Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Poet John D Robinson

Five Things Friday has returned! I interview poet John D no period Robinson about herbs and hoarding memories and housing and hope (in the time of crisis)–and we wrap up with the “Cs”–namely, classical music and cats!

Willow Croft: With a nod to a certain kind of herb that has cameos in your poetry, what would be your favourite culinary herb(s) you’d have in your kitchen, and why?

John D Robinson: Cooking is something that I enjoy: I refer here to British garden herbs:  Rosemary: Sage: Coriander: Mint: are the herbs that are always around and are used daily from adding a surprise in sandwiches and in almost every dish I cook there will be at least one or two of the above herbs within from sprinkling over the cooked food to adding them to home-made sauces – particularly mint: herbs and spices were a global trade and I guess still may be, but these days, given the technology,  we can grow just about anything we choose:

Willow Croft: In your interview on Horror Sleaze Trash (https://horrorsleazetrash.com/2018/10/01/an-interview-with-john-d-robinson/), your muse can have many forms, including a “distant memory”. Do you hold onto physical mementos that personify memories, or do you travel light in terms of personal possessions?

John D Robinson: I am a hoarder of such physical memento’s and each item will have it’s own time and place and when looking or handling them, I can recall those moments/times when the item first came into my possession: some of them bring a sadness to surface: from everyday ornaments/to books/pictures/paintings/letters/jewelry/collectible models/ – I can see/feel the muse all around – she is ever present – and I thank her – I love her and now again, she gifts me with a flow of words or paint that smoothly move with an energy of their own:

Willow Croft: Do you believe that cats have the ability to exist in multiple dimensions at once? Alternatively/in addition, what sort of magical powers do you want to believe cats have?

John D Robinson: Cats have been a part of my life for the past 54 years: one time I had 4 cats and the house could be quite frenzied and chaotic: I am obsessed with Cats – domestic and wild – there is a majesty about them – a mystery surrounding them, an energy and attitude that is unique and individual to that cat: I will very often stop and greet cats as I walk the streets: I don’t think, we, humans, ‘own’ the cat, it will do it’s own shit when it wants to but they are faithful and affectionate (mostly) –

As to whether Cats exist in multiple dimensions – I don’t know – but I’m guessing that if they do then every form of life on this planet would do so also –  ‘Mitakuye Oyasin’ ‘we are all related –

Willow Croft: In light of this climate change emergency, how would you envision our definition of housing/a home? What sort of adaptations does humanity need to make, especially when more and more people are priced out of having a livespace?

John D Robinson: This dismal horrific situation has been building pace for some years, here in the UK, back in the 1980’s when large swathes of ‘council properties’ were sold and were never replaced – the periods of economic boom and bust that followed – the hardship that young people are faced with today should never have been allowed to be, particularly in matters of housing, whether renting or buying – the latter almost damn near impossible now and when turned away from local High street banks and mortgage lenders there is the temptation to turn to small independent ‘firms’ whose interest rates on repayment can be astronomical – there is also the issue of where to build without destroying the surrounding area’s – the climate change is beginning to show itself and we’ve earnt it, polluting the skies and seas and oceans for a hundreds year’s and more – I don’t know what can be done now – fuel usage could stop today – again, the technology is there, available, but best keep the rich getting richer, sucking the life from the world’s blood, waters and forests: – I think water will become the next ‘gold’ – for my children’s children I can only hope that some very effective actions happen – it is important to keep hope alive at the very least – the rising costs of basic foods is shameful and criminal – heat or eat – decisions that families may make come winter – for the UK, one of the ‘richest’ countries in the world, that doesn’t sound to good – but in comparison to some countries the UK is a jewel, a beacon of hope and freedom and opportunities. We all know that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone:

 Willow Croft: This may be akin to trying to pick a favourite flavour of ice cream (unless you don’t have a sweet tooth), but what’s your favourite piece of classical music?

John D Robinson: This is a very tough one for me: Frederic Chopin: 1810 – 1849:  Prelude, OP. 28. No 15: (also referred to as ‘Snowdrop’)  –

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: 1756 – 1791: Clarinet Concerto:

Arvo Part: 1935 –  Spiegel im Spiegel

I could have carried on for a few more pages:

Thank you:

~~~

That’s a wrap for this week’s Five Things Friday interview! I don’t have links available, but you can check out some of their poetry on Horror Sleaze Trash (search John D Robinson) as well as many other great poets!

(I haven’t been reading much poetry as of late, except for what appears on others’ blogs, but some of the poems here really reminded me why I read poetry–so I don’t feel so alone, so I don’t feel so lost, so the sounds of the “madding crowd” quiet themselves–almost like a meditation.)

https://horrorsleazetrash.com/

Give a Shelter Pet a Furever Home on Valentine’s Day!

BlackDog
Photo Courtesy of Canva.com

While I don’t recommend adopting an animal for someone else, without them meeting the animal, I would like to give a shout-out to one of my favourite causes: #AdoptDontShop!

Bird1
Photo Courtesy of Canva.com

So many animals linger in animal shelters, just waiting for their “furever” home!

Bunny
Photo courtesy of Canva.com

And, what could be more romantic then taking your sweetheart to find a wonderful pet of their own!

BlackCat
Photo courtesy of Canva.com

It’s a “Happily Ever After” fairy tale, for sure!

DogLove
Photo courtesy of Canva.com

If you’re at a loss for a gift, many animal shelters can also get you a gift certificate for a future adoption! Or you can make your own!

Iguana
Photo courtesy of Canva.com

Don’t have room for a pet in your life but you know your significant other loves animals…make a donation to a local animal shelter, or even sponsor a pet seeking a home in your loved one’s name!

Bird2
Photo courtesy of Canva.com

Hope your Valentine’s Day is lovely, no matter where your own heart is!

Hamster2
Photo courtesy of Canva.com

Find your furry or scaly or feathery love of your life by running a search on Petfinder.org!

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 Rebecca Rowland

Next up in the “Five Things Friday”  interview: Horror Author (and Animal Advocate!) Rebecca Rowland! (And she’s an editor, too!)

Willow Croft: In your Ginger Nuts of Horror interview (https://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/bits-and-pieces-an-interview-with-michael-aloisi-and-rebecca-rowland), you make a passing reference to a roller derby jammer. Do you have a favorite roller derby team? And/or, if you were a roller derby jammer/athlete, what would your roller derby skater name be?

Rebecca Rowland: What a fantastic question! The team I have gone to see most often is the Western Mass Destruction (WMDs), and two years ago, I started putting their try-out dates on my calendar. (https://www.pioneervalleyrollerderby.com/teams/western-mass-destruction/) Then, CoVid hit, and well, we all know how that sentence ends. New England has mostly flat-track derby, so it’s a smidge tamer than the derbies in the Midwest or South, but the Northern women still bring it. The sport is a lot like rugby in the sense that it takes a lot of bravery to put your body out there for guaranteed bruises and scrapes, but as I have no desire to jump out of a plane or bungee jump off of…well, anything, I suppose this would be my adrenaline outlet. And my derby name is Rita Slayworth, of course!

Willow Croft: Somewhere in your corner of the virtual world, you mention that you go travelling at times. And that you count Flannery O’Connor as one of your favorite authors/key literary influences. Have you been to the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home Museum (It’s in Savannah, Georgia, and it’s awesome!) or do you have another author/literary historic site that you’ve visited that you enjoyed?

Rebecca Rowland: Yes, I have visited! It’s funny: I traveled to Savannah for the first time during one of the hottest summers up here in New England. I went to Georgia in July and my weather app listed the temperature as “feels like 106.” I know it gets that hot in the Southwest, but I’ve been to Las Vegas in the summer: the heat in the South is a completely different world! It truly felt like I was walking through soup, but everything about the city: the O’Connor museum, the riverfront, the people, the food—it was all so beautiful and interesting that the weather didn’t bother me. And the bonus was, when I returned home, our “heat wave” here felt refreshing!
You and I have exchanged our frustrations with being grounded these past months. I love traveling and normally try to venture somewhere a good distance away two or three times a year. Every place I visit, I make it a point to see a famous author’s homestead or museum. I drank a shot of Wild Turkey outside of Hunter S. Thompson’s former Kentucky home (much to the amusement of the neighbor, who told us that he sees quite a few tourists do the same), stood on the second-floor balcony of the courtroom in the To Kill a Mockingbird museum in Alabama and imagined Atticus Finch walking by below, pet the ubiquitous feline residents of Hemingway’s estate in Key West, and wrapped my arms around Poe’s gravestone in Maryland. However, one of the coolest literary places I’ve been, I have to say, is right in my backyard: The House of Seven Gables in Salem is right on the waterfront and it features a hidden staircase that tourists can climb. That architectural detail didn’t appear in Hawthorne’s novel, but it’s a fun experience to wiggle up anyway!

(Interview resumes after the photos–Willow Croft)

MonroeCourthouseRR
Rebecca Rowland sitting in the galley of the courthouse in the Monroe County Museum, Alabama https://www.monroecountymuseum.org

HemingwayRR
Rebecca Rowland at the Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West, petting one of the famous cats https://www.hemingwayhome.com

PoeRR
Poe’s original burial site, Baltimore https://www.eapoe.org/balt/poegravd.htm

SevenGablesRR
A photo of The House of Seven Gables, Salem, MA https://www.salem.org (Photo taken by C. Grygorcewicz)

Willow Croft: One of your guest blogs is titled “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste: Insanity as a Horror Trope”. (https://ninasoden.com/2020/07/21/the-horrors-hiding-in-plain-sight-by-rebecca-rowland/) As a lighter spin-off of that post, what is the vilest foodstuff you’ve ever eaten? What’s something you’ve sampled, food-wise, that you would never eat again?

Rebecca Rowland: I have been a vegetarian for almost my entire adult life, so I do have to say, the few times I have eaten meat haven’t been the most…pleasant ones for me. I’m always up to try new things, though, and one experience in particular sticks out. I was in my early twenties and was dating someone who wanted to take me for sushi. I had never tried it, so I ordered the sampler plate. I ate the tuna. I ate the mackerel. I ate the yellowtail. I ate the cucumber roll (and wondered why all sushi couldn’t just taste like that). They all went down fine, and I continued through the plate. The final piece was salmon. I wasn’t loving the experience of eating sushi, but I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound. I’m not sure what it was: the taste, the texture, or the color, but after swallowing the salmon, I nearly projectile vomited. It took everything in my power to keep the food down. Since then, I can barely look at a plate of sushi without feeling a bit queasy. But at least I can say, I tried it.

Willow Croft: When I read through your guest blog posts and interviews, I saw a mention of events and happenings in the real world that you draw from to create your horror—where writing horror acts as a catharsis to those tragic events (https://transmundanepressblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/13/should-writers-write-what-they-know-by-rebecca-rowland/). I know, personally, that writing darker stories is beneficial to coping with things out of one’s control, but that I also have to take a break from it (like, I can’t watch gut-wrenching TV/movie dramas). So how do you take a break from the darkness within, and in the real world? What are some of your favorite non-horror books and TV shows, or other pastimes you take part in?

Rebecca Rowland: I’m a fan of edgy comedies and crime shows. I loved Fleabag, Schitt’s Creek, and Shameless, and right now, I’m catching up on Flack and am excited to start the new season of City on a Hill (because…Boston, Kevin Bacon in a bad porn mustache, and early 1990s hair and fashion: what’s not to love?). But there is one other television staple that is my guilty pleasure: I will not mention which author this is, but a fellow horror writer and I are die-hard fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race. We watch it together every Friday night when a season is airing. The show is beautiful and bright and juicy and creative, and it never fails to take my mind off of anything that might be plaguing me.

Willow Croft: And, lastly, do you have pets [or a beloved plant(s)]? Who are your animal companions, and do they help or hinder your writing?

Rebecca Rowland: (Sigh) This pulls at my heart-strings a bit. I have always had a cat companion; at one time, I had five living with me: all rescues. People would tease me about being a “cat lady” constantly, but now that I’ve had to say goodbye to all but one of them in the past decade, I think, what was missing in those people’s hearts that they thought it was silly or crazy of me to share my life with animals? I can’t say any of my four-legged friends have been particular helpful in my writing, however; even as I write this, my lone survivor has pushed his way onto my lap and is trying to rub the keyboard. However, I think it’s imperative that writers have someone to care for, whether it’s a pet, or a child, or a special partner. Writing, at its bones, is about connecting. We don’t write and shove our stories under the rug; we write and want others to read and feel. Writers who have never truly loved someone or something…their readers can sense it in their work. The stories are missing something. Even if the tale is a gory slasher or a science fiction set in a sterile, metallic world, if the story lacks that ingredient, readers don’t have the essential piece needed to empathize with the characters.
Also, I am going to take this moment to climb up on my little soapbox and ask readers to spay and neuter their pets and to adopt shelter pets! Mine have been sources of true joy for me…and so in that sense, I guess they have been a help to me in my writing after all.

Books and short stories that Rebecca Rowland has coming up/out:

The Half That You See (anthology, edited), released March 15
“Thug,” short story premiering in the Australian literary magazine Curiouser, April 10
“The View Master,” short story written with Pieces collaborator Michael Aloisi, releasing on Kindle April 21
Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction (anthology, edited), releasing June 1
Visit RowlandBooks.com for all the info, and follow her on Instagram @Rebecca_Rowland_books for, as she puts it “horror recommendations and random ridiculousness.” https://www.instagram.com/Rebecca_Rowland_Books/

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Stay tuned for my “Book Look” of Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction when the ARC gets “unburied” from my to-read pile! “Unburied”–get it? *nerdy laugh*

Aether and its Feline Minions…

A quick-as-air post this week! 

I don’t know how I did this before the shutdown: juggle writing and the day job and all the other life stuff. Right now, even without the day job, it feels like I have too many balls up in the air. But I’m submitting to lots of great writing opportunities, like this call for “Whodunit” mystery stories, hosted by Jersey Pines Ink: https://www.jerseypinesink.com. (Click the Submissions tab or just scroll down.)

Annnd, it looks like I might have my manuscript polished and ready for #PitMad. I don’t want to rush it, though, because I’d rather have a finished manuscript over submitting something that’s not as best as I can (re)write it.

In the meantime, I’ve been writing about the air element and kitty cats! Check out the elemental-themed post on Mookychick (https://www.mookychick.co.uk/health/witchcraft-spirituality/exploring-the-aether-realm-when-all-is-shut-down.php), and the story I wrote for Katzenworld (https://katzenworld.co.uk/2020/05/21/the-cat-that-watches-through-time/)!

Have a fantastic rest of the week, and hope it’s filled with lots of flights-of-fancy!