Welcome. Toss a blanket down, sit for a while under the willow, relax, and enjoy what's written below.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guest Post "Spiders" by Inge-Lise Goss

Please welcome Inge-Lise Goss to the Willow Tree. Inge-Lise has written a gripping mystery "The Tengen Cave" and has honored us with a guest post. Welcome Inge-Lise.


After running from her boyfriend’s powerful organized crime family, Sara Jones starts a new life in
a new town. But when people around her start dying from poisonous spider bites after she receives
a mysterious package with a spider concealed inside, she worries that the family has found her. Life
takes an even more bizarre turn when she seems to be not only immune to the spider venom, but also
surrounded by a sinister group of people she suspects is a spider cult. Even her new boyfriend starts
acting suspiciously. Just who can she trust?

About the Author
Inge-Lise Goss was born in Denmark and immigrated to the United States at the age of four with
her family. She was raised in Utah and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of
Utah. She is a Certified Public Accountant and has audited numerous companies. She has four
grown children. She now lives in Las Vegas with her husband and their dog, Bran.

Inge-Lise was kind enough to write a guest post about spiders for us.

Why I chose to use spiders and fascinating things I learned about them.
Unlike other creatures that have the potential to harm humans, poisonous spiders can move about silently and unobserved in the dark. They can scurry under the smallest opening at the bottom of a closed door or window. They can climb up walls and disappear into a sliver of a crack. When chased, they can scoot under furniture, appliances, clothing, and even, a child’s toy. The possibilities are endless. They can easily join you in bed without being noticed. Only a light sleeper could feel one crawling on their bare skin. And, if it is a poisonous spider, can strike without warning.
William Hazlitt’s (1778-1830) essay “On the Pleasure of Hating” (c. 1826) began by describing the movement of a spider: “There is a spider crawling along the matted floor … he runs with heedless, hurried haste, he hobbles awkwardly towards me, he stops—he sees the giant shadow before him, and, at a loss whether to retreat or proceed, meditates his huge foe—but as I do not start up or seize upon the struggling caitiff, as he would upon a helpless fly within his toils, he takes heart and ventures on, with mingled cunning, impudence and fear. … I bear the creature no ill-will, but still I hate the very sight of it.”  Even today, that same sentiment exists—most people hate the very sight of spiders. The feeling is often intertwined with fear.
People rarely consider the benefits of having spiders on our planet. Spiders help control the insect population. Without them, insects would flourish into pest proportions. Yet, often when a spider is spotted it is crushed without remorse. Sara Jones, the protagonist in “The Tegen Cave,” appreciates and loves the delicate creatures. She attempts to protect the poisonous spiders that appear in her bed, and mourns when she fears some have perished. 
The spiders in my novel are mutant hobo spiders, Tegenaria agrestis. That name is the basis for my novel’s title, “The Tegen Cave.” Tegenaria agrestis is one of a small number of spider species whose bites are painful and medically significant. The venom is so strong it sometimes causes necrosis, the death of cells and tissues around the injected area of the body. 
Hobo spiders are known to be aggressive and vary significantly in appearance. A microscopic examination by an arachnologist, or someone knowledgeable in that field, is required for positive identification. Since Sara has been exposed to spiders all her life, she suspects the arachnids in the hotel are hobo spiders, but she can’t confirm that identity without a close examination under a microscope.
In doing preliminary research for my novel, I discovered some fascinating facts about various spider families’ predator abilities. Ordgarius magnificus, the magnificent spider, sets silk traps with a pheromone that mimics a moth’s. Believing a female moth is close by, male moths are lured to the trap. The spider subdues the pursuer, and the moth becomes a nutritious meal. Ant spiders of the Zodarlidae family imitate ants by using their front legs to mimic antennae. A trusting ant is soon devoured. Female flower crab spiders, Misumena vatia, can blend with flowers by changing their colors from white to yellow. They spread their sticky web and wait patiently for pollinators.

In my urban fantasy I wanted a creature that had the ability to enter a room undetected and, while there, poison targeted humans. After they accomplished that task, they needed the capacity to come when summoned along with some additional talents. The aggressive nature and toxicity of the hobo spider matched some of the desirable characteristics. Since no spider species possessed all the qualities, I expanded the hobo spiders’ skills and made them a mutant species in “The Tegen Cave.”    


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lisa Binion Guest Post and Book Review

Lisa Binion
Publisher: Silver Tongue Press
Publication Date: February 2013
Genre: Horror/Novella

“Mom died in her sleep last night.” Those are terrifying words for a child to wake up to. The beetle that falls off the stretcher and stares at her is only the beginning one of the strangest and most frightening times in Lori’s life. Death is not a pretty thing, especially not when the funeral is to be at the Lights Out Chapel and Crematorium.

Once she walks into the funeral parlor, she experiences things that no little girl should ever have to experience. No one is acting normal. No one can see what is going on. Is Lori the only one who sees the blood oozing from the pictures of Jesus on the cross? Doesn’t anyone else see the beetles? Is Lori hallucinating when she sees her mom sit up and hears her speak? There is absolutely nothing soft and tender about what happens to Lori.

From her overly morbid piano teacher to the creepy preacher and a father that just isn’t acting like himself, Lori is surrounded by people and things that hint of something bizarre. Once she leaves the Lights Out Chapel and Crematorium, things will go back to normal. Or will they?

Although Softly and Tenderly is a short read it gives enough information to know and understand what Lori is going through. But it does leave you at the end wondering if Lori was only imagining things or were they real? I would really love to see more of Lori story. I did enjoy Lori's story very much indeed but I would like to know if Lori was just imagining things or if maybe she has some kind of paranormal ability” – Nancy on Goodreads

When most children are asked, "What are your biggest fears?" They will respond with a list that includes losing a parent. For Lori, that fear has come true. Not only has she lost her precious mother, she has entered a frightening world no one else can see. Is she hallucinating what she experiences at the Lights Out Funeral Chapel and Crematorium, or is she suffering from intense grief? Walk with Lori as she sees and feels the horrors she must face alone. Why is everyone else ignoring them? You might need the lights on for this one, but don't let that stop you from grabbing it. It is a great read. I loved it and am hoping the author has more she will be publishing. - Marianne on Amazon.

Lisa Binion is a writer, editor, and wife. She makes her home in the beautiful state of Kentucky. Her two children are now grown, but she has been blessed with two beautiful grandchildren, Tyler and Zoey. Her family also includes four dogs, four cats, and two goats.

As the Fiction Writing Editor for BellaOnline, she writes articles, reviews fiction books, and interviews fiction authors. She is also an editor for Silver Tongue Press and Edit 1st. In her spare time, she attempts to clean house and relax.

Lisa on BellaOnline
Lisa at Silvertongue Press
Manuscript Editing Service

I’ll never forget that morning as long as I live.  Never.  Daddy crying for help as he ran down the stairs is what woke me out of a deep sleep.  “Call an ambulance!  Kathie is dead!” I heard him screaming.
Mommy?  Dead?  But I kissed her goodnight last night.  She smiled at me and told me how much she loved me.  Then she told me to come up after breakfast, and we would work a puzzle together.  She would never leave, not after making a play date with me.  She never lied.
I can’t remember exactly why, but Granny was living with us at that time.  Maybe it was because Mommy was sick.  Anyway, I had been sleeping downstairs with her instead of upstairs in my bedroom, which was right across from Mommy’s room.
I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and walked out the bedroom door into the kitchen to see what was going on.  There was so much noise, so much commotion that I didn’t understand what was happening.  Maybe I had heard wrong.
But as soon as I walked into the living room, one of my brothers grabbed hold of me.  “Lori, stay here.”
“But I want to see what’s going on!  I heard Daddy say that Mommy’s dead!  I want to go see her.  He’s wrong!”  I pushed Matt away from me as hard as I could, but he held me tight.
“No, Lori.  He’s not wrong.  Mom died in her sleep last night.”  As I stared into his reddened eyes, he said, “You don’t need to see her.”
“I don’t believe you!  She promised to do a puzzle with me today, right after breakfast!  She wouldn’t lie to me!  She can’t be dead!”
Then I heard the sirens.  These men, wearing blue jackets and carrying a stretcher, knocked on the front door of our house.  Daddy directed them up the stairs.  Almost as soon as they went up, they came back down, but this time there was something on the stretcher.  Whatever it was had a white sheet covering it so completely that I couldn’t see what was under it. But the sheet was moving.  What it covered appeared to be struggling to get up!  I ran toward the stretcher, so I could help and yank the sheet back, but once again my brother stopped me.  This time he picked me up.
As I turned and watched the men carrying the stretcher away, this beetle fell off the sheet onto the floor.  One just like it had gotten caught in my hair last summer.  Mommy patiently made me sit still as she removed it. 

“It will be alright, sweetie.  We’ll take care of you,” Matt whispered in my ear.  I wrapped my arms around his neck.  I heard what he said, but my eyes were on the beetle that had stared back at me.  It walked across the carpet, stopped, and looked at me before it turned to go up the stairs.  It seemed to be trying to talk to me.

Purchase Link: Amazon  Kindle and Print

Softly and Tenderly Book Review
When most children are asked, "What are your biggest fears?" they will respond with a list that includes losing a parent. For Lori, her fear has become a reality. Not only has she lost her precious mother, she has entered a frightening world no one else can see. Is she hallucinating what she experiences at the Lights Out Funeral Chapel and Crematorium, or is she suffering from intense grief? Walk with Lori as she sees and feels the horrors she must face alone. Why is everyone else ignoring them?
The music lyrics interspersed throughout the story added a very eerie element. The lyrics and the preacher’s sermon sounded frightening and out of place to Lori. The gentle smiles of condolences from the adults speaking to her only confuse her more. She doesn’t understand where her mother has gone and how it can be a better place than with Lori.
Frightening events happen to Lori, but I don’t want to spoil the story for you. You might need the lights on for this one, but don't let that stop you from grabbing it. It is a great read. I loved it and am hoping the Lisa has more she will be publishing soon. I would rate this story 5 stars.

Here's a treat, a post by Lisa I'm sure you'll enjoy.
Why I Am Drawn to Horror Stories

Why am I drawn to read horror stories?  Why do I like to write stories that keep people on the edge of their seats wondering what is going to happen next?  Why do I enjoy reading or writing tales that will keep some people awake at night?

The answer may surprise you.  You might not even believe me, but it is true.  Horror stories relax me.  They calm me down.  Whether I’m upset over how life is going or whether I’m upset from something that has happened in the past, reading or writing about things that will scare others makes me feel better.  I wouldn’t like to be caught in any of the situations in horror stories that I read or write, but since it is only a story and not real, I know that I am safe.

Now I can’t read just any horror story.  I don’t feel I’m that hard to please as a reader, but I have read stories that I really didn’t like.  Some stories I read and wonder what the point of writing it was.  If the book is a struggle for me to read and bores me that terribly, how did the author feel when writing it?

The characters need to grab my attention and make me care about what happens to them.  The situation(s) they are put in may be far removed from reality, but the author makes me believe they could happen.  The story needs to either be full of action and fast-paced, or it needs to have an underlying current of creepiness that coats everything that is said.  And most important, the story has to have a plot and not be just a bunch of words randomly strung together.

When I’m into a horror story so deep that I can’t put it down, I get pure enjoyment out of what I read.  My house suffers, I have to remind myself to eat, and my animals have to remind me to feed them, but my mind takes me into the reality of the story.  I also notice the techniques the author uses to make the story creepy. 

Horror stories don’t scare me now, but when I was a young girl, they gave me nightmares and kept me up at night.  I remember when I read The Shining by Stephen King.  My bedroom was right next to the bathroom, and the scene with the dead lady in the bathtub made me scared to close my eyes at night out of fear that she would sneak into my room and get me.

If writing horror scared me, then I don’t think I could write it. Of course, it could help that I seldom dream at night, and I can’t remember the last nightmare I had.

My mom died when I was only eight years old.  I really thought that I was over her death, but when I wrote Softly and Tenderly, I cried.  The very first part of the story, except for the beetles, is based on the morning she was found dead by my dad.  The rest of it came straight from my warped imagination.  By the way, Lori’s story isn’t over yet.  Those beetles that keep reappearing have so much more in store for her.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway before you leave:  Click for giveaway.

Thanks for stopping by Lisa.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Guest Post by Author Lorne Oliver

Welcome to the Willow Tree, Lorne. Below you will find a blurb for Lorne's book, Red island, and a post on the subject of serial killers.

I would like to take this time to announce that coming very soon Red Island will be out in paperback.  To celebrate I am having 2 FREE days on June12 and 13th.  And look for the second book in The Sgt. Reid Series, Red Serge, coming out at the end of August.

Red Island - blurb
Was it the nightmare that woke Reid or the phone ringing in the middle of the night that brought on the dream? Sgt. Reid of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police moved his family to Prince Edward Island, “The Gentle Island,” to get away from crime and homicides. He had to get away from the nightmares and concentrate on his family.

It’s a lovely place to live. The sound of the ocean crashing against sandy beaches, sand dunes covered in tufts of dancing green grass…

…And then there is the young woman hanging from a tree. It isn’t a gentle island any more.

It’s Ben’s world.  Whether we live or die is all up to him and Reid is going to have to play his game.

Inside the Mind of the Red Island Killer

Before starting Red Island I wanted to write something that told the reader how a serial killer could possibly become a monster.  Was there a way to tell that little Teddy burning ants with a magnifying glass was going to be the torturer and killer of women when he grew up?   BUT, and it’s a big but (hence the capitals, duh) I didn’t want the killer to be the hero.  I wanted him to be someone that people could, even though he did disgustingly evil things, the reader could relate to, but not side with.  After all he was going to be doing some pretty nasty things to women.  Even though I write fiction about serial killers it still makes me sick that some people look up to them.  I didn’t want that to happen in my book.

The serial killer I write about is one of those news maker types like Ted Bundy, Dahmer, BTK, and Zodiac.  In my research into them I discovered that there are a lot more out there than the mass public ever hears about.

I developed the Red Island Killer on a couple of key factors that can often been found in known serial killers.  That is not to say that these are definitive.  Everyone out there is different.

1.      Emotional and psychological abuse – getting torn down with unexpected bouts of anger and insults can make the child crawl into themselves.  They can see the world as an evil place.
2.      Bedwetting past the age of 5 – when research was first done on serial killers the unholy trinity was starting fires, bedwetting, and cruelty to animals.  It is not believed that actually wetting the bed is a trait of a serial killer, it depends on how it is handled by others (as in teasing and getting angry) and how the person thinks of it themselves.
3.      Cruelty to animals – this is a biggie.  Jeffrey Dahmer, Dennis Rader (BTK)…reports say that most serial killers did some type of animal cruelty.  It is a way for them to live out their murderous fantasies.  But can also be a way to practice and hone their skills.
4.      Voyeurism – As they get into their teen years they can often get into voyeurism and fetishes starting as “harmless” as being a peeping-tom.  They can also develop into stealing women’s clothes and belongings, bondage, and rape.  Canadian serial killer, Colonel Russell Williams started his road to killing by breaking into houses and stealing women’s lingerie and wearing them.
5.      Sexual trauma – abuse, having to witness violent acts, and being sexually humiliated can lead to great anger and having violent fantasies.  Killer Henry Lee Lucas was forced to watch his prostitute mother have sex and on a few occasions was sent to school barefoot and wearing a dress and curlers.

In my mid-twenties I realised I could have been profiled as a serial killer.  I was the right age, I was a loner, I worked menial jobs, I studied people – it wouldn’t have taken much.  I was missing the key ingredients….of course there are always exceptions to the rule.

In Red Island you get to see what the police are doing, but you also get to see this guy growing up from a young kid being picked on to a terrifying monster.

Lorne's blog   You can learn more about Lorne's books. Thanks for stopping by today, Lorne.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Close Ups and Close Encounters 

 Please welcome S.J. to the Willow Tree. Below is a brief bio followed by a guest post, links to her books, and a review of praise from a reader. Enjoy!

On a whim, S. J. Brown decided to embark on a career in wildlife photography. Armed with an inexpensive 35mm camera and a love for the natural world, her adventure began. Accompanied by her spotter and husband, she ventured to a variety of locations.
The couple soon learned that there was more to this than just camera settings, lighting, and getting the right angle. Not all wildlife is agreeable to having their picture taken, and many are not easily accessible.
Camera in hand, S. J. Brown encountered delicate butterflies, bears, birds, deer, wild horses, and more. Along the way, there are successes and failures, cooperative critters, curious subjects, and some close calls.
As a wildlife photographer S. J. Brown took her cues from her subjects. Their body language let her know when to step in for a closer shot and when to back away. When she was out in the field, she strove to observe and record not to interfere. The exception to this rule is when people pose a threat to wildlife; then she will take time to relocate a road dwelling critter to its location. Brown has saved snapper turtles from soup and other creatures from the taunts and teases of unwise humans, but she will not interfere with Mother Nature's food chain unless it involves a domestic animal pursuing a wild creature. With this in mind, she has sent many a cat away from a bird feeder and saved many a squirrel from a curious canine.
S. J. Brown's book Close Ups & Close Encounters features over fifty of her wildlife photographs as well as the stories behind getting those images. S. J. Brown's photographs and written words are her way of sharing her experiences. Introducing others, such as her granddaughter, to the field is one of her primary goals and loves. She hopes her work will give others an appreciation for the natural world.  

What Inspired You to Begin Photographing Animals and Why Did You Publish a Book?

I have always enjoyed nature and have spent many hours enjoyable hours outdoors.  Encountering wildlife was always an added bonus. After viewing a PBS special on wildlife photographers I was intrigued. The thought of being that close to wild animals really appealed to me, and still does today.  My husband Jay gave me that little push I needed to get started. 

I am sure at the time he didn't envision that this would become such a large part of both our lives.  
We spend endless hours on back roads, in wildlife refuges, and in other natural locations.

As I have honed my skills so has he.   I have experiment with shutter speeds, angles, and lighting.  He has come to recognize birds by the way they perch or the shape of their wings even with the glare of sunlight in his eyes.   He has a keen eye for spotting movement in the distance.  This gives me the opportunity to pick a vantage point and quietly approach a subject.  While we are in the field  having that extra person there to watch my back has come in handy more than once. 

I began sharing my photographs at presentations. At first this was intimidating to me until I realized people were interested in what I do.  I delight in inspiring others to find their passion even if it differs from mine. 

After joining an art organization I began exhibiting my work.  This gave me the opportunity to display my work and connect with people one on one.  At exhibit openings I would find myself discussing someones fondness for a particular type of animal, or the details involved in getting the image. 

I was relaying the story behind getting a photograph at one such exhibit.  When I finished my conversion a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and stated “ Girl, you have to write this shit down.”     At the time I was working on another writing project that I quickly put aside.  That evening I began working on what is now Close Ups & Close Encounters.

My photographs have always been a way for me to share my love of the natural world.  By combining these stories into a book I could share them with everyone, not just people I meet. 

Kindle Version is available on Ups & Close Encounters: A View From Behind The Lens

The print version, also filled with beautiful full color photographs, is also available:
Close Ups and Close Encounters: A View From Behind The Lens  

My eight-year-old daughter and I quite enjoyed S.J. Brown's book, "Close Ups and Close Encounters: A View From Behind the Lens". The book features some nice photographs of wildlife ranging from a squirrel, butterflies, birds, and larger animals like giraffes, elephants, and bears. The paper quality is quite good, it is neither glossy nor too flimsy so the images show up well.

I have to say though that the photographs almost take a backseat to the stories of how S.J. Brown captured these images. The stories are grounded and down-to-earth and provide personal insights into the photographer's journey as she photographed each subject. The stories are informative and peppered with occasional humor. My daughter and I wish there had been more photographs and it would have also helped if the author-photographer had provided locations for where the subjects were photographed. Other than that, this made an interesting and quick read. – Z Hayes (Amazon)

Really loved this book. The pictures were fabulous and the stories were well written and kept me glued to the pages. This book is for every age group and I am so glad I purchased it. Parents can even read this book to their children and the pictures that accompany them are beautiful. I would gladly recommend this book to anyone. – J. Gonce (Amazon)