Riding the Carousel ‘Round and ‘Round and ‘Round Again…

I’d forgotten that the Villa Linda Mall (yes, yes, I know, it’s the SANTA FE PLACE mall now) in Santa Fe used to have a carousel–merry-go-round, as I usually call it.

But reading G G Collins’ Reluctant Medium reminded me of that. Because, of course, it’s set in New Mexico. Mostly in Santa Fe. That, and I keep misspelling “Reluctant” even though I rarely misspell anything. Chalk it up to COVID-staring-at-the-same-four-walls-for-too-long fugue.

*possible spoiler alert*

It was strange reading a book with little odd parallels running through it—the book’s main character, Rachel Blackstone, runs from Oklahoma back into New Mexico, chasing a spirit she accidently awoke through a ritual she was conducting.

You know, like in those movies when you’re like “Don’t open the door” and the fool opens the door and he dies? Well, maybe it’s nothing like that, but in any case, Rachel Blackstone has to go back to New Mexico to save her friends and family from the very angry spirit. Because, of course, the spirit is seeking revenge for some wrong inflicted on him. Mainly, death.

Anyway, I ran the other way–from New Mexico into Kansas–though I didn’t awaken any vengeful spirits. This place(s) might have them already, from the “dead bodies found no witness” line on the public police report I acquired. I can handle death in books, but in real life? Not so much. I would say that I can imagine that it was a pair of deceased goldfish that were found, except that makes me just as sad, if not sadder, in a way.

So, real life made reading G G Collins’ Reluctant Medium: A Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery late at night pretty gosh darn spooky, even for this spooky lit lover. And, of course, the wind was howling outside my window. And the snow kept falling, along with the temperature. And I kept hearing bumps in the night (just the cats playing–I think!).

But at least I could indulge in some nice character-envy to take my mind off the unexplained thuds in the night, and within the pages of the book. Rachel Blackstone gets her job back as a journalist, she gets to stay with her friend in a luxe Santa Fe home for a while, she snaps up what sounds like a charming, cozy home, and she gets to eat lots of chile-laden New Mexican cuisine! (I hope my new state proves to be as welcoming!) And, best of all, there’s a cat character, too!

I’ll have to wait until I get some unexpected windfall (or win this year’s HGTV Dream Home) to get the next book(s) in the Rachel Blackstone series, but until then, who wants to meet up at the Sopaipilla Factory with me? http://www.sopaipillafactory.com/ ? (It’s not mentioned in the book, but it just happens to be one of my favourite eateries back in New Mexico, and it’s one of the few things I miss about New Mexico.)

Yearnings for a life, and place, of my own aside, it’s a wonderfully spooky mystery to read on during this winter-storm nightmare out there.

Here’s the links (clickable) to the book and to the author’s website:

Reluctant Medium (Rachel Blackstone #1) by G.G. Collins | Goodreads

Reluctant Medium (bookshop.org)

Author Blog: https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com

Stay safe, stay warm, and read lots!

Now, does anyone know how to get off this carousel? It keeps going ’round and ’round and I can never quite seem to get off.

“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

Reading Binge and Other Favourite Things…

Well, things are still shut down here in some ways. Mainly because my life has been in shutdown mode since circumstances dictated I had to move to the land of no internet and no cell phone service, otherwise known as the state of New Mexico. *laughs*

But I’m still keeping up with the (now exclusively out-of-state) job search and still writing and pitching as much as I can in the meantime.

And, of course, I’ve been participating in the reading binge a lot of us literary-loving souls have been indulging in since the shutdown started!

In addition to tackling my book to-read pile, I’ve jumped into my magazine/journal to-read stack: Witches & Pagans, Renaissance Magazine, Smithsonian, Preservation Magazine, Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, Stonecoast Review, Fireside Quarterly, Celtic Life International, Sirens Call, Apex Magazine, and even Reader’s Digest, as well as many more, both online and in print. (Gone are the days, it seems, when I read the magazine as fast as it arrived in my mailbox.)

Some of these I’ve had subscriptions for a while now, and just never had time with working the day job and trying to launch, and foster, a writing career to finish reading them. Some I got for sample copies to preview.

Some are both, which I carry on a subscription for because I not only want to support magazines and journals, but for which I’ve also become a dedicated fan of.

Among my new favourites are the Ellery Queen/Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. The stories are so good! And perfect for pandemic reading!

On that note, then, I’m considering doing a “Favourite Things” feature on my blog here for a little while. I mean, there’s so many great bloggers out there doing interviews and feature pieces on authors already, and I wanted to do something a little different (which, yes, has probably been done before too LOL).

So, if you’re a writer/blogger, reach out to me and I’ll add you to one of the features that I plan to post on Fridays. With each feature I’ll have a new “Favourite Things” question, and I’ll post up answers, and links to your blog and such. It’ll go until I run out of questions to ask!

Spring…Building?:(Re)Constructing My Author Platform

So, I’m in the process of working out a social media plan as part of that necessary evil, the author platform!

Plus, I need to fine-tune it to get a handle on my online interactions as, thanks to Comcast and other internet service providers, and the state of New Mexico, I cannot get reliable internet access to run my business and my writing career.

Until I get a working plan and schedule in place, some of my blog reading (and other social media interactions)  will be pretty sporadic. But, once I weather through this process, I hope to be interacting a lot more online, and a lot more efficiently.

In addition to the above process, I’m working as hard as I can to find employment out of state (feel free to talk up the wonders of your home state!), and I hope to relocate sometime this summer. There’s tons of other motivating factors: I miss the ocean, I can’t find a decent-paying job here, etc. etc., blah blah blah, whine, whine. *laughs* But, again, the main reason is that I cannot get internet service at my house. Who knew that being without internet would make such an impact on things, but it has been very stressful lately.

It’s not helped by the fact that it’s like Mad Max out there in trying to commute to the place where I can get online for a couple of hours in the morning before the day job. (And I’m from Florida, where we all drive like jerks). But my goodness, I’ve nearly been run off the road by people passing me on the double yellow line, I’ve also nearly been run off the road by people coming the other direction. (Apparently it’s a thing where New Mexico drivers like to take up the whole road, regardless of whatever traffic happens to be coming the other way–other vehicles, commercial trucks, school buses, you get the idea, and they are all fair game to the typical New Mexico driver playing the game of chicken.)

And, for some reason, even when it’s just faintly twilight, New Mexico drivers cannot live with darkness. It’s not even dark and it’s all “OMG YOU’RE DRIVING WITH ONLY YOUR PARKING/SAFETY LIGHTS ON” (or whatever they’re called) and New Mexico drivers are suddenly concerned with driver safety to the extent that they will honk, flash lights, and slow down and gesture to you frantically out of the window (as they almost run themselves off the road) to get you to turn your full lights on.

And, speaking of lights, oh boy, are New Mexicans addicted to their high beams. I have some vision damage, and I don’t have any problems driving around with no brights on at night. But, my guess is it’s something to do with the fact that they are going 90 to 100 miles an hour down some tiny rural road (and, no, for once I am not exaggerating about the speeds here) and these drivers will not only not budge an inch as they take up the whole road for themselves, but will refuse to turn off their brights. And these drivers, boy, if they are behind you, they just love to tailgate you with those brights on. You almost wish they would pass you, even if it means they run you off one of New Mexico’s crumbling, pothole-ridden roads and into a tumbleweed the size of your car. The only time they slow down is when it rains, and, even if it’s just a tiny sprinkle, it’s like it’s an end-of-the-world deluge to these sun-dependent New Mexicans.

I’m actually quite terrified to drive anywhere in New Mexico these days, and I’ve driven across this country multiple times: Manhattan at rush hour, Atlanta, Connecticut with their aggressive commercial truck drivers, and Florida, of course, and I have a death grip on the wheel the entire time I’m commuting to my internet service location or to the day job.

No wonder why I write horror these days… *laughs*

Anyway, back to the point of this blog, feel free to share any author platform building tips, or even talk up the wonders of where you live, as I’m open to moving almost anywhere there’s a water source and job possibilities!

Happy almost Friday!

 

Reviewing Books for Madness Heart Press (And Other Changes)…

I’ve written a couple of reviews over at Madness Heart Press’s blog–check it out, here: https://madnessheart.press/blog/.

I’ll be working on rewrites and edits on my horror manuscript for the next couple of months, as well.

And, I’m considering a move to another realm in the internet world, and I’ve comparing Wix and Weebly and other such website homes. I’ve not been happy with WordPress for a while–I could use a ton of words to describe it–but I’ve put it off and put it off, because packing up something as simple as an internet presence is overwhelming. 

Speaking of packing up and moving on, my internet issues and phone issues (i.e. I can’t get internet at my house, and won’t be able to get cell phone service early in the next year), and a myriad of other issues with New Mexico have forced my hand in terms of relocation. Not to mention that it’s been difficult to break into the job market here, in terms of finding a job with a liveable wage.

So I’ve been looking at different cities around the country (and the world!) to begin a multiple-step move.

If where you live is absolutely fantastic, feel free to share your locale and what you love about it, in the comments, and I’ll add it to my research list! Also, if you use Wix or Weebly or have another suggestion for a blog/website host, please share those as well.

Green Stars Review: Milagro Herbs

Company: Milagro Herbs: Organic Herbs & Skin Care

Address: 1500 5th St. #6
Santa Fe, NM 87505

Contact: 505-820-6321

Open from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday

Website: https://www.milagroherbs.com/

3/5 Green Stars based on:
* They use some organic ingredients, and some wild-harvested.
* However, they weren’t very forthcoming with information (either online or in person) about habitats that they harvest from. 
* This struck me as odd, since part of the goal of Milagro Herbs is supposed to be education. 
* Wild-harvested could be positive or negative, depending on the harvesting locations and methods. 

* Containers are a mix of plastic or glass.

* Would be nice if they accepted containers back to be refilled. 

For more information on Green Stars ratings see this post.

About the Company, and My Experience: I visited the store location on a couple of earlier occasions. The front part of the store is stocked with a wide variety of lotions, shampoos, and even soaps and other bath and body products. There’s a wall dedicated to local honeys in different flavours. If that weren’t enough, they have a huge selection of herbal/nutritional supplements, tinctures, flower essences, and, of course, their new CBD line of products. They have herbs and teas in bulk in a rear room. The storefront is also the location of the Milagro School of Herbal Medicine, through which they host individual classes, as well as a comprehensive program that concludes with a “Certificate in the Foundations of Herbalism”, according to their website: https://www.milagroherbs.com/school.html.

With the exception of their bulk herbs and teas, the products’ packaging seems to be evenly split between plastic and glass. In Santa Fe County, all plastic (regardless of number) and all glass, can be recycled at collection stations. Still, I’ve attempted to return the rinsed bottles from the products I have purchased from Milagro Herbs, and they will not accept them for refill.

The staffer that assisted me generally deferred to Dr. Enos in regards to the products, but she did help me pick out a suitable skin lotion for use in this painfully dry climate.

Despite the company’s business title stating that they carry organic herbs and skin care, their products are a mix of “organic and wild harvested plants collected by Dr. Enos and his staff” as quoted directly from the About statement on the company’s website.

During my most recent visit, I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Tomas Enos in person about his products and his collection/harvesting practices. 

It was difficult to get information from Dr. Tomas Enos regarding the sustainability of his company’s collection practices and the herbs he imports from other countries, and from places like “rainforests and marine ecosystems” that the website refers to, and which does not identify a specific location within the source countries mentioned. He, unfortunately, was not very forthcoming during our conversation. Which was my loss when it came time to write this blog post, as his website bio states that he has “25 years in the herb business” in addition to his PhD.

I did learn from Dr. Enos, at least, that the main ingredient in my shampoo, conditioner (white plastic bottles), and the “Abundant Hair Oil” (brown glass bottle with a plastic top) grows everywhere in New Mexico.

Dr. Enos informed me that the New Mexican globemallow in the products (which have become my hair product staple in surviving this dry desert climate) was collected directly from his land.

I do not have any other information on how sustainable and environmentally/ecosystem friendly the company’s collection practices are.

I was also unable to get information on the labor practices he uses to collect the plants he uses for his products. His website mentions that the plants are collected by him and his staff, so I can only assume it involves fair pay to his staff, especially since it’s the law that Santa Fe pays its workers a living wage. No mention on whether he relies on local labour in these international locations.