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/

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author David Lee Summers!

Here’s the next “Five Things Friday” interview with speculative fiction author (and astronomer) David Lee Summers! Hope you enjoy!

Willow Croft: One thing I hated to give up in leaving New Mexico was the clear skies, especially with the occurrence of the conjunction event (Wichita has an absolutely obscene amount of light pollution!). So, in honour of all things galactic, what’s your favourite astronomical phenomenon to date, from your astronomer perspective?

David Lee Summers: I would have a hard time giving up the clear skies of the Southwest and I’m sorry you missed the conjunction event. It was very cool. That said, I think one of the most exciting things I’ve seen through a telescope was Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 just a few days before it hit Jupiter back in 1995. The comet itself resembled a cosmic string of pearls. On top of that, I was working with Vera Rubin, the woman who made the observations that led to the discovery of dark matter.

Willow Croft: If you could dine on any fictional off-world (off-Earth) cuisine/dish, what would it be, and what would you imagine it tastes like?

David Lee Summers: In my novel Heirs of the New Earth, a character brings a dish called ruas’ordah to a party. It’s purple mush from a planet called Rd’dyggia. I imagine it tastes like green chile hummus. I would totally make this. I may have to experiment with some recipes and post it to my blog if I create something I like!

Willow Croft: Since you are a speculative fiction author, and with a nod to your “2020 Foresight” blog post (https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2020/01/11/2020-foresight/), how do you foresee the events of the next ten years unfolding? How would you wish they would unfold, and how do you imagine society being ten years from now? Where do you envision yourself being in ten years?

David Lee Summers: This is a good question, since I think we’re at a real crossroads moment in history and a lot depends on how well we’re able to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control and how people respond to recent events in Washington D.C.

Taking a hopeful stance, I think we’ll bring the pandemic under control in the next year or so. I hope our experiences with remote work and remote events will allow us to continue these things to a certain extent after the pandemic. I look forward to seeing people again at in-person conventions, for example, but I’ve also had the opportunity to attend and speak at conventions I couldn’t have if I had been required to pay for transportation. I’m also hopeful that the dramatic political events surrounding the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential win will help politicians bridge the exaggerated “aisle” they dug between the two American parties so they can actually get some good work done.

Within the next decade, I’m betting we’ll find evidence of life outside the Earth. Such a discovery will help us better understand our place in the universe. I fear climate change will worsen, but hope we can make changes that will slow it down. In short, I hope the world will be a better, safer place in ten years than it is today, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find we have new challenges that we can’t even begin to imagine now.

As for me, I still plan to be writing. I hope to try my hand at expanding what I do into comics, audio and maybe even some video of some form. I hope to wrap up my Wilderness of the Dead horror series and maybe work on some other steampunk projects I have in mind.

Willow Croft: Would you travel into space, or are you content with being Earthbound? Why, or why not? Alternatively, what region of space would you like to visit?

David Lee Summers: I would definitely travel into space if I could. I feel like travel on Earth has always expanded my consciousness and given me new perspectives. Going into space would take that to a whole new level. I would love to visit Mars to see the deserts and experience the night sky from its surface. I’m enough of a rock hound to know it would be exciting to wander its surface and see what stories the rocks tell.

Willow Croft: And, of course, have you ever seen an UFO or had any close encounters? What kind of Earth food is their favourite, if so?

David Lee Summers: I have never personally seen a UFO, but I did meet a man who claimed to be one of the beings seen by Lonnie Zamora during the Socorro “close encounter of the third kind” from 1964. Does that count? He liked fresh grilled salmon and really liked his beer!

Find out more about David Lee Summers and his writing/publishing projects, here:

Website: http://www.davidleesummers.com

Blog: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidleesummers

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/davidleesummers

Company: http://www.hadrosaur.com

Winter Solstice and Ice Dreams…

I hope you all are enjoying this winter solstice and have hot chocolate and blankets ready for the conjunction viewing tonight. Alas, there is so much light pollution here, and my new locale is lit up so brightly I’m surprised you can’t see it from outer space.

There’s a little teeny part of me that’s expecting something momentous to happen, even though I fall more on the skeptic’s side of things. But I’ll settle for the veil between worlds to thin so that I can spend some time with my ghost cats of season’s past. I miss them.

I don’t even know about the veil-thinning thing, but I have been thinking a lot about the past. Many of my poems have elements taken from experiences I’ve had in the past, and turned into what-might-have-been second chances, or alternate dimensions.

The spec fic story (“The Ice Dream of the Crow”) I wrote for Excalibur’s Books’ Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown 2020 was inspired by my grandmother’s boyfriend Ernie (he died some time ago). As the story goes, he was an excellent skater, and worked at the Lake Placid Olympics. From the family’s written record of the story, he laid the flag under the ice, and escorted Sonja Henie onto the ice. He was gifted an ice skater ornament for his work on the Olympics, which is still in the family.

So, if you’re looking to escape into an alternate reality and want to experience a fictional journey to the Games, and can’t wait for them to start next year, check out the anthology by clicking on the link here: Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown 2020 or here https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Games-Dimensions-2020/dp/B08KQP53X2/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Thanks, and enjoy the rare conjunction tonight! Merry solstice!

Monday Mayhem and Magic

So, the universe’s longest move is down to the final days. I’ve mixed feelings about leaving New Mexico…mainly revolving around health care coverage, which I have in New Mexico, but may not have in Kansas. But I’ll have internet, and things look promising on the “day job” employment front.

In all the mayhem, I’m trying to keep up with the business and social media side of my writing career…and the exciting news is that I’m still getting stories published! And I have a story published in Excalibur Books’ awesome anthology–The Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown 2020.

The story that appears in this anthology was inspired by a notable event in my grandmother’s boyfriend’s, Ernie Scribner, life.

This anthology was meant to be released with the Tokyo Olympics, which had to be rescheduled for next year (the Olympics, not the anthology). Check out the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Games-Dimensions-2020/dp/B08KQP53X2

As Ernie’s  story goes, as I was told/remember the tale. He worked at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, where he laid the flag under the ice in the skating arena. Being an excellent ice skater, he also had the opportunity to escort Sonja Henie onto the ice.

To commemorate his contribution to the Winter Olympics, he was given this ornament.

iceskater2dpi

Hope your Halloween had lots of magical mayhem and wonder!

Signing off for now…

Dancing Through Time and Space with Michael S. Fedison’s The Eye Dancers

Review: The Eye Dancers by Micheal S. Fedison

(possible spoilers, though I tried not to reveal too much)

I won’t be presumptuous enough to claim that I understand what it’s like to be a kid today, but I can speculate that some things never change.

And I haven’t forgotten, even after all these years, what it was like for me to be a kid.

What it felt like being bullied. The fear. The dread of having to go to school every day. The loneliness. Being left out of things by the popular or cool kids. The alienation coming at me from all sides. Always the misfit, and the last to be picked for the team.

How the classrooms felt airless: like you were drowning or suffocating. A tomb. A punishment that matched the cruel one that waited for me in the halls.

How the tiniest sounds and faintest smells seemed magnified in the forced silence and seemed to claw into your brain until you wanted to scream. Or to run and run and not come back. Or at least run as far as the school bathroom where you could get a breather from the stress of being cooped up. How you never felt like yourself until the last bell rang.

For me, it felt like hell on earth.

And the worst part of it all? What it felt like when no-one listened to you, or took you seriously?

Matter of fact, as a grown woman, I still face that sort of patronizing attitude. And it makes me just as angry as it did when I was a kid.

But, as an adult, as a teacher, I get it. Well, sort of, since I’m not a parent. But I imagine that it’s so hard to walk the line between giving kids a chance to be kids, but wanting to keep them safe.

The world–my world–was a confusing, ugly, terrifying place back when I was a kid–one I wouldn’t want any kid to have to live in.

And in the middle-grade/young adult book The Eye-Dancers, things haven’t changed much, in that aspect, in either of the book’s two worlds.

But the kids in Michael S. Fedison’s book? They don’t wait for grown-ups to listen. They act when they are suddenly thrust in a scary situation. They not only cope, but they keep fighting, although the odds are against them. They do this by joining forces, by combining their strengths, and forging bonds with those they wouldn’t ordinarily be friends with, as a way to navigate the challenges they face. Challenges that could be very real for many children today, but one that Fedison handles with appropriate discretion for the kids he’s writing for.

Could it be a Goonies-like book for young people of this generation? I don’t know. I don’t even know if I’m reading into the book’s premise too much with my grown-up mind, but I would love to have kids reading something that shows young people they can have agency, that they can make things better, that they can change worlds with their actions. That they can still be heroes even if they’re scared and confused and unsure of themselves, and their place in the world. That within all of this coming-of-age madness, there can be moments of hope that will carry them through the darkness of life’s changes. And that, as I think Fedison’s character Mitchell Brant realizes, are the things that can make reality as wonderful and sustaining as our youthful dreams (referenced from pages 317-320).

My hope is that books like this are enough to carry them into finding their dreams as they move into adulthood. And I hope that adulthood doesn’t come too calling too soon for them–that they still have a chance to be kids no matter how the world changes around them.

(I’m considering donating this book to one of the local school libraries. After I read the follow-up Singularity Wheel, of course! Or I’ll just hoard it with all the rest of my books, most likely.)

 

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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