Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Ellen Hawley

Join author Ellen Hawley and I as we go digging for treasure and getting into lots of trouble in Anglo-Saxon England!

Willow Croft: If you unearthed a treasure chest on your property, what would you hope would be in it, and why?

Ellen Hawley: Instructions on how to fix the structural problem in the novel I’m working on. I mean, why be greedy in a fantasy?

Willow Croft: Sometimes I see mention of historically based foodstuffs on your blog (like cake!). What would be your favourite recipe of yore (either mentioned on your blog, or not)?

Ellen Hawley: I can’t help wanting to be around when oat cakes were first made. I want to watch over some woman’s shoulder as she makes them over an open fire in the middle of a stone-walled house with a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.

Then I want to run outside to get a few lungfuls of smokeless air.

Willow Croft: Imagine you’re getting together with friends or family on a weekend—what’s the board game you most love to hate?

Ellen Hawley: All of them. I grew up playing board games with my brother, who was (and oddly enough, still is) a couple of years older, so I always lost. It left me with a lasting dislike of them all. I’m the person who’d curl up in the corner with a book and try not to look too grumpy.

Willow Croft: If you created a fictional city of your own, and had to design a tourism brochure, what would be the main selling points of your city (and what would you call it)?

Ellen Hawley: Hang on. I create the city, right? So who gets to tell me I have to design a tourism brochure? I’m designing a city that doesn’t need a tourism brochure. Cancel the brochure. Let’s go out and eat cake.

Willow Croft: Some of your blogs takes a closer look at Anglo-Saxon law (Example: https://notesfromtheuk.com/2021/08/13/law-in-anglo-saxon-england/). What would you have done back then that might have gotten you outlawed or punished?

Ellen Hawley: That’s a tough one, since Anglo-Saxon England was–well, basically, it was a mess. It was one kingdom, it was five kingdoms, it was seven kingdoms, it was probably more kingdoms than that but I lost track somewhere in there. And part of the time large parts of it were run by Vikings, so it stopped being Anglo-Saxon and became Norse. And if that doesn’t confuse the picture enough, part of the time it was Christian and part of the time it was what Christians like to call pagan, which as far as I can make out is a Christian word for not-Christian, not something any group ever called itself. Let’s say it was pre-Christian, although that’s also a problematic label, since it uses a different religion as the reference point.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that the laws changed from one period to the next and from one kingdom or king to the next. But I’m sure I’d have found a way to get in trouble.

In Christian Anglo-Saxiana, it could easily have been for not being a Christian. I’m not sure that was illegal, but it wouldn’t have made me popular.

In any Anglo-Saxon period, although free women were way freer than they were under the Normans, I doubt I’d have kept within the bounds.

Slavery was widespread. I don’t imagine myself as the Harriet Tubman of Anglo-Saxon England–I’m too old to kid myself about having her courage–but whether I was free or enslaved, I’d have had a few problems with it.

And then there’s that awkward business of being attracted to women instead of men. I’ve never read anything about how they felt about same-sex relationships–there may not be any record of it–but again, I doubt it would’ve made me popular.

So many ways to get in trouble, and gee it’s hard to choose.

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Photo courtesy of Canva.com

Free cake at Ellen Hawley’s blog! (I’m kidding. I made that up. But there are blog posts over there that are just as delicious as cake, I promise!) https://notesfromtheuk.com/.

Want more than just cake? Glad you asked!

Ellen Hawley is an American novelist and blogger living in Britain. Her current novel, Other People Manage, was just released by Swift Press: https://www.waterstones.com/book/other-people-manage/ellen-hawley/9781800750975.

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 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 with Author J.D. Graves

This week’s “Five Things Friday” interview victim is J.D. Graves, author, playwright, and editor of the EconoClash Review. (Careful not to contaminate the crime scene as you leave!)

Willow Croft: As a playwright, you’ve probably heard the term “the show must go on” more times than you can count, but in a wildly improbable scenario of your darkest imaginings, what could prevent a show from actually going up?

J.D. Graves: Actors need an audience and will do anything to make sure their needs are met. I’ve seen shows go on even after the power went out and the actors took it to the parking lot when they realized they didn’t have enough flashlights. I’ve produced shows where we met only once a week over four months. It was quite a rehearsal process that I would never attempt again…until the next time it is necessary. A terrorist attack seems to be the only thing that can stop a performance as it has happened before. In my darkest imaginings I would witness it happen in person and then the Russians would pump in the toxic gas and kill everyone including those patrons who couldn’t afford good seats. I’d be in the nose bleeds with them trying to keep my eye jelly from leaking onto my good shirt. If I survived the ordeal I’d need the shirt for work the next day.

Willow Croft: What’s the most bizarre situation you’ve found yourself in, in real life?

J.D. Graves: Do you like Hibachi? I love Hibachi it’s not just a meal it’s also a show that’s well paced and fulfilling at the end. Better than most dinner theatre I’ve suffered through. It’s simple and uncomplicated which is the opposite of my love-life over a decade ago before the blessing of children forced me to be a grown-up. Once took an ex-GF, her mom and family out to a Hibachi dinner. We were celebrating the exciting news that we were going to be parents despite officially ending our relationship (guess it was only on a hiatus for the end of summer) Stuff happens. We took up eight chairs in total. There were four seats at the grill left open. Everything was going great until a pair of couples took the empty chairs. And as luck would dictate It was my other exGF (the one I had just broken up with by telling her I’d tin-roof rusted the girl I’d broken up with in July before beginning our new relationship) her two parents and her new date. Did I tell you how much I love Hibachi? That night while ex ex GF watched the chef do spatula tricks and onion volcanoes current ex GF sat across from me. She made a big production of actively ignoring me and I tried to do the same without all the razzmatazz and pointed barbs. While she lavished attention on her new dude and his thinning hair and double chins (rebounds are what they are although I’m sure he treated her nice) things just kept getting weirder as dinner cooked in front of us. It’s tough to love someone who doesn’t love you. I was reaping what I sowed that night as far as interpersonal romantic entanglements go. My date knew the chef and they kept asking about each other’s friends and divulging personal anecdotes that made the simmering grill even hotter. Maybe they were dating too before one cold night in November, I made a phone call and the world that existed changed forever. It was a fitting metaphor for my life at that time. Chef asked my date why she hadn’t been over at such and such’s place and she blurted out “well…I got pregnant.” This caused the other exGF to laugry (cry a laugh) loud as she possibly could. She sat there for a moment and took one last look at me. It was brief, of course, but in that moment I felt the sting of the jealousy-rage-heartache trifecta. She bit her lip and turned to her date and said excuse me. She made no eye contact with anyone. New Dude said okay but didn’t cease chowing down on the cubes of grilled steak and egg fried rice and didn’t watch her leave, but I did. Shoulders curled, head down, feet propelling her out of the terrible situation. My date looked at me and asked, “Do you know her?” I shook my head and ordered a double cape-cod. Drank it and ordered another. After the second drink the exGF mother excused herself to check on her daughter. Neither returned for the duration of the meal. And everyone else took their time enjoying their dinner oblivious to the awkward tension. Meanwhile. I felt like the lobster cooking in my own shell. Never been more relieved to pay a check in all my life. I‘m married to a different lady altogether now. A wonderful woman who doesn’t put up with my crap. And we love Hibachi together. I have other bizarre stories but this one has food in it.

Willow Croft: Is there any place you’ve visited that would be the perfect setting for a noir/pulp tale? (Would it be Ohio? *laugh*)

J.D. Graves: Despite being a lifelong Browns backer I’ve never been to the buckeye state. I believe the best noir locations to be those that come across as squeaky clean. (Schools, churches, etc) this would make the impending doom of a noir story more compelling because it goes against expectations.

Willow Croft: What classic pulp-fiction-inspired dish would you most want to eat?

J.D. Graves: I’d like to try a Red Harvest. Continental Op on the side. And if I could get an extra helping of Cogan’s Trade that’d be great.

Willow Croft: You’re trying to solve a heinous crime. Quick, who would you pick to be your detecting sidekick (real or fictional)? Alternatively, who would be the dastardly adversary you’d like match wits with?

J.D. Graves: I’d pick my son because his eye for detail far exceeds my own. Our adversary would be the man I used to be in my mid-twenties he was shallow and self-destructive. And maybe John Wilkes Booth. What can I say? I have a special place in my heart for theatre people who make poor decisions.

Track down J.D. Graves in one of his internet hideaways:

https://www.econoclash.com/

https://twitter.com/JDGravesWriter

https://horrortree.com/the-horror-tree-presents-an-interview-with-j-d-graves-pushing-the-boundaries-with-econoclash/

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Jan Olandese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Yawatta Hosby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also believe in ghosts. They lurk everywhere…

 

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

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

 

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

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author David Lee Summers!

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:

Website: http://www.davidleesummers.com

Blog: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidleesummers

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/davidleesummers

Company: http://www.hadrosaur.com

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

Five Things Friday Interview with Mystery Author G G Collins!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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