Wednesday’s Book Look: Haunts, “Hard Times”, and…animals, of course!

So, it’s going to be Steampunk Weekend at the Old Cowtown Museum here in Wichita!

The Old Cowtown is a living museum with both historic and recreated buildings that represent the history of Wichita.

And, according to the book I just finished–Wichita Haunts by Beth Cooper–there’s plenty of ghosts and paranormal activity at the Cowtown Museum site. Here’s hoping they’ll be in attendance at the steampunk-themed event–better ghosts than a pack of hyped-up-on-sugar feral children running around! I’m gonna bring my copy of Wichita Haunts, and maybe I’ll get a ghostly autograph!

Seems like it will be a good pick-me-up for my case of the Springtime blues, either way! (Mild spoilers ahead. And, links for stuff in the post included at the end.)

Although, from the perspective of Les Egderton’s main character, Amelia Laxault, in his book Hard Times, I ain’t got no business having any kind of blues, seasonal or otherwise.

Amelia Laxault is a girl in rural, 1930s, East Texas.

Need I say any more? I mean, come on, the book’s title, Hard Times, should be a dead-drunk giveaway in itself. (Unless you didn’t have to read Grapes of Wrath in school, that is!)

Okay, okay: yes, it’s going to be just as dark, gritty, and gut-wrenching as you might expect. Put aside the box of tissues and just grab a dang bottle of whisky, already. Trust me, you’ll need it.

Also, there are dogs. You’ve been doubly warned.

As a PBR* chaser to Hard Times, there’s also dogs and cats (and a hamster!) in my short story “The Lights Went On In Georgia” which appears in the latest volume of the EconoClash Review (“Lucky Number Seven”, as editor J.D. Graves says in the introduction).

Poor animals. Even in fiction, their fates always seem to be at the terrible whims of humans. But you know, I was watching two PBS DVDs I got from the local library–A Squirrel’s Guide to Success and Animal Misfits: Odd, Bizarre, and Unlikely Creatures–and I couldn’t help but feel a little more optimistic amidst how sad I always feel about animals and nature, stuck on this planet with us.

I started to think how (we) humans have become disconnected from nature by all this technology (speaking of the industrial nature of the 19th century as reflected by Steampunk), and I wondered whether we’d actually dead-ended ourselves into an evolutionary stasis because of the artificially constructed environments we now move through almost primarily. Are we in a vacuum, binge-watching Netflix while nature and plants and animals are busy figuring out biochemical ways to evolve and adapt under our environmental onslaught?

Spec fic writers, get your pencils and paper out!

*PBR = Pabst Blue Ribbon, if you hadn’t figured it out.

Oh, and here’s the links I mentioned earlier. Unless you’re already dead-drunk on that there whisky, and haven’t made it this far in the post.

Steampunk Weekend at Cowtown: https://www.visitwichita.com/event/steampunk-weekend-at-cowtown/33057/ and https://www.oldcowtown.org/

Wichita Haunts by Beth Cooper: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9780738582870

Les Edgerton’s Hard Times: https://bronzevillebooks.com/portfolio-item/hard-times/

EconoClash Review #7: https://downandoutbooks.com/bookstore/graves-econoclash-review-7/

The Squirrel’s Guide to Success: https://shop.pbs.org/XC8032DV.html

Animal Misfits: Odd, Bizarre, and Unlikely Creatures: https://shop.pbs.org/WB7702.html

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/