Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Cheers!

Here in the United States, St. Patrick’s Day is generally an excuse to get soused! (As if we needed one, after Mardi Gras, right?)

The Rosetta Stone website lists 21 ways to say “Cheers!” in a variety of languages: https://blog.rosettastone.com/say-cheers-21-different-languages/.

However, if you’re like me, you may be hoping to encounter spirits of a different nature this St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s my guide to having the party of a (paranormal) lifetime! Hope you enjoy these St. Patrick Day’s horoscopes I created for Haunt Jaunts!

https://www.hauntjaunts.net/st-patricks-day-horoscopes-2022-your-signs-haunted-pub-or-inn/

(Been to one, or more, of these haunted locations? Let me know in the comments!)

Prefer a quiet time at home? Why not curl up with a cup of tea and some hauntingly great Celtic-themed short stories? Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy

(It’s also available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Neon-Druid-Anthology-Celtic-Fantasy/dp/1791884172/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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:

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.

Polka-Dot Sized Reviews of Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown

Deadman Humour: Thirteen Fears of a Clown by [Mizia, R. M., Snider, Henry, Pirie, Steven, Munro, Donna J.W., Stanley, Christopher, Coley, N. D., Jackson, Roger, Degni, Christopher, Glenwright, Lee, Bryant, Samantha, Bernard, Charles R., Smith, Joshua R., Lomax, G.K.]

Deadman Humour: 13 Fears of a Clown is another clown anthology published by Dave Higgins that is bursting with, what else, clowns.

(Spoilers ahead—Willow Croft)

It’s easier for me to break down the review by focusing on each of the individual stories, rather than review the collection as a whole. (Which I loved just as much as the companion short story collection Dave Higgins has published—Bloody Red Nose: 15 Fears of a Clown.)

This collection was aimed at tickling the reader’s funny bone with more stories that made clowns not the objects of fear, but the victims of things more comically terrifying than they are.

R.M. Mizia’s “The Living Dark” sets the stage with a birthday party celebration that sounds like one I should like to attend, but which doesn’t bode well for the clowns hired to entertain at the event.

“The Clown” by Henry Snider captures the simultaneously alluring yet seedy feel of the fairway in his story, which serves up a haunting twist at the end that stays with the reader.

Like the companion anthology, Deadman Humour offers an immersive darkness that gives me a chance to escape the darkness in my own life. And it works because it’s darkness with heart and longing and emotion. Such is the case of Steven Pirie’s “To Pull a Child From a Woman” definitely has both darkness and heart, and has an ending for Hobo the clown that I almost envy. (Oh, the poor emus, though…).

The poignant telling of the funeral services of King Giggles the clown in Donna J.W. Munro’s “Funeral for King Giggles” is both touching and fitting reminder that when, despite the evolution one would expect from the 21st century society, it remains a world where many still have to wear masks. I loved the acceptance and the passage of self at the end of the story.

“Auguste in Spring” by Christopher Stanley for me, alludes to the clown version of the #MeToo movement, where a young clown starlet turns the tables on a sleazy director who is expecting sexual favours in return for his making her a star. On the night of her eighteenth birthday, she begins to transform into something much less alluring (by clown performer standards, apparently) yet invariably more powerful, and it’s then that the young starlet comes into her own.

“Giggles for Bimbo” by N.D. Coley is horror that uses a man who is impressed into clownship to create a story that examines the actual nature of children, raised by a society that emphasizes power, control, conformity, and intolerance. It’s a heartbreaking commentary of what we do to children who are sensitive in a world of cruel callousness and demanding expectations that are nearly impossible to live up to—a world that does not encourage gentleness of spirit and richness of soul and feeling in children of any age. This is a horror story that, again, stays with the reader after it’s over.

Having grown up in a theatrical environment, the next two tales sit very close to home with their depictions of horror on the page. Both Roger Jackson’s “Being Funny Is a Serious Business” and Christopher Degni’s “A Mime Is a Terrible Thing to Waste” are evocative in the reminders that there is no price too high, and no sacrifice too great, in the practice of one’s craft.

Lee Greenwright’s “You Don’t Choose the Circus Life, the Circus Life Chooses You” takes this dedication to craft to a whole other horrific level. The story lures you in with what many of us may want: finding the place where we belong, the chance to be part of a family, to find our “home” as the author puts it via his main character Varley. Greenwright, though, reminds us to be careful what we wish for. (I’m still going to wish for my own place that I belong; my home, despite the cautionary tale Greenwright has offered, here in this collection.)

Samantha Bryant’s delightfully crafted tale, “The Gleewoman of Preservation,” had a lot more to offer than a barrel of chuckles. I loved that she wrote the story around an older couple, I loved her inclusion of more real-life based bits of what life for a retired couple was life (the bit about her husband’s snoring was truly mirth-inducing), and I loved even more how she turned the male-dominated “Gentlemen’s Club” into the 21st century, with a truly speculative twist. I can’t wait to read more from Samantha Bryant. (My grandfather was a Shriner, incidentally.)

The dark giggles take on a whole other hue in Charles Bernard’s “auguste” tale. It’s a story that doesn’t paint over the secret life of clowns with any sort of romantic gloss. (I’ve learned, now, that “Auguste” clowns are “red clowns” in contrast to the clowns wearing white facepaint and white costumes.) And the final, violent end to one clown’s loneliness—well, that just makes the bitter, blood-drenched end of the story that much more powerful.

I also loved the dark humour in Joshua R. Smith’s “Bag of Tricks,” aka “The Inner Life of People Who Are Forced to Work With Kids.” Lots of giggles to be had at this author’s too-close-to-home depiction of kids—and their parents! It’s stories like this that I love, because I am granted permission to laugh at realistic depictions of children in ways that I don’t have the freedom to at the day job.

Then, the anthology fittingly wraps up with G.K. Lomax’s story titled “Alas, Poor Yorick.” Again, I practically grew up in a theatre, so I couldn’t avoid knowing the gist of Hamlet’s tale via osmosis even if I wanted to avoid it. This tale is a skilled expansion of the clown(s) behind the scenes of Shakespeare’s notable dramatic play. Even though I’m not a trained thespian or a Shakespeare scholar, I thought this tale was really well done, and provided a delightful finish to the anthology. Like the rest of the authors I’ve been introduced to by way of this anthology, I’m looking forward to reading more tales of his in the future.

Explore the inner trials and tribulations of clowns for yourself with your own copy:

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Deadman-Humour-Thirteen-Fears-Clown-ebook/dp/B07XJ5H2GL/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=deadman+humour&qid=1582141043&sr=8-1

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48117863-deadman-humour?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=ZKbUZtQP5O&rank=1

Bookshop Link: https://bookshop.org/books/deadman-humour-thirteen-fears-of-a-clown/9781912674060