My Big Announcement; Stuck In An Elevator

A few weeks ago, I was driving somewhere and thinking about things, as one does, and I thought to myself, ‘I would love to start my own online literary magazine.’ And even though it seemed like something far-off and maybe not possible, I currently work/volunteer as a submissions reader for another online lit mag, and I had some knowledge of how it was set up. But it had always been a dream of mine to have my own publication, and I kept thinking and thinking about how cool it would be, and by the time I got home, I had pretty much fleshed it out enough that I could explain it to Ken, complete with the name. And then, I was talking to a friend who does website development, and she said she could help me set things up, including not just the website but all the social media (you can see her on the masthead). So now (drumroll please), I am super-excited to announce the launch of DarkWinter Lit, an online literary magazine for short stories and poetry. And we’re currently open for submissions (no fee). I know a lot of my followers and fellow bloggers are writers, and I’d be thrilled if any of you wanted to honour DarkWinter Lit with your submissions. In fact, I already have two pieces of flash fiction from a terrific writer friend of mine, Cecilia Kennedy of Fixing Leaks And Leeks—she graciously offered the two stories to me so that there would be something awesome to read when the site went live. And she fits our mission statement perfectly, which is this: “We want your weird, your traditional with a twist, your humour, your dark thoughts, or your elation. We’re open to anything—just make it interesting. Make us think.”

I won’t be publishing full-length books or chapbooks, or anything in hard copy—it’s strictly online, and you can find it, and the submission guidelines, here at darkwinterlit.com

And why ‘DarkWinter’? Because it’s a combination of the last two names of my characters in The Seventh Devil and the sequel The Devil You Know, as well as the name of their ghostbusting, demon-exorcising business. But more importantly, DarkWinter Lit is a beautiful dream of a cold, dark night, illuminated by hope and wonder.

Aside from that momentous announcement, I was also trapped in an elevator this week—well, at least for a brief moment. You see, Kate has started to work at the antique market with me, and on Wednesday, one of the vendors came to her and said, “I need my bins brought down from the third floor to the second.” So off Kate went, with me hot on her heels:

Me: You don’t know how to run the elevator—you haven’t been trained!
Kate: It’s an elevator, Mom. I think I can figure it out.
Me: It’s not an ordinary elevator. Let me show you. This is my wisdom!

So we went back to the freight elevator and she got the gate up, then we went inside.

Me: See? First you need to put the gate down. And now we push this button and hold it until it gets almost to the third floor and you hear a ‘click’. When you hear the click, you let go of the button. Don’t get close to the edge!!
Kate: Mom, calm down. I’m not stupid.

We got to the third floor. She opened the gate and we loaded the vendor’s bins. Then she closed the gate. I could hear voices below on the second floor—it was our second-floor staff member Vivian. “We’re on our way down!” I shouted. I pressed the elevator button to go down and…nothing happened. I pressed it again and still nothing. “Vivian!!” I yelled down the elevator shaft. “We’re stuck in the elevator!”

Kate: Sigh.
Me: Oh my god! What should we do?
Kate (lifts up gate and gestures): We should get out.
Me: OK. Thank you for saving our lives.

Apparently the gate wasn’t quite on the track and once we got out and Kate pulled the gate down from the outside, it went to the second floor quite easily without us in it, and Kate stayed upstairs to help the vendor while I fled to the safety of the main floor. Then later, Vivian came by the till on the first floor:

Vivian: Did they get your daughter out of the elevator yet? I hear she’s still stuck in there.
Me: What??!! Oh my god!
Vivian: Haha. Just kidding—she’s fine.

Moral of the story: I hate elevators and my daughter is a hero.

Also, our power has been off for 24 hours and I’m posting this from my phone before the battery di…

Interview With Bad Juju, I Have A Clean Face

This past April, I joined my friend Jude Matulich-Hall, author of The Eversteam Chronicles, as a guest on the first episode of her new video podcast called “Bad Juju & J Bone Presents…” I was her first guest last year on the original iteration of the show, called Titles, Talk, & Tipples, and you may remember that we had a lot of fun, thanks to the tippling, although we did talk about books. This time, the show has expanded quite a bit—here’s the synopsis:

“In this episode you’re going to see some incredible photography by Suzanne’s daughter Katelyn Whytock, hear some poetry and excerpts from Suzanne’s written works, and get a peek into her new books coming out in an interview I recently had with her. Storytime isn’t just for kids! You’ll also get some adult storytime with Bad JuJu as she reads Suzanne’s short story “What’s My Name?” from Feasting Upon The Bones (Potters Grove Press), see a vintage film by Georges Méliès, another short film with Bad JuJu & J Bone, and some creepy, kooky fun interspersed throughout.”

Just like last time, it WAS a lot of fun, especially seeing Jude as her alter-ego Bad Juju reading my story accompanied by Gnossienne 1 by Erik Satie, a piece of piano music I’m completely obsessed with right now. So if you have some time, watch it and give it a like and/or subscribe—I know she’ll appreciate that as much as I appreciate her promoting my work. Here’s the link–I didn’t embed it so that she’ll get the views on her channel:

https://youtu.be/Ykswsj6m3Pk

As I’m writing this, sweet little Ilana is lying on the chair next to me, basking in the sunshine. Sadly, sweet little Atlas is in the kitchen behind a baby gate because he still doesn’t know what to do with her. We’ve been keeping them separated, giving Ilana the run of the upstairs, but the other day, she was sitting in our bedroom window enjoying the spring air when Atlas suddenly appeared (somehow the gate downstairs got moved). He rushed in and before I could do anything, he tried to jump up and sniff her, causing her to freak out. By the time I had yelled to distract him, she’d managed to rip a large hole in the window screen in her desperation to escape, but was able to retreat to her own end of the house before he realized she was gone. It was time for a conversation:

Me: Look what you’ve done!
Atlas: Not me.
Me: Well, if you hadn’t charged at her, it wouldn’t have happened. Leave her alone!
Atlas: But is squirrel. I chase squirrel.
Me: She’s not a squirrel. Squirrels are black.
Atlas: Is black.
Me: She’s black and white. She doesn’t look anything like a squirrel. Stop chasing her.
Atlas: I love her.
Me: You have a weird way of showing it.

And speaking of weird ways to show admiration, the other day one of our more “quirky” customers was standing at the counter. Suddenly, he looked over at me, where I was helping a woman decide on a ring, and yelled across the store, “Hey! You have a clean face!” I kind of muttered “Thank you,” and he followed up with, “Are you married?!” at which point, my young boss told him very sternly to stop harassing the staff. Clean face? I guess that criteria is as good as any other…

My Van Blog

For about the last six weeks, I’ve been noticing a strange phenomenon in my comments folder—well, my SPAM comments folder anyway. Apparently, and without me having done anything to deserve it, I’ve become the darling of the van world. That’s right—vans. People with vans ADORE me, if the comments I keep stumbling upon are any indication. For example, ‘Benz Camper Van’ is amazed by me. “Free Bird Camper Van’ feels that I made some really good points. “Cargo Van Conversion’ has bookmarked my site, and 2021 Mercedes Benz 200 High Roof V6 4WD Cargo Van’ called my post “Spilling The Beans”, where I discuss my hatred for coffee, an outstanding share. And there are, quite literally, hundreds of similar comments, all from avid readers who live in vans. Some of them are so excited by my posts that they’re buying breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each other in gratitude for having shared my writing. ‘Camper Van Graphics Ideas’ told me I was cool, and although I already kind of figured I was, it’s still nice to have it verified by an objective third party. Many of my new fans love my colours and theme, and despite the web browser compatibility issues and duplicate comments that some of my fans are reporting, it seems that everyone is thrilled by my posts, regardless of the topic. Well, everyone except for ‘Sprinter Camper Vans’ who was disappointed by my blog and called me an attention-seeking whiner. I tried not to take that to heart, especially in the face of such overwhelming adulation from the rest of the van crowd.

This picture is blurry but if you click on it, you can read it.

But I’ve been dying to know what prompted the outpouring of goodwill from van aficionados. I haven’t actually owned a real van, just one of those mini-vans that we bought when Kate was little, and here is the only evidence, albeit minor, of my van ownership, and it took me half an hour of searching through old photo albums to find it.

My sole experience with a camper van was travelling somewhere, and I can’t even recall where, with a childhood friend and her family. The van they had was the type with those large floor to ceiling windows, but for some reason, the trip to wherever we were going and then back home again seemed to happen in the middle of the night, because I don’t remember any scenery at all. In fact, the only thing I remember is that they kept playing the same weird song over and over again. It was called “The Snakes Crawl At Night”. As a child, I assumed the song was actually about snakes crawling around at night, since the only lyrics that I remember to this day are “The snakes crawl at night/That’s what they say/When the sun goes down” and at the time it seemed like the creepiest thing in the world. But then, like, right before I typed this sentence, I googled the song, and it’s by Charlie Pride, and the song is about a man whose wife is cheating on him and then he SHOOTS HER BOYFRIEND AND GETS THE DEATH PENALTY. And I have to seriously wonder what kind of people think EITHER version is okay to play on repeat in a camper van full of children. None of my new fans, I’ll bet.

At any rate, I’m going to bask in the glow of my new-found camper van fame. Maybe if I play my cards right, I’ll win some kind of award, like the What Van? Award and join the ranks of other premiere bloggers like Fiat Ducato, who I assume is a famous Italian writer.

In other news, I have something super-exciting on the horizon, which I can’t tell you about yet, but suffice it to say that I’ll have a big announcement before the end of the month. No, I’m not expecting, as an elderly woman asked me a couple of weeks ago at work, simply because I was wearing a flowy top, to which I replied, “Well, I’m 56 and have no uterus, so that would be a minor miracle.” No, this thing even better than having someone flatter me by assuming I’m young enough to still bear children. Or a close second, anyway. I’ll keep you posted.

And finally, Happy Mother’s Day to the moms, step-moms, foster moms, sisters, aunts, and mentors out there. You all deserve to be spoiled on this special day!

That’s Not My Name

The other day, I was standing at the counter at work with my colleague, the Wiccan healer. She had just returned from a two-week absence due to covid, and was quite anxious to know if my recent mammogram had, indeed, revealed the issues that she had predicted. They didn’t, as you’re aware if you read my last post, and she was bummed out over the whole thing, but brightened up when I told her I was pretty sure that there was an old cast iron fireplace in a back corner booth with a nasty aura. She was just about to go cleanse it and perform a smudging ceremony (no, she’s not Indigenous and actually uses an aerosol “smudging” spray that she gets from a Chinese importer), when the anti-masker/anti-vaxxer/Flat Earther who works on the third floor walked by the counter. And as he walked by, he looked at us, made a flappy gesture with his hand, and said this: YO YO BITCHES!

Now, I’ve been called many things in the workplace. For years when I was teaching, I was Mrs. Craig-Whytock. Then when I went to the secret agency, I was Suzanne, or Boss on occasion. I’ve been called Sweetheart, Hon, or Honey by those I know better than others, and currently, one of my employers tends to forget my name and calls me Susan. There was also the time that a student got really mad at me for kicking him out of summer school for being stoned and called me a f*cking *sshole. But never, I mean NOT ONCE, has a person I’ve worked with ever called me a b*tch (at least to my face). I stood there speechless, while the Wiccan laughed.

Me: Did he just call us “bitches”?
Wiccan: Yeah, haha. What a guy.
Me: I have no words.

Then, about an hour later, the same guy walked by us again, and this time, he mimed tipping his hat, and said, “M’Ladies” and I’ve never been so confused in my life, but I guess that’s par for the course when you work at a minimum wage job in customer service? And now I have to come up with a clever comeback that works for all occasions. I’m thinking about screaming, “Yass Queen, come through!!!” at him unless any of you have a better suggestion.

In other news, now that Kate’s cat Ilana is officially adopted into our household, I can finally share pictures of her with you. She’s two years old but tiny as a kitten, and absolutely adorable. She’s very affectionate and super-purr-y, especially if you give her treats, which I do all the time, and which she’s grown to expect, so now every time I go in Kate’s room, she comes running to ‘Nana’ and tries to climb up my leg to get a Frisky. Atlas doesn’t quite know what to make of her—his only experience of animals as small as Ilana is squirrels in the backyard, which he chases with gusto. Luckily, the squirrels can escape to the trees and Ilana has her cat tower. We currently have the house divided up with baby gates—hopefully, they’ll get used to each other soon.