Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Ellen Hawley

Join author Ellen Hawley and I as we go digging for treasure and getting into lots of trouble in Anglo-Saxon England!

Willow Croft: If you unearthed a treasure chest on your property, what would you hope would be in it, and why?

Ellen Hawley: Instructions on how to fix the structural problem in the novel I’m working on. I mean, why be greedy in a fantasy?

Willow Croft: Sometimes I see mention of historically based foodstuffs on your blog (like cake!). What would be your favourite recipe of yore (either mentioned on your blog, or not)?

Ellen Hawley: I can’t help wanting to be around when oat cakes were first made. I want to watch over some woman’s shoulder as she makes them over an open fire in the middle of a stone-walled house with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.

Then I want to run outside to get a few lungfuls of smokeless air.

Willow Croft: Imagine you’re getting together with friends or family on a weekend—what’s the board game you most love to hate?

Ellen Hawley: All of them. I grew up playing board games with my brother, who was (and oddly enough, still is) a couple of years older, so I always lost. It left me with a lasting dislike of them all. I’m the person who’d curl up in the corner with a book and try not to look too grumpy.

Willow Croft: If you created a fictional city of your own, and had to design a tourism brochure, what would be the main selling points of your city (and what would you call it)?

Ellen Hawley: Hang on. I create the city, right? So who gets to tell me I have to design a tourism brochure? I’m designing a city that doesn’t need a tourism brochure. Cancel the brochure. Let’s go out and eat cake.

Willow Croft: Some of your blogs takes a closer look at Anglo-Saxon law (Example: https://notesfromtheuk.com/2021/08/13/law-in-anglo-saxon-england/). What would you have done back then that might have gotten you outlawed or punished?

Ellen Hawley: That’s a tough one, since Anglo-Saxon England was–well, basically, it was a mess. It was one kingdom, it was five kingdoms, it was seven kingdoms, it was probably more kingdoms than that but I lost track somewhere in there. And part of the time large parts of it were run by Vikings, so it stopped being Anglo-Saxon and became Norse. And if that doesn’t confuse the picture enough, part of the time it was Christian and part of the time it was what Christians like to call pagan, which as far as I can make out is a Christian word for not-Christian, not something any group ever called itself. Let’s say it was pre-Christian, although that’s also a problematic label, since it uses a different religion as the reference point.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that the laws changed from one period to the next and from one kingdom or king to the next. But I’m sure I’d have found a way to get in trouble.

In Christian Anglo-Saxiana, it could easily have been for not being a Christian. I’m not sure that was illegal, but it wouldn’t have made me popular.

In any Anglo-Saxon period, although free women were way freer than they were under the Normans, I doubt I’d have kept within the bounds.

Slavery was widespread. I don’t imagine myself as the Harriet Tubman of Anglo-Saxon England–I’m too old to kid myself about having her courage–but whether I was free or enslaved, I’d have had a few problems with it.

And then there’s that awkward business of being attracted to women instead of men. I’ve never read anything about how they felt about same-sex relationships–there may not be any record of it–but again, I doubt it would’ve made me popular.

So many ways to get in trouble, and gee it’s hard to choose.

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Photo courtesy of Canva.com

Free cake at Ellen Hawley’s blog! (I’m kidding. I made that up. But there are blog posts over there that are just as delicious as cake, I promise!) https://notesfromtheuk.com/.

Want more than just cake? Glad you asked!

Ellen Hawley is an American novelist and blogger living in Britain. Her current novel, Other People Manage, was just released by Swift Press: https://www.waterstones.com/book/other-people-manage/ellen-hawley/9781800750975.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…along with the following short stories:

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

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

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

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Priscilla Bettis

The “Five Things Friday” interviews have resumed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy Halloween with Eva Pohler’s The Shade of Santa Fe

I signed myself up to do this book tour thingy…I guess it’s good practice, right? But I’ve seen other bloggers’ “Book Blitzes” and they all look so glitzy and polished.

TheShadeofSantaFeBlitzBanner

Makes me realize my blog is a little low-key. But I like it that way.

Anyhoo, as you can see from the banner, the author that’s being book-toured is Eva Pohler. Yes, the very same Eva Pohler that I interviewed as part of my infamous “Five Things Friday” author interviews. https://willowcroft.blog/2021/06/18/five-things-friday-mini-interview-with-author-eva-pohler/

She’s got a new book out today…the seventh in her “Mystery House” series, and it’s called The Shade of Santa Fe.

Hopefully for Pohler’s “Ghost Healers, Inc.” characters, the ghosts they seek won’t be as elusive as internet and cell phone service is in New Mexico!

Here’s what I do know, from the “case file” information I received from Xpresso Book Tours:

Synopsis:

A haunting in Santa Fe will either reunite Ghost Healers, Inc. or disband the group forever.

When Ellen decides to buy a fixer-upper in an art community in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she’s reassured by the realtor that nothing evil has ever occurred there. What she doesn’t know is that the bridge near the back of the property is notoriously known in the town as Suicide Bridge. As she and her friends try to uncover why so many people have taken their lives there, they are shocked by what they find. Can the reunion of Ghost Healers, Inc. untether the troubling spirits near Ellen’s fixer-upper, or will their discoveries be too much for them this time?

AUTHOR BIO:

After earning her Ph.D. in English and teaching writing and literature for over twenty years, Eva Pohler became a USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels in multiple genres, including mysteries, thrillers, and young adult paranormal romance based on Greek mythology. Her books have been described as “addictive” and “sure to thrill”–Kirkus Reviews.

I don’t know about you, but this picture is exactly how I’m hoping to spend my Halloween evening. Unfortunately, it’s too late for me to get a print copy of The Shade of Santa Fe (even if I did have the money), but you can find digital versions at the links below (or wait for your print version to arrive!).

So, that’s that! How’s my first hosting of a book tour go?

That great, eh?

*wry laugh*

Hope you have a wonderfully spooky Halloween, however you spend your magical evening! (You are spending it reading, right?)

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author C.M. Saunders

Come in and have a cup of “cofftea” with this week’s “Five Things Friday” author, C.M. Saunders!

“What’s ‘cofftea’,” you may be wondering, but you’ll just have to read on to find all about it, and what sort of “dead things” this author loves to eat!

Willow Croft: Since I’ve been mourning the recent demise of my old VHS tape of Sid & Nancy, I gotta open with a question inspired by your RetViews (Retro Review) series (https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/coming-soon-retviews/). You’ve reviewed a lot of great films on there, but if you were stuck in a weird horror loop in one of those films, which would it be, and why would you choose that particular fate?

C.M. Saunders: I’m so glad you are enjoying my RetViews! I started the series out of pure indulgence, and also as a kind of experiment. I wanted to re-watch some movies that had a profound affect on me as a kid or a teenager, and see how they stand up years later. Plus, there are so many great movies out there that don’t get the attention they deserve. The series has been picking up more attention month-by-month and now it’s probably one of the most popular things I do. Back to your original question. That’s such a tricky one to answer! I’m tempted to say John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) but the arctic would be so cold, and not fun at all. I know horror movies aren’t really supposed to be fun, but I do love a splash of humour with my horror. An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (2011) are perfect examples of what floats my boat.

At the end of the day, though, I’m going to have to go with Lost Boys (1987). Coolest. Film. Ever. What could be better than hanging out with the Frog brothers in Santa Carla chasing vampires and Jami Gertz? If I’m going to be doing that forever, it would also be a nice little tie-in with Peter Pan who also never grew up, and where the title came from.

Willow Croft: In your Redrum interview (https://www.redrumreviews.com/post/interview-with-c-m-saunders), you mention wanting to start a “massive open-air splatterpunk festival combining music, literature, performance art, and comedy”. While I would love to hear nothing but Cure covers (they’re my favourite band, and were actually really awesome to meet in person), what bands and performers would you add to your lineup?

C.M. Saunders: Previously, I said Alkaline Trio should be headlining. But I’ve since relegated them to ‘special guest’ spot in favour of The Wildhearts. I don’t know how well-known they are outside the UK but they’re well worth checking out. Their new album is amazing, and they have a song called Splattermania which is destined to be the festival’s unofficial theme song. In a recent interview Ginger (the singer) said he didn’t believe in God but knew something must be going on because it’s the only thing that could explain him still being alive. Brilliant. I’d also find slots for Senses Fail and Silverstein, and I’m a big fan of The Dangerous Summer. Not least because they wrote a song about the music industry called Fuck them All and went indie. That takes balls.

I think the comedy slots would be hardest to fill, because everyone is so easily triggered these days. It’s taken millions of years of evolution for us to arrive at the point where our first reaction is to be triggered, usually on behalf of someone else. We’d probably have to settle for a mime artist making balloon animals.

Willow Croft: Time for the food question! I’ve eaten some terrible food concoctions back when I was young and wannabe punk rock/squatter (for example, one staple was a soup made from ketchup and Taco Bell sauce.). So, have you ever created your own mash-up of unlikely foodstuffs that turned out to be just as terrible—or absolutely delicious? Share your concoction here!

C.M. Saunders: I had the innovative idea once of mixing tea and coffee together and calling it ‘cofftea.’ I was convinced my invention was going to take the world by storm. The only problem was that it was absolutely disgusting.

I used to be a very fussy eater, until I went to live in China in 2007. There, I was struck by how many things are not only edible, but delicious. We waste so much food in the west. We don’t even think about it. For example, most people only eat the prime cuts of an animal. Fatty bits, ew! But in China they eat every single part from the ears to the ass. Fat is a delicacy because there’s less of it on an animal. Chicken feet, which are literally just skin and bones, are insanely popular. One day, a friend came over to my apartment to cook a meal, and brought a bloody pig’s nose with her. I’ve learned not to be squeamish, and in my time there I ate tons of things I wouldn’t have got to try otherwise. Boiled brain, fried bamboo worms, chicken hearts. I lived in a place called Changsha in Hunan province, and they have a specialty there called ‘fried live fish,’ where they cook and gut a fish, and then serve it before it actually dies. That was pretty gross. After I saw that I changed my personal rule from, ‘I’ll eat anything,’ to, ‘I’ll eat anything as long as it’s dead.’

Willow Croft: What I miss most about my travels outside the U.S. was/is the absolutely amazing train travel. So, if there were an intergalactic train trip offered, what places, real or fictional, in the universe would you want to visit, and why?

C.M. Saunders: Does it have to be intergalactic? I’m not a big fan of space. It just seems like a whole lot of nothingness to me. There might be aliens, but I think you’d have to work hard to find them and when you do they might look like sticks of celery or something. You might think I’m boring but I’m quite happy with normal trains. I’m from the UK which isn’t very big. You can take a train from one end to the other and it would only take a few hours. On the other hand, when I lived in China some train journeys would take days. Days! You’d buy a ticket, look at the arrival time, and it would just say “Thursday” and you had to pay extra for a seat, otherwise you’d have to stand up the entire way. Ooh, how about a time travel train? Can I go on one of those? Can I? Hmm? Can I? There are so many places I’d like to visit, like late-seventies New York when the Ramones were taking off, the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 with Jimi Hendrix and The Who, Live Aid in ’85, the list is endless. I think I’d give Woodstock a miss, though. It might be iconic, but it looked like a living nightmare to me.

Willow Croft: One of the things that I’m navigating as I get older is making sure I don’t fall into a life that’s too, I don’t know the words, traditional or conformist—to not fall into a certain state of ennui about how things are. I don’t want to get too comfortable—I want to keep fighting against the pricks—literally and figuratively, and one of the ways I try to do it these days is by picking up the pen. What ways, if any, does that sort of “punk rock”, alternative, or “change the world” mindsets find its way into your writing, and/or any other creative areas you explore? Does horror, as you write it, fit into that aesthetic (how and why)?

C.M. Saunders: Right now it’s a very difficult time to be artistic, or put yourself ‘out there’ in any way. Every time you do so, you set yourself up for a world of shit. Just one misinterpreted line in a story, or a comment or social media post taken out of context, could end your career. Everybody is so eager to be offended. In one of my novels, Sker House, a character complains about being friend-zoned by a girl he liked. A reviewer read it, found the whole ‘friend zoning’ concept offensive, and called me a misogynist, completely missing the point that it was fiction. I wasn’t putting across my personal views, I was speaking through a character, who happened to be a frustrated 18-year old college student. Things like that affect your later work, because frankly, I don’t need the drama. The social climate at the moment is so precarious that whatever anybody says or does, someone somewhere will get pissed about it. I find this confusing. People love to be offended, usually on behalf of someone else, under the pretense of being a ‘good’ person. And then they take great delight in stomping people who don’t share the same views as them into the dirt, which isn’t what good people do.

Find out where C.M. Saunders has put themselves “out there”:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/CMSaunders01

https://www.facebook.com/CMSaunders01

Here’s the RetView posts C.M. Saunders mentions in the interviews:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/retview-37-the-thing-1982/

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/retview-3-an-american-werewolf-in-london/

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/retview-17-tucker-dale-vs-evil-2010/

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2017/08/13/the-lost-boys-at-30/

Oh, and just in case you were still hungry (you all know that this longtime vegetarian sure as heck isn’t. Ha!), take a look at “Eating brain”: https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/i-want-to-eat-your-brains/

Wildhearts – Splattermania: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu6_0n4rXbY

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Suzanne Craig-Whytock

This week’s interview is with spooky-tale-teller (and pretty “dang” funny!) author Suzanne Craig-Whytock!

Willow Croft: Writers tend to have pretty active and wild imaginations, and I think your blog captures how free ranging our minds are. So, I was curious, what kinds of inventions have you filed imaginary patents for in your head? (Inspired by your post about the underground network of nefarious kayak thieves: https://educationalmentorship.com/2021/09/12/rendezvous-with-destiny/.)

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: I don’t think I’ve ever really imagined an actual invention—I’m more of a “MacGyver”, which is to say that I use other people’s inventions to solve problems of my own. I get that from my dad, who was a trained toolmaker, and he could make any tool you could think of with an Allen key and some contact cement. Me, I’m good with SOS pads, pushpins, and paperclips, which you can do just about anything with. Zipper pull on your boot broken? Paper clip. Screen on your hair dryer clogged? Paper clip. Feel like poking a hole in something? Paper clip. Bored at work? Paper clip. I could fashion a chain to keep my kayaks safe from those nefarious kayak thieves with paperclips twisted together, and it would make them crazy trying to undo it. Enough said.

Willow Croft: At risk of upstaging your “theatrical metal chair” *drops voice to a stage whisper*, who would you want to portray you in a stage play of your life?

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Yes, I have to keep this on the downlow because I have several melodramatic or obnoxious pieces of furniture in close proximity to my computer. But to be honest, if someone was going to make a stage play about my life, it would be an absurdist play along the lines of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, and I would want Tina Fey to portray me. I think she understands how to take weird and sometimes awful things and find the humour in them. Also, in any play about my life, I have forklift arms and everyone calls me by my superhero name, Heavy Metal.

Willow Croft: As a teacher/substitute teacher, I know that the classroom environment can be pretty surreal at times. So, what’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened while you were teaching (that you can share)?

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: I taught for almost twenty-five years and loved every minute but yes, there were certainly some strange things that happened during that time. Two things come immediately to mind:

I had been studying the Greek play Lysistrata with my senior IB students. I always had my kids perform whatever they were studying, and this group insisted that they stay true to the original when it came to costumes, which of course meant togas and masks, as well as large fake breasts for the female characters (played by the boys) and exaggerated ‘manparts’ for the male characters (played by the girls). I had no problem with this and gleefully helped them use balloons, soccer balls and whatnot to get that ‘authentic’ feel. We were right in the middle of a particular scene where one of the boys was jumping up and down, accompanied by the bouncing of his chest balloons, and the girls were swinging their own balloons around quite proudly, when suddenly my principal came to the door. We looked at each other, me slightly aghast, but she didn’t bat an eye. “I’ll come back later,” she said, and we carried on.

I was also the supervisor of a summer school site for several years, and I’ve had numerous encounters with students under the influence of a variety of things, which I’ve written about on my blog (Weeks 89 and 90, when I was still calling things ‘Weeks’). Some of those encounters are incredibly humorous.

Willow Croft: In all your antiquing/Big Junk Day adventures, have you ever acquired an item that was haunted?

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Ooh, what I wouldn’t give to have found something haunted at the side of the road! I did have an issue with a baby monitor once when my daughter was little—I actually used that situation as inspiration for a chapter in my latest novel The Seventh Devil. And I had a Wizard of Oz music box that would randomly start playing, to the point where I buried it in the garden. There was definitely a ghost in my last house, although the current one, despite it having a doctor’s office in it at one time, is remarkably ghost-free, more’s the pity. I guess no one ever died from malpractice here. We did have a few days after my husband and daughter demo’d the front porch of our 1906 house where there were some shenanigans in a back room (doors randomly opening, chandelier flickering), but I told whatever it was to cut it out, very sternly, and we’ve had no problems since. The noises in our attic are all caused by critters. Obviously.

Willow Croft: And, last, but definitely not least, if you were magically transported into one of your Paris paintings, what would you order at your favourite Parisian café? Alternatively, or in addition, what would you be reading?

Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Ah, Paris! I’ve never been there, but I dream of the day, and I live vicariously through my gorgeous, drippy, impressionistic paintings. I imagine myself sitting there along one of those streets—it’s raining lightly but I’m under an awning, sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I don’t know if I’d be reading anything–most likely I’ll be writing–but if I was reading, it would be my favourite poet, T.S. Eliot. And my husband Ken is there too, enjoying a glass of Merlot and taking photographs of the scenery. Maybe one day…

~~~

Haunted by this interview and want to investigate Suzanne Craig-Whytock’s spooky books? Check out this link, here, if you dare! https://canadianauthors.org/national/mbm-book-author/suzanne-craig-whytock/.

Also, explore another dimension of Suzanne Craig-Whytock’s “weirdly wonderful aspects” (her words) at her funny-as-all-get-out blog, “My Dang Blog”: https://educationalmentorship.com/.

Now, go find some haunted antiques. Or just drink wine and pretend you’re in Paris. (I know that’s what I’ll be doing!)

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Bibiana Krall

For this week’s interview, we’re journeying through the evocative flavours of Bibiana Krall’s “mysterious world”. Enjoy the voyage!

Willow Croft: I read on your website that Tangled Webs (Book Two of your Haunted Series), has autumn-themed recipes and cocktails at the back of the book. So, without giving away any spoilers, what’s your favorite autumn flavor/foodstuffs to include in recipes?

Bibiana Krall: I grew up on a farm in Michigan and the flavor that most represents harvest for me will always be the apple. We had our own fruit trees and pressed apples into cider at the local mill to drink with breakfast and sip on chilly evenings with mulling spices. There is nothing more comforting than a warm slice of homemade, apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In the bonus pages of Tangled Webs, I included a recipe with a savory twist on a classic. Enjoy!

Willow Croft: I see that you’re a collector of objects. For a twist on the topic, what’s your favorite memory, or story of place, or even a memory of a particular scent, that you’ve collected?

Bibiana Krall: It’s true. I have an oddball collection of art, coins and even a few first-editions. Scent carries my strongest memories. The green-resin of a pine forest snoozing under the snow, the mellow earth after a gentle rain (petrichor) and oh… how I love gardenias. I planted some bushes in my yard, as they remind me of my grandmother. Creamy-white petals with notes of vanilla and exotic spice, what’s not to like?

Willow Croft: How does your writing transform not only your world, and the world of the reader, but the world at large, perhaps in terms of cultural, social, environmental change, and the like?

Bibiana Krall: I’ve been a storyteller ever since I can remember. The world is a mysterious and mystical place that holds a tradition of verbal and written stories that helps humans understand our past, present and future.

My hope is to change the reader’s perception that someone in another culture or a person who looks or lives differently than we do, may understand us more than we’d previously imagined. Heroines are an important part of what I do, as without strong and resilient women in our lives where would any of us be?

I gravitate towards themes of: ‘good versus evil’ ‘haunted houses’ and ‘a stranger comes to town’ to talk about fear of the unknown, overcoming and also to show that often there’s more to something than what you initially notice or believe. The greatest gift in fiction and hopefully in my work as well, is to discover that you aren’t alone in your struggle.

Willow Croft: If you could travel anywhere in the Cosmos you sky-watched as a child (as quoted from your blog), where would travel, and why?

Bibiana Krall: When I was a child, I yearned for a quick trip to Venus or to skateboard across the rings of Saturn. Now my wish is to travel to the Pillars of Creation and watch the EGGs zing across the darkness as they are born. The Eagle Nebula in the Serpens constellation is seven thousand light years away from us. To witness stars being created in real-time would blow the mind, so I included my wonder for the ‘Pillars’ in the mysticism of the Irish Phantom Series.

Willow Croft: If you were reincarnated as one of your literary heroines (or from another author’s works), who would you decide to be?

Bibiana Krall: That’s a tough one! What woman wouldn’t want to be Rebecca before she clashes with the horrible Mrs. Danvers or Jane Eyre living life on her own terms? In my own stories, I admire Ayanna in Prospect Hill for her intelligence, magic and herbal skills and Mary in the Irish Phantom Series for her courage to face terrifying situations and her ability to find happiness, friendship and true love after a breakdown.

Thank you for making space for my creative world. Your insightful questions made me think, smile and dream. Hopefully y’all know me a little bit better now. This was an honor and great fun! – Bibiana

Website: www.bibianakrall.com

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/bibianak

 

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