Wednesday’s Book Look: Wild and Wishful and Out of this World

Sometime soon, I’m going to check out a little artsy town here in Kansas called Lucas. I’m still trying to figure out how to decide where I want to spend…well, if not the rest of my life, at least the next few years. Kansas is (relatively) affordable. When compared to places I’ve either looked at or lived in (Portland, OR, Seattle, Florida, New Mexico, Vermont), that is. Anywhere in New England is pricey, too, though I love the idea of living in someplace like Bangor or Salem.

Lately, I’ve just wanted to laze about and read books (anybody else feelin’ this) or *gasp* do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

But a mid-life crisis or whatever’s preoccupying me lately, is no excuse to be slacking off! Right? *laugh*

Still, I did manage to sneak in some reading amidst the moving and relocation planning (on top of work and writing).

And I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Great Plains Nature Center. Well, the center was closed because of the holiday, but it was a wonderfully overcast and drizzly day to walk the nature trails out there. https://gpnc.org/

It was rad to see the efforts to “re-wild” the prairie and such, but also sad. The traffic noise from the nearby highway/street was not only constant but incredibly loud. Can you imagine having hearing way more sensitive than a human’s and having to listen to that all day and all night?

By the by, this week is #BlackBirdersWeek2021, as organized and hosted by Black AF in STEM (https://www.blackafinstem.com/). Check out the events on the Black AF in STEM or on the Twitter page: https://twitter.com/BlackAFinSTEM/.

I’ve got two short stories coming out in environmentally themed anthologies. One is a cli-fi anthology called Terraforming Earth for Aliens (to be released soon), and the other is called Shark Week: An Ocean Anthology which is now available for preorder: https://books2read.com/b/md79dZ.

So, in my dreaming of a better world and a better livespace, I’ve been reading myself into other worlds as well.

In addition to reading a few of Tess Gerritsen’s books for the first time (what could be better than to read about a who-I-might-have-been alter ego, Jane Rizzoli), I’ve escaped into worlds wrapped around horror, around the paranormal, and around science fiction and fantasy.

Quick reads, but no less immersive. And I even got to visit New England, by virtue of one of the spooky tales in the journal, Dream of Shadows (Issue 1, December 2019). https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07ZTXLC9L

And, until I’m able to move into a haunted house of my very own, I can live vicariously through the ghostly encounters trapped in the bound pages of ParaABnormal Magazine (December 2020 and March 2021). Though, within those pages lie a book whose powers I may not want to channel. https://www.hiraethsffh.com/magazines

While all the stories in Space & Time Magazine (Issue 135, Winter 2019) were wonderfully escapist (and the articles interesting), there was one story that I really cherished. There’s a part of me that never really stops thinking about, and missing, the members of my cat/animal family I’ve lost over the years. But, as the years fly by faster and faster, I feel the presence of my bygone and, hopefully, once again, cats even more strongly. As a result of these feline ghosts swirling around me, I found Jennifer Shelby’s “The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe” especially poignant. https://spaceandtime.net/

Even though I have taken in some (former) feral cat rescues, and they fill the too-quiet spaces of my introvert-bubble of an apartment, I still feel lonely without them. They’ve each filled a special role in my cat family unit, and I hold onto some perhaps unrealistic hope that I’ll see them again.

That we won’t be alone, out there, in one of the universe’s parallel dimensions.

Wednesday’s Book Looks: The Four S’s: Supernatural, Sisters, Scotland, and Synchronicity!

*possible book spoilers ahead* (None of these are affiliate links, and weren’t requests for reviews.)

It’s probably something to do with the recent time change here in the United States, but I have been feeling especially discombobulated and spacey this past week or so. I’ve been slogging through my social media at a snail’s pace, and my work and writing schedules are all out of whack. (Plus, I REALLY don’t like eating while it’s still light out!)

So, off into the darkness we descend!

The First S: Supernatural!

Okay, so back A LONG TIME AGO in the 1990s, vampires were all the rage. As much as we goths pretended to be too dark and spooky for the more…romantic?…stylized?…view of vampires, we loved Anne Rice. (But, you know, vampires are MONSTERS.) I didn’t even mind Tom Cruise as Lestat in the movie version, but probably because I only knew him as Jack from the movie Legend previously.

Vampirism, though, had shifted from monstrous (and damned) creatures of the night that we related to as like misfits into something more mystical and otherworldly. The “damned” had evolved into alluring creatures that were admired, not despised, and I reckon maybe we wanted to feel like that for a while.

For a very little while. Because TV cameras and news crews descended onto the clubs, to capture the “depraved” shenanigans of this sub-subculture Vampire movement.

So, it was a real treat to read a collection of vampire stories that didn’t involve sparkly vampires as written for the next generation(s). And it’s a collection of bloody tales that could have been complete moldy vampire cheese, but, luckily for me, wasn’t.

Anyhoo, The Vampire Connoisseur took me right back to those days where I both felt shunned by mainstream society (Oh wait, I still feel like that!), and felt a longing to be immortal and therefore immune to pangs of emotion and the nibblings of a conscience and the ravening bites of aging. (Full title: Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseurs)

Here, most of the vampires within are unequivocally monsters, either via their own awareness, or through the awareness of the characters that observe them. And sometimes the death at the hands of the monsters is welcomed, as illuminated by the arc of the stories.

And sometimes the vampiric monsters are creatively reimagined, as in Priscilla Bettis’s tale “The Sun Sets Nonetheless” which had the double spook factor of being set in the state where I live. [Earthquakes, tornadoes, and now mysterious blue-skinned “creatures”?!?!?! Maybe Priscilla Bettis will let me camp out in her (completely imaginary and fictional) back yard in Virginia, where they only seem to get the occasional rogue hurricane! *wry laugh*]

Pick up a copy of Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseur on Amazon https://bookshop.org/books/todd-sullivan-presents-the-vampire-connoisseur/9781649050090 or on Bookshop https://bookshop.org/books/todd-sullivan-presents-the-vampire-connoisseur/9781649050090.

And, if there’s something I love as much as REALLY GOOD vampire stories, it’s GHOST STORIES! Here in Kansas, we had storms and grey skies and fierce winds wailing outside the window and the only thing lacking to read Ghost Stories for Starless Nights by is a crackling fire! And toasted marshmallows, of course! (But a little ghostie told me that you can find virtual haunted campfires over at Haunt Jaunts. But that may just be a pesky poltergeist starting rumours! https://www.hauntjaunts.net/virtual-haunted-campfires-2021-line-up-and-schedule/#Virtual_Haunted_Campfires_2021_Cost)

Sadly, the starless nights here are not due to the storms or anything else natural or supernatural but to the obscene levels of light pollution here in Wichita, but at least I can escape into the atmospheric and haunting world(s) of Ghost Stories for Starless Nights. Join me around the fire, won’t you? https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Stories-Starless-Nights-Publishing/dp/B088N4WKL5

The Second S: Sisters!

Speaking of romantic notions, I, when I was real young, wanted a sister so badly. Especially a twin sister. I had a pretty lonely and isolating childhood, and I thought that having a twin sister would have given me a ready-made friend. (I blame Trixie Belden, Little Women, and even Anne of Green Gables with all that “kindred spirit” blather.) Once, I dreamed of a girl that lived in the attic and I swore that she was real. So did a psychic who did a reading for a family member once. I at least had an imaginary sister. For a little while, anyway.

However, the sisters in Tochi Onyebuchi’s War Girls are sisters in the most complex, complicated, powerful, and real ways. And the world they navigate–a 2172 Earth ravaged by climate change and military conflicts–provides an equally harrowing setting for the two young women.

War Girls not only captures the bond of sisters but also the heartbreak of that powerful bond.

And it made me want a sister even more, despite all the complications and pain that seems to be involved.

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/War-Girls-Tochi-Onyebuchi/dp/0451481674 and on Bookshop https://bookshop.org/books/war-girls/9780451481672

The Third and Forth S’s: Scotland and Synchronicity!

I have wanted to live in Scotland ever since the 90s, when I visited. Finances and cats and a lack of more shrewd and focused life planning have complicated the issue, but at least I got to take a tour of the Glasgow School of Art before the terrible fire. (<—loves Mackintosh)

So, when I read The Cracked Spine (Scottish Bookshop Mystery #1) by Paige Shelton I just about died! Essentially a woman who works in a museum in WICHITA, KANSAS gets the job offer of a lifetime to work in a rare BOOKSHOP in EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND and, well, I think there’s a mystery involved somehow. But all I could think about was THAT’S ME!!!!! Well, a me in another life, anyway. And I was torn between loving every word of my alternate universe and being supremely envious of my own alternate self! Mock jealousy aside, it was such a lovely, hopeful, escapist read! In my next life, I’ll be sure to have more clear vision of who I am, and how to build a life and make choices to nurture and preserve that innate self.

The Cracked Spine on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Cracked-Spine-Scottish-Bookshop-Mystery/dp/1250057485/ and on Bookshop https://bookshop.org/books/the-cracked-spine/9781250118226

On the heels of reading that book, I had a dream where I was hanging out with a soulmate-type person and they liked me exactly how I was. It was a very pleasant dream.

So, to sum up, supernaturally spooky adventures, “kindred spirit” sisters, Scotland and synchronicity, and hope for a “maybe someday” that’s all my own.

Willow’s Wednesday Book Look: Phantastical Phantoms!

Okay, yes, that was probably a little cheesy. But I love the cheese!

But you’ll find very little cheese in the pages of “The Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown 2020“*.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I have a story in this anthology.)

The book is separated into six parts, and each part has a theme.

When I read Phantom Games just recently, my first thought was how well my story nestled in among the other stories around it. I kinda forgot I was reading my own story.

And how there seemed to be a similar, otherworldly essence that ran through the rest of the stories. I could continue with a whole series of superlatives like “fantastically magical” and “hauntingly poignant” but then if you read the book, and it’s something else to you entirely, you might resent my purple-y descriptors. Reading the collection felt very serendipitous/synchronous.

And, like when I talked about Catton’s Voice of the Sword: Book One (https://willowcroft.blog/2021/01/13/wednesday-in-blue-minor/), everything is just confusing and out-of-sync and I both want a world of magic, and I know that it’s a seemingly impossible want. And yet a little voice of the child I once was still tells me magic has to be real.

That there’s more than all this mess out there.

This read was all wrapped up in crows and birds and feathers and the winter wind suddenly picking up outside the window and, I don’t know, a presence that was both familiar and strange at the same time.

And I was reminded why I love books, in addition to maybe-someday (soon!) magical worlds. They make me feel safe, like I belong–in a world where I’ve never had much of either.

[Speaking of synchronous, I literally just read Paul Genesse’s interview (as well as the other authors’ interviews) on the Exalibur Books’ page, where he mentions that the interview reminded him how much he loves books. It was a coincidence, I swear!]

I can reimagine a world where I was able to get to know Ernie Scribner better (the inspiration for my story). A world where dreams can come true, whether they’re Olympic-sized or the size of a small garden plot.

(*Note: This anthology is a collection of both fictional works and compelling, insightful non-fictional ones.) 

Magical otherworldly links below!

Phantom Games

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Games-Dimensions-2020/dp/B08KQP53X2/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Excalibur Books Home Page:

http://johnpaulcatton.com/

Six Things Saturday: Mini-Interview with Author/Musician Ben Fitts

I switched things up a bit this week! Enjoy the awesome “Six Things Saturday” interview with author and musician Ben Fitts!

Willow Croft: Bizarro as a literary genre is still somewhat new to me (but I’m working on remedying that!). What appeal does the Bizarro genre hold for you as a writer, and, if you were looking back on it years from now, would you classify it as a literary/artistic movement, a subculture movement, or both?

Ben Fitts: Bizarro first appealed to me as a reader because I’ve always loved offbeat art and entertainment, especially when it came to comedy, so bizarro essentially felt like a more extreme version of something that I already knew I liked. It was kind of the same way I felt when I first heard Black Flag as a teenager after years of already listening to the Ramones. But the thing about bizarro that really appeals to me as a writer is the sense of absolute freedom I have when writing. Not only do I feel no pressure to make sure that everything feels believable as I do when writing more realistic fiction, but I’m free to revel and find humor in intentional lapses of logic, paradoxes, and general unbelievability. When all of that is on the table, then I’m really free to make just about anything I want happen in the story. Regarding the last part of that question, I’d call it a literary movement more than a bonafide subculture, because it’s not really linked to other artistic practices or self-identity the way full-fledged subcultures are. You can read punk authors like Kathy Acker and John Cooper Clarke, listen to punk bands, dress in punk fashion, call yourself a punk and more, but you can only really do one of those things with bizarro, at least as of now.

Willow Croft: How would you see the punk rock movement and DIY mentality persisting into the year 2021 and in the current/next generations?

Ben Fitts:  I think music and art in general is starting to become more genre-fluid, and punk is no exception. With the internet and streaming services, it’s way easier to come across new music nowadays, especially the more underground stuff. Because of this, young musicians are coming across and are influenced by a far wider range of different musical styles than many musicians from past generations have. A lot of those really niche genre labels you hear floating around nowadays, like blackgaze or hypnagogic pop, come from people having to come up with ways to market their music after the fact. So I do see punk rock musical and cultural influences persisting in DIY music scenes, but I also see it continuing to blend further with outside influences and with more and more microgenre labels popping up, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Willow Croft: What’s the most “Bizarro” i.e. surreal, humorous, and strange situation you have found yourself in, in real life?

Ben Fitts: I went to a rural college where we had lots of parties deep in the woods. These woods parties were a ton of fun, but it was often difficult to find your way out of the woods late at night, and I often got lost when I decided it was time to head home. When leaving these parties, I on two separate occasions accidentally stumbled upon a bonfire around which a bunch of furries were having an orgy while fully in their animal costumes. I’m guessing these furries were probably students who did this sort of thing in secret, but since everyone had their masks on, I guess I’ll never know for sure. 

Willow Croft: How do your music projects (your bands Capra Coven and War Honey) tie into your writing ventures? Are they complementary of each other, or separate?

Ben Fitts: They are pretty compartmentalized for me. Music is what I went to school for and how I pay my bills as an adult, while my writing started out as a casual hobby that ended growing more serious than I would have anticipated at first. So my musical endeavors end up taking up more of my energy and add to my stress levels, while my writing is more like a playground for me to have fun and be creative without really worrying about marketability too much. 

Willow Croft: One of the little bits of me that I still feel is a little bit “alternative” is that I despise the standardization of the educational system, which strips kids of any sort of individuality in some insane quest to be perfect—perfectly conformist—and deprives them of any opportunity to explore all the selves they might want to be. Personally, I see you as a great role model for kids in regards to living a creative, exploratory life, so what would you say to kids and young people as they begin to take over the fucked-up world we’ve left for them?

Ben Fitts: First off, thanks for saying that! I hope I’m a good role model to the kids and teenagers to whom I give guitar lessons, but it’s obviously something I worry about sometimes, as I think everyone who works with kids does. My main advice to kids is to question everything you’re told and to keep your critical thinking skills sharp. Between school, parents, belief systems, and other institutions, we have a lot of information and opinions dumped on us as we grow up. Some of it is helpful and some of it is bullshit. Part of becoming a capable and happy adult who contributes positively to the world around you is sorting out all of the bullshit you absorbed as an adolescent, and then adjusting your worldview appropriately. 

Willow Croft: To end things on a lighter note, I’ve included my usual food-based question! I noticed that your Goodreads profile mentions “you put too much hot sauce on everything”. So, please share, what’s your favourite form of liquid torture (aka hot sauce)?

Ben Fitts: I do like hot sauce! There’s a great brand from Pennsylvania called 22 Peppers that I love. 

Keen to know more? Visit Ben Fitts at his links below:

The “Normal” World vs. Otherworldy Ones: A Mash-Up of Book Looks.

And then there’s the world that belongs to writers, who have to straddle both the “real” world, and the “unreal” ones.

Which leads me to the first book I’ll take a looksie at.

I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. (Link: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King | Goodreads) I loved the stories he shared. And I wished things were still “old-school” when it came to writing: pen, paper, hard copies, mailed-in submissions, things like that. But I don’t have much to say about the book, overall. Except my takeaway is that writing is private, until the day comes when it can’t be private anymore. And reading books on writing is also a private experience. I can’t share what I was thinking and feeling when I read his book. Maybe some can. There’s a whole bunch of people that have written about it on Goodreads. I think why I struggle in writing reviews sometimes is that my experiences with literature tend to not only be personal, but multilayered and multidimensional and that writing about how I felt when I was reading a book is like sharing that wonderfully vivid dream you had last night that ends up being profound and mystical and discernable only to you.

And I was thinking about the need for a certain level of privacy, either as a writer, or as the person undergoing an intensive deconditioning process to find their real selves. Living in both my past livespace, and my current one, has helped me realize that, as much as I’d like to have the low-maintenance condo-type livespace to own, it’s just not private enough. I feel like I’ve lost an imagined, perhaps never-had, autonomy.

Then I was cleaning out some of my files on my computer, and deleting the blog posts I’d saved back from when I first started blogging. (Ouch!) And I realized that maybe privacy is old-school, but one habit I still like to indulge in, even though everything in today’s world seems to demand otherwise. But I had one thought while scanning through my old blog posts: “This shit belongs in a diary.” So I’m going to try to unearth at least one diary from my unpacked boxes, and have a place for my private thoughts. And for my dreams of a livespace surrounded by wilderness and animals and no neighbours that go bumping around in the daytime.

This talk of privacy is a segue in to my next book look: Normal People by Sally Rooney. (Link: Normal People by Sally Rooney | Goodreads )One of the characters, Marianne, is defined as a private loner in contrast to the other main character,who is one of the more popular kids in school. These two characters have an off-again, on-again relationship, and I wanted to relate to Marianne, but I couldn’t. Maybe just memories, the past, I don’t know. It has nothing to do with the writing or the quality of the book, which was excellent, but I felt so sad and sometimes irked reading about the characters’ fates and life choices. I have a hard time getting into literary fiction these days, despite the fact I loved reading the classics back when I was a kid. But maybe it’s the drama I struggle with. I can’t bear the reality, even as displayed through fictional characters, of their pain, their struggles, their heartbreak, their…drama. I can handle it through other genres but literary fiction is just too…real?…maybe. And Marianne reminded me of an certain friend.  With literary fiction, I come with oversensitivity baggage (I feel every little pinprick of people’s hurt and confusion and moods), and it’s difficult for me to read books, no matter how good they are, that vicariously provide an examination of emotional baggage through their characters and the story. So I’ll just have to leave the literary fiction analysis to more experienced, and, perhaps, more impartial readers. Readers who are okay with life being a little messy in their fiction.

Which is not to say I can’t handle messy loss and emotional upheaval or even messier blood-n-guts in genre literature. It’s different somehow, in genres like speculative fiction.

I read somewhere online that people are really turning to thrillers (Found it! Link: Now, More Than Ever, Is the Time for ‘Escapist Fiction’ ‹ CrimeReads) right now, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that not only do I like “escapist fiction” it’s okay to like it, and it doesn’t make me unintellectual and such (part of my current deconditioning process).

It’s okay not to embrace literary fiction right now, if ever. It has its place among readers, definitely!

So, in the words of the author of the above article, V. M. Burns (Link: VM Burns – Mystery Writer) I much prefer books that  “…create an imaginary world that the reader can escape into rather than focusing on the deeper realities/issues of the characters imaginary existence.”

And two books I recently read were perfect in that role.

Mrs. Perivale and the Blue Fire Crystal and Mrs. Perivale and the Dragon Prince–both by Dash Hoffman. They are the first two books in the series. I think there may  be at least another one coming, but I don’t have too much information on forthcoming books. I do know that I can’t wait to read the other books this author has penned.

The book series opens with seventy-three year-old Mrs. Alice Perivale who feels undervalued in the world, but is about to begin her biggest adventure(s) yet! Even better, she’s accompanied on this fantastical new adventure by her seven cats! Check it out to see if the knitting-needle-wielding Alice Perivale saves the magical village from a dire fate: Got-Moxie Bookshelf (got-moxie.com).

The only problem with escapist literature is that I haven’t yet found the key to a magical world of my own imagination…yet!

But I’ll keep looking…the portal has to be around here, somewhere!

Wednesday in Blue Minor…

 

Anybody else out there just want to go curl up in bed and go back to sleep? 

Maybe you’re already well on your way into the deep blue sea of Dreamland.

It’s a deep blue day over here in the Willow realm, and yet not quite blue enough.

We had a record-setting snowfall here in Wichita, but the snow is already all melted, so it’s not the blue-frost day I keep expecting to see when I look out my window.

Being a writer/creative type, I can sometimes feel another world right alongside this one, but I don’t have the magic password or a magic wardrobe to get there. But it’s there all the same, and it’s quite the teaser sometimes. Magical and real, but not magical enough to actually become real. 

But in the book with the blue cover I read last week, the world of magic or just otherworldliness becomes accessible from the “real” world.

Voice of the Sword (Sword, Mirror, Jewel #1)

I’m trying to avoid comparing it to a certain other book that features a young wizard (who, honestly, I might not have liked so much as the books went on if it hadn’t been for his amazing circle of friends), but Voice of the Sword: Book One by John Paul Catton did have a similar sense of magic within its pages.

I’ve read so much in my life—history, world religions, classics, fiction, horror, et al–that I sometimes feel like there’s a “been there, done that” familiarity to everything. 

And there’s a certain comfort to that, because it makes Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry feel like it could be real because of that literary-obtained familiarity.

I didn’t think I was as uninformed about Japanese culture and mythology as I actually (embarrassing as it is to admit!) am.

But, because of that, this book was even more of a novel, exciting read. I had the chance to leave my jaded-reader persona behind and fully immerse myself into the adventurous quest right alongside of the main character Reiko Bergman. And getting schooled about Japanese mythology and culture during the book’s quest was even more of a perk!

So, if you want to escape from this world for a while, you can add it to your “to-read” list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49457586-voice-of-the-sword

 

What books have taken you out of this world lately? Share below…

 

Six Degrees of…Neighbours!

A festive winter season to all!

If there’s magic of the season floating about, I hope it finds you!

And me…to be honest.

If I were to make a holiday wish, it would be to live surrounded by nature, with a whole lot trees and flowers and animals and plants and insects for neighbours. And lots and lots of unkempt ‘weeds’ and brambles and thickets.

That was one of the hard things I found about the place where I lived before. When I first moved to New Mexico, I expected it to be the wild and untouched vista you see on TV. It’s the desert, I assumed in my naivety, who landscapes the desert? I thought it was going to be a much-welcomed vacation from leaf blowers and weed whackers and the suburban mania for perfect lawns/landscaping that was characteristic of Florida.

New Mexico wasn’t my ideal locale, but the spot that I lived was quiet and peaceful and there was even a creek close enough to make things a little green to ameliorate the brown upon brown upon brown landscape. And a beautiful meadow full of flowers and lovely waving grasses and even deer. It was like right out of Bambi. But, sadly, it didn’t last long. Soon the meadow fell to the weekly weed whackers and not only was the peace ruined by the drone of leaf blowers but there were pesticides being sprayed to the extent that, one day, a worker in a white hazmat suit with a hose attached to a truck was dousing everything in sight. 

Ugh. 

(Yes, there’s a point to this story. And not just me characteristically kvetching on Christmas Eve. Keep reading!)

And don’t get me started on the snooping around and the internet sabotage and lots of other weirdness going on.

So, when I begun Good Neighbors* by Sarah Langan, I didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into. That I was going to be immersed in a chilling thriller that was uncomfortably and yet wonderfully-spooky close to home.

Of course, Sarah Langan’s Maple Street suburban community takes things to a horrifying extreme after an equally terrifying and tragic event, but the seeds were there. Tiny little mowed-to-an-inch-of-their-lives seedlings, but still, I would swear the mentality was the same. Or that my creative writer’s imagination decided it was going to believe as I clung to the pages of Langan’s book late at night. (I think this was the week I had a couple of nightmares, mind you.)

As a result, this was one of the creepiest books I’ve read in a while. I was both haunted by never-happened memories of suburbanites coming for me in full lethal force and it made me even more nervous about my move to a perfectly manicured residential complex.**

On top of that, I related so much to the Wilde family in the book, as one misfit to another.

A misfit dreaming of a place where I feel I belong. Where I fit. Where I’m safe and sound and have my happily ever after. Not just me, but for the wildling animals and trees and plants and insects and all other non-human life forms. Because they belonged here first.

That’s my magical winter season wish.

(*I believe I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway, but with all the craziness of the out-of-state move for internet and cell phone service and jobs, I lost track, unfortunately.)

(**The oddest part of all of this, is that within this landscaped, water-hungry, pesticide-reliant area I relocated to, I have not heard ONE leaf blower since I moved in. Or weed whacker, or lawnmower, or even apocalyptic-looking people in white hazmat suits spraying clouds of pesticides over every square inch of the compound. How’s that for irony?)

Oh, here’s the book link for Good Neighbors. Read it, even if you live in suburbia. It’s so good. (Especially if you need a break from all the “goodwill towards men”.) https://bookshop.org/books/good-neighbors-9781982144364/9781982144364

Now I’m going to go keep watch for any creepy, hostile neighbours. (Though I think the recent spate of earthquakes were a little more terrifying than obsessive suburbanites.) Let me know what you think about the book, if you read it!

And for more tragic ‘fun’ in the suburbs, you could always follow up your read with Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086589/.

Journeys in the Round…

 

It seems I have taken the long way around to get to writing today’s blog.

I’m just now finishing the last (very cold) dregs of tea from my round lighthouse mug.

The internet loading symbol went ’round and ’round most of the day as well.

It felt like I was going around and around in circles too, even though I was just sitting very still and quiet.

Oh, and I overslept too.

And I’m still sitting here, wondering if I actually got anything of importance done today.

Maybe if I post up a little bit about what I’ve read lately, I can tell myself I did something today. Something other than endlessly and eternally applying for day jobs on Indeed, et al.

Since I love lighthouses (hence the lighthouse mug!), I’m going to share the collection of lighthouse stories that Black Beacon Books put out.

Well, not the whole collection, but my readerly experience with the collection.

I was sold on this book even before I read it. I love maritime history, and I love visiting lighthouses even more. (The light at Egmont Key is one of my favourites!)

Even better, these lighthouse stories are spooky ones. But they are also full of magic and otherworldliness and delightfully dark, delicious, haunting dreams. Or dreamlike experiences, anyway. 

I’m a little tired to do the tales justice, but I was really happy to see that lights and lighthouses still carry a certain romance, even in this overly electronic day and age.

So, go visit these remote literary settings, especially if you’re an introvert like me, and there’s still too many people in close proximity even with the sheltering-in-place COVID restrictions. (Ha.)

Lighthouses: An Anthology of Dark Tales by Black Beacon Books https://blackbeaconbooks.blogspot.com/p/lighthouses.html

And I also just finished up a book I got from the Mystery Book Club. (It’s like a reader’s Xmas every month, with books wrapped better than I could ever wrap a gift in a million years!) Possible spoiler!

It’s The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. I read this book so dang fast I guess I liked it. I’m gonna have to re-read it though, because I think I missed finding out the fate of the bee. But maybe the author didn’t resolve it. Which would make me sad….with all the heartache and pain and trauma in the book, but with a bittersweet surprise ending, I wanted a happy ending for the little lost, alone bee. Have I mentioned I love bees?

What I really liked were how some of the chapters ended. It was a neat trick, and I just kept reading and reading into the wee hours because of it.

Here’s the link for this book, if you want to check it out! I liked the blue cover better, so I’m putting the Goodreads link up. Let me know, after you read the book, which cover you like better–the blue one or the orangey brown one.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42270777-the-beekeeper-of-aleppo

And to wrap up this roundabout sort of day, I was introduced to a great song by fellow blogger and poet/artist, Marc Latham (https://fmpoetry.wordpress.com). The song is called “willow” (sic) and it’s by Taylor Swift. Yep, it is the very first time I have listened to one of her songs. And it was a great recommendation. Her songs and my poems seem to match up in that synchronous magical way that I love. And I like cardigans. So I guess I have to go listen to that song now. And maybe buy a couple of her albums when I get a day job (Are you reading this out there, Indeed job posters?).

 

Here’s a link to her Twitter post about the song: https://twitter.com/taylorswift13/status/1339014864791089152

Heartbreak Upon Heartbreak: Willow Croft’s Review of Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (Spoilers? Maybe…)

Oh, how I hated this book.
I hated it so much I loved it.
I hated it because it had drama and heartbreak and gut-wrenching sorrow.
I loved it because the writing was phenomenal and I wanted to stay up all night reading until the end and the ending was just as heartbreaking but in a beautiful way that made all the pain and nail-biting irresolution so very worth all the agony.

I hate drama because I always want to make things better for people, and I don’t want people to have pain and hurt and sorrow.

But this was so well done in that the story was combined a mystery novel that I hung onto the rollercoaster ride anyway.

Plus, the writing. This was one of those books that always make me wonder ‘how do they do that’ like when I muse over little bits in J.K. Rowling’s book and think ‘did she have every little detail outlined from start to finish with all seven books’ which always evokes my admiration, because I struggle so much with outlining and plotting. And then I just tell myself it’s a writer’s magical serendipity at work and I plow on through with my own panster-based writing.

But back to writer Kate Atkinson. Wow, I just ate up the words like frosting on a cake.

And one, or more, of the women characters, yes, yes, yes, because who hasn’t felt like that in a relationship?

But then came the twists, which were also yes, yes, yes, still but were also “holy f**k”…

So, I’d just wrap this book by saying read it. Read it now. Even if you think you hate it.

(I received a copy of Case Histories by Kate Atkinson from a Goodreads giveaway, compliments of Hachette Book Group, with no request for a review.)

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Jadi Campbell

Here’s this week’s “Five Things Friday” feature author, Jadi Campbell! I come up with five random questions and the author answers them. (If you’re an author and want to join in, email me at croftwillow (at) yahoo (dot) com.)

(Oh, and it’s Shark Week btw–go out and hug a shark!)

Willow: What’s your favourite snack food (and/or drink) while writing?

Jadi Campbell: There are writers who snack while they write? I forget to eat. At some point my stomach growls and I know it’s time to shove back from the computer desk and go make lunch — or dinner.

Willow: What’s your most distracting “nemesis” when you’re trying to write?

Jadi Campbell: In a word: everything. If I’m not in a writing groove, I will happily scrub the sink. I try to convince myself that when I’m not writing, look! I’m doing something useful! If I’m desperate enough to scrub a sink, imagine how enticing it is to go outside or meet my friends. PS: When I’m in a writing groove, that desire to clean the apartment mysteriously vanishes.

Willow: If you could live anywhere in the world(s) or even another planet (real life or fictional), where (and when) would it be?

Jadi Campbell: Any spot where I can write with gorgeous scenery and good food will do. I like our 1,200-year-old town in southern Germany. I have serious wanderlust, and my husband and I love to travel. The hardest part of the coronavirus is that we can’t go explore a new part of the world.

Willow: If you could choose what animal (or plant) you could be reincarnated as, what would it be, and why?

Jadi Campbell: The loon. Once you’ve heard a loon calling in the wild, that voice will inform your imagination forever.

Willow: If you woke up and you were trapped in a painting for eternity, which one would you prefer it to be?

Jadi Campbell: A smallish Picasso painting of a street haunts me. That winding alley was filled with melancholy, promise, and timelessness. I don’t remember what museum I saw it in, or even what country. I haven’t been able to find the painting in an art book, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never see it again.

Thanks again, Jadi Campbell, for joining in my “Five Things Friday” blog feature. Visit her website at http://jadicampbell.com/, and read on for more information about her and her books!

Jadi Campbell is the author of four books: Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded. The Trail Back Out, her new collection of short stories, is available for purchase on August 23, 2020.

In The Trail Back Out, two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.