch, I’ll occasionally bring that on trips where I think I’ll have the time to play it. The game I play on it varies, but right now I’m snout deep in Monster Hunter. It has a very satisfying loop of fight big monsters->make snazzy new pants for outfit->repeat, that’s hooked me over the last few months.

Willow Croft: What’s your favourite song that you like to strum on your ukulele, and why?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: I’m still a beginner when it comes to playing songs since for a long while I would just strum the ukulele idly as a way to relax. But recently I’ve been learning the basic chords and decided to start practicing One Big Bed from Not Another D&D Podcast. I’ve not heard the podcast itself, the song was a recommended video for me on Youtube based on my interests in tabletop. But as soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted to learn how to play it. There’s a gentleness to it that really spoke to me. Like a song you would sing to someone after a hard day as they fell asleep. The lyrics are a little silly but I find it has a nice balance of schmaltz to offset the message that rest is an important part of the adventure too. The chord progression isn’t too difficult as well, which gives me an excuse to practice switching my claws into the next note without too much trouble.

Nenekiri Bookwyrm would love to meet you! Visit their blog at https://www.nenekiri.com or on Twitter https://twitter.com/Nenekiri_Dragon

And, Nenekiri Bookwyrm would like to remind you all to “curl up with a good book and be kind to yourself”. 

The wisdom of dragons, right?

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Garon Whited

 

Meet Garon Whited, author and longtime D&D gamer, in this week’s “Five Things Friday”!

Willow Croft: You’ve written about vampires, dragons, ants, and…cats! If you could become any one supernatural, fantastical, cryptozoological, or non-human life form, what would you be, and why?

Garon Whited: Anything? Anything at all? We’re not even going to narrow it down a little? Oh, well, start with the softballs, sure. Ease into it. Don’t go for the tough questions right off. Pfft.

Let me think about that. [time passes] Okay, I think I’ve got it. While it’s tempting to be a Time Lord—and steal a TARDIS—or to be a dragon, or even a vampire, I think I’d have to settle on a third-stage Lensman. They were designed by the Arisians, true, but they’re about as perfect a creature as has ever been. While they may live an immensely long time, they’re not immortal—unless they choose; whether they can extend their lives indefinitely hasn’t been conclusively determined.  Immortality isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.  They have immense intelligence, profound powers, exceptional physical prowess, and basically every advantage ever found in the entire lexicon of human potential.

Unlike Arisians, however, they aren’t necessarily totally cerebral. They’re still humans, although highly advanced ones.  And, when it comes right down to it, I’m a human. Mostly. Kind of. In many ways. I should probably go with what I know rather than try to figure out all the fiddly details of another species.

DMDice

Willow Croft: Presto! You’ve just discovered you’re the next time lord . . . what bizarre food combination would your companion find you eating?

Garon Whited:

“Professor?”

“You pushed the ‘Talk’ button?”

“What is this?”

“Hey!  Don’t touch that!”

“Is it some sort of experiment?  Dalek repellent?  Cyberman poison?”

“I can drop you off in Wales, you know.”

“I like Wales.”

“…Four million B.C.”

“So, you were saying about this delicious-looking bowl of…?”

“Chocolate chips in peanut butter.”

“There’s peanut butter in that?”

“I like the chocolate. And the peanut butter adds flavor. And it makes it easier to spoon it up.”

“But…”

“If you don’t want to eat it, I will.”

“Look, if you’re going to steal a food replicator from the Federation, could you at least program it with something else? I would like to eat, too!”

“It’s programmed for everything but tea. Ask for tea.”

“What? Why?”

“It’ll work out what you want to drink through taste bud patterns and neurological signals. It will then produce a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”

“You’re weird.”

“I find it highly improbable you’re only just now noticing.”

“I was confused by your heart of gold.”

“I knew I liked you for some reason.”

 

Willow Croft: Logic and science aside, if you could travel back in time, what historical event would you change, and why?

Garon Whited: Sorry; I can’t ignore the logic and science part. Too many years playing role-playing games where the players need to have a consistent framework where things can eventually make sense.

However, if I’m going to change something, there are a couple of candidates.

Was there an Atlantis? Let’s talk about it not sinking—or, at the very least, playing tourist before the end. Did aliens build the pyramids?  We’re going to need to talk about that—to the locals, and to the aliens. And so on.

But for documented historical stuff, allow me to mention the Library of Alexandria.  While I acknowledge the place—for history’s sake—has to be sacked, would it really be such a bad thing to show up a couple of years beforehand, hire a hundred scribes, and make a backup copy? Or just spend my days in the library, pretending to read everything, while wearing newfangled glass lenses over my eyes? “Newfangled” to the locals, perhaps. The concealed high-tech video recording device I’m using to make copies of everything I pretend to read has to blend in.  I’m not slapping the documents on a copier.

MathNerd

Willow Croft: Do you have a favourite pair of D&D/role-playing dice?

Garon Whited: No, I don’t. These days, I use my laptop. It keeps my character records, worldbuilding, magic items, custom spells, the works. I’m pretty good with Excel and the workbook I have is huge, holding dozens of cities, one Empire, three kingdoms, a bunch of races, and enough adventure ideas to keep a table full of players busy from now until my grandchildren are old enough to sit by the fire and mutter about how D&D was different in their day.

Sometimes I wonder if I should just publish the darn thing. Then again, there are so many useful tools out there on the internet, as it is. Up-to-date ones, I mean, covering lots of different editions. If you’re not big on editing spreadsheets, you’d have to play 3.5 to use mine. Then again, come to think of it, I updated it to 3.5 over time… it was originally for 2nd edition, because my 1st edition spreadsheet in Lotus wasn’t easy to export…

Man, have I been at this for a while.

I do have a few unusual dice, though.

How Long

Willow Croft: What’s the most frightening thing that has crawled out from the depths of your imagination?

Garon Whited: Look. [deep breath] If something crawls out of my imagination, the world is in real trouble, because I imagine a lot. So far, it’s all still in my imagination.

As for the most frightening thing in there, how about we stick with people?

Let me explain that.

Elder Gods may do awful things to the universe, inflicting madness and death on every puny life-form in much the same way as we pour gasoline on an ant mound. They do so because it’s in their nature to do so.  It’s just how they are.  Alien fungi turning everyone into zombies? Ditto. Hungry space vampires? Same. Devouring fog that weaves through the forests, puts people to sleep, and slowly leaches their blood out through their skin? All of these are creatures that do terrible things because we think they’re terrible, not because they do. We perceive them as horrible, nasty monsters. Their thought is more, “Meh.  Humans. They would think that.”

But people?

We do good and noble things. We help each other. We raise each other up. We know what is good and we unfailingly do it. If we know something is wrong or evil or just plain unnecessarily hurtful, we would never do it! …right? Right? I hear an uncomfortable silence in answer.

Or, unlike the “monsters,” do we choose to do things to each other that we know are outright evil “because we have to”? Why do we have to? Is that what we tell ourselves as a handy excuse? Or did we screw up enough that we don’t dare admit it and take the blame—so let’s eliminate the problem by eliminating people who would blame us? Or, no, let’s just lie about it. We have intelligence. We have language.  Let’s lie to each other, cheat each other, kill each other—and worse. Oh, so much worse!

Monsters—the scariest ones—aren’t the alien Things with tentacles and slime. They’re the ones that remind us of ourselves, because there is nothing more terrifying. We may fear the unknown or the unknowable, but we know what we’re capable of. What’s even worse is we only think we know… and really don’t want to find out how wrong we are.

So, the worst thing my imagination has produced? It’s sometimes plumbed deeper into the well of human nature than is technically good for it. That’s why most of what I write has a lighthearted air. I don’t like it down there.

Garon Whited’s Books and Author Page and More:

https://www.amazon.com/Garon-Whited/e/B00IX0NER0

www.garonwhited.com

https://www.facebook.com/groups/GaronWhited/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/gwspoilers/

Five Things Friday with Author J.D. Graves

This week’s “Five Things Friday” interview victim is J.D. Graves, author, playwright, and editor of the EconoClash Review. (Careful not to contaminate the crime scene as you leave!)

Willow Croft: As a playwright, you’ve probably heard the term “the show must go on” more times than you can count, but in a wildly improbable scenario of your darkest imaginings, what could prevent a show from actually going up?

J.D. Graves: Actors need an audience and will do anything to make sure their needs are met. I’ve seen shows go on even after the power went out and the actors took it to the parking lot when they realized they didn’t have enough flashlights. I’ve produced shows where we met only once a week over four months. It was quite a rehearsal process that I would never attempt again…until the next time it is necessary. A terrorist attack seems to be the only thing that can stop a performance as it has happened before. In my darkest imaginings I would witness it happen in person and then the Russians would pump in the toxic gas and kill everyone including those patrons who couldn’t afford good seats. I’d be in the nose bleeds with them trying to keep my eye jelly from leaking onto my good shirt. If I survived the ordeal I’d need the shirt for work the next day.

Willow Croft: What’s the most bizarre situation you’ve found yourself in, in real life?

J.D. Graves: Do you like Hibachi? I love Hibachi it’s not just a meal it’s also a show that’s well paced and fulfilling at the end. Better than most dinner theatre I’ve suffered through. It’s simple and uncomplicated which is the opposite of my love-life over a decade ago before the blessing of children forced me to be a grown-up. Once took an ex-GF, her mom and family out to a Hibachi dinner. We were celebrating the exciting news that we were going to be parents despite officially ending our relationship (guess it was only on a hiatus for the end of summer) Stuff happens. We took up eight chairs in total. There were four seats at the grill left open. Everything was going great until a pair of couples took the empty chairs. And as luck would dictate It was my other exGF (the one I had just broken up with by telling her I’d tin-roof rusted the girl I’d broken up with in July before beginning our new relationship) her two parents and her new date. Did I tell you how much I love Hibachi? That night while ex ex GF watched the chef do spatula tricks and onion volcanoes current ex GF sat across from me. She made a big production of actively ignoring me and I tried to do the same without all the razzmatazz and pointed barbs. While she lavished attention on her new dude and his thinning hair and double chins (rebounds are what they are although I’m sure he treated her nice) things just kept getting weirder as dinner cooked in front of us. It’s tough to love someone who doesn’t love you. I was reaping what I sowed that night as far as interpersonal romantic entanglements go. My date knew the chef and they kept asking about each other’s friends and divulging personal anecdotes that made the simmering grill even hotter. Maybe they were dating too before one cold night in November, I made a phone call and the world that existed changed forever. It was a fitting metaphor for my life at that time. Chef asked my date why she hadn’t been over at such and such’s place and she blurted out “well…I got pregnant.” This caused the other exGF to laugry (cry a laugh) loud as she possibly could. She sat there for a moment and took one last look at me. It was brief, of course, but in that moment I felt the sting of the jealousy-rage-heartache trifecta. She bit her lip and turned to her date and said excuse me. She made no eye contact with anyone. New Dude said okay but didn’t cease chowing down on the cubes of grilled steak and egg fried rice and didn’t watch her leave, but I did. Shoulders curled, head down, feet propelling her out of the terrible situation. My date looked at me and asked, “Do you know her?” I shook my head and ordered a double cape-cod. Drank it and ordered another. After the second drink the exGF mother excused herself to check on her daughter. Neither returned for the duration of the meal. And everyone else took their time enjoying their dinner oblivious to the awkward tension. Meanwhile. I felt like the lobster cooking in my own shell. Never been more relieved to pay a check in all my life. I‘m married to a different lady altogether now. A wonderful woman who doesn’t put up with my crap. And we love Hibachi together. I have other bizarre stories but this one has food in it.

Willow Croft: Is there any place you’ve visited that would be the perfect setting for a noir/pulp tale? (Would it be Ohio? *laugh*)

J.D. Graves: Despite being a lifelong Browns backer I’ve never been to the buckeye state. I believe the best noir locations to be those that come across as squeaky clean. (Schools, churches, etc) this would make the impending doom of a noir story more compelling because it goes against expectations.

Willow Croft: What classic pulp-fiction-inspired dish would you most want to eat?

J.D. Graves: I’d like to try a Red Harvest. Continental Op on the side. And if I could get an extra helping of Cogan’s Trade that’d be great.

Willow Croft: You’re trying to solve a heinous crime. Quick, who would you pick to be your detecting sidekick (real or fictional)? Alternatively, who would be the dastardly adversary you’d like match wits with?

J.D. Graves: I’d pick my son because his eye for detail far exceeds my own. Our adversary would be the man I used to be in my mid-twenties he was shallow and self-destructive. And maybe John Wilkes Booth. What can I say? I have a special place in my heart for theatre people who make poor decisions.

Track down J.D. Graves in one of his internet hideaways:

https://www.econoclash.com/

https://twitter.com/JDGravesWriter

https://horrortree.com/the-horror-tree-presents-an-interview-with-j-d-graves-pushing-the-boundaries-with-econoclash/

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Jan Olandese

This week’s author interviewee is Jan Olandese of the Book ’em Jano “Ghosts, Tall Tales & Witty Haiku” fame: https://bookemjanoblog.wordpress.com/.

Willow Croft:  If you were a ghost trapped within some sort of culinary loop where you could only eat one dish over and over again for eternity, what dish would you choose, and why? 

Jan Olandese: A fascinating question! One doesn’t think of ghosts chowing down! Then again calories wouldn’t  be an issue, would they? “Hmmm.” But then again there’s Eternity. Eating one dish forever sounds like a purgatorial thing, rather akin to the Root Canal Waiting Room or the No Escape Golf Bunker. Nonetheless:  I’d go for a really great thin crust pizza with a good cannoli for dessert. Remember, they didn’t say “Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli” for no reason! 😉

Willow Croft: To break up the monotony of eating the same dish forever and ever, what would be your preferred location to haunt for said eternity? Is there a particular person you would also like to terrify with your spectral presence?

Jan Olandese: That’s easy:  Laguna Beach, CA. The shopping (or maybe from a spectral perspective shoplifting) is great, there is good coffee, the beach is brilliant and the weather is always fine. Also the populace are … diverse enough that a ghost would blend right in. 😉 I have zee-ro desire to haunt anyone. Onward and upward, you know. 😉

Willow Croft: Turnabout is fair play, so what historical/notable figure from the past would you want to invite to haunt your home?

Jan Olandese: Aaron Burr. He was many things but never boring.

Willow Croft: So, we’ve covered the pararnormal–now onto monsters! What cryptozoological creature would you most hope to encounter?

Jan Olandese: Gosh. I thought about that…Bigfoot? Nope…bad posture and worse breath. I’ll take Nessie. I would love to actually find the Loch Ness Monster and have the equipment to capture/verify/validate its existence, especially as there is supposed to be one in Lake Okanogan, which crosses the border at Washington State and British Columbia. There are probably more sightings of others but these two have lots of lore attached.

Willow Croft: Anyone who’s familiar with your hilarious “mob haikus” might also be speculating which mafia don/mob boss you were before you entered witness protection and were relocated to this day and age courtesy of time travel. So, hypothetically speaking of course *wink wink nudge nudge*, if you had actually been in the mafia, what rank/title/position would you want to hold, and what would your mafia nickname be? Alternatively, what real-life mafia figure would you want to be?

Jan Olandese: How did you know?!! Who leaked!! Erm, okay. I’d want to be the consigliere so I could give advice/listen/strategise. Unfortunately other titles tend to have short lifespans.  My nickname…that would be “Yes, Ma’am!”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also believe in ghosts. They lurk everywhere…

 

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

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

 

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