Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Jan Olandese

This week’s author interviewee is Jan Olandese of the Book ’em Jano “Ghosts, Tall Tales & Witty Haiku” fame: https://bookemjanoblog.wordpress.com/.

Willow Croft:  If you were a ghost trapped within some sort of culinary loop where you could only eat one dish over and over again for eternity, what dish would you choose, and why? 

Jan Olandese: A fascinating question! One doesn’t think of ghosts chowing down! Then again calories wouldn’t  be an issue, would they? “Hmmm.” But then again there’s Eternity. Eating one dish forever sounds like a purgatorial thing, rather akin to the Root Canal Waiting Room or the No Escape Golf Bunker. Nonetheless:  I’d go for a really great thin crust pizza with a good cannoli for dessert. Remember, they didn’t say “Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli” for no reason! 😉

Willow Croft: To break up the monotony of eating the same dish forever and ever, what would be your preferred location to haunt for said eternity? Is there a particular person you would also like to terrify with your spectral presence?

Jan Olandese: That’s easy:  Laguna Beach, CA. The shopping (or maybe from a spectral perspective shoplifting) is great, there is good coffee, the beach is brilliant and the weather is always fine. Also the populace are … diverse enough that a ghost would blend right in. 😉 I have zee-ro desire to haunt anyone. Onward and upward, you know. 😉

Willow Croft: Turnabout is fair play, so what historical/notable figure from the past would you want to invite to haunt your home?

Jan Olandese: Aaron Burr. He was many things but never boring.

Willow Croft: So, we’ve covered the pararnormal–now onto monsters! What cryptozoological creature would you most hope to encounter?

Jan Olandese: Gosh. I thought about that…Bigfoot? Nope…bad posture and worse breath. I’ll take Nessie. I would love to actually find the Loch Ness Monster and have the equipment to capture/verify/validate its existence, especially as there is supposed to be one in Lake Okanogan, which crosses the border at Washington State and British Columbia. There are probably more sightings of others but these two have lots of lore attached.

Willow Croft: Anyone who’s familiar with your hilarious “mob haikus” might also be speculating which mafia don/mob boss you were before you entered witness protection and were relocated to this day and age courtesy of time travel. So, hypothetically speaking of course *wink wink nudge nudge*, if you had actually been in the mafia, what rank/title/position would you want to hold, and what would your mafia nickname be? Alternatively, what real-life mafia figure would you want to be?

Jan Olandese: How did you know?!! Who leaked!! Erm, okay. I’d want to be the consigliere so I could give advice/listen/strategise. Unfortunately other titles tend to have short lifespans.  My nickname…that would be “Yes, Ma’am!”

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Yawatta Hosby

Get ready for some chills and spooky ghost stories in this week’s interview with horror and suspense writer Yawatta Hosby! See you at the campfire, and remember to bring the marshmallows!

Willow Croft: West Virginia, where you live, is one of the few states I’ve not visited. I haven’t even driven through it on one of my many road trips. I’m curious about the geography of the state, though. What’s it like there, and does living in the “eastern panhandle of West Virginia” inspire the settings of your short stories and/or books?

Yawatta Hosby: I enjoy living in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia because we’re pretty close to Washington DC and other busy cities. There’s always something to do if we don’t mind taking a short road trip, like Winchester VA and Hagerstown MD. Where I live is called “A Small Baltimore.” There’s plenty of shops, some tiny museums, and a HUGE appreciation of art. I like that each town has its own personality. Like Shepherdstown is known for being a hippy, artsy fartsy town; Charles Town is known for its race track and casino; and Harpers Ferry is known by the hiker and camping community.

The eastern panhandle is more city-like than the country, but don’t get me wrong, there’s some areas you know to stay away from haha. I don’t live on a farm. I’ve never been to a coal mine, and my family has all their teeth. I hate the ugly stereotypes West Virginians often get. You won’t find any stereotypes like run down trailers, Appalachian men shooting and hunting, etc, unless you go on the back roads or far into the woods.

Living here definitely inspires the settings in my stories. I often have my characters living in a small town that’s big enough to have secrets and not have everyone in your business. I have used some parts of WV, like the south, for inspiration in One By One and Six Plus One. I’ve also used Ranson (where the rich folk live) for Twisted Obsession. However, I also like using surrounding towns around the area. I’ve used Brunswick, MD as inspiration in Perfect Little Murder, and it’d be awesome to use Burkittsville MD (where the Blair Witch woods are located). I’m not far from there at all!!!

Willow Croft: In Six Plus One (the sequel to One by One), the characters in the book are off on their own road trip to film an “alien-centric web series” deep in the woods of West Virginia. So, this X-Files fan is dying to know—have you ever seen a UFO, or encountered an extraterrestrial being?

Yawatta Hosby: Oh man, I wish!!! I’m obsessed with aliens and UFOs. I even have a tattoo of a UFO beaming up a dinosaur on my arm. As a kid and teenager, I often teased that I was an alien. Now, in my thirties, I realize there’s something called a starseed. Maybe I’m that 🙂

I’ve never encountered an alien. Believe me, I’d probably faint. Since I believe in stuff like that, I try not to even try and look for any. Sort of like I stay away from ouija boards since I know the crazy things that can come from that. I don’t want to get abducted by a UFO and I don’t want to be hunted or stalked by any aliens, but I do often research sightings, like I do for Bigfoot.

As a teenager, I wanted to visit Roswell. The next best thing–southern WV. Greenbank was a town we visited on a WVU resident assistant’s retreat. We actually stayed in those woods in cabins, so every description shared in Six Plus One came from my memory. We had visited their museum which held a giant communication device. They felt they were contacting aliens. I believe it, so it was pretty cool to be there even though I was scared out of my mind haha. Being in the woods late at night with no electricity can play tricks on you.

Willow Croft: What’s the oddest thing that’s happened to you during a road trip/travel jaunt? Alternatively, what’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you, in general?

Yawatta Hosby: My friend and I went on a mini-road trip to Sharpsburg MD for a ghost tour. It ended at night. My mind was playing tricks on me because I’ve seen ghosts before, so have some of my family members (loved ones saying goodbye before anyone even realized they had passed away). Anyway, we were driving through Shepherdstown, trying to get home a town away. Leigh slowed down when we noticed a guy walking across the street from under a tree. He didn’t glance at us, he didn’t shield his eyes from the bright headlights. He just kept walking with a briefcase in his hand wearing a plaid jacket. Everything was off. His manner of walking was very weird.

The next day at work, Leigh showed me a website of Shepherd University’s ghosts and sure enough the plaid jacket man was one of them! I got goosebumps! I’ve seen ghosts in my lifetime. My first time was a kid. I saw it in the mirror and for the longest time I was afraid to look into mirrors. At WVU, there was a young male ghost in my dorm. He had died in the 60’s. He had opened and closed the door to the balcony, making a gust of wind disorient my papers (I had been studying in the hall with my friend). In my thirties, I felt the presence of ghosts, usually when I was hanging out with Leigh. The ghosts would pick on me and my coworkers–knock things off our desks, throw objects at us, etc. Let’s just say, I hated being alone in that old building!

Willow Croft: You have shared that your stories build upon your “fascination with psychology”. In your opinion, how does food (and diet) affect one’s psychological well-being? And what kinds of foodstuffs nourish your own deliciously dark writer’s brain?

Yawatta Hosby: If you don’t eat healthy, then your mind and body won’t be healthy. I swear I could live off junk food like I never grew up as an adult. I ate like I was a kid haha. Only ate pizza, mac and cheese, pancakes with bacon, chocolate candy bars, peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, and chicken tenders with fries. No vegetables. Only sweet tea. No water. Then at the end of 2016, I got extremely sick and ended up in the hospital for three nights. I was anemic and had a rare disease called Patterson Kelly Syndrome.

Now, I can’t have caffeine or citrus. Do you know how hard it is not to have chocolate? I still sneak pizza, once in a while though. I have no choice but to eat healthier now. At least I had a good run for all those years haha. For my dark writer’s brain, I’m all about eating Doritos and garlic knots with lots and lots of water. I feel like a kid again, going to a restaurant and asking for apple or grape juice. I can’t even drink orange juice when I get sick. If I would have known this in my earlier years, I would have snuck in more vegetables and fruits.

Willow Croft: Some of your books have numbers in the title. Aside from the obvious reference to the book’s plot, do certain numbers have special significance for you? If so, what draws you to your personal interpretation of numerology?

Yawatta Hosby: My favorite number is seven. I also get excited when I see the numbers 7-2-8 together because it’s my birthday! Other than that, I’ve never really explored numerology. I can’t tell you what any numbers mean, according to your destiny or birthdate. However, for the past few months, I have been studying angel numbers interpretations. I’m on a spiritual journey and am letting angel numbers guide my path in life. It’s been fun so far. I’ve gotten to learn things about myself that I never knew existed. I’ve grown and challenged myself as well as recognized my soul mission in life. Not many people are open to learning about themselves, letting their ego take over, so to speak. I’m on the path to letting my soul take over. For the past few months, I’ve gotten rid of some old habits and hobbies that no longer interest me. I’m excited to see who the real Yawatta is 🙂

Yawetta Hosby’s blog: http://yawattahosby.wordpress.com

Yawetta Hosby’s author website: http://yawattahosbysbooks.wordpress.com

Yawetta Hosby’s LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yawatta-hosby-7931a352/

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Elinor DeWire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ElinorDeWire

Elinor DeWire Links

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

Wednesday’s Book Looks: The Four S’s: Supernatural, Sisters, Scotland, and Synchronicity!

*possible book spoilers ahead* (None of these are affiliate links, and weren’t requests for reviews.)

It’s probably something to do with the recent time change here in the United States, but I have been feeling especially discombobulated and spacey this past week or so. I’ve been slogging through my social media at a snail’s pace, and my work and writing schedules are all out of whack. (Plus, I REALLY don’t like eating while it’s still light out!)

So, off into the darkness we descend!

The First S: Supernatural!

Okay, so back A LONG TIME AGO in the 1990s, vampires were all the rage. As much as we goths pretended to be too dark and spooky for the more…romantic?…stylized?…view of vampires, we loved Anne Rice. (But, you know, vampires are MONSTERS.) I didn’t even mind Tom Cruise as Lestat in the movie version, but probably because I only knew him as Jack from the movie Legend previously.

Vampirism, though, had shifted from monstrous (and damned) creatures of the night that we related to as like misfits into something more mystical and otherworldly. The “damned” had evolved into alluring creatures that were admired, not despised, and I reckon maybe we wanted to feel like that for a while.

For a very little while. Because TV cameras and news crews descended onto the clubs, to capture the “depraved” shenanigans of this sub-subculture Vampire movement.

So, it was a real treat to read a collection of vampire stories that didn’t involve sparkly vampires as written for the next generation(s). And it’s a collection of bloody tales that could have been complete moldy vampire cheese, but, luckily for me, wasn’t.

Anyhoo, The Vampire Connoisseur took me right back to those days where I both felt shunned by mainstream society (Oh wait, I still feel like that!), and felt a longing to be immortal and therefore immune to pangs of emotion and the nibblings of a conscience and the ravening bites of aging. (Full title: Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseurs)

Here, most of the vampires within are unequivocally monsters, either via their own awareness, or through the awareness of the characters that observe them. And sometimes the death at the hands of the monsters is welcomed, as illuminated by the arc of the stories.

And sometimes the vampiric monsters are creatively reimagined, as in Priscilla Bettis’s tale “The Sun Sets Nonetheless” which had the double spook factor of being set in the state where I live. [Earthquakes, tornadoes, and now mysterious blue-skinned “creatures”?!?!?! Maybe Priscilla Bettis will let me camp out in her (completely imaginary and fictional) back yard in Virginia, where they only seem to get the occasional rogue hurricane! *wry laugh*]

Pick up a copy of Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseur on Amazon https://bookshop.org/books/todd-sullivan-presents-the-vampire-connoisseur/9781649050090 or on Bookshop https://bookshop.org/books/todd-sullivan-presents-the-vampire-connoisseur/9781649050090.

And, if there’s something I love as much as REALLY GOOD vampire stories, it’s GHOST STORIES! Here in Kansas, we had storms and grey skies and fierce winds wailing outside the window and the only thing lacking to read Ghost Stories for Starless Nights by is a crackling fire! And toasted marshmallows, of course! (But a little ghostie told me that you can find virtual haunted campfires over at Haunt Jaunts. But that may just be a pesky poltergeist starting rumours! https://www.hauntjaunts.net/virtual-haunted-campfires-2021-line-up-and-schedule/#Virtual_Haunted_Campfires_2021_Cost)

Sadly, the starless nights here are not due to the storms or anything else natural or supernatural but to the obscene levels of light pollution here in Wichita, but at least I can escape into the atmospheric and haunting world(s) of Ghost Stories for Starless Nights. Join me around the fire, won’t you? https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Stories-Starless-Nights-Publishing/dp/B088N4WKL5

The Second S: Sisters!

Speaking of romantic notions, I, when I was real young, wanted a sister so badly. Especially a twin sister. I had a pretty lonely and isolating childhood, and I thought that having a twin sister would have given me a ready-made friend. (I blame Trixie Belden, Little Women, and even Anne of Green Gables with all that “kindred spirit” blather.) Once, I dreamed of a girl that lived in the attic and I swore that she was real. So did a psychic who did a reading for a family member once. I at least had an imaginary sister. For a little while, anyway.

However, the sisters in Tochi Onyebuchi’s War Girls are sisters in the most complex, complicated, powerful, and real ways. And the world they navigate–a 2172 Earth ravaged by climate change and military conflicts–provides an equally harrowing setting for the two young women.

War Girls not only captures the bond of sisters but also the heartbreak of that powerful bond.

And it made me want a sister even more, despite all the complications and pain that seems to be involved.

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/War-Girls-Tochi-Onyebuchi/dp/0451481674 and on Bookshop https://bookshop.org/books/war-girls/9780451481672

The Third and Forth S’s: Scotland and Synchronicity!

I have wanted to live in Scotland ever since the 90s, when I visited. Finances and cats and a lack of more shrewd and focused life planning have complicated the issue, but at least I got to take a tour of the Glasgow School of Art before the terrible fire. (<—loves Mackintosh)

So, when I read The Cracked Spine (Scottish Bookshop Mystery #1) by Paige Shelton I just about died! Essentially a woman who works in a museum in WICHITA, KANSAS gets the job offer of a lifetime to work in a rare BOOKSHOP in EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND and, well, I think there’s a mystery involved somehow. But all I could think about was THAT’S ME!!!!! Well, a me in another life, anyway. And I was torn between loving every word of my alternate universe and being supremely envious of my own alternate self! Mock jealousy aside, it was such a lovely, hopeful, escapist read! In my next life, I’ll be sure to have more clear vision of who I am, and how to build a life and make choices to nurture and preserve that innate self.

The Cracked Spine on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Cracked-Spine-Scottish-Bookshop-Mystery/dp/1250057485/ and on Bookshop https://bookshop.org/books/the-cracked-spine/9781250118226

On the heels of reading that book, I had a dream where I was hanging out with a soulmate-type person and they liked me exactly how I was. It was a very pleasant dream.

So, to sum up, supernaturally spooky adventures, “kindred spirit” sisters, Scotland and synchronicity, and hope for a “maybe someday” that’s all my own.

A Million Biting, Stinging Deaths…

*Possible Book Spoilers Ahead* (book links at the bottom of the post)

Before I started reading this anthology, I erroneously equated Crypt Gnats: Horror You’ve Been Itching to Read with delightfully gruesome (and ravenous) killer insects. Yes, I know I was quite wrong in my conclusions. Instead, these horror stories were dug up out of the the graves of the authors’ imaginations. But they were no less gruesomely delightful.

Emphasis on “grue”. As in Dan Lee’s story “The Grue,” which opens with the my-generation-nostalgic first line “You are likely to be eaten.” (If you have to ask…*shakes head*)

Crypt Gnats brought me back to a a simpler time, all the way back to magic nights of blood-thick Jagermeister and clove cigarettes and we all “looked good in ribbons”. Nights where we were immortal and painfully mortal all at once. And we thought the night would never end. We thought we would always be safe in the dark.

But it did end, for some of us permanently, and maybe it ended for the ones left behind to grow old, and alone, and stripped of that immortal magic we once held in our black-hued hearts.

And that’s what seeps out of the pages of Crypt Gnats, as oozily as a graveyard fog. Every reader reads with different eyes, and mine read the heartbreak (Art Lasky’s stories get me every time), the futility of the human condition, and that death always comes with a twist. Even if death is the means we come to life, as related in Ben Fitts’ “Born in a Casket. Or death as a means of liberation, as revealed in Beverly T. Haaf’s “The Saint”.

But, lastly, Crypt Gnats reminds the reader to not tempt fate. Because the dead are lonely, too.

If, though, you’ve finished reading Crypt Gnats, and still want to have a dance or two with death (or more!), pick up a copy of Choose Your Own Death–an interactive horror zine by Ben Fitts. The reader may not be “eaten by a grue” but, rest assured, death is imminent no matter what choice you make. Speaking of nostalgia, remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from the 80s? This is like that, except for grownups. Or weird kids like me that read Clive Barker and V.C. Andrews at a very young age.

It will definitely provide you with a macabre laugh or two, to take your mind off the fact that you didn’t die before thirty like you were supposed to, and spend all your time wandering around saying to yourself “What the f**k do I do now?”

Oh, and if you want to continue on this morbid-yet-humorous literary path down memory lane, pick up one, or more, copies of Ben Fitts’ Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine. (I just finished reading Issue #6).

Because, you know, we were never as cool as we thought we were. But we were cooler than a band that performed at a Tampa nightclub in the 1990s, led by some singer who called himself Marilyn Manson. Right?

Crypt Gnats: Horror You’ve Been Itching to Read: https://bookshop.org/books/crypt-gnats-horror-you-ve-been-itching-to-read/9781948899055

Check out Ben Fitts’ Rock N’ Roll Horror Zines (and more!) over at his website: https://therocknrollhorrorzine.blogspot.com/.

I’ll be reading his My Birth and Other Regrets soon. Or digging out my fishnet gloves and flailing, I mean, dancing, around my living room.

Because I’m THAT cool.

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author Angelique Fawns! #WIHM

 

afawns
https://www.instagram.com/angeliqueiswriting

Willow Croft: I’ll start off with a question that probably plagues many of us writers out there—time management! How do you balance life on a working farm (not to mention parenting!) with writing and your day job?

Angelique Fawns: Balance? What balance? If I am into a writing project, it’s like a mania grips my life. Eighteen hour days, seven days a week, until the story or book is finished. I get up early, write until I have to do my day job, then get right back to it after I’m done cutting TV promos. I only stop when my neck and back get so sore, I have to quit. Then I lay awake obsessing about the next words….

The dust bunnies grow to monster size under my furniture, my husband scowls until he has to make dinner, and my daughter takes over the farm chores.

Willow Croft: Your topics for writing speculative fiction, et al, seem to be pretty diverse—what’s your favourite source of inspiration(s) and is there an overarching theme to your written works? How do you tailor your writing space to nurture your creative writing?

Angelique Fawns: The majority of my stories will have either animals or farm life flavouring the piece. Readers are touched by authenticity, so the old adage “write what you know” is solid advice. I’ve been working as a freelance journalist–writing equine and farm stories–for years. Those stories seem to be what “other” people want me to write, and the weird speculative stuff is mainly for entertaining myself. My current strategy is to take what I have a lot of experience with–reporting, interviewing, journalism–and combine it with my true passion; writing the tales that lurk in my subconscious. Hopefully I am creating a hybrid product that is unique and helpful.

I really don’t have a “nurturing” writing space. I write everywhere, every chance I can get. Before Covid, I used to love tucking myself into a corner of a pub and type for hours. The background noise is brilliant, no one bothers me, plus I can sip on a glass of chardonnay. Heaven.

Willow Croft: Here’s the food-based question I always try to include! I imagine, perhaps romantically as an urban-raised individual, that life on a farm offers some exciting meal opportunities/food-based pathways. What culinary adventures do you/your family embark on?

Angelique Fawns: We aren’t really “foodies”, and I suffer from the omnivore’s dilemma. I am an animal lover, and have many pets. Some of our beef cattle often become lifers. (I name them. We have some REALLY old cows on our farm.) I also keep freeloading chickens that don’t lay eggs, retired horses that can’t be ridden, and barn cats that live in the house and refuse to catch mice. That being said, I am not a vegetarian. I do eat what we grow, but I make sure they have a quality ethical life. We raise free-range meat birds on grass, and they live far longer than conventional chickens. “They only have one bad day.”

Willow Croft: If you time-travelled into the future, how would the world, or worlds, look like? How would you wish the world would have changed by then?

Angelique Fawns: I would love to see a world where humans live in eco-sustainable tree houses with carbon neutral power sources. Animals would reclaim the sea and land and we would live in harmony with them. Pollution, extinction, and war would no longer exist. Other planets would be discovered and peacefully colonized. Now there’s a fantastic (if unrealistic) vision for a future…

Willow Croft: What creepy monster would you want to have as a pet? Alternatively, what sort of paranormal entity would you want to share your livespace with? If you already have a supernatural entity sharing your livespace, or a creepy monster haunting your landscape, tell us all about it!

Angelique Fawns: Well, there are those monstrous dust bunnies… How about a real life creepy monster? I recently lost my llama (to old age). Coco was the most ferocious creature I’ve ever lived with. She had huge long teeth, and sharp talons on her hooves. Llamas are the best guardians for other livestock. If a coyote threatens, they will rip them open with their teeth, and slash them with those hooves. She would bugle like a motorcycle revving if she saw any suspicious animal at the far end of the field. We had ZERO livestock loss when she was alive. Now I’ve lost quite a few chickens, and predators are getting precariously close to the house.

I also believe in ghosts. They lurk everywhere…

 

Find ghosts, animals, and more on Angelique Fawns’ website, and around the web!

Author Website: www.fawns.ca and www.fawns.ca/farm

 

Check out her great guides for submitting stories (and spooky places to submit them) here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08QDX1PD6
 
 

Throwback Thursday’s Book Review: The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

Throwback Thursday’s Book Review: The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes (published 1956)

I’ll read just about anything, so I’ll still plow through older books resolutely, even if they are a little more on the archaic side, unless they are so dated (*cough* sexist) that it’s hard to even read, much less finish.

*spoilers ahead*

To my surprise, The Wreck of the Mary Deare was a fantastic read. A little tropish characterization with at least one of the women in the story, but not anywhere close to as bad as my own bias led me to suspect. Probably better than some films and books we have even today.

In general, the author was fairly balanced with his depiction of women for the time in which the book was written. One of the directors of the shipping/trading company was a woman (if I’m remembering my history correctly, not so unusual), and she was called as an “important witness” to give expert testimony in the book’s pivotal court case. Of course, (or, even better!) she was not only knowledgeable and informed, but also devious and corrupt, and was an active agent in the company’s scheme to commit insurance fraud.

The book was just so well put together with its writing style that it holds its appeal even in 2021 (almost seventy years later). It’s exciting, suspenseful, and even spooky at times in its imagery and set-up to the climatic events of the book. It reads like a true-life adventure, but I didn’t realise until after I finished the book as to why–it had to have been based on the real-life events surrounding the Mary Celeste and her mysterious fate. (The Wreck of the Mary Deare was also made into a movie.)

My favourite line from the book? I’m glad you asked!

“He was a seaman. He was used to boats, not to the sea itself as an element in which to exist…”

And the ending is very…satisfactory!

1247535

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1247535.The_Wreck_Of_The_Mary_Deare

A Tide’s Breath Apart

…it’s a day of hauntings and heartbreak and loss, and maybe just missing things that you never had (but were close enough to hold on and never let go)…

…the theme of the poems I’ve been reading on people’s blogs seem to reflect this ‘strange day’ mood…

https://handsinthegarden.com/2020/11/29/2020-11-29-baked-with-love/

https://handsinthegarden.com/2020/11/29/2020-11-28-deep-love-sounds/

https://mtaggartwriter.wordpress.com/2020/11/29/poem-prosblackandwhitephoto/

https://theconfessionalistzine.wordpress.com/2020/11/25/2-poems-by-mark-tulin/

https://poeeternal.com/2020/11/29/leadnotflower/

https://punknoirmagazine.com/2020/11/29/a-strange-night-by-ian-lewis-copestick/

Here’s my ‘strange day’ experience…a kinda, sorta teasing visit from my cherished muse…

A Tide’s Breath Apart

I slept the sleep of the dead
if the dead dreamed
during their thick & heavy sleep
I dreamed
not exactly of you
but waiting for you
knowing even in the dream
that you weren’t coming
even though I knew you were
only separated from me by
a sparrow’s breath
a ripple on the tide of time
I can’t cross
except in dreams
except in this dream
where the meadow holds us close
together
and where
I’m reminded of your last
might-have-been look
before you walked away.
You, grey, clear, and so delicate;
a strand of grass, clinging
to its coat of winter frost.
I hold you close
and not at all delicately
but only in my dream.

–Willow Croft

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author G G Collins

Five Things Friday Interview with Mystery Author G G Collins!

Willow: Here in New Mexico, there’s a lot of spooky local lore. What local mysteries intrigue you and/or keep you up at night?  

 G G Collins: The whole city and environs seem to be occupied by spirits and there are multiple ghost tours to enjoy. The nastiest haunting may be the most recent. The worst prison riot in U.S. history took place south of Santa Fe at the Penitentiary of New Mexico (February 1980). For two days the killing and horrors continued. Thirty-three inmates were killed and 200 were injured. It is now an abandoned site used mainly for storing movie props and filming scenes. But in 1981 reports of strange noises and shadowy specters began. Corrections officers saw human-shaped shadows and heard cell doors banging. Once the prison was vacant, paranormal investigators continued to hear doors slamming long after electricity was shut off. It’s not easy to close them manually, but yet, that’s what they heard. Cell Blocks 3 and 4 are particularly haunted. So much so, the Travel Channel’s “Dead Files” featured it in a 2012 show.  

On a slightly lighter side is the story of Julia Staab who haunts La Posada de Santa Fe (https://www.laposadadesantafe.com/). Originally the Staab home, it is currently a six-acre hotel with casitas. When Julia lost her seventh child and several other attempts at having a child failed, she took to her room where her hair turned white. At age 52 she died. Guests and staff have seen her [ghost] in the main house. A few checked out early!  

For more on the many ghost stories of Santa Fe check out my blog post: https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/ghost-stories-in-santa-fe-new-mexico/

Willow: New Mexico is, of course, inextricably linked to Roswell (technically, Corona) and the 1947 UFO crash. So, in light of that history, are you a “I-want-to-believe” Mulder, or a “that-is-science-fiction” Scully in regards to UFO phenomenon?  

G G Collins: At one time I owned the “I Want to Believe” poster. As an avid viewer of “The X-Files,” I was fascinated by the many possibilities. Roswell and Area 51 are rich stuff for us storytellers. “The Blue Book” TV series was another favorite. But I started young watching “Twilight Zone” reruns.  

In the documentary movie entitled The Farthest, which I highly recommend, we see the tiny blue dot that is Earth in the photo Carl Sagan insisted they take. It emphasizes in a big way how immense the universe is. I can’t make a flat-footed statement to the effect no one exists but us. And since I’ve been known to include an alien or two in my Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery series, I’ll just have to go with Mulder on this one. After all, the truth is out there.

For my review of The Farthesthttps://paralleluniverseatlarge.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/review-the-farthest/

Willow: If a time warp opened, as you mentioned occurs in your Atomic Medium book, and you went through it, where (and when) would you hope to end up, and why?

G G Collins: It would have to be Lemuria, which I wrote about in Lemurian Medium. In my research, I learned due to modern knowledge of plate tectonics it likely didn’t exist. But to even imagine a time when people lived in peace while occupying crystal houses is irresistible to me. Certainly, I would be a regular at the Temple of Knowledge studying my Akashic Record. It was a time before water had to have chemicals added to make it potable and you could taste food in its original form. Communication wasn’t by cell, but by crystal. Of course, in my story Rachel Blackstone flew on a dragon and I would definitely want to do that.  And, on her return trip to Earth, Rachel Blackstone stumbled onto a cosmic cocktail party where all kinds of interesting alien life were sharing stories. Among them were Carl Sagan and Benjamin Franklin who both believed that alien life could exist. Now that’s a party on the astral plane I would go to!  

Willow: In similarity to Taylor Browning, the protagonist of your cozy mystery series, what pet “runs the tight ship” of your household/life?

G G Collins: Oscar, the cat in the Taylor Browning Cozy Mysteries, is based on one of our cats in spirit. My deceased pets frequently turn up in my books. Oscar was indeed an Abyssinian. They are very loving, but oh so active! He had a way of communicating that was so clear—if we were listening. And that cat could swear! Only in “Cat” of course. Currently, we have Coco Pod, Coco being the Spanish word for coconut. She is very well-mannered, but expectations are such that we have been thoroughly trained to care for her every need and whim. It’s just gossip, but we’ve heard she makes trips to the Mothership to sharpen her communication skills with hoomanz.

Willow: And, finally (because you know, New Mexico!), red, green, Christmas chile or *gasp* none at all?  

G G Collins: Indeed, the Land of Enchantment has azure skies, adobe architecture and chile! Green, red or Christmas, as long there are several heaping ladles of the heavenly stuff on whatever (almost) I’m eating. My husband says I can eat flame.   

G G Collins’ Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery series features journalist Rachel who flubs a Hopi ritual to return the dead. Instead of her father, an evil spirit appeared. Worse? Rachel seems to have abilities she’s never experienced before. She and best friend Chloe work together to solve whatever supernatural challenges come at them, although Rachel remains the Reluctant Medium.

Also by G G Collins, the Taylor Browning Cozy Mysteries follows a mystery editor at a Santa Fe book publisher. A young widow whose job editing mysteries leads to snooping. Her coworkers at Piñon Publishing wish she’d just stay in the office, but alas, investigating crime is too tempting. One thing is certain; she can’t edit her way out of real murder.  

G G Collins has also published two young adult fiction books: Flying Change–a story about courage and a young equestrian. and Without Notice–a story of a young girl who is grappling with the death of her mother and her father’s new girlfriend.  

 Find G G Collins’ books at: https://amzn.to/3iZ92dp

Read more at G G Collins‘ book blog, here: https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/ and check out Collins’ review blog: https://paralleluniverseatlarge.wordpress.com/

Follow on G G Collins on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GGCollinsWriter

Seeking Inspiration from Spirits: Guest Blog Post by Author J.H. Moncrieff

I hear dead people.

Not all the time, of course—that would be enough to drive one mad. But whenever I have encountered a ghost, it’s always been heard rather than seen.

When I was a teenager, I borrowed a Ouija board from a friend. At first, I carefully followed all the rules: I never used it alone; I made sure to move the planchette to Goodbye before taking my hands off it, etc. But the darn thing never worked.

One night I fell asleep with the Ouija at the end of my bed. I was in a deep sleep when a loud knocking sound woke me up. Groggily, I realized the sound was coming from the Ouija, but I was too out of it to process what that meant. Instead, I grabbed the board and threw it in a dresser drawer.

Before I could get back to sleep, loud knocking sounds started coming from inside the dresser. At this point, I was really annoyed, and yelled a few choice words at it. The knocking stopped, and I fell asleep.

In the morning, once it dawned on me what had happened, I returned the Ouija board to my friend.

 

JH bio photo (1)
Who is this haunting lady in red? (Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

Growing up, I had a very close friend. Let’s call her Morgan. We definitely had our run-ins, as we were both willful, opinionated girls, but we also had a special connection. She was one of my dearest friends from the age of seven, when we met, to the age of seventeen, when she died in a horrible car accident.

I don’t think you’re ever prepared to lose your best friend, and certainly not at that age. To say I was devastated would be a massive understatement.

Soon after her death, there were plenty of signs that my friend’s spirit was still around, but they could all be dismissed as a coincidence or accident. Her portrait fell over during her funeral, right on her casket. The area around her grave was mysteriously warm, even in the dead of winter, with a wind howling and no shelter in the entire cemetery. Sometimes I’d be walking down the hall at school and hear someone call my name, but when I turned, no one was there. And that’s when I’d recognize the voice.

Mysterious Woman in the Mist

When I moved away, Morgan really made her presence known. It was my first year away from home. I was living hundreds of miles away from my family and friends in a shitty little apartment in yet another isolated northern community. For some reason, even though Morgan had never been to this place, I felt her around me all the time.
One day I found a mix tape that she’d started making but had never gotten the chance to finish. I was alone in the apartment, cleaning up the kitchen, so I put the tape into my boyfriend’s stereo.

The tape played just fine until it got to my friend’s favorite song. When it got to the end of the song–which was in the middle of the tape–the stereo suddenly auto-reversed, and played a song on the opposite side. It then auto-reversed again.

It was at the beginning of her favorite song once more.
I froze.

I said her name, very tentatively, my heart beating a million miles a minute. “Morgan?”
My kitchen cupboards went nuts. It sounded like someone was knocking on each one very hard with a fist. The knocks went down the row of cupboards and then started coming toward me again.
I ran to my bedroom, threw myself face down on the bed, and yelled something along the lines of:

“No, Morgan, go away! I’m not ready for this!”

The knocking stopped.

I’ve never felt my friend’s presence again.

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J.H. Moncrieff’s visit to Poveglia (Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

When visiting Poveglia, the world’s most haunted island, I was standing in the abandoned asylum with only a few minutes left when I felt brave enough to speak.

“Hello?” I said, stupidly, before remembering I was addressing Italian-speaking phantoms.

As soon as I repeated the greeting in Italian, there was a noise from the next room. Was it something falling or shifting? The building settling?

Or was the soft-yet-deliberate thud someone’s attempt to communicate?

I’m not sure, but I do know I convinced myself that spending the last ten minutes outside on the shore was a fantastic idea.

DSC_1231
The natural decay of an old building, or someone trying communicate? (Poveglia Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

When I moved into my hundred-year-old house, I put a collar with a bell on my anxiety-ridden cat to ensure I could find her if she went into hiding. The collar didn’t last long, and soon I found it on the floor upstairs. Exhausted from unpacking, I left it there. One evening, while I was downstairs watching TV with the kitties, that bell rang, clear as day. We all heard it. And that’s not the only strange noise that occurs in this house, either. For years, every night right after I went to bed, the front door would make a strange clunking noise—the best way I could describe it is as if the cylinders of an ancient lock were sliding into place, but I have a modern door. People have waited up to hear the noise and see if they can find the cause of it, but none has ever been found.

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Is there ever a final resting place? (Poveglia Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

There are many more stories, but suffice it to say—for a writer of supernatural suspense, inspiration is everywhere.

Can you relate to any of these stories? 

–J.H. Moncrieff

 
J.H. Moncrieff’s new release, Forest of Ghosts, was inspired by her real-life experiences in Romania, including Hoia Baciu, the world’s most haunted forest.

J.H. loves to hear from readers. To get free ebooks and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.

Connect with J.H.: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Read on for a spooky sample of Forest of Ghosts:

Jackson Stone is sick of ghosts. With his love life in shambles, he heads to Romania for a horror writers’ retreat, hoping it will be a break from the supernatural and breathing space from his relationship with medium Kate Carlsson.

But as his fellow writers begin disappearing or losing their minds, he realizes he needs Kate’s help. 

When Jackson loses his own memory, Kate’s love is the only thing that can bring him back. But she’s falling for the man responsible for the evil in Romania. A man who claims to be her soul mate. Will this master of wraiths forever break Kate’s bond with Jackson?

 

Intrigued yet? Purchase your copy today to uncover more about Kate and Jackson’s fate!

Mysterious Galaxy

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