I’ve been a little off-kilter lately. First the time change, and now temperatures are rising, and it seems winter has left. While I like all things nature-related, winter and autumn are my favourite seasons.
I miss cold, crisp days, and walking in the snow, and eating dinner when it’s actually dark out.
And so it was chillingly comforting when I read Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction.
The characters were like the voices of friends, by virtue of their shared experiences that were revealed in many of the stories.
Yes, the content was dark, but it also felt like some mysterious, imagined presence had appeared, wrapped a blanket around my shoulders, and whispered to me “you are not alone”.
Maybe that’s why I’ve been a little discombobulated lately. Reading this collection of stories was not only a haunting experience, but a visceral one as well.
Sure, I could talk a lot more about this anthology. But it’s proving to be a bit of a challenge, because my readerly experience went deep. And I’d rather listen, anyway. Listen to all the authors’ voices, as they tell their stories. Stories that remind me that I’m not so alone, after all.
Special thanks to Editor Rebecca Rowland for the advance reader’s copy.
You can dig up a copy for yourself when it releases June 1: https://rowlandbooks.com/unburied. Because, admit it, we could all use a little less “alone time” and a little more community, about now.
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 🙂
I have a confession, fellow bloggers and blog readers.
I have committed a dreadful cardinal sin.
I quit reading a book before I was even through. (Don’t worry, it wasn’t any of yours!)
The sinned-against book was the first volume of a massive two-volume history book set. I was almost to the end of the first volume (page 700 and change) and I just couldn’t continue with it. It’s not as if the book was dated (although it was), because I’ll continue reading since I’m a historian, and will persevere through the most dry, academic, smelly, and, yes, dated book there is.
I rescued the above book from being tossed in a dumpster.
It’s the perfect manifestation of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The book’s cover was godawful. I forgot to upload the picture of the book’s cover when I entered the book into Goodreads, but here it is:
And it kinda smelled too. The book, not the book’s entry on Goodreads. Not of garbage (I didn’t dig it out of the dumpster) and not even of that old-book smell. But it definitely smelled pretty attic-musty. Or of something else I really don’t want to think about.
But I actually enjoyed reading that book. Some of the captions that went with the pictures were hilarious! I loved when the author(s) did the 1956 version of caption-trolling for some of the naval captains included in the book.
My focus in grad school was maritime history, and military history often goes hand in hand with that, and I still found the book hard to get into, and so I quit. Maybe it was because the history of the Civil War was written in a glamourizing and glorifying manner, and we all probably know it wasn’t like that at all. Even if we weren’t there.
The photos in the book, at least, don’t “lie”.
Please forgive me for committing such a literary cardinal sin as to not finishing a book! I will atone, I promise.
(And by atoning, I mean taking a nap because I am still tired from attending the absolutely awesome virtual steampunk conference over the weekend. The organisers/hosts must be three times as exhausted as I, a mere attendee, am!)
However, before I do that, I’ll mention another book I read during all this history journeying, which actually had at its core a real cardinal sin, albeit a fictional one. (And, so I don’t commit another literary cardinal sin, possible spoilers ahead.)
But it was no less chilling for all that it was fiction. The circle of friends in S. Gepp’s Sins of the Fathers commit a terrible act in a quest for power and status. (Much like many of the world’s wars, don’t you think?)
As we all can guess, power always comes with a price. And sometimes a twisted sort of redemption.
I enjoyed this novella as released from Grinning Skull Press, and can’t wait experience more of Grinning Skull‘s horror vision.
I read the Breaking Rules Publishing anthology The Hollow: Where All Things Evil Lie (Vol. 3), and not just because my own story was in it. Because, you know, it’s horror! And I love “all things” horror. (See what I did there?)
I wish I could talk about it a little more thoroughly but I generally read anthologies a second time to fully immerse myself in the individual stories, and Breaking Rules Publishing really picked some great ones. I can say this–it is definitely going to be worth the second read. Especially now that I’m freed up from reading about real-life Civil War horror…I mean, history.
My only critique of The Hollow 3 is that I wish it had a table of contents.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a traditionalist book nerd as well as a book-sinner-against.
So, now I’m going to do what all evil things do after a day of chaos and destruction! Yep, you guessed it…take a nap!
*No horses were harmed in the creation of this blog post.
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*
*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*]
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)
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.
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.
As writers, we all chase after the glittery, sparkly, alluring muse known as Inspiration.
But, with the COVID restrictions, maybe some of you have found your inspiration wellspring drying up.
Myself, I go for long walks in one of Wichita’s local cemeteries and look at the names on the tombstones, and watch geese and a pair of soon-to-be nesting hawks.
I hate to admit to you all that even with stay-at-home COVID, I rarely am at a loss for ideas. I sit down and scribble a bunch of random phrases all over a piece of paper that ends up looking like a drunk spider trying to make a web. And then I have a story. After I’ve written it, I give it some space, and then I edit. And edit. And edit. Then I tell myself to stop procrastinating and I send it off. *cue Titanic film score music* And I wait. Wait for acceptances. Wait for editorial suggestions from the editor(s). Wait for a bird to fly past the window so that I can take my mind off all the waiting.
So, while inspiration isn’t a problem for my short stories, I’m still haunted by an entirely different spectre (Hello, ADHD!) that chases after more tangible sparkly things; my mischievous cat, for one, or the birds outside the window, or wondering if my neighbour(s) are building entire rocket ships from scrap metal in their livespaces, and wishing that I could join in the fun, if so.
Where I struggle is outlining. Outlining, plotting, and hitting the word count needed for a full-length manuscript.
(Yes, probably even editing, too, but I believe every writer needs an editor.)
I’m working on two projects right now. One’s a spooky horror manuscript; the other is a…motivational book?…for lack of a better term. They’re both off to a fairly decent start as long as I don’t suggest that the road to personal bliss and growth involves a detailed process of dismemberment for one’s enemies.
But when I do have trouble focusing, I change the background music (film/tv/video games scores or classical), I meditate (aka take a nap!), or I’ll even pull tarot cards for inspiration.
Sometimes, though, you need something a little meatier for a full-length manuscript. And so I selected a book for my holiday-Amazon-gift-card spending spree called Write Horror Good Enough to Wake the Dead by Christina Escamilla (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7828668.Christina_Escamilla) to help me overcome my issues with “Pacing”, “Structure”, and “Scene” (<—actual subchapter headers in Escamilla’s book, just FYI) but with a definite horror slant.
I’m loving the exercises Escamilla provides but time will tell (if I ever get the bloody thing done) if my horror book will be “Good Enough to Wake the Dead”.
I have my beta readers already selected from the inhabitants at the local Wichita cemetery, but no word if any of them are willing to double as sensitivity readers, yet! They’re proving to be quite the silent type, I’m afraid. And so I wait.
*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?
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!
Here’s the next “Five Things Friday” interview with speculative fiction author (and astronomer) David Lee Summers! Hope you enjoy!
Willow Croft: One thing I hated to give up in leaving New Mexico was the clear skies, especially with the occurrence of the conjunction event (Wichita has an absolutely obscene amount of light pollution!). So, in honour of all things galactic, what’s your favourite astronomical phenomenon to date, from your astronomer perspective?
David Lee Summers: I would have a hard time giving up the clear skies of the Southwest and I’m sorry you missed the conjunction event. It was very cool. That said, I think one of the most exciting things I’ve seen through a telescope was Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 just a few days before it hit Jupiter back in 1995. The comet itself resembled a cosmic string of pearls. On top of that, I was working with Vera Rubin, the woman who made the observations that led to the discovery of dark matter.
Willow Croft: If you could dine on any fictional off-world (off-Earth) cuisine/dish, what would it be, and what would you imagine it tastes like?
David Lee Summers: In my novel Heirs of the New Earth, a character brings a dish called ruas’ordah to a party. It’s purple mush from a planet called Rd’dyggia. I imagine it tastes like green chile hummus. I would totally make this. I may have to experiment with some recipes and post it to my blog if I create something I like!
Willow Croft: Since you are a speculative fiction author, and with a nod to your “2020 Foresight” blog post (https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2020/01/11/2020-foresight/), how do you foresee the events of the next ten years unfolding? How would you wish they would unfold, and how do you imagine society being ten years from now? Where do you envision yourself being in ten years?
David Lee Summers: This is a good question, since I think we’re at a real crossroads moment in history and a lot depends on how well we’re able to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control and how people respond to recent events in Washington D.C.
Taking a hopeful stance, I think we’ll bring the pandemic under control in the next year or so. I hope our experiences with remote work and remote events will allow us to continue these things to a certain extent after the pandemic. I look forward to seeing people again at in-person conventions, for example, but I’ve also had the opportunity to attend and speak at conventions I couldn’t have if I had been required to pay for transportation. I’m also hopeful that the dramatic political events surrounding the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential win will help politicians bridge the exaggerated “aisle” they dug between the two American parties so they can actually get some good work done.
Within the next decade, I’m betting we’ll find evidence of life outside the Earth. Such a discovery will help us better understand our place in the universe. I fear climate change will worsen, but hope we can make changes that will slow it down. In short, I hope the world will be a better, safer place in ten years than it is today, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find we have new challenges that we can’t even begin to imagine now.
As for me, I still plan to be writing. I hope to try my hand at expanding what I do into comics, audio and maybe even some video of some form. I hope to wrap up my Wilderness of the Dead horror series and maybe work on some other steampunk projects I have in mind.
Willow Croft: Would you travel into space, or are you content with being Earthbound? Why, or why not? Alternatively, what region of space would you like to visit?
David Lee Summers: I would definitely travel into space if I could. I feel like travel on Earth has always expanded my consciousness and given me new perspectives. Going into space would take that to a whole new level. I would love to visit Mars to see the deserts and experience the night sky from its surface. I’m enough of a rock hound to know it would be exciting to wander its surface and see what stories the rocks tell.
Willow Croft: And, of course, have you ever seen an UFO or had any close encounters? What kind of Earth food is their favourite, if so?
David Lee Summers: I have never personally seen a UFO, but I did meet a man who claimed to be one of the beings seen by Lonnie Zamora during the Socorro “close encounter of the third kind” from 1964. Does that count? He liked fresh grilled salmon and really liked his beer!
Find out more about David Lee Summers and his writing/publishing projects, here:
Since I’m still trying to play catch-up after the limited internet access back in New Mexico (Yes, STILL!), I’ve been meaning to post updates about the recently published anthologies that my short stories have appeared in. And I have one or two coming out sometime in the near future in a mystery anthology(ies).
Happy Reading! (Got new releases of your own? Share them in the comments!)
And, I also am hard at work outlining (and, eventually, writing) my horror book which will definitely involve demon(s) of sorts, and maybe get mashed up with a cozy mystery. We’ll see how the outlining process goes. But I am very excited to have my Spooky Writers’ Planner (https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2020/12/18/new-release-spooky-writers-planner/) to help me through, especially when (if?!?!? *crosses fingers*) I land a day job in my new city to help support my writing. Or, more truthfully, to help me keep a roof over my kitties’ heads. *laugh*
(Moon Pie says bye for now! Or, more likely, she’s plotting her next heinous crime…)