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/

 

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author C.I. Kemp

This week I’ll be howling at the moon with author C.I. Kemp as we explore the secret lives of wolves!

Willow Croft: I recently lived in New Mexico, where I learned about George R.R. Martin’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary for (as quoted from their website) “displaced, unwanted, and non-releasable captive-bred wolves, wolfdogs, and other wild canid species”. (Link: https://wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org/) In your guest blog post on Antimony and Elder Lace’s (AEL) website, you mention learning about the “biologically correct” nature of wolves and how this inspired your werewolf-themed book Autumn Moon. Do you have any similar sanctuaries in New Jersey, and are you a volunteer/supporter of those sanctuary(ies)?

C.I. Kemp: I’m an avid supporter of the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, New Jersey, so much so, that (shameless plug alert) a portion of all sales from Autumn Moon are channeled to that organization. If you’re in the area, or plan to visit pay them a visit. You’ll get a tour of the facility and see wolves close-up.  Right now, you’d have to book online and there may be a wait, but the visit will definitely be worth it. If you can’t get there, consider donating or sponsoring a wolf.

Another site you might want to check out is the Wolf Sanctuary in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  As with Lakota, you’d have to book online.

If you’re not close to either of the areas I mentioned, and you want to learn more about / helping wolves, check out Inhabit to find a wolf preserve near you.

Willow Croft: I see that you do a lot of hiking and other outdoor activities. Have you had any close encounters with wildlifeof either the natural, or supernatural, variety while on a hike?

C.I. Kemp: Not with wildlife, but I did have a paranormal experience while camping with a buddy of mine in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Something you need to know about the Berkshires: it’s an area replete with ghostly legends and supernatural sightings.

Well, we were sitting around a campfire chugging beers. I reckon it was about midnight when I looked up and for a split-second, I thought I saw an old man in American Revolution clothing holding an old-fashioned gun with a short barrel and flared muzzle, a blunderbuss I think it’s called. It faded as quickly as it appeared and I was about to write it off as a trick of the light, when I saw the wide-eyed look on my buddy’s face.

I don’t recall which of us spoke first, but the first thing either of us said was, “Did you see it?” followed by “What did it look like?” “What was it wearing?” “What was it carrying?”

As if by unspoken agreement we only asked open-ended questions of each other; nothing that could be answered with a simple yes or no. After a few more give-and-take questions and answers, the conclusion was clear – we’d each seen the same thing.

To this day, I have no explanation for what we saw – and no, you can’t attribute it to the beers. Beer isn’t a hallucinogen and even if it were, it wouldn’t account for us having the same hallucination. In any case, I used the experience for an event in my first novel, (shameless plug alert number 2) Demon Ridge, available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and AB Film Publishing.

Willow Croft: The food question! What’s your favourite meal to rip into** to devour under the full moon (or at any other time)?

C.I. Kemp: If you asked me this question a year ago, I would have said it would be a tie between spare ribs, chili, pizza, and salad (hey, you gotta throw something healthy into the mix). Also beer, particularly under a full moon (see my response to the last question).

Today, however, I’d say black beans have become my new go-to food. Black bean burgers, black bean soup, black bean chili, black bean tacos – the list goes on.

Don’t be fooled, though, I’m still a devout carnivore, only no longer exclusively so.

Willow Croft: If you had a time travel machine, what era of history would you visit, and why?

C.I. Kemp: There’s no one era I would wish to visit, but there’s a looonnngg list of unsolved mysteries I’d like to resolve.  Below are just a few.

Of course, it is presupposed that my hypothetical time machine will allow me to return to the present time before any harm befalls me.

1587; Roanoke Island, NC:  In 1587, the colony of settlers led by John White made their home on Roanoke Island. Three years later, the colony was deserted. What happened? Your guess is as good as mine and will remain so at least until I get access to my time travel machine.

December 26, 1871; the Gaiety Theatre in London: The premiere of Gilbert and Sullivan’s little-known operetta, Thespis. The reason it’s little-known is because Arthur Sullivan’s libretto has mysteriously disappeared. As a music buff (and a Gilbert and Sullivan buff), I’d love to see the piece in its entirely before the music gets lost to posterity forever.

November 3, 1872; Staten Island, NY: It was on this date that the Mary Celeste departed on its ill-fated voyage to [Genoa]. It was discovered off the Azores completely deserted. I would book passage on the ship to learn just what happened at [on her last voyage].

August 4, 1892; 230 2nd Street, Fall River, MA: The murder of the parents of Lizzie Borden has intrigued morbid minds (including my own) for over a century. I’d love to see who truly was responsible for those forty-plus whacks.

August 6, 1930; Billy Haas’s Chophouse at 332 West 45th Street, NY: Judge Crater was last seen getting into a cab at this date and place and never seen again. I’d want to share that cab and find out just where he disappeared to.

Willow Croft: Since it’s Women in Horror Month (WIHM), what are your favourite spec fic tales by women/women identified authors?

C.I. Kemp: First and foremost is Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, not only because it’s a great read, but because it set the ground rules for the man-made monster sub-genre. Other favorites with which most readers of the genre are familiar are “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, although I would characterize these as Conte Cruel rather than spec fic.

Other favorite novels which may not be so universally known are…

  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The title character is a ghostly specter who haunts a small English town and whose sighting foretells disaster. Her existence is the result of a life of cruelty and tragedy, with which she visits the narrator with jarring force.
  • The Good House by Tananarive Due. A young lawyer inhabits the ironically named house to discover that it exerts an influence over the town which is anything but.
  • The House Next Door by Anne River Siddons. Another untraditional haunted house story. A new house is built on a vacant lot next door to a young couple. They befriend each new family who occupies the house, only to watch them deteriorate in horrendous ways.
  • Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten. Much as I’d like to say that Autumn Moon is the groundbreaker when it comes to treating wolves (and werewolves) sympathetically, Kelley Armstrong beat me to it. She does it with such reverence that I can’t resent her for it.

…along with the following short stories:

  • “The Curse of Yig” by Zealia Bishop. A collaboration with H.P, Lovecraft. A young wife incurs the wrath of the snake god, Yig. Or does she? Either way, she pays a terrible price.
  • “Ev’ry Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep” by L.A. Banks. A man is haunted by violent visions must undergo rigorous psychic training (a la Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid movies crossed with Dumbledore) before he can bring justice to a beautiful woman.
  • “Ghost Summer” by Tananarive Due. The story starts leisurely, then takes a nasty turn as three children become endangered when a grisly discovery comes to light.

Visit C.I. Kemp at their blog: http://www.ci-kemp.com/index.html

Autumn Moon can be found at the Antimony and Elder Lace Press website: https://aelpress.com/index.php/ebook/autumn-moon/ or visit C.I. Kemp’s Amazon page here: https://www.amazon.com/C.I.-Kemp/e/B00HQ5HCGW.

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Priscilla Bettis

The “Five Things Friday” interviews have resumed!

We’re getting things “rolling” (do hay bales even roll?) with horror author Priscilla Bettis, whose spooky novelette The Hay Bale was recently released on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hay-Bale-Priscilla-Bettis-ebook/dp/B09P4PJQLT.

Willow Croft: I read on your Amazon author page that you now live on the northern plains of Texas. I think that every geographical locale has its own inherent spookiness to it; so what defines the Plains area of the country in terms of creepiness?

Priscilla Bettis: The wind is constant, first one direction then the other, like a Lovecraftian entity breathing in and out. Sometimes the breath hisses through the trees. Sometimes it just howls.

Willow Croft: I’m always very curious when it comes to science and other fields; could you tell me what sort of projects you engineered as part of your work as an engineering physicist?

Priscilla Bettis: We live in a world where nuclear war is a horrible possibility. My job was to ensure nuclear survivability of military airplanes. It means I had to be well versed in electromagnetic fields and radiation and all sorts of dire subjects. On the positive side, I met a kind, brilliant, sexy man who was a reliability engineer for the same airplanes. We’re now married. 🙂

Willow Croft: I see in one of your interviews (https://marciamearawrites.com/2022/01/19/tenthingsyoumaynotknow-about-priscilla-bettis/) that you like dark chocolate and dark coffee, but I’d love to know what local Alaskan dish, since you grew up there, is your favourite?

Priscilla Bettis: Do drinks count? Because I’d pick hot Christmas eggnog. When I moved to the lower 48, I was astounded to learn everybody drank it COLD! There’s nothing like wrapping your hands around a warm mug of sweet, fattening eggnog at Christmastime.

 Willow Croft: I love taking walks in cemeteries, especially when they are historic cemeteries! What’s the most interesting historic cemetery that you’ve visited?

Priscilla Bettis: In Lynchburg, Virginia, there is an old city cemetery with Civil War graves. Antique roses planted in 1860 line the wall of the cemetery. A cottage sits among the graves. It was a pest house in the 1800s, and the floor is deep with sand. It’s not like they had Depends and Maytag washers back then, so patients close to death lay on the floor, and the sand absorbed the, um, effects of dysentery and was easily shoveled away. It’s a beautiful cemetery with all the roses, and it’s a sobering cemetery with the War graves and the conveniently located pest house.

Willow Croft: Let’s talk about your interest in angels and miracles: have you ever received a visit from an angel-type being, or witnessed any miracles yourself, personally?

Priscilla Bettis: Once, on a sweltering summer day, my full-sized sedan broke down in bumper-to-bumper traffic. A handsome fellow with long, wavy hair pushed my car into the next driveway which was a church entrance that slanted UPHILL. I don’t know how he did it! Then he disappeared. I wonder to this day if he was an angel. Also, a kind lady stopped and gave me a bottle of cool water while I waited for the tow truck, so THANK YOU, kind lady, whoever you are!

Discover more about how Priscilla Bettis “rolls”–her literary adventures, book reviews, and more cemetery strolls here:  priscillabettisauthor.com.

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author C.M. Saunders

Come in and have a cup of “cofftea” with this week’s “Five Things Friday” author, C.M. Saunders!

“What’s ‘cofftea’,” you may be wondering, but you’ll just have to read on to find all about it, and what sort of “dead things” this author loves to eat!

Willow Croft: Since I’ve been mourning the recent demise of my old VHS tape of Sid & Nancy, I gotta open with a question inspired by your RetViews (Retro Review) series (https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/coming-soon-retviews/). You’ve reviewed a lot of great films on there, but if you were stuck in a weird horror loop in one of those films, which would it be, and why would you choose that particular fate?

C.M. Saunders: I’m so glad you are enjoying my RetViews! I started the series out of pure indulgence, and also as a kind of experiment. I wanted to re-watch some movies that had a profound affect on me as a kid or a teenager, and see how they stand up years later. Plus, there are so many great movies out there that don’t get the attention they deserve. The series has been picking up more attention month-by-month and now it’s probably one of the most popular things I do. Back to your original question. That’s such a tricky one to answer! I’m tempted to say John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) but the arctic would be so cold, and not fun at all. I know horror movies aren’t really supposed to be fun, but I do love a splash of humour with my horror. An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (2011) are perfect examples of what floats my boat.

At the end of the day, though, I’m going to have to go with Lost Boys (1987). Coolest. Film. Ever. What could be better than hanging out with the Frog brothers in Santa Carla chasing vampires and Jami Gertz? If I’m going to be doing that forever, it would also be a nice little tie-in with Peter Pan who also never grew up, and where the title came from.

Willow Croft: In your Redrum interview (https://www.redrumreviews.com/post/interview-with-c-m-saunders), you mention wanting to start a “massive open-air splatterpunk festival combining music, literature, performance art, and comedy”. While I would love to hear nothing but Cure covers (they’re my favourite band, and were actually really awesome to meet in person), what bands and performers would you add to your lineup?

C.M. Saunders: Previously, I said Alkaline Trio should be headlining. But I’ve since relegated them to ‘special guest’ spot in favour of The Wildhearts. I don’t know how well-known they are outside the UK but they’re well worth checking out. Their new album is amazing, and they have a song called Splattermania which is destined to be the festival’s unofficial theme song. In a recent interview Ginger (the singer) said he didn’t believe in God but knew something must be going on because it’s the only thing that could explain him still being alive. Brilliant. I’d also find slots for Senses Fail and Silverstein, and I’m a big fan of The Dangerous Summer. Not least because they wrote a song about the music industry called Fuck them All and went indie. That takes balls.

I think the comedy slots would be hardest to fill, because everyone is so easily triggered these days. It’s taken millions of years of evolution for us to arrive at the point where our first reaction is to be triggered, usually on behalf of someone else. We’d probably have to settle for a mime artist making balloon animals.

Willow Croft: Time for the food question! I’ve eaten some terrible food concoctions back when I was young and wannabe punk rock/squatter (for example, one staple was a soup made from ketchup and Taco Bell sauce.). So, have you ever created your own mash-up of unlikely foodstuffs that turned out to be just as terrible—or absolutely delicious? Share your concoction here!

C.M. Saunders: I had the innovative idea once of mixing tea and coffee together and calling it ‘cofftea.’ I was convinced my invention was going to take the world by storm. The only problem was that it was absolutely disgusting.

I used to be a very fussy eater, until I went to live in China in 2007. There, I was struck by how many things are not only edible, but delicious. We waste so much food in the west. We don’t even think about it. For example, most people only eat the prime cuts of an animal. Fatty bits, ew! But in China they eat every single part from the ears to the ass. Fat is a delicacy because there’s less of it on an animal. Chicken feet, which are literally just skin and bones, are insanely popular. One day, a friend came over to my apartment to cook a meal, and brought a bloody pig’s nose with her. I’ve learned not to be squeamish, and in my time there I ate tons of things I wouldn’t have got to try otherwise. Boiled brain, fried bamboo worms, chicken hearts. I lived in a place called Changsha in Hunan province, and they have a specialty there called ‘fried live fish,’ where they cook and gut a fish, and then serve it before it actually dies. That was pretty gross. After I saw that I changed my personal rule from, ‘I’ll eat anything,’ to, ‘I’ll eat anything as long as it’s dead.’

Willow Croft: What I miss most about my travels outside the U.S. was/is the absolutely amazing train travel. So, if there were an intergalactic train trip offered, what places, real or fictional, in the universe would you want to visit, and why?

C.M. Saunders: Does it have to be intergalactic? I’m not a big fan of space. It just seems like a whole lot of nothingness to me. There might be aliens, but I think you’d have to work hard to find them and when you do they might look like sticks of celery or something. You might think I’m boring but I’m quite happy with normal trains. I’m from the UK which isn’t very big. You can take a train from one end to the other and it would only take a few hours. On the other hand, when I lived in China some train journeys would take days. Days! You’d buy a ticket, look at the arrival time, and it would just say “Thursday” and you had to pay extra for a seat, otherwise you’d have to stand up the entire way. Ooh, how about a time travel train? Can I go on one of those? Can I? Hmm? Can I? There are so many places I’d like to visit, like late-seventies New York when the Ramones were taking off, the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 with Jimi Hendrix and The Who, Live Aid in ’85, the list is endless. I think I’d give Woodstock a miss, though. It might be iconic, but it looked like a living nightmare to me.

Willow Croft: One of the things that I’m navigating as I get older is making sure I don’t fall into a life that’s too, I don’t know the words, traditional or conformist—to not fall into a certain state of ennui about how things are. I don’t want to get too comfortable—I want to keep fighting against the pricks—literally and figuratively, and one of the ways I try to do it these days is by picking up the pen. What ways, if any, does that sort of “punk rock”, alternative, or “change the world” mindsets find its way into your writing, and/or any other creative areas you explore? Does horror, as you write it, fit into that aesthetic (how and why)?

C.M. Saunders: Right now it’s a very difficult time to be artistic, or put yourself ‘out there’ in any way. Every time you do so, you set yourself up for a world of shit. Just one misinterpreted line in a story, or a comment or social media post taken out of context, could end your career. Everybody is so eager to be offended. In one of my novels, Sker House, a character complains about being friend-zoned by a girl he liked. A reviewer read it, found the whole ‘friend zoning’ concept offensive, and called me a misogynist, completely missing the point that it was fiction. I wasn’t putting across my personal views, I was speaking through a character, who happened to be a frustrated 18-year old college student. Things like that affect your later work, because frankly, I don’t need the drama. The social climate at the moment is so precarious that whatever anybody says or does, someone somewhere will get pissed about it. I find this confusing. People love to be offended, usually on behalf of someone else, under the pretense of being a ‘good’ person. And then they take great delight in stomping people who don’t share the same views as them into the dirt, which isn’t what good people do.

Find out where C.M. Saunders has put themselves “out there”:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/CMSaunders01

https://www.facebook.com/CMSaunders01

Here’s the RetView posts C.M. Saunders mentions in the interviews:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/retview-37-the-thing-1982/

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/retview-3-an-american-werewolf-in-london/

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/retview-17-tucker-dale-vs-evil-2010/

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2017/08/13/the-lost-boys-at-30/

Oh, and just in case you were still hungry (you all know that this longtime vegetarian sure as heck isn’t. Ha!), take a look at “Eating brain”: https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/i-want-to-eat-your-brains/

Wildhearts – Splattermania: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu6_0n4rXbY

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author S. Alessandro Martinez

Flying in on bat wings is this week’s Five Things Friday interviewee, horror and fantasy author S. Alessandro Martinez.

Willow Croft: If you could be any species of bat, which one would you choose, and why?

S. Alessandro Martinez: I love bats! My favorite animal. If I were going to be a bat, I’d either choose a vampire bat, for obvious reasons. Or a Livingstone’s fruit bat, which are adorable, fluffy, and have awesome-looking eyes.

Willow Croft: What with the pandemic, I definitely missed playing board games at the local comic book shop. (I’m still irked with myself for not being able to make it to your Helminth escape room challenge event!) So, what’s your favourite board game, and do board games and/or video games ever inspire your writing?

S. Alessandro Martinez: Our Helminth live online escape room was a ton of fun to put on, but also a ton of work. I’m still glad we did it, though. My favorite board game of all time would be Arkham Horror (2nd Edition). Most people who know me know I’m a huge Lovecraft fan. I have many Lovecraftian board games, but Arkham Horror will always be number one. As for whether they inspire my writing? Definitely. A novel I’m working on at the moment was inspired by a tabletop role-playing game campaign I wrote a few years ago. I enjoyed the story I came up with, and decided to turn it into a novel.

Willow Croft: Helminth got pretty gruesome at times (not that I minded, of course!), so, in real life, what’s the most gruesome thing you’ve ever eaten (or strangest recipe you prepared)?

S. Alessandro Martinez: I don’t know about “gruesome”, but I’ve eaten plenty of things that would be considered weird to Americans like me. For example, I’ve had blood pudding and blood sausage, both good. Sea urchin, which I would not recommend ever. Whale, it was okay. Horse is one of the most delicious meats I’ve ever had. In Iceland I had hákarl, which is Greenland shark that has been fermented and hung to dry for about five months. I probably wouldn’t eat that again, but I would recommend experiencing it.

Willow Croft: As a horror and fantasy writer, your imagination must take you to some spooky, and wonderful, fictional places. In real life, though, what’s the most fantastical/frightening thing that’s happened to you?

S. Alessandro Martinez: When my wife and I visited Canada, we decided to go on a caving tour. During the tour, I somehow ended up in front of everyone as we were crawling through these narrow passageways. From the rear of the group, the guide sent up instructions to go down a certain passage. So I attached myself onto the safety line and went down that way. Well, what we found out later was that the guide had said “DON’T go down that way.” But the message had altered on its way down to me. Turns out the safety line I had attached to wasn’t connected to anything on the other end and there was a pretty significant drop right below where I had gotten to. Thankfully, only my wife and I had gone down before the guide realized what happened. We had to wait for the guide to come and lead us out a safer way.

As for fantastical, when the wife and I were in New Zealand, we got to see many Lord of the Rings filming locations, climb to the top of Edoras, and have a hobbit feast at the Green Dragon. We also went caving (again) to see the glowworms. That was amazing sight! And when we were in Iceland, my wife and I got to swim in a stream that had been recently created through volcanic activity and was being naturally heated. This was a practically a private spot in the middle of nowhere that a guide had taken us to. A truly amazing experience.

Willow Croft: And, lastly, if you could travel to any (presumably) cursed or haunted location in the world for an overnight stay, where would you choose?

S. Alessandro Martinez: It’s a dream of mine to visit Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) one day. Who wouldn’t, right? I’ve also been wanting to visit the Waverley Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky. That seems like a super creepy place I’d love to explore. I would happily spend a night at either of these locations. Or maybe several nights when it comes to Bran Castle.

Take a dark draught with S. Alessandro Martinez over at his blog: https://salessandromartinez.com/.

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!)

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Bibiana Krall

For this week’s interview, we’re journeying through the evocative flavours of Bibiana Krall’s “mysterious world”. Enjoy the voyage!

Willow Croft: I read on your website that Tangled Webs (Book Two of your Haunted Series), has autumn-themed recipes and cocktails at the back of the book. So, without giving away any spoilers, what’s your favorite autumn flavor/foodstuffs to include in recipes?

Bibiana Krall: I grew up on a farm in Michigan and the flavor that most represents harvest for me will always be the apple. We had our own fruit trees and pressed apples into cider at the local mill to drink with breakfast and sip on chilly evenings with mulling spices. There is nothing more comforting than a warm slice of homemade, apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In the bonus pages of Tangled Webs, I included a recipe with a savory twist on a classic. Enjoy!

Willow Croft: I see that you’re a collector of objects. For a twist on the topic, what’s your favorite memory, or story of place, or even a memory of a particular scent, that you’ve collected?

Bibiana Krall: It’s true. I have an oddball collection of art, coins and even a few first-editions. Scent carries my strongest memories. The green-resin of a pine forest snoozing under the snow, the mellow earth after a gentle rain (petrichor) and oh… how I love gardenias. I planted some bushes in my yard, as they remind me of my grandmother. Creamy-white petals with notes of vanilla and exotic spice, what’s not to like?

Willow Croft: How does your writing transform not only your world, and the world of the reader, but the world at large, perhaps in terms of cultural, social, environmental change, and the like?

Bibiana Krall: I’ve been a storyteller ever since I can remember. The world is a mysterious and mystical place that holds a tradition of verbal and written stories that helps humans understand our past, present and future.

My hope is to change the reader’s perception that someone in another culture or a person who looks or lives differently than we do, may understand us more than we’d previously imagined. Heroines are an important part of what I do, as without strong and resilient women in our lives where would any of us be?

I gravitate towards themes of: ‘good versus evil’ ‘haunted houses’ and ‘a stranger comes to town’ to talk about fear of the unknown, overcoming and also to show that often there’s more to something than what you initially notice or believe. The greatest gift in fiction and hopefully in my work as well, is to discover that you aren’t alone in your struggle.

Willow Croft: If you could travel anywhere in the Cosmos you sky-watched as a child (as quoted from your blog), where would travel, and why?

Bibiana Krall: When I was a child, I yearned for a quick trip to Venus or to skateboard across the rings of Saturn. Now my wish is to travel to the Pillars of Creation and watch the EGGs zing across the darkness as they are born. The Eagle Nebula in the Serpens constellation is seven thousand light years away from us. To witness stars being created in real-time would blow the mind, so I included my wonder for the ‘Pillars’ in the mysticism of the Irish Phantom Series.

Willow Croft: If you were reincarnated as one of your literary heroines (or from another author’s works), who would you decide to be?

Bibiana Krall: That’s a tough one! What woman wouldn’t want to be Rebecca before she clashes with the horrible Mrs. Danvers or Jane Eyre living life on her own terms? In my own stories, I admire Ayanna in Prospect Hill for her intelligence, magic and herbal skills and Mary in the Irish Phantom Series for her courage to face terrifying situations and her ability to find happiness, friendship and true love after a breakdown.

Thank you for making space for my creative world. Your insightful questions made me think, smile and dream. Hopefully y’all know me a little bit better now. This was an honor and great fun! – Bibiana

Website: www.bibianakrall.com

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/bibianak