I put up a website for my not-so-secret other identity!
It took a while to get there, behind the scenes, for sure.
I just wanted there to be a place where I could redirect people to if they wanted to know more about the services I offer.
I wasn’t even looking for anything fancy; a simple page that was more like a profile or a placeholder or whatever you call it.
I was having such problems with the complexity of the web design process (to those of you who helped with prior incarnations of the attempted website adventure–thank you! If you’re reading this, you know who you are!).
I didn’t want to go through WordPress for this, as it felt like overkill for the simple site I wanted, and I wasn’t looking at taking on another blog, and I just found using both Wix and Weebly to be a headache of a different flavour (yes, again, you think I would have learned from my first go-round with both platforms, but apparently not! Ha!).
And then an email from Mailchimp popped into my inbox when I was catching up on emails, telling me they were now offering website design through them.
What the heck, I said. And I gave it a try.
It was exactly what I needed at this juncture, when I’m trying to bring in some $$$ as cheaply as possible (I chose the free version, of course) but it was perfect. I can go in and reedit it as I need to, I had just the stock photos I was looking for, and I could have the simple, basic, one-pager I needed, and I can upgrade when I get some income coming in and I continue to grow my preexisting business.
I don’t get up to a lot of promo stuff on this blog (well, except for books and nonhuman animal- and environmental rights, that is!) but holy cow, I would completely recommend Mailchimp website feature!
I have been so stressed and overwhelmed and so oddly emotional and I just needed to have this free website process be easy and uncomplicated–a page I could just set it and leave it and I wouldn’t even have to maintain on a regular basis. And in this world where all this tech that should be making our lives easier instead feels like it makes our lives 100 percent more complicated, Mailchimp was like an oasis.
I can’t speak for the expanded and paid versions, but I feel that if my initial experience using Mailchimp’s free web design feature is anything to go by, Mailchimp is innovatingly mindful in this chaotic world.
Here’s the link to the simple website I did–please let me know what you think in the comments below!
(Honestly, though, I’m just so relieved to have it done, finally! It seems like a website would be such a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it felt like a mountain-sized load!)
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!
This week’s “Five Things Friday” interview victim is J.D. Graves, author, playwright, and editor of the EconoClash Review. (Careful not to contaminate the crime scene as you leave!)
Willow Croft: As a playwright, you’ve probably heard the term “the show must go on” more times than you can count, but in a wildly improbable scenario of your darkest imaginings, what could prevent a show from actually going up?
J.D. Graves: Actors need an audience and will do anything to make sure their needs are met. I’ve seen shows go on even after the power went out and the actors took it to the parking lot when they realized they didn’t have enough flashlights. I’ve produced shows where we met only once a week over four months. It was quite a rehearsal process that I would never attempt again…until the next time it is necessary. A terrorist attack seems to be the only thing that can stop a performance as it has happened before. In my darkest imaginings I would witness it happen in person and then the Russians would pump in the toxic gas and kill everyone including those patrons who couldn’t afford good seats. I’d be in the nose bleeds with them trying to keep my eye jelly from leaking onto my good shirt. If I survived the ordeal I’d need the shirt for work the next day.
Willow Croft: What’s the most bizarre situation you’ve found yourself in, in real life?
J.D. Graves: Do you like Hibachi? I love Hibachi it’s not just a meal it’s also a show that’s well paced and fulfilling at the end. Better than most dinner theatre I’ve suffered through. It’s simple and uncomplicated which is the opposite of my love-life over a decade ago before the blessing of children forced me to be a grown-up. Once took an ex-GF, her mom and family out to a Hibachi dinner. We were celebrating the exciting news that we were going to be parents despite officially ending our relationship (guess it was only on a hiatus for the end of summer) Stuff happens. We took up eight chairs in total. There were four seats at the grill left open. Everything was going great until a pair of couples took the empty chairs. And as luck would dictate It was my other exGF (the one I had just broken up with by telling her I’d tin-roof rusted the girl I’d broken up with in July before beginning our new relationship) her two parents and her new date. Did I tell you how much I love Hibachi? That night while ex ex GF watched the chef do spatula tricks and onion volcanoes current ex GF sat across from me. She made a big production of actively ignoring me and I tried to do the same without all the razzmatazz and pointed barbs. While she lavished attention on her new dude and his thinning hair and double chins (rebounds are what they are although I’m sure he treated her nice) things just kept getting weirder as dinner cooked in front of us. It’s tough to love someone who doesn’t love you. I was reaping what I sowed that night as far as interpersonal romantic entanglements go. My date knew the chef and they kept asking about each other’s friends and divulging personal anecdotes that made the simmering grill even hotter. Maybe they were dating too before one cold night in November, I made a phone call and the world that existed changed forever. It was a fitting metaphor for my life at that time. Chef asked my date why she hadn’t been over at such and such’s place and she blurted out “well…I got pregnant.” This caused the other exGF to laugry (cry a laugh) loud as she possibly could. She sat there for a moment and took one last look at me. It was brief, of course, but in that moment I felt the sting of the jealousy-rage-heartache trifecta. She bit her lip and turned to her date and said excuse me. She made no eye contact with anyone. New Dude said okay but didn’t cease chowing down on the cubes of grilled steak and egg fried rice and didn’t watch her leave, but I did. Shoulders curled, head down, feet propelling her out of the terrible situation. My date looked at me and asked, “Do you know her?” I shook my head and ordered a double cape-cod. Drank it and ordered another. After the second drink the exGF mother excused herself to check on her daughter. Neither returned for the duration of the meal. And everyone else took their time enjoying their dinner oblivious to the awkward tension. Meanwhile. I felt like the lobster cooking in my own shell. Never been more relieved to pay a check in all my life. I‘m married to a different lady altogether now. A wonderful woman who doesn’t put up with my crap. And we love Hibachi together. I have other bizarre stories but this one has food in it.
Willow Croft: Is there any place you’ve visited that would be the perfect setting for a noir/pulp tale? (Would it be Ohio? *laugh*)
J.D. Graves: Despite being a lifelong Browns backer I’ve never been to the buckeye state. I believe the best noir locations to be those that come across as squeaky clean. (Schools, churches, etc) this would make the impending doom of a noir story more compelling because it goes against expectations.
Willow Croft: What classic pulp-fiction-inspired dish would you most want to eat?
J.D. Graves: I’d like to try a Red Harvest. Continental Op on the side. And if I could get an extra helping of Cogan’s Trade that’d be great.
Willow Croft: You’re trying to solve a heinous crime. Quick, who would you pick to be your detecting sidekick (real or fictional)? Alternatively, who would be the dastardly adversary you’d like match wits with?
J.D. Graves: I’d pick my son because his eye for detail far exceeds my own. Our adversary would be the man I used to be in my mid-twenties he was shallow and self-destructive. And maybe John Wilkes Booth. What can I say? I have a special place in my heart for theatre people who make poor decisions.
Track down J.D. Graves in one of his internet hideaways:
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!
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/
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*