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#HookedOnPoetry: Poems with Award-Winning Poet Marge Simon #NationalPoetryMonth #Poetry

Yesterday I announced in an essay the start of my HOOKED ON POETRY project, in celebration of National Poetry Month. It was posted here on my site and at Kendall Reviews, who is partnering with me to host and share pieces I’ve accepted and curated. If you missed it, you can find it here. This will be running now and throughout May, which will also allow us to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month with some poetry. Please join me in sharing things on social media with the hashtag #HookedonPoetry. We have outstanding reprint poems from collections, original poetry, review and articles on poetry, and more coming everyone’s way throughout May.

HookedOnPoetry

I’m excited to start off the HOOKED ON POETRY project with poems by Marge Simon. These are two wonderful poems featured in some of her collections. Marge serves on the HWA Board of Trustees and the Speculative Literary Foundation.  She was the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF & F Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award.

She has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award, and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Grievous Angel, Daily Science Fiction, and in the anthologies, You, Human, Chiral Mad, and The Beauty of Death, to name a few.

Enjoy!

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Daddy’s Little Girl

It’s a 4th of July evening

sundown coming slow,

lawnmowers drone distant,

& crickets’ choruses rise and fall

between the spaces of human noise.

 

Someone is cooking on the grill,

delicious smells waft through the trees,

down the block to your back yard.

 

Convertibles pass, radios blasting

the rhythms of the holiday,

teens high on being young,

 

but not you, plain and shy,

doomed to spend this magic night

alone with your books & a silly doll

that Daddy bought for you.

 

Your special gift from him today,

to defray the teenaged tears you cry;

you are his darling one and only —

though you’re much too old for dolls.

 

As for Mommy, she left long ago.

Daddy says she went to hell, but he is wrong.

She visits you in murky dreams,

whispering what to do while Daddy sleeps,

 

something about her old meat cleaver,

in the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet.

Your pretty doll agrees with her,

for after all, Daddy doesn’t understand,

you’re not his little girl.

– Marge Simon

crescent moon

Small Spirits
This poem is from the collection SMALL SPIRITS.
Small Spirits is another of the poems-for-art duets by Bram Stoker® Award winning poet Marge Simon and artist Sandy DeLuca. These unusual poems involve dolls of many sorts, including legends from countries all over the world. You will find small spirits of the wicked, the damned and the beloved. Be prepared for the mystical, magical and often misanthropic dolls in this colorful collection

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The Southern Lady

With death, there should be dignity but there is none here,

the men in dusty blue uniforms continue to pass by,

my precious roses trampled, bleed their perfume into the soil,

and those half dead are brought to my parlor,

soaking my fine couches with their Yankee blood.

 

Cow and calf alike they shot for practice up in Charleston,

by the time they got to ours, they wanted bread and butter,

with pitchers of fresh milk to wash it down;

some seem surprised there’s none.

They’d burned our fields, there was no feed,

did they think our livestock lived on love?

 

I dreamed I was a giant cat,

sitting on a wounded soldier’s chest

watching him quietly while he slept,

then I leapt on his face and clawed out his eyes.

 

But he rose up, playing “Aura Lee” on his harmonica.

One by one, his companions joined in singing,

and we danced all around the room.

Beyond the window it was raining blood.

– Marge Simon

crescent moon

War

This poem is from the collection WAR with Alessandro Manzetti
(Elgin Award Winner, 2019).

Look in my eyes. My bronze skin reflects the flames of the battles.

I feed on bullets and shrapnel.

I have trenches instead of veins and a bombardier’s whirring plays my favorite symphony inside my big head. This is my story, with some of my best camouflages and disguises, and you should expect your peace plans to fail. Because that’s what I do for living.

Look at my million golden teeth necklace. Ring any bells? Maybe you’re too young. I probably should have mentioned the fireworks over the Baghdad night sky, my new friend, or the live broadcast of two great skyscrapers disintegrating. You know what I’m talking about, right? So, you can call me by one of my many names: Great General, Lock-box of the Powerful, Red Rain, Lord of Steel or, more simply, WAR.

I appear as strife of many kinds, from Stalingrad to Scotland. Africa to Afghanistan, the civil war of Italy and the War Between the States, ghostly wars, drug wars, the battle of the sexes, World Wars I, II and visions of a holocaust yet to come. It’s all herein and more, with poems both collaborative and individual.

Amazon

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Marge Simon, Biography –

Simonphoto-208x258Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees.  She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF & F Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award.

She has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award, and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Grievous Angel, Daily Science Fiction, and in the anthologies, You, Human, Chiral Mad, and The Beauty of Death, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

She has a daughter, Melle Tillison Broaderick, and two lovely granddaughters. She married a longtime friend and colleague, Bruce Boston, in 2001. Besides being a fantastic conversationalist and the love of her life, he has taught her a great deal about writing top notch poetry and fiction, for which she is grateful.

In addition to her solo work, she has written collaborative poetry and fiction with Bruce Boston, the late Charlee Jacob, Mary Turzillo, Alessandro Manzetti and Bryan Dietrich.

You can view Marge’s fiction, poetry, and art, and contact her for freelance art assignments on her website.

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Thank you, Marge!

I look forward to readers joining us for many more posts and poems here on my site and at Kendall Reviews. Watch my Twitter feed (@ErinAlMehairi) for updates and posts or follow my site by subscribing in the box at the right!

– Erin

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Interview: Hauntings with Writer Janine Pipe #WIHM #womeninhorror

Thanks for following along here this month and joining me to meet these fabulous women in horror! As a goal, I try to not only feature accomplished and established women of horror (the top names) ONLY, especially being around myself with this site for nine years, but also to support those upcoming writers of all backgrounds who are working hard at their craft and visibility. It’s not about views for me, but about supporting others.

Today, I would like you to meet Janine, just as I did recently. This is the first year she’s heard of women in horror month, which makes it clear we still need to promote it, and she, as well as I, met women in horror we didn’t know before through the awareness campaigns. I have every year. This year, I met Janine. She picked up the ball and ran with a whole month of features on her own blog with women in horror. I very much appreciate her interview with me. Now, I’d like to introduce you to her.

Stay tuned for a few segment in the #WIHM series to come.

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Hi Janine, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m glad you could join us as part of women in horror month. Please let me know your choice of coffee, tea, or drink, and if the former, how you take it? I’m hoping you pick tea as I have English Breakfast tea brewing and shortbread. But whatever you like is fine, you’re the guest!

Janine: Thank you so much Erin for inviting me. I’m a latte lady, but since I am British I would love a cup of tea. And shortbread sounds delightful.

Erin: Great, I love lattes too! Next time we’ll have those. Let’s carry this all into the library and have a seat to chat.

When do you first discover you wanted to write horror? What type of horror do you write?

Janine: I think that because horror has always been my favourite genre to read, it was just a natural progression to writing it too. I started with shorts and poems in my teens. Life sort of took over and writing fiction went on the back-burner, but over the last year I have started again in earnest. I write both supernatural and classic horror, often with a twist. I also like lore, urban legends and creepy pasta.

Erin: What are some of the first goals you have for yourself as a writer?

Janine: To be published in print. To see my name on Amazon or when I walk into Waterstones. To know people are reading my work. But I also know this isn’t an easy game and it will take some time. I mainly write short stories so I tend to submit to anthologies. I have the semblance of an idea for a full novel though, once I get the time to do it.

Erin: You have some of your stories read on podcasts or radio? How did that come about? Were they stories you already had written, or did you write stories specifically to be read on air? 

What was it like the first time you heard your stories being read out loud like that? 

Janine: The first story, “The Boy,” which was featured on Ghost Stories the Podcast, was also the first short I had written for many years. I submitted it and just hoped they might like it. Same for my second, “Adam,” which was read aloud on Tales to Terrify. The third, “The Christmas Ghost,” I wrote specifically for audio and that was on a Patreon episode of Graveyard Tales. I have become friendly with Tyler, the host of Ghost Stories the Podcast, and recently had a second story used. That was based on fact and again was written specifically for the show. Almost an origin story for my writing.

The radio interview with BBC Somerset came about as I saw the presenter tweet out that he was looking for spooky tales about Somerset for a Halloween radio special. We got to chatting and he thought it would give the show an extra boost to have an actual ghost writer come on and talk about local legends.

I won’t lie, the first time I heard my work read aloud, I cried a little. It was pride. A sense of, wow, I wrote that? It felt great.

Erin: From reading a little of your blog, I see you like ghost stories – reading, writing, and real ghost stories? What do you love about ghosts the most in any of those areas or all?

Janine: I will let you in on a little secret – I am terrified of ghosts. That sounds crazy for someone who is fascinated with them and writes about them I am sure, but it actually helps me. I can spook myself sometimes with my stories. What I like most about them is that they are (often) believable. Which is equally why they scare me so much. I am 99.9% sure that I will never meet a vampire, but I have actually witnessed paranormal activity…

Erin: Yes, that’s what scares me about it too! Are you from the UK or America? I’m just prefacing that because I want to ask who you feel has the better ghost stories and why? (I’m originally from England – personally I think the UK stories are better just because the ghosts have had many more years to percolate in their haunting there haha!)

Janine: I am UK born and bred. I suppose due to the history, we are bound to have more stories here and there are some good ones, But because I love the US, I actually prefer American stories. Boston is one of my most favourite places in the entire world, and we did a fantastic graveyard and ghost trail there. NYC also has a plethora of hauntings, and the deep south. I find these fascinating, especially around the Carolinas.

Erin: I love Boston too and all the hauntings in the older and historic cities we have. But the US is only about 250 years old and these stories come from these time frames. I suppose that’s why I like the First People’s legends and stories. I love the stories that come from England and Ireland, seeped in such deep, deep lore. I suppose it’s all intriguing!

What’s the best haunting story you’ve come across reading?

Janine: I suppose it has to be the Enfield hauntings, and 50 Berkley Square in London. Mainly as I fist read about them as a child as it terrified me haha.

Erin: I’ll have to look those up now.

Do you like other types of horror for reading and/or writing?

Janine: Oh yes, I like most types of horror, especially what I refer to as classic horror (monsters, lore etc.) and slasher/serial killer stuff. I like vampire and werewolf stories, and early King books.

Who are your writing influences and why?

Janine: As I just mentioned, Stephen King is my main writing influence, especially his earlier work and books like It. I love nostalgia and varying time-lines. Part of that stems from being an 80’s child myself.

Erin: Who’s books inspire you today and why?

Janine: My latest literary hero is the fantastic C J Tudor. I have read all three of her books, and they are phenomenal, and have been likened to King again. Her writing style reminds me of the way I write, and I can only hope and pray that one day, I might be even half as good as she is at creating a masterpiece.

Erin: I love CJ  and her books too. She an excellent dark thriller writer. I don’t think she is too much like Stephen King myself, because I think she writes tighter, which is a compliment. haha! I love many of his works though too. CJ is one I know will also give us a good read, and beyond that, a humble and cool person. Keep aspiring! It happened to her almost overnight so you never know.

What is the biggest current challenge you’re finding as you start your writing career?

Janine: Time and rejections. Time as with a lot of people starting out, because I have a job, a family, a house to run. And rejections just suck. I know they are part of a writer’s life and I need a thicker skin pronto, but it still burns to hear – no thank you time and time again.

Erin: Yes that’s true. I think it’s time for any of us no matter how long we’ve been writing especially if we have other work and a family. It’s the same for me. Rejections will always suck, but also it’s not always about you or your writing, but what an editor is looking for as a whole and the puzzle of an anthology or their yearly calendar. There are so many writers out there, and with the publishing market not being profitable, it just makes it hard for them to take on too many. That’s why so many are going to self-publishing these days and it works. Keep that positive thinking going and persevere.

What has been the best part to you about being a writer? Have you had any help whether schooling, writing help books, websites, people?

Janine: The best part is seeing a story come together, and people actually enjoying it. I have had some help via other writers. I am very lucky to have met another horror writer and publisher in my own home town, Graeme Reynolds. He is my unofficial mentor, and will edit and check through work for me.

Erin: What’s next for you with your writing. Your big plans for 2020?

Janine: To continue the blog, keep submitting to anthologies and hopefully, see my name in print.

Erin: I realize you are also a huge Disney fan. It’s amazing how diverse the interests are in those who write horror. What do you like most about Disney and your favorite movies? Do their stories or characters ever inspire your writing?

Janine: Oh I LOVE Disney!!! I have been writing for Florida based blogs and websites for years. Our house is like a Disney Store. What do I like most? That’s a tough one. For me, it is not just about the movies, or the rides at WDW. I love to know about the history of the parks. I love the trivia. Actually, my daughter is the first published author of the family. She is one of the reviewers in The Unofficial Guide to WDW for Kids haha! I guess my most favourite thing about Disney is kind of cringy. But it is how I feel when I am there, in the parks. I feel happy, relaxed and like I am Home.

My favourite movies are The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Frog and Fantasia. My favourite rides are The Haunted Mansion and The Tower of Terror.

Thus far, I have steered clear of anything Disney related in my work. Another reason why I like CJ Tudor so much? Another huge Disney fan. As is Brian Moreland!

Erin: That’s so cool! I like Disney so much too as do all three of my kids, even my son, who is now in college loves The Lion King. They do have a way of making you feel wonderful. Though I live in the states I’ve never been to Disneyworld though!

How long have you known about women in horror and how has the month, or social media, allowed you to meet more women in horror? How has it been?

Janine: I will be 100% honest, this is the first year I had heard of it. I think it is a fantastic thing. I have met some fabulous people I might not have interacted with via social media had it not have been for this. I think that it is an amazing way to help promote women who’d for some reason remain underrepresented in horror.

Erin: That’s so good to hear. So many question if we should still have it and this is a good reason why!

You have a great site where you post stories, reviews, and interviews with other horror authors, primarily women this month! Were can readers find that? Where else should they follow you?

Janine: Thank you! I try my very best to post daily, you can find me at Janine’s Ghost Stories.

Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/disneynine and Facebook.

Erin: Thanks so much for coming by Janine. Stop by anytime. I’ll be rooting for your writing success!

Janine: Thank YOU Erin, it has been my absolute pleasure.

Janine Pipe, Biography – 

Janine PipeJanine has loved to write spooky stories and tales with a twist since she was at school. She is a huge fan of Stephen King, first devouring Salem’s Lot at the tender age of just nine. Her work is heavily influenced by this. She also loves C J Tudor and credits fellow Swindon horror writer Graeme Reynolds as an unofficial mentor.

You can find her stories on Ghost Stories the Podcast, Graveyard Tales and Tales to Terrify. She shares some of her original shorts and flash fiction on her blog, Janine’s Ghost Stories, where she also reviews and interviews authors of horror.

She loves to chat about all things horror and Disney related over at @Disneynine on Twitter.

WiHM11-GrrrlBlack

 

 

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All Kinds of October Update on Life, Writing, and What I’m Reading! #October #Halloween #AmWriting #AmReading

Happy October 1! Today, I’ve got a quick forward update!

Snoopy witch

October Life Update and Editing

This is one, if not THE, favorite month of the year for me. I love pumpkins, spooky stories, colorful trees, apple picking, and cool evenings. As many of you know, it’s also TWO of my three children’s birthdays (will be 20 and 16 this year – WHAT? I know!). It seemed like I was just writing posts about us picking apples when they were small and making lists for readers for Autumn-themed children’s books.

My daughters both ran cross country this year, are still I should say, and that will come to a close in mid-to-late of this month. My middle daughter’s selective “a cappella” choir will have their first concert and host it as a fund-rasier for the music program. As well, my oldest is now in Washington D.C. at George Washington University as a college sophomore, so it looks like we will be adding a trip in there at the end of the month to visit him. I just can’t let his birthday month go by without seeing him. I am excited to hug him, but also, to see the fall foliage through Virginia and Maryland on the way there and back. At the very end of the month, my youngest is still looking forward to Trick-or-Treating and dressing up with friends. I am looking forward to eating plenty of candy. haha!

It’s a busy month, but I’m scheduling NOW for editing work in November and December because… well, I have active kids that cost money and I because of my illnesses and circumstances, I have to work from home for myself.

My Writing

October is also fond to me as it’s the anniversary of my debut dark poetry and short story collection Breathe. Breathe.! It’s the two year anniversary – can you believe it? I’ve had a lot more poetry and short stories published elsewhere as well. One of those short stories I’m excited about is the anthology 7 Deadly Sins of the Apocalypse, with an official launch date of October 4, 2019; however, it went live early and hit Amazon #1 Best-Selling List in Horror Anthologies. I’ll have more to share on that but it’s on sale now for .99 cents. I’ll also be sharing things about my other pieces as well as hopefully provide you with an original poem like I did last year (those were about mummies)! You’ll probably also find some guest articles by me appearing on other sites and me in an interview or two.

I’ll have a short story, “Mia,” in the upcoming print magazine Outpost 28 by Dean Kuhta. I will have a story in this with my friend, the amazing Christa Carmen, so I’m super excited about that. Also, it’s getting an illustration from a artist I really like, so stay tuned for more on that. I absolutely think it’s one of the best stories I’ve written and I am thankful to Duncan Ralston for his assistance with edits.

Update: I just found out I’ll have two poems in the Halloween issue of The Siren’s Call e-zine as well. A new one called “The Halloween Feast” and one of the Mummy poems I shared with you last year here called “Dancing with Mummies.”

Reviews, Interviews, and Features Here or Other Sites

I have a packed schedule with publicity and editing work, writing, and kids, but I’ve also made promises and packed my schedule with reading of horror, historical, and fantasy books for review as well as a few interviews. Look for an uptick of reviews on this site , starting with an historical fantasy Priestess of Ishana by Judith Starkston (and a guest article by her) and Ribbons of Scarlet short story collection about women of the French Revolution by a myriad of authors I admire. I’m going to attempt to get caught up on a few back reviews for several genres but I’m also pushing dark fiction, dark fantasy, and horror (and the like) to the front since it’s that time of year! I’ll be reviewing a few new  titles in that genre as well such as the short story collection Little Paranoias by Sonora Taylor. I’ll also have a review up this month on the film review site Machine Mean talking about the movie “The Endless,” which left me mind blown.

My October Reading

I’m doing the #31spookystories challenge on Instagram (and cross-posting to Twitter), because I love to read short stories. You can read 31 short stories or 13. I’m trying to do one per day. Follow me on Instagram stories and Twitter to catch my reads (and follow the hashtag as a whole to get some good short story recommendations) and/or join in. I’ll try to do weekly re-caps of the stories here.

And I’m going to read Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party because it just sounds so good. I recently found a beat up copy of it at a thrift store and I can’t wait to dive in. If you want to read with me, let me know!

Christie, Agatha - Hallowe'en Party

I’ve got lots of things going on, building and coming down the pipe line so stay tuned. I am trying to organize myself enough to keep this spot updated!

I’d love to hear from you. What are your October plans? Do you like spooky, scary, or supernatural books > What will you be reading? Scary movies or shows? > What will you be watching?

Happy Harvest! Happy Halloween!

Erin

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Loren Rhoads Talks About California Wildfires and the Charity Horror Anthology to Raise Money for Relief: Tales for the Campfire

Hello, long time no see. Today Loren Rhoads is here with us to talk about California wildfires and the new anthology put together in order raise funds for relief efforts, Tales for the Campfire. Loren is a fellow writer and editor in the horror genre. You may have seen her here on Hook of a Book before talking about cemeteries and their hauntings. She’s a Bram Stoker nominated editor and is best known as an author, I think, for her 199 Cemeteries to Visit Before You Die. Recently, she compiled/edited an anthology for charity called Tales for the Campfire in hopes of helping those in need from the wildfires in California.

One day, her local California Horror Writers Association chapter asked what they could do to ease the suffering of people who lost everything to the fire: pets, livestock, vehicles, homes, friends, family members, businesses, livelihoods, their entire community. HWA member Ben Monroe suggested that they put together an anthology of stories to raise money for the relief effort.

The rest of how it came together, you’ll read about near the bottom of the article, but first you’ll learn about how devastating wildfires are to those in places like California and just from a small little spark or campfire or dry season. I hope you’ll find the article as interesting as I did! And scary!

If you’re touched to help, you’ll find the links to purchase the anthology below too. Please spread the word for a good cause. Thanks for stopping by!

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Tales from the Campfire

Fire Seasons

by Loren Rhoads, author and editor of Tales for the Campfire

One summer while I lived in Ann Arbor, I found my friend Jeff glued to the 24-hour news channel. His parents’ house, atop a hill in Los Altos Hills, California, had been on TV. I’d spent spring break there one year. It was a lovely house, full of art his parents had collected on their trips around the world: a gracious, welcoming place, with views all around it.

The house stood near an open space preserve, where Jeff had once seen a bobcat. Deer often wandered his parents’ neighborhood. Red-tailed hawks circled overhead.

Jeff had seen his parents’ house on TV because a wildfire was racing across the open grassland. Only one road led into his parents’ neighborhood — and it was blocked by firetrucks that could not drive into the narrow hiking paths of the nature preserve.

Jeff’s dad had left for work early that day. Jeff’s mom was trapped at home, watching the smoke boiling up over her house. She planned to jump into the pool if the fire came. While she waited, she was spraying the citrus trees and rosebushes with a garden hose, trying to wet everything down so it wouldn’t catch a spark. Luckily, in the end, the fire was extinguished before it reached the houses.

That was my first experience with fire season in California. I didn’t even live in California yet.

***

Loren RhoadsOne morning while we were in Paris to celebrate my birthday, my husband picked up an International Herald Tribune. A paragraph-long report said that wildfire raged through Oakland, California, the city across the bay from our new home in San Francisco.

We scoured the city to find a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle. The photos showed smoke towering miles high over the Oakland Hills. The hillside houses looked like matchboxes in comparison.

When we returned from our trip, friends who lived in Oakland told us about the fire. One friend in the Rockridge neighborhood had evacuated. Mike lived not far from Mountain View Cemetery, which lay between his home and the fire. He hoped the graveyard would provide a firebreak. For days he lived on a friend’s sofa, calling his own home phone over and over. As long as the answering machine picked up, he knew his house remained standing.

***

In October 2017, I woke in the night and smelled smoke. There was only a tickle in the air, but something, somewhere, was burning. I looked out all the windows, but didn’t see an orange glow in the sky. Wind rampaged around the house. I slept fitfully on the sofa for the rest of the night.

In the morning, the news reported a fire far away in Lake County. It expanded as it spread into Napa County. Another fire started in neighboring Sonoma County. The fires were more than 70 miles away. I didn’t know smoke could travel that far.

In her home in Santa Rosa, California, my friend Kim packed the most important things in her life and prepared to evacuate. She spent days sheltering in a local high school gym. The power had gone off at her home, so she didn’t even have the reassurance of calling the answering machine.

At first, no one could really believe that a city could burn down. Unlike Los Altos Hills, there was no massive grassy park nearby. Unlike the Oakland Hills, Kim didn’t live in an overgrown neighborhood with winding roads too narrow for firetrucks. She lived in a suburban neighborhood, in a grid of streets.

In the end, Kim’s home escaped the fire. Neighborhoods surrounding hers weren’t so lucky. She drove through the devastation to find her house still standing. Although she’d closed the windows before she fled, everything inside her home was covered with fine grit — the ashes of trees and homes and wildlife and 22 people. More than 5600 structures were destroyed by the Tubbs Fire.

*

In November 2018, a failing powerline in Butte County, California sparked the Camp Fire. Driven by 60 to 70-mile-an-hour winds, the fire spread so fast — devouring 10 miles of forest in 10 minutes — that people were trapped in their cars as they tried to escape. Some people panicked and abandoned their vehicles to try to outrun the flames on foot.

The fire burned for 17 days. The smoke it generated was visible from space. That smoke flowed through the Altamont Pass, 150 miles away, into the San Francisco Bay Area. Because of a weather pattern called an inversion, the smoke, trapped by the hills surrounding the bay, settled to ground level.

For a week, San Francisco had the worst air quality in the world: worse than Beijing or Mexico City. Worse even than in the fire country itself. The air became visible. It glowed a malevolent yellow as sunlight reflected from nearly invisible particles in the air.

Many places gave away painter’s masks to prevent people from breathing in the ashes and grit in the air. Then we were told that painter’s masks didn’t actually screen out the smallest particles, which could lodge in your lungs and could not be removed. People were warned to stay in their houses. Theaters closed. Schools closed. Businesses closed.

The empty streets of the city looked like the apocalypse had come — and we were 200 miles away from where the fire was burning.

In the end, 89 people were killed by the Camp Fire. Six months later, more continue to be missing. The entire town of Paradise, California was scoured from the map. Twenty thousand people were left homeless.

My local Horror Writers Association chapter asked what we could do to ease the suffering of people who lost everything to the fire: pets, livestock, vehicles, homes, friends, family members, businesses, livelihoods, their entire community. HWA member Ben Monroe suggested that we put together an anthology of stories to raise money for the relief effort.

T4TCF-AnimatedGIF-smoke

I volunteered to assemble and edit the book. E.M. Markoff volunteered Tomes & Coffee Press as publisher. Ben contacted Petersen Games, who donated an amazing piece of artwork for the cover. He found a cover designer who would work pro bono. He also spoke to the estate of Clark Ashton Smith, who donated one of the master’s short stories.

In all, 24 Northern California horror writers donated stories to the anthology, including Bram Stoker Award winners Nancy Etchemendy and Gene O’Neill and World Fantasy Award nominated L.S. Johnson.

Tales for the Camp Fire: A Charity Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief ranges from fairy tale to science fiction, from psychological terror to magical realism, from splatterpunk to black humor, all rounded out by a post-apocalyptic cookbook entry. Through these pages roam werewolves, serial killers, a handful of ghosts, plenty of zombies, Cthulhu cultists, mad scientists, and a pair of conjoined twins.

Jonathan Maberry, the New York Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Glimpse, gave us a lovely endorsement: “Tales for the Camp Fire is a brilliant collection of truly creepy tales by horror’s hottest voices! Dark, funny, heartbreaking, and bizarre. Highly recommended!”

As I write this in early June, Tales for the Camp Fire has been out a month. The profit from every copy we sell goes to the North Valley Community Foundation, a clearinghouse that distributes funds to the communities shattered by the fire.

Tales for the Campfire, Info  –

Tales from the CampfireScary Stories for a Good Cause. From Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor of the cult magazine Morbid Curiosity comes Tales for the Camp Fire, a new charity anthology of short stories to help support wildfire relief efforts.

Through these pages roam werewolves, serial killers, a handful of ghosts, plenty of zombies, Cthulhu cultists, mad scientists, and a pair of conjoined twins.

In November 2018, fire broke out on Camp Creek Road and raced through Butte County, California. By the time the fire was extinguished, the town of Paradise had been scoured from the map. Nearly 100 people died. Damage ran to an estimated $16 billion. The disaster has been named the Camp Fire, in memory of its place of origin. The horror writers of Northern California rallied to raise money for the survivors.

Tales for the Camp Fire ranges from fairytale to science fiction, from psychological terror to magical realism, from splatterpunk to black humor, all rounded out by a messed-up post-apocalyptic cookbook. All profits from the sale of this anthology will be donated to Camp Fire relief and recovery efforts.

Contributors include: Clark Ashton Smith, Loren Rhoads, Erika Mailman, Ross E. Lockhart, Roh Morgon, Clifford Brooks, Chad Schimke, Sumiko Saulson, Dana Fredsti, Crystal M. Romero, G. O. Clark, Anthony DeRouen, Eric Esser, Nancy Etchemendy, Gerry Griffiths, Sean Patrick Hazlett, Ken Hueler, L.S. Johnson, Ben Monroe, Gene O’Neill, Jeff Seeman, John Claude Smith, John McCallum Swain, and E.M. Markoff. Published by Tomes & Coffee Press.

If you’d like to help, please buy a copy of the book from Amazon:

E-book
Paperback

Also you can go to the publisher site, Tomes and Coffee, and learn more about the people made it happen, contributors, stories, and more!

See you next time!

T4TC BLURB

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First Look! Read Poetry for Mental Health Month with Bram Stoker Nominated Donna Lynch

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Poetry Feature –

On this last day of May, and to round out mental health awareness month, I have another great poet and poem to share with you all. Donna Lynch is a dark fiction writer and the co-founder—along with her husband, artist and musician Steven Archer—of the dark electro-rock band Ego Likeness (Metropolis Records). She has written numerous poetry collections, including Witches, which was Bram Stoker Nominated this year.

A word from Donna on writing about mental health topics:

“There’s nothing creative or interesting about mental illness. It’s a disease that doesn’t just consume you, but takes with it everyone who gets too close. People sometimes say, “But maybe it’s your experiences that make you see the world the way you do and give you that creativity,” and I point out to them that I write about people being haunted. I write about loss and violation and madness. I write about nightmares and the way your body can turn on you. I would give anything to not have the experiences that make me see the world that way, but since medicine and therapy can only do so much, I figure I may as well try to capitalize on it a little. But the bottom line is that disease doesn’t want to see you succeed or thrive, so I write in spite of my pain, not because of it.”

Mental Health Awareness

Donna is a really cool person and a talented creative. I’ve had the pleasure of reading poetry with her at a virtual reading and I can tell you, her work can make you shiver. This seven-part poem will be featured in Donna’s next collection, Choking Back the Devil, coming from Raw Dog Screaming Press on July 17, 2019!

I’m thrilled to offer you a first look!

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Borderlines: A Horror Story in 7 Small Parts
by Donna Lynch, Bram Stoker Nominated Poet of Witches

Introduction

Spend a lifetime inventing broken characters

and don’t ask why or how

when they end up in you like a thousand shards of glass and splinters.

You miss the joke.

 

Spend a lifetime hiding from monsters and you blind
yourself to the ones inside of you.

 

1.

First,

you are hollowed out.

But maybe not.

I’m already remembering it wrong.

Maybe, before that,

you’re just worn out,

chased through the woods by a man, or something
resembling a man,

wielding a rusted tool from the shed that you know will not
be quick nor painless.

Something that will hurt in a way you can’t prepare for.

So you run and run and run,

on the ankle you just sprained in a divot.

If you hear that snap, it will be over faster.

The running, that is. Everything else will have just begun.

You listen and wait. The snapping is sticks, not bones.

Not yet.

But you run and run and run,

with the cramping in your side,

and lungs that feel like you’ve inhaled winter razors.

It feels like stabbing, you think but

You’d be so wrong.

You’re about to find out.

You run and run and run,

with no sense of direction

other than

away.

But unlike the man with the rusted tool, you have not
trained for this.

As a child, you never thought,

one day…

When I was a child, I never thought I’d need to run.

I only knew I needed to hide,

so I became a ghost.

But I was not trained to run,

never ridden, never raced.

Breeds like me are broken in, but not in the fields,

not on the trails.

So if you’re a breed like me,

you can only run so far before you have to stop.

And it’s upon you now, which brings us back to the hollowing.

 

2.

The hollowing out of a person,

in this context,

is not the desired end result.

It’s the kitchen counter full of pink fluids and glistening bits on Thanksgiving.

It’s filling and stringing up a pinata.

It’s turning a canyon into a landfill.

It’s the act of creating a void—which was inevitable when you think about it—

and re-filling the cavity with even worse decay.

You are your own Pandora’s Box.

Every ugly thing needs a home, and the space inside your
head works nicely.

The space inside your chest…

even better.

A little further south, and disembowelment offers spatial
options that seem to defy physics.

All that loss,

and pain,

and malice…

you can fold it,

layer it,

coil it inside,

until you can barely tell it isn’t the entrails you started with.

 

3.

So there you are,

strung up in the shed.

You can see the things that used to be inside you in a tub in
the corner.

Someone or some thing will eat them and they will be gone.

You mourn the loss of these things, because you don’t
realize there is something else in you now,

growing,

evolving.

You think you are empty,

and this is how you will justify everything to come.

It was the loss.

It was grief.

It was someone you loved,

and because you loved them,

when it was time,

you made the decision.

And you wanted to run and run and run then,

but you were not trained for it.

So you stayed.

Because where will you go?

Loss finds everyone.

Even the ghosts,

and the really excellent hiders.

It is real when the light goes out in someone you love.

You feel it,

like an electric charge in the air,

in a storm.

There is a flash of terror in your head,

for yourself, and for them…

then

nothing.

You carry what’s left of them home in a plastic bag with a
hard handle.

Their clothing,

shoes,

glasses.

A necklace, maybe.

How can you even tell?

It all just looks like pieces of them.

Because it’s just a container of entrails, of insides,

to be consumed, in time.

All of it will end up in a container. A coffin, an urn, that
empty space in your chest.

And you wait and wait

to feel something again.

 

4.

Take in all the empathy,

all the sympathy while you can.

The well-wishes, the visitors, having your erratic behaviors
excused and tolerated take it all.

Even though you know it’s just going to seep into the void and dissipate

the way enzymes break down,

you take it,

because before long,

there will be no more.

 

5.

Here’s where the story changes.

No more tool sheds, no faceless men hunting you.

Now we are in the realm of demons.

Possession by an entity of no discernible origin.

No name.

It all looks normal, a normal setting, on any given normal day.

The storm has passed, and that means it’s all right, right?

If you don’t look anyone in the eye, no one will know.

At least for a while.

If you let it in and let it out as it pleases, and don’t fight, it
will come and go with little fanfare.

It is, of course, filling you with poison, consuming the
poison, regurgitating
the poison, on and on forever, until you are nothing but a
toxic canyon.

You keep the outside pretty, for desperate, selfish tourists.

They’ve come to see the sights.

Tequila sunrises and tear-stained sunsets.

Lies for miles and black-out skies you’ll never remember,
because your damaged brain never filmed it.

The thing swimming in your empty shell tells you to be glad.

Be glad you’ll never know.

It’s one of the two kind things it will ever do for you.

(The second kind thing comes later)

Like when the person who just violated you, gives you a
tissue to dry your tears.

Thanks, you said.

Thanks.

 

6.

You’re a different sort of ghost now.

Once,

you were quiet and harmless.

Just a shadow,

a memory,

a whisper,

A hider.

A spectral woman who weeps quietly in a child’s bedroom,

or the child, itself,

taken too young.

It doesn’t even know it should be angry.

But now you are different.

You know.

The thing that possessed you isn’t slipping in and out so
easily now.

It’s tearing holes where there were none.

It’s chewing through what’s left of you.

It’s biting at your feet and legs when you walk by the bed.

It’s digging at you with a blunt, broken nail, rolling up strips
of skin like wood shavings.

It’s slamming into you, full force, the second you close your eyes.

It slams out the same way,

a perpetual car crash.

You come home battered. You wake up bruised.

But there’s no assailant.

All anyone can see is you.

You are a different sort of ghost,

haunting yourself until you cross the borderline and die a
second death.

 

7.

One step.

You only have to take this one step.

Maybe it’s off a bridge, or maybe it’s out the door.

It doesn’t really matter—the outcome is going to be the same.

But you still believe there are greener pastures on the other side.

On the other side, you’ll feel better.

The poison will drain.

The canyon will become a lake, filled with water,

cold and clear from some (in)eternal spring.

Then the demon, the entity that possessed and poisoned
you does the second kind thing—

It tells you what a stupid cunt you are for believing there
was ever a spring,

or a pasture,

or anything other than the pain you’ve been hiding from
your entire life.

And that’s when houses start shaking, and walls start
bleeding, and screams start emanating from the cellars,
and you have to grab what’s left of your family and the
pets and run and run and run like hell.

You start praying to a god you don’t even believe in
anymore, all the while knowing that the scene unfolding
before you, threatening to destroy everything you ever
loved, was created by you.

Your creation.

You approached the Event Horizon.

You crossed the borderline.

And the real punch in the gut is

All that running you did—

When you never had to take more than one step.

________________________________________

Donna Lynch, Biography –

28340996_10213276704289733_1777809173_oDonna Lynch is a dark fiction writer and the co-founder—along with her husband, artist and musician Steven Archer—of the dark electro-rock band Ego Likeness (Metropolis Records). Her written works include Isabel Burning, Red Horses, Driving Through the Desert, Ladies & Other Vicious Creatures, Daughters of Lilith, and In My Mouth. Lynch’s poetry collection Witches was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. She and her husband live in Maryland.

Donna’s GoodReads page
Donna on Twitter

Choking Back the Devil, Info –

Pre-order HERE Choking Back the Devil from Raw Dog Screaming Press!

“Demons come in many forms
Some with teeth and some with horns
But none so vicious as the hordes
That came to be when you were born”

Choking Back the Devil is horror author and musician Donna Lynch’s seventh poetry collection and the follow up to her Bram Stoker nominated collection Witches (2018). This new collection explores the horror of losing control of mind, body, and autonomy through death, hauntings, violation, mental illness, violence, and the demons in our brains that terrorize and tempt us all.

Watch for cover reveal coming soon!

Thanks for joining us. 🙂 Also, if you want to keep reading, you can read more poetry from April and May over on my Poetry page.

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New Poetry and Writing on Mental Health Themes from Publisher/Author/Poet John Edward Lawson!

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In April for National Poetry Month, I featured ten poets plus their work and authors writing about poetry collections! It was a lot of fun and so much talent was showcased, both from veteran, award-winning authors to newly-formed writers. You can look back on that later at this link, but first I have new poetry!

I decided to try to keep the poetry posts flowing through out the year, and with this month being May and Mental Health Awareness Month, I invited author, poet, editor, and co-owner of Raw Dog Screaming Press, John Edward Lawson, to join us.

Mental Health Awareness

John Edward Lawson’s poetry has often dealt with themes of mental illness. From his first chapbook, The Scars are Complimentary, to his forthcoming collection Bibliophobia (a collection of poems about phobias), Lawson explores the way ideas can take root in the fertile fields of the mind and grow wild with irrational fear. His third collection of poetry, SuiPsalms, was heavily influenced by the poetry of Sylvia Plath and explored themes of suicide.

BOOKS-suipsalms

John is someone I consider a friend and a mentor – he makes me think, makes me laugh, makes me consider. He’s an activist and joy to engage with online. He’s a wealth of knowledge and vocabulary. And he’s a talented writer, editor, and publisher. I enjoy my time working in the PR/Publicity/Marketing realm at Raw Dog Screaming Press because of all of this and more. I truly admire him. He has a lot of mental energy!

He’s an advocate for mental health awareness and so I am thrilled to share poetry by John with you within this theme. He’s also been a finalist for the Stoker Award (2006, Superior Achievement in Poetry), the Wonderland Award for Bizarro Fiction (2007, collected fiction), has been nominated twice for Dwarf Stars Award, and received nominations for the Pushcart Prize, two for the Rhysling Award, and honorable mention for the 2015 Wonderland Award.

The first two poems below are previously published in SuiPsalms and the third one is first look at one of the poems within his brand new collection Bibliophobia, which will come out later this year!

Enjoy!

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Concrete Operational Thinking
(from SuiPsalms)

To be boring is a kind

of raucous self-murder

slowly stalking one childhood

dream after another, binding

teenage aspirations to the

steel table in Freud’s basement

Tracing a ruby Y along the svelte

torso of adulthood’s jubilant

release, from the authority

of parents and instructors

with the scalpel of truth:

That we cannot relinquish our

grasp on concrete limitations

no matter how cold or deep

the flow of life gets

_____________________________________________

Seventh (Healing) Circle
(from SuiPsalms)

Spring’s breath aches through the nettles far removed

from prying eyes and mouths that can meddle

Those who went before remain unsettled

and scattered, their chalky frames ground to dust

If there is peace it is found in all rest…

be the bed consecrated or unblessed

_______________________________________________

Amaxophobia
from Bibliophobia (coming in October 2019)

The police in the station

are blank-faced, cold

like the sickly green-cast light

and another suspect’s distant wailing

Sitting across from interrogators makes

you feel somehow old

Even in silence you reach

for this conversation’s brakes

Staring at the photo your chest is tight

You were captured by traffic

cameras, lens after lens creeped

after you as the driver, but…

“Who’s the boy?” you ask, concealing panic

and you learn that he’s gone

missing, leaving behind all his belongings and some blood

You’ve never seen him so the photos are wrong

They have to be, you’ve been alone all along

His visage is sullen, resigned

as if he has already died

But perhaps that explains the cold spot on your right

and the exonerating idea blossoming in your mind:

for them to review the patrol car footage

and discover an unseen passenger coming along for the ride

in the back seat next to you, and later

staring into the interview room camera

on footage that will be “lost in the evidence room”…after all

how can you be expected

to control who hitches a ride with you

after their demise?

Amaxophobia: excessive fear of being in, meeting in, driving in, or riding in certain kinds of vehicles; or of vehicles in general.

______________________________________

Purchase or Add to GoodReads –

SuiPsalms

Find info on GoodReads

You can pre-order Bibliophobia now at the link below:

http://rawdogscreaming.com/books/bibliophobia/

___________________________________________-

John Edward Lawson, Biography – 

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John Edward Lawson is the author of 16 books of fiction and poetry, and numerous chapbooks. Over 500 of his poems, stories, and articles have been published in magazines, anthologies, literary journals, and newspapers worldwide. He has been called “The forgotten black man of horror,” but he also regularly publishes science fiction, bizarro, mystery/thrillers, and literary fiction.

John was a winner of the 2001 Fiction International Emerging Writers Competition; in addition to being a finalist for the Stoker Award (2006, Superior Achievement in Poetry) and the Wonderland Award for Bizarro Fiction (2007, collected fiction), other award nominations include two for the Dwarf Stars Award, the Pushcart Prize, two for the Rhysling Award, and honorable mention for the 2015 Wonderland Award.

John is also a founding editor of Raw Dog Screaming Press, recognized by the Horror Writers Association in 2019 with their Specialty Press Award. He spent four years as editor-in-chief of The Dream People online literary journal of bizarro fiction and poetry. Other editorial projects include three print anthologies, four e-anthologies, and freelance work for such companies as National Lampoon and Double Dragon Publishing.

His hobbies include travel, games of strategy, and collecting Hong Kong comic books. He has an intense interest in films. During the 1990s he kicked around in the DC industrial-electro-goth scene in the band Dead Letter Office and owned Rack and Ruin Studio. He has been involved in the production of numerous short films, including award winners Party Girland Uberman: An Experiment in Consciousness. Director Jayson Densman has collaborated with John for years spawning a trilogy of PoVids derived from his poetry.

John currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction. Please follow him at his BookBub page for updates about his new releases and discount deals. Visit John’s Amazon author page or find him on social media at the links below:

_______________________________________
If you’re interested in Raw Dog Screaming Press, go to the website. For info and giveaways sign up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/yhfCX

Thank you for joining us!

 

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National Poetry Month: First Look at New Poetry from Author Steve Stred #poetry #poems #western

Welcome back again for the final installment for my National Poetry Month project. I meant to have this posted Friday but I had a computer mishap, so here we are… but it’s always a good day for poetry, right? Today I have a never before published poem by author Steve Stred, which he plans to include in his second poetry collection. I love Steve’s use of history, western, and action in his poetry. I first read Steve’s poetry when after being inspired by reading my own collection, Breathe. Breathe., he took up the pen again toward poetry and wrote his first collection (which is now out – see below). You can read about that here.

I was not only humbled but excited for Steve. He’s a terrific writer with a lot of passion for EVERYTHING he touches. He writes some wonderful stories but more than that he’s a cheerleader for so many other authors and such a sweet soul for anyone who is trying to accomplish anything at all or is going through a rough time. Steve is a wonderful person and friend. So I am very happy to offer a look at his poetry to you today.

Enjoy!

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Six Shots (To Redemption)

I,

(Put the smoke to my lips)

(Inhale deeply feeling the burn)

Look at the gathered faces.

(Exhale forcefully)

(Grin spreads wide)

Seeing their dirt covered cheeks,

(Toss the smoke to the ground)

(Grind it with my boot heel)

Makes me glad it’s going down like this.

(I spit a thick gob to the dirt)

(I hear the Sheriff bark an order)

I wheel and crack off five shots,

(My heart pumps but my nerves are calm)

Three lawmen go down, followed by that whore who turned me in.

(Sheriff’s taken cover, he ain’t so dumb after all)

I roll and spin and shot six ends the life of a man rushing me.

(Before all hell breaks loose)

I crouch and rush to the horse.

(I’m reloading as I go)

(I spot the Sheriff moving. He’s mine)

I cock the hammer and squeeze rapidly.

(Six shots of redemption)

The Sheriff’s brain paints the sky.

The Mayor’s face implodes.

The Banker loses his life.

The Bar Owner’s throat opens like a plant in bloom.

The Preacher meets his Lord.

(I’m doing the Devil’s work, is what he always said)

And shot number six takes out that bastard coward of a partner.

(He ain’t even take his pistol out of his belt)

The crowds gone silent.  Still as night.

(I got six more bullets, I tell myself)

I take off my hat and give a wave.

I put my ex-partners bags into mine.

I mount the horse and kick its sides.

(Gonna be a nice retirement up in those hills)

A gunshot echoes through the town

(Gonnnnn beeee aaa niissshhhh)

My horse keeps riding.

Carrying

(Reeettiiaahhhhmmmiiinn uuppppp nnnnn)

My

(Dddoooosss hhhhilllszzz)

Dead body.

My redemption is opened from behind.

Still six bullets left.

One bullet was all that was needed.

_________________________________

Steve Stred, Biography –

Steve StredSteve Stred is an up-and-coming Dark Horror author. Steve is the author of the novel Invisible, the novellas Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles, and two collections of short stories—Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick. He’s also released the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.

Steve also loves reading and reviewing and is part of the team at Kendall Reviews. Steve has a number of works on the go and enjoys all things horror, occult, supernatural, and paranormal and is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada, where he lives with his wife, his son, and their dog OJ.

Find him online at his website.

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram – stevestred

Dim the Sun, Poetry Collection

Dim the sunDim the Sun is a collection of 14 dark poems and one bleak horror short story.  Focusing on pain, fear, anger, depression and anxiety Steve Stred brings you deep into his mind to share some truly unnerving moments.

This is Steve Stred’s first collection of poetry he has released.

Purchase  or Add –

GoodReads

Amazon

Thank you, Steve! And thank you readers for joining us!

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National Poetry Month: Two New Poems from Claire C. Holland – Tackling Motherhood in Horror Films in Next Collection #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry #horror

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It’s May 2, but I’m still celebrating National Poetry Month this week. And why not? Poetry is to be celebrated and highlighted at any time. The week started with April and poetry, so it’s going to finish with poetry as well. And furthermore, even though I’ll be closing the National Poetry Month project soon, I’ll share poet and poetry throughout the year as well.

Today I’m very excited to showcase a friend I adore – Claire Holland, author of the poetry collection I Am Not Your Final Girl that busted onto the scene last year as her debut work. Claire makes me laugh, chuckle, and smile and is always so kind, but she also is really cool too. She empowers me as a woman. Her poetry is biting and raw and real.

Featured below are two poems by Claire that will be upcoming in her NEXT collection (get excited). Prepare yourself for an emotional ride with these as in this one she tackles motherhood within horror film females.

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Motherhood and Following up I Am Not Your Final Girl
by Claire Holland

First off, I’d like to thank Erin for being kind enough to invite me on her blog for National Poetry Month! I’m so happy to debut a couple of poems I’ve been working on for my next book, a follow-up of sorts to I Am Not Your Final Girl. As you may be able to tell from these two poems, I’ve been thinking about motherhood a lot lately – how impossible it is to do “perfectly,” the expectations piled on women whether they choose to pursue motherhood or not, and also what it means to be the daughter of a strong woman. These probably aren’t the poems you’ll want to break out on Mother’s Day, but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless!

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Medora 2

Medora

We fucked like animals the night before—

 

Just like before, barbed bodies all nail and scratch,

our eyes torches in the wild dark.

 

Your tongue wrote a line down my inner thigh, and

when you kissed my lips I could hear your thoughts

 

like they were mine.

 

I’ll find your tooth lodged in the soft skin of my neck,

later. Hold it there like a vow.

 

Still, you were gone in the morning.

 

All you left me with: this land that stretches, stretches

too far and not enough, this warping gray sky,

 

this child with torch eyes.

 

My body, wanting.

 

Does nature know forgiveness? I could never ask.

 

My love, I’m so sorry

 

I only wanted you.

 

_______________________________________

Toni C

Annie

Hereditary (2018)

How many ways are there to ruin a child?

Sweetie, that land is boundless.

You can lop off their heads

one by one, reach down their reedy necks and pull

out what’s inside. Sift

through the pulp and grue

til you’re covered in it. You still won’t know

what they really need.

 

And am I culpable?

For giving birth? They say

you always have a choice, always,

no matter how horrible it sounds, it’s the woman’s

choice—

but there was no choice.

Show me where I went wrong. Show me how

I could’ve knocked that crown off

 

his head once they decided to put it there.

Because there never was a choice,

and all your self-righteousness, all of this

blame

won’t change a damned thing.

I’ve tried. I tried. I try.

Your children aren’t your children,

didn’t somebody say that once?

_________________________________________

Claire Holland, Biography –

Claire HollandClaire is a poet and freelance writer from Philadelphia, currently living in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading or binge-watching horror movies with her wonderful husband and her Wheaten Terrier, Chief Brody (yes, like from Jaws).

Her debut book of poetry, I Am Not Your Final Girl, is available now on Amazon.

Claire and her work can be found on Twitter at @clairecwrites or on her website.

About I Am Not Your Final Girl

IANYFGCoverFrom Claire C. Holland, a timely collection of poetry that follows the final girl of slasher cinema—the girl who survives until the end—on a journey of retribution and reclamation. From the white picket fences of 1970s Haddonfield to the apocalyptic end of the world, Holland confronts the role of women in relation to subjects including feminism, sexuality, violence, and healing in the world of Trump and the Me Too movement. Each poem centers on a fictional character from horror cinema, and explores the many ways in which women find empowerment through their own perceived monstrousness.

Purchase –

Amazon

GoodReads

Photo credit: Thrillist and DigitalSpy

 

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National Poetry Month Celebration: Welcome Bram Stoker Award Winner Marge Simon on Illuminating Dark Poetry #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

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April is National Poetry Month and I do so love to highlight this type of writing I love to do, and also showcase other poets and work when I get the chance.

I hope to change more people’s minds about genre or dark poetry, in addition to poetry as a whole. I think if you’re one of those hesitant readers, give it a chance you’ll find it different these days than what you’re thinking of (being stuck back in high school classes). There is much to celebrate and appreciate!

For the rest of April I’ll be hosting original and re-print poetry, guest articles, interviews, and reviews from some poets I know and love, mostly in the dark poetry or horror poetry categories. If I have time, I hope to write some articles talking about poetry as well  such as diversity in poetry, feminist voice, dark poetry, favorite poets, but if I don’t get this latter done, I will happily feature them at other times during the year. Poetry never dies.

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I’m proud to begin my celebration of poetry over the next two weeks with none other than veteran genre poet, Marge Simon! Fittingly enough, in her article she also encourages you to give poetry a try and lay the stereotypes to rest. And stay tuned from some poetry examples from her as well.

Perfect post to begin with….thank you so much, Marge!

Marge Simon is a writer, poet, and illustrator living in Ocala, Florida. She edits a column for the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees. A Grand Master Poet of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, her stories appear in Daily Science Fiction, Polu Texni, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, and anthologies such as Chiral Mad 4 and Tales from the Lake 5.

Simon has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award, and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award.

Illuminating Dark Poetry

by Marge Simon, Award-winning Poet and Artist

“I hate poetry.”

“Poetry is nice, but I’d rather have a cookie.”

“Poetry is stupid. I wrote one for my girlfriend and she dumped me.”

I’ve actually had people comment like this to me over the years. In fact, most recently, at a Stoker convention, an author looked straight at me while I was signing a poetry collection and informed a bystander that he hated poetry. “Except for limericks,” he added. “Limericks are fine.” Sure, it was rude, but what can you say to that, other than “to each, their own”?

When I’m pressed by people as to what I write, I say “poetry,” but I’ll hasten to add, “It’s genre or speculative poetry, not what you are thinking of as poetry.” And then I change the subject, because I’m sure they don’t know what I’m talking about, and they don’t ask, and they really don’t care. I tell myself that I’m absolutely certain they are just being polite – and that is why I thought I would never write this article. But later, I got to thinking how there is poetry AND poetry. There is poetry for the general public appreciation, and there is also poetry that appeals to the literary community; there is poetry that those who appreciate both formal and speculative dark poetry.

Still what is so wrong with poetry, anyway? Most of it rhymes and is pleasurable to read if you are in the mood. We have these heavyweights of history to thank for poetry in our lives today – bet you have heard them quoted time over:

Shakespeare

Shelley

Byron

Keats

Kipling

Coleridge

Tennyson

Houseman

Not to mention Poe, C.A. Smith, and of course H.P. Lovecraft. You need to check them out – all of them. Take your time. You’ll find elements of darkness within a number of their works. As well, there are non-rhyming poems – poems with interior rhyme, or poems contrived to look like an object, and so on. How about poems that address the human condition? Speculative is my choice.

Here’s a variety of my stuff for examples.

A poem about familial relationships:

Latch Lock & Chain

I follow the stream into the greenwood,

Old Dozer knows the way, I smile as he

veers off, going deeper into the foliage, where

a last burst of sunset falls on the brick hut,

the same I’d built alone decades ago,

crumbling now, the whitewash almost gone.

 

How pleased I’d been that day to add that sign,

“KEEP OUT”, now buried in a pile of leaves.

I should complete my mission before dark,

for the bastard’s sake, as he’ll be waiting.

 

At first at odds, I determine to convey

the truth, not guise it all in falsehoods.

“There’s been enough bad blood between us.

I’ll set you free, if you promise to forgive.”

From inside I hear a croak of assent.

But Dozer growls, looks at me. Whines.

 

“Mother hated you, she believed my lies.

The mine we co-owned is worthless,

I sold the deed to our land years ago,

and I killed that whore you fancied.”

 

The latch is rusted, but the lock still holds.

My key won’t work, I smash it with my torch.

With trembling hands, I free the chain.

Impossibly thin fingers claw around the door,

pushing it open a crack at a time …

Note: this poem actually concerns the relationship between a man and his dog.

crescent moon

A dark poem through a child’s eyes:

Sooner, Later

In the canyon

above a stream

corpse of a lynx,

her foot in a bear trap,

six kits spread dead

in line at her dugs,

and all you say is,

just as well

they’d all die anyway,

sooner or later.

 

I was a kid,

so I thought like a kid,

thought how she might

be thirsty, starving,

thought maybe she

could have eaten

them all, one by one

just to say alive,

but that didn’t happen

and you’d said just as well,

they’d all die anyway,

sooner or later.

 

But you were my brother,

bigger than me,

so I didn’t argue,

and I didn’t cry.

Note: this speaks to those who look up to older siblings, realizing in the end that you need to draw your own conclusions about life and death

crescent moon

A poem through an alien lover’s eyes:

He Promised Me the Moon

I came here hoping

this world would suffice,

but all I met were flimsy ghosts

playing with fractals and logistics,

as meaningless as gossip –until him.

 

He hired me as his model,

even promised me the moon

before his wife’s death.

I wasn’t planning on this,

to know such human feelings.

 

He begged me to move in, after.

But he sits now, staring at his paintings.

He won’t even let me touch him.

Her flowers shrivel in their pots,

for want of her special love.

 

She was from Orlando,

a crowded, touristy place

of slender women, cocktails

at four, fashion-wise and empty-

headed as the rest of their lot.

 

But I don’t leave him. I can’t.

It makes me wince, knowing

I can assume a liquid form,

a creature foreign to this world,

from a planet of endless storms.

 

Perhaps tomorrow he’ll be aware,

pick up his palette, have me pose.

I don’t care how painful or how long,

I only want him to undress me,

kiss me in familiar places –

 

I’ll find us a moon of our own,

far from Earth.

Note: His wife was from Orlando, bringing this into a realm you can identify with – she could be from any city on earth, actually.

crescent moon

A poem through an ensorcelled puppet’s eyes:

When Again I Feel My Hands

My wooden hands

hang idle on the strings.

Master’s drunk on Holland gin

& sleeps beside the wench

who takes my place.

 

Half human, half wood,

in a world deprived of joy,

I am the fool’s scepter,

a reprieve from tedium,

my simple plays enhanced

by classical compositions.

You cannot know how dear

the price of mirth.

 

With his dark eyes, he wooed me

& with his magic, he prevailed.

Father swore, mother wept

as he swept me in his arms

& then away to foreign lands.

 

Soon he’ll tire of her,

& cast a spell to change her form

as did he mine, to suit his needs.

She’ll bob & bow as I do now,

and he will set me free–

or so he promised, long ago.

 

When again I feel my hands,

I’ll rip away these strings

& as he sleeps, I’ll pull them taut

around his bearded throat,

claim his magic for my own.

 Note: this poor young woman is a victim of falsehoods, a timeless warning.

crescent moon

 Lastly, a poem about your next door neighbor:

               the decaffeinated man

awake, I wander outside,

hearing screams from neighbor’s house,

move close to their bathroom window;

I see the obsessive man

has tried to clean the filth

from his rectum with Drano, and

not to be outdone, his compulsive wife

has just botched a Clorox gargle

for fresh breath and sparkling white smile.

Note: sometimes you just want a really sicko laugh.

Open your mind to the many other realms of dark poetry. The perspectives are countless! Thanks for inviting me, Erin!

Marge Simon, Biography –

Simonphoto-208x258Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees.  She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF & F Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award.

She has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award,
and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Grievous Angel, Daily Science Fiction, and in the anthologies, You, Human, Chiral Mad, and The Beauty of Death, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer, and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

She has a daughter, Melle Tillison Broaderick, and two lovely granddaughters. She married a long time friend and colleague, Bruce Boston, in 2001. Besides being a fantastic conversationalist and the love of her life, he has taught her a great deal about writing top notch poetry and fiction, for which she is grateful.

In addition to her solo work, she has written collaborative poetry and fiction with Bruce Boston, Charlee Jacob, Mary Turzillo, Alessandro Manzetti and Bryan Dietrich.

You can view Marge’s fiction, poetry, and art, and contact her for freelance art assignments on her website.

Here is but one of her collections –

Satan's SweetheartsSatan’s Sweethearts
by Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo

Satan’s Sweethearts is an evil collection of poetry. Meet the macabre history of villainesses as Ching-Shih, Dephine LaLaurie, and Lizzie Borden.

Find on GoodReads!

WAR
by Marge Simon and Alessandro Manzetti

Look in my eyes. My bronze skin reflects the flames of the battles.

I feed on bullets and shrapnel.

WarI have trenches instead of veins and a bombardier’s whirring plays my favorite symphony inside my big head. This is my story, with some of my best camouflages and disguises, and you should expect your peace plans to fail. Because that’s what I do for living.

Look at my million golden teeth necklace. Ring any bells? Maybe you’re too young. I probably should have mentioned the fireworks over the Baghdad night sky, my new friend, or the live broadcast of two great skyscrapers disintegrating. You know what I’m talking about, right? So, you can call me by one of my many names: Great General, Lock-box of the Powerful, Red Rain, Lord of Steel or, more simply, WAR.

I appear as strife of many kinds, from Stalingrad to Scotland. Africa to Afghanistan, the civil war of Italy and the War Between the States, ghostly wars, drug wars, the battle of the sexes, World Wars I, II and visions of a holocaust yet to come. It’s all herein and more, with poems both collaborative and individual.

Find on GoodReads!

My pleasure having Marge on Hook of a Book! Stay tuned this week for posts featuring Bram Stoker Award winning poet Stephanie Wytovich and Bram Stoker nominated poet Sara Tantlinger, with more to come next week from some other awesome poets.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Feature Articles, poetry, Q and A with Authors, Uncategorized, Usborne and Kane/Miller News

Review: The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino Brings Love and Drama Circa 19th Century NYC and Irish Immigrants #histfic #histnov #lgbt

The Parting Glass, Historical Fiction Review –

Parting Glass Cover

With St. Patrick’s day not long behind us, and it still being women in history month, I have a review of the recently released The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino, which features Irish-American characters. Last week, I posted an interview HERE on the site with the author as well, which will give you more insight into her book and the processes to her publishing it. I’d suggest going back and reading that if you haven’t after you take in this review. I believe the author is currently in Ireland, so I can’t wait what she uncovers to write about next.

The Parting Glass is the new debut historical fiction novel from Gina Marie Guadagnino and published by Atria set in 19th century New York City. It delves into themes of Irish-American immigrant life, and worth nothing in my own quest to support inclusivity in art, that it has LGBTQ+ themes in regards to featuring lesbian characters.

Generally I don’t often think there is a reason to single out the sexual orientation of characters, but since it’s an historical time period as well as a deep part of the characters and their interactions with each other and the times, I think it’s important to identify it as a key part of her work. It’s been called reminiscent of Sarah Waters, and I agree to some degree, because she handles her characters with great emotion and care.

Mary Ballard is an Irish handmaiden who falls in love with the lady she assists, who happens to be herself in a forbidden-type of tryst with the Irish brother of Ballard, who works in the stables. Yep, cue drama. Mostly for Mary Ballard, whose heart pines to frustration. It’s forbidden (what? all of it) in the 19th century, of course, in an upstairs/downstairs sort of way first of all, as Ballard and her brother are hired help, and Charlotte Walden is aristocracy living in Washington Square (the area of the rich who hired low-wage labor). The lesbianism would be frowned upon too, but that’s the heart-wrenching part too, as it’s unrequited love. Cue more angst in here.

Also racism is heavy at work during this time period, though it’s coming to the tail end of it (kinda? I think it’s still going on now), so the climax is heated as the Nativists and the No Nothing Party spew hatred against Catholics, Irish, immigrats as a whole. There is also a lot of corruption and gangs. That’s why some people liken this to part Gangs of New York. I get that.

Guadagnino has done a tremendous amount of research and it shows in her writing, which is beautiful and captivating both. Her historical details are plenty and give a solid foundation for the story to unfold and the well-developed characters to flourish. The best developed was Mary of course, both sides of her personalities as you’ll come to read, but Charlotte needed some work to not be sterile (even if high society ladies may have seemed so at the time, she was rebelling and have sex with the stable hand – his character also ignited by the fact he is leading an Irish gang).

Given the lush and vivid descriptions of this area of NYC, it’s obvious Guadagnino knows, loves, and has researched the history of it extensively. The setting is a marvelous backdrop for which the story unfolds with some twists and turns amid the drama. I truly enjoyed the imagery she presented to the reader with her engaging prose.

In wearing my editor’s hat, I’ll note that though it was clean, lush, descriptive, and a dramatic, enjoyable read, it does what so many traditionally published debut historical fiction books do, and that’s possibly try to do too much and not be able to wrap up all the intertwining plots quickly enough by the ending page count a publisher wants. It could have been strictly a romance or a strictly a take on the Irish immigrant issue of the day, because there was enough plot to both. If I was to offer suggestions, I’d have played up the latter and toned down the romance and the focus on the maid living this dual life, or picked one or the other of the sister and brother to focus on. But that is just a small suggestion in the whole scheme of the book.

If you want a 19th century romp in NYC, with drama among the class system, a woman’s journey to self, and a lesson in Irish immigrants and their plight, this book will be a steamy and interesting read for you. Guadagnino definitely knows her Irish-American history and culture and how it intertwined with others in this time and place. Her love of NYC is undeniable. There aren’t many historical fiction books out there that I know of that use the Irish-American culture in their narratives and I am glad to see her rise to the occasion as there are so many stories to tell and create!

Highly recommended as a unique, cultural yet entertaining read that will tug at your heart strings and leave you breathless by the end.

The Parting Glass, Information –

Parting Glass CoverPub date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Atria
Hardcover; $26.00
ISBN: 978-1501198410

Will a brother and sister’s steadfast vow withstand their wild devotion to the same woman? THE PARTING GLASS, a tempestuous nineteenth century love triangle threatens all that one secretive servant holds dear, is Gina Marie Guadagnino’s lush and evocative debut.

Posing as a lady’s maid in 1837 New York City, Maire O’Farren must tread carefully. The upper echelons of society despise the Irish and Maire, known to her employers only as Mary Ballard, takes great care to conceal her native lilt and lineage. Nor would the household be pleased with a servant who aids her debutante’s midnight assignations with a stable groom. Least of all would they tolerate a maid who takes a stronger liking to her charge than would be deemed entirely suitable for her sex.

Maire tends to wealthy young heiress Charlotte Walden’s every whim and guards her every secret. Though it pains her, Maire even delivers her brother Seanin to her beloved’s bed each Thursday night, before shedding her clandestine persona and finding release from her frustration in the gritty underworld around Washington Square. Despite her grief, Maire soon attracts the attentions of irreverent and industrious prostitute Liddie Lawrence, who soothes Maire’s body and distracts her burning heart.

As an English baron and a red-blooded American millionaire vie for Charlotte’s affections, Seanin makes calculated moves of his own, adopting the political aspirations of his drinking companions and grappling with the cruel boundaries of class and nationality. As Seanin rises in rank in a secret society and the truth of both women’s double lives begin to unravel, Charlotte’s secrets soon grow so dangerous even Maire cannot keep them. Forced to choose between loyalty to her brother or to her lady, between respectable society or true freedom, Maire finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.

Deeply researched and finely rendered, THE PARTING GLASS captures the delicate exuberance of nineteenth century high society, while examining sexuality, race, and social class in ways that feel startlingly familiar and timely. Perfect for fans of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin, Guadagnino’s captivating upstairs/downstairs historical fiction debut will leave readers breathless.

Gina Marie Guadagnino, Biography –

Gina Marie Guadagnino Author Photo by L.M. PaneGina Marie Guadagnino received a BA in English from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School.

Her work has appeared in the Morris-Jumel Mansion Anthology of Fantasy and Paranormal FictionMixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader).

She lives in New York City with her family.

Praise for The Parting Glass

Downton Abbey meets Gangs of New York in this darkly compelling debut. A claustrophobic love triangle of stifled desire and class warfare plays out to deadly, devastating effect. A gem of a novel to be inhaled in one gulp.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK

“Knotted thickly with secrets both fervid and calculating, to read THE PARTING GLASS is to enter a jungle of passions and lies. Immaculately researched and gorgeously written, this book is noteworthy for its grasp of the agony caused by hiding cracks in the human heart. A thoughtful, lyrical, sensuous, moving tour-de-force.” —Lyndsay Faye, author of JANE STEELE

Purchase –

Amazon

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Enjoy!

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