Wednesday’s Book Look, and a Wee Pause

Wednesday’s Book Look: Emily in the Wall: Twelve Chilling Tales of Horror and Suspense by Neil Davies (Thanks to Grinning Skull Press for the review copy!) https://grinningskullpress.wordpress.com/

Spoilers lie ahead.

When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend that lived in our attic. Except that our attic was more like a crawlspace. Still, I would go visit her in her airy-eyrie attic room, via dreams, and we’d hang out all night until I woke up in the morning. Sometimes, we’d go on adventures, and sometimes the adventures would be a little spooky.

But being spooked in dreams is different than being afraid in real life. It’s a fascinating experience to be fearful in a dream, or while you’re reading a book. It takes your mind off the things that cause you fear in the real world.

And I wasn’t alone, because I had my imaginary friend with me, most times. Pretty much my only friend.

Having a pretend sister helped with the isolation, until the day I woke up from the dream where we said goodbye and I knew she was gone.

And so the short story, “Emily in the Wall”, from the collection of the same name, was probably my favourite. I related to so much in the story–the main character Anna Kolton, the “smarmy” therapist, the people in the walls that Anna kept seeing–but in this story, the therapist begins to support her rather than discount her, and she is able to make contact with “imaginary” Emily in a very real way. 

The rest of the stories, while all different in regards to characters and settings, seem to have a similar theme. Or one that I just want to embrace while reading this haunting collection–that we really aren’t alone as we move through our worlds, our families, our social circles–we have company, for better or for worse. 

We have books that give us other lives, other worlds, other adventures.

And we will always have at least one imaginary friend by our side in the darkness, no matter how alone we feel. And Neil Davies’s stories remind me what I sometimes forget–that it’s still possible to move through time and space and into other worlds, or bring those worlds home to us.

I am keen on reading more of Neil Davies’s works.

….

Also, if reading this book (I’d highly recommend Emily in the Wall to chase away the summertime blues) whets your appetite for more great spec fic-ish reads, check out Priscilla Bettis’s one-sentence reviews over at her blog: https://priscillabettisauthor.com/2021/06/30/one-sentence-reviews-my-2nd-quarter-2021-reads/.

And, last but not least, I’m going to taking a wee pause from the blog while I navigate an exciting adventure of my own. I’ll be back within two or three weeks–posting, reading, commenting (speaking of “for better or for worse” *laugh*), and with some real-life tales of my own to tell. Or so I hope! 

Enjoy the rest of July!

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Yawatta Hosby

Get ready for some chills and spooky ghost stories in this week’s interview with horror and suspense writer Yawatta Hosby! See you at the campfire, and remember to bring the marshmallows!

Willow Croft: West Virginia, where you live, is one of the few states I’ve not visited. I haven’t even driven through it on one of my many road trips. I’m curious about the geography of the state, though. What’s it like there, and does living in the “eastern panhandle of West Virginia” inspire the settings of your short stories and/or books?

Yawatta Hosby: I enjoy living in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia because we’re pretty close to Washington DC and other busy cities. There’s always something to do if we don’t mind taking a short road trip, like Winchester VA and Hagerstown MD. Where I live is called “A Small Baltimore.” There’s plenty of shops, some tiny museums, and a HUGE appreciation of art. I like that each town has its own personality. Like Shepherdstown is known for being a hippy, artsy fartsy town; Charles Town is known for its race track and casino; and Harpers Ferry is known by the hiker and camping community.

The eastern panhandle is more city-like than the country, but don’t get me wrong, there’s some areas you know to stay away from haha. I don’t live on a farm. I’ve never been to a coal mine, and my family has all their teeth. I hate the ugly stereotypes West Virginians often get. You won’t find any stereotypes like run down trailers, Appalachian men shooting and hunting, etc, unless you go on the back roads or far into the woods.

Living here definitely inspires the settings in my stories. I often have my characters living in a small town that’s big enough to have secrets and not have everyone in your business. I have used some parts of WV, like the south, for inspiration in One By One and Six Plus One. I’ve also used Ranson (where the rich folk live) for Twisted Obsession. However, I also like using surrounding towns around the area. I’ve used Brunswick, MD as inspiration in Perfect Little Murder, and it’d be awesome to use Burkittsville MD (where the Blair Witch woods are located). I’m not far from there at all!!!

Willow Croft: In Six Plus One (the sequel to One by One), the characters in the book are off on their own road trip to film an “alien-centric web series” deep in the woods of West Virginia. So, this X-Files fan is dying to know—have you ever seen a UFO, or encountered an extraterrestrial being?

Yawatta Hosby: Oh man, I wish!!! I’m obsessed with aliens and UFOs. I even have a tattoo of a UFO beaming up a dinosaur on my arm. As a kid and teenager, I often teased that I was an alien. Now, in my thirties, I realize there’s something called a starseed. Maybe I’m that 🙂

I’ve never encountered an alien. Believe me, I’d probably faint. Since I believe in stuff like that, I try not to even try and look for any. Sort of like I stay away from ouija boards since I know the crazy things that can come from that. I don’t want to get abducted by a UFO and I don’t want to be hunted or stalked by any aliens, but I do often research sightings, like I do for Bigfoot.

As a teenager, I wanted to visit Roswell. The next best thing–southern WV. Greenbank was a town we visited on a WVU resident assistant’s retreat. We actually stayed in those woods in cabins, so every description shared in Six Plus One came from my memory. We had visited their museum which held a giant communication device. They felt they were contacting aliens. I believe it, so it was pretty cool to be there even though I was scared out of my mind haha. Being in the woods late at night with no electricity can play tricks on you.

Willow Croft: What’s the oddest thing that’s happened to you during a road trip/travel jaunt? Alternatively, what’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you, in general?

Yawatta Hosby: My friend and I went on a mini-road trip to Sharpsburg MD for a ghost tour. It ended at night. My mind was playing tricks on me because I’ve seen ghosts before, so have some of my family members (loved ones saying goodbye before anyone even realized they had passed away). Anyway, we were driving through Shepherdstown, trying to get home a town away. Leigh slowed down when we noticed a guy walking across the street from under a tree. He didn’t glance at us, he didn’t shield his eyes from the bright headlights. He just kept walking with a briefcase in his hand wearing a plaid jacket. Everything was off. His manner of walking was very weird.

The next day at work, Leigh showed me a website of Shepherd University’s ghosts and sure enough the plaid jacket man was one of them! I got goosebumps! I’ve seen ghosts in my lifetime. My first time was a kid. I saw it in the mirror and for the longest time I was afraid to look into mirrors. At WVU, there was a young male ghost in my dorm. He had died in the 60’s. He had opened and closed the door to the balcony, making a gust of wind disorient my papers (I had been studying in the hall with my friend). In my thirties, I felt the presence of ghosts, usually when I was hanging out with Leigh. The ghosts would pick on me and my coworkers–knock things off our desks, throw objects at us, etc. Let’s just say, I hated being alone in that old building!

Willow Croft: You have shared that your stories build upon your “fascination with psychology”. In your opinion, how does food (and diet) affect one’s psychological well-being? And what kinds of foodstuffs nourish your own deliciously dark writer’s brain?

Yawatta Hosby: If you don’t eat healthy, then your mind and body won’t be healthy. I swear I could live off junk food like I never grew up as an adult. I ate like I was a kid haha. Only ate pizza, mac and cheese, pancakes with bacon, chocolate candy bars, peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, and chicken tenders with fries. No vegetables. Only sweet tea. No water. Then at the end of 2016, I got extremely sick and ended up in the hospital for three nights. I was anemic and had a rare disease called Patterson Kelly Syndrome.

Now, I can’t have caffeine or citrus. Do you know how hard it is not to have chocolate? I still sneak pizza, once in a while though. I have no choice but to eat healthier now. At least I had a good run for all those years haha. For my dark writer’s brain, I’m all about eating Doritos and garlic knots with lots and lots of water. I feel like a kid again, going to a restaurant and asking for apple or grape juice. I can’t even drink orange juice when I get sick. If I would have known this in my earlier years, I would have snuck in more vegetables and fruits.

Willow Croft: Some of your books have numbers in the title. Aside from the obvious reference to the book’s plot, do certain numbers have special significance for you? If so, what draws you to your personal interpretation of numerology?

Yawatta Hosby: My favorite number is seven. I also get excited when I see the numbers 7-2-8 together because it’s my birthday! Other than that, I’ve never really explored numerology. I can’t tell you what any numbers mean, according to your destiny or birthdate. However, for the past few months, I have been studying angel numbers interpretations. I’m on a spiritual journey and am letting angel numbers guide my path in life. It’s been fun so far. I’ve gotten to learn things about myself that I never knew existed. I’ve grown and challenged myself as well as recognized my soul mission in life. Not many people are open to learning about themselves, letting their ego take over, so to speak. I’m on the path to letting my soul take over. For the past few months, I’ve gotten rid of some old habits and hobbies that no longer interest me. I’m excited to see who the real Yawatta is 🙂

Yawetta Hosby’s blog: http://yawattahosby.wordpress.com

Yawetta Hosby’s author website: http://yawattahosbysbooks.wordpress.com

Yawetta Hosby’s LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yawatta-hosby-7931a352/

Wednesday’s Book Look: The Heart Stone Chronicles (The Swamp Fairy Book One) by Colleen M. Chesebro

Whew, this week’s blog title was a mouthful. I needed a gator’s gaping maw to say all that!

(Definite book spoilers lie ahead.)

I’m reading books faster than I can chat about them on the blog, but the other soon-to-be-two books aren’t fantasy, so they’ll get their own lightning-bolt look in another post.

And, before I get started, I found the hippie house of my dreams! Who wants to give me 1.5 million dollars? (Yes, it really is that much!) But maybe we can start a writer’s commune where we ignore each other as we huddle over our microwaved meals and our books. Unless, of course, we steal each other’s bookmarks, then, watch out for our old stink-eyed glares!

https://www.oldhousedreams.com/2021/03/16/1961-missile-silo-base-in-eskridge-ks/

Speaking of stink-eyes, I have an especially fierce one reserved for Florida’s developers, and the politicians that cater to them. And, believe me, I know all about their antics and tactics firsthand. (I was born and raised in Florida.)

Like the time a local county commissioner was determined to build a brand-new stadium to house/attract the Baltimore Orioles, and nothing, not even the tree with a pair of nesting bald eagles, was going to get in the county commissioner’s way. (I tried to locate the original news article, but did not find the correct one, so I had to relate the circumstances from memory.)

And so, even though the Heart Stone Chronicles is described as a read for “upper middle grade and the young at heart” by a reviewer on Amazon, it was a deeply personal read for me. Because the main character, teenaged Abby Forester, is having to take a stand against not only the menacing pressure of a local developer when she inherits a parcel of magical swamp land (But what swamp land ISN’T magical, I ask?!?!?!) as well as pressure from her new friends and other locals to sell up the land for a housing development. (As if Florida needs any more of those either, right? Or cheaply and hurriedly built gaudy McMansions, speaking of vile housing developments.)

The worst part in addition to the continued destruction of Florida’s shrinking wildlife areas is when beautiful 100+ year old oaks are cut down. It was supposed to be illegal, but nobody seems to care, and the perpetrator just pays the fine.

I did, though. My heart broke so much while I was living there. I tried to fight it in my own way, but it seems money will always win in Florida. What the development didn’t take care of, the newcomers to Florida took care of with their slavish devotion to Roundup and pesticide-laden green lawns. The local extension department even fully embraced Round-up. Even in a newly established, so-called “wetlands restoration” of someplace called Celery Fields was subjected to extensive Roundup spraying. I witnessed this myself. A golf cart with tanks on the back and a big sprayer was driving up and down and around the lake watering every square inch of the so-called “wetlands” with what was in the tanks (the tanks were even labeled “Roundup”. I called the county and even contacted the Sarasota Audubon Society.

I don’t think I even heard back from the county, as memory serves, but I did speak by phone with a spokesperson from the Sarasota Audubon Society and the spokesperson was in full support of the Roundup spraying as necessary maintenance for the Celery Fields site. https://www.sarasotaaudubon.org/the-celery-fields/

For myself, It was awful to see egrets and herons and other like birds wading and feeding in the areas that had just been liberally doused with Roundup.

So, in light of my above experiences, Colleen M. Chesebro’s book became my own “Heart Stone” read. Because in her book, the evil developer doesn’t win by virtue of money and his greased-palm political allies. Chesebro’s “swamp fairies” are protected, and, as I imagined, so are all the other swamp wildlife and trees and waterways.

I can close my eyes and pretend that none of the trees I loved as a child were cut down. I can pretend that majestically regal alligators don’t lose their tails to poachers. I can pretend that the terrible day never happened where the residents of Oaks Club in Venice, Florida intentionally shot fireworks into island bird rookeries. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2306348/Oaks-Club-Residents-private-country-club-shooting-fireworks-rookeries-scare-protected-birds.html

I can pretend that none of the animals who were here first are losing their homes and their habitats because there are little checks on Florida’s rampaging developments.

I can pretend that Colleen M. Chesebro’s swamp fairies are real. 

In fact, I can believe that her fairies are real. Because the Heart Stone Chronicles are inspired by her real-life encounter with a swamp fairy.

I can believe in the possibility, even as a skeptic, because I’ve seen something similar in Vermont and I have not found a way to discount what it was that I saw. Yet, anyway. Feel free to ask me about my fairy-ish sighting, even if you want to try to debunk it yourself.

In any case, Abby Forester wins out, and the swamp is turned into a protected wetlands site. One that is, hopefully, not doused with pesticides and Roundup that even park rangers seem to love to utilize.

But, in addition to the environmental theme within the book, there’s a strong social message in there. Some might argue that the messages about drug use (Abby’s father became an addict) and other elements are not appropriate for kids, but I strongly disagree. As if such things like that and contact with Department of Children and Families and blended families or whatever the term is aren’t something many kids today have to deal with in their daily lives. Heck, even back in the 1990s, there were elementary-school aged drug dealers (recruited by an older brother or sister or relative in their lives) or they had stolen drugs from a family member’s medicine cabinet to sell or trade. So I like that the main character has to navigate a similar situation. It handles the material well, and I believe it is a book that is current and relatable to younger readers, especially given that Abby not only finds a positive living environment, but has her own agency, knows/discovers her own mind, and makes her own decisions accordingly without succumbing to peer pressure and societal pressure. 

And, of course, we all know that fairies exist! So, it’s totally okay to believe in fairies and unicorns and mythical creatures and whatever else the hell you want to! Because if there’s no magic-made-real in this world, how can we find the hope and strength and creative vision to change things and make a difference for the better? To create a life and a world WE want to live in? Am I right or am I right? (I’m right!)

Here’s the links to Colleen M. Chesebro’s websites and book-buying options!

Author Website: https://colleenchesebro.com/

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16254415.Colleen_M_Chesebro

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Colleen-M-Chesebro/e/B01N9MV2RX/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

Writing Your Way into the Deep End . . . of Inspiration!

As writers, we all chase after the glittery, sparkly, alluring muse known as Inspiration.

But, with the COVID restrictions, maybe some of you have found your inspiration wellspring drying up.

Myself, I go for long walks in one of Wichita’s local cemeteries and look at the names on the tombstones, and watch geese and a pair of soon-to-be nesting hawks.

I hate to admit to you all that even with stay-at-home COVID, I rarely am at a loss for ideas. I sit down and scribble a bunch of random phrases all over a piece of paper that ends up looking like a drunk spider trying to make a web. And then I have a story. After I’ve written it, I give it some space, and then I edit. And edit. And edit. Then I tell myself to stop procrastinating and I send it off. *cue Titanic film score music* And I wait. Wait for acceptances. Wait for editorial suggestions from the editor(s). Wait for a bird to fly past the window so that I can take my mind off all the waiting.

So, while inspiration isn’t a problem for my short stories, I’m still haunted by an entirely different spectre (Hello, ADHD!) that chases after more tangible sparkly things; my mischievous cat, for one, or the birds outside the window, or wondering if my neighbour(s) are building entire rocket ships from scrap metal in their livespaces, and wishing that I could join in the fun, if so.

Where I struggle is outlining. Outlining, plotting, and hitting the word count needed for a full-length manuscript.

(Yes, probably even editing, too, but I believe every writer needs an editor.)

I’m working on two projects right now. One’s a spooky horror manuscript; the other is a…motivational book?…for lack of a better term. They’re both off to a fairly decent start as long as I don’t suggest that the road to personal bliss and growth involves a detailed process of dismemberment for one’s enemies.

But when I do have trouble focusing, I change the background music (film/tv/video games scores or classical), I meditate (aka take a nap!), or I’ll even pull tarot cards for inspiration.

(I shared a sample tarot card reading over at The Horror Tree for February. https://horrortree.com/wihm-using-tarot-cards-for-writing-inspiration/ Stay tuned over there for the March reading, coming up soon!)

Sometimes, though, you need something a little meatier for a full-length manuscript. And so I selected a book for my holiday-Amazon-gift-card spending spree called Write Horror Good Enough to Wake the Dead by Christina Escamilla (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7828668.Christina_Escamilla) to help me overcome my issues with “Pacing”, “Structure”, and “Scene” (<—actual subchapter headers in Escamilla’s book, just FYI) but with a definite horror slant.

This spookily delicious little book comes with a multitude of writing exercises to help you perfect your rage-fueled dismemberments writing craft and, as the back cover of Escamilla’s book states: “introduces two new writing methodologies: The Basement Method and the Horror Pinch Theory”. (Where you can dig up the book: https://bookshop.org/books/write-horror-good-enough-to-wake-the-dead/9781092372473.)

I’m loving the exercises Escamilla provides but time will tell (if I ever get the bloody thing done) if my horror book will be “Good Enough to Wake the Dead”.

I have my beta readers already selected from the inhabitants at the local Wichita cemetery, but no word if any of them are willing to double as sensitivity readers, yet! They’re proving to be quite the silent type, I’m afraid. And so I wait.

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

 

afawns
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!

1247535

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!