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!)

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Elinor DeWire

Egmont Key Light
Egmont Key Light: https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/things-to-do/outdoors-nature/lighthouse-egmont-key-st-petersburg-fla.html

St. Augustine Light
St. Augustine Light https://www.staugustinelighthouse.org/

CIMG4589

I am absolutely thrilled about this week’s interview! I had the amazing opportunity to chat with Author (and Lighthouse Historian Extraordinaire!) Elinor DeWire!

Her book that I’ve had forever (I have the first paperback edition of Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers for you book nerds out there!) was luckily not among the books damaged/lost in a flood. And it was the first book of my maritime history collection, and which eventually led to me getting a Master’s degree in history. While I’ve moved into other academic areas of interest (very recently!), I still love lighthouses, and have used them as settings for a couple of my (unpublished) short stories. And I love to read about lighthouses in fiction, too! (https://willowcroft.blog/2020/12/16/journeys-in-the-round/)

Willow Croft: So, we’ll get this out of the way, straight off. What’s your favourite light you’ve visited and/or lighthouse/light station you’ve stayed over at? What was the best part of your experience?

Elinor DeWire: I usually tell people my favorite lighthouse is the most recent one I’ve visited. That would be Cape Frehel in Brittany, France. Beautiful place and architecturally fascinating tower. That said, I must confess I REALLY love Nauset Beach Lighthouse on Cape Cod. (https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/nauset-light-beach.htm) It was the first lighthouse where I did extensive research and even assisted–ever so little–the NPS with saving the Three Sisters lighthouses that preceded the red and white tower currently at Nauset Beach. I’m still hoping they will fabricate lanterns for the two capless Sisters. Nauset has a storied history and is pretty. I am a sucker for a pretty lighthouse!

Willow Croft: I always find a way to work in a mention of food, of course! Could you tell us about some common dishes and/or foodstuffs the lightkeeper and/or their family would eat while in residence?

Elinor DeWire: Keepers at remote or offshore light stations were given a standard supply of nonperishable staple foodstuff from the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment–dried beans, rice, sugar, flour, potatoes, turnips, molasses, salt, etc. I think a lot of fish was eaten, as it was handy nearby in the sea. Soups were served to stretch meat and have something hot on hand on cold days. The late Barbara Beebe gave me her mother’s rose hip jelly recipe, made from the beach roses growing at Old North Lighthouse on Block Island, RI. (https://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=40) Her family also ate blanc mange, made from seaweed. The late Connie Small gave me her apple pie recipe. There were apple trees on St. Croix Island where her husband was assigned in the 1930s. Of course, chowders were popular too, and coffee was always at the ready.

Willow Croft: As I gathered from your blog, you have a novel in the works. What has been the challenges (and benefits?) in conducting research in regards to the pandemic? Also, I understand that you’re on the board of directors for the United States Lighthouse Society. Were there any challenges with continuing work on lighthouse preservation, continued conservation of existing sites, and fundraising within the former political climate and with the pandemic shutdown and precautions? How have you tackled these challenges?

Elinor DeWire: I have written so many lighthouse books, I am growing a bit jaded with that…not that I have any less love for lighthouses; it’s just a bit of writer’s weariness and the fact that the lighthouse genre is saturated at the moment. I have three novels in print now, all set in late Regency and early Victorian England. I write under a pen name–J.J. Scott–as I feel “Elinor DeWire” should remain dedicated to lighthouses. My novels are heavy on history with a serving of romance and intrigue. My first one, Saving Lord M, was and remains quite popular, a romantic and even a bit supernatural story of William Lamb, Viscount Lord Melbourne, prime minister of England in the 1830s. I was inspired to write about him by the PBS series Victoria, which inaccurately portrayed him. The popularity of the novel surprised me, though I should have remembered that I won short fiction prizes years ago. I’m at work on a 4th novel at present, set in Cumbria, England in 1830. Fiction has recharged my researcher and scribe battery!

U.S. Lighthouse Society–I was brought onto the Board a few years ago to develop the society’s education initiative and bring kids and families into our fold. (Also, the board had been composed of all men for decades, so a woman’s touch was needed!) So far, my education efforts have been well received, and we’re bringing youth into the fold. We expect to offer a kids’ membership soon and do some events expressly for kids. The pandemic has been tough financially. Lighthouse tours are the backbone of USLHS’s income, and of course we haven’t been able to do any tours for over a year. I think the last one was in the southeast USA about 14 months ago. The society has been solvent in the last decade; we have been able to trudge through the pandemic. Tours will resume late summer 2021. The Board will have its first face-to-face meeting this late June in Florida. As for fundraising, we relied on our loyal membership to tide us through the previous administration’s lack of humanities funding (and lack of sanity, period!) and through the pandemic. We are solvent, and we are even in the process of awarding $30K in increments of $1000 to needy lighthouse groups hit hard by lack of tourism. We will slowly resume our normal ops this year.

Willow Croft: In your book, Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers, you include stories and photos about the keepers and their animal companions, and you have also included them in your The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses. What’s the most memorable companion story you remember from your research? Also, please tell us about your own animal menagerie!

Elinor DeWire: I grew up on a small farm in Maryland; thus, I LOVE animals. My two kids had every kind of pet imaginable as they grew up, though my one requirement was “legs.” No pets without legs! (I am not fond of snakes.) I wrote Lightkeepers’ Menagerie because I had SO MANY little anecdotes about animals in my research files. They seemed so important in lighthouse history. I suppose I am biased toward the stories of cats at lighthouses, as I love kitties and have had many in my lifetime, Currently, I have a tabby and a Maine Coon. In the book, there is a story about Jiggs the cat, who was born at Pigeon Point, moved with the Henderson family to Point Sur, and then died there. He was exhumed when the family moved to Point Pinos and reburied there. I included a picture of his little grave in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I think this is my favorite animal story because Jiggs reminds me so much of one of our cats, ignobly named Warhead by my husband, a retired Navy ordnance officer. The mention of Jiggs climbing a woman’s legs under the dinner table is priceless. Warhead did the same thing to an insurance salesman who weaseled his way into our house many years ago. Warhead somehow realized we didn’t care for this man and had no intention of buying insurance, so he did his best to make the man leave. Success!

Willow Croft: I’ve visited a few lighthouses in Florida and up into in Georgia, but I haven’t experienced anything paranormal or supernatural at the ones that I’ve visited. Not even during the St. Augustine nighttime tour that included a visit to the grounds of the St. Augustine Light. (I say I haven’t, even though I did see big, glowing blue “orbs” bouncing around the base of an old oak tree, because it doesn’t really feel like it counts.) Have you witnessed anything paranormal at any of the lights, lighthouses, or light stations you’ve visited? If you haven’t, do you have a favourite ghostly tale to share about a lighthouse you’ve researched?

Elinor DeWire: No ghosts have allowed me to meet them at lighthouses. I am not particularly receptive, though I think the ghost tales and supernatural stuff is fun to write about, and it definitely has an audience. I did several lighthouse ghost tv shows years ago. I wish there was more interest in the real history of lighthouses, but people DO like the scary stuff! Knowing all that I know about lighthouses, I can usually explain away ghosts and supernatural events at lighthouses. A couple of years ago I visited St. Simons Lighthouse in Georgia, famous for its stairway ghost and a dog named Jinx that responded negatively to the poltergeist. (https://www.coastalgeorgiahistory.org/visit/st-simons-lighthouse/) I climbed the stairs alone after hours and heard the clanking and creaking sounds attributed to the ghost. It was just the iron stairway cooling down from a hot summer day. Metal expands in heat and contracts when cool. Bang, screech, groan!!! My favorite lighthouse ghost is a little gray kitty that haunts the upstairs of the keepers’ house at Fairport Lighthouse in Ohio. (http://www.fairportharborlighthouse.org/)  It’s a long story. You’ll find it in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I interviewed the woman who lived in the upstairs apartment in the 1980s, a curator at the museum. She was truly convinced the feline ghost was real, especially after repairmen came to the quarters and found the mummified body of a small cat in a wall. Ooooooh! Who am I to say…

ElinorDeWire

Elinor DeWire Links

Find her on Facebook as “Elinor DeWire, Author” and here: https://www.facebook.com/J.J.Scottnovelist/
Find @ElinorDeWire on Twitter
Visit her Author Blog on Blogspot: http://elinordewire.blogspot.com/
Find her Author Website here: https://www.elinordewire.com/
View her lighthouse videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoDc9cP-B8oKTF05jg9t3Iw
Visit her “Lighthouse” Pinterest Boards: https://www.pinterest.com/fineshine/
Find her on Amazon here https://www.amazon.com/Elinor-DeWire/e/B000APJJ0M and here https://www.amazon.com/J-J-Scott/e/B07QQ36XBT
View her education page at U.S. Lighthouse Society (full of resources for teachers and kids): https://uslhs.org/education/educational-materials

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author Jnana Hodson!

It’s another “Five Things Friday” interview! This time I sat down to chat (well, if “chatting” involved exchanging emails) with author, journalist, and poet (and Quaker!) Jnana Hodson.

Willow Croft: Based on your blog(s) and author profile(s), you have both past and present ties to the “hippie” counter-culture, and the Quaker religion. How would you determine the place and/or the need for a like counter-culture and/or spirituality in today’s world? What societal trends would you identify that point to a need for such social, metaphysical, and character-based “sea change” in light of the recent/current events?

Jnana Hodson: Freeing ourselves mentally from advertising-driven consumerism would be a huge start. Just how much is enough for you to be happy and healthy? Or secure? Sometimes less really is more. Our unease is really a disease that sits atop fear.

The environmental crisis, especially, has been compounded by widespread denial. For one thing, it’s technically “climatic instability” rather than “global warming,” something the Texas deep-freeze demonstrates while exposing the real costs of high-level greed and hypocrisy. Closer to home, many of those monster pickup trucks we see are macho insecurity, no? A Prius or Tesla or bicycle becomes a defiant corrective act, as does an electric lawnmower rather than a conventional gas-powered cutter. Small steps can add up.

As my friend Steve Curwood contends, environmental actions are ethical, much more than economic. They can be lifestyle, too, as in choosing to live in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood or raise an organic garden.

Racism, another big issue, has its roots in a desire to get ahead – quite simply, ahead of everyone else. You see it in the compulsion to move in a better neighborhood– one with better schools. Or on to a better job, better clothes, a better car, whatever. And for many of us, racism includes an unacknowledged assumption of Northern European superiority. It’s even embodied in the myth of the self-made man, to the exclusion of all who contributed to his rise. Or should we call it his attempted escape? Racism undermines the shared commonwealth – meaningful community – we need.

Fear also underpins the growing and costly militarization of America. It’s accompanied by soaring gun ownership, which becomes a matter of faith for many who have no intention of hunting, along with rising domestic violence.

You mention my Quaker practice, which I came to as a young adult, not knowing it had been the faith of my Hodson ancestors from the beginning of the movement in 1600s’ Britain. The Society of Friends, as it’s more formally known, avoids dogma and creed and instead emphasizes personal experience of what we sometimes call the Inward Light of the Divine. For Friends, this applies to every facet of everyday life and is embodied in simplicity, equality, peace, non-violence, and a community of kindred spirits. Not that we don’t have our shortcomings, but it does come down to an alternative Christianity of a radical sort.

One thing that it’s taught me is that individually, we’re pretty powerless. But put us together, and it’s like those bundles of bamboo, as the illustration goes. Nothing, apparently, can break them.

Willow Croft: I always try to include a food-based question, so how has old food pathways (via recipes and traditional/borrowed culinary practices) influenced your own eating habits? Do you uphold specific culinary traditions or has it evolved based on your current geographical location (e.g. your moves from the yoga ashram to the Pacific Northwest to coastal New England)?

Jnana Hodson: Oh, what a delicious question! I’ll warn you, though, I’m married to one of the world’s great cooks and she’s greatly expanded my awareness.

[There’s been quite a] revolution that’s occurred in American taste. When I turned vegetarian back in 1970, broccoli was exotic, and nobody could understand the concept of giving up meat. When I was growing up in the ’50s, most of my food came out of cans – even spaghetti! Chinese? It was chop-suey. I even remember my first pizza. As my dad would say, it was EYE-talian. I was maybe six or seven, and the aroma of oregano was exotic – I still recall that, all these years after raising our own herbs.

So vegetarianism opened me to new flavors, especially once I moved to the yoga ashram and lentils and dried beans were added to the mix. There I soon developed a knack for making bread each week. One Monday, I produced about 120 loaves, with a lot of kneading provided by my fellow yogis. Oh, yes, we were lacto-vegetarian and raised our own eggs. There’s a vast difference between those and what you find in the supermarket.

Region has definitely impacted my eating habits. Living in the Pacific Northwest introduced me to Dungeness crab and salmon as well as wild asparagus, which grew along the irrigation canals. I glutted out every May, knowing there would be no more fresh spears for another year.

Around then I came upon the Confucian ideal of no food out of season or place, which essentially points to freshness. The secret of great cooking across traditions, by the way, is the matter of respecting the ingredients, and that’s where freshness is crucial, as is knowing the difference between butter and margarine or the oils we apply. As my wife repeats, fat carries flavor. Just make sure it’s not rancid.

Regional influences include picking our own fruit in local orchards and obtaining unpasteurized apple cider, in season, as well as local cheeses. At one point, I lived near several large Amish communities in Ohio, where Swiss cheese was produced. In New Hampshire, a small country store a town away produces its own delightful cheddars and is well worth a visit. For several summers, we subscribed to a local sustainable fisheries delivery. Each week, we’d pick up a pound of what the local fishermen were harvesting rather than the common commercial varieties. Monkfish, anyone?

Gardening has had a huge impact, from asparagus to strawberries and buttery lettuces and early peas on to the range of real tomatoes – not those things you buy at the grocery. One year, we had fourteen varieties, each one distinctive. From the beginning of August till the first hard frost, I pretty much live on mayo-and-tomato sandwiches. Forget the bacon.

Joining in our Quaker Meeting’s once-a-month participation in Dover’s soup kitchen has also been eye-opening. Nobody serves soup these days, and for our turn, we do a chicken, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw dinner, which seems to be very popular. Cooking for sixty or seventy is quite different than a home dinner, but we try. We’ll be happy when we’re back to table service rather than the Covid-induced takeout.

With the kids now gone, my wife and I are downsizing and moving on to a place where scallops and blueberries are major harvests. She’s already planning the garden, as well as autumn trips northward to Aroostook County for fresh potatoes, with skins that simply melt away in your mouth.

Willow Croft: As a former journalist, how do you feel about the state of journalism today, what with the digital news trends, the howls of “fake news” heard ‘round the world, and the role social media plays in the process of journalistic integrity (or lack thereof)?

Jnana Hodson: Former? Please make that “retired.” I might not be on the payroll these days, but it’s still in my blood – and my dreams, too, usually with frustrations of trying to make deadline or fit everything on a page or adjust to a new computer system. Besides, much of my blogging can be seen as small-scale journalism.

Widespread anonymity and the lack of face-to-face accountability in social media have so far eluded the legal redress of libel and slander laws. Often, avoiding basic civility, too. Reputations can be destroyed overnight, without penalties to the perpetrators. That has to change, and likely will with some big court cases.

On the other hand, the video on smartphones has lifted the cover on police brutality and other injustices. So we do have a mixed bag.

Journalism has been in a tailspin for some time, even before the Internet whammy. We’ve had a declining level of literacy – folks simply reading – on one side. In the newsroom we used to grumble about the “bean counters” who kept expecting more output at lower cost from fewer resources. One thing for certain – the watchdog function has been seriously wounded – with consequences that will prove costly to the public at all levels. Good reporting is hard work, and sharp editing is essential. It’s a fulltime job, not an amateur role, and often needs some strong backup when those in power seek retribution. 

For the right entrepreneur, there’s potential to create a revolutionary digital news vehicle, if enough subscribers can be convinced to pay what they now do for printed paper. It could be a hybrid of written and spoken, with no reliance on advertising. I have some thoughts, by the way, on how it might differ from the generic newspaper we too often encounter today. It could certainly give rise to some fresh ways of covering a community.

Willow Croft: As a poet myself, I am always intrigued about the sources of inspiration other poets draw upon to create their poetic works. With your own poetry, is the past and personal memories more of an influence, or is your current life experience(s) more of a muse?

Jnana Hodson: Very much the now, even when that has me looking back. It’s been a discipline for exploring what’s before me, often from quirky or playful perspectives, before I let go and move on.

The clearing of my mind through meditation has been a strong factor, allowing intuition to bubble up. Sometimes I’ll scribble a short note to myself during the silence of Quaker worship, something I’ll develop and explore later. Similar things happen while showering, walking, or even driving.

Much of my work was done as a reaction to the constraints of daily journalism – often on the fly, like graffiti I revised and distilled later.

Sometimes they stayed short, like a headline. Maybe I wasn’t getting as far away from the newspaper as I thought. Other times, though, they were thrown into a blender – there’s good reason I’ve been called a Mixmaster Supreme. 

What evolves is often something like a dream, which has one foot in the past and the other in the present, not that they’re always obvious.

Willow Croft: Some of your blog topics touch on economics. What sort of economic model, or revolution, is needed to help transform the dual worlds of employment and community (social structure)?

Jnana Hodson: The poets Donald Hall, Gary Snyder, and Wendell Berry are important influences here.

Hall sees work as an embodiment of passion or a meaningful engagement, even when it doesn’t reward you monetarily. Writing a poem is work, as we know. In contrast, a job is something you do to pay the bills, and chores are unpaid things you have to do as a matter of life.

Gary Snyder has what he calls the Real Work. He also titled an early collection Earth House Hold, noting the Greek meaning of “economy.” Shall we start with its environmental awareness?

And Berry looks closely at family life as well as agriculture and community.

As Hall says, we’re really blessed when our work and our jobs come together as one. Unfortunately, what I’m seeing is a widespread denigration of the work aspect of our daily employment, and many of the higher paid positions are way out of line with their greater value to society.

Public policy has put labor and its compensation under attack for the past fifty years. All of the productivity gains have gone into the pocket of the top five percent of the population – much of that going to the one percent. People who still have jobs have been working longer and harder for less than before. And the reality is that most of those touted “entry-level positions” are dead-end jobs with no upward mobility. I’m really miffed when the employers demand “reliable transportation” while offering minimum wage. It’s an unhealthy situation, leaving many people desperate. Wonder why Megabucks are so popular? Or illicit drugs?

Raising the minimum wage is a good step but hardly enough. Quite simply, drastic corrective income redistribution is necessary. Not that we’ve really been able to talk about that. Wages in general can’t go up as long as we’re competing with Third World labor – and that extends to those call centers overseas. Yet just think of the inhibiting, negative emotional whammy the label “socialist” invokes.

Meanwhile, high-tech is eliminating many employment fields – think of travel agents, local stockbrokers, professional photography and developers, or print shops, all already gone, along with the local video stores. I’m wondering how long most local retailers can hold out once we’re free of Covid.

When I look at young graduates entering the job market, I’m grateful I’ve made it to retirement. I have no idea what I’d do in their place or how they’re ever going to afford a place of their own.

Surprisingly, some right-wing economists are reluctantly coming around to admitting the necessity of a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. I would see that as including universal health care – as others have noted, pegging medical insurance to one’s employer greatly discourages entrepreneurs from stepping out on their own unless their spouse has independent coverage – and that becomes a damper on economic growth. The redistribution should also include higher education. Graduates today are saddled with impossible debt for skills their potential employers expect scot-free. And that’s before we get to non-competitor clauses.

I’m still believe in E.F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful,” which was actually happening until cargo-container shipping from China, abetted by “free trade” deals in Washington, wracked the American economy. Bernie Sanders, drawing on labor union economists, nailed that one.

Respecting all honest work is important. Covid showed us how essential trash collectors and nursing home staff are in the big picture. As a cub reporter, I learned that secretaries and janitors often know far more about an operation than the suit in the corner office does. That hasn’t changed. I’ve long come to see a good carpenter or plumber as an artist. ‘Nuff said?

One big shift I’ll encourage turns away from accumulating more possessions – most of us have too much stuff anyway – and toward services and activities instead. That is, quality of life over quantity. Individually donating to local causes and volunteering run along those lines. In short, we can use our time and our money to enhance the place we and our neighbors inhabit.

I’m anticipating that when the Covid restrictions are lifted, we’ll burst out into renewed social connections. It feels like ages since I’ve been to a poetry reading, a contra dance, or a pub sing. How ’bout you?

If you’re keen to hear more from Jnana Hodgson, please follow his Jnana’s Red Barn blog at https://jnanahodson.net/ or check out his book(s) on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jnana-Hodson/e/B088BWJ35Y) or on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6916110.Jnana_Hodson).

Writing Your Way into the Deep End . . . of Inspiration!

As writers, we all chase after the glittery, sparkly, alluring muse known as Inspiration.

But, with the COVID restrictions, maybe some of you have found your inspiration wellspring drying up.

Myself, I go for long walks in one of Wichita’s local cemeteries and look at the names on the tombstones, and watch geese and a pair of soon-to-be nesting hawks.

I hate to admit to you all that even with stay-at-home COVID, I rarely am at a loss for ideas. I sit down and scribble a bunch of random phrases all over a piece of paper that ends up looking like a drunk spider trying to make a web. And then I have a story. After I’ve written it, I give it some space, and then I edit. And edit. And edit. Then I tell myself to stop procrastinating and I send it off. *cue Titanic film score music* And I wait. Wait for acceptances. Wait for editorial suggestions from the editor(s). Wait for a bird to fly past the window so that I can take my mind off all the waiting.

So, while inspiration isn’t a problem for my short stories, I’m still haunted by an entirely different spectre (Hello, ADHD!) that chases after more tangible sparkly things; my mischievous cat, for one, or the birds outside the window, or wondering if my neighbour(s) are building entire rocket ships from scrap metal in their livespaces, and wishing that I could join in the fun, if so.

Where I struggle is outlining. Outlining, plotting, and hitting the word count needed for a full-length manuscript.

(Yes, probably even editing, too, but I believe every writer needs an editor.)

I’m working on two projects right now. One’s a spooky horror manuscript; the other is a…motivational book?…for lack of a better term. They’re both off to a fairly decent start as long as I don’t suggest that the road to personal bliss and growth involves a detailed process of dismemberment for one’s enemies.

But when I do have trouble focusing, I change the background music (film/tv/video games scores or classical), I meditate (aka take a nap!), or I’ll even pull tarot cards for inspiration.

(I shared a sample tarot card reading over at The Horror Tree for February. https://horrortree.com/wihm-using-tarot-cards-for-writing-inspiration/ Stay tuned over there for the March reading, coming up soon!)

Sometimes, though, you need something a little meatier for a full-length manuscript. And so I selected a book for my holiday-Amazon-gift-card spending spree called Write Horror Good Enough to Wake the Dead by Christina Escamilla (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7828668.Christina_Escamilla) to help me overcome my issues with “Pacing”, “Structure”, and “Scene” (<—actual subchapter headers in Escamilla’s book, just FYI) but with a definite horror slant.

This spookily delicious little book comes with a multitude of writing exercises to help you perfect your rage-fueled dismemberments writing craft and, as the back cover of Escamilla’s book states: “introduces two new writing methodologies: The Basement Method and the Horror Pinch Theory”. (Where you can dig up the book: https://bookshop.org/books/write-horror-good-enough-to-wake-the-dead/9781092372473.)

I’m loving the exercises Escamilla provides but time will tell (if I ever get the bloody thing done) if my horror book will be “Good Enough to Wake the Dead”.

I have my beta readers already selected from the inhabitants at the local Wichita cemetery, but no word if any of them are willing to double as sensitivity readers, yet! They’re proving to be quite the silent type, I’m afraid. And so I wait.

Six Things Saturday: Mini-Interview with Author/Musician Ben Fitts

I switched things up a bit this week! Enjoy the awesome “Six Things Saturday” interview with author and musician Ben Fitts!

Willow Croft: Bizarro as a literary genre is still somewhat new to me (but I’m working on remedying that!). What appeal does the Bizarro genre hold for you as a writer, and, if you were looking back on it years from now, would you classify it as a literary/artistic movement, a subculture movement, or both?

Ben Fitts: Bizarro first appealed to me as a reader because I’ve always loved offbeat art and entertainment, especially when it came to comedy, so bizarro essentially felt like a more extreme version of something that I already knew I liked. It was kind of the same way I felt when I first heard Black Flag as a teenager after years of already listening to the Ramones. But the thing about bizarro that really appeals to me as a writer is the sense of absolute freedom I have when writing. Not only do I feel no pressure to make sure that everything feels believable as I do when writing more realistic fiction, but I’m free to revel and find humor in intentional lapses of logic, paradoxes, and general unbelievability. When all of that is on the table, then I’m really free to make just about anything I want happen in the story. Regarding the last part of that question, I’d call it a literary movement more than a bonafide subculture, because it’s not really linked to other artistic practices or self-identity the way full-fledged subcultures are. You can read punk authors like Kathy Acker and John Cooper Clarke, listen to punk bands, dress in punk fashion, call yourself a punk and more, but you can only really do one of those things with bizarro, at least as of now.

Willow Croft: How would you see the punk rock movement and DIY mentality persisting into the year 2021 and in the current/next generations?

Ben Fitts:  I think music and art in general is starting to become more genre-fluid, and punk is no exception. With the internet and streaming services, it’s way easier to come across new music nowadays, especially the more underground stuff. Because of this, young musicians are coming across and are influenced by a far wider range of different musical styles than many musicians from past generations have. A lot of those really niche genre labels you hear floating around nowadays, like blackgaze or hypnagogic pop, come from people having to come up with ways to market their music after the fact. So I do see punk rock musical and cultural influences persisting in DIY music scenes, but I also see it continuing to blend further with outside influences and with more and more microgenre labels popping up, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Willow Croft: What’s the most “Bizarro” i.e. surreal, humorous, and strange situation you have found yourself in, in real life?

Ben Fitts: I went to a rural college where we had lots of parties deep in the woods. These woods parties were a ton of fun, but it was often difficult to find your way out of the woods late at night, and I often got lost when I decided it was time to head home. When leaving these parties, I on two separate occasions accidentally stumbled upon a bonfire around which a bunch of furries were having an orgy while fully in their animal costumes. I’m guessing these furries were probably students who did this sort of thing in secret, but since everyone had their masks on, I guess I’ll never know for sure. 

Willow Croft: How do your music projects (your bands Capra Coven and War Honey) tie into your writing ventures? Are they complementary of each other, or separate?

Ben Fitts: They are pretty compartmentalized for me. Music is what I went to school for and how I pay my bills as an adult, while my writing started out as a casual hobby that ended growing more serious than I would have anticipated at first. So my musical endeavors end up taking up more of my energy and add to my stress levels, while my writing is more like a playground for me to have fun and be creative without really worrying about marketability too much. 

Willow Croft: One of the little bits of me that I still feel is a little bit “alternative” is that I despise the standardization of the educational system, which strips kids of any sort of individuality in some insane quest to be perfect—perfectly conformist—and deprives them of any opportunity to explore all the selves they might want to be. Personally, I see you as a great role model for kids in regards to living a creative, exploratory life, so what would you say to kids and young people as they begin to take over the fucked-up world we’ve left for them?

Ben Fitts: First off, thanks for saying that! I hope I’m a good role model to the kids and teenagers to whom I give guitar lessons, but it’s obviously something I worry about sometimes, as I think everyone who works with kids does. My main advice to kids is to question everything you’re told and to keep your critical thinking skills sharp. Between school, parents, belief systems, and other institutions, we have a lot of information and opinions dumped on us as we grow up. Some of it is helpful and some of it is bullshit. Part of becoming a capable and happy adult who contributes positively to the world around you is sorting out all of the bullshit you absorbed as an adolescent, and then adjusting your worldview appropriately. 

Willow Croft: To end things on a lighter note, I’ve included my usual food-based question! I noticed that your Goodreads profile mentions “you put too much hot sauce on everything”. So, please share, what’s your favourite form of liquid torture (aka hot sauce)?

Ben Fitts: I do like hot sauce! There’s a great brand from Pennsylvania called 22 Peppers that I love. 

Keen to know more? Visit Ben Fitts at his links below:

“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
 
 

Riding the Carousel ‘Round and ‘Round and ‘Round Again…

I’d forgotten that the Villa Linda Mall (yes, yes, I know, it’s the SANTA FE PLACE mall now) in Santa Fe used to have a carousel–merry-go-round, as I usually call it.

But reading G G Collins’ Reluctant Medium reminded me of that. Because, of course, it’s set in New Mexico. Mostly in Santa Fe. That, and I keep misspelling “Reluctant” even though I rarely misspell anything. Chalk it up to COVID-staring-at-the-same-four-walls-for-too-long fugue.

*possible spoiler alert*

It was strange reading a book with little odd parallels running through it—the book’s main character, Rachel Blackstone, runs from Oklahoma back into New Mexico, chasing a spirit she accidently awoke through a ritual she was conducting.

You know, like in those movies when you’re like “Don’t open the door” and the fool opens the door and he dies? Well, maybe it’s nothing like that, but in any case, Rachel Blackstone has to go back to New Mexico to save her friends and family from the very angry spirit. Because, of course, the spirit is seeking revenge for some wrong inflicted on him. Mainly, death.

Anyway, I ran the other way–from New Mexico into Kansas–though I didn’t awaken any vengeful spirits. This place(s) might have them already, from the “dead bodies found no witness” line on the public police report I acquired. I can handle death in books, but in real life? Not so much. I would say that I can imagine that it was a pair of deceased goldfish that were found, except that makes me just as sad, if not sadder, in a way.

So, real life made reading G G Collins’ Reluctant Medium: A Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery late at night pretty gosh darn spooky, even for this spooky lit lover. And, of course, the wind was howling outside my window. And the snow kept falling, along with the temperature. And I kept hearing bumps in the night (just the cats playing–I think!).

But at least I could indulge in some nice character-envy to take my mind off the unexplained thuds in the night, and within the pages of the book. Rachel Blackstone gets her job back as a journalist, she gets to stay with her friend in a luxe Santa Fe home for a while, she snaps up what sounds like a charming, cozy home, and she gets to eat lots of chile-laden New Mexican cuisine! (I hope my new state proves to be as welcoming!) And, best of all, there’s a cat character, too!

I’ll have to wait until I get some unexpected windfall (or win this year’s HGTV Dream Home) to get the next book(s) in the Rachel Blackstone series, but until then, who wants to meet up at the Sopaipilla Factory with me? http://www.sopaipillafactory.com/ ? (It’s not mentioned in the book, but it just happens to be one of my favourite eateries back in New Mexico, and it’s one of the few things I miss about New Mexico.)

Yearnings for a life, and place, of my own aside, it’s a wonderfully spooky mystery to read on during this winter-storm nightmare out there.

Here’s the links (clickable) to the book and to the author’s website:

Reluctant Medium (Rachel Blackstone #1) by G.G. Collins | Goodreads

Reluctant Medium (bookshop.org)

Author Blog: https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com

Stay safe, stay warm, and read lots!

Now, does anyone know how to get off this carousel? It keeps going ’round and ’round and I can never quite seem to get off.

The “Normal” World vs. Otherworldy Ones: A Mash-Up of Book Looks.

And then there’s the world that belongs to writers, who have to straddle both the “real” world, and the “unreal” ones.

Which leads me to the first book I’ll take a looksie at.

I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. (Link: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King | Goodreads) I loved the stories he shared. And I wished things were still “old-school” when it came to writing: pen, paper, hard copies, mailed-in submissions, things like that. But I don’t have much to say about the book, overall. Except my takeaway is that writing is private, until the day comes when it can’t be private anymore. And reading books on writing is also a private experience. I can’t share what I was thinking and feeling when I read his book. Maybe some can. There’s a whole bunch of people that have written about it on Goodreads. I think why I struggle in writing reviews sometimes is that my experiences with literature tend to not only be personal, but multilayered and multidimensional and that writing about how I felt when I was reading a book is like sharing that wonderfully vivid dream you had last night that ends up being profound and mystical and discernable only to you.

And I was thinking about the need for a certain level of privacy, either as a writer, or as the person undergoing an intensive deconditioning process to find their real selves. Living in both my past livespace, and my current one, has helped me realize that, as much as I’d like to have the low-maintenance condo-type livespace to own, it’s just not private enough. I feel like I’ve lost an imagined, perhaps never-had, autonomy.

Then I was cleaning out some of my files on my computer, and deleting the blog posts I’d saved back from when I first started blogging. (Ouch!) And I realized that maybe privacy is old-school, but one habit I still like to indulge in, even though everything in today’s world seems to demand otherwise. But I had one thought while scanning through my old blog posts: “This shit belongs in a diary.” So I’m going to try to unearth at least one diary from my unpacked boxes, and have a place for my private thoughts. And for my dreams of a livespace surrounded by wilderness and animals and no neighbours that go bumping around in the daytime.

This talk of privacy is a segue in to my next book look: Normal People by Sally Rooney. (Link: Normal People by Sally Rooney | Goodreads )One of the characters, Marianne, is defined as a private loner in contrast to the other main character,who is one of the more popular kids in school. These two characters have an off-again, on-again relationship, and I wanted to relate to Marianne, but I couldn’t. Maybe just memories, the past, I don’t know. It has nothing to do with the writing or the quality of the book, which was excellent, but I felt so sad and sometimes irked reading about the characters’ fates and life choices. I have a hard time getting into literary fiction these days, despite the fact I loved reading the classics back when I was a kid. But maybe it’s the drama I struggle with. I can’t bear the reality, even as displayed through fictional characters, of their pain, their struggles, their heartbreak, their…drama. I can handle it through other genres but literary fiction is just too…real?…maybe. And Marianne reminded me of an certain friend.  With literary fiction, I come with oversensitivity baggage (I feel every little pinprick of people’s hurt and confusion and moods), and it’s difficult for me to read books, no matter how good they are, that vicariously provide an examination of emotional baggage through their characters and the story. So I’ll just have to leave the literary fiction analysis to more experienced, and, perhaps, more impartial readers. Readers who are okay with life being a little messy in their fiction.

Which is not to say I can’t handle messy loss and emotional upheaval or even messier blood-n-guts in genre literature. It’s different somehow, in genres like speculative fiction.

I read somewhere online that people are really turning to thrillers (Found it! Link: Now, More Than Ever, Is the Time for ‘Escapist Fiction’ ‹ CrimeReads) right now, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that not only do I like “escapist fiction” it’s okay to like it, and it doesn’t make me unintellectual and such (part of my current deconditioning process).

It’s okay not to embrace literary fiction right now, if ever. It has its place among readers, definitely!

So, in the words of the author of the above article, V. M. Burns (Link: VM Burns – Mystery Writer) I much prefer books that  “…create an imaginary world that the reader can escape into rather than focusing on the deeper realities/issues of the characters imaginary existence.”

And two books I recently read were perfect in that role.

Mrs. Perivale and the Blue Fire Crystal and Mrs. Perivale and the Dragon Prince–both by Dash Hoffman. They are the first two books in the series. I think there may  be at least another one coming, but I don’t have too much information on forthcoming books. I do know that I can’t wait to read the other books this author has penned.

The book series opens with seventy-three year-old Mrs. Alice Perivale who feels undervalued in the world, but is about to begin her biggest adventure(s) yet! Even better, she’s accompanied on this fantastical new adventure by her seven cats! Check it out to see if the knitting-needle-wielding Alice Perivale saves the magical village from a dire fate: Got-Moxie Bookshelf (got-moxie.com).

The only problem with escapist literature is that I haven’t yet found the key to a magical world of my own imagination…yet!

But I’ll keep looking…the portal has to be around here, somewhere!