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…

Silver(be)ware

Last week, I brought a box of silverware home from my booth because the knife holder thingy had detached itself and I wanted to repair it. The silverware and the box are heavy, so instead of lugging it all the way back to the antique market, I decided to post it on Facebook Marketplace for $70. The ad was a picture of the silverware, the box, the hallmarks etc. and the description read as follows: “Gorgeous 1928 hallmarked Bruckman German silverware. 12 dinner forks, 8 dessert forks, 8 teaspoons, 7 large spoons and 1 large serving spoon, and 11 knives with never-rust blades. Comes with box. Located in Drumbo Ontario.”

Two things happened as a result. First, I was inundated with all the usual stupid questions:

Is it silver?
Is it silverplated?
How many pieces are there?
How old is the set?
Is it English?
Where are you located?
Is it sterling?

I was asked that last question several times, because apparently there are people out there who think you can buy an entire set of solid sterling silver cutlery for $70, and not the ten grand it would actually be worth. So I updated the ad to include the rider, “Obviously, based on the price, this is high quality silver plate, not solid sterling.”

The second thing that happened was that I realized that there are a LOT of people who think you can buy and sell priceless objects for veritable pennies (or even free), based on the ads that some people are posting:

1) This is a picture of a piece of wood with the word “undies” written on it in what looks like black crayon. The description reads, “If you turn this down you clearly dont know art.” After considering for a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that people who DO know Art are aware that he regularly runs out of underwear and is reduced to begging for ten dollars’ worth of it on the internet. But the description is a little ominous. If I DO turn the request down on the principle that Art is a grown-ass man and should get a job to fund his foundation garment issues, is he going to come after me and drag me out to an underwear store, forcing me to buy him a pair? And for ten dollars, it will be only one pair—have you SEEN the cost of undies these days? The whole thing seems a little aggressive to me.

2) Of course, the opposite of aggressive is passive-aggressive, and I think this ad fits that bill perfectly. While it SEEMS incomprehensible, I think it’s just a very clever way of getting sh*t out of your house without having to move it yourself, like “If you want this free thing, I’m not helping you move it, but you and your friends can come get it. By the way, I have a sore back, so don’t blame me for expecting you to do all the work, I mean this thing is FREE after all.” But the best part was that at first, I looked at the ad really quickly and thought that Louis meant that the buyer and their friends would need to carry it on their backs, and I know it’s free, but you can’t MAKE people do tricks for you without a little more incentive. Like, throw in a “free away” couch or something, you know, sweeten the pot.

3) Then we go from aggressively passive-aggressive to quantum mechanics. Apparently this is not just a simple mirror, it’s Schrodinger’s Mexican Punched Tin and Talavera Tile Mirror. Currently, it’s in a large box where it is simultaneously free and not free. But seriously, why do this? If you don’t want to give it away, put a price in the box that asks you for the price instead of being so ornery about it, like “It’s NOT FREE, BRENDA. I KNOW IT SAYS FREE BUT IT’S NOT. GODDAMMIT.”   

In other news, good news that is, I had my regularly scheduled mammogram on Thursday morning, and the results came back yesterday, congratulating me that my boobs are still just fine. I wouldn’t have thought otherwise, but I work with a woman who styles herself as a Wiccan healer and a few weeks ago, my shoulder was really bothering me, so she offered to do a “Wiccan healing therapy session” on it at work. This involved me sitting in a chair and her breathing deeply, waving her hands around and then pressing them down on my shoulder. During the “treatment”, she suddenly stopped and asked, “Do you have any problems with cysts in your breasts?”

I said no, and she continued very ominously, “I’m detecting quite a few on the left. You should get it checked out.” And while I don’t believe that anyone, even the MOST qualified Wiccan healer on the planet could magically detect a boob issue, she DID cleanse the back corner of the antique market of the dangerous presence that she detected back there. Well, she THINKS she did, but *whispering voice* it’s still there

All The Pretty Dead Things, Some Exciting News

If I had to catalogue all the items in the antique market where I work, it would take me the rest of my life. With almost 1000 booths and three giant floors, there have to be millions of things there. Yet, surprisingly, some of the most popular, after vintage comic books, Pokemon cards, and old vinyl LPs, are dead things. Now don’t get all semantical on me—yes, I know that technically anything inanimate could be considered dead, but I’m talking about things that USED to be alive and now, are not, because we have two or three vendors who specialize in selling dead things:

1) Bones

Me: Are you ready to cash out?
Girl: Yes. Aren’t these cool? (points to a bundle of narrow bones)
Me: The tag says “cow bones”. Maybe.
Girl: What do you mean?
Me: How can you be certain? But don’t worry, I’m sure they’re not human.
Girl:
Me: Have a nice day!

2) Dehydrated animals

Me: Ooh, what do we have here? A “dessicated chick with moss miniature terrarium” (in the item description, I write ‘dead chicken baby’.) What are you going to do with it?
Guy: Put it on display with all the rest.
Me : Cool. Now that’s an interesting aesthetic.
Guy: A what?
Me: Have a great day!

3) Skeletons

Elderly Woman: Can you take both those bat skeletons encased in resin out of the showcase? I’d like to compare them and see which one is nicer.
Me: Certainly. Personally, I’d choose this one. It looks more dynamic, like it’s just about to take flight. If it wasn’t dead.
Elderly woman: You know, you’re right. That one IS nicer.

What I really wanted to say was, “NICER?! Lady, neither of them are nice! They’re dead f*cking bats.” But I restrained myself.

4) Jewelry made from animal bones

Me: (reads tag) “These earrings made from fox ribs are ethically sourced.” I suppose roadkill could be considered ethical if you don’t actively TRY to run small animals down with your car.
Boss: I think she gets them from an importer.
Me: Importing roadkill? Now there’s a niche market.
Boss: Too bad that raccoon you saw in your yard yesterday is gone. You could have made a fortune on it.
Me: I’ll stick to more traditional stuff, thanks. The only thing in my booth that was once alive is a vintage leather Harley Davidson ballcap.
Customer: Excuse me—I’m ready to pay.
Me: Here you go. Would you like a bag for your coyote foot?
Customer: Yes, please.
Me: Have a wonderful day.

In other exciting news, my second novel The Dome has been translated into Arabic. The physical copies won’t be available until closer to the summer but the Middle Eastern publisher is doing some great pre-promotion. The original cover was the Toronto skyline, but since they’re trying to make the setting a little less specific, here’s the new cover, which I quite like!

Christmas Carols

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. Twinkly lights (which Ken calls “twerking lights”), home baking, holidays, and of course, presents–for those of you who know me well, you are well aware of my love of presents, both giving and receiving them. But the thing that really captures the spirit of the season for me is Christmas music. I start playing Christmas music on the first of December, and I drive Ken crazy by listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas almost continuously (and when the music for the party scene comes on, I always dance like Snoopy. It’s FUN and I also do it at the antique market where I work–they have the radio tuned to the Christmas station all day long, so I get to do my Snoopy dance several times a day. Great cardio.). We also have some beautiful traditional Celtic Christmas stylings, as well as some instrumental stuff we got years ago with cool sound effects in the background, like birds chirping, sleigh bells jingling, or the sound of skates on ice. So as you can tell, I love a lot of Christmas music. But on the other hand, there are some really creepy Christmas songs out there.

1) One of the songs that’s been playing on a loop at work is the version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé. And wow, this is one hella creepy song. It sounds perfectly pleasant and festive but if you listen carefully to the lyrics, you start to wonder how this EVER made it onto anyone’s Christmas playlist because it’s about a woman who wants to leave a man’s apartment, but he’s refusing to let her go. At one point, he convinces her to stay a little longer, and pours her a drink, prompting her soon after to ask, “Say, what’s in this drink?” I’ll tell you what’s in your drink—DRUGS. Here’s a newsflash, lady—if you have to ask that question, your next move should be running for the door. But no. As he takes off her hat, she tells him she really ought to say “No, No, No”, at which point he “moves in closer”. Then she explains that her mother will start to worry and father will be pacing the floor. DUDE, SHE LIVES WITH HER PARENTS—LET. HER. GO. HOME. This guy obviously doesn’t understand CONSENT. Then he tells her that she’s “hurting his pride”. Is this not the epitome of a man who is about to be involved in a major #MeToo scandal? How did this song even get to be a “Christmas carol”? It’s not about Christmas; it’s about a guy trying to get into a girl’s pants. I think Jesus would have a serious objection to a song like that being used to celebrate his birthday. (I was going to say, “because Jesus never tried to get into anyone’s pants”, but then Ken just reminded me that some people say that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and that’s why he appeared to her first when he was reincarnated or whatnot. Still, Jesus would never have been like, “C’mon baby, I’m not pushy, I’m just opportunistic”). But there are other carols which are actually more Christmas-y which, when you think about them, are equally ridiculous. Here are a few:

2) Jingle Bells: In what possible world is it FUN to dash around in an open sleigh? This song could not possibly have been written in Canada, where it’s regularly -30 degrees. If you’re dashing around without some kind of shield from the wind-chill, you’re going to get frostbite and your nose will fall off. This is only Christmas-y if you put a little bow on the nose and hang it on your Christmas tree. On second thought, that’s not actually festive, it’s just kind of gross.

3) Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart: This is a contemporary tune by George Michael. The first two lines are “Last Christmas I gave you my heart/The very next day, you gave it away.” Is this not the ultimate in regifting? I myself have been known to pass on a mug or something equally inconsequential, but even I wouldn’t stoop so low as to regift a human heart. This is the worst Secret Santa gift ever, like “It’s decomposing a little, but if you keep it on ice for a few days, you can hang it on the tree next to that piece of nose you’ve got there. It’s a nice theme.”

4) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, The Shark Version: I googled this one and I can’t even find it on the internet, but it was on a compilation of Christmas songs called Santa Jaws that my brother and I had when we were little. The only lyrics I remember are:

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
You’re not so merry now.
The seaside signs said not to swim,
But you swam anyhow..
.

Moral of that Christmas song–never ignore seaside signs.

5) Honorable Mention: Christmas Tree by Lady Gaga and Space Cowboy: This one doesn’t get a lot of airplay because it’s just a tad raunchy. Thanks to Gaga, the phrases “let’s fa-la-la-la-la” and “underneath my Christmas tree” are now sexual innuendo. If she got together with the guy from “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” I doubt there would be a lawsuit pending—there would just be one very merry gentleman.

At any rate, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays if you don’t celebrate Christmas. And if you’re looking for a last-minute gift (shameless plug coming as fast as a one-horse open sleigh), don’t forget that you can go to the Potters Grove Press website and download my short story collection Feasting Upon The Bones in either PDF or Kindle version and give it to someone you love. Tell them you know the author personally and that she’s weird, but nice.

Creative Wednesday: A Great Review

Thank you so much to award-winning writer and blogger D. Wallace Peach for a wonderful review of Feasting Upon The Bones! Diana is incredibly supportive of authors and the blogging community and if you’re not following her, you should be! You can read all of her reviews here: Myths of the Mirror August Book Reviews: Part 2 , or the one specific to Feasting below:

Creative Wednesday: The Seventh Devil is here!

You may or may not have seen on my social media that my latest novel, The Seventh Devil, has finally been released after several delays due to Covid backlog at the printing plant. I’m really excited about it, except for the fact that Amazon has been causing so many issues with making it available. My publisher reached out to them, and this is what they said: “Last Summer, Amazon ordered as normal throughout and we heard reports that processing delays resulted in trucks sitting unreceived for up to 2 weeks at Amazon facilities. This summer, Amazon is aggressively triaging their stock orders to manage what is moving through the warehouses. This is resulting in gaps between when Amazon runs out of stock, and when they reorder a book, because books, barring the best sellers, are still deprioritized.”

“Barring the best sellers”?! Well, maybe it would BE a best seller if Amazon bothered prioritizing books instead of socks, which I can get the very next day after I order them. The Dome has been suffering the same fate, showing up as unavailable or out of stock at various times as well. But here’s the great news–if you want a copy of The Seventh Devil, or my other Bookland Press books, Smile and The Dome, you can order them through All Lit Up, (click the link and it will take you right there) a much better distributor who ships to anywhere in Canada AND the United States. Otherwise, for my friends outside of North America, let’s hope Amazon gets its act together soon.

And just to refresh your memory, here’s the synopsis for The Seventh Devil:

“When nineteen-year-old runaway Verity Darkwood, homeless and devastated by guilt, takes refuge in a bar to escape the unwanted attention of a stranger, she doesn’t expect to meet Gareth Winter, let alone become business partners with him. They discover that they each possess the ability to interact with the world beyond the veil and, with the help of Horace Greeley III, editor of the fantastical online journal The Echo, Verity and Gareth spend the next two years on the road, successfully crossing over the ghosts who haunt their clients, or getting rid of the demons that plague them. But when they stumble upon a series of unsolved child abductions spanning decades which are eerily similar to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Verity’s younger sister, they embark on a pursuit that will take them across Canada in their quest to find The Seventh Devil, the dangerous and mysterious figure who may be behind it all.”

Thursday Surprise: The Recording From My Reading: Feasting Upon The Bones

For anyone who wasn’t able to attend my live reading last night, here’s the recording:

I hope you enjoy it. It didn’t work right away and I had a moment where I thought I would cry, but Kate and Ken were there troubleshooting and it all worked out in the end, with almost 30 people joining in. And there was wine.

Live Reading Tonight!

Do you have 45 minutes to spare tonight? Just a reminder that I’ll be doing a live reading from Feasting Upon The Bones on Facebook from 7:00 to 7:45 pm Eastern Time. I’ll be reading 4 pieces from the collection and discussing a little bit about the stories and what inspired them, and then, if there’s time, I might read a piece from the new collection I’m currently working on, Night Terrors. I hope you can join me. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/108877348159254/live_videos/

It’s All About The Attitude

Well, it’s been an exciting week at the mydangblog household. First, I got it into my head suddenly, and I mean VERY suddenly, that it would be an amazing idea if I did a live reading for my new short story collection in August. And if you know anything at all about me, you’ll know that like most things I do (e.g. the quilt), I went into it with a lot of determination but without a single clue about how it should be done. I messaged a couple of friends (thanks Susan and Cecilia!) and got some advice, but still ended up spamming all my friends, not once but twice, with Facebook invites. I really have no idea what I’m doing and whether or not it will work, but if you’d like to join me on Wednesday, August 11 at 7 pm Eastern Time, you can access the reading by either going to the Feasting Upon The Bones Live Reading Facebook page or join via this link even if you don’t have Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/108877348159254/live_videos/

I hope some of you will come, either to see me read some stories and drink wine or watch dead air and imagine me frantically trying to figure out how to get the live stream going whilst simultaneously drinking wine. Either way, there will be wine.

And I’ve been getting great feedback on the short story collection, so again, I’d super-appreciate if anyone could leave even a short review on Amazon or Goodreads or whatnot, or even just some stars. I know a couple of you have already and it totally made my day.

In other news, we took down the old side porch on our house last week because the columns were rotting and discovered that most of the old side porch structure was also rotting, so it was extremely fortunate that we’d embarked upon this particular reno project before one of us fell through the balcony. As Ken was dismantling the roof, he found a champagne cork sliced open with a penny stuck in it tucked next to one of the rafters:

Ken: What do you think this is for?
Me: Some kind of weird superstition? A sacrifice to Dionysus?
Ken: I’ve never heard of that. Let me google…champagne cork with—oh, it autofilled. Guess it’s a thing after all.
Me: Well, we have to keep it and put it back once we’re done. Ooh, we could pop another bottle and do it with a second champagne cork for double the luck!
Ken: And drink the champagne.
Me: Obviously drink the champagne, KEN.

Photo of a cork with a penny in it.

And in honour of our rotten porch, I present to you three other inanimate objects that have attitudes of their own, according to these ads:

Photo of a very nice bird house with the description Obnoxious bird house - make an offer

1) This birdhouse looks really cute and rustic but apparently appearances can be deceiving:

Me: Ooh, I love your birdhouse. Could I offer you twenty-five dollars for it?
Birdhouse: Twenty-five dollars?! F*ck off, lady.
Owner: I’m so sorry. My birdhouse is a bit of a dick.
Birdhouse: You can f*ck right off too, JANICE.
Me: What an obnoxious bird house.
Owner: Hence the ad.

Photo of a child's bicycle with the description Huffy bike

2) In the same vein, this little bike is adorable but…

Buyer: What a lovely little bike. And only ten dollars!
Bike: Hmph.
Buyer: What’s wrong?
Seller: Oh, don’t mind the bike. He’s in one of “his moods”, that’s all.
Bike: HMPH.
Buyer: Does he get like that a lot?
Seller: He’s just a little huffy because I wouldn’t take his training wheels off for the ad.
Bike: I don’t NEED THEM, STANLEY.
Seller: Yes, but they make you MORE MARKETABLE, BRIAN.
Bike: HMPH!

Photo of a sign that says "Please inform one of our staff if this room is in need of some attention."

3) And finally—I’ve seen warehouses with self-esteem issues but this bathroom is a bit of a drama queen:

Customer: Excuse me, but I think your bathroom needs some attention.
Staff person: Good lord, what’s it doing now?
Customer: It’s a little weepy. But when I asked what was wrong, it said, “Oh, nothing. Don’t worry about ME. Obviously I’m JUST FINE”.
Staff: Sigh. Yes, it can be quite passive-aggressive when it’s unhappy. Look, I hate to pry, but were you in there for a…(whispers) poo?
Customer: I—uh—well, yes. But it was just a small one.
Staff: That explains it. Time for the lavender air freshener. That usually does the trick.