“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author Angelique Fawns! #WIHM

 

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https://www.instagram.com/angeliqueiswriting

Willow Croft: I’ll start off with a question that probably plagues many of us writers out there—time management! How do you balance life on a working farm (not to mention parenting!) with writing and your day job?

Angelique Fawns: Balance? What balance? If I am into a writing project, it’s like a mania grips my life. Eighteen hour days, seven days a week, until the story or book is finished. I get up early, write until I have to do my day job, then get right back to it after I’m done cutting TV promos. I only stop when my neck and back get so sore, I have to quit. Then I lay awake obsessing about the next words….

The dust bunnies grow to monster size under my furniture, my husband scowls until he has to make dinner, and my daughter takes over the farm chores.

Willow Croft: Your topics for writing speculative fiction, et al, seem to be pretty diverse—what’s your favourite source of inspiration(s) and is there an overarching theme to your written works? How do you tailor your writing space to nurture your creative writing?

Angelique Fawns: The majority of my stories will have either animals or farm life flavouring the piece. Readers are touched by authenticity, so the old adage “write what you know” is solid advice. I’ve been working as a freelance journalist–writing equine and farm stories–for years. Those stories seem to be what “other” people want me to write, and the weird speculative stuff is mainly for entertaining myself. My current strategy is to take what I have a lot of experience with–reporting, interviewing, journalism–and combine it with my true passion; writing the tales that lurk in my subconscious. Hopefully I am creating a hybrid product that is unique and helpful.

I really don’t have a “nurturing” writing space. I write everywhere, every chance I can get. Before Covid, I used to love tucking myself into a corner of a pub and type for hours. The background noise is brilliant, no one bothers me, plus I can sip on a glass of chardonnay. Heaven.

Willow Croft: Here’s the food-based question I always try to include! I imagine, perhaps romantically as an urban-raised individual, that life on a farm offers some exciting meal opportunities/food-based pathways. What culinary adventures do you/your family embark on?

Angelique Fawns: We aren’t really “foodies”, and I suffer from the omnivore’s dilemma. I am an animal lover, and have many pets. Some of our beef cattle often become lifers. (I name them. We have some REALLY old cows on our farm.) I also keep freeloading chickens that don’t lay eggs, retired horses that can’t be ridden, and barn cats that live in the house and refuse to catch mice. That being said, I am not a vegetarian. I do eat what we grow, but I make sure they have a quality ethical life. We raise free-range meat birds on grass, and they live far longer than conventional chickens. “They only have one bad day.”

Willow Croft: If you time-travelled into the future, how would the world, or worlds, look like? How would you wish the world would have changed by then?

Angelique Fawns: I would love to see a world where humans live in eco-sustainable tree houses with carbon neutral power sources. Animals would reclaim the sea and land and we would live in harmony with them. Pollution, extinction, and war would no longer exist. Other planets would be discovered and peacefully colonized. Now there’s a fantastic (if unrealistic) vision for a future…

Willow Croft: What creepy monster would you want to have as a pet? Alternatively, what sort of paranormal entity would you want to share your livespace with? If you already have a supernatural entity sharing your livespace, or a creepy monster haunting your landscape, tell us all about it!

Angelique Fawns: Well, there are those monstrous dust bunnies… How about a real life creepy monster? I recently lost my llama (to old age). Coco was the most ferocious creature I’ve ever lived with. She had huge long teeth, and sharp talons on her hooves. Llamas are the best guardians for other livestock. If a coyote threatens, they will rip them open with their teeth, and slash them with those hooves. She would bugle like a motorcycle revving if she saw any suspicious animal at the far end of the field. We had ZERO livestock loss when she was alive. Now I’ve lost quite a few chickens, and predators are getting precariously close to the house.

I also believe in ghosts. They lurk everywhere…

 

Find ghosts, animals, and more on Angelique Fawns’ website, and around the web!

Author Website: www.fawns.ca and www.fawns.ca/farm

 

Check out her great guides for submitting stories (and spooky places to submit them) here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08QDX1PD6
 
 

Review-ish of Alex Berenson’s The Power Couple

 

Well, I don’t really understand the whole “I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway with no request for a review” disclaimer.

I’m speaking rhetorically, and I don’t really need it explained to me even if I didn’t understand it. Which I kinda don’t. I really don’t think anybody would send out a free book or an A.R.C. with the adverse intention of saying “Hey, shove my book on your bookshelf without even cracking the spine open. Better yet, don’t even read it. It’s perfect as an absorbent coaster so you don’t mar your antique writing desk by putting your piping hot-ten-thousandth cup of coffee directly on its wood surface!”

I say this, when that’s pretty much what I did. Not using a book as a coaster *gasp*, but setting it aside. Only it was into a banker’s box labeled “Unread”–one of about eleven boxes marked “Unread”–and it was only a follow-up email asking me how I enjoyed The Power Couple that I received a few weeks ago (I received the email on December 10th) that I remembered and then I had to forget about it because I moved to another state and was/am searching for a day job so I don’t have to move back to the land of no internet because it just took me almost three months to catch up on all the things I had to put aside because of three years of non-functional internet (thanks, Comcast and HughesNet!) and another year of limited once or twice a week of internet off-site.

And then I forgot which “Unread” box it was in. And I’m envious of all the other readers here in Goodreads and in the Goodreads groups who not only have time to spend all day on Goodreads and Instagram and Twitter and WordPress and commenting in Goodreads Groups and posting Goodreads reviews but also have the luxury of spending all day curled in a cozy chair by a fireplace, eating bon-bons and reading countless numbers of books.

But I found it, and of course I’m going to review it, especially if it’s a free book. I would feel badly otherwise, despite my lingering feelings of envy. At least I can review The Power Couple even in advance of the release date (February 9th, 2021).

The book link, in case you want to skip the rest of the review and get right to reading: .https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Power-Couple/Alex-Berenson/9781982103699

 

*Here Be Spoiler Monsters*

And if I wasn’t envious enough of all those readers/writers with unlimited time (or who have somehow acquired Hermione’s Time-Turner or Doc’s Delorean), then I get to be envious of the power couple Rebecca and Brian Unsworth who “have it all” despite the book’s attempt to convince me they don’t have it all during a traumatic event that occurs while the family is on a European vacation.

Envy. Greed (wishful thinking as it is). I’m well on the way to ticking boxes on my deadly sins list.

So I had really mixed feelings about this book. I didn’t want to dismiss and belittle the Kira Unsworth’s, the daughter, terrible experience while she was being kidnapped and held for ransom. No matter how fictional it was.

Nor did I want to take away from the proactive strength and resilience of the daughter, and the mother, as these horrible events unfolded. And I was happy with how Rebecca Unsworth, the mother, resolved things at the end. Well, in a way.

“But, but…,” my mind said. What about all the other young women kidnapped not even for ransom, but forced into the sex trade and never to be heard of again, because there is no escape. There’s no mother that holds a government agency position powerful enough to marshal every available resource overseas to find her daughter.

For these young women, and even children of both genders, there is probably no escape from a life in the sex trade or as a modern-day slave worker.

But I love thrillers. I love staying up past my bedtime to read yet another chapter. And I love that the right baddies got their well-deserved comeuppance–and that this book’s author didn’t hold back in meting out justice.

But, although the book is fiction, it’s also real. Real for us women. Kidnapping is a real horror that we have to face every minute of every day. And, again, for many of us, a rescue may never come. For many of us, we won’t even be able to save ourselves.

No matter how hard we fight back.

Still, it’s good to be immersed in a world where that doesn’t have to be completely true. Even if it’s for a little while during the wee hours of the night, immersed in a book where women win.

Throwback Thursday’s Book Review: The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

Throwback Thursday’s Book Review: The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes (published 1956)

I’ll read just about anything, so I’ll still plow through older books resolutely, even if they are a little more on the archaic side, unless they are so dated (*cough* sexist) that it’s hard to even read, much less finish.

*spoilers ahead*

To my surprise, The Wreck of the Mary Deare was a fantastic read. A little tropish characterization with at least one of the women in the story, but not anywhere close to as bad as my own bias led me to suspect. Probably better than some films and books we have even today.

In general, the author was fairly balanced with his depiction of women for the time in which the book was written. One of the directors of the shipping/trading company was a woman (if I’m remembering my history correctly, not so unusual), and she was called as an “important witness” to give expert testimony in the book’s pivotal court case. Of course, (or, even better!) she was not only knowledgeable and informed, but also devious and corrupt, and was an active agent in the company’s scheme to commit insurance fraud.

The book was just so well put together with its writing style that it holds its appeal even in 2021 (almost seventy years later). It’s exciting, suspenseful, and even spooky at times in its imagery and set-up to the climatic events of the book. It reads like a true-life adventure, but I didn’t realise until after I finished the book as to why–it had to have been based on the real-life events surrounding the Mary Celeste and her mysterious fate. (The Wreck of the Mary Deare was also made into a movie.)

My favourite line from the book? I’m glad you asked!

“He was a seaman. He was used to boats, not to the sea itself as an element in which to exist…”

And the ending is very…satisfactory!

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1247535.The_Wreck_Of_The_Mary_Deare

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

Aether and its Feline Minions…

A quick-as-air post this week! 

I don’t know how I did this before the shutdown: juggle writing and the day job and all the other life stuff. Right now, even without the day job, it feels like I have too many balls up in the air. But I’m submitting to lots of great writing opportunities, like this call for “Whodunit” mystery stories, hosted by Jersey Pines Ink: https://www.jerseypinesink.com. (Click the Submissions tab or just scroll down.)

Annnd, it looks like I might have my manuscript polished and ready for #PitMad. I don’t want to rush it, though, because I’d rather have a finished manuscript over submitting something that’s not as best as I can (re)write it.

In the meantime, I’ve been writing about the air element and kitty cats! Check out the elemental-themed post on Mookychick (https://www.mookychick.co.uk/health/witchcraft-spirituality/exploring-the-aether-realm-when-all-is-shut-down.php), and the story I wrote for Katzenworld (https://katzenworld.co.uk/2020/05/21/the-cat-that-watches-through-time/)!

Have a fantastic rest of the week, and hope it’s filled with lots of flights-of-fancy!

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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