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

 

 

Willow’s Latest Read–Bloody Red Nose: 15 Fears of a Clown

Bloody Red Nose: 15 Fears of a Clown

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Edited by David Higgins

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bloody-Red-Nose-Fifteen-Fears/dp/1912674092

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48118011-bloody-red-nose?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=CebaWWmi5x&rank=1

David Higgins’ Blog: https://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/

As opposed to David Higgins’ experience in his intro for this anthology, I don’t think I ever had clowns for any birthday parties. None that I can remember, anyway. Mostly we just saw the clowns in parades, or at the circus. I grew up in Sarasota, Florida—the winter headquarters for a certain notable circus. But I don’t remember any real fear of them, or any real love of them, either. I liked the animal acts and I can still remember the smell of the elephants as mixed with the smells of the Big Top. These fond memories sit uneasily with my later (and continued) dedication to animal rights causes.

But I love stories about clowns. And of course I read Stephen King’s It when I was in middle school, and remembered feeling a little disappointed in the movie, despite Tim Curry’s appearance in the film.

So I was so excited when David Higgins put out this anthology (I haven’t read the other clown anthology he put out, so please no spoilers! I’m just as keen to read that one, as budget allows.)

And for more than just that my own story appeared in it. Having the clowns be, as the back cover blurb puts it “the victims or heroes of the story” made the collection even more appealing.

I’ll just do a quick summation of each tale, and leave you to discover the chills and spooks for yourself. (Although, there might be some slight spoilage going on, so maybe just go out and buy the book before you read on!)

Eleanor Cawood Jones writes the kind of tale I love to read; plus I (half-shamefully) giggled through the capers of Kipper the clown almost to the very end of the story.

Ben Fitts (Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine) kept up the laughs with “Naughty,” though at times I was probably more closer to crying, given that I work in the school system on a daily basis. The naughty children Poodles faced were wonderfully real in their description. Hence the half laughter/half crying sensation I felt while reading his delightfully dark tale.

It’s perfect that Fitts’ “Naughty,” is followed up by Casey Douglass’ “Life of the Party” where the tables are horrifically turned once again, against some not-so-naughty partygoers.

Simon Peterson’s “The Killer Clown Massacre” really hit the horror spot for me, as the violence in the story mirrored the typical violence that unfolds in the state of Florida.

“Freckles” by Kathleen Palm, “Beneath Black Balloons” by Jeremy Megargee, “Fear the Clown” by Ray Kolb, and “Corn Stalker” by Dan Allen help descend the book into that sort of darkness I love…like sipping a rich horror scotch.

The poignant tales “I, Clown” (Robert Morgan Fisher), “Replevin” (Misha Burnett), and “The Distinguished Gentleman” (M. Kelly Peach), and “Clowns on the Run” (Daniel Scott White) made my heart break as well as speed up. One of them was even kinda romantic (I’ll not tell you which one, though…).

Gord Sellar’s “Alone with Gandhari”—goodness gracious, I don’t think I’ve ever read a tale quite like that (in a good way). I definitely have to check out the Korean speculative fiction he and Jihyun Park have co-translated, and, as a fan of Korean cinema, especially horror, I really want to see The Music of Jo Hyeja (he wrote the screenplay for it).

Trying to pick a favourite from any sort of written story is nearly impossible for me, but the one that really got to me was “Bingo” by Andreas Hort. Bingo the misfit who finally found his place in the world and held onto that dream no matter what the consequences.

David Higgins has done a great job in not only selecting the tales for this anthology, but also placed them in just the right order, which made it a fantastic read!

I hope to be able to purchase Deadman Humour: Thirteen Fears of a Clown (Another clown anthology edited by David Higgins) very soon!

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Are there ANY bad restaurants in France?

 

Why, yes! Well, according to Alexander McCall Smith in his latest Paul Stuart novel, The Second-Worst Restaurant in France. (I still find it hard to suspend disbelief that France could have a terrible restaurant. Hence the appeal of Smith’s great title!)

But this book was delicious enough to make up for the book’s restaurant that’s being run into the ground by a restauranter-hopeful named Claude.

It reminded me of how much I love to read. More than that, though, it also appealed to my former self that used to work in the restaurant biz, and loved shows like Restaurant Impossible and Kitchen Nightmares back when I had access to cable in a non-rural, non-frontier locale. This book is a great literary version of that.

But, more than that, I found that the side character of Chloe (Paul’s mysterious and unconventional cousin) upholds what Alexander McCall Smith does best–using the main character to develop secondary characters that are just as interesting, if not more so, than the main character. And, without giving away too much, I also related to the character of Hugo–a sensitive individual trying to create his own life based on his ideals and passions. During the course of his journey, he’s aided by Paul in fulfilling these dreams. And I can really relate to Hugo at his stage in life, even though he’s a lot younger.

(This review contains spoilers!)

This is where I struggled with the book. I love the works of Alexander McCall Smith that I’ve read but my own life development stage and mindset as I enter middle age sometimes made The Second-Worst Restaurant in France an emotionally fraught read. And, boy, did I have bias in spades that was hard to put aside while I read the book that I won via a Goodreads giveaway hosted by the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

But that’s also the great thing about reading. It’s just you and the book and the characters that feel real enough to debate with in the privacy of your own mind and feelings.

As most writers will agree. Especially when you find out that Paul Stuart can’t work in his apartment where, for some reason, his girlfriend has decided to bring her noisy two cats for a staycation at his apartment, even though she has a flat of her own.

Anyone who’s ever had cats would be like “why on earth would she do that?” Naturally, the cats complain a lot to Paul about the situation, but he’s got a book to write, and eventually has to relocate his writing space into another apartment that Chloe offers him use of.

Poor Paul.

But the apartment doesn’t suit him either, as there are a bevy of young people upstairs doing what they do best–making sure everyone knows they are there with lots of loud music. 

And poor Paul ends up in a silly man-predicament with the younger woman, where he swears the interaction they have in the store is “innocent” to his girlfriend Gloria, who witnesses the weird olive-feeding interaction that somehow gets mistaken for a kiss. Let’s hear it, everyone: a big, resounding “Innocent, my a**!” *laugh*

So, poor, poor Paul has to pack up and relocate to the French countryside to finish his book that he doesn’t even want to write, but in between lecturing his experienced, worldly secret agent cousin about how to act and think, and nurturing poor, belittled, sensitive, chef-hopeful Hugo in fulfilling his cooking-promise, he realizes he doesn’t want to write the book he was working on, about the philosophy of food, and he also realizes that nobody will want to read it, either, despite the fact that his influential editor/girlfriend Gloria has pulled strings and gotten a publisher to back it.

So, wonderfully understanding and supportive Gloria arranges a whole other wonderful project for Paul to undertake, all the pieces fall into place, and everything is happily ever after–all thanks to Paul, presumably, not Gloria and Chloe (who comes to the aid of a local mother-to-be in an unconventional and fascinating way)–in the idyllic French countryside villa that I, and a million other hardworking writers who are also working day jobs (like me) and (unlike me) also trying to raise kids and maintain romantic relationships, are probably thinking that poor Paul is anything but poor.

But it’s proof positive that a main character doesn’t have to be likeable in order for you to fully engage with a book. And that’s why I like books so much. So much diversity there that gets left out of movies.

And, despite my mixed critique of Alexander McCall Smith’s book (which, again, I liked so much I read it twice!); yes, I’m a fan! I would definitely read more of the Paul Stuart series, including his first book in the series, and others. It comes down to the writing, which is, as always with Smith, so good!

And the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is fabulous, of course! Visit Alexander McCall Smith and discover his fantastic writing and compelling characters for yourself, here: https://www.alexandermccallsmith.com/.

 

Under a “Hunter’s Moon” with Philip Caputo

Book Review: Hunter’s Moon by Philip Caputo

Well, of course, I read his A Rumor of War in history graduate school. So, I was excited to receive a copy of Hunter’s Moon: A Novel in Stories in a giveaway hosted via Goodreads.

Not to stereotype, but I’m pretty sure I’m not Caputo’s target audience. A) I’m vegetarian B) If it were the zombie apocalypse, I’m pretty sure I would starve to death rather than hunt (and eat) one of my beloved animal friends.

But who knows what you would do in that scenario to survive? Maybe I’d be a pretty good hunter and gatherer. Which is why these stories surprised me, in much the same way as if I would become the Darryl (from Walking Dead fame) with his hunting acumen. But, even in my writerly let’s-get-a-story-from-them daydreams, I still can’t imagine shooting an animal.

Because of that, I wanted not to like this story collection.

I’m not even really a fan of general fiction. I’m a genre reader, pretty much these days.

So that’s at least two strikes. The third being that I’m getting more and more women-centric these days–way above and beyond my usual feminist beliefs. Men have had the limelight for long enough in this world.

But the writing won me over. The good old turn-of-the-phrase. Haunting, sparse, compelling me to read on.

And, because, as I’m entering into the confusing swamp of middle age, these stories all had a theme I could relate to.

I don’t know what to call it, really. A loneliness that feels like an old friend. A poignant seeking for something that will not be able to be resolved as long as we’re still sitting in the box called the human condition. A quality that reminds me of the kid that so wanted to be a child of the forest and the wild, instead of living among people, and yet was drawn indoors by the lure of sustenance, or the fear of punishment.

Of being alone, still, among all the other seven billion and counting people on this planet, taking up more and more space. And that it is, in fact, even more lonely for people like me.

It’s a transition that I haven’t come out the other side of yet. But the stories captured in Hunter’s Moon tell me that maybe I don’t have to know, yet. I can just sit with it a while, under the hunter’s moon, until the sun rises on the next part of my life. Or that the moon keeps an eternal watch on this, the end times (sans zombies).

(I received this book via a giveaway hosted by the book’s publisher/author via Goodreads.)

 

 

The Once and Future Greece

 

Ah, Greece.

Classical architecture, timeless culture, glistening seas, golden beaches, and…the latest in cutting-edge AI technology.

This opens Nicholas Rossis’ suspenseful romance, A Heaven for Toasters

     Sadly, I have never been to Greece, but that made it even easier to immerse myself into this futuristic romance. Although I don’t have a toaster of my own to fall in love with, the ones I dream over in the Victorian Trading Company catalog are a very alluring alternative.

     As you probably already guessed, the toasters in Rossis’ book aren’t actual toasters; they are androids. Apparently, the human race doesn’t get any more PC in the future, European charm notwithstanding, and they slap this disparaging term onto their own creations. Never mind that the main character, herself, relies on augmentations to her own body–like hololenses and an biologically implanted link to her police station’s AI system.

This dynamic comes into play when the book’s protagonist, Detective Mika Pensive, is assigned to work with a toaster. She grudgingly accepts working with her new by-the-rules partner on her latest case. It’s a perplexing case that takes them through the artistic fringe society of Hydra and deeper into Clonesville–Clonesville being the village-like refuge for the clones created after scientists were no longer permitted to clone sentient humans. The duo’s budding relationship is fostered by their determination to uncover the secret evil lurking underneath the paradisal atmosphere of these Greek islands.

I’ll try not to give too much away about the book, but I especially loved the Detective Pensive’s visits to the artist colony. The only fault I could find in the book is that, having never been to Greece, but equally in love with most of Europe/overseas culture, I wanted more “flavour of Greece” in the book. Having said that, setting it in Greece definitely made this speculative-fiction read all the more distinctive. 

Take a journey to futuristic Greece yourself by acquiring Nicholas Rossis’ book here: https://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Toasters-Sci-Fi-Romance-Islands/dp/1724773410/.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find a Greek restaurant for a “make-do” Greek flavour experience–that is, if there is such a thing in this frontier state. Here’s hoping that the author returns to Mika’s and Leo’s world sometime in the near future!

 

In addition to the blog link I posted above, you can also visit Nicholas Rossis at this website: http://nicholasrossis.me/.

 

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The Journey Back to Earth

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Whew, finally getting around to reviewing some books for #writingwednesday!

First up, Versions of the Self (poetry) by Christy Birmingham.

Linky links:

Amazon

Goodreads

Christy Birmingham’s When Women Inspire blog: https://whenwomeninspire.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/christybis

Review:

I’ve followed Christy Birmingham’s blog for years, and, likewise, she’s been a strong supporter of mine. I think she was one of, if not the first, who purchased my book of poetry when I self-published (Oh, Createspace, how I miss thee!). But this is the space for honest reviews, and, being an honest, ethical, straight-arrow type, with a healthy dose of blunt forthrightness, here goes my honest review. (Please, stick with me to the end of the review.)
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this book, the first time I read through it. I felt somewhat removed from the poems within, and I couldn’t understand why. As a woman, going through what seems a similar journey of self-transformation, why was I feeling unsettled? Why didn’t it grab me straight from the beginning?
It wasn’t until I sat down to write this review that I realised what was giving me this sense of disquiet. I spend a lot of time in other realms. The theme of my own poetry book is all about journeys to other worlds. Alternate dimensions, astral travel, tandem dreaming, visits to fairyland–however you want to classify it, it has very little to do with the “real” world. And my short stories reflect more of the same–fantastical, surreal, spooky, and a little escapist (or so I hope!). I spend so much time up here in my head, or a million miles from it, that I’m not very present. I constantly receive gentle instructions to become more grounded, to visualise coming down into my feet. But it’s not a place where I’m most comfortable. I want the deep vastness of space; of the ocean. Of anywhere but here on Earth.
Christy’s poems reflect exactly that sort of grounded earthiness I’m constantly trying to avoid. Being present, being in the moment. Being real, no matter how much it hurts. Or how confusing it is. From my way-out-there, interdimensional traveller perspective, I see her as a very present poet. And I’m also not used to reading that in poetry.
And it’s a necessary, and lovely, stability in the rareness of the feeling her poetry inspires. With each poem brings another block to lay on the foundation under my feet. As a woman, as a denizen of this planet no matter how much I dream myself otherwise, she connects me back to the Earth under my feet; to my own “Version of Self” that connects with lines of her poems.
“Gliding under Water” reminds me of the simplicity of being a young girl in a pool; a time where my sensory experiences were more immediate. Though her work is titled “Versions of the Self,” I see it more as a stripping away of those versions to achieve a strong core, bringing us along with her as she goes back to basics. To having strong roots. And water, ironically, also helps root the reader in a very real, relatable experience of loss and change, in her poem “Within a Few Feet”. We have no choice to be present right along with the poet, because her pain is ours. It’s a pain that, sadly, lies in most women, and maybe the human race in general.
Lastly, she reminds me that it’s okay to be down here, in the muck and mire that is Earth, to “start at the bottom” (from “Bottom of the Waterway”). Because it’s only from there that we will learn to fly.

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.