Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author (and Dragon!) Nenekiri Bookwyrm

This week’s “Five Things Friday” interviewee/dragon is Nenekiri Bookwyrm!

Willow Croft: What’s the best convention you’ve attended? And what’s the oddest, fantastical, and/or wonderful thing that’s happened to you at a convention?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: One of the best was Anthrocon 2018 for sure. I was only able to go for Saturday the previous year and in 2018 I was able to go for the full convention. It was also the first time I had been published and the feeling of getting to see my name in the contributors to the con book was something magical. It made my entire weekend and the con had just started.

I’ve had a lot of adventures in my many con trips, but this story from my first ever convention is still one of my favorites to tell. I had never been to a convention before but went with my group of friends to Magfest 2016. We had just gotten to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center after checking into our hotel rooms and thought it would be a good idea to get something to eat. The problem was that we didn’t know the area very well. So after wandering around the streets just outside of the convention center, and nearly getting lost looking for a restaurant, we settled for Subway. We grabbed our sandwiches and headed back to find a place to eat them. We decided on sitting around the fountain that was set up next to the entrance on the lower level of the building. It was around supper when we sat down to eat our meal, close to 6PM but not quite. Everyone was glad to be off their feet for a while and the conversation was light and jovial.

Then the clock struck 6PM. And the music swelled behind us.

Instantly, we were all showered with water as the fountain came to life and started performing a laser light show while alternating spraying water from different fountain jets. There was screaming, laughing, and a good deal of soggy bread as we rushed to get out of the way of the musical water works. I tried to cover a friend with an outstretched wing, but the water just splashed off and into their face. We found out later that apparently the fountain turns on and does a show at set times in the day. It certainly made for an unforgettable start to my first convention!

Willow Croft: There’s a saying that dragons like their snacks “crunchy, with ketchup”, so–what’s your favourite snack, with or without ketchup?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: I’ve been eating a lot of Cheez-its lately. Or really any kind of cheese cracker. I like the crunch (without ketchup) and it reminds me to drink more water to offset all the salt I’m eating. Some folks have a sweet tooth, but I’ve always had a salt fang.

Willow Croft: When you need a break from all the game-designing, salt-laden snack munching, and writing, where do you and your other dragon friends like to go for vacation?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: Conventions are usually where I go to meet up with my other dragon friends, but outside of that I’ll sometimes take a trip to Pittsburgh to visit a long time friend and his fiancé. The last time my roommate and I were out that way they took us on a tour of the city that was lovely. We toured the Phipps Conservatory, rode the incline all the way to the top of the city at night, and walked around a college that looked like an old castle had sprung up in the middle of the city. There’s still a bunch of places I’d love to visit for the next time we get a chance to go out that way.

Willow Croft: Now that you’ve finally taken a vacation, what game (board game or video game) do you bring along while you’re “sunning your scales”?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: Magic the Gathering is a game that a lot of my friends play, so I usually have a deck for that packed in my suitcase somewhere. Since it’s been around so long there’s a lot of different formats and play styles to choose from. I usually play a format called Commander with a deck that runs five different colors of dragons. It’s chaotic and silly and getting to see all the different color cards make a kaleidoscopic rainbow as I play them is a good deal of fun. And the idea of having a spellbook that you curate yourself over time, adding or subtracting pieces as you learn and grow is one that is very interesting to me.

Due to the portability of the Nintendo Switch, I’ll occasionally bring that on trips where I think I’ll have the time to play it. The game I play on it varies, but right now I’m snout deep in Monster Hunter. It has a very satisfying loop of fight big monsters->make snazzy new pants for outfit->repeat, that’s hooked me over the last few months.

Willow Croft: What’s your favourite song that you like to strum on your ukulele, and why?

Nenekiri Bookwyrm: I’m still a beginner when it comes to playing songs since for a long while I would just strum the ukulele idly as a way to relax. But recently I’ve been learning the basic chords and decided to start practicing One Big Bed from Not Another D&D Podcast. I’ve not heard the podcast itself, the song was a recommended video for me on Youtube based on my interests in tabletop. But as soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted to learn how to play it. There’s a gentleness to it that really spoke to me. Like a song you would sing to someone after a hard day as they fell asleep. The lyrics are a little silly but I find it has a nice balance of schmaltz to offset the message that rest is an important part of the adventure too. The chord progression isn’t too difficult as well, which gives me an excuse to practice switching my claws into the next note without too much trouble.

Nenekiri Bookwyrm would love to meet you! Visit their blog at https://www.nenekiri.com or on Twitter https://twitter.com/Nenekiri_Dragon

And, Nenekiri Bookwyrm would like to remind you all to “curl up with a good book and be kind to yourself”. 

The wisdom of dragons, right?

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author, Editor, and Publisher Diane Arrelle

This week’s “Five Things Friday” interviewee appears to be quite the “busy bee” too–Diane Arrelle is an author, book publisher, and editor!

Willow Croft: One of the first stories I read of yours was before we even “met”—in an anthology called Crafty Cat Crimes: 100 Tiny Cat Tale Mysteries. How has your own cat(s) influenced (or hindered!) your writing?

Diane Arrelle: Wow, I grew up very rural on the edge of the NJ [New Jersey] Pine Barrens. We never used the term feral cats, they were just cats that came and lived in our garage, our yard, the woods all around us. I’ve had cats around since I was born and over the years, I always had my special kitties. I have always loved cats and I find them fascinating.
After college I traveled too much to have a pet and then I became the suburban wife and mommy and my husband didn’t want a pet. The cat from Crafty Cat Crimes was the sweetest kitten I found stuck in a tree one day while visiting a friend. We got her down and then I made my friend keep the kitten because we didn’t have pets. But I went over to visit my foster cat often.
One day I got annoyed at my husband so I took my kids to the animal shelter and brought home a six-month-old kitty, who just happened to pick us out. Just like that I became a cat person again. Bonny, who was a male, lived for almost 18 years and influenced many stories, most of them on the dark side. Seriously, where do they disappear to and how do they magically reappear like that?
After Bonny died, I decided to wait before getting another cat. Every time we heard a noise in the house my husband would say, “Cat’s back.” It was funny, but the man who hadn’t wanted a pet told me we needed another cat about two months after Bonny had passed. I immediately dashed out and got a rescue named Tabby, and she is definitely my husband’s cat. She is a very flighty animal with an intense stare that sometimes scares me and she likes to stalk me. I have to say she has inspired several scary stories in the four years we’ve had her. She, as well as Bonny, have hindered my writing in the usual way, sleeping on the keyboard, yowling when I’m writing, just being cats.

Willow Croft: I don’t know about you, but I always get the munchies when I’m writing. What’s your favourite snack(s) or comfort foods when you write?

Diane Arrelle: Oh no, I am the picture of self-control. I never eat and write. Ok, so I’m lying. I don’t eat and write. No, I eat and in between stuffing my face, I write. The year in quarantine changed my pattern completely and I have to have food nearby. On a good day I crunch on carrots and veggies, but mostly I eat about four pieces of sugar-free chocolate and lots of popcorn mixed with nuts. Oh yeah, I always have a Wawa coffee next to me which I reheat all day long. And for those who don’t know about it, it’s an Eastern convenience store that started in the Philly area. Wawa coffee mixed with Wawa cappuccino is just a wonderful, creativity-inspiring beverage.

Willow Croft: As an editor/publisher, you also host calls for anthologies by way of your co-owned publishing company, Jersey Pines Ink. How do you and your co-owner come up with the themes for your anthology calls?
We’re friends and talk a lot on the phone and in person. Just about every conversation one of us will say something offhand and the other will respond. “Wow, that would make a great story.” Sometimes that leads to stories and sometimes one of us will decide it would make a great anthology. Bev loved the idea of a mystery anthology and I fell in love with the term “crypt gnats” when we were talking about cemeteries. We both came up with the newest anthology called Trees while we were at RavenCon in Williamsburg, Virginia and were walking around the Olde Town taking pictures of some really creepy, gnarled trees.

Willow Croft: As one of the founders of the Garden State Horror Writers (as well as a past president), what’s the most terrifying and/or unexplained thing that has happened to you?

Diane Arrelle: Personally, I grew up in a house that had a spirit. It appeared when I was about twelve and stayed until I was about seventeen. I was scared of it and yet, when I was home alone it sort of comforted me. I wasn’t afraid of the other monsters I used to worry about once the spirit came into the house. I used to talk to it but I always begged it to never appear, which it never did. I don’t think I could have handled seeing a ghost.
As president of the GSHW we went on a field trip to a haunted house on the Jersey Shore and we saw bunches of socks on the beach. They inspired me to write a silly horror story that won first place in the Killer Frog annual contest. On another group trip we went to New Hope, Pennsylvania, for a ghost walk that creeped me out and I came home and wrote a story in about an hour. I was so inspired.

Willow Croft: Since you write both mysteries and horror, what’s the oddest or most disturbing thing that you’ve had to research, either online or in a library?

Diane Arrelle: Well, when I first started writing I went to the county library because I wanted to write a novel. Demonic books were popular and I wanted to write a demonic novel but I knew nothing about angels or demons and had never really ever thought about them. I started looking up hell and just went deeper into the mythologies surrounding the underworlds and afterlives until I scared myself and by closing time I quit. I was so frightened walking to my car I kept looking over my shoulder and I constantly checked the review mirror as I drove the ten minutes home. I was spooked for a couple of weeks and since I’d already started the book, I turned it into a comedy about angelic sex aliens landing on a hedonistic earth. It was fun to write and after a few years I threw it away. But I learned not to research something that frightens me too much. I just don’t need to add to all my neurotic list of things that terrify me.

Seek out more about Diane Arrelle at her blog, and check out the publishing company, Jersey Pines Ink, via the links below!

https://www.arrellewrites.com/books

https://www.jerseypinesink.com/

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Garon Whited

 

Meet Garon Whited, author and longtime D&D gamer, in this week’s “Five Things Friday”!

Willow Croft: You’ve written about vampires, dragons, ants, and…cats! If you could become any one supernatural, fantastical, cryptozoological, or non-human life form, what would you be, and why?

Garon Whited: Anything? Anything at all? We’re not even going to narrow it down a little? Oh, well, start with the softballs, sure. Ease into it. Don’t go for the tough questions right off. Pfft.

Let me think about that. [time passes] Okay, I think I’ve got it. While it’s tempting to be a Time Lord—and steal a TARDIS—or to be a dragon, or even a vampire, I think I’d have to settle on a third-stage Lensman. They were designed by the Arisians, true, but they’re about as perfect a creature as has ever been. While they may live an immensely long time, they’re not immortal—unless they choose; whether they can extend their lives indefinitely hasn’t been conclusively determined.  Immortality isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.  They have immense intelligence, profound powers, exceptional physical prowess, and basically every advantage ever found in the entire lexicon of human potential.

Unlike Arisians, however, they aren’t necessarily totally cerebral. They’re still humans, although highly advanced ones.  And, when it comes right down to it, I’m a human. Mostly. Kind of. In many ways. I should probably go with what I know rather than try to figure out all the fiddly details of another species.

DMDice

Willow Croft: Presto! You’ve just discovered you’re the next time lord . . . what bizarre food combination would your companion find you eating?

Garon Whited:

“Professor?”

“You pushed the ‘Talk’ button?”

“What is this?”

“Hey!  Don’t touch that!”

“Is it some sort of experiment?  Dalek repellent?  Cyberman poison?”

“I can drop you off in Wales, you know.”

“I like Wales.”

“…Four million B.C.”

“So, you were saying about this delicious-looking bowl of…?”

“Chocolate chips in peanut butter.”

“There’s peanut butter in that?”

“I like the chocolate. And the peanut butter adds flavor. And it makes it easier to spoon it up.”

“But…”

“If you don’t want to eat it, I will.”

“Look, if you’re going to steal a food replicator from the Federation, could you at least program it with something else? I would like to eat, too!”

“It’s programmed for everything but tea. Ask for tea.”

“What? Why?”

“It’ll work out what you want to drink through taste bud patterns and neurological signals. It will then produce a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”

“You’re weird.”

“I find it highly improbable you’re only just now noticing.”

“I was confused by your heart of gold.”

“I knew I liked you for some reason.”

 

Willow Croft: Logic and science aside, if you could travel back in time, what historical event would you change, and why?

Garon Whited: Sorry; I can’t ignore the logic and science part. Too many years playing role-playing games where the players need to have a consistent framework where things can eventually make sense.

However, if I’m going to change something, there are a couple of candidates.

Was there an Atlantis? Let’s talk about it not sinking—or, at the very least, playing tourist before the end. Did aliens build the pyramids?  We’re going to need to talk about that—to the locals, and to the aliens. And so on.

But for documented historical stuff, allow me to mention the Library of Alexandria.  While I acknowledge the place—for history’s sake—has to be sacked, would it really be such a bad thing to show up a couple of years beforehand, hire a hundred scribes, and make a backup copy? Or just spend my days in the library, pretending to read everything, while wearing newfangled glass lenses over my eyes? “Newfangled” to the locals, perhaps. The concealed high-tech video recording device I’m using to make copies of everything I pretend to read has to blend in.  I’m not slapping the documents on a copier.

MathNerd

Willow Croft: Do you have a favourite pair of D&D/role-playing dice?

Garon Whited: No, I don’t. These days, I use my laptop. It keeps my character records, worldbuilding, magic items, custom spells, the works. I’m pretty good with Excel and the workbook I have is huge, holding dozens of cities, one Empire, three kingdoms, a bunch of races, and enough adventure ideas to keep a table full of players busy from now until my grandchildren are old enough to sit by the fire and mutter about how D&D was different in their day.

Sometimes I wonder if I should just publish the darn thing. Then again, there are so many useful tools out there on the internet, as it is. Up-to-date ones, I mean, covering lots of different editions. If you’re not big on editing spreadsheets, you’d have to play 3.5 to use mine. Then again, come to think of it, I updated it to 3.5 over time… it was originally for 2nd edition, because my 1st edition spreadsheet in Lotus wasn’t easy to export…

Man, have I been at this for a while.

I do have a few unusual dice, though.

How Long

Willow Croft: What’s the most frightening thing that has crawled out from the depths of your imagination?

Garon Whited: Look. [deep breath] If something crawls out of my imagination, the world is in real trouble, because I imagine a lot. So far, it’s all still in my imagination.

As for the most frightening thing in there, how about we stick with people?

Let me explain that.

Elder Gods may do awful things to the universe, inflicting madness and death on every puny life-form in much the same way as we pour gasoline on an ant mound. They do so because it’s in their nature to do so.  It’s just how they are.  Alien fungi turning everyone into zombies? Ditto. Hungry space vampires? Same. Devouring fog that weaves through the forests, puts people to sleep, and slowly leaches their blood out through their skin? All of these are creatures that do terrible things because we think they’re terrible, not because they do. We perceive them as horrible, nasty monsters. Their thought is more, “Meh.  Humans. They would think that.”

But people?

We do good and noble things. We help each other. We raise each other up. We know what is good and we unfailingly do it. If we know something is wrong or evil or just plain unnecessarily hurtful, we would never do it! …right? Right? I hear an uncomfortable silence in answer.

Or, unlike the “monsters,” do we choose to do things to each other that we know are outright evil “because we have to”? Why do we have to? Is that what we tell ourselves as a handy excuse? Or did we screw up enough that we don’t dare admit it and take the blame—so let’s eliminate the problem by eliminating people who would blame us? Or, no, let’s just lie about it. We have intelligence. We have language.  Let’s lie to each other, cheat each other, kill each other—and worse. Oh, so much worse!

Monsters—the scariest ones—aren’t the alien Things with tentacles and slime. They’re the ones that remind us of ourselves, because there is nothing more terrifying. We may fear the unknown or the unknowable, but we know what we’re capable of. What’s even worse is we only think we know… and really don’t want to find out how wrong we are.

So, the worst thing my imagination has produced? It’s sometimes plumbed deeper into the well of human nature than is technically good for it. That’s why most of what I write has a lighthearted air. I don’t like it down there.

Garon Whited’s Books and Author Page and More:

https://www.amazon.com/Garon-Whited/e/B00IX0NER0

www.garonwhited.com

https://www.facebook.com/groups/GaronWhited/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/gwspoilers/

Six Things Saturday: Mini-Interview with Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum

This week, we have Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum from over at Violet’s Vegan Comics (https://violetsvegancomics.com/)!

Willow Croft: This question’s a two-parter! What vegetable and/or vegan dish is your most favourite? And what vegetable and/or fruit makes you go “Yuk”?

Miranda Lemon: My favourite dish is vegan Yorkshire pudding with chips and beans, and the fruit that makes me go “yuk!” is avocado, because I think it is like eating margarine.

Violet Plum: Ooh, what to choose? I guess chocolate’s not a vegetable – although it does come from beans. Speaking of beans, I think one of my favourite meals is beans on toast, especially with peanut butter and yeast extract on the toast. I’ve loved it since childhood, never tired of it and it’s so easy to make. Sadly I don’t have it very often any more because bread is no longer my friend, but it is a rare treat. And the yucky vegetable which immediately springs to mind is celery. Yuck!

~~~

Willow Croft: If you could be any animal (or plant) which would you “bee”, and why?

Miranda: I would like to be a koala because I think it would be lovely to spend all my time in a tree, eating leaves and sleeping.

Violet: If I could also wish away all human activity, I would be a Canada goose because I’d love to be able to fly, and fly great distances. They are mostly herbivorous so I wouldn’t have to eat anything yucky and I could see the world from a great height. The limit of how high Canada geese can fly is not known but they have been documented at 9km above the Earth!!! Amazing! I’ve no desire to ride in an aeroplane but I would love to be able fly myself.

~~~

Willow Croft: There seems to be a movement building around the practice(s) of urban (or wild) foraging at present. What you do think about this movement from an environmental and/or personal perspective? Which is more sustainable—a “backyard” or urban garden, foraging, or a combination of both practices?

Miranda: I think foraging is a fantastic idea, I would love it if we could find all our food that way. I don’t have a back garden, so I think it would be most sustainable if people with gardens foraged in their gardens, and everyone else foraged everywhere else. But there needs to be a lot of replanting of forests so that there will be enough for everyone.

Violet: I love this idea! One of my stories, The English Family Anderson, is about a family who live on a bus and do just that. It’s wish fulfilment for me because I’ve always fantasized about being able to live like that. Being self-sufficient. If we could all live closer to nature, follow the seasons and understand where our food comes from – be responsible for growing it and gathering it ourselves – it would feed our souls. I think both things – wild foraging and home growing – would be completely sustainable. The forest garden is the most productive use of land, as well as returning natural habitats to wildlife. I think we should turn all the agricultural land into food forests for everyone to share.

~~~

Willow Croft: Imagine the world ten years from now if we as humans don’t break our consumption-driven, environmentally destructive habits. What would the world look like?

Miranda: I think it would be not very nice, so I hope humans will break their destructive habits.

Violet: Have you seen the movie Idiocracy (2006)? With Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. That is the world we are fast approaching.

~~~

Willow: How do you see the world changing over the next ten years in regards to conservation and environmental awareness as driven by the latest generation(s) of kids/young people?

Miranda: I believe that if we tell children the truth they will do the right things to save the environment and conserve nature. Everyone deserves to know the whole truth, and once they do, they will know that being vegan will save the world, and so they will all go vegan, and the world will be saved. Hurrah!

Violet: Education is key. If children were told the truth at school, about meat, fish, eggs and dairy being unnecessary and hazardous to health; about animal agriculture and fishing being environmentally devastating; and about animal farming being the cause of human starvation and diseases like Covid-19, then I think they would lead the charge for an end to animal farming and a new beginning for the natural world. But sadly the governments who write the national curriculum are controlled by big businesses who make vast riches from these destructive practices so lessons aren’t going to improve any time soon. Thankfully, though, the internet has enabled more enlightened people to get this information out there, and the mainstream media picks it up and runs with it sometimes. So I think there is hope that a new generation of eyes-wide-open individuals might, through the power of their consumer choices, move the world to demand ethical, zero waste, organic vegan products, and abandon those which aren’t.

~~~

Willow Croft: And, lastly, what sort of environmentally friendly art supplies do you all use?

Miranda and Violet: Most of our art materials (pencils, watercolours, pastels and ink) have been found in secondhand/charity shops so we are re-using other people’s waste. But when we do need to buy anything new we usually get it from artdiscount.co.uk who have labelled qualifying products as vegan and have done a very helpful blog post (https://artdiscount.co.uk/blogs/artdiscount/vegan-vegetarian-and-eco-art-supplies) which explains what’s good and what’s bad for the discerning artist. There’s another helpful post, here: https://vegomm.com/vegan-art-craft-supplies/. And of course we only buy recycled sketch paper.

~~~

Visit Miranda Lemon and Violet Plum at https://violetsvegancomics.com/ where they have a wonderful selection of things for kids of all ages.

Five Things Friday with Author J.D. Graves

This week’s “Five Things Friday” interview victim is J.D. Graves, author, playwright, and editor of the EconoClash Review. (Careful not to contaminate the crime scene as you leave!)

Willow Croft: As a playwright, you’ve probably heard the term “the show must go on” more times than you can count, but in a wildly improbable scenario of your darkest imaginings, what could prevent a show from actually going up?

J.D. Graves: Actors need an audience and will do anything to make sure their needs are met. I’ve seen shows go on even after the power went out and the actors took it to the parking lot when they realized they didn’t have enough flashlights. I’ve produced shows where we met only once a week over four months. It was quite a rehearsal process that I would never attempt again…until the next time it is necessary. A terrorist attack seems to be the only thing that can stop a performance as it has happened before. In my darkest imaginings I would witness it happen in person and then the Russians would pump in the toxic gas and kill everyone including those patrons who couldn’t afford good seats. I’d be in the nose bleeds with them trying to keep my eye jelly from leaking onto my good shirt. If I survived the ordeal I’d need the shirt for work the next day.

Willow Croft: What’s the most bizarre situation you’ve found yourself in, in real life?

J.D. Graves: Do you like Hibachi? I love Hibachi it’s not just a meal it’s also a show that’s well paced and fulfilling at the end. Better than most dinner theatre I’ve suffered through. It’s simple and uncomplicated which is the opposite of my love-life over a decade ago before the blessing of children forced me to be a grown-up. Once took an ex-GF, her mom and family out to a Hibachi dinner. We were celebrating the exciting news that we were going to be parents despite officially ending our relationship (guess it was only on a hiatus for the end of summer) Stuff happens. We took up eight chairs in total. There were four seats at the grill left open. Everything was going great until a pair of couples took the empty chairs. And as luck would dictate It was my other exGF (the one I had just broken up with by telling her I’d tin-roof rusted the girl I’d broken up with in July before beginning our new relationship) her two parents and her new date. Did I tell you how much I love Hibachi? That night while ex ex GF watched the chef do spatula tricks and onion volcanoes current ex GF sat across from me. She made a big production of actively ignoring me and I tried to do the same without all the razzmatazz and pointed barbs. While she lavished attention on her new dude and his thinning hair and double chins (rebounds are what they are although I’m sure he treated her nice) things just kept getting weirder as dinner cooked in front of us. It’s tough to love someone who doesn’t love you. I was reaping what I sowed that night as far as interpersonal romantic entanglements go. My date knew the chef and they kept asking about each other’s friends and divulging personal anecdotes that made the simmering grill even hotter. Maybe they were dating too before one cold night in November, I made a phone call and the world that existed changed forever. It was a fitting metaphor for my life at that time. Chef asked my date why she hadn’t been over at such and such’s place and she blurted out “well…I got pregnant.” This caused the other exGF to laugry (cry a laugh) loud as she possibly could. She sat there for a moment and took one last look at me. It was brief, of course, but in that moment I felt the sting of the jealousy-rage-heartache trifecta. She bit her lip and turned to her date and said excuse me. She made no eye contact with anyone. New Dude said okay but didn’t cease chowing down on the cubes of grilled steak and egg fried rice and didn’t watch her leave, but I did. Shoulders curled, head down, feet propelling her out of the terrible situation. My date looked at me and asked, “Do you know her?” I shook my head and ordered a double cape-cod. Drank it and ordered another. After the second drink the exGF mother excused herself to check on her daughter. Neither returned for the duration of the meal. And everyone else took their time enjoying their dinner oblivious to the awkward tension. Meanwhile. I felt like the lobster cooking in my own shell. Never been more relieved to pay a check in all my life. I‘m married to a different lady altogether now. A wonderful woman who doesn’t put up with my crap. And we love Hibachi together. I have other bizarre stories but this one has food in it.

Willow Croft: Is there any place you’ve visited that would be the perfect setting for a noir/pulp tale? (Would it be Ohio? *laugh*)

J.D. Graves: Despite being a lifelong Browns backer I’ve never been to the buckeye state. I believe the best noir locations to be those that come across as squeaky clean. (Schools, churches, etc) this would make the impending doom of a noir story more compelling because it goes against expectations.

Willow Croft: What classic pulp-fiction-inspired dish would you most want to eat?

J.D. Graves: I’d like to try a Red Harvest. Continental Op on the side. And if I could get an extra helping of Cogan’s Trade that’d be great.

Willow Croft: You’re trying to solve a heinous crime. Quick, who would you pick to be your detecting sidekick (real or fictional)? Alternatively, who would be the dastardly adversary you’d like match wits with?

J.D. Graves: I’d pick my son because his eye for detail far exceeds my own. Our adversary would be the man I used to be in my mid-twenties he was shallow and self-destructive. And maybe John Wilkes Booth. What can I say? I have a special place in my heart for theatre people who make poor decisions.

Track down J.D. Graves in one of his internet hideaways:

https://www.econoclash.com/

https://twitter.com/JDGravesWriter

https://horrortree.com/the-horror-tree-presents-an-interview-with-j-d-graves-pushing-the-boundaries-with-econoclash/

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Elinor DeWire

Egmont Key Light
Egmont Key Light: https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/things-to-do/outdoors-nature/lighthouse-egmont-key-st-petersburg-fla.html

St. Augustine Light
St. Augustine Light https://www.staugustinelighthouse.org/

CIMG4589

I am absolutely thrilled about this week’s interview! I had the amazing opportunity to chat with Author (and Lighthouse Historian Extraordinaire!) Elinor DeWire!

Her book that I’ve had forever (I have the first paperback edition of Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers for you book nerds out there!) was luckily not among the books damaged/lost in a flood. And it was the first book of my maritime history collection, and which eventually led to me getting a Master’s degree in history. While I’ve moved into other academic areas of interest (very recently!), I still love lighthouses, and have used them as settings for a couple of my (unpublished) short stories. And I love to read about lighthouses in fiction, too! (https://willowcroft.blog/2020/12/16/journeys-in-the-round/)

Willow Croft: So, we’ll get this out of the way, straight off. What’s your favourite light you’ve visited and/or lighthouse/light station you’ve stayed over at? What was the best part of your experience?

Elinor DeWire: I usually tell people my favorite lighthouse is the most recent one I’ve visited. That would be Cape Frehel in Brittany, France. Beautiful place and architecturally fascinating tower. That said, I must confess I REALLY love Nauset Beach Lighthouse on Cape Cod. (https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/nauset-light-beach.htm) It was the first lighthouse where I did extensive research and even assisted–ever so little–the NPS with saving the Three Sisters lighthouses that preceded the red and white tower currently at Nauset Beach. I’m still hoping they will fabricate lanterns for the two capless Sisters. Nauset has a storied history and is pretty. I am a sucker for a pretty lighthouse!

Willow Croft: I always find a way to work in a mention of food, of course! Could you tell us about some common dishes and/or foodstuffs the lightkeeper and/or their family would eat while in residence?

Elinor DeWire: Keepers at remote or offshore light stations were given a standard supply of nonperishable staple foodstuff from the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment–dried beans, rice, sugar, flour, potatoes, turnips, molasses, salt, etc. I think a lot of fish was eaten, as it was handy nearby in the sea. Soups were served to stretch meat and have something hot on hand on cold days. The late Barbara Beebe gave me her mother’s rose hip jelly recipe, made from the beach roses growing at Old North Lighthouse on Block Island, RI. (https://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=40) Her family also ate blanc mange, made from seaweed. The late Connie Small gave me her apple pie recipe. There were apple trees on St. Croix Island where her husband was assigned in the 1930s. Of course, chowders were popular too, and coffee was always at the ready.

Willow Croft: As I gathered from your blog, you have a novel in the works. What has been the challenges (and benefits?) in conducting research in regards to the pandemic? Also, I understand that you’re on the board of directors for the United States Lighthouse Society. Were there any challenges with continuing work on lighthouse preservation, continued conservation of existing sites, and fundraising within the former political climate and with the pandemic shutdown and precautions? How have you tackled these challenges?

Elinor DeWire: I have written so many lighthouse books, I am growing a bit jaded with that…not that I have any less love for lighthouses; it’s just a bit of writer’s weariness and the fact that the lighthouse genre is saturated at the moment. I have three novels in print now, all set in late Regency and early Victorian England. I write under a pen name–J.J. Scott–as I feel “Elinor DeWire” should remain dedicated to lighthouses. My novels are heavy on history with a serving of romance and intrigue. My first one, Saving Lord M, was and remains quite popular, a romantic and even a bit supernatural story of William Lamb, Viscount Lord Melbourne, prime minister of England in the 1830s. I was inspired to write about him by the PBS series Victoria, which inaccurately portrayed him. The popularity of the novel surprised me, though I should have remembered that I won short fiction prizes years ago. I’m at work on a 4th novel at present, set in Cumbria, England in 1830. Fiction has recharged my researcher and scribe battery!

U.S. Lighthouse Society–I was brought onto the Board a few years ago to develop the society’s education initiative and bring kids and families into our fold. (Also, the board had been composed of all men for decades, so a woman’s touch was needed!) So far, my education efforts have been well received, and we’re bringing youth into the fold. We expect to offer a kids’ membership soon and do some events expressly for kids. The pandemic has been tough financially. Lighthouse tours are the backbone of USLHS’s income, and of course we haven’t been able to do any tours for over a year. I think the last one was in the southeast USA about 14 months ago. The society has been solvent in the last decade; we have been able to trudge through the pandemic. Tours will resume late summer 2021. The Board will have its first face-to-face meeting this late June in Florida. As for fundraising, we relied on our loyal membership to tide us through the previous administration’s lack of humanities funding (and lack of sanity, period!) and through the pandemic. We are solvent, and we are even in the process of awarding $30K in increments of $1000 to needy lighthouse groups hit hard by lack of tourism. We will slowly resume our normal ops this year.

Willow Croft: In your book, Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers, you include stories and photos about the keepers and their animal companions, and you have also included them in your The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses. What’s the most memorable companion story you remember from your research? Also, please tell us about your own animal menagerie!

Elinor DeWire: I grew up on a small farm in Maryland; thus, I LOVE animals. My two kids had every kind of pet imaginable as they grew up, though my one requirement was “legs.” No pets without legs! (I am not fond of snakes.) I wrote Lightkeepers’ Menagerie because I had SO MANY little anecdotes about animals in my research files. They seemed so important in lighthouse history. I suppose I am biased toward the stories of cats at lighthouses, as I love kitties and have had many in my lifetime, Currently, I have a tabby and a Maine Coon. In the book, there is a story about Jiggs the cat, who was born at Pigeon Point, moved with the Henderson family to Point Sur, and then died there. He was exhumed when the family moved to Point Pinos and reburied there. I included a picture of his little grave in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I think this is my favorite animal story because Jiggs reminds me so much of one of our cats, ignobly named Warhead by my husband, a retired Navy ordnance officer. The mention of Jiggs climbing a woman’s legs under the dinner table is priceless. Warhead did the same thing to an insurance salesman who weaseled his way into our house many years ago. Warhead somehow realized we didn’t care for this man and had no intention of buying insurance, so he did his best to make the man leave. Success!

Willow Croft: I’ve visited a few lighthouses in Florida and up into in Georgia, but I haven’t experienced anything paranormal or supernatural at the ones that I’ve visited. Not even during the St. Augustine nighttime tour that included a visit to the grounds of the St. Augustine Light. (I say I haven’t, even though I did see big, glowing blue “orbs” bouncing around the base of an old oak tree, because it doesn’t really feel like it counts.) Have you witnessed anything paranormal at any of the lights, lighthouses, or light stations you’ve visited? If you haven’t, do you have a favourite ghostly tale to share about a lighthouse you’ve researched?

Elinor DeWire: No ghosts have allowed me to meet them at lighthouses. I am not particularly receptive, though I think the ghost tales and supernatural stuff is fun to write about, and it definitely has an audience. I did several lighthouse ghost tv shows years ago. I wish there was more interest in the real history of lighthouses, but people DO like the scary stuff! Knowing all that I know about lighthouses, I can usually explain away ghosts and supernatural events at lighthouses. A couple of years ago I visited St. Simons Lighthouse in Georgia, famous for its stairway ghost and a dog named Jinx that responded negatively to the poltergeist. (https://www.coastalgeorgiahistory.org/visit/st-simons-lighthouse/) I climbed the stairs alone after hours and heard the clanking and creaking sounds attributed to the ghost. It was just the iron stairway cooling down from a hot summer day. Metal expands in heat and contracts when cool. Bang, screech, groan!!! My favorite lighthouse ghost is a little gray kitty that haunts the upstairs of the keepers’ house at Fairport Lighthouse in Ohio. (http://www.fairportharborlighthouse.org/)  It’s a long story. You’ll find it in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I interviewed the woman who lived in the upstairs apartment in the 1980s, a curator at the museum. She was truly convinced the feline ghost was real, especially after repairmen came to the quarters and found the mummified body of a small cat in a wall. Ooooooh! Who am I to say…

ElinorDeWire

Elinor DeWire Links

Find her on Facebook as “Elinor DeWire, Author” and here: https://www.facebook.com/J.J.Scottnovelist/
Find @ElinorDeWire on Twitter
Visit her Author Blog on Blogspot: http://elinordewire.blogspot.com/
Find her Author Website here: https://www.elinordewire.com/
View her lighthouse videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoDc9cP-B8oKTF05jg9t3Iw
Visit her “Lighthouse” Pinterest Boards: https://www.pinterest.com/fineshine/
Find her on Amazon here https://www.amazon.com/Elinor-DeWire/e/B000APJJ0M and here https://www.amazon.com/J-J-Scott/e/B07QQ36XBT
View her education page at U.S. Lighthouse Society (full of resources for teachers and kids): https://uslhs.org/education/educational-materials

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author Jnana Hodson!

It’s another “Five Things Friday” interview! This time I sat down to chat (well, if “chatting” involved exchanging emails) with author, journalist, and poet (and Quaker!) Jnana Hodson.

Willow Croft: Based on your blog(s) and author profile(s), you have both past and present ties to the “hippie” counter-culture, and the Quaker religion. How would you determine the place and/or the need for a like counter-culture and/or spirituality in today’s world? What societal trends would you identify that point to a need for such social, metaphysical, and character-based “sea change” in light of the recent/current events?

Jnana Hodson: Freeing ourselves mentally from advertising-driven consumerism would be a huge start. Just how much is enough for you to be happy and healthy? Or secure? Sometimes less really is more. Our unease is really a disease that sits atop fear.

The environmental crisis, especially, has been compounded by widespread denial. For one thing, it’s technically “climatic instability” rather than “global warming,” something the Texas deep-freeze demonstrates while exposing the real costs of high-level greed and hypocrisy. Closer to home, many of those monster pickup trucks we see are macho insecurity, no? A Prius or Tesla or bicycle becomes a defiant corrective act, as does an electric lawnmower rather than a conventional gas-powered cutter. Small steps can add up.

As my friend Steve Curwood contends, environmental actions are ethical, much more than economic. They can be lifestyle, too, as in choosing to live in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood or raise an organic garden.

Racism, another big issue, has its roots in a desire to get ahead – quite simply, ahead of everyone else. You see it in the compulsion to move in a better neighborhood– one with better schools. Or on to a better job, better clothes, a better car, whatever. And for many of us, racism includes an unacknowledged assumption of Northern European superiority. It’s even embodied in the myth of the self-made man, to the exclusion of all who contributed to his rise. Or should we call it his attempted escape? Racism undermines the shared commonwealth – meaningful community – we need.

Fear also underpins the growing and costly militarization of America. It’s accompanied by soaring gun ownership, which becomes a matter of faith for many who have no intention of hunting, along with rising domestic violence.

You mention my Quaker practice, which I came to as a young adult, not knowing it had been the faith of my Hodson ancestors from the beginning of the movement in 1600s’ Britain. The Society of Friends, as it’s more formally known, avoids dogma and creed and instead emphasizes personal experience of what we sometimes call the Inward Light of the Divine. For Friends, this applies to every facet of everyday life and is embodied in simplicity, equality, peace, non-violence, and a community of kindred spirits. Not that we don’t have our shortcomings, but it does come down to an alternative Christianity of a radical sort.

One thing that it’s taught me is that individually, we’re pretty powerless. But put us together, and it’s like those bundles of bamboo, as the illustration goes. Nothing, apparently, can break them.

Willow Croft: I always try to include a food-based question, so how has old food pathways (via recipes and traditional/borrowed culinary practices) influenced your own eating habits? Do you uphold specific culinary traditions or has it evolved based on your current geographical location (e.g. your moves from the yoga ashram to the Pacific Northwest to coastal New England)?

Jnana Hodson: Oh, what a delicious question! I’ll warn you, though, I’m married to one of the world’s great cooks and she’s greatly expanded my awareness.

[There’s been quite a] revolution that’s occurred in American taste. When I turned vegetarian back in 1970, broccoli was exotic, and nobody could understand the concept of giving up meat. When I was growing up in the ’50s, most of my food came out of cans – even spaghetti! Chinese? It was chop-suey. I even remember my first pizza. As my dad would say, it was EYE-talian. I was maybe six or seven, and the aroma of oregano was exotic – I still recall that, all these years after raising our own herbs.

So vegetarianism opened me to new flavors, especially once I moved to the yoga ashram and lentils and dried beans were added to the mix. There I soon developed a knack for making bread each week. One Monday, I produced about 120 loaves, with a lot of kneading provided by my fellow yogis. Oh, yes, we were lacto-vegetarian and raised our own eggs. There’s a vast difference between those and what you find in the supermarket.

Region has definitely impacted my eating habits. Living in the Pacific Northwest introduced me to Dungeness crab and salmon as well as wild asparagus, which grew along the irrigation canals. I glutted out every May, knowing there would be no more fresh spears for another year.

Around then I came upon the Confucian ideal of no food out of season or place, which essentially points to freshness. The secret of great cooking across traditions, by the way, is the matter of respecting the ingredients, and that’s where freshness is crucial, as is knowing the difference between butter and margarine or the oils we apply. As my wife repeats, fat carries flavor. Just make sure it’s not rancid.

Regional influences include picking our own fruit in local orchards and obtaining unpasteurized apple cider, in season, as well as local cheeses. At one point, I lived near several large Amish communities in Ohio, where Swiss cheese was produced. In New Hampshire, a small country store a town away produces its own delightful cheddars and is well worth a visit. For several summers, we subscribed to a local sustainable fisheries delivery. Each week, we’d pick up a pound of what the local fishermen were harvesting rather than the common commercial varieties. Monkfish, anyone?

Gardening has had a huge impact, from asparagus to strawberries and buttery lettuces and early peas on to the range of real tomatoes – not those things you buy at the grocery. One year, we had fourteen varieties, each one distinctive. From the beginning of August till the first hard frost, I pretty much live on mayo-and-tomato sandwiches. Forget the bacon.

Joining in our Quaker Meeting’s once-a-month participation in Dover’s soup kitchen has also been eye-opening. Nobody serves soup these days, and for our turn, we do a chicken, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw dinner, which seems to be very popular. Cooking for sixty or seventy is quite different than a home dinner, but we try. We’ll be happy when we’re back to table service rather than the Covid-induced takeout.

With the kids now gone, my wife and I are downsizing and moving on to a place where scallops and blueberries are major harvests. She’s already planning the garden, as well as autumn trips northward to Aroostook County for fresh potatoes, with skins that simply melt away in your mouth.

Willow Croft: As a former journalist, how do you feel about the state of journalism today, what with the digital news trends, the howls of “fake news” heard ‘round the world, and the role social media plays in the process of journalistic integrity (or lack thereof)?

Jnana Hodson: Former? Please make that “retired.” I might not be on the payroll these days, but it’s still in my blood – and my dreams, too, usually with frustrations of trying to make deadline or fit everything on a page or adjust to a new computer system. Besides, much of my blogging can be seen as small-scale journalism.

Widespread anonymity and the lack of face-to-face accountability in social media have so far eluded the legal redress of libel and slander laws. Often, avoiding basic civility, too. Reputations can be destroyed overnight, without penalties to the perpetrators. That has to change, and likely will with some big court cases.

On the other hand, the video on smartphones has lifted the cover on police brutality and other injustices. So we do have a mixed bag.

Journalism has been in a tailspin for some time, even before the Internet whammy. We’ve had a declining level of literacy – folks simply reading – on one side. In the newsroom we used to grumble about the “bean counters” who kept expecting more output at lower cost from fewer resources. One thing for certain – the watchdog function has been seriously wounded – with consequences that will prove costly to the public at all levels. Good reporting is hard work, and sharp editing is essential. It’s a fulltime job, not an amateur role, and often needs some strong backup when those in power seek retribution. 

For the right entrepreneur, there’s potential to create a revolutionary digital news vehicle, if enough subscribers can be convinced to pay what they now do for printed paper. It could be a hybrid of written and spoken, with no reliance on advertising. I have some thoughts, by the way, on how it might differ from the generic newspaper we too often encounter today. It could certainly give rise to some fresh ways of covering a community.

Willow Croft: As a poet myself, I am always intrigued about the sources of inspiration other poets draw upon to create their poetic works. With your own poetry, is the past and personal memories more of an influence, or is your current life experience(s) more of a muse?

Jnana Hodson: Very much the now, even when that has me looking back. It’s been a discipline for exploring what’s before me, often from quirky or playful perspectives, before I let go and move on.

The clearing of my mind through meditation has been a strong factor, allowing intuition to bubble up. Sometimes I’ll scribble a short note to myself during the silence of Quaker worship, something I’ll develop and explore later. Similar things happen while showering, walking, or even driving.

Much of my work was done as a reaction to the constraints of daily journalism – often on the fly, like graffiti I revised and distilled later.

Sometimes they stayed short, like a headline. Maybe I wasn’t getting as far away from the newspaper as I thought. Other times, though, they were thrown into a blender – there’s good reason I’ve been called a Mixmaster Supreme. 

What evolves is often something like a dream, which has one foot in the past and the other in the present, not that they’re always obvious.

Willow Croft: Some of your blog topics touch on economics. What sort of economic model, or revolution, is needed to help transform the dual worlds of employment and community (social structure)?

Jnana Hodson: The poets Donald Hall, Gary Snyder, and Wendell Berry are important influences here.

Hall sees work as an embodiment of passion or a meaningful engagement, even when it doesn’t reward you monetarily. Writing a poem is work, as we know. In contrast, a job is something you do to pay the bills, and chores are unpaid things you have to do as a matter of life.

Gary Snyder has what he calls the Real Work. He also titled an early collection Earth House Hold, noting the Greek meaning of “economy.” Shall we start with its environmental awareness?

And Berry looks closely at family life as well as agriculture and community.

As Hall says, we’re really blessed when our work and our jobs come together as one. Unfortunately, what I’m seeing is a widespread denigration of the work aspect of our daily employment, and many of the higher paid positions are way out of line with their greater value to society.

Public policy has put labor and its compensation under attack for the past fifty years. All of the productivity gains have gone into the pocket of the top five percent of the population – much of that going to the one percent. People who still have jobs have been working longer and harder for less than before. And the reality is that most of those touted “entry-level positions” are dead-end jobs with no upward mobility. I’m really miffed when the employers demand “reliable transportation” while offering minimum wage. It’s an unhealthy situation, leaving many people desperate. Wonder why Megabucks are so popular? Or illicit drugs?

Raising the minimum wage is a good step but hardly enough. Quite simply, drastic corrective income redistribution is necessary. Not that we’ve really been able to talk about that. Wages in general can’t go up as long as we’re competing with Third World labor – and that extends to those call centers overseas. Yet just think of the inhibiting, negative emotional whammy the label “socialist” invokes.

Meanwhile, high-tech is eliminating many employment fields – think of travel agents, local stockbrokers, professional photography and developers, or print shops, all already gone, along with the local video stores. I’m wondering how long most local retailers can hold out once we’re free of Covid.

When I look at young graduates entering the job market, I’m grateful I’ve made it to retirement. I have no idea what I’d do in their place or how they’re ever going to afford a place of their own.

Surprisingly, some right-wing economists are reluctantly coming around to admitting the necessity of a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. I would see that as including universal health care – as others have noted, pegging medical insurance to one’s employer greatly discourages entrepreneurs from stepping out on their own unless their spouse has independent coverage – and that becomes a damper on economic growth. The redistribution should also include higher education. Graduates today are saddled with impossible debt for skills their potential employers expect scot-free. And that’s before we get to non-competitor clauses.

I’m still believe in E.F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful,” which was actually happening until cargo-container shipping from China, abetted by “free trade” deals in Washington, wracked the American economy. Bernie Sanders, drawing on labor union economists, nailed that one.

Respecting all honest work is important. Covid showed us how essential trash collectors and nursing home staff are in the big picture. As a cub reporter, I learned that secretaries and janitors often know far more about an operation than the suit in the corner office does. That hasn’t changed. I’ve long come to see a good carpenter or plumber as an artist. ‘Nuff said?

One big shift I’ll encourage turns away from accumulating more possessions – most of us have too much stuff anyway – and toward services and activities instead. That is, quality of life over quantity. Individually donating to local causes and volunteering run along those lines. In short, we can use our time and our money to enhance the place we and our neighbors inhabit.

I’m anticipating that when the Covid restrictions are lifted, we’ll burst out into renewed social connections. It feels like ages since I’ve been to a poetry reading, a contra dance, or a pub sing. How ’bout you?

If you’re keen to hear more from Jnana Hodgson, please follow his Jnana’s Red Barn blog at https://jnanahodson.net/ or check out his book(s) on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Jnana-Hodson/e/B088BWJ35Y) or on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6916110.Jnana_Hodson).

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 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

The Incendiary Power of Change

I meant to post this before, but I was having so many issues with WordPress. My grown-up version of a temper tantrum felt incendiary enough to scorch the whole planet. *laugh*

As you all know, I already tried to change blog sites once, and that didn’t work out. 

I was even more frustrated in trying to deal with WordPress, because I’m in the middle of the move, and lots of other life changes. But today, I was suddenly back into the regular format, or pretty close to it. The only thing I did was go into a draft that I apparently made last time, and then open that. That may be the trick to have it like it was. Because hitting the “classic block” editor” didn’t work. Luckily, things like the feature to add tags was back, and wasn’t disappearing/reappearing. Even little things, like the ability to put in a strikethrough, was back.

Anyway, I wrote a couple of guest blogs that deal with the element of fire as the more productive way of dealing with change and upheaval, sans the temper tantrum!

Please go check them out, and thanks to Katzenworld and Mookychick for the opportunity to write for them!

“Fighting Fire with Fire” on Mookychick: https://www.mookychick.co.uk/health/witchcraft-spirituality/fighting-fire-with-fire.php

“The Cat that Walked into the Line of Fire” on Katzenworld: https://katzenworld.co.uk/2020/08/13/the-cat-that-walked-into-the-line-of-fire/