Nothing is More Gothic than a Hot Summer’s Day . . .

The rise and fall of cicada songs, the mist rising from murky brown swamps, torrents of rain so thick you can’t see more than a foot in front of you.

And curling up with an equally atmospheric book borrowed from my grandmother’s bookshelf; V.C. Andrews, or Victoria Holt.

Even when the sun came out, those summer days still felt very gothic and brooding. There was something about the noisy silence of the swamps and the quiet laziness spent slowly swinging in a hammock that felt both carefree and sinister.

When a cloud drifted across the too-bright sun and everything was thrown into a twilight shadow, I would get this strange sort of chill that would leave me with goosebumps.

On overcast days, the air was thick with humidity–and portent–as I waited for the storm. And, although the sun was hidden by the gathering clouds, the green of the plants and trees became even more vibrant.

Okay, yeah, that was probably a lot of purpling of prose, but reading the stack of E. Denise Billups’s books I got with the Amazon gift card (was it really two winter holidays ago?) took me right back to those gothic-infused tropical summers.

It was even more poignantly delicious to feel like a young child again, staying up way past bedtime to read by the glow of a night light.

For you all, E. Denise Billups’s books may not be as evocative of summer as they were for me, but they’re still perfect for indulgent cozy-in-the-dark-with-a-flashlight reading this January. (Or audio in the dark, even.) Heck, if your power’s actually out due to all the climate-change-fueled winter storming, so much the better to read by!

Here’s the books/short reads that were in my E. Denise Billups’s TBR stack (only 18,324 more TBR books to go!):

The Playground

Chasing Victoria

Off the Grid

Tainted Harvest

Kalorama Road

Rebound

By Chance

Ravine Lereux

Keepers of the Gate: Twilight Ends (Book One)

And, if you want to follow up these author’s books with a spooky chaser from another author, check out As Fast as She Can by E.F. Schraeder.

Now, what’s on your gothic summer TBR wish list?

Lollygagging into 2023…

Snail
Photo Courtesy of Canva.com

Recently, I wrote an article over on LinkedIn about how 2023 could be the year of the slowdown (in a proactive way). I’m not slowing down much myself, but I am taking some time out here and there for some fun things that don’t really accomplish anything useful. *gasp*

The pressure is on, though, to get the income needed to help me escape what I’m now calling the Nightmare Hell Zone* (and not in a fun way), so I’ve been applying for jobs in brick-and-mortar locations as well as online remote-work locations. One thought I’ve recently had was that I could maybe get a job with a chain and then use that to transfer to another location in the United States, or, perhaps even more wishful-thinking, transfer to a Canadian locale!

Anyway, until I go figure things out (or win the lottery–the HGTV dream home–Travel Channel Sweepstakes), I’m sharing some links for you to stroll through as you, yourselves, meander into 2023.

(Unless, of course, you just want to stop reading here, and go write a snail mail letter or take a day off next week to hang out with your houseplant BFFs. That’s fine too!)

Here’s January’s “Tarot Card Readings for Inspiration”: https://horrortree.com/january-2023-tarot-cards-for-creative-inspiration/ and their snarky horoscope sidekick: https://horrortree.com/january-2023-horoscopes-tempting-fate-in-the-new-year/.

And if another bomb cyclone is bearing down on you again, check out my “Cultivating Winter Magic” post as well: https://horrortree.com/cultivating-winter-magic-for-writers/. Who says you can’t go out in style, right?

*Want to exercise your creative muscles? Feel free to share (in the comments) your own wild and wacky names for a terrifying town in rural U.S.A.!

It’s Winter Only in my Imagination…

…and over at The Horror Tree!

Get into the winter spirit by checking out my latest batch of posts I brewed up for the season! (Click on the picture to be taken to the post.)

Winter Magic 2022

december-2022-tarot-320x320

 

december-2022-horoscopes-320x320

And *drum roll*…The premiere of my Spooky Six interviews! Head over to Horror Tree to see who the opening act is!

The Spooky Six Interview

 

Thanks to Stuart Conover for the fantastic cover art!

 

Breaking News: Spooky Six with Willow Croft!

guillotine

Latest news rolling in from the ole chopping block!

I’m now doing author interviews for Horror Tree! If you’re interested in becoming part of the “Spooky Six with Willow Croft” crowd, I can assure you that your head will remain very firmly attached!

So, what are you waiting for? If you’re a horror, sci-fi, fantasy, cli-fi, or a romance author that writes in any of the spec fic or paranormal genres, reach out to me at croftwillow [at] yahoo [dot] com. Don’t see your genre listed? Reach out with any questions!

Skull

More “rolling heads” news. Twitter. Sigh. I realized that I may need to keep the account for a wholly unexpected reason I didn’t even think about. I still don’t have the heart to reconnect there, yet, but it may be inevitable. How’s everyone else’s Twitter move going?

P.S. I reactivated my account just to see, and every…last…one…of my followers/following were gone. Just like that. Poof. So, that’s that. Ha!

Getting Even More “Cryptic” at the End of the World!

Since the world’s ending (or, at least, according to my latest creative inspiration tarot read), Iet’s really get away from it all during this last summer on Earth*. Prepare to be completely transformed as a result of your astrological journey!

https://horrortree.com/august-2022-horoscopes-the-dobhar-chu-days-of-summer-are-here/

*Like my tarot readings and mock horoscopes; fictionally speaking, of course.

Oh, and if those horoscopes whetted your monstrous appetite, check out this anthology called The Cryptid Chronicles, where I not only have a short story, so does Horror Tree’s very own Stuart Conover! And lots of other great stories/authors, of course!

https://www.amazon.com/Cryptid-Chronicles-DBND-Publishing/dp/B08VX16X7B/

The Shifting Sands…

Shifting Sands
Photo Courtesy of Canva.com

Welp, I put so much energy into trying to create something stable, but it seems that the sands have shifted yet once again from underneath me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m used to living in an almost continual state of flux–hence the inspiration for the name of my business (A Chaos Fairy)–but I really tried to build something permanent over the past year, and it didn’t work out too well, to put it mildly.

I don’t usually do much of a crossover between my pen name/writing ventures and my other professional endeavours, but, needs must, I’m afraid.

So, I’m having one of my storm ravens drop a little message that they’ve carried over from my alter ego on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/kirsten-lee-barger-4a984a49_opentowork-thankyou-connections-activity-6954426465169920000-QpZZ?utm_source=linkedin_share&utm_medium=member_desktop_web

Storm Raven
Picture courtesy of Canva.com

(I might change my mind, later, about putting the word out over here in the Realm of Nightmares and Storms, because my Willow Croft alter-alter-ego can be as changeable as the shifting sands I referenced with the photo above, but if you know somebody who knows somebody…you get the drift…)

Speaking of “alter egos”, check out my July Horror Tree horoscopes on your sign’s evil alter egos!

https://horrortree.com/july-2022-horoscopes-whats-your-evil-archetype-alter-ego/

And, because I’ve been getting a sense it’s been a challenging month above and beyond an already challenging year, my Horror Tree tarot card reading is geared towards nurturing and supporting other writers/creators: https://horrortree.com/july-2022-tarot-card-reading-for-author-and-artist-inspiration/.

Have a “soaring” Sunday! Thanks for the support!

At the Drive-In…

I got pretty off track yesterday. It was a strange day/evening in a not-very-exciting-but-very-busy way.

I’ve probably missed a bunch of your blogs, but I tried my best to catch up!

I hope you all have some great summer plans in the works–feel free to share any forthcoming adventures in the comments!

If you want a fun little getaway, come join me and Horror Tree at the (spooky!) drive-in…if you dare! https://horrortree.com/june-2022-horoscopes-the-horror-trees-spooky-filmfest/

Beware of Snapdragons!

Having a wee garden was always a maybe-someday wish…so far, it’s not to be, but it did inspire this week’s horoscopes over at Horror Tree.

Hopefully you’ll dig up some inspiration for either your garden, or your manuscripts, with these fun posts!

https://horrortree.com/march-horoscopes-what-grows-in-your-spooky-garden/

And, if you’re like me, and have a “brown thumb” when it comes to growing things, here’s March’s “Tarot Cards for Writing Inspiration”.

https://horrortree.com/march-2022-tarot-cards-for-writing-inspiration/

What projects do you all have lined up for Spring?

The Pandemic Looks Pretty in Pink (A Diary)

It’s been, hmm…well, I don’t know how many days since the pandemic started. I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

I just know it’s been plenty of days to ruminate on every bad decision I’ve made over the entirety of my forty-eight years on this planet.

Of course, that’s the number I can always keep track of, no matter how much I try to forget.

And for how many hours a day the neighbour’s dogs bark.

I mean, why have dogs, you know, if you’re just going to ignore them for, say, eight hours, twenty-three minutes…and forty-three seconds.

There, the dogs have finally stopped barking. I should probably get out of the house, go for a walk in the park, but I have a best-selling novel to write.

It’s shaping up pretty good. Draft eleven, here I come! But first, I just need to check my social media for the sixteenth time today.

You know, I’d better turn off the computer completely and get writing. Right after I give my cat her brushie time she’s been meowing at me for. After all, I don’t neglect my pets.

Well, apparently, she doesn’t want brushies, now. She just ran off into the other room, chasing after whatever probably imaginary thing she heard. Gotta love cats, right?

Wait, I heard it too. Sounds like crumpling paper. I hope my cat’s not tearing apart my best-selling manuscript draft number eleven.

Whew, it’s okay. Right there on the desk where I left it 37 days ago. But, you know, I had all that research to do online.

Just thinking about all that research has made me too tired to tackle draft number twelve. I’ll take a quick nap and then I can get a fresh start on today’s writing. It’s only, well, sometime after two in the afternoon. Plenty of time.

Oh no, how long did I sleep? It’s dark out, but it can’t be too late, right? That’s right, it’s winter, so it gets dark early. I’m fine. Besides, I’m determined to rewrite at least a couple of chapters today. Still, it’s strange that kitty didn’t wake me up to scoop her litter box 2.5 seconds after she used it.

I can hear her in there, scratching and scratching and scratching as if she’s trying to bury one of the great pyramids in Egypt.

I stop when I see her white blur dart across the dark room. “Where you going, kitty?” I call out. “I’ve got treats.” I shake the treat bag but she doesn’t answer.

I flick the light switch but the house remains dark. Just another urban brownout. I fumble around on my nightstand for the flashlight and hear something clatter to the floor as I grab the light. I turn on the flashlight but can’t find what fell.

“Kitty,” I call out, shining the light around. There’s no sign of her. Wait, there she is. I swing the light back around to the white glow I’d spotted.

Oh no.

“Kitty, what did you do?” I forget to use my best-pet-owner-ever voice and I’m glad the windows are closed so the neighbour can’t hear me almost-yell at the cat.

I feel nauseous. I know it’s not because I’d forgotten to eat. There, on the floor, are hundreds of scraps of paper. I can only hope it’s not draft eleven.

“It’s okay, kitty, I’m not mad.” I finally find her, crouching behind the TV. “Come on out.” But she still won’t come out, not even for her special treats.

And then I hear more paper rustling, somewhere behind me. If I was already a best-selling author, I wouldn’t have to live in this vermin-infested house. I mean, the mice are cute and all, and even my kitty seems fond of them. At least, she never hunts them, as far as I know.

“Shoo,” I said, but the rustling continued. Flashlight in one hand, I start picking up the bits of paper. The scraps are so small I can’t even tell which page it is.

But I’ve got tape and plenty of time with the pandemic isolation. I can put it back together, I tell myself. I get down on my hands and knees and start scooping up the paper bits. One big piece catches a draft and floats away.

The paper-rustling noise is louder, now, and I hesitate before feeling around for the missing piece under the desk. The noise stops just as I realize what it is. It’s not rustling, it’s . . . chewing. I get low to the floor and shine the light underneath the desk. Something glows, there, and it’s not white. It’s not even the faded gray of a house mouse. It’s…pink?

“What are you,” I say to the strange little creature that still has a scrap of paper hanging out of its mouth. The scrap falls to the ground and the creature ignores it.

“Well, whatever you are, you’re a pretty little thing.” It looked like a teeny pig, or maybe a cow. I waggle my finger towards it. “Come here, critter.”

Based on the seventeen stitches I had to get at the urgent care, it didn’t like me poking it. Luckily, by the time I got back to the house, the strange creature had disappeared.

I could only hope that my cat had broken the truce she formed with our wee fuzzy roommates and eaten the vicious little thing.

Until the next day, when the news was full of dire warnings about supply chain issues and paper shortages–which were blamed on the pandemic.

But we knew the real reason, me and my cat.

That these little pink creatures reproduced as fast as they ate paper. And, who knew, maybe someday, another new lifeform would come along that would have an insatiable taste for plastic.

That natural evolution would succeed where humans had failed, in regards to the planet.

*********

If you all haven’t figured it out by now, this was my entry into Evil Squirrel’s “Ninth Annual Contest of Whatever”, inspired by this (not-so?) pretty-in-pink creature: https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/01/30/the-ninth-annual-contest-of-whatever/!

Go check out the original post(s) about this mysterious creature, complete with illustrations, and the other participants’ posts about this cute pink nightmare!

You have until tomorrow to write up something yourself . . . come join in the fun!

All sightings (and posts) of this strange creature can be found in these posts/comments:

https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/03/02/five/

https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/02/27/one-more-plug/

https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/02/18/the-two-week-warning/