One Thing After Another

A couple of weeks ago, my parents emailed me with a picture of a big old pine wardrobe that someone in their condo building was giving away. I showed Ken the picture and he thought about it for a minute, then said, “You know that built-in cupboard in the upstairs hallway, the one made out of plywood that we keep sheets and pillowcases in?”

Me: It’s not plywood. It’s just not the best wood, but it’s not horrible.
Ken: I’ve always hated it. What if I rip out the built-in and we replace it with that wardrobe?
Me: It’s built right into the ceiling. You’d have to replace the drywall and then patch and paint behind it.
Ken: Cool!

We picked up the wardrobe from the very elderly parents of the guy who lived in my parents’ building. They were literally adorable, both in their 90s. He insisted on helping Ken and his son carry the wardrobe out to our trailer, while she insisted on showing me their house, including the rugs that she’d hand-knotted herself. We promised to send pictures of the wardrobe in place once we’d completed the project. And so the process began, as most home renovations do, in the ‘one thing leads to another’ school of fix-it projects.

1) Rip out the old linen closet. Discover a very cool hollow space at the base that would be perfect for hiding valuables, or love letters, or human remains, or old clocks. Discover that there is NOTHING in there. Wander the house in existential disappointment for 10 minutes.

2) Find some drywall for the ceiling. The old linen cupboard pre-dated the upgrade to the hallway, and the previous owners had simply drywalled AROUND it, which left quite a gap. Go to the store to buy drywall compound. Purchase Pokémon toys, shampoo, and chocolate in addition to drywall compound because I’m AT THE STORE, KEN.

3) Put up the drywall. Tape it and patch it, as well as all the holes in the wall where the nine-inch nails were holding everything in place. Not Nine Inch Nails the band, because that would have been super cool. But no—just stupidly long nails that ripped out pieces of lathe and plaster when Ken crowbarred the cupboard out.

4) Continue to apply drywall compound, because Ken is a fanatic.

5) Let the drywall compound dry. Search the house for the one can of paint that might match the rest of the walls in the hallway. Find three different cans, none of which match. Determine that now the ENTIRE hallway will have to be repainted.

6) Sand the drywall compound that coats the walls like a powdery white lover until you’ve almost scrubbed into the next room so that the walls that will be hidden behind the new wardrobe will be supersmooth. Spend half an hour vacuuming up all the dust.

7) Contemplate the waste of opportunity around having a very large space that would have been perfect for gold bullion, a severed hand, or even a rat skeleton, but which has been squandered. Realize that reality is never as good as your imagination and that you may be obsessing just a tad.

8) Mix two colours of paint together to get an approximate match. Decide that it’s not approximate enough to avoid having to repaint the ENTIRE hallway.

9) Curse the wardrobe. Curse it long and curse it deep. Rip a small piece of painted wallpaper off to get a match at the paint store. Meet a girl who is a WHIZ at paint mixing and who makes you paint that is indistinguishable from the rest of the hallway.

10) Realize that, if nothing else, the whole experience has provided you with a writing topic in a week in which not much happened.

In other news, there are less than 3 weeks until At The End Of It All, my new short story collection, drops. I’m super-excited. I don’t know how these things work, but if you want to host me on a blog tour once it’s out, I’ll repay the favour by promoting you and your own work, or posting a review, or whatever you like. I’ll even come to your house and look for ghosts, or name a character in my next book after you. I’m easy. And if you want to grab At The End Of It All as soon as it’s released, you can go to the Potter’s Grove website, or pick it up on Amazon.

Here’s A Tip

Recently, I started tutoring to earn a little extra money, now that I’m no longer working at the antique market. I still have a lot of teaching resources, including children’s books, in one of the guest bedroom closets, so I went through the stack of books the other night, looking for something that might interest one of my new students, a child in grade 2. I found a couple of cool I Spy books and some other fun reads, and then I found a book called Dinosaur Bob And His Adventures With The Family Lazardo. I couldn’t remember ever buying it or even reading it to Kate when she was little, and I started flipping through it. Here’s the gist of the story: An American family named Lazardo goes on safari and finds a dinosaur which they bring back to the States and it causes a lot of issues but in the end, (spoiler alert), the dinosaur helps their town baseball team win a big game. And that explanation is only slightly longer than the title of the book. But that’s not the weird part. The fact that they go on an AFRICAN SAFARI with their small children and find a dinosaur isn’t even the weird part. No, the thing that absolutely confounds me is this. On the cover of this book, which was written in 1988 by the way, and on almost every page, there is a man wearing a regimental uniform and a turban. He is briefly described on the first page, when the family initially encounters the dinosaur thusly: “Jumbu, their bodyguard, said nothing.”

Okay, first, why the hell does this family need a bodyguard?! And why is he some kind of Sikh warrior? But then things get even weirder because based on the illustrations, it turns out that he’s not really their bodyguard—he’s actually their MANSERVANT, and on the second page, the Lazardos are lounging on the dinosaur’s back in their swimsuits while Jumbu is in some kind of ceremonial beachwear and he’s SERVING THEM ALL DRINKS. This book was published by Scholastic and can you imagine the pitch meeting?

Author: So there’s this white family and they find a dinosaur…
Scholastic: Like, dinosaur bones?
Author: No. A real dinosaur. And they bring it back to the United States to play baseball for their hometown team.
Scholastic: Interesting. Are there any quirky unexpected characters?
Author: Well, they have an East Indian manservant–
Scholastic: Manservant? That might be perceived as racist. This IS 1988 after all. Better call him a bodyguard.
Author: Oh, okay.

Throughout the entire book, no one talks to him, no one mentions him, even though he’s on almost every single page serving drinks to the family, playing catch with the kids and whatnot, and no one even thinks to ask “Hey Jumbu, you’re a bodyguard, right? Do you think it’s safe to bring a dinosaur back to the Unites States to play baseball?” Because I’m sure all the chaos could have been avoided by letting Jumbu do his damn job. The only time we hear about Jumbu again is on the last page where the family is celebrating the big baseball game win and “Jumbu brought out the musical instruments” so the family could sing and dance. But then it felt like there was some ominous foreshadowing because right at the very end, “Jumbu smiled.” I’ll bet he did. And the sequel to this book is called, Jumbu Gets Even.

The other thing that completely befuddled me the other day happened when I went into the cannabis store. That’s it. That’s the story. No, I’m kidding. I went into the cannabis store, because I live in Canada and we like weed so much that we have government-licensed and regulated places where you can legally purchase it. I don’t smoke it or anything—I use CBD gel caps to help with my shoulder pain. I ran out of pills, and walked into the cannabis store to buy some more. On the counter at the till, there were two jars. These jars are TIP JARS. Every month, this store and others like it, have a question that prompts you to leave money in one of the jars. Last month, the question was “Is the Earth flat?” and terrifyingly, there was almost as much money in the YES jar as in the NO jar. Like, how stoned ARE you if you think that gravity, physics, and every explorer who circumnavigated the globe are just LYING TO YOU? But this month the question was “What TV show was better?” and the choices were Friends or Seinfeld. However. The questions are NOT the point. The point is, Why is the staff in a government licensed and regulated business asking for tips? First, they get paid $15.50 an hour at the very least because that’s the minimum wage. Second, it’s not like they cooked me food or brought me a drink—like, all the woman in the store literally did was open the locked cabinet that I pointed at and hand me a bottle of pills. And she wants a TIP for that? But I guess people are very grateful to cannabis store workers because there were a LOT of tips in those jars. More tips than I bet Jumbu ever got anyway.

Creative Wednesdays: My Spooky Six Interview with Willow Croft

Thanks to my good friend Willow Croft of Willow Croft: Bringer of Nightmares and Storms for her unique and very fun interview with me for The Horror Tree’s Spooky Six Interview Series. I hope you enjoy finding out more about me, especially the reason why I never dangle my arm off the bed. You can read it here on The Horror Tree!

Jan-uary Ads

On Friday, I was surfing through ads on Facebook Marketplace and I saw something that made my heart soar. No, it wasn’t a clock. It was, in fact, an ad for a cabinet, but it wasn’t the cabinet I was taken with. I’ve become so used to people who can barely put two sentences together online, let alone describe a product they’re selling with any accuracy at all, that this ad description almost made me weep:

Capacious?! And an example in another colour for inspiration? I have found my people!

I immediately followed this seller and took a look at some of her other ads. One in particular touched my heart: “The camera doesn’t do the colour justice; see the close-up picture of the fabric juxtaposed against white paper for a more accurate sense of the colours.” She used a SEMI-COLON. And JUXTAPOSED things. Why can’t everyone be so literate AND courteous? Prior to Friday, I had become inured to the lack of simple spelling, punctuation, and sloppy descriptions that are par for the course on online buy and sell sites, particularly with a highly rated seller named ‘Jan’. The majority of Jan’s ads are an enigma. Yesterday, she was advertising “Decorations Puts”, which I can only assume means ‘decorative pot’, but with Jan, you never know—it could be some kind of insult or a strangely worded command. And right before Hallowe’en, this was a group of things she was trying to offload:

Now, call me crazy, and a lot of people do, but I don’t think that particular Hallowe’en staff deserves even minimum wage—I mean, they all look half in the bag. I appreciate that she managed to spell both outdoor and chair correctly, and I love that she named the bank:

Buyer: Hi, I’m here for the piggy bank.
Jan (cradling it in her arms): His name is PETE.
Buyer: Um, ok.
Jan: SAY IT. SAY THE NAME.
Buyer: …Pete?
Jan: MR. BANK TO YOU.

But I have no idea what ‘2 landre’ basket is, except ‘landre’ is French for ‘moor’, so I can only assume these baskets are to be used in gothic novels by heartbroken heroines who wander the moors in torrential downpours, kind of like an umbrella but with many holes. Sadly, it seems that Jan is almost as misguided in her efforts as this coat she’s currently trying to hawk:

I can imagine that living with Jan is an ongoing adventure, trying to decipher whatever madness comes out of her mouth, because if she’s this bad at written English, how on earth does she speak?!

Jan’s husband: Hey Jan, where are you off to?
Jan: Gone to stone. Bach will eat moussaka.
Jan’s husband: Delicious. Or terrifying. Only time will tell.

But at least Jan isn’t as morbid as this person, who’s selling Vintage Death. And I was like, who the hell takes a picture with some alive family members and some who look VERY DECEASED? I was sure those two Scottish children were just sleepy from the photographer taking so damn long to get the shot. But then I did some research on Victorian death photography and it turns out they REALLY ARE DEAD. And everyone else in the photo just looks casual, like “Och, it’s a lovely wee day for a pic of the fam. Come on, Mam. Gi’ us a wee smile. Let Dead Robbie lean on you so he don’t fall over.” Victorians. I’m currently writing a Gothic thriller called Charybdis (based on a short story in my new upcoming collection) that partly takes place in the Victorian period so I can’t wait to find a way to fit this bizarre practice in.

New Year, Same Me

It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this. I’m feeling slightly nauseated, not because I’ve been drinking—I mean, it’s only 11 o’clock in the morning after all. No, it’s because Ken decided to run some errands, and right before he left, he made himself a cup of coffee because he obviously HATES ME. The smell has permeated the house, reaching right into my office, and now I understand how the woman feels who posted this ad on Facebook Marketplace:

I don’t know what her husband did to her that he no longer deserves a wet/dry shop vac, but I’ll bet it involved a percolator. So right now, my house smells like a skunk died in the kitchen, and I’ve taken futile refuge in my office to think about the new year ahead. I never make New Year’s resolutions, as I’ve said before– mostly because if I want to change something about my life, I do it when I think of it, not on some arbitrary and imaginary date line. But still, the moving forward of time does give one pause, and by “pause” I mean “let’s stop and think about what the f*ck we’re doing and do we want to keep on doing that?” So here are a couple of things I will most likely be doing in 2023:

1) I will finish the book I’m currently writing by the end of February. I have to, because I quit my job at the antique market to focus on it. Also, the antique market was no longer a fun place to work, and Ken and I promised each other that when we retired, we would only work at jobs we enjoyed doing. Not that I didn’t enjoy the work I did BEFORE I retired, but moving forward, I will only work at things I really, REALLY enjoy, like driving a forklift around the neighbourhood helping people move picnic tables or whatnot, or petting kittens and puppies. And writing. Writing is definitely something I enjoy. The new book is called Charybdis and it’s a gothic thriller that takes place in two different time periods involving a little-known reclusive Victorian poet and the modern-day graduate student who’s researching her life. What horrors will she discover? If you know anything about me at all, you’ll know there will be several! And then, once Charybdis is done, I’ll be starting on the third book in The Seventh Devil trilogy. Book 2, The Devil You Know, will be out this summer, and Book 3 will be called The Devil You Don’t. And of course, there’s At The End Of It All, which will be out in February and I can’t wait for you to read it. I love writing short stories, and I already have some more stories in the planning stages, which is to say I have notes on my phone like ‘laces where joints are supposed to meet’ and ‘Glitter for Brad’ and I have no idea why I wrote that down but it’ll make a great story once I figure it out.

2) I will travel more. I will have to do this spontaneously, because whenever I PLAN to travel, I instantly regret making travel arrangements and would rather just stay home.

Me: But what’s the use of being retired if I can’t travel?
My mind: Where do we want to go?
Me: I don’t know. Somewhere fun.
My mind: Home. Home is fun.
Me: No, NOT HOME! We need to see more of the world!
My mind: We’ve already seen plenty. The world is too scary now.
Me: Sigh. You have a point.

3) I will buy more clocks if I want to. You can’t stop me, KEN. In honour of clocks, I promised to show a picture of my favourite:

But I WILL make Ken a deal. I’ll stop buying clocks if he stops drinking coffee (at least in the house). Tick tock…

Anyway, Happy New Year. Let’s hope 2023 is a little more sane that the last few years.