The Magic of Bees and the Memory of Sound, A Review of Beyond the Latch and Lever

Like her mother and her mother before her, she is determined to carry on the magic that once thrived on her family’s land.

In the story, Flight of the Bumblebee by Susanna Skarland, a young couple struggles to survive in a world where the natural pollinators have died off. As a gardener myself, I can think of nothing in my garden that would exist without bees. From the tender age of a preschooler, the young woman in this story has always been in touch, connected to her family’s land and her gifts as an artist, deep-rooted lessons passed on from her grandma. Like her mother and her mother before her, she is determined to carry on the magic that once thrived on her family’s land and now lives in vivid colors on a canvas. She knows how sacred the job is of being a keeper of her beloved bees! A beautiful tale about bees existing in the real world no more.  

“Like Mama with her plants, Grandma taught me well, taught me her gift. She hummed as she painted, matching her tone to the width of her brush strokes. Loud and deep for broad blocks of color, soft and high for delicate details marked with a zero round. She infused her paintings with a breath of life.” For me, this line captured the essence of this character: “I dip my brush into my paints and hum the song of forests and foragers, of predators and prey. I hum the song of my family passed down from generation to generation, the song of our lives, both bitter and sweet. I sing for our unborn child. I sing for the bees.” 

In The Third Quirk by Karin Larsen, the narrator must come to terms with their grief: “The tears didn’t come gently. They came like my lungs were being ripped out of my body. They came like Fire would explode from my veins. They floated off my face and hung in the air. They glistened in the emergency light, shimmering like crystal, but I couldn’t find them beautiful.”  The grieving process for the narrator is going to persist, no matter if his feet are planted on solid ground, or he’s flying solo, alone in the darkness of space. The sadness is heavy, very heavy… Even when devoid of gravity, the recall of memory or sound of a voice cannot be lifted so easily. “… Surrendering to grief… sometimes all you can do is cry.”

—Gloria Smith, Painted Rock Press

A Review by British Fantasy Award-Winning Author, Ray Cluley!

With such a range, Skarland and Blackwood have ensured there’s something for everyone to like.

Beyond the Latch and Lever is a collection of stories, a collection of doors, that’ll take you to places far and wide. There are personal and global histories here, science fictions and fantasies that explore lost opportunities and second chances, and with such a range Skarland and Blackwood have ensured there’s something for everyone to like.

For all the enjoyable speculative elements and different writing styles, what I liked most about this anthology was the focus on the human, the relationships we make (and sometimes lose), and how our decisions have consequences. I also particularly liked the wide range in locations which highlighted the similarities we all share as people. This is a book not really about doors but those who open and close them, and that emotional core is what makes this book well worth your time.

Ray Cluley, British Fantasy Award-winning author of Probably Monsters

A Peek Inside the Stories of Beyond the Latch and Lever!

Esterbell (© 2020) Elle Blackwood: An old woman returns to the crumbling French château where she spent her childhood to say goodbye to the keeper of her past.

The Two Lives of Agapito Cortez (© 2020) Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez: A wounded, Mexican-born Union soldier awakens to find the world isn’t the same as he remembers.

The Third Quirk (© 2020) Karin Larsen: An alien retrieves their dead brother’s spaceship and comes to terms with their grief.

Home to Skjolden (© 2020) Erik Amundsen: When a man returns to Northern Norway to sell his family’s farm, a curious encounter unearths the past and makes him question his legacy.

Flight of the Bumblebee (© 2020) Susanna Skarland: A young couple in the near future struggle to survive in a world where the natural pollinators have died off and corporate robotics serve as their replacement.

Liminality (© 2020) R. L. Castle: An elderly doormaker seeks comfort in the doors of his past.

Between Hell and Fire (© 2020) Bobbie Peyton: A young Filipina farmworker must navigate the haunting nature of racism on an asparagus farm in 1960s California.

The Pantry Ghost (© 2020) H. K. Porter: Trapped inside an unfamiliar pantry, a young woman struggles to piece together the string of events that led to her isolation.

Rabbit’s Key (© 2020) Steve Garriott: When a physics major agrees to an adventure with an eccentric young man, they stumble upon a scientific discovery that alters their reality and their futures.

The Last Door in the Hilbert Hotel (© 2020) Evvan Land: A man must complete a test to find the exit from his own personal hell.

The Wending Way (© 2020) J. S. Artz: A celestial being sent to Earth must decide whether to stay and help, or leave humankind to their own destruction.

Meet the Authors!

Here they are! Eleven contributing authors whose stories are featured in our upcoming speculative fiction anthology, Beyond the Latch and Lever!

Erik Amundsen is from a small Norwegian village north of the Arctic Circle. Surrounded by forests, mountains, and fjords, he spent his youth hiking, fishing, and cross-country skiing. When he wasn’t outdoors, he had a book in his hand, reading mysteries and westerns before he was old enough to start school. After college, Erik lived in Oslo, worked in IT, and became a genealogy researcher. He had nearly forgotten about books until he married a writer. Erik divides his time between Norway and the Pacific Northwest. He has over 70,000 relatives in his family tree. 

J. S. Artz spent her young life sneaking into wardrobes searching for Narnia. When people started thinking that was creepy, she had to find other ways to explore her passion for mystical adventures. Now she finds those long-sought doors to magical story worlds in her work as an author, developmental editor, and book coach. An active member of the writing community, she volunteers for SCBWI and Pitch Wars and is a member of EFA and AWP. Julie lives in an enchanted forest outside of Redmond, Washington, with her husband, two strong-willed teenagers, and a couple of naughty furry familiars. 

Elle Blackwood is a writer, poet, and editor with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and English literature. She is the author of A Map of My Existence, an autobiographical poetry collection published under her pseudonym, Elle Wonders. When crafting prose, Elle writes magical realism and literary Gothic fiction infused with folklore. She creates landscapes of dark woodlands, lochs, and rugged moors, with old mansions and thatched cottages that serve as central characters. Elle lives in a small Victorian river town with her husband, son, and a big black poodle with a penchant for solving mysteries. When Elle isn’t writing, she’s painting, traipsing through old graveyards in search of lost stories, or browsing antique shops. She collects obscure antiquarian books, lonely teacups, and vintage photographs of people she doesn’t know. 

R.L. Castle writes science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction—from robotics and elementary particle physics to dragons and wizards. He has a soft spot for writing realistic family dynamics, despite fantastical settings and circumstances, and slays the page with love and loss. He holds an M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University and writes in all forms for young readers and adults alike. When not writing, he can be found battling monsters on Pokémon Go. 

Steve Garriott has always been a voracious reader and writer. He enjoys all genres of fiction and non-fiction, with a special love for books about Presidents Lincoln and Grant, and the works of Mark Twain, and Kurt Vonnegut. In 2016, Steve’s three submissions were chosen as the winners of the Everett Public Library flash fiction contest. He has navigated ships, taught writing to high school students and adults, been a corporate trainer, and currently works as a technical writer. A regular participant in National Novel Writing Month, Steve has numerous unfinished novels scattered on flash drives. 

Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez is a Chicano writer who grew up in a household filled with music and books. He became absorbed in storytelling at a very young age, and being half Mexican mestizo, half European-American, he has two distinct cultures to draw from. An autodidact by nature, Carlos has been a lifelong historian and is fascinated with alternate history. Aside from writing and researching, he loves grunge music, concerts, and single-malt Scotch. Carlos is majoring in Chicano Studies at the University of Washington and will graduate in 2021. 

Evvan Land is a writer who grew up immersed in storytelling of all kinds—through books, role-playing games, movies, and a wicked sense of humor. Evvan is drawn to philosophical ponderings, mathematical proofs, and astrophysics. When he’s not writing or calculating, you can find him playing piano, practicing Japanese, reading, and eating peanut butter. A Pacific Northwest resident at heart, Evvan is pursuing a degree in Mathematics from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

Karin Larsen fell in love with writing during a childhood filled with arts and music in the American Midwest. She pursued a degree in sacred music, combining writing and music composition to create and direct a stage musical for her capstone project. When fibromyalgia ruled out the world of collegiate-level teaching after a few years, she turned her energy towards her family and faith communities. She now works as music director of a small Lutheran church, and her writing often focuses on family and relationship dynamics. She lives in the state of Washington with spouse Keith and daughter Phoenix. 

Bobbie Peyton is a writer of Filipino and European heritage. Born in the Philippines, she moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in an idyllic small town in Oregon. Bobbie now lives in northern California with Tillman and Wonton, her two little (but ferocious) dogs, where you can find her at work on many writing projects, especially for younger readers. A former high school special education teacher, Bobbie has master’s degrees from Tufts University and Hamline University’s M.F.A. program in writing for children and young adults. 

H. K. Porter is new to writing, but not to stories. She’s been an avid reader since she was three years old and is currently an active member of two book clubs and National Novel Writing Month. In addition, she is a beta reader and provides critiques for the books of indie author and publisher, Heather Marie Reaves. Ms. Porter lives in the Pacific Northwest, and aside from reading, she loves cooking with her partner, gardening, and exploring thrift stores for unusual objects as inspiration for short stories. 

Susanna Skarland is an editor, author, and unicorn, holding an M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University. She is a member of SCBWI and volunteers for PNWA and the Society of Young Inklings, providing editorial support. Susanna writes fantastical, adventurous fiction about ancient dragons and flighty faeries. A sucker for playful language, she flagrantly fashions fanciful fractal fricatives. All of Susanna’s stories weave in a strong thread of science and the natural world, the residual effect of a substantial career in biological research. Her home is under the clouds of the Pacific Northwest, where you will find her with a cup of tea in hand and cat underfoot.  

Ready For a Cover Reveal?

We are so excited to share the cover of our upcoming short story anthology, Beyond the Latch and Lever! With a central theme of doors and doorways, this genre-bending collection of literary, speculative fiction includes magical realism, Gothic, sci-fi, and fantasy, with threads of alternate history, time-travel, other universe, paranormal, and more. The expected release date of Beyond the Latch and Lever will be the beginning to mid-December, just in time for holiday shopping. The book will be available to purchase on Amazon.com as a paperback and e-book.

This fantastic anthology edited by Susanna Skarland and Elle Blackwood contains stories written by eleven authors with ties to the Pacific Northwest. Stay tuned for introductions!