Within all this darkness, there is hope?

A good friend of mine, J.H. Moncrieff, has exciting news this month—her novella The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave just came out through Samhain Publishing as part of their Childhood Fears Series.

I almost postponed blogging about it, however, because of bitter, terrible news. My brain tries to skirt it. I feel sick to the point of nausea and wanting to vomit when my mind presses even lightly on the tiniest shards of it. I can’t imagine—and I can. And I hate it and would do anything to change it. Would trade my limbs, my life, if I could. There are types of pain that the brain doesn’t know how to process.

So why on earth post a blurb promoting a horror story right now of all times? Well, for the same reason I write and read. Good stories delve into those most tender parts of the human psyche—parts that, to me at least, seem inexorably linked: what we love and what we fear. When we’re suffering (and we all do at various times in various ways), they offer a much-needed escape—but even more so, they acknowledge and spend time mucking about in the things that hurt us most and can be a form of catharsis.

In an English Lit course once, studying Ann-Marie MacDonald’s amazing but brutal Fall On Your Knees, one of the students—a woman who was so quiet I had literally never heard her voice until that day—spoke up when a bunch of other students were whining and griping about some of the novel’s content, how “dark” it was, and how they shouldn’t “have” to read it. The prof was understandably disheartened by their attitude and said something like, “So why do you think there might be value or a point in reading stories that are hard emotionally?”

The quiet woman held up her hand and even the professor’s face registered surprise. “Yes?” she asked.

“For me . . . ” The woman spoke with a slight accent and turned red the minute she opened her mouth. “When I read stories of what other people have survived through, it makes me think I can survive too.”

Then she dropped her head, picked up her pen and busied herself writing something down. The whole class was stunned silent for a moment.

And her words have stayed with me because she summed up, so concisely, one the reasons I have always read so voraciously. It makes me think I can survive. And it gives me a bruised and bleeding hope that people I love can too.

I’m sorry that my introduction to J.H. Moncrieff isn’t cheerier—but I do sincerely hope you’ll pick up her novella, whether it’s just for a thrill and escape, or whether you have something you wish to forget for a bit, or even if you, like me, have your own demons you’re wrestling with right now.

In a weird coincidence with my thinking about why I write and read, when I was chatting with Holli earlier this month about her book, I asked her if she’d care to share what draws her to horror as a reader and a writer. Here are her thoughts.

Once I learned to read, I couldn’t stop. I was a veritable book addict, and pretty soon I’d worked my way through the children’s section at my local library.

My mom was a reader as well, and her collection kept me going. I loved it all—racy Sidney Sheldon mysteries, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Rosemary’s Baby, even her Jackie Collins bodice rippers. I read anything I could get my hands on, and one thing I’ll say for my mom—she never censored what I read.

In spite of the presence of Rosemary’s Baby on her bookshelves, she claimed to hate horror. It was strange, then, to find a few Stephen King paperbacks among several garbage bags full of books that were hidden under the basement stairs.

I’d always been titillated by scary stories—there was something irresistible about reading books and watching movies that were considered “off limits” for someone my age. Who can resist the forbidden?

Mom claimed not to know where the paperbacks had come from, but as usual, she didn’t care if I read them. So my very first King experience was Different Seasons, and I couldn’t have chosen a better book. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption…Apt Pupil…The Body. They are still some of the finest stories I’ve ever read.

From that moment on, I was hooked. My first published story was about a vampire who ran around devouring everything (I’d recently learned the word ‘devour’ and loved it.) As an adult, I initially preferred to write mysteries and psychological suspense, but all my novels had one thing in common—they were dark. Very dark. I decided to embrace the darkness.

Done well, horror can make us question our preconceived ideas. It presents the worst-case scenario so we can think about how we’d deal with the same situation. A thrilling horror story will grab us and hypnotize us, forcing us to turn page after page until it’s finished. (I’ve lost many nights of sleep to Stephen King.) And there are no guarantees with this genre—horror writers never promise their readers a happily ever after.

Sadly, there is quite a bit of crap cluttering the genre, and it’s given horror a bad name. But there are writers who grew up reading the masters, who truly love horror, and who are determined to keep elevating the genre. So within all this darkness, there is hope. [Emphasis mine.]

J. H. Moncrieff

J. H. Moncrieff

J.H. Moncrieff loves scaring people with her books, and she blogs about the supernatural, the creepy, and the mysterious on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. In her “spare” time, J.H. travels to exotic locales, advocates for animal rights, and practices Muay Thai kickboxing.

Her newest release is The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave:

Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant to accept a well-worn teddy bear from his new stepfather. He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy, and he doesn’t like being rejected. When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things happen.

Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ efforts rebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth — Edgar will always get even.

J.H. Moncrieff: Website | Twitter | Facebook
The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave: Amazon | Samhain | Kobo | B&N | Trailer

Happy Belated Mother’s Day . . . All is Right

My latest Terrace Standard column seems an appropriate thing to share on the heels of Mother’s Day. . . . I did most of my young mothering without my own mother or mother-in-law around to help or offer advice and I’ve always wondered if that loss and lack made me more neurotic than other moms. More and more, however, I feel comforted (er, wrong word, perhaps, but the closest I can find) that no, most of us feel wildly unprepared and terrified for every stage of our children’s lives, even while we’re thrilled and excited for them. Thoughts?

p.s. A special call out to my lovely, supportive step mom who is always the first to reassure me that all my angst is normal and that you never fully stop worrying about your kids.

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Are you sure going over there is a good idea? No, are you _sure_? Hey, I asked are you really, surely, _sure_?! - Photo by Don McCullough.

Are you sure going over there is a good idea? No, are you _sure_? Hey, I asked are you really, surely, _sure_?! – Photo by Don McCullough.

All is Right

When my children were small, I used to tiptoe into their rooms at night to watch their sweet sleeping faces. I would say it was for their benefit, that I wanted to make sure they were settled, but really it was to reassure myself that this loveliest of experiences was real. No matter what stress or problems nagged or future worries loomed, in the now, my children were sleeping, were safe.
 
I’ve never lost the awe and gratitude I felt at their births. Even now, I sometimes gawk at grown-up them and feel overwhelmed with it.
 
There were trying times through the years, of course. Exhaustion, heartbreak, turmoil, and guilt. (Ah, guilt that horrible part and package of becoming a parent, seeing first hand that no matter how hard you try, you’ll still fail them and be completely inadequate in some pretty crucial ways.) Yet through it all, the dominant emotion I associate with parenting was—and is—joy. Joy and deep thankfulness.
 
That said, the last two or so years have been tough. I knew my job would change once my children became adults, but I didn’t know how or in what ways—and I fully counted on my worrying about them to decrease. (I hear you other parents of adult kids laughing right now, and it’s not helpful. Not helpful at all!) More frequently than ever before, I was at a loss for what to do, what to say. . . .
 
Thanks to help from parents I admired and to a lot of reading, I knew how to rear babies and toddlers (which isn’t to say I did so well—but I knew the basics and could aspire to higher things). Ditto children and tweens. And I was one of those annoying parents who enjoyed raising my teenagers. (Don’t worry: I also pulled out a lot of hair and wept buckets too. I think that’s the developmental norm for parents of children that age.)
 
But adulthood? Somehow, seemingly overnight, I was supposed to trust we’d instilled the tools they needed to maneuver life, provide for themselves, build healthy relationships, etc., etc.
 
For a while, I went backward in my parenting skills. I struggled (struggle!) with letting go. It’s just that I have all this hope and love and desire for them, coupled with a truth we all learn pretty quickly: life can kick the heart out of you sometimes. I desperately wanted (want!) to spare them any pain. But that’s inner-Ev. Outer-Ev is more sensible and knows full well their lives and decisions are on them now—as they must be for them to mature into healthy, independent adults.
 
Thankfully, after some blue, anxious months, I had a small epiphany. My daughter was sharing some issue and as I opened my mouth to give suggestions, she held up her hand. “You don’t have to fix this, Mom. It’s not your job.”
 
A light went on. She was right. “Fixing things” for her isn’t my job anymore—and hasn’t been for some time.
 
Then I read an article, “The Danger of Micromanaging your Teenagers” by Mike Duran. It affirmed how my husband and I tried to raise our kids—and provided guidance for this next phase. He described parenting adults as a partnership. You’re still there for them, but as equals facing life together. You’re supportive, not dictatorial. Available, but not hovering.
 
I know I’ll be tempted to micromanage or to give more advice than is appropriate again (It’s just so hard not to look at them and see the toddlers who needed so much of me!), but I’ve been at peace since getting this tidbit of insight.
 
Will I still sneak into their bedrooms to check on them if I get the chance? Of course! Heh. Got you. Of course not. Part of me, however, will always want to. Just to know they’re all right. And to reassure myself that this loveliest of all experiences is real. I am the parent of adults, and in the now, they’re safe. 

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“All is Right” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, April 29, 2015 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”
 

 

Bigger Things by Ev Bishop – nominated for a RONE award. Please vote!

biggerthings_ThumbnailEeeiii and yay! I’m thrilled to announce that my novel Bigger Things has been nominated for a RONE award by InD’tale Magazine because of the high review rating it received. Now it’s entering the second phase of the contest: where you come in. Please vote for it! If it makes this second cut, it will go on to be critiqued by a panal of judges. Should I win I’ll be off to Palm Springs, CA in September. :)

It’s an honor to have even received the excellent review, but of course I’d love it if readers show they enjoyed it too. Please vote for Bigger Things!

How  you ask? It’s easy.

1) Click here to register. (InD’tale won’t spam you; they just need to know that you’re a real person and/or not the same person voting over again.) **After you register, go to your e-mail inbox to confirm your registration.**

2) Click here to enter the voting room. Scroll down and click on Chick Lit / Women’s Fiction. The list of nominees will open up. Vote for Bigger Things by Ev Bishop. :) (If the list doesn’t open, it just means you need to sign in again–look for the sign in box in the right of the screen. OR click on InD’scribes/RONEs at the top of InD’tale’s homepage, then on 2015 RONE Awards, then on Week Four – May 4 -10, Novella, Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction, Young Adult: Paranormal.)

**Very important** Bigger Things is only open for voting from May 4 – 10, 2015, so please don’t delay. Follow the above links and vote for me today. Thank you so much! I’ll be sure to post updates when/if I get them.

Also (I know I’m asking a lot, sorry! :D), but please consider sharing this post. It would really help get the word out and I’d appreciate it very much.

Have a wonderful week and happy reading,

:) Ev

Cover reveal . . . HOOKED by Ev Bishop

AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! <Shrieks excitedly and does a really strange and awkward but extremely happy little jig around her office!>

After a week of awful computer issues that, phew, phew, PHEW AND YAY are all taken care of now, I finally got into my e-mail and what did I find? The cover for my upcoming book, HOOKED, Book 2 in the River’s Sigh B & B series. I’ll post an official blurb in a few days too–but in the meantime, I couldn’t wait to share. Doesn’t it just make you want to hike into the pages and never come out? :)

Hooked by Ev Bishop

If you haven’t read Book 1, WEDDING BANDS, no worries. HOOKED completely stands alone–then again, it’s always fun to jump into a series right at the beginning and there’s plenty of time to read WEDDING BANDS before HOOKED hooks you in June. :)

EvBishop_WeddingsBands_200px(1)WEDDING BANDS is available in paperback online and at Misty River Books and in digital through a wide variety of online vendors, including:

Amazon.com ~ Amazon.ca ~ Amazon.co.uk ~ Amazon.co.au

KOBO ~ For your NOOK at Barnes & Noble ~ Apple/iBooks ~ Page Foundry ~ Scribd ~ Smashwords

Wishing you adventure in and out of the pages this weekend. Happy reading!

April is national poetry month – thoughts and a workshop

April is national poetry month and since poetry has always been a great help and boon to me emotionally, I celebrate it.

When I was twelve or thirteen or so, I discovered Zibby Oneal’s novel A Formal Feeling, a title borrowed from the first line in an Emily Dickinson poem that goes by the same name and casts light on the story’s themes. (It’s a wonderful book, by the way. I highly recommend it to YA readers, young and old . . . I mean, er, older. :D)

After great pain, a formal feeling comes—
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs—
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round—
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought—
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone—

This is the Hour of Lead—
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow—
First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—

– Emily Dickinson

My dad had a love for Irish poetry and songs and old English verse, plus I was a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson’s verses for children, but Emily’s “A Formal Feeling” was the first poem (that I remember anyway) to strike a chord of recognition deep within me. By then I was already acquainted with sorrow—and for me, her words captured a truth that was difficult to put into words. She conveyed what sadness felt like and expressed a process I was learning.

I don’t know how many times I reread the poem as a teenager (or have done so as an adult), but it continues to be one my favourites.

Another piece that meant more to me than I can probably explain without a lot of melodrama is “First Ice” by Andrei Voznesensky.

A girl freezes in a telephone booth.
In her draughty overcoat she hides
A face all smeared
In tears and lipstick.
She breathes on her thin palms. Her fingers are icy. She wears earrings.
She’ll have to go home alone, alone
Along the icy street.
First ice. It is the first time.
The first ice of telephone phrases.
Frozen tears glitter on her cheeks-
The first ice of human hurt.

I suspect you, having read it, know the phase of life I’d entered—first love, first heartbreak, yes . . . but I always felt the poem spoke to something bigger than one isolated break up. It was the disappointment that resonated with me: the girl, for the first time, recognizing that people weren’t always what they promised—and/or weren’t as honest or straight forward as she was.

I could share many, many more poems that influenced me or comforted me (or just made me laugh; not every poem I love is sad!), but I’ll spare you for now.

I suspect you have your own poems or songs (and what are lyrics if not poetry?) that, no matter how long ago you came across them, still have profound meaning to you. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that you’ve even penned a stanza or two (or more), whether you consider yourself a writer or poet or not. Most of us have. There’s something in the human spirit that yearns to give voice to the emotions that move us and the passions that make us us.

It’s definitely true for me. Despite all my affection for essays and letters and my love of fiction, when overcome by happiness—or weeping, wordless sadness or white-hot coiled rage—I turn to poetry to help me vent, express, or attempt to make muddled sense of my mad joy and intense pangs and desires. Perhaps you do, too? If yes, I’d love to hear about it. (Or better yet, share a poem you love—your own or someone else’s—here. Please!)

Now circling back to it being national poetry month—and my desire to celebrate it.

If you’ve written poetry before but stopped for some reason, or if you never have but would like to—or if you’re a prolific pro looking for ways to invigorate and refresh your muse, honour those stirrings. Join me and Joan Conway this Saturday (April 25th) for an afternoon of poetry exercises and inspiration.

Spring Stirrings

Reading at Prince Rupert Library, Thursday, April 16, 7:00 – I hope you can come!

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been invited to take part in some super fun events over the next few weeks: An author reading at the Prince Rupert Library, Spring Stirrings – a Poetry Workshop (that I’m co-facilitating with Joan Conway), and an Authors for Indie Bookstores event at Misty River Books. I’ll post full details for each in the days to come, so keep a kind eye out if you’re interested.

Kicking off the three, I’m calling for all Prince Rupert, B.C. readers and writers. The Prince Rupert Library has invited me to do a reading and question and answer session, Thursday, April 16 at 7:00 p.m. I’ll be focusing on BIGGER THINGS, but will also have copies of WEDDING BANDS on hand. It should be a fun, thought-provoking evening (and there are great door prizes, lol). I hope to meet you there!

P.S. Please like and/or share this post if you have friends or family in the Prince Rupert area–and if you have any questions, ask away. :)

Bigger Things Reading Poster PRINCE RUPERT

Start Already

Journal2Sometimes ideas, chores, and plans energize and invigorate me. Other times, they’re paralyzing. All the stuff that needs doing wars with all things I want to do, and I never know what to begin with. Stymied by indecision, I can waste hours worrying and overthinking instead of being productive. 
 
Our house and property have a lot of potential (Beware of that danger-laden euphemism for “work intensive, never ending project” when you buy!), but prioritizing the seemingly insurmountable work sometimes feels impossible.   
 
In my work life, there’s always so much to do that my brain hums a constant refrain of where to start, where to start.
 
And then there are all the annoying household tasks. Toilets need cleaned. Meals need prepared. (Hopefully not at the same time.) Laundry breeds the minute you turn your back. (Tell you something you don’t know, right?)
 
Contemplating my latest struggle to get down to work, however, I realized something encouraging. As much as I bellyache and feel in over my head at times, I also tackle a lot and get a lot done, so long as I remember the secret: Tackle one piece at a time.
 
When I was a kid, I was incredibly messy (much to the despair of my poor, clean freak mom who had a houseful of chaos-lovers.)
 
Even though we all did chores regularly, my room always looked like I’d never sorted, organized or picked it up in my life.
 
When ordered to clean it, overwhelmed by the looming work, I’d do what seemed most sensible to me: waste a ton of time, crying, whining, and/or playing with things I was supposed to be putting away. (You’d think that at some point in my childhood I would’ve figured out procrastination didn’t help, but no. . . .)
 
My mom would wait, hoping if left to my own devices I’d finally incorporate the strategy she tried so hard to drill into me, but as minutes turned to hours and she saw my whole day being frittered away, she’d intervene—note I did not say “do it for me.” She never did it for me. (And wow . . . it really would’ve been so much easier for her if she had. Kudos to her for her long-suffering patience!)
 
“Just pick up one thing at a time.”
 
“I can’t. There’s too much.” (Whine. Wail!)
 
“Pick something. It doesn’t matter what. Start with the biggest things—like your bedding. Put it back on your bed. It’s not rocket science.”
 
She’d watch from the doorway to make sure I didn’t get sidetracked. “If you make your bed during this step—don’t just jumble everything in a heap—it will save work later.” (Again, this always seemed like brand new wisdom every time I heard it.)
 
Fine.”
 
“Now pick up all your stupid stuffed animals.” (They weren’t really stupid but I understand her frustration.) “No, don’t just throw them willy-nilly. Line them up.”
 
And once Raggedy Anne and Co. were all arranged: “That’s a good start. Now the Barbie stuff. I’ll be back shortly.”
 
Barbies. Check. Blocks (without being prodded—go me!) Check.
 
Mom in the doorway again. “Good. Now the Fisher Price—and you know, every time you play with one thing you don’t have to dump out every other single thing you own all at one time.” (Ha! Good one, Mom. You’re such a kidder.)
 
Next, groan, all the Lego. Then—voilà!—vacuum time. Once I was finished I was always happily surprised. It really hadn’t been that difficult. 
 
Final check and advice: “Good job. Now don’t you think it’d be easier to tidy as you go instead of waiting ‘til your whole room is a pigsty?” (Well, duh, Mom . . . but having a pet unicorn would also be nice.)
 
After ten years or so, I didn’t need constant nudging to apply my mom’s step-by-step breakdown and conquer approach. And today, yes, I still get overwhelmed and whine occasionally, but eventually I remember to just pick something and start—and there isn’t a pet unicorn in sight.

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“Start Already” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, March 25, 2015 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”