How’d we do? Global Big Day Weekend Wrap-up!

A ruby-throated hummingbird at Audubon Bent of the River in Southbury, CT. Photo by Nathan Schoonover.

*I was working on this post when a tornado hit my house. So here it is, about a month later than expected, but just in case anyone was wondering…

The results of our Global Big Day–when we try to see as many species of birds in one day as we can as part of an international effort–are in!

We started the day (May 5, 2018) in our yard at 6 a.m. Our neighbor, Steve, joined us for coffee and birdwatching until 8:30. We got 23 species, so it was a great kick-off to the day.

Look at this portly guy!! A Gray Catbird at a preserve in Newtown, CT. Photo by Nathan Schoonover.

I’d jokingly set my goal at 50, and really didn’t think we’d come anywhere near that. But we headed out to a preserve in Newtown, where in under 40 minutes we bagged seven species–the most exciting for me Read the rest of this entry

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THIS WRITING LIFE EPISODE 13: HOW TO WRITE ON VACATION

Episode 13 Blog Art 2

My sister and I enjoying a beer at Eeyore’s Birthday Party.

Four deadlines, a trip to Austin (and a trip to Disney after that). How did I get any writing done? Watch and find out in This Writing Life Episode 13: How to Write on Vacation.

 

 

 

 

Notes from the Tornado Zone

Tornado Damage Stadley Rough Road

The roads in my neighborhood were a dangerous maze of downed wires — my landline still hasn’t been fixed because they can’t even find some chunk of cable that disappeared. Here, at the corner of Stadley Rough Road and Great Plain, someone had tacked up wires so cars could “pass through.” It wasn’t as easy as it looked.

If you know me personally, then you probably know that a rash of freak storms tore through western Connecticut on May 15, spawning tornados and microbursts. My house got hit. We are not as bad off as some in our communities, but we sustained heavy damage—my bedroom’s not safe so we’re sleeping in the living room, our back porch was destroyed and what’s left of it is unstable, my husband’s car was flattened by falling trees, and all of our bird feeders and porch furniture were hurled everywhere like so many pick-up sticks. All of this, coupled with the estimated 30 trees on our property that are either downed or contorted in dangerous positions that may not last long, has made my life utter chaos.

Tornado damage back porch

Damage to the back porch. In case you’re wondering, those chairs weigh a LOT.

Everyone I love is safe, and everything that got broken is all just stuff. And, as more and more people chimed in on Facebook and reminded me that this was a good thing—“it’s just stuff, no one died”—yes, that’s true, but there was something about it that was bothering me. It made me realize that people who lose everything in devastating events like the Kilauea eruption and Hurricane Harvey aren’t just losing stuff. They are losing memories, stability, and their concept of home and what it means, even if only temporarily. It is also struggling to accept a state of chaos that may last for a long time—others not affected move on, while those that were will still be dealing with upheaval and a lack of normalcy months, if not years, afterward. It’s incredibly isolating.

If there is one thing I’m going to walk away from this with, it’s a new compassion for people who are left with nothing but wreckage. I understand the deep emotional impact now in a way I didn’t before. It’s probably going to change my life in many ways in terms of how I respond to natural disasters and how I can physically help. The first thing I wanted to do was go volunteer at the shelter that was set up here in Brookfield (there were people who suffered total, I mean total losses and we weren’t one of them, by far)—but once I got home, the roads were blocked, so I couldn’t leave.

Sadly, there will be a next time, and I will make sure I get there.

Below, the most important things rescued from my bedroom—I only needed to save them because of what they meant, not because of the items themselves.

 

Mumble, Dremlite, Pua

Build-A-Bear Mumble, Pua the Pig, and the Penguin Dreamlite—These were all stuffed animals my husband Nathan bought me. Mumble, who is the featured character in the 2006 movie Happy Feet, was the hottest item that Christmas. My husband busted his ass to get that thing for me…I heard the horror story on Christmas Eve of how he conned the lady at the counter to call him the second the shipment arrived. He got me the Penguin Dreamlite when he started working at the movie theatre in 2012—he would often work overnight and he got that to keep me company (I am afraid of the dark sometimes). Pua the Pig was my favorite character in Moana, so he got it for me for my birthday a couple of years ago. I like to cuddle with it…I may be 47, but I’m very in touch with my inner child.

For Kaye who sees everything

For Kaye Who Sees Everything—this painting was a Christmas gift to me from my friend Judith Nagib, who was in the Pencils! Writing Workshop I ran down in Norwalk from 2003-2009.

Uranus by Do'An

Uranus, by dear friend and mentor Do’An. It was the first piece of “real” art I ever owned, and when I look at it, I think of our great times together at Burlington College and how much he taught me about writing—and life.

Untitled by Heather Gleason -- This Poisoned Ground

This painting, by artist Heather Gleason, is untitled, but has an uncanny story. She was painting it at around the same time I was writing my novelette This Poisoned Ground, and it’s incredible how the painting describes what’s happening in the story. Talk about a fine example of the collective unconscious at work (no, we didn’t know each other at the time). You can check out Heather Gleason’s artwork here: http://myeclecticmind.com/

DARK DISCUSSIONS gets in touch with PYEWACKET

Pyewacket Masthead

The masthead for DD episode #337, PYEWACKET. Collage by Philip Perron.

The crew from Dark Discussions gets in touch with the 2018 indie Pyewacket, which focuses on a teenager full of angst who probably should’ve been more careful about what she wished for when she got angry at her mom.

Pyewacket is available for rental on most platforms, including Amazon, here: http://a.co/cmYf2xL. You can watch the Pyewacket trailer here: https://youtu.be/-bbtAKNi_j8

Tune in to our episode #337 on Stitcher, I-tunes, or go for the easy download/listen here: http://www.darkdiscussions.com/Pages/podcast_337.html

 

 

 

 

THE TERROR PROJECT: SALE and a RELEASE PARTY VIDEO TREAT!

Terror Project Covers 1

Want some great summer chillers to enjoy at the beach? Now’s your chance to get nine great novellas and pay less…and scroll down to get a peek at the private Three on a Match Release Party!

Books & Boos Press is offering the first two books in The Terror Project series—Triplicity, which contains stories by Stacey Longo, Rob Smales and Tony Tremblay—and Three on a Match, which contains my J-horror inspired piece “Splendid Chyna” and tales by G. Elmer Munson and Melissa Crandall—for a special sale price TODAY (June 4) through June 10 (next Sunday).

Triplicity and Three on a Match will be $9.99 (30% off) for the paperback and $1.99 for the ebook (50% off).

In addition, the third volume, Three A.M. Wake-Up Call, hits Amazon on Tuesday, June 5 (tomorrow) and is available for pre-order today. This third installment showcases novellas by Nick Cato, David Daniel, and Rob Watts.

Here’s where you can get your copies (click on the titles):

Triplicity

“Brando and Bad Choices” by Stacey Longo

“Steel” by Tony Tremblay

“The Christmas Spirit” by Rob Smales

 ♦

Three on a Match

“Splendid Chyna” by Kristi Petersen Schoonover

“All’s Well That Ends” by G. Elmer Munson

“Thicker Than Water” by Melissa Crandall

  ♦

Three A.M. Wake-Up Call

“Chew Toys” by Nick Cato

“Clinton Road” by Rob Watts

“Roons” by David Daniel

Want them on audio? Guess what? Audio books are on their way! I’ll post on this blog when those are available.

Below, get a peek at the private Three on a Match Release Party, which was held at my house in September. Don’t miss out, and happy reading!

THE NASTY NINE: Do you have a narc in your life?

The Nasty Nine

Today, I’m helping out my sister, who runs an online support group as well as the website https://escapinginsanity.org/ for victims of those who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder…I’m coming out as a former victim, and by doing so I hope to spread awareness.

What is a narcissist, you ask? The Mayo Clinic definition reads “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” It then goes on to say this is due to their low self-esteem or some other heart-tugging thing that almost makes you feel bad for them.

I’m going to apologize right now—for me, there’s no way to put a pretty face on this disorder. I’ve had experience with several narcs in my life (two of them romantic relationships), and I can tell you they are nothing more than abusers. I’ve gone through it, I’ve seen my friends go through it, I’ve seen my family go through it. Part of why I’m sharing this is to open people’s eyes. I know enough that if I even smell narc behavior I run, so there hasn’t been a narc–friend, romantic interest, boyfriend of a friend or otherwise–that’s been able to get a foothold in my life in sixteen years.

I want to give others that same opportunity.

If someone in your life does these nine patterns of behavior Read the rest of this entry

GLOBAL BIG DAY IS SATURDAY!

HERMIT THRUSH CROPPED 04-19-18 - Copy

A hermit thrush perches in our back yard, April, 2018. There was quite the snafu trying to get this bird id’d (ovenbirds and hermit thrushes can look really similar to an unpracticed eye like mine), but an Ebird expert came through. Photo by Nathan Schoonover.

If citizen science appeals to you and you love birds or have always wanted to have an excuse to start birdwatching, this Saturday, May 5, is a golden opportunity!

Global Bird Day is a “virtual” event in which participants take as little as 10 minutes in their favorite spots—even in their backyards—and count the number of birds and species. Participants then log what they’ve seen in Ebird. This effort is important, because it shows the ornithologists at Cornell a real-time snapshot of which birds are where—especially now, when we are in spring migration, which got off to a late start due to the colder-than-normal weather patterns.

Participating is easy; you can do as little or as much as you want, and a free Ebird account takes just a couple of minutes to set up. You can download an app, too, if you prefer—but you don’t have to. You can do it the old fashioned way, like I do: take a notebook and a pen and record it later.

Nathan and I are hitting up four locations; the first one will be easy, because it’s our back yard (thanks to 18 feeders, we get 14 species on a slow day). We’ll head up to hike a few miles through Audubon Bent of the River in Southbury, visit the nature preserve behind our favorite cemetery in Bridgewater (we’re hoping for lots of water species), and spend the remainder of the day at another preserve in Brookfield.

If you’d like more information on how to participate, visit https://ebird.org/news/global-big-day-5-may-2018.

If you’ve got Kentucky Derby or Cinco de Mayo invites (we do), those are probably at the end of the day, so you can still do both! Don’t miss out!

Light it Up with me at Annie’s Book Stop in Worcester, MA this weekend!

Three on a Match Cut the Cake

Melissa Crandall, g. Elmer Muson, and I cut the cake at the Three on a Match release party, September, 2017.

Join me and fellow writers g. Elmer Munson and Melissa Crandall at Annie’s Book Stop in Worcester, MA this weekend for a special reading from the novella collection Three on a Match! The Light it Up: Three on a Match celebration of literary horror event takes place on Independent Bookstore Day at Annie’s from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 28.

With the focus on horror and its connection to the real world, we’ll read a portion from each tale in the book, talk about where the story came from and share its connection to reality. There’ll be some Mad Libs, snacks, and giveaways (like those nifty matchbooks you could only get if you were at the Three on a Match release party).

Want to know more? Check out Annie’s author spotlight on Melissa Crandall, “Thicker Than Water,” here: https://anniesbookstopworcester.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/author-spotlight-melissa-crandall/

…and me here: https://anniesbookstopworcester.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/author-spotlight-kristi-petersen-schoonover-2/

Annie’s is located at 65 James Street in Worcester, MA. For more detailed information, visit Annie’s website at http://www.anniesbooksworcester.com/

How the Great Backyard Bird Count made me a birder

GBBC 1

My first ever bird journal!

Lots of birders recall their “spark bird” – the sighting that gave them the bug to bird – fondly.

I don’t have a spark bird. I have a spark weekend.

There’s this neat bookstore in the nearby town of Bethel called Byrd’s Books. In this do-or-die time for independent book sellers—there’s a lot of competition out there from Amazon, mostly, but from other large outlets that sell books at a cut price as well, such as BJs and Costco—they constantly have to invent new ways to keep themselves alive.

One of the ways Byrd’s does this is through the creation of community. Alice works hard to host a number of interesting events. In late January, her newsletter heralded an introductory session to the Great Backyard Bird Count—an annual event that takes place around President’s Day Weekend. It’s when birders everywhere count the birds in their yards or anywhere else they visit, and make reports each day. The National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology then use these reports to create a real-time snapshot of local bird populations. In prior years, this count has been exceptionally helpful in noting increases and decreases in certain populations and, for example, how changing weather patterns have affected them.

GBBC Confirmation

I signed us up immediately—Nathan has been a birder for years, and I’ll admit I never understood the appeal of it, but it would be an interesting date for us. I was excited, because I knew Nathan would be; I also love going to lectures on just about anything, and I love participating in citizen science. Besides, maybe I could figure out what the heck it is he loves about sitting out on our back porch for hours watching birds.

Whatever it was Read the rest of this entry

Short Story Sunday: Looking for a Rain God, Bessie Head

Contemporary African Short Stories

Looking for a Rain God, Bessie Head

This is considered a classic and is taught in many literary classrooms, but I think of it as a horror story: when pushed to the brink, there is almost no limit to what atrocities humanity can commit. This extremely short tale examines the effect of desperation on a family stricken with drought–but it’s the matter-of-fact way in which it’s rendered that gives one chills.

My blood curdles every time I read this. It’s not an easy piece to find because it mostly appears in textbooks, but there’s a wonderful collection—Looking for a Rain God: An Anthology of Contemporary African Short Storieshere.

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