Wednesday’s Book Look: Wild and Wishful and Out of this World

Sometime soon, I’m going to check out a little artsy town here in Kansas called Lucas. I’m still trying to figure out how to decide where I want to spend…well, if not the rest of my life, at least the next few years. Kansas is (relatively) affordable. When compared to places I’ve either looked at or lived in (Portland, OR, Seattle, Florida, New Mexico, Vermont), that is. Anywhere in New England is pricey, too, though I love the idea of living in someplace like Bangor or Salem.

Lately, I’ve just wanted to laze about and read books (anybody else feelin’ this) or *gasp* do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

But a mid-life crisis or whatever’s preoccupying me lately, is no excuse to be slacking off! Right? *laugh*

Still, I did manage to sneak in some reading amidst the moving and relocation planning (on top of work and writing).

And I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Great Plains Nature Center. Well, the center was closed because of the holiday, but it was a wonderfully overcast and drizzly day to walk the nature trails out there. https://gpnc.org/

It was rad to see the efforts to “re-wild” the prairie and such, but also sad. The traffic noise from the nearby highway/street was not only constant but incredibly loud. Can you imagine having hearing way more sensitive than a human’s and having to listen to that all day and all night?

By the by, this week is #BlackBirdersWeek2021, as organized and hosted by Black AF in STEM (https://www.blackafinstem.com/). Check out the events on the Black AF in STEM or on the Twitter page: https://twitter.com/BlackAFinSTEM/.

I’ve got two short stories coming out in environmentally themed anthologies. One is a cli-fi anthology called Terraforming Earth for Aliens (to be released soon), and the other is called Shark Week: An Ocean Anthology which is now available for preorder: https://books2read.com/b/md79dZ.

So, in my dreaming of a better world and a better livespace, I’ve been reading myself into other worlds as well.

In addition to reading a few of Tess Gerritsen’s books for the first time (what could be better than to read about a who-I-might-have-been alter ego, Jane Rizzoli), I’ve escaped into worlds wrapped around horror, around the paranormal, and around science fiction and fantasy.

Quick reads, but no less immersive. And I even got to visit New England, by virtue of one of the spooky tales in the journal, Dream of Shadows (Issue 1, December 2019). https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07ZTXLC9L

And, until I’m able to move into a haunted house of my very own, I can live vicariously through the ghostly encounters trapped in the bound pages of ParaABnormal Magazine (December 2020 and March 2021). Though, within those pages lie a book whose powers I may not want to channel. https://www.hiraethsffh.com/magazines

While all the stories in Space & Time Magazine (Issue 135, Winter 2019) were wonderfully escapist (and the articles interesting), there was one story that I really cherished. There’s a part of me that never really stops thinking about, and missing, the members of my cat/animal family I’ve lost over the years. But, as the years fly by faster and faster, I feel the presence of my bygone and, hopefully, once again, cats even more strongly. As a result of these feline ghosts swirling around me, I found Jennifer Shelby’s “The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe” especially poignant. https://spaceandtime.net/

Even though I have taken in some (former) feral cat rescues, and they fill the too-quiet spaces of my introvert-bubble of an apartment, I still feel lonely without them. They’ve each filled a special role in my cat family unit, and I hold onto some perhaps unrealistic hope that I’ll see them again.

That we won’t be alone, out there, in one of the universe’s parallel dimensions.

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/.

Clowns That Don’t Go Bump in the Night…

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What could be better for my forthcoming birthday (September 20) than a whole book of horror stories featuring clowns?

The fact that my story’s among them!

So, “send in the clowns,” and don’t forget to bring balloons and plenty of gifts! Or, you can make my wish (and those of the other authors) come true, and buy the book, here: Bloody Red Nose: Fifteen Fears of a Clown.

Still here? Yes, you. You in the corner, clowning around. Well, I can’t get you an invite to clown school on that audition, but if you want more information about the book, check out Editor Dave Higgins’ blog post: https://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/abstruse-press/fears-of-a-clown/bloodyrednose/.

Still can’t get enough clowns? Do you take your horror with a splash of humour? Well, Dave Higgins has released not one, but two, clown-featured books. Perhaps this one will help rekindle your childhood dream of becoming a clown. (Or not? I’ll have to read it, myself, to find out.) If you read Deadman Humour: Thirteen Fears of a Clown, please no spoilers. That’s worse than a clown without a smile!

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Sadly, I never did run away to join the circus. Which was probably a wise choice, as I imagine it would have been rather difficult to liberate elephants, giraffes, and lions as a twelve-year-old. Nevertheless, I do have a little bit of circus cred by association with my hometown, where I was raised, which was the winter headquarters of the Ringling Circus. (Until they moved to Venice, Florida.) Which, these days, I suspect that the Gulf Coast of Florida is pretty much all one swath of strip malls and gated communities with some six-million-dollar condos thrown into the heart of Floridian downtowns, just to give the residents a chance to kvetch about the slightest noise after 9 p.m. Or support noise meter companies. I forget which.

But don’t worry, even though more and more of Florida’s wetlands, wild areas, and farmlands are being parceled up and sold to developers by local politicians to become an on-every-street-corner Walgreens, or a toxic-turfed six-bedroom McMansion, you can still find sparkling sequins of circus history in Sarasota.

Check out the circus museum that’s part of the Ringling Museum historio-industrial complex: https://www.ringling.org/circus-museum. (Beware the museum’s staff, though; they can be more terrifying than any nightmare we writers can dream up. And enter into the gift shop at your own risk.*)

If you’d like a more genial experience, visit Bob Horne at his restaurant, Bob’s Train. His knowledge of circus from his own experiences, and his vibrant recitation of circus history, will add life to the museum visit. In fact, his own restaurant is filled with photos and memorabilia from the circus, and is the perfect setting to read certain clown anthologies (Can I drop any more hints?).

If you need any more convincing, yes, the restaurant is in an actual Pullman railroad car. Oh, and on the very same track is JoMar. Yes, that JoMar (look it up!). Which Bob Horne is restoring.

Here’s the link to Bob’s Train: https://www.bobstrain.com/location. (But I can’t promise there will be clowns.)

 

*I was born in Bradenton, and grew up in Sarasota. For those not from the area, that pretty much means I have carte blanche to be as snarky as I want to about my hometown(s). And it’s a gold mine for snarky humorists, let me tell ya.