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.

Pressing Questions

A couple of weeks ago, I was getting ready to set up a WordPress post, and I suddenly noticed that below the place where it says, ‘Add title’, there was some faint text. I looked more closely and the text said, “What are your feelings about eating meat?”

And I was like, Are you judging me, WORDPRESS? Because the post I was setting up was fairly bacon-heavy, and how the hell did they even know that, let alone start pestering me about it? For the record, I would prefer NOT to eat meat, but I’m realistic in that a) I like the taste of most of it (organ meats aside, because they are extremely gross), and no one has yet to discover a vegetarian bacon that tastes as good as the real thing. On the other hand, I had an experience not long ago when I called a government agency to complain about the way that a truck I was following on the highway was transporting turkeys, presumably to the slaughterhouse, and it was so awful that I called Ken crying. The so-called veterinarian that answered my call was less than helpful, and told me that the turkeys were “probably huddled together for warmth rather than being stacked on top of each other”, and that didn’t make me feel any better AT ALL.

But I don’t want to get into the complexities of eating meat versus being vegetarian, because WordPress is still doing that weird thing right now. I started to set up my post for this week, and right below ‘Add title’, it says “Tell us one thing you hope people never say about you.” And my response is “Who the f*ck is US?!” Is this WordPress trying to make some extra cash by blackmailing random bloggers?

Random Blogger: Ooh, good question. Hmm. Well, I hope people never say I’m a murderer, because THAT was in self-defense.
WordPress: Self-defense, you say? We’ll see about that.

5 minutes later…

WordPress: According to our investigation, it was NOT self-defense. You owe us twenty-five thousand dollars to keep quiet about this.
Random Blogger: Damn
.

All I can think is that WordPress is playing the long game, hoping that some blogger desperate for a topic will fall for their ploy. Does anyone really open up the site without a topic in mind, just praying that WordPress will provide inspiration? And yes, I see the irony in this whole debate, because I wouldn’t have a topic MYSELF if it wasn’t for these bizarre WordPress prompts. So with that in mind, here are the things I hope people never say about me:

1) I’m good at math (because that would be a LOT to live up to).
2) I’m not funny (but I’m not actually that funny in person so it’s ok).
3) I have too many clocks (I just bought another one at the antique market where I work and it’s so gorgeous and it was so cheap that I carried it downstairs cradling it in my arms like a baby).
4) My nickname is NOT Player One (because it totally is, even if I’m the only one who thinks so).
5) I’m too old to dance like no one is watching. (I regularly dance behind the till at work when no one is watching, although sometimes customers see me and give me a thumbs-up, and yes there’s music because we have a radio playing behind the till just in case you thought I was one of those people who dance to music in their own heads, which I also do sometimes but just not at work).

Screw you, WordPress—I’ve fallen for your little game.

In other news, if you read my post last Monday, you’ll know that my new short story collection At The End Of It All is now available for pre-order but I posted the wrong link. It would be a great Christmas gift for you or someone you love, so if you want to order it, you can go here: At The End Of It All.  Also, in honour of the new collection coming out soon, Potter’s Grove has put my first short story collection, Feasting Upon The Bones, (which got some very good reviews and would also make a great Christmas gift) on sale for a limited time and you can find it here: Feasting Upon The Bones

Marvelous Monday: My New Book!

Just a quick surprise post to let you all know that my new short story collection, At The End Of It All: Stories From The Shadows is now available for pre-order from Potter’s Grove Press! I’m super-excited about this collection, which features a foreword written by my friend and writer extraordinaire, Steven Baird from Ordinary Handsome, and if you haven’t read him or follow his blog, you definitely should–he’s the kind of writer I love to read. His work leaves me breathless, every single time.

At The End Of It All has been my heart’s work for the last year; I started writing it not long after Feasting Upon The Bones was published. It contains 27 short stories, some flash fiction, some a little longer and some shorter, and I’m extremely proud of it. And I’m especially thrilled by the cover image that Potters Grove has chosen–they really are the best, and possess a tremendous creative vision that aligns perfectly with my own. As you know, Christmas is coming and what a perfect gift a spooky collection of stories makes! So if you’d like to give the gift of literature, you can pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BPTQC5DM

Congratulations To Us All!

When I first started blogging, there was a plethora of “Blogger Awards”. Over the past 8 years, I personally have been nominated for the Liebster, The Sunshine Blogger, The Mystery Blogger Award, The Golden Bloggerz Award, and several more. Now, this doesn’t make me special—from what I understand, a lot of people got nominated and a lot of those people viewed these awards as bothersome or annoying and that’s because those people probably have LOTS more to write about than me, and I always looked at these nominations (did anyone ever actually WIN an award?) more as a fun way to generate content in a week where maybe nothing funny happened. But lately, there have been no nominations, and it’s either that my content is boring and non-inspiring, or that these awards no longer exist. I follow a LOT of other bloggers and there’s been nary a whisper of an award to be had, although I just did some research and found a blog written by someone who got nominated in September for a Liebster and wrote an ENTIRE post about how much she hates the Liebster award. And it was a loooonnnnngggg post where she actually tagged the person who nominated her, and that person was VERY unhappy in the comments. Next time, just say thanks and move on, lady.

At any rate, considering the dearth of awards lately, I’ve decided to invent my own. It’s called the Fandangly Award, and here’s how it works:

  • You can award it to yourself whenever you don’t have anything else to write about. Like maybe you’re a humour blogger but you’ve had a sh*tty week and you don’t have anything funny to work with. Easy—just award yourself a Fandangly–but you can say it came from me if you’re shy.
  • Ask yourself as many questions as you want and then answer them, either seriously or humorously. Here’s an example: If you were to invent your own reality show, what would it be? Here’s my answer:

The show is called Stick It To Me and in this show, the competitors have to make everything out of popsicle sticks and the host is Alex Trebek and yes, I know he’s dead but he’s still the best at hosting everything.

Alex Trebek: All right, contestants! This week’s challenge was “Iconic Buildings”. Donna, what happened here?
Donna: Well, Alex, I tried to recreate the Eiffel Tower, but as anyone who’s ever participated in a team-building exercise knows, popsicle sticks aren’t stable at great heights, especially when all you have to attach them together is masking tape.
Alex Trebek: That’s a shame. Bob, tell me about your structure.
Bob: I built a scale model of the Globe Theatre.
Alex Trebek: Didn’t the Globe Theatre burn down?
Bob (*lights match ominously*): That’s right, Alex.

  • Encourage other people to award themselves Fandanglies. I want this sh*t to catch on.
  • Press ‘publish’.

And now, in honour of me receiving my first Fandangly (applause and cheers ensue), here are the questions I’ve asked myself and here are the answers:

1) Who is your favourite drag queen and if you were a drag queen, what would your name be?

I have two current favourite drag queens and I’ve met both of them. The first is Kylie Sonique Love, the first transgender woman to win a season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I met her at a performance and at the end, I was able to go up to the stage and tell her how much I admired her. She took my hand and thanked me. It was awesome. The second is a British drag queen named Lady Camden. Ken and I did a meet and greet and she was there. I got to stand next to her and holy sh*t, she’s tall and gorgeous. And she’s also kind and lovely to talk to. If I was a drag queen, my drag name would be Mabel Syrup, because I’m Canadian. You can tell I’ve given this some thought.

Me and Kylie Sonique Love

2) Which customer at work creeps you out the most?

The middle-aged man who buys a certain type of doll designed for teenaged girls. He is so obsessed that the owners have him on speed dial and if a new doll comes in, they call him and he shows up immediately. And if you make the mistake of calling the dolls “Bratz Dolls” instead of the kind they are, he loses his mind and makes you say the proper name. I don’t want to think about what his house looks like, and I’m gonna bet he’s single.

3) Have you set fire to anything lately?

This might seem like a strange question but I’m sure you all remember the time not long ago when I was trying to get a picture for my literary magazine and almost set my neighbourhood on fire. And the answer to the strange question is unsurprisingly YES. On Friday night, I was making a brandy peppercorn sauce to have with the steak that Ken and I had treated ourselves with. I cooked the butter, onions, and peppercorns, then turned off the burner to add the brandy. Why did I turn off the burner? Because three times previously, I have created a brandy inferno in my kitchen so this time I was exercising extra caution. But when I turned the burner back on, everything exploded yet again. I screamed and Ken ran over, pushed me out of the way to grab a pot lid to smother the kitchen conflagration, and simultaneously threw it over the flames and turned the burner off. Luckily, no harm was done, my lashes and brows are still intact, and the brandy was successfully reduced, albeit a lot more quickly than it should have been.

The Fandangly Award. Because you deserve something nice.

Please feel free to use this very professional graphic.

Creative Wednesday Blog Tour: The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach

I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy fiction, starting with The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, which I read when I was very young. I made my way through Lord Of The Rings, the entire Wheel of Time series, and still have a copy of Lord Foul’s Bane (the first book in the Thomas Covenant Chronicles) on the bookshelf in my bedroom. So imagine my delight when I realized that I actually know an incredible fantasy writer, D. Wallace Peach. I read her most recent novel, The Ferryman and the Seawitch and it was excellent, so when she put out a call on her blog Myths of the Mirror for bloggers to host her new book The Necromancer’s Daughter on a blog tour, I didn’t hesitate.

First, a synopsis of the book:

A healer and dabbler in the dark arts of life and death, Barus is as gnarled as an ancient tree. Forgotten in the chaos of the dying queen’s chamber, he spirits away her stillborn infant, and in a hovel at the meadow’s edge, he breathes life into the wisp of a child. He names her Aster for the lea’s white flowers. Raised as his daughter, she learns to heal death.

Then the day arrives when the widowed king, his own life nearing its end, defies the Red Order’s warning. He summons the necromancer’s daughter, his only heir, and for his boldness, he falls to an assassin’s blade.

While Barus hides from the Order’s soldiers, Aster leads their masters beyond the wall into the Forest of Silvern Cats, a land of dragons and barbarian tribes. She seeks her mother’s people, the powerful rulers of Blackrock, uncertain whether she will find sanctuary or face a gallows’ noose.

Unprepared for a world rife with danger, a world divided by those who practice magic and those who hunt them, she must choose whether to trust the one man offering her aid, the one man most likely to betray her—her enemy’s son.

A healer with the talent to unravel death, a child reborn, a father lusting for vengeance, and a son torn between justice, faith, and love. Caught in a chase spanning kingdoms, each must decide the nature of good and evil, the lengths they will go to survive, and what they are willing to lose.

As you can tell, this novel is packed with all the things that readers love about fantasy fiction: magic, intrigue, love and danger, strong characters, dragons, and even barbarians, just to name a few. I asked Diana about why she includes “barbarians” in a lot of her stories and she told me this:

“The term ‘barbarian’ isn’t mine but originates with the ‘civilized’ people of my fantasy world. You know, the ones engaged in power struggles and wars, the ones coming up with nonsensical rules, the ones hanging healers and claiming they know the will of the goddess.

I love having a sensible group of people who counters all the moral pomposity with obvious and simple wisdom. My barbarians accept others at face value. Well, most of the time. Nobody’s perfect. In this book, they’re members of the warrior tribes of the Forest of Silvern Cats. And more specifically, they’re represented by a character named Teko.”

My Review

I was hooked from the very first word as I entered the world of Barus and his mentor Olma. Diana is one of those writers whose descriptions are so vivid and sensory that you can imagine yourself sitting in the corner of their ramshackle cottage watching them, smelling the fire, and hearing the call of a distant voice in the dark, or walking beside Barus into the City of White Halls by the Sea for the first time and being awestruck by its beauty. The story is expansive, yet character development is never sacrificed in favour of plot, with even minor characters coming to life on the page. To me, this story ranks right up there with the best fantasy fiction I’ve ever read.

Here’s a little bit more about author D. Wallace Peach and where to buy this wonderful book:

A long-time reader, best-selling author D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life when years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books. She was instantly hooked.

In addition to fantasy books, Peach’s publishing career includes participation in various anthologies featuring short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. She’s an avid supporter of the arts in her local community, organizing and publishing annual anthologies of Oregon prose, poetry, and photography.

Peach lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two owls, a horde of bats, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Where To Purchase The Necromancer’s Daughter:

Global Amazon Links:

US: https://www.amazon.com/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach/dp/B0B9FY6YZJ

IN: https://www.amazon.in/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Apple

Diana’s Sites:

Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/D-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8

Website/Blog: http://mythsofthemirror.com

Website/Books: http://dwallacepeachbooks.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dwallacepeach

Creative Wednesdays: Tiger Lily Book Launch!

A little while ago, I got an email from a good friend, the amazing poet Susan Richardson of Stories From The Edge Of Blindness. She had just completed a collaboration with Scottish artist Jane Cornwell, and had almost finalized a collection that featured her poetry and Jane’s art. And she wanted ME to write the foreword. I was honoured, and a little intimidated—I wanted to make sure I did justice to the book, because it’s beautiful and profound and exemplifies the highest caliber of the written word and the visual image. Fortunately, they both were happy with what I wrote, and the book was finally finalized and now the launch is only a couple of days away! So if you’d like, you can join us on Friday, August 19 at 2 pm EST, which is 7 pm GMT in the UK where they both live, and enjoy our company, participate in a Q and A about the collection, listen to Susan read some selected poems and see the artwork that Jane created, and have an opportunity to read your own poetry at the end if you’re so inclined. The link to register for the event is here: Tiger Lily Book Launch – Poetry Party Tickets, Fri 19 Aug 2022 at 19:00 | Eventbrite

I hope you can join us, no matter what time zone you’re in. (Here’s a link to a time zone converter if you’re not sure.)

Playing With Fire

As you might remember, I recently started my own online literary magazine called DarkWinter Lit. It’s going really well, and I’m getting some incredibly good submissions, but one of the things I’m really proud of is that 99% of the images that I use to accompany each piece are original, chosen for each unique story or poem—either taken by me or Ken. I’m fortunate that I work in an antique market, where I can easily find fur coats, weird statues, and driftwood horses. Sometimes though, I need to create a specific scene that I have in mind. And last week was one of those times:

Me: I need a picture of a gold coin covered in water, with a backdrop of fire.
Ken: I don’t have anything like that.
Me: I thought you were a PHOTOGRAPHER, KEN. Do you at least have a butterfly I can use for something else?
Ken: Ooh, yes, I have lots of those!

So it was up to me to create the photo that I needed, at least for that particular story. But then it struck me—we have a burn pit in the side yard surrounded by rocks and it was full of wood. I could prop a loonie (the golden Canadian equivalent of a dollar) on one of the rocks, start a small fire, then spray it all down with water before things got out of hand. It was a terrific plan…

I brought the loonie, some newspaper, and a bbq lighter out with me, and placed the loonie in what seemed like a great position. I crumpled up the newspaper and held the lighter to it. It immediately caught fire but then started to go out, so I tossed some dead grass in there for good measure. I sat back on the dry lawn (we hadn’t had rain for weeks) and contemplated the sad state of the gardens, suffering from lack of moisture as well. When did we last have rain? I thought to myself. It seemed like it was a while ago.

Suddenly, the grass, paper, and the dry wood in the fire pit all ignited at once and I quickly found myself seated next to a raging inferno. Where the f*ck is the hose??!! I screamed silently, berating myself for having forgotten an essential part of the plan. I ran to the porch, the flames getting higher and closer to the dry lawn, and I dragged the hose over to the burn pit.

Do you know what happens when you spray a large fire with a large amount of water? It creates an even larger cloud of thick smoke, a cloud that drifts over your entire neighbourhood, terrorizing your neighbours, at least one of whom belongs to the volunteer fire department. And at this point, Ken poked his head out the door:

Ken: What are you trying to do—set the neighbourhood on fire?
Me: I just wanted a photograph of a gold coin drenched in water in front of a backdrop of fire!
Ken: Did you at least get the shot?
Me: It’s a little smoky but yes.
Ken: Well, that’s one thing. I’m sure the fire department will take it into consideration when they hand you the fine.

I managed to extinguish everything eventually, thanking the universe for the fact that our burn pit is hidden by trees and the guy who kept driving by looking for the source of the smoke couldn’t see it. But imagine the conversation:

Firefighter: So let me get this straight. You set your lawn on fire because you were (checks notes) “trying to get a photograph of a wet coin in front of a large flame”?
Me (whispers): Yes.
Firefighter: And you thought this was a good idea in a month where we’ve had very little rain?
Me (whispers): Yes.
Firefighter: Wow. You’re dumb.
Me (hangs head and whispers): I know.

The things we do for our art.

How It Started
How It Ended
The Final Product

In other news, you may recall that recently, I got my license renewed and faced a barrage of disturbing questions about having my skin flayed off for science right before having my photograph taken. Well, the license arrived in the mail yesterday, and here’s the reaction on my face:

Now, you may think that’s just the way I always look in driver’s license photos, but here are other examples from 2007 and 2016:

I think it’s pretty clear that I won’t be getting any speeding tickets until 2027 when I no longer look like I’ve seen horrors that no sane person can contemplate … And the worst thing is that, along with the license, there was a questionnaire asking me the same questions that the woman at the license place had asked me PUBLICLY. I could have done all of that IN PRIVATE. And looked prettier in my photo.

Image-ination; I Get Read

It’s been a hectic week and I didn’t think I had much to write about, but then I remembered that I hadn’t told you about my new tattoo. You may remember that over a year ago, I promised that I would get all my books tattooed on me, and I’d made a good start but then I got sidetracked. Until finally, three weeks ago, I finally got an appointment with my favourite tattoo guy, Nathan S. of New Rise Studio. He did what he always does—I arrive, he says “What were you thinking?” then I say, “A steampunk pocket watch with the words ‘Time’s a-ticking under it”, and he says “Okay”, then he draws something fantastic on the spot. Here’s the end result:

I’m super-happy with it, because the image commemorates Feasting Upon The Bones, my first short story collection (Potters Grove Press), featuring the character Mr. Death and his catchphrase “Time’s a-ticking.” I’ve expanded that character and he also now appears in a couple of other places, which you’ll hear more about down the road. But for now, Feasting is immortalized on the back of my calf.

I was scrolling through the pictures on my phone, looking for something interesting to go with a story that was going to be published on DarkWinter Lit (I only use original images, taken by either me or Ken, except in rare circumstances, because I like to customize a unique image to the individual story or poem), and I came across this image, which you might recognize:

Yes, it’s from WordPress and it’s the image you see when a post has no comments. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, but I only looked at it closely the other day and then I was really confused. Seriously, what the hell is it? Here are two options:

a) A girl carrying a giant tennis racket, accompanied by a boy awkwardly holding a small oar. Are they attending the world’s weirdest summer camp? I went to summer camp once, and all I remember is shooting arrows at targets and crying because I got stung by a bee in my ladyparts. Needless to say, I hate camping to this day, especially if it involves playing tennis in high heels or rowing a boat with one hand. Or bees.

b)  She’s a detective with a magnifying glass the size of a hula hoop and he’s her trusty sidekick, ready to gather evidence in his crossbody bag. Someone at the summer camp died, and now they’re looking for clues. Maybe there’s one behind that mostly invisible plant. Actually, THAT would be a summer camp I’d go to—a murder mystery adventure camp where the counsellors are all robots, and it would be called MurderCampWorld, kind of like WestWorld but without the sex, violence, misogyny, and racism. Okay, there’d be a little violence but it’s just the one murder.

Regardless of what the image actually is, I have no idea why it’s the one chosen to encourage people to post comments, and if I were customizing an image for this page, I’d encourage discussion with this cute little guy that I found on Facebook Marketplace. I’m not sure what he’s supposed to be, but I’m certain he would make people really want to open up:

In other news, I had a tarot card reading the other day on Zoom, done by my good friend and fellow blogger Willow Croft, Bringer of Nightmares and Storms at willowcroft.blog. It was fantastic and fun, and her insights have really helped me center my energy around the things that matter the most to me. I highly recommend her—she charges a small fee, but it’s completely worth it, and she can do it over Zoom, telephone or even email. If you’re interested in supporting a fellow blogger, you can contact her at croftwillow@yahoo.com for a full reading, or if you’d like to try it out, use the code mydangblog in the email subject line for a $5 USD three-card reading.