Book Review: ALL THINGS DEADLY (SALEM STORIES)

Tombstone of John Murray, Mt. Rest Cemetery, just outside Russell, Illinois {photo credit Susan Macdonald}

All Things Deadly (Salem Stories) is a collection of loosely related stories by Erik C. Hanson. ATD (SS) has been nominated for Bram Stoker Award for the Collection category. Although the Bram Stoker Award is granted by the Horror Writers Association, I would only call a few of the stories in this collection horror. Some are slice-of-life, which in a post-Covid world, is horrific enough. Some Rod Serling would have been pleased to buy to film as Twilight Zone episodes.

The first of the twenty-odd stories (excuse the pun) is “The Frosts – An Introduction” which introduces the two main characters, paranormal investigator Adam Frost and his daughter Sutton.

“Taunt That Witch” and “Crunchy Bits” are two of my favorite stories, and two of the must traditionally frightening ones. I also liked “Freewrite Friday,” although as an ex-teacher, I didn’t think Mrs. Fredericks’ lessons were appropriate to the grade she was teaching; I did like the rest of the story.

“The Old Man” is one of the more powerful stories in the collection, although it may offend some readers. “While [Bernie’s] dream was exceptionally short, he had achieved it. The fact he would be dead in a few minutes was utterly irrelevent.” There are few happily ever afters in this book. There are wins and losses, petty triumphs, petty but painful defeats, moral victories, pointless deaths. Life in Salem is often short and senseless, but so is life everywhere these days. Some characters learn from their errors; most merely suffer.

“Revenge Tour” shows how cruel deliberate cruelty can be in the 21st century.

Harold Roberts of “Stalker 101,” Barbara Fredericks of “Freewrite Friday,” Lynn Vanderloo and Samantha Deavers of “Red Couch” — this book is full of unforgettable characters who will linger in your memory long after you’ve closed the covers of the book. Not necessarily nice people, no, but memorable.

“She was wrong about him,
which begged the question: Was she wrong about many people?”

All Things Deadly (Salem Stories) might not be the best book to read right before bedtime, but it’s definitely a book worth reading.

September 28, 2021 – A Trip to the Zoo

My husband (DH) and son (DS) and I went to the Memphis Zoo today. My son wanted to get out of the house. DH and I concurred. DH wanted physical therapy — walking around the zoo. I wanted to take pictures for a counting book I’m planning: One, Two, At the Zoo. We spent approximately 3 hours there, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

First we went to see the flamingoes, since a flock of flamingoes would permit me to get a large number of animals in one picture.

If my count is correct, there are 20 lesser flamingoes in this picture.

Then we went to Zambezi River Camp, where we saw the mandrill, the okapi, the hippo, and the fish that share the hippo’s tank.

I shall need to research what type of fish these are. I was disappointed the okapi pictures came out so poorly. The crocodiles were not out when we walked past their enclosure. From there we went on to KangaZoo, the walk-through kangaroo exhibit. The kangaroos were out, but declined to be photogenic. DS is of the opinion kangaroos act like cats: they like to nap when it’s warm.
This fellow looks like he wants a belly rub, but the keepers discourage visitors from petting. Kangaroos are very skittish. A branch falling or a gimpy visitor scuffing her weak foot will make them start.

From there we went through the African veldt exhibit, where we saw the bongo, the giraffes, the scimitar-horned oryx, zebras, rhinos, and elephants. I took several pictures, most of which did not come out well. We went on to Northwest Passage. The (air-conditioned) giftshop was closed for lunch, so we went on to the polar bear and sea lion exhibit. We sat down (Gimpy needed to rest) and watched the sea lions a few minutes, then backtracked to Cathouse Cafe for lunch. I felt better after a sandwich and a soda. I had the turkey club hoagie, which was overpriced but tasty, and Pepsi. We sat directly under one of the ceiling fans. Resting in the cool air was nice, although DS complained the ceiling fan cooled down the hot food. He had chicken tenders. DH had a burger and was kind enough to share his French fries. The gibbon exhibit is next to Cathouse Cafe. The gibbons come up to the cafe windows and watch the people eat. Zoo etiquette among members and frequent visitors is to leave the tables next to the windows for families with young children. The gibbons were more active today than usual.

After lunch we planned to go to Cat Canyon, but DS pointed out we had laundry to do at home and DH and I (who both use canes) were getting tired. We made a brief stop in the Elephant’s Trunk, the main giftshop, as both DH and DS have birthdays coming up. Then we headed home.

Is this nine flamingoes or ten?

‘Twas only the three of us. DD is in college and could not come with us.

Don’t forget to read my articles at SciFi.radio or buy the fantasy anthologies that contain my stories.

Book Review: notsleepyyet

notsleepyyet is a poetry book by Alexander P. Garza. After you read it, you may have trouble sleeping, too. The poems, are powerful, but disturbing. Don’t expect moon/June/honeymoon, even in the poems where Mr. Garza talks of how much he loves his wife. Mostly free verse, with some rhyme.

“Spider Web” begins:

“There’s a ten foot spider overhead ready to saran wrap me./His legs vibrate-tingle like prickly branches pulsating.

He follows me to my car and hides behind/where the where the headrest meets my neck.” Disturbing imagery.

From “Imagination is a Dangerous Place”:

“Never use a hand grenade/ when handling form/ or meter or unfettered passion./ Just use it when/ things get stale.”

There are indeed times Garza uses a metaphorical hand grenade.

He speaks of Hurricane Harvey, of his wife, their child, illegal aliens, ghosts, brujos, alcohol, weather, hospitals, music, etc. If you’re looking for poetry that is soft, sweet, and fluffy, like cheesecake, this is not the book for you. If you like your poetry strong and tough, like slightly overdone pot roast cooked with onions and turnips, then notsleepyyet might be the book for you.

Notsleepyyet has been nominated for Bram Stoker Awards in the Poetry category. I recommend it.

Jezebel References

Yolen, Jane and Heidi E. Y. Stemple Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, & Other Female Villains. Watertown, Massachusetts: Charlesbridge Publishing, 2013.

Jastrow, Morris, Jr., J. Frederic McCurdy, and Duncan B. McDonald “Baal and Baal Worship,” Jewish Encyclopedia.com

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2236-ba-al-and-ba-al-worship.

Higgs, Liz Curtis Really Bad Girls of the Bible. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Waterbrook Press, 2000.

Frymer-Kensky, Tivka Reading the Women of the Bible. New York: Shocken Books, 2002.

https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08404a.htm

2 Kings 9:30-37.

(1 Kings 16:31, 32

1 Kings 18:19

1 Kings 18:4

1 Kings 18:40

1 Kings 19:1-3

1 Kings 21

Macdonald, Susan https://medium.com/p/60db0aba1719/edit

Book Review: BAD GIRLS

{image by Rebecca Guay, via Charlesbridge Publishing}

Dr. Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi E. Y. Stemple wrote a book called Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains. Like many of Dr. Yolen’s books, it’s intended for younger readers. (Amazon suggests ages 9-12.) However despite the fact I haven’t been twelve in decades, I found it most enjoyable, entertaining, and educational. Sir Philip Sidney said poetry should “teach, delight, and move Men to take that goodness in hand.” Dr. Yolen is not only an author and an editor, but also a poet (her political poetry is wonderful!), so it’s no surprise this prose book teaches and delights … it might even inspire some readers to goodness. It’s inspiring me to write.

I have long been considering writing a Gladys Malvern-type YA about Jezebel. When I went to my local small town library for a book on life in Biblical times, especially in Phoenicia, the shelves had nothing I needed. However, the card catalog informed me I could find information on Jezebel by an author I trusted through inter-library loan.

I only needed six pages of the book, but I had to check out the whole book, and I’m glad I did. All 164 pages were interesting. Dr. Yolen and Ms. Stemple present the stories of 26 historical “bad girls” as objectively as possible. Queens, pistol-wielding pretties, pirates in petticoats, racketeers’ molls, mothers who did not set a good example for their children, spies, poisoners, witches, etc. This was the first book since my stroke that I’ve been able to sit down and read cover to cover in one sitting. OK, it was less than 200 pages and it’s double-spaced between lines, maybe triple-spaced and a decent-sized font. Also, I am old enough to be the mother of the average reader of the target audience. But I read it all in one sitting, and I’m chuffed about that!

The villainesses that Dr. Yolen has chosen for this book are Delilah, Jezebel, Cleopatra, Salome, Anne Boleyn, Bloody Mary, Elisabeth Bathory, Moll Cutpurse, Tituba, Anne Bonney, Mary Read, Peggy Shippen Arnold, Catherine the Great, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, Belle Starr, Calamity Jane, Lizzie Borden, Madame Alexe Popova, Pearl Hart, Typhoid Mary, Mata Hari, Ma Barker, Beulah Annan, Belva Gaertner, Bonnie Parker, and Virginia Hill. Some (many) of these women were more sinned against than sinning – especially by 21st century standards. Most I had heard of before, but some of the names and information was new to me.

After each chapter, is a cartoon of Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple discussing the woman in question: was she a victim of circumstances or an actual villainess?

Dr. Yolen taught me two new vocabulary word: tomrig (a rude, wild, wanton girl) and rumpscuttle (a girl who had little regard for the traditional female pursuits). I used both words in a Medium post a few days ago.

I enjoyed this book and I regret having to send it back to a library in another county. I recommend it to any reader young or old, male or female, who is interested in historical figures. I will be copying down the information in the bibliography before I return it.

Portrait of Queen Jezebel, by John Liston Byam Shaw (1872 -1919)

Submissions

On or after August 30, submit “Ebony Black” to Mirror, Mirror.

Silence in the City firefighter/paramedic story, 2K – 5K by Grandma Van Horn’s birthday.

Third Flatiron cut 1,000 words from “Never Was a Merry World” by August 2 or else write new story re Things with Wings: Stories of Hope, 1,500 – 3K words, 8 cents a word.

What Is Sword & Sorcery?

What is sword and sorcery? It’s a sub-genre of fantasy full of witches, warlords, heroes, hellions, thieves, and thaumaturges. (Why, yes, scribes of sword & sorcery stories are fond of alliteration. Why do you ask?) For good examples, read Roy Thomas’ adaptions and extrapolations of Robert E. Howard’s fantasy adventure stories in Marvel Comicsor the late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress series of anthologies. The back cover brags that “Parallel Universe Publications presents tales of swords and sorceries, of warlocks and warriors, of demons and demigods from some of the best writers in the genre today.” (Yes, we do like alliteration.)

That back cover blurb inspired my story in volume 2, “Zale and Zedril” about a demon and a demigod. Technically, both are demigods, offspring of Darmock of the Sword, god of fighting and fertility. He is demonborn rather than true demon; his mother is a she-demon. She is a demigod, who passes for human. Her mother was human. Usually in co-ed sword & sorcery, the male is a swordsman and the female is a sorceress. I decided to switch it ’round. She is a fighter. He is a mage. Although I will be submitting more Zale & Zedril stories to Sword & Sorceries, I also hope to sell some tales of their adventures to higher paying markets. Maybe in 20-30 years I (or my literary executor – I may be dead by then) will collect the Z squared stories into in all Macdonald anthology.

Getting off track here: what is sword & sorcery? S & S is a subgenre of fantasy that focuses on action stories. The heroes may save their kingdom, but usually don’t save the world. The protagonists tend to be picaresque rather than avatars of the Light. Good vs. Evil is less of a plot point than catching and beating up the pickpocket who stole your beer money. Short stories are more common than novels. Although sword & sorcery is influenced by historical fiction, it generally takes place in an entirely make-believe setting, often loosely based on generic European medieval. The late MZB complained that the tropes of S & S were terribly sexist and that female characters were limited to “bad conduct prizes” for the heroes, which is why she started her annual anthology for swordswomen and sorceresses, which has continued on since her death.

Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy is a series of anthologies of Sword & Sorcery tales. I’ve had the privilege to be in volumes 1 and 2, and I am working on a story to submit to volume 3. Follow this link here to a very favorable review of Volume 2, which not only mentions my story, but spells my name correctly!

Submissions for volume 3 are welcome from August 1 to October 31, 2021. Parallel Universe Publications is a small press and cannot afford (yet) to pay SFWA rates. Payment is £25 per story regardless of length, plus a contributor’s copy. The book will be published as a paperback and ebook. If a hardcover version is published they will pay an additional £25. Contributors can also buy extra copies of the book through Parallel Universe Publications at cost price. Parallel Universe Publications at cost price.

Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy

Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy is a series of anthologies of Sword & Sorcery tales. I’ve had the privilege to be in volumes 1 and 2, and I am working on a story to submit to volume 3. Follow this link here to a very favorable review of Volume 2, which not only mentions my story, but spells my name correctly!

What is sword and sorcery? It’s a sub-genre of fantasy full of witches, warlords, heroes, hellions, thieves, and thaumaturges. (Why, yes, scribes of sword & sorcery stories are fond of alliteration. Why do you ask?) For good examples, read Roy Thomas’ adaptions and extrapolations of Robert E. Howard’s fantasy adventure stories in Marvel Comicsor the late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress series of anthologies. The back cover brags that “Parallel Universe Publications presents tales of swords and sorceries, of warlocks and warriors, of demons and demigods from some of the best writers in the genre today.” (Yes, we do like alliteration.)

That back cover blurb inspired my story in volume 2, “Zale and Zedril” about a demon and a demigod. Technically, both are demigods, offspring of Darmock of the Sword, god of fighting and fertility. He is demonborn rather than true demon; his mother is a she-demon. She is a demigod, who passes for human. Her mother was human. Usually in co-ed sword & sorcery, the male is a swordsman and the female is a sorceress. I decided to switch it ’round. She is a fighter. He is a mage. Although I will be submitting more Zale & Zedril stories to Sword & Sorceries, I also hope to sell some tales of their adventures to higher paying markets. Maybe in 20-30 years I (or my literary executor – I may be dead by then) will collect the Z squared stories into in all Macdonald anthology.

Getting off track here: what is sword & sorcery? S & S is a subgenre of fantasy that focuses on action stories. The heroes may save their kingdom, but usually don’t save the world. The protagonists tend to be picaresque rather than avatars of the Light. Good vs. Evil is less of a plot point than catching and beating up the pickpocket who stole your beer money. Short stories are more common than novels. Although sword & sorcery is influenced by historical fiction, it generally takes place in an entirely make-believe setting, often loosely based on generic European medieval. The late MZB complained that the tropes of S & S were terribly sexist and that female characters were limited to “bad conduct prizes” for the heroes, which is why she started her annual anthology for swordswomen and sorceresses, which has continued on since her death.

Submissions for volume 3 are welcome from August 1 to October 31, 2021. Parallel Universe Publications is a small press and cannot afford (yet) to pay SFWA rates. Payment is £25 per story regardless of length, plus a contributor’s copy. The book will be published as a paperback and ebook. If a hardcover version is published they will pay an additional £25. Contributors can also buy extra copies of the book through Parallel Universe Publications at cost price.

Book Review: The Story of Owen

{Dragon silhouette via Google Images, from all-free-download.com}

The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston is an excellent book. Technically YA, but no reason adults can’t enjoy it. Set in a modern AU of Canada 🇨🇦, it’s the tale of a 16 year old boy in rural Ontario, who is destined to be a dragon slayer. The tale is told by a female friend , Siobhan (not a girlfriend) who tutors him in math & English. She learns the way of dragon slaying from Owen and his family. There are a Lesbian couple, which will please some readers and offend others. No graphic Gay sex, though. Siobhan is a natural born musician. She plays the baritone saxophone, the piano, and can cope on a couple of instruments. She also composes, and interprets people as musical instruments. (Spoiler: she trains to become Owen’s bard.) Driver’s Ed includes strategies for avoiding dragons. Teenage angst, corn dragons, soccer, a slightly altered history for a fascinating parallel world, and a hefty dose of humor. I recommend this bookl so does my son.

Costa Maya

{Mexican flag via Google Images}

My husband, Edward Macdonald of Highland Heather Travel is arranging a Caribbean cruise for Real Men Wear Kilts. The ship will depart from Galveston, cruise the western Caribbean, and make two visits to the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, first to Costa Maya, and then a day or two later to Cozumel.

There are several pizzerias in Costa Maya. However, perhaps pizza should be saved for a trip to Chicago, and Mexican restaurants should be visited in Mexico.

With a name like Costa Maya, there should be fascinating Mayan ruins and beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, neither is cheap. One can always wander aeound the shops and window-shop and people-watch for free. However, given that both my husband and I walk with canes, trying to save money by taking a self-guided walking tour may not be practical for us.

There is an amusement park if you want to try roller coasters and water slides.

The cruise line set aside 30 cabins for RMWK. My husband has sold 19 cabins already.