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areas of interest (very recently!), I still love lighthouses, and have used them as settings for a couple of my (unpublished) short stories.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/

 

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author G G Collins

Five Things Friday Interview with Mystery Author G G Collins!

Willow: Here in New Mexico, there’s a lot of spooky local lore. What local mysteries intrigue you and/or keep you up at night?  

 G G Collins: The whole city and environs seem to be occupied by spirits and there are multiple ghost tours to enjoy. The nastiest haunting may be the most recent. The worst prison riot in U.S. history took place south of Santa Fe at the Penitentiary of New Mexico (February 1980). For two days the killing and horrors continued. Thirty-three inmates were killed and 200 were injured. It is now an abandoned site used mainly for storing movie props and filming scenes. But in 1981 reports of strange noises and shadowy specters began. Corrections officers saw human-shaped shadows and heard cell doors banging. Once the prison was vacant, paranormal investigators continued to hear doors slamming long after electricity was shut off. It’s not easy to close them manually, but yet, that’s what they heard. Cell Blocks 3 and 4 are particularly haunted. So much so, the Travel Channel’s “Dead Files” featured it in a 2012 show.  

On a slightly lighter side is the story of Julia Staab who haunts La Posada de Santa Fe (https://www.laposadadesantafe.com/). Originally the Staab home, it is currently a six-acre hotel with casitas. When Julia lost her seventh child and several other attempts at having a child failed, she took to her room where her hair turned white. At age 52 she died. Guests and staff have seen her [ghost] in the main house. A few checked out early!  

For more on the many ghost stories of Santa Fe check out my blog post: https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/ghost-stories-in-santa-fe-new-mexico/

Willow: New Mexico is, of course, inextricably linked to Roswell (technically, Corona) and the 1947 UFO crash. So, in light of that history, are you a “I-want-to-believe” Mulder, or a “that-is-science-fiction” Scully in regards to UFO phenomenon?  

G G Collins: At one time I owned the “I Want to Believe” poster. As an avid viewer of “The X-Files,” I was fascinated by the many possibilities. Roswell and Area 51 are rich stuff for us storytellers. “The Blue Book” TV series was another favorite. But I started young watching “Twilight Zone” reruns.  

In the documentary movie entitled The Farthest, which I highly recommend, we see the tiny blue dot that is Earth in the photo Carl Sagan insisted they take. It emphasizes in a big way how immense the universe is. I can’t make a flat-footed statement to the effect no one exists but us. And since I’ve been known to include an alien or two in my Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery series, I’ll just have to go with Mulder on this one. After all, the truth is out there.

For my review of The Farthesthttps://paralleluniverseatlarge.wordpress.com/2017/08/27/review-the-farthest/

Willow: If a time warp opened, as you mentioned occurs in your Atomic Medium book, and you went through it, where (and when) would you hope to end up, and why?

G G Collins: It would have to be Lemuria, which I wrote about in Lemurian Medium. In my research, I learned due to modern knowledge of plate tectonics it likely didn’t exist. But to even imagine a time when people lived in peace while occupying crystal houses is irresistible to me. Certainly, I would be a regular at the Temple of Knowledge studying my Akashic Record. It was a time before water had to have chemicals added to make it potable and you could taste food in its original form. Communication wasn’t by cell, but by crystal. Of course, in my story Rachel Blackstone flew on a dragon and I would definitely want to do that.  And, on her return trip to Earth, Rachel Blackstone stumbled onto a cosmic cocktail party where all kinds of interesting alien life were sharing stories. Among them were Carl Sagan and Benjamin Franklin who both believed that alien life could exist. Now that’s a party on the astral plane I would go to!  

Willow: In similarity to Taylor Browning, the protagonist of your cozy mystery series, what pet “runs the tight ship” of your household/life?

G G Collins: Oscar, the cat in the Taylor Browning Cozy Mysteries, is based on one of our cats in spirit. My deceased pets frequently turn up in my books. Oscar was indeed an Abyssinian. They are very loving, but oh so active! He had a way of communicating that was so clear—if we were listening. And that cat could swear! Only in “Cat” of course. Currently, we have Coco Pod, Coco being the Spanish word for coconut. She is very well-mannered, but expectations are such that we have been thoroughly trained to care for her every need and whim. It’s just gossip, but we’ve heard she makes trips to the Mothership to sharpen her communication skills with hoomanz.

Willow: And, finally (because you know, New Mexico!), red, green, Christmas chile or *gasp* none at all?  

G G Collins: Indeed, the Land of Enchantment has azure skies, adobe architecture and chile! Green, red or Christmas, as long there are several heaping ladles of the heavenly stuff on whatever (almost) I’m eating. My husband says I can eat flame.   

G G Collins’ Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery series features journalist Rachel who flubs a Hopi ritual to return the dead. Instead of her father, an evil spirit appeared. Worse? Rachel seems to have abilities she’s never experienced before. She and best friend Chloe work together to solve whatever supernatural challenges come at them, although Rachel remains the Reluctant Medium.

Also by G G Collins, the Taylor Browning Cozy Mysteries follows a mystery editor at a Santa Fe book publisher. A young widow whose job editing mysteries leads to snooping. Her coworkers at Piñon Publishing wish she’d just stay in the office, but alas, investigating crime is too tempting. One thing is certain; she can’t edit her way out of real murder.  

G G Collins has also published two young adult fiction books: Flying Change–a story about courage and a young equestrian. and Without Notice–a story of a young girl who is grappling with the death of her mother and her father’s new girlfriend.  

 Find G G Collins’ books at: https://amzn.to/3iZ92dp

Read more at G G Collins‘ book blog, here: https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/ and check out Collins’ review blog: https://paralleluniverseatlarge.wordpress.com/

Follow on G G Collins on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GGCollinsWriter

Reading Binge and Other Favourite Things…

Well, things are still shut down here in some ways. Mainly because my life has been in shutdown mode since circumstances dictated I had to move to the land of no internet and no cell phone service, otherwise known as the state of New Mexico. *laughs*

But I’m still keeping up with the (now exclusively out-of-state) job search and still writing and pitching as much as I can in the meantime.

And, of course, I’ve been participating in the reading binge a lot of us literary-loving souls have been indulging in since the shutdown started!

In addition to tackling my book to-read pile, I’ve jumped into my magazine/journal to-read stack: Witches & Pagans, Renaissance Magazine, Smithsonian, Preservation Magazine, Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, Stonecoast Review, Fireside Quarterly, Celtic Life International, Sirens Call, Apex Magazine, and even Reader’s Digest, as well as many more, both online and in print. (Gone are the days, it seems, when I read the magazine as fast as it arrived in my mailbox.)

Some of these I’ve had subscriptions for a while now, and just never had time with working the day job and trying to launch, and foster, a writing career to finish reading them. Some I got for sample copies to preview.

Some are both, which I carry on a subscription for because I not only want to support magazines and journals, but for which I’ve also become a dedicated fan of.

Among my new favourites are the Ellery Queen/Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. The stories are so good! And perfect for pandemic reading!

On that note, then, I’m considering doing a “Favourite Things” feature on my blog here for a little while. I mean, there’s so many great bloggers out there doing interviews and feature pieces on authors already, and I wanted to do something a little different (which, yes, has probably been done before too LOL).

So, if you’re a writer/blogger, reach out to me and I’ll add you to one of the features that I plan to post on Fridays. With each feature I’ll have a new “Favourite Things” question, and I’ll post up answers, and links to your blog and such. It’ll go until I run out of questions to ask!

My New Writer’s Website On Weebly… (and a sort-of farewell tribute to WordPress)

You can find my new author page on Weebly here: https://www.willowcroft.org.

I haven’t been on Weebly yet long enough to uncover all its glitches and problems, but I’m sure they’ll crop up sooner or later. Right now, I LOVE it! It’s so simple and easy and hassle-free that I’m rolling in clover (I had to sneak in a little nod to St. Patty’s day, since the shutdown prevented any green-beer celebrating on that day.)

So, fellow WordPress bloggers, I’ll be on reading, still, and posting blogs/reviews (I hope!) for Katzenworld and Madness Heart Press; and hopefully commenting a lot more on your blogs now that I’m not mired in WordPress glitchy glitches. I’ll have to rebuild my follower list over there, and I haven’t tested yet if my website pops up as high-ranked (?)/immediately on browser searches as it did with WordPress.

But, oh, WordPress, how I’ll miss when you tell me I’m not following a blog when I am. You especially love to target bloggers that I’ve followed/have been following me for a while (waves at Pacific Paratrooper/GP Cox–yes, I still remember that!), and then suddenly, inextricably, mysteriously (I could go on forever, but I won’t.) unfollow them. Without rhyme or reason.

Or when I was just on the Blessings By Me blog yesterday (check out the hand sanitizer holders in her shop: https://www.shop.blessingsbyme.com/product/hand-sanitizer-holder/ )and the “Accept Cookies” bar was drifting up and down the screen, no matter how many times I accepted it. I guess WordPress didn’t want me to have any cookies with my dairy-free milk, or, better yet, make some awesome things on a budget while the nation closes down.

Another favorite thing I loved about was to tell me I wasn’t logged in when I was, while the nation closes down.which made it especially fun when I was trying to like a fellow blogger’s post. I loved having to reboot the page several times before it accepted that I was logged in, which WordPress told me I was logged in only when I went back to my profile page, or even when I went to post a blog post of my own.

Again, I could go on, but I won’t. I’m sure you’d rather be offline reading a book or paying attention to your long-neglected Netflix queue or doing puzzles (https://mutts.com/search-results/?fwp_global_search=puzzles) or working from home or taking your dog (but not your cat!) for a nice long walk through some welcoming nature spot.

In any case, stay safe and healthy and weather the isolation with aplomb or indulgently wonderful mopey misery, whichever you prefer, and I’ll start posting more on my new website soon!

And, if you’re feeling lonely, you can’t get Coronavirus from a cat or a dog or another cute animal waiting in a shelter for a forever home! You can browse adoptable animals in your region on Petfinder.com. Remember, adopt, don’t shop! And you can get all your pet supplies online at Chewy.com.

 

(None of these links are…what is it? affiliate links?…just stuff I like or happened to come across the past few days–Willow)

 

 

 

 

Well, That Didn’t Take Long…

 

I thought it would take a lot longer. Although, it’s been a move that I’ve been talking about for…how long, fellow bloggers? A year, or more…

It was SO easy to set up with Weebly (the web builder I went with)! A third of the time I spent messing around with WordPress (and their not-very-polite “Happiness Engineers” or so they used to be called.

Still, I’m a little sad to be leaving behind my WordPress blog, since I’ve had it through different incarnations over the years (since…2013?). I’ll still have it as a free blog when my paid plan expires, so that I can guest post and things like that, but…

You know, the older I get, the harder time I have with change. I used to live for it; now it’s just very confusing. Like those lines from that Ferlinghetti poem in A Coney Island of the Mind.

The plan was a little more pricey at Weebly, and I had to get a new domain because the “.blog” wouldn’t transfer over, but I’m happy with the new “.org” actually. And I fell in love with the free template from first glance!

It took like minutes, seriously, to set the whole website up. It’s taking longer to write this post, so I am very happy. Time is so limited in my world these days that anything that makes my life easier is fantastic!

So, here’s the new website: https://willowcroft.org.

I hope things continue to go well with my new professional partnership with Weebly!

 

 

Rejections, Acceptances, and Other Things I’m Grateful For

 

 

The hardest thing about being a writer is not all the short story rejections, the pitch rejections, and even the agent rejections–I actually don’t mind all of that, because it’s all part of the writerly process.

It’s discovering all these amazing books to read (via the short story submission opportunities), and not enough money to purchase them!

(And I hate not having enough time to write, but this is supposed to be a kvetch-free blog post!)

So, thanks to all the people and publishing companies that are out there, providing plenty of opportunities for writers to write and submit, and even those who share submission opportunities via databases and email newsletters/online postings, like The Horror Tree and the Submission Grinder. And thanks for dedicating the time to read/review all the submissions, and for taking the time to write said rejection letters out of what must be a very busy schedule.

And, so, I also want to thank those who accepted/are accepting my stories and articles over the past several years (in no particular order): Renaissance Magazine, Catster, the Rio Grande Sun, Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine, Mad Scientist Journal, Speculative 66, Mt. Misery Press, David Higgins, Z Publishing House, Fantasia Divinity Magazine, EconoClash Review, Forty-Two Books, and Excalibur Books. I would also like to extend the thank-yous to the blogs where I guest blog at:Katzenworld blog, The Green Stars Project, and Madness Heart Press. (Also check out blogs I follow, which have supported me for…years, now!)

I’ve added all their links, above, so feel free to explore!

Apologies if I’ve overlooked anyone, and please post up in the comments or send me an email if I need to add you. I’m cramming in a week’s worth of work in the mornings before the day job, and any oversight was not intentional.

So, publishers, writers, fellow bloggers and blog readers, and everyone else in the writing community, I hope you’re having a wonderful Friday!

Keep the words, and the books, journals, and zines coming!