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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

Wednesday’s Book Look: Haunts, “Hard Times”, and…animals, of course!

So, it’s going to be Steampunk Weekend at the Old Cowtown Museum here in Wichita!

The Old Cowtown is a living museum with both historic and recreated buildings that represent the history of Wichita.

And, according to the book I just finished–Wichita Haunts by Beth Cooper–there’s plenty of ghosts and paranormal activity at the Cowtown Museum site. Here’s hoping they’ll be in attendance at the steampunk-themed event–better ghosts than a pack of hyped-up-on-sugar feral children running around! I’m gonna bring my copy of Wichita Haunts, and maybe I’ll get a ghostly autograph!

Seems like it will be a good pick-me-up for my case of the Springtime blues, either way! (Mild spoilers ahead. And, links for stuff in the post included at the end.)

Although, from the perspective of Les Egderton’s main character, Amelia Laxault, in his book Hard Times, I ain’t got no business having any kind of blues, seasonal or otherwise.

Amelia Laxault is a girl in rural, 1930s, East Texas.

Need I say any more? I mean, come on, the book’s title, Hard Times, should be a dead-drunk giveaway in itself. (Unless you didn’t have to read Grapes of Wrath in school, that is!)

Okay, okay: yes, it’s going to be just as dark, gritty, and gut-wrenching as you might expect. Put aside the box of tissues and just grab a dang bottle of whisky, already. Trust me, you’ll need it.

Also, there are dogs. You’ve been doubly warned.

As a PBR* chaser to Hard Times, there’s also dogs and cats (and a hamster!) in my short story “The Lights Went On In Georgia” which appears in the latest volume of the EconoClash Review (“Lucky Number Seven”, as editor J.D. Graves says in the introduction).

Poor animals. Even in fiction, their fates always seem to be at the terrible whims of humans. But you know, I was watching two PBS DVDs I got from the local library–A Squirrel’s Guide to Success and Animal Misfits: Odd, Bizarre, and Unlikely Creatures–and I couldn’t help but feel a little more optimistic amidst how sad I always feel about animals and nature, stuck on this planet with us.

I started to think how (we) humans have become disconnected from nature by all this technology (speaking of the industrial nature of the 19th century as reflected by Steampunk), and I wondered whether we’d actually dead-ended ourselves into an evolutionary stasis because of the artificially constructed environments we now move through almost primarily. Are we in a vacuum, binge-watching Netflix while nature and plants and animals are busy figuring out biochemical ways to evolve and adapt under our environmental onslaught?

Spec fic writers, get your pencils and paper out!

*PBR = Pabst Blue Ribbon, if you hadn’t figured it out.

Oh, and here’s the links I mentioned earlier. Unless you’re already dead-drunk on that there whisky, and haven’t made it this far in the post.

Steampunk Weekend at Cowtown: https://www.visitwichita.com/event/steampunk-weekend-at-cowtown/33057/ and https://www.oldcowtown.org/

Wichita Haunts by Beth Cooper: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9780738582870

Les Edgerton’s Hard Times: https://bronzevillebooks.com/portfolio-item/hard-times/

EconoClash Review #7: https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/graves-econoclash-review-7/

The Squirrel’s Guide to Success: https://shop.pbs.org/XC8032DV.html

Animal Misfits: Odd, Bizarre, and Unlikely Creatures: https://shop.pbs.org/WB7702.html

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!”

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