I’ve followed Christy Birmingham’s blog for years, and, likewise, she’s been a strong supporter of mine. I think she was one of, if not the first, who purchased my book of poetry when I self-published (Oh, Createspace, how I miss thee!). But this is the space for honest reviews, and, being an honest, ethical, straight-arrow type, with a healthy dose of blunt forthrightness, here goes my honest review. (Please, stick with me to the end of the review.)
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this book, the first time I read through it. I felt somewhat removed from the poems within, and I couldn’t understand why. As a woman, going through what seems a similar journey of self-transformation, why was I feeling unsettled? Why didn’t it grab me straight from the beginning?
It wasn’t until I sat down to write this review that I realised what was giving me this sense of disquiet. I spend a lot of time in other realms. The theme of my own poetry book is all about journeys to other worlds. Alternate dimensions, astral travel, tandem dreaming, visits to fairyland–however you want to classify it, it has very little to do with the “real” world. And my short stories reflect more of the same–fantastical, surreal, spooky, and a little escapist (or so I hope!). I spend so much time up here in my head, or a million miles from it, that I’m not very present. I constantly receive gentle instructions to become more grounded, to visualise coming down into my feet. But it’s not a place where I’m most comfortable. I want the deep vastness of space; of the ocean. Of anywhere but here on Earth.
Christy’s poems reflect exactly that sort of grounded earthiness I’m constantly trying to avoid. Being present, being in the moment. Being real, no matter how much it hurts. Or how confusing it is. From my way-out-there, interdimensional traveller perspective, I see her as a very present poet. And I’m also not used to reading that in poetry.
And it’s a necessary, and lovely, stability in the rareness of the feeling her poetry inspires. With each poem brings another block to lay on the foundation under my feet. As a woman, as a denizen of this planet no matter how much I dream myself otherwise, she connects me back to the Earth under my feet; to my own “Version of Self” that connects with lines of her poems.
“Gliding under Water” reminds me of the simplicity of being a young girl in a pool; a time where my sensory experiences were more immediate. Though her work is titled “Versions of the Self,” I see it more as a stripping away of those versions to achieve a strong core, bringing us along with her as she goes back to basics. To having strong roots. And water, ironically, also helps root the reader in a very real, relatable experience of loss and change, in her poem “Within a Few Feet”. We have no choice to be present right along with the poet, because her pain is ours. It’s a pain that, sadly, lies in most women, and maybe the human race in general.
Lastly, she reminds me that it’s okay to be down here, in the muck and mire that is Earth, to “start at the bottom” (from “Bottom of the Waterway”). Because it’s only from there that we will learn to fly.
Message me on Twitter (I’ll need your snail mail address to mail the book to you, just FYI) at https://twitter.com/WillowCroft16 , or use the message form on my blog (or post up in the comments if you’re interested and we’ll work out the details).
Important details about the giveaway:
I had to rate my book 18+ on Amazon because of language, so the same applies here in the giveaway, just for posterity. I’ll need you to state that you’re 18 and up if you want a copy of the book.
I’m only giving away four copies of the book. First four people that express interest will get the freebie book copies, and I’ll make that determination to the best of my ability. (That is, if anyone enters!). It’s open on the blog and on Twitter, so selection will also be prey to a factor of randomness.
I see similar blurbs like this for book giveaways, so sending you the book doesn’t mean you are obligated in any way, for anything, whether it’s leaving a review, or…well, I don’t know what else people would think getting a free book would obligate them for, but let this disclaimer cover it, I suppose, or anything else that might make me liable in a court of law. It’s just a book, and a tea sample, that I’ll be sending you.
I’ll need your email, but I promise not to spam you, snail mail style. Or sell your mailing address. Or use it to mail you a puffin. Because that would also be illegal.
Entering the giveaway is no guarantee you will receive a free copy of the book.
The contest ends at 11:11 pm MST (United States). I’ll try to notify you by 11:11 pm MST the following day, which will be Sunday, May 5th, if you won a copy of the book. Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Others, tragically, have learned that home is a false concept of security and warmth.
But many still look for it.
Even life’s wanderers.
And I never wanted to stay in one place.
Three years, max, and I feel the desire to move on. Especially now, feeling a geographical dislocation in this high desert.
I still want to burn bridges.
To leave a wake of delightful chaos and destruction in my wake, however inconsequential.
Enough, I say. I’ve had enough of this place.
It’s okay to be a stranger. To be out of place and step no matter where you go.
But then I got tired.
I didn’t expect that.
To wake up a stranger in this aging body that I have trouble believing is still mine.
“Own it.” (No, thank you.)
What do you do when noplace wants you?
I found a cover letter for a job with a local company back in 2007 in my files. I applied when I lived here before. I’m back in this locale, and have applied to the same company quite a few times recently. It felt so silly, wasting all that recent effort that (in a random. passing realization) still hasn’t wanted to hire me.
I felt like Don Quixote. My whole life a series of tilting-at-windmills.
What do I do with a whole bunch of middle-aged angst? Excusable in the young, sometimes, but all these mixed emotions as an adult? It’s not allowed. I’m supposed to have it all figured out.
But what if you just realised you never even had the chance to figure it out when you were a kid? To not be who you were, inherently? To be taught that everything about you was somehow implicitly wrong, but then get slapped with the wake-up call that maybe, just maybe, that might actually not be true?
An entire sense of self just stolen, and you didn’t even realize the extent of the theft?
How do you go back and recover it? And why would you, at your age?
But you’ve exhausted all the possibilities. Or it feels like it. Physically, you can’t do the working-three-jobs solution you did when you were young. Jobs that sucked but gave you the illusion of independence. Of home.
But I was homeless within four walls. I didn’t own anything. I had nothing.
So I opened the door to a different room. An internal door. A door that led into creativity. Maybe not into the room of being an artist the way I always wanted as a child. Or the violinist. Or a million other lost dreams.
I was so scared.
But I opened it anyway.
I took the gamble.
And now I can’t close it.
But, why would I? So many years just trying to fit in. To conform. To keep my head down. To not rock the boat. To dress for the workplace. To work, at the cost of everything. A starving artist without even the comfort of art.
And guess what?
The gamble’s working.
I’ve had more acceptance the past few years as a hopeful writer then I have had in an entire lifetime of just trying to “get a job”.
So much support, even in rejection letters. Journals, editors, magazines–all mostly offering valuable feedback even when my stories or articles aren’t accepted.
And they are so nice.
And, even more astounding, my articles and stories are actually being accepted. At a mind-blowing, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming level. Even other writers are wonderfully supportive. I want to give acknowledgements to all but I’m forgetful in my old age sometimes, so I don’t want to leave anyone out. But you know who you are. If you follow me on Twitter, or look at the blogs I follow, and share via social media, you’ll find them. Or ask, and I’ll be glad to share links to read/purchase my works. And I try to be as supportive as possible in return, but I struggle with time management. As in there’s not enough time in the day. I feel like ambitious, hardworking Hermione, who still needed a time-turner to accomplish everything she intended to do at Hogwarts.
Have I arrived?
But, for the first time, I feel the inklings of what it would be like to have a sense of place. A connection. To not be the outsider eternally looking in. And I want to say, don’t let people take away your dreams. To put you down. To steal your sense of self. Even if you’re not making any money. Better to be broke and happy, then miserable and eking out an existence at a dead-end job. (Having said that, I still have a day job. *laugh*)
And, maybe someday, I’ll have roots in an actual community, too. In Glasgow. Or in Europe, somewhere. A little sea cottage by a tumultuous ocean, even. Surrounded by wilding trees, and roses by a blue front door.
( Feel free to share links to your actualised dreams, or write about them, in the comments below!–Willow)
Not all the time, of course—that would be enough to drive one mad. But whenever I have encountered a ghost, it’s always been heard rather than seen.
When I was a teenager, I borrowed a Ouija board from a friend. At first, I carefully followed all the rules: I never used it alone; I made sure to move the planchette to Goodbye before taking my hands off it, etc. But the darn thing never worked.
One night I fell asleep with the Ouija at the end of my bed. I was in a deep sleep when a loud knocking sound woke me up. Groggily, I realized the sound was coming from the Ouija, but I was too out of it to process what that meant. Instead, I grabbed the board and threw it in a dresser drawer.
Before I could get back to sleep, loud knocking sounds started coming from inside the dresser. At this point, I was really annoyed, and yelled a few choice words at it. The knocking stopped, and I fell asleep.
In the morning, once it dawned on me what had happened, I returned the Ouija board to my friend.
Growing up, I had a very close friend. Let’s call her Morgan. We definitely had our run-ins, as we were both willful, opinionated girls, but we also had a special connection. She was one of my dearest friends from the age of seven, when we met, to the age of seventeen, when she died in a horrible car accident.
I don’t think you’re ever prepared to lose your best friend, and certainly not at that age. To say I was devastated would be a massive understatement.
Soon after her death, there were plenty of signs that my friend’s spirit was still around, but they could all be dismissed as a coincidence or accident. Her portrait fell over during her funeral, right on her casket. The area around her grave was mysteriously warm, even in the dead of winter, with a wind howling and no shelter in the entire cemetery. Sometimes I’d be walking down the hall at school and hear someone call my name, but when I turned, no one was there. And that’s when I’d recognize the voice.
When I moved away, Morgan really made her presence known. It was my first year away from home. I was living hundreds of miles away from my family and friends in a shitty little apartment in yet another isolated northern community. For some reason, even though Morgan had never been to this place, I felt her around me all the time. One day I found a mix tape that she’d started making but had never gotten the chance to finish. I was alone in the apartment, cleaning up the kitchen, so I put the tape into my boyfriend’s stereo.
The tape played just fine until it got to my friend’s favorite song. When it got to the end of the song–which was in the middle of the tape–the stereo suddenly auto-reversed, and played a song on the opposite side. It then auto-reversed again.
It was at the beginning of her favorite song once more. I froze.
I said her name, very tentatively, my heart beating a million miles a minute. “Morgan?” My kitchen cupboards went nuts. It sounded like someone was knocking on each one very hard with a fist. The knocks went down the row of cupboards and then started coming toward me again. I ran to my bedroom, threw myself face down on the bed, and yelled something along the lines of:
“No, Morgan, go away! I’m not ready for this!”
The knocking stopped.
I’ve never felt my friend’s presence again.
When visiting Poveglia, the world’s most haunted island, I was standing in the abandoned asylum with only a few minutes left when I felt brave enough to speak.
“Hello?” I said, stupidly, before remembering I was addressing Italian-speaking phantoms.
As soon as I repeated the greeting in Italian, there was a noise from the next room. Was it something falling or shifting? The building settling?
Or was the soft-yet-deliberate thud someone’s attempt to communicate?
I’m not sure, but I do know I convinced myself that spending the last ten minutes outside on the shore was a fantastic idea.
When I moved into my hundred-year-old house, I put a collar with a bell on my anxiety-ridden cat to ensure I could find her if she went into hiding. The collar didn’t last long, and soon I found it on the floor upstairs. Exhausted from unpacking, I left it there. One evening, while I was downstairs watching TV with the kitties, that bell rang, clear as day. We all heard it. And that’s not the only strange noise that occurs in this house, either. For years, every night right after I went to bed, the front door would make a strange clunking noise—the best way I could describe it is as if the cylinders of an ancient lock were sliding into place, but I have a modern door. People have waited up to hear the noise and see if they can find the cause of it, but none has ever been found.
There are many more stories, but suffice it to say—for a writer of supernatural suspense, inspiration is everywhere.
Can you relate to any of these stories?
J.H. Moncrieff’s new release, Forest of Ghosts, was inspired by her real-life experiences in Romania, including Hoia Baciu, the world’s most haunted forest.
J.H. loves to hear from readers. To get free ebooks and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.
Jackson Stone is sick of ghosts. With his love life in shambles, he heads to Romania for a horror writers’ retreat, hoping it will be a break from the supernatural and breathing space from his relationship with medium Kate Carlsson.
But as his fellow writers begin disappearing or losing their minds, he realizes he needs Kate’s help.
When Jackson loses his own memory, Kate’s love is the only thing that can bring him back. But she’s falling for the man responsible for the evil in Romania. A man who claims to be her soul mate. Will this master of wraiths forever break Kate’s bond with Jackson?
Intrigued yet? Purchase your copy today to uncover more about Kate and Jackson’s fate!
“Quantum Singularity is a voyage through time and space. This poetic journey crosses oceans, traverses other realms, gets lost in the past, and disappears into the future. Choose the right path; the path that leads to the corner of Cosmos and Infinity, and the way will never be lost.”
You are welcome to join me on my voyage through time and space.