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 Author, Editor, and Publisher Diane Arrelle

This week’s “Five Things Friday” interviewee appears to be quite the “busy bee” too–Diane Arrelle is an author, book publisher, and editor!

Willow Croft: One of the first stories I read of yours was before we even “met”—in an anthology called Crafty Cat Crimes: 100 Tiny Cat Tale Mysteries. How has your own cat(s) influenced (or hindered!) your writing?

Diane Arrelle: Wow, I grew up very rural on the edge of the NJ [New Jersey] Pine Barrens. We never used the term feral cats, they were just cats that came and lived in our garage, our yard, the woods all around us. I’ve had cats around since I was born and over the years, I always had my special kitties. I have always loved cats and I find them fascinating.
After college I traveled too much to have a pet and then I became the suburban wife and mommy and my husband didn’t want a pet. The cat from Crafty Cat Crimes was the sweetest kitten I found stuck in a tree one day while visiting a friend. We got her down and then I made my friend keep the kitten because we didn’t have pets. But I went over to visit my foster cat often.
One day I got annoyed at my husband so I took my kids to the animal shelter and brought home a six-month-old kitty, who just happened to pick us out. Just like that I became a cat person again. Bonny, who was a male, lived for almost 18 years and influenced many stories, most of them on the dark side. Seriously, where do they disappear to and how do they magically reappear like that?
After Bonny died, I decided to wait before getting another cat. Every time we heard a noise in the house my husband would say, “Cat’s back.” It was funny, but the man who hadn’t wanted a pet told me we needed another cat about two months after Bonny had passed. I immediately dashed out and got a rescue named Tabby, and she is definitely my husband’s cat. She is a very flighty animal with an intense stare that sometimes scares me and she likes to stalk me. I have to say she has inspired several scary stories in the four years we’ve had her. She, as well as Bonny, have hindered my writing in the usual way, sleeping on the keyboard, yowling when I’m writing, just being cats.

Willow Croft: I don’t know about you, but I always get the munchies when I’m writing. What’s your favourite snack(s) or comfort foods when you write?

Diane Arrelle: Oh no, I am the picture of self-control. I never eat and write. Ok, so I’m lying. I don’t eat and write. No, I eat and in between stuffing my face, I write. The year in quarantine changed my pattern completely and I have to have food nearby. On a good day I crunch on carrots and veggies, but mostly I eat about four pieces of sugar-free chocolate and lots of popcorn mixed with nuts. Oh yeah, I always have a Wawa coffee next to me which I reheat all day long. And for those who don’t know about it, it’s an Eastern convenience store that started in the Philly area. Wawa coffee mixed with Wawa cappuccino is just a wonderful, creativity-inspiring beverage.

Willow Croft: As an editor/publisher, you also host calls for anthologies by way of your co-owned publishing company, Jersey Pines Ink. How do you and your co-owner come up with the themes for your anthology calls?
We’re friends and talk a lot on the phone and in person. Just about every conversation one of us will say something offhand and the other will respond. “Wow, that would make a great story.” Sometimes that leads to stories and sometimes one of us will decide it would make a great anthology. Bev loved the idea of a mystery anthology and I fell in love with the term “crypt gnats” when we were talking about cemeteries. We both came up with the newest anthology called Trees while we were at RavenCon in Williamsburg, Virginia and were walking around the Olde Town taking pictures of some really creepy, gnarled trees.

Willow Croft: As one of the founders of the Garden State Horror Writers (as well as a past president), what’s the most terrifying and/or unexplained thing that has happened to you?

Diane Arrelle: Personally, I grew up in a house that had a spirit. It appeared when I was about twelve and stayed until I was about seventeen. I was scared of it and yet, when I was home alone it sort of comforted me. I wasn’t afraid of the other monsters I used to worry about once the spirit came into the house. I used to talk to it but I always begged it to never appear, which it never did. I don’t think I could have handled seeing a ghost.
As president of the GSHW we went on a field trip to a haunted house on the Jersey Shore and we saw bunches of socks on the beach. They inspired me to write a silly horror story that won first place in the Killer Frog annual contest. On another group trip we went to New Hope, Pennsylvania, for a ghost walk that creeped me out and I came home and wrote a story in about an hour. I was so inspired.

Willow Croft: Since you write both mysteries and horror, what’s the oddest or most disturbing thing that you’ve had to research, either online or in a library?

Diane Arrelle: Well, when I first started writing I went to the county library because I wanted to write a novel. Demonic books were popular and I wanted to write a demonic novel but I knew nothing about angels or demons and had never really ever thought about them. I started looking up hell and just went deeper into the mythologies surrounding the underworlds and afterlives until I scared myself and by closing time I quit. I was so frightened walking to my car I kept looking over my shoulder and I constantly checked the review mirror as I drove the ten minutes home. I was spooked for a couple of weeks and since I’d already started the book, I turned it into a comedy about angelic sex aliens landing on a hedonistic earth. It was fun to write and after a few years I threw it away. But I learned not to research something that frightens me too much. I just don’t need to add to all my neurotic list of things that terrify me.

Seek out more about Diane Arrelle at her blog, and check out the publishing company, Jersey Pines Ink, via the links below!

https://www.arrellewrites.com/books

https://www.jerseypinesink.com/

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Eva Pohler

This week’s “Five Things Friday” author is Eva Pohler! Eva Pohler writes everything from “mysteries, thrillers, and young adult paranormal romance based on Greek mythology,” as mentioned on Eva Pohler’s website: https://www.evapohler.com/.

Let the adventure commence!

Willow Croft: I enjoyed the video tours of your house and writing space, and I read that you are also a HGTV fan. (I, myself, spend way too much time looking at homes on the Old House Dreams and CIRCA Old Houses website.) Which HGTV “Dream Home” would you have most wanted to win, and why?

Eva Pohler: The year I was most obsessed with the HGTV Dream Home was in 2010, the year it was in Sandia Park, New Mexico. (https://www.hgtv.com/sweepstakes/hgtv-dream-home/2010/hgtv-dream-home-2010-beautiful-room-pictures-pictures) Although the views from the home are more desert than mountain, they are nevertheless breathtaking. The southwest style architecture is also pleasing, and I love the layout of the floorplan.

However, looking over them all, I think I would most like the house in Merritt Island, Florida. (https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2016/06/15/hgtv-dream-home-merritt-island-sells/85961888/) This has more to do with the ocean views and the southern climate than the house itself–even though the house is gorgeous. Truly, there isn’t a dream home that I don’t love, so it comes down to location. I love warm climates and water views.

Willow Croft: The food question! I read in your interview on the Trinity University website that you were a Girl Scout troop leader once upon a time. What’s your favourite Girl Scout cookie?

Eva Pohler: It’s a tie between Thin Mints and Trefoils, depending on my mood.

Willow Croft: If you were magically transformed into a deity of the Greek pantheon, who would you be (can be an actual deity, or one of your own imagination). What divine power(s) would you have?

Eva Pohler: The serious side of me would choose Themis, the goddess of justice, mainly because I care deeply about social injustices and wish I had the power to right them. I would love to eradicate all forms of discrimination so that every person felt as valued and respected as the next.

The fun side of me would choose Amphitrite, goddess of the sea and wife to Poseidon. I love the sea and can imagine the pleasure of swimming with dolphins and sunning on beaches as I watched the sun sink beyond the horizon.

Willow Croft: Do you have a favourite(s) creator of fantastical or mythological art (can be a classical or modern/contemporary artist)?

Eva Pohler: My children are my favorite artists. My older son, who is twenty-five, is a computer software developer, but he has a creative side. He has created art for a number of Dungeon and Dragons campaigns–hand-drawn art. And he also uses graphic art to create designs for his computer games. His imagination is incredible. I’ve told him many times that he could be a writer.

My other son, who is twenty-two, is a painter and musician. He paints other musicians and celebrities. I am amazed by how realistic his paintings are.

While my older son creates fantastical art and my younger more realistic art, my daughter, who is twenty, creates both. She creates art with diverse mediums, but her paintings are the most brilliant, in my opinion. Both her fantastical and her realistic paintings are beautiful.

Willow Croft: Outside of your journeys within your books and your imagination, what’s the most interesting place you’ve visited in real life?

Eva Pohler: Probably the most interesting place I have visited is the Philippines, mainly because it is the most different of any place I have been. I lived there for two years when I was a child while my father was stationed there. The climate was lovely, except during typhoon season. The views of the ocean and of the volcanoes were spectacular. I feel fortunate to have been exposed to another culture so different from mine at such a young age.

~~~~~~~

Meander through Eva Pohler’s magically mystical universe. Mysterious adventures await!

https://www.evapohler.com/

https://www.facebook.com/evapohler

https://www.instagram.com/evapohler

https://www.youtube.com/evapohler

https://www.twitter.com/evapohler

https://www.pinterest.com/evapohler

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/eva-pohler

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4888434.Eva_Pohler

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/

Six Things Saturday: Mini-Interview with Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum

This week, we have Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum from over at Violet’s Vegan Comics (https://violetsvegancomics.com/)!

Willow Croft: This question’s a two-parter! What vegetable and/or vegan dish is your most favourite? And what vegetable and/or fruit makes you go “Yuk”?

Miranda Lemon: My favourite dish is vegan Yorkshire pudding with chips and beans, and the fruit that makes me go “yuk!” is avocado, because I think it is like eating margarine.

Violet Plum: Ooh, what to choose? I guess chocolate’s not a vegetable – although it does come from beans. Speaking of beans, I think one of my favourite meals is beans on toast, especially with peanut butter and yeast extract on the toast. I’ve loved it since childhood, never tired of it and it’s so easy to make. Sadly I don’t have it very often any more because bread is no longer my friend, but it is a rare treat. And the yucky vegetable which immediately springs to mind is celery. Yuck!

~~~

Willow Croft: If you could be any animal (or plant) which would you “bee”, and why?

Miranda: I would like to be a koala because I think it would be lovely to spend all my time in a tree, eating leaves and sleeping.

Violet: If I could also wish away all human activity, I would be a Canada goose because I’d love to be able to fly, and fly great distances. They are mostly herbivorous so I wouldn’t have to eat anything yucky and I could see the world from a great height. The limit of how high Canada geese can fly is not known but they have been documented at 9km above the Earth!!! Amazing! I’ve no desire to ride in an aeroplane but I would love to be able fly myself.

~~~

Willow Croft: There seems to be a movement building around the practice(s) of urban (or wild) foraging at present. What you do think about this movement from an environmental and/or personal perspective? Which is more sustainable—a “backyard” or urban garden, foraging, or a combination of both practices?

Miranda: I think foraging is a fantastic idea, I would love it if we could find all our food that way. I don’t have a back garden, so I think it would be most sustainable if people with gardens foraged in their gardens, and everyone else foraged everywhere else. But there needs to be a lot of replanting of forests so that there will be enough for everyone.

Violet: I love this idea! One of my stories, The English Family Anderson, is about a family who live on a bus and do just that. It’s wish fulfilment for me because I’ve always fantasized about being able to live like that. Being self-sufficient. If we could all live closer to nature, follow the seasons and understand where our food comes from – be responsible for growing it and gathering it ourselves – it would feed our souls. I think both things – wild foraging and home growing – would be completely sustainable. The forest garden is the most productive use of land, as well as returning natural habitats to wildlife. I think we should turn all the agricultural land into food forests for everyone to share.

~~~

Willow Croft: Imagine the world ten years from now if we as humans don’t break our consumption-driven, environmentally destructive habits. What would the world look like?

Miranda: I think it would be not very nice, so I hope humans will break their destructive habits.

Violet: Have you seen the movie Idiocracy (2006)? With Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. That is the world we are fast approaching.

~~~

Willow: How do you see the world changing over the next ten years in regards to conservation and environmental awareness as driven by the latest generation(s) of kids/young people?

Miranda: I believe that if we tell children the truth they will do the right things to save the environment and conserve nature. Everyone deserves to know the whole truth, and once they do, they will know that being vegan will save the world, and so they will all go vegan, and the world will be saved. Hurrah!

Violet: Education is key. If children were told the truth at school, about meat, fish, eggs and dairy being unnecessary and hazardous to health; about animal agriculture and fishing being environmentally devastating; and about animal farming being the cause of human starvation and diseases like Covid-19, then I think they would lead the charge for an end to animal farming and a new beginning for the natural world. But sadly the governments who write the national curriculum are controlled by big businesses who make vast riches from these destructive practices so lessons aren’t going to improve any time soon. Thankfully, though, the internet has enabled more enlightened people to get this information out there, and the mainstream media picks it up and runs with it sometimes. So I think there is hope that a new generation of eyes-wide-open individuals might, through the power of their consumer choices, move the world to demand ethical, zero waste, organic vegan products, and abandon those which aren’t.

~~~

Willow Croft: And, lastly, what sort of environmentally friendly art supplies do you all use?

Miranda and Violet: Most of our art materials (pencils, watercolours, pastels and ink) have been found in secondhand/charity shops so we are re-using other people’s waste. But when we do need to buy anything new we usually get it from artdiscount.co.uk who have labelled qualifying products as vegan and have done a very helpful blog post (https://artdiscount.co.uk/blogs/artdiscount/vegan-vegetarian-and-eco-art-supplies) which explains what’s good and what’s bad for the discerning artist. There’s another helpful post, here: https://vegomm.com/vegan-art-craft-supplies/. And of course we only buy recycled sketch paper.

~~~

Visit Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum at https://violetsvegancomics.com/ where they have a wonderful selection of things for kids of all ages.

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: Mini-Interview with Author Yawatta Hosby

Get ready for some chills and spooky ghost stories in this week’s interview with horror and suspense writer Yawatta Hosby! See you at the campfire, and remember to bring the marshmallows!

Willow Croft: West Virginia, where you live, is one of the few states I’ve not visited. I haven’t even driven through it on one of my many road trips. I’m curious about the geography of the state, though. What’s it like there, and does living in the “eastern panhandle of West Virginia” inspire the settings of your short stories and/or books?

Yawatta Hosby: I enjoy living in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia because we’re pretty close to Washington DC and other busy cities. There’s always something to do if we don’t mind taking a short road trip, like Winchester VA and Hagerstown MD. Where I live is called “A Small Baltimore.” There’s plenty of shops, some tiny museums, and a HUGE appreciation of art. I like that each town has its own personality. Like Shepherdstown is known for being a hippy, artsy fartsy town; Charles Town is known for its race track and casino; and Harpers Ferry is known by the hiker and camping community.

The eastern panhandle is more city-like than the country, but don’t get me wrong, there’s some areas you know to stay away from haha. I don’t live on a farm. I’ve never been to a coal mine, and my family has all their teeth. I hate the ugly stereotypes West Virginians often get. You won’t find any stereotypes like run down trailers, Appalachian men shooting and hunting, etc, unless you go on the back roads or far into the woods.

Living here definitely inspires the settings in my stories. I often have my characters living in a small town that’s big enough to have secrets and not have everyone in your business. I have used some parts of WV, like the south, for inspiration in One By One and Six Plus One. I’ve also used Ranson (where the rich folk live) for Twisted Obsession. However, I also like using surrounding towns around the area. I’ve used Brunswick, MD as inspiration in Perfect Little Murder, and it’d be awesome to use Burkittsville MD (where the Blair Witch woods are located). I’m not far from there at all!!!

Willow Croft: In Six Plus One (the sequel to One by One), the characters in the book are off on their own road trip to film an “alien-centric web series” deep in the woods of West Virginia. So, this X-Files fan is dying to know—have you ever seen a UFO, or encountered an extraterrestrial being?

Yawatta Hosby: Oh man, I wish!!! I’m obsessed with aliens and UFOs. I even have a tattoo of a UFO beaming up a dinosaur on my arm. As a kid and teenager, I often teased that I was an alien. Now, in my thirties, I realize there’s something called a starseed. Maybe I’m that 🙂

I’ve never encountered an alien. Believe me, I’d probably faint. Since I believe in stuff like that, I try not to even try and look for any. Sort of like I stay away from ouija boards since I know the crazy things that can come from that. I don’t want to get abducted by a UFO and I don’t want to be hunted or stalked by any aliens, but I do often research sightings, like I do for Bigfoot.

As a teenager, I wanted to visit Roswell. The next best thing–southern WV. Greenbank was a town we visited on a WVU resident assistant’s retreat. We actually stayed in those woods in cabins, so every description shared in Six Plus One came from my memory. We had visited their museum which held a giant communication device. They felt they were contacting aliens. I believe it, so it was pretty cool to be there even though I was scared out of my mind haha. Being in the woods late at night with no electricity can play tricks on you.

Willow Croft: What’s the oddest thing that’s happened to you during a road trip/travel jaunt? Alternatively, what’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you, in general?

Yawatta Hosby: My friend and I went on a mini-road trip to Sharpsburg MD for a ghost tour. It ended at night. My mind was playing tricks on me because I’ve seen ghosts before, so have some of my family members (loved ones saying goodbye before anyone even realized they had passed away). Anyway, we were driving through Shepherdstown, trying to get home a town away. Leigh slowed down when we noticed a guy walking across the street from under a tree. He didn’t glance at us, he didn’t shield his eyes from the bright headlights. He just kept walking with a briefcase in his hand wearing a plaid jacket. Everything was off. His manner of walking was very weird.

The next day at work, Leigh showed me a website of Shepherd University’s ghosts and sure enough the plaid jacket man was one of them! I got goosebumps! I’ve seen ghosts in my lifetime. My first time was a kid. I saw it in the mirror and for the longest time I was afraid to look into mirrors. At WVU, there was a young male ghost in my dorm. He had died in the 60’s. He had opened and closed the door to the balcony, making a gust of wind disorient my papers (I had been studying in the hall with my friend). In my thirties, I felt the presence of ghosts, usually when I was hanging out with Leigh. The ghosts would pick on me and my coworkers–knock things off our desks, throw objects at us, etc. Let’s just say, I hated being alone in that old building!

Willow Croft: You have shared that your stories build upon your “fascination with psychology”. In your opinion, how does food (and diet) affect one’s psychological well-being? And what kinds of foodstuffs nourish your own deliciously dark writer’s brain?

Yawatta Hosby: If you don’t eat healthy, then your mind and body won’t be healthy. I swear I could live off junk food like I never grew up as an adult. I ate like I was a kid haha. Only ate pizza, mac and cheese, pancakes with bacon, chocolate candy bars, peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, and chicken tenders with fries. No vegetables. Only sweet tea. No water. Then at the end of 2016, I got extremely sick and ended up in the hospital for three nights. I was anemic and had a rare disease called Patterson Kelly Syndrome.

Now, I can’t have caffeine or citrus. Do you know how hard it is not to have chocolate? I still sneak pizza, once in a while though. I have no choice but to eat healthier now. At least I had a good run for all those years haha. For my dark writer’s brain, I’m all about eating Doritos and garlic knots with lots and lots of water. I feel like a kid again, going to a restaurant and asking for apple or grape juice. I can’t even drink orange juice when I get sick. If I would have known this in my earlier years, I would have snuck in more vegetables and fruits.

Willow Croft: Some of your books have numbers in the title. Aside from the obvious reference to the book’s plot, do certain numbers have special significance for you? If so, what draws you to your personal interpretation of numerology?

Yawatta Hosby: My favorite number is seven. I also get excited when I see the numbers 7-2-8 together because it’s my birthday! Other than that, I’ve never really explored numerology. I can’t tell you what any numbers mean, according to your destiny or birthdate. However, for the past few months, I have been studying angel numbers interpretations. I’m on a spiritual journey and am letting angel numbers guide my path in life. It’s been fun so far. I’ve gotten to learn things about myself that I never knew existed. I’ve grown and challenged myself as well as recognized my soul mission in life. Not many people are open to learning about themselves, letting their ego take over, so to speak. I’m on the path to letting my soul take over. For the past few months, I’ve gotten rid of some old habits and hobbies that no longer interest me. I’m excited to see who the real Yawatta is 🙂

Yawetta Hosby’s blog: http://yawattahosby.wordpress.com

Yawetta Hosby’s author website: http://yawattahosbysbooks.wordpress.com

Yawetta Hosby’s LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yawatta-hosby-7931a352/

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Brian Gene Olson

I spy with my little eye…something pink! It’s kidlit author (and speculative poet), Brian Gene Olson!

pink glasses (3) (1)

Willow Croft: In the dramatic world, there’s something called the “triple threat”—thespians who can not only act, but also sing and dance. You’ve almost achieved a “triple threat” status in the literary world in that you write AND compose music (such as the songs for kids that you’ve had accepted by Ladybug Magazine). So, what would be your third “threat” (aka talent) that you possess?

Brian Gene Olson: Oh man, I’d love to do just one thing really well! I still feel totally out of my depth with the songwriting thing, but that’s part of why it’s fun. I’m learning as I go. But I learned music theory from YouTube, so I won’t be composing my first symphony any time soon.
The speculative poetry is fun to write because I can be a lot more experimental and bizarre than I can with children’s poetry, which is more structured and regular in its rhythms. A children’s poem, at least the metered rhyming kind I write, is like a song. I think of an iambic poem as a song in duple meter, an anapestic one as a song in triple meter. A lot of my songs, actually, start out as children’s poems, but the rhythms are so bouncy I end up singing them in my head.
But another talent? I’m not sure I have one, unless the ability to annoy my family by tapping and slapping a drum beat all day long on whatever’s in front of me can be considered a talent.

Willow Croft: If you suddenly found yourself in an unexplored wilderness, what mythical creature would you like to meet?

Brian Gene Olson: It’s not a classical mythical creature, but there’s a tiny humanoid thing in fantasy author Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth called a twk-man who rides on the back of a dragonfly. He’ll give you information, so long as you have some salt to trade. I’d find out what’s in the wilderness, where to go, what sights to see, and how to avoid The Dying Earth’s flesh-eating deodands.

Willow Croft: What are you and your family’s “go-to” favourite meals/mealtime themes (i.e. Taco Tuesday)? Share up a recipe if you wish!

Brian Gene Olson: Yes! The food question!

Okay, so I was on kidney dialysis for ten years, and once during that time I ended up in the hospital because, I don’t know, my sodium was too low or something. And so I’m in the hospital for like a week, and they put me on this special restricted kidney disease diet, and, of course, all the food’s nasty–all except for this one awesome dish, this chicken veggie quesadilla with green and red peppers, onion, sliced mushrooms, jalapeños, black olives, cilantro, and just enough melted cheese to bind it all together, everything perfectly balanced, folded into a warm tortilla, with a side of salsa and sour cream. So good! Once I discovered it, I ordered it for every meal.
But then they take me off the restricted diet and put me on the normal one. And I order the quesadilla, but it’s just not the same anymore. All the veggies are gone and it’s just chicken with a thick layer of congealed cheese. I’m like, “Can you please put me back on the restricted diet?”
Anyway, once I got home I recreated the killer version for my family, called it a “Killer Quesadilla,” and everyone loves it. It’s one of those dishes you can customize to everyone’s taste, where you just cook up all the ingredients and lay it all out for everyone to assemble the way they want. You want more jalapeño, you get more jalapeño. You want more cilantro, you get more cilantro. And if it’s my wife, she gets a whole cilantro garden.

Oh, and I got a kidney transplant in 2019. I guess I should finish that part of the story!

Willow Croft: If you had a spaceship that could traverse both space and time, where would you go to first, and why?

Brian Gene Olson: I’d go to Paris on May 29, 1913 and witness the epically disastrous premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Then maybe I’d go check out Black Sabbath in the ‘70s.

Willow Croft: And, lastly but not…leastly?, we all know how weird cats can be, sometimes seeming that they are from some another planet. What’s the strangest (or funniest) thing your cat Pharoah has done?

Brian Gene Olson: Definitely the strangest thing he does is eat plastic bags. Grocery bags, thirty gallon lawn bags, whatever, he doesn’t care. Those and plastic needles from fake Christmas trees and wreaths. We can’t have a real tree or a fake tree because he’ll eat the needles, so instead we have to have this reusable stick-like structure that’s vaguely in the shape of a tree with lights built into it.

Fly on over to Brian Gene Olson’s website to discover more: https://briangeneolson.weebly.com/  !

Or say hi to Brian on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BGOwriter.

Where the Wind Takes You…

I don’t know about you, but my focus has been very off this week or two.

Maybe it’s the time change, or the gut-churning clamour of big and little worries, or some combination of those things with the vivid dreams I’ve been having leave me feeling displaced in time and space.

I was sad to see winter go a while back, but this week so far has been lovely and cloudy and rainy and even thundery out.

The wind here in Kansas blows pretty fierce and I usually love wind, but ever since I left Florida, it feels like I’ve forgotten its language.

Or maybe I am hesitant about listening, because I wish it could carry me somewhere else, and yet it’s impossible and therefore silly to get my hopes up.

But in books, nothing is impossible. You can talk to the wind, and the wind answers. And it can even carry you far away; away from danger, away from a static existence, and into a new life full of adventure and unbreakable friendships and where you have a chance to save the prince.

*definite book spoilers ahead*

Or, in Kyla Cren’s case in the book Mistress of the Wind, save the powerful yet short-sighted mage. Kyla Cren has power and magic of her own–she can speak to the wind. She uses her skill at windspeaking to protect the other townspeople from danger from creatures called mindstealers. Usually, the wind merely passes on the location of encroaching mindstealers or the whereabouts of lost livestock. It isn’t until Kyla is forced out of the town she grew up in until she starts to come into her own identity and power, eventually achieving the ability to not only speak to the wind, but to rise it…all the way to another realm. Kyla Cren’s journey isn’t the typical happily ever after of fairy tales, but she discovers not only that her magic is more powerful than she realizes, but that she can also be a fierce warrior, a survivor, and a loyal friend to her newfound travel companions that are equally as loyal in return.

And that, even though she is successful against all odds, Kyla Cren’s adventures are just beginning. Mistress of the Wind is just the first book of eight total in the Arucadi series penned by E. Rose Sabin.

I have been dying to read at least one of E. Rose Sabin’s books ever since I attended a Necronomicon conference in Florida probably too many years ago to even remember when, and she was one of the authors featured at the conference. I finally got a Amazon gift card windfall in 2020 and was able to buy the first book in this series to read. And it did not disappoint. I loved reading a fantasy tale where the main character was a strong female character with agency and determination and she was resourceful and courageous and fiercely protective without falling into the “I’m doing it all for the man I love” sappy motivation trap.

I was a little sad towards the end of the book about one event, but, luckily, it didn’t have the outcome I had feared, at least.

If I had a daughter, I’d be letting her read whatever she wanted, and this book would be one of them, for sure!

I hope that someday I’ll have unlimited money to buy books and I can catch up on the rest of the series!

And I hope you check out the Arucadi series and the other books by E. Rose Sabin. Let me know what you think (but don’t give me any spoilers *laugh*).

Links to E. Rose Sabin:

http://erosesabin.com/

https://erosesabin.wordpress.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/347316.E_Rose_Sabin

(P.S. In the comments below, E. Rose Sabin not only visited the blog, but mentioned that Book 9 of the Arucadi series is coming out soon and we can anticipate three more books!)