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The Night Crawls In Collection and Info on Ladies of Horror Fiction (LOHF) Writers Grant Inspriation + Free Poetry and a Drabble

Hey all! I’m a little late here as summer was winding down I had a ton on top of the ton I usually have going on because of my kiddos back to school, travels, and then catching up on work – oh and my birthday! I’m behind on blogging but I hope to have some great stuff for you soon again as Fall and Winter approaches us. Today, I still wanted to get this information to all the female writers out there about this grant in partnership with Ladies of Horror Fiction and author Steve Stred. Please check it out and consider applying by September 1 (edit: the recipient has been chosen but keep in mind for next year) and order a copy of Steve’s dark poetry book because the proceeds are what is funding the grant now and in the future! Steve is a wonderfully supportive author to others and especially the women writers out there who need amplification. The LOHF group is doing an astronomical job of helping out women writers in horror too. I also appreciate his shout out to me below. THANKS!

Now let’s get to it…

The Night Crawls In Poetry Collection and the Ladies of Horror Fiction (LOHF) Writer’s Grant Information and Inspriation (+ Free Poetry and a Drabble)

By Steve Stred, author of Dim the Sun

It’s getting close!

September 1, 2019 will see the arrival of my collection The Night Crawls In. Featuring thirty-three drabbles and seventeen poems, the collection was created specifically to help fund the First Annual Ladies of Horror Fiction Writer’s Grant.

The grant is open for applications until September 1, with the winner announced September 15. ((Edit: The recipient has been chosen.)) For full details, click HERE!

lohf_headers_lohfwritersgrant

Now that the official stuff is over – let’s chat about the why and the how.

Why?

Good question. This guest post is kindly being hosted by my friend Erin. There really are two people responsible for this collection happening. Erin and Miranda. As I mentioned in the blog post over on Miranda’s great site, while me and her were chatting, she convinced me that releasing a collection for charity each year was a great thing to do. I spoke with my sister a bit about what charity I should focus on, and through chatting with Jodi, I decided to scrap the charity idea. Instead, I wanted to make sure that the funds raised were directly going to someone rather than an organization. And what better way than to help support fellow authors and creative types?

Erin is probably the biggest reason any of this came about. Last year I read her brilliant collection Breathe. Breathe. Not only were the short stories amazing, but her phenomenal poetry kicked my butt into motion and got me writing poetry again. Without her amazing collection and her constant support and reassurance, I’d never have made the leap to writing poetry again. So thank you Erin and Miranda!

How?

The how was actually super easy on my part. I took a look at the writing community and the horror community and everything led me to want to support a great and fantastic group of writers who frequently deal with the short end of the stick. Truthfully, I don’t think I’m smart enough to accurately describe the frequent marginalization that women horror writers have to deal with. Heck, I might even be using that word incorrectly within my own statement. To be pointed – they have to work way harder than most to have their books read, reviewed, and taken seriously. Shameful.

So I reached out to Toni and the wonderful Ladies of Horror Fiction group and after some secret back room, dark alley Twitter conversations, we got the ball rolling!

So, click the link above and check out how to apply! Good luck!

As I’ve been doing on the other wonderful guest posts sharing/promoting The Night Crawls In, I’ve been giving previews of some drabbles and poems!

The Night Crawls In

Please enjoy these two poems and a drabble from The Night Crawls In:

Summers. (A Poem)

Remember how grass used to feel between your toes?

Long summer nights under the moon’s tender glow.

Evening thunder storms down the valley ahead,

The rattling boom after the lightning had led.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band leading the way

Taking us to a special place at the end of the day.

We’d hold hands sitting under the stars,

Talking ‘bout love that wouldn’t leave us with scars.

Ours bodies snuggled up, keeping the other warm

A tender touch that would help us transform.

The memories of how life used to be

The days we now chase, while we wish to be free.

END

______________________________________________________

Worms. (A Poem)

They live just below our feet.

Crawling, slithering, trying to latch on.

We go about our normal days,

Oblivious to the horror three feet below.

Our feet create vibrations,

Bringing them ever closer.

The worms, oh the worms

Ascend from below.

In waves they come, they slurp and they gulp,

And in the end

We should have known.

END

 ______________________________________________________

The Safe. (A Drabble)

 It should’ve been simple. Straight forward.

Walk in, tell everyone to get down, demand they put all the money in the bag, then get them to open the safe.

We got our matching president masks, we stole a car and junked the plates, putting fakes ones on in place.

We parked out front, car running, getaway driver waiting patiently for us to return.

Everything went according to plan, until they opened the safe and me and Davey rushed in.

The lights snapped off as we entered and the tentacled monster that lived there, began to feast.

We didn’t last long.

END

 __________________________________________________

So a bit of background on each piece!

“Summers” just might be the single best piece of anything I’ve ever written. In my opinion at least. Each line and each image transports me back to the summer’s growing up in Burton and now, how, I chase the ghosts of how life used to be.

“Worms” is based on my son’s reaction to seeing worms, haha! He’s inspired so many of my stories, just form his innocent reactions or from playing with him and seeing how he processes stuff. As of typing this, he turns three on Monday and I’m hoping he says “ewwwww, worms!” for the rest of his life.

“The Safe” is a cosmic monster story about some bank robbers trying to rob the wrong bank. I’ve always been utterly fascinated by the massive banks of federal reserves, the ones that are locked down to everyone. So I had a thought, what if they secretly are also storing some of the world’s secrets?

Thanks to Erin for hosting this!

Ordering

Pre-order links are now up – every pre-order goes towards funding the grant. Every sale after September 1 goes towards funding future grants!

Amazon USA

Amazon CAN

Amazon UK

Amazon AUS

Steve Stred, Author Biography –

Steve StredSteve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.

Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, 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, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.

On September 1, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In will arrive. This release was specifically created to help fund the First Annual LOHF Writers Grant.

Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.

Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.

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National Poetry Month: “Unforgiven” – A Poem from Miranda Crites #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

National Poetry Month April

Today for National Poetry Month I welcome Miranda Crites! Miranda is a reader, book reviewer, photographer, writer, and lover of horror from the ghostly woods of rural West Virginia. I met MJ virtually sometime last year in her role as a book reviewer, but I came to be friends with her as well with our mutual interest in writing, photography, nature, and raising our kids. She’s so very creative and a bundle of energy that makes my days online so much better each time I see her beautiful photos or stories or hear from her. She’s also been a great supporter of indie authors as well as my own prose and poetry, so when she told me she’d like to try her hand at sending me a poetry piece, I was thrilled because I love supporting writers who want to come of their shell with their work.

It was a complete joy to work with her on this piece and she took my editing advice and ran with it, quickly turning this work into a refined piece of beauty that captures so much emotion, and for me, made me feel like I was floating. And maybe a little less alone. The photo is also one of her own. Thanks so much, Miranda!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

_________________________________________

raven

Unforgiven
by Miranda Crites

I sink into sludgy, blackness

The iciness of the lake seeps into my bones, slowing my movements

I trudge along the muddy bottom; it pulls at me

I push toward the barely visible light above

 

Only my eyes break into the bleak day

Ancient pines dance in the brisk breeze

Snow-capped mountains beckon to me in the distance

But I can rise no further

 

My lungs plead for a breath of raw, pine-scented air

Blood races through my veins, pounding forcefully in my ears

The darkness below gently tugs

The oxygen I crave is merely an inch away

 

I swim harder, reaching the water’s edge

Vengeful blades of grass slice through my fingers

I rip them out by their roots as I try to save myself

I claw through dirt and rocks

 

I am restrained, a tethered dog

Bubbles tease my cheeks as I scream away my last breath

Deeply in my chest, a torch is lit

A voice within the darkness whispers: “forgive”

 

A rope of fiery vines bites at my ankle

My fingernails rip off as I try to break free

“Forgive,” repeats the inky blackness

I don’t have that ability

 

My world explodes

Shooting stars burst behind my eyes

The torch expands its flame

Fireworks light the dimness above, the blackness below

 

Release

Relief

No more pain, only ephemeral sadness

I float to the surface, finally unconfined

 

Lightning rips open the gray cloth above

The darkness below feeds on my light, my aura

A single crow lands on my chest, pecking at my eyes

Fish and unknown creatures nibble the remaining soggy meat of my fingers

 

Wolves sprint to the water’s edge

They drag my body onto the shore

Their pack devours most of my flesh and bones

Vultures clean up the last remaining pieces of me

____________________________________________

Miranda Crites, Biography –

MirandaMiranda Crites is a reader, book reviewer, photographer, writer, and lover of horror from the ghostly woods of rural West Virginia.

Miranda has always enjoyed reading, photography, and writing. She received her first camera as a gift when she was nine years old.

The writing bug bit her at a very early age too, when she won the young writers’ contest in first grade and never stopped writing.

 

Find Miranda Online –

You can follow Miranda on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.

Her photography can be found on her dedicated Facebook page at MJ Creations.

She reviews for Kendall Reviews, as well as her own site, Miranda Crites Reads and Writes.

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National Poetry Month: Talking about I Am Not Your Final Girl and Feminine Anger by Sonora Taylor #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry #metoo

Today, I am thrilled to welcome my friend Sonora Taylor to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! for the National Poetry Month project. I virtually met Sonora after she picked up and reviewed my own collection, Breathe. Breathe.. Afterwards, I found out we were both submitting pieces to the monthly ladies of horror flash project and we realized we had all sorts of similar interests and became friends. I’m excited she’s here to talk about her reading of the poetry collection I am Not Your Final Girl by Claire Holland and how things that happens to us in the world as females build pent-up anger that can no longer be held inside.

This is a great piece – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. May we all stay mad.

PoetryMonthGraphic

Stay Mad: “I Am Not Your Final Girl” and Feminine Anger
by Sonora Taylor, author of Without Condition

When you’re a woman, you spend a lot of time being angry. Or maybe not angry, but certainly upset, perturbed, maddened, or otherwise disturbed. It starts when a boy hurting you on the playground is dismissed as “him having a crush,” to being told to dismiss the sexist insults laid in your ears as just words, to learning to just walk away and forget it when a grown man yells to you and your teenage friends that “he smells p*ssy,” even though you hear it in your mind long after it happened.

Even when it’s not so blatant, there are little annoyances every day that come with being a woman. Being spoken to by strangers without any prompting, being overlooked at work or dismissed in group discussions, being frowned upon for the choices you make for yourself. Even when it’s not directly happening to you, you see what everyone thinks of you when you open a paper, turn on the television, or log on to any number of social media sites. “Slut” and “bitch” are interspersed with people who can’t believe women are this, can’t believe women said that, can’t believe women just are.

This isn’t to say that all who see women’s existence as an injustice want them to no longer be. Most want their survival, but they want it in the face of being able to hurt them. A woman’s role is to survive a never-ending barrage of wounds to her body and soul. In a sense, women are almost always the final girls of the horror movie of their life, taken piece by piece until they lay battered and broken.

But the beauty of the final girl is that she takes her damage and uses it to fight back. She claws at assault, defies the order of monsters and men by surviving for herself and not for their sadistic pleasures. It’s why we love these characters in horror films, why women keep coming back to these stories — even though we see violence against our bodies and souls, we see ourselves emerge triumphant by the end.

I-Am-Not-Your-Final-Girl

Such inspiration drives the spirit of a wonderful collection of poetry by Claire C. Holland. “I Am Not Your Final Girl” features poems named for several final girls, both well- and lesser-known, but all legendary in horror. From Halloween’s “Laurie” to Antichrist’s “She” (one of my favorite films), each poem dives into the emotional core of the titular final girl, a core that sometimes goes missing in their respective original stories. Even the best horror films sometimes eschew the emotional impact in favor of blood and guts, and stories that get into the emotions still cannot dive into one’s mind the way that prose and verse can.

she-antichrist

She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) from Antichrist

Holland fills in these gaps with both the character’s canonical emotions and her own imagining of what the characters are thinking — as well as her response to what each woman goes through. “Thomasin” (from The Witch) shares the story of a girl who tried to do right, but was only rewarded when she did right by herself. “Selena” (from 28 Days Later, my favorite horror film) delves into the struggle of a woman who fought tooth and nail to save a society that, in the end, wanted to survive by harming her and other women. Every woman’s story, and every woman’s subsequent poem, is different; but all are united in that they survive the barrage that is all too familiar to the feminine spirit.

selena-28-days-later

Selena (Naomie Harris)  from 28 Days Later

Holland opens the collection with an essay about her ongoing anger since 2016. I’ve felt the same anger since 2016, felt shades of it before 2016, have felt it in various degrees throughout my life. When I picked up her collection, I was especially mad at the dismissal of several qualified women candidates for president in lieu of another white, cis-male face. I read Holland’s words and felt my anger manifesting into something better, something I could cradle and use to keep my fight up as opposed to keeping my spirits down. That feeling continued as I read her recounting of the final girls that fought and clawed their way to the bloody end. I plan to make it to whatever comes next — and I plan to stay mad.

Sonora Taylor, Biography

sonora-taylor-2.jpgSonora Taylor is the author of Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Wither and Other Stories, and Please Give. Her work has appeared in The Sirens Call, Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven. She’s currently working on her next short story collection, Little Paranoias: Stories. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband. Visit her online on her website.

And check out I am Not Your Final Girl – 

AI-Am-Not-Your-Final-Girl 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, violence, motherhood, sexuality, and assault in the world of Trump and the MeToo 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.

Find it on GoodReads.

Photo Creds –

“Selena (Naomie Harris)  from 28 Days Later. Photo: joblo.com.” https://www.joblo.com/movie-news/why-it-works-28-days-later-167-02
“She (Charlotte Gainsbourg) from Antichrist. Photo: IMDB.” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0870984/mediaindex?ref_=tt_pv_mi_sm

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National Poetry Month: Read Kim Wolkens Poem “For You, My Tether” #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Today, I welcome Kim Wolkens to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are publishing an original poem by Kim below and I am so excited! Kim has been a great support to my own writing and I am so happy she’s trying her hand at writing poetry, and I believe she’s hiding some other writing away, so I hope we can see her submitting and writing more each day. She does so much for indie authors reading and writing reviews on her own site Down in a Book or on Ginger Nuts of Horror, and it’s time we give back and support her too. Since meeting Kim online I’m very happy to call her a friend.

Happy Friday. Enjoy!

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For You, My Tether

It hurts too much to breathe,

but I do it anyway.

For you…for you.

I want so much to slip away into nothingness,

but I hold onto the rope.

For you…for you.

 

It’s hard to get out of bed sometimes,

but I do it anyway.

For you…for you.

The abstract is much kinder,

but I face concrete facts every day.

For you…for you.

 

I put one foot in front of the other,

but I know not why I do.

For you…for you.

Food has no taste and I’m bored to death with life,

but I try to hope for something new.

For you…for you.

 

Without you, I’d be gone.

_________________________________

Getting to Know Kimberly – 

Kimberly love for writing began at a very young age, around five or six. Her first short story was dictated to her parents, who wrote the words on lined paper, and she did all the illustrations. It was called, “The Girl Who First Saw Snow,” and was about a five-year-old girl who saw snow for the first time.

Kimberly kept writing through elementary school and early middle school. She wrote a few chapter books that involved herself and some best friends. Two other books centered around a girl who found a necklace with a unicorn pendant which housed an evil witch. She dabbled in writing a small bit in high school, but her creative writing pretty much took a hiatus in high school and college.

About a year ago, she rekindled her love for writing. She wrote short stories and poems published by Lonesome October and Rhythm & Bones, and these first acceptances encouraged her to keep writing. She has the first draft of a novel completed and hopes to revisit it soon for re-writing and editing. Short stories are the main result of her writing, but she also writes poetry. Her poems have been published most recently by Nightingale & Sparrow and Marias at Sampaguitas.

A short story was recently published in Blood from a Tombstone anthology, and another story will be published in an upcoming Don’t Open the Door anthology. She has recently started writing what she hopes will become a poetry chapbook with a dark theme, possibly centered around abandonment and loss.

Most of her inspiration comes from fear (what is the scariest thing that could happen to someone?) and also from abandoned buildings which carry a special kind of beauty for her.

Kim Wolkens, Biography –

Kim WolkensKim Wolkens is a marketing coordintor by day and an American author of short stories and poems by night, who is a huge 90s Grunge music fan and loves reading and writing suspense, horror, and sci-fi.

She’s a team reviewer at Ginger Nuts of Horror and also serves as the Social Media Manager for Nightingale & Sparrow. She is a devoted wife, sister, and aunt, enjoys playing around on the piano, rustic camping, and lives with her husband in beautiful rural Michigan.

You can find her on Twitter: @up_north_h1ke.

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National Poetry Month: Bram Stoker Award-Winning Poet Linda D. Addison Shares Three Poems with Us #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Natl Poetry Month pen

Today I am so honored to welcome poet Linda D. Addison to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Linda is the award-winning author of four collections, the first African-American to receive the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Bram Stoker Award®, and recipient of the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She’s also authored many collections with others, edited anthology projects, and more. Since she was here last year, I’m proud to say that we shared a table of contents in an anthology together called Dark Voices, which is all-female charity book published by Lycan Valley Press, with proceeds going to Breast Cancer Research projects.

I’m honored that she once again agreed to be part of my 2019 National Poetry Month project and have given us three poems to read, two published here for the first time. She’s a shining, bright light across the web and to all her know her, with an enormous smile and a kind word for all. Plus, she insanely talented!

About the Poems Featured –

“Surface Tension” is previously unpublished and inspired by memories of her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, “Coming Home” was published in the Bram Stoker Award nominated Dark Duet collection written with Stephen M. Wilson, and “Fear and Loathing in the Writer’s Den” is also previously unpublished. In these poems, I think Linda tackles emotions we can all relate to on some level, whether the decline in a loved one, or as a writer, the constant struggle and pull. I hope you will enjoy Linda’s work as much as I do!

Enjoy!

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Neurons

Surface Tension

As your neurons fade
you write notes to yourself, to God
on the surfaces of your life,
thoughts and prayers
scattered like fine dust on
table tops, counters, refrigerator door
every flat surface, decorated by your hand.

As your neurons die
pictures in albums & frames
crowd every surface of your life
children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren
silent guests watching you wander
a lost empress in a misplaced kingdom
losing connections every day.

As your neurons fail
you are never alone
surrounded by silent hymns,
and tiny flat people
in strange books,
appearing each morning
on unfamiliar tables of a place
others call your home.

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murky .png

Coming Home 

Returning
from exile
the {fairy} warrior
tried to forget
the zombie criminals
rustling in
the night bushes,
as well as the
unspeakable evil
growing under the grass
of the Great Castle. 

Crimes of the past
bruise innocent wings,
truth should heal, but
the foul wind of ego
still blows sand
into closed minds. 

The {fairy} warrior
dissolves wings
fills with disbelief
disenchantment 

d I S 

        e 

    v
          e 

            r 

             y 

           t 

         h

        i 

     n 

g 

to embrace the three
shadows of night,
to
forget
open
wounds
rustling in
murky bushes. 

– from “Dark Duet,” music inspired poetry, written with Stephen M. Wilson

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writer room

Fear and Loathing in the Writer’s Den

To write or not to write
she couldn’t find the words to start,
“Come, let’s play” her lover pleaded
while her characters fell flat.

She looked down at delicate furry feet
no fingers clutched the wrinkled paper,
this wasn’t right – not at all
this story was not coming together.

Perhaps she should just write the outline
if only she had an beginning,
tapioca pudding lapped at her paws
there was a snap of leather behind her.

Her lover chirped at her
maybe a little diversion would help,
she pulled at the satin corset,
this might not be the novel to start her career.

_____________________________________________

2017 LindaAddison closeup selfieLinda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections, the first African-American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker Award®, and recipient of the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She has published over 300 poems, stories and articles and is a member of CITH, HWA, SFWA and SFPA.

Addison is one of the editors of Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Publishing), a Bram Stoker finalist anthology of horror by African-American women. In 2018, she was the editor for the Rhysling Award Anthology. Catch her latest work in anthologies Cosmic Underground (Cedar Grove Publishing), Scary Out There (Simon Schuster), and Into Painfreak (Necro Publications).

As of the start of this year, a film inspired by her poem, MOURNING MEAL, is being made by award-winning producer and screenwriter Jamal Hodge. Watch the first trailer of Mourning Meal with Linda voiceover.  They are raising funds for final shoot days in April 2019. Donate any amount to Mourning Meal from Poem to Film. 

Find out More About Linda and Her Works –

Website

Amazon page

Twitter

Thank you for joining us, Linda!

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National Poetry Month: Brian James Lewis on Why He Writes and How He Got There, Plus Read Three of His Poems #NationalPoetryMonth #poetry

PoetryMonthGraphic

Today my National Poetry Month project continues as I welcome Brian James Lewis to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Brian is a disabled poet, reviewer, and writer with a friendly and helpful spirit and a talented pen. I found it so interesting reading his post about how he came to writing and why it means so much to him. He’s also shared three of his poems with us below!

Enjoy his pieces and be sure to say hi in the comments or on twitter. Brian enjoys talking writing with others. He’s been a very big supporter of my own work as well as that of my client’s and so I am very thankful for his kindness.

On Why Writing Poetry Gives Me Life

By Brian James Lewis

Happy National Poetry Month everyone! My name is Brian James Lewis and I am a disabled poet, writer, and book reviewer who thinks that writing is as important as breathing. Not in a silly way, but to have a decent quality of life and be a contributing member of society. While I’ve dabbled as a writer for most of my life, I got serious about it when my previously very physical life got put on ice by severe spinal injuries. All of a sudden getting around became a major issue and I was in constant pain. That led to depression, anxiety, and becoming a danger to myself and others. I feel really fortunate that I found a “second life” as a writer.

In 2013, I began sending out stories and poems for publication. Trajectory Journal published my first poem Puppeteer in 2014. Since that time, I’ve been published in Third Wednesday, The Iconoclast, Aphotic Realm, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and the Econoclash Review. Most recently, my poem about a blues club, Blues, is in this month’s issue of SLAB. And my poem Hey Can Lady is in the current issue of The Hickory Stump, a cool online literary zine! I also felt very honored to have my poem Home Sweet Hideaway included in the Unnerving anthology Haunted Are These Houses, released in October of 2018.

Garage Sense was my first “hit” of a poem. It originally appeared in Trajectory Journal issue #13 and in the Editor’s Picks section of their website. A lot of people were like, “Wow! I didn’t know poetry could be like that!” which was exactly what I needed to keep moving forward. For a good couple of years, I wrote a lot of poetry about how frustrated I was and how much pain I was in. Amazingly enough, most of those poems were not picked up by anybody (ha!). Later, I was able to make things a bit smoother and give people a real picture of what it feels like being disabled. Walking After Midnight is a really good example of that without shouting in everyone’s face. Currently, I am expanding more into horror and somewhat Lovecraftian poetry. This recent effort Spellbound Centurion is about a creature that must write itself into being every night or become dust

Many of you might be more familiar with me as a reviewer of speculative fiction and dark poetry, which I started doing in 2016 for the JournalStone sites Hellnotes and Horror Review. I also started my own site Damaged Skull Writer and have guested on Aphotic Realm and Gallows Hill Magazine, a venture I’m hoping will grow into a regular gig! I have met a ton of really great people through reviewing and enjoy being a part of the writing community. Currently I am a member of the SFPA and hope to join the HWA in the near future. I love independent horror and all the really cool people involved! Thanks to everyone who has said a kind word or guided me to a more efficient way of doing things. I appreciate the editors who’ve read my poems and stories and took the time to make a few suggestions. Ideally, I’m hoping to find a paid position working for a magazine, publicity agency, or publisher in the future.

Writing and doing reviews has helped me be a part of things without my disabled body being as much of an issue. Most importantly, it makes me happy and alive. I was a really good mechanic and proud of that. For a while I would introduce myself as the guy who couldn’t do mechanical work anymore. Not real fun for either end of the conversation. Now, I introduce myself as a writer and book reviewer, and that feels just right. Very big thanks to Erin for inviting me to do this. It is an honor!

________________________________________

Enjoy some of Brian’s poetry!

GARAGE SENSE
First appeared in Trajectory Journal, Issue #13

Nobody would be likely to steal my old Chevy truck, I guess.

Unless they were a fucking idiot. Which is quite possible around here.

Smashed, dented, broken, and leaking everywhere.

It is impossible to start, and even more difficult to keep running.

Unless you know the combination of moves required.

To make the ancient smoking motor roar and growl.

Sure as hell not something they teach you in school.

You learn it all the hard way, by doing it yourself.

People frown on that sort of thing today.

Claiming how unsafe old vehicles are…

“No daytime running lights? No anti-lock brakes?

No airbags? No low tire pressure light?

Call the police, the governor, the president!”

Not trusting what they don’t understand

Modern life is built on fear of everything

From bug bites to flat tires, old cars and grease fires

Then you have the ridiculous new cars and trucks…

With safety features galore, and cup holders

Up the wazoo, along with back-up cameras, DVD

Players, speed sensors, and cars that park themselves

Hell, there’s probably a sensor that knows when you fart

So it can roll down the windows and crank the AC

But, it’s all just a flashy, computerized trap

You can talk to your Aunt Mabel in Ohio

Just speak clearly into your dashboard, and

You can hear all about the boils on Uncle Carl’s ass

While you laugh, and then crash… fatally

Into a huge gravel truck that didn’t even feel you

Mashing yourself and the family into

bloody pulp on his bumper, or better yet,

shaving the roof off your robotic, hypnotic,

super-safety machine, along with your heads

While Aunt Mabel drones on about corn prices

Your car will call the police so that they can

Come scrape what’s left of you and your

Technologically advanced family

Off of route 49 because you got fooled

Meanwhile a drunk guy in an old truck

Backs into a telephone pole

Maybe even knocks it down

Then laughs and drives away without a scratch.

_______________________________________

WALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT

I liked to walk after midnight
with my dog on city streets

We’d go so far – blocks and blocks
neither of us afraid

Because the dog protected me and
I did the same for him

Which might sound funny or puzzling
but it’s just the honest truth

Both of us saved each other many
more times than once

I kept him from being run down by cars
He saved me from muggers

But now, I’m disabled and it’s hard
just to walk down the hall

My dog is hobbled by arthritis and
we’re both in a medicated fog

Yet, at night during sleep we both dream
that we’re walking after midnight

We walk for miles, just he and I, going on
until we’re woken by the cruel sunrise

_________________________________________

SPELLBOUND CENTURION

When the dawn comes
my body shrinks away
from its effervescent light
that pokes at my tired eyes
like white hot laser beams
meant to destroy my vampiric body

I only live for the nights
spent mostly alone and cursing
this balky typewriter and what
you fools think of as a life
Pah! Tis but a mere hour
to this ancient centurion

The city I reside in is perfect for
what I do inside its crumbling walls
of wasted post-industrial buildings
Abandoned hulks housing squatters
engaged in depravity known only
by the lowest creatures

Who are my favorites by the way
because they make such easy pickings
yielding up the whisky, wine, and heroin
polluting their bloodstreams into mine
offering a lovely high and sustenance
that fulfills most of my desires

It always starts with the words
that escalate into spells
enrapturing me and waking
my ravenous hunger which
turns me back into my true form
a twisted nightmare creature

Burnt flesh sprouts wings
of skeletal flapping parchment
that fly into others’ dreams
causing hellish fever and pain
driving even the most rational
of people deep into madness

Hunched and shaking
they whimper and scream
Music to this old beast’s ears!
Minds melting as they see
something they refuse to believe
but there’s no denying the truth

So I am allowed to exist
Dismissed by “sensible” folk
and fervently worshipped by
those blessed with imagination
and the ability to see our world
of gauze wrapped shapes in the fog

Undead creatures hidden
in your world until the spells
that we must write ourselves
pull our false coverings away
and send us out into the night
to feed and collect life essence

The key is to never take too much
or overstep my boundaries
Unless I wish to die yet again
at the hands of Christian
torch-bearing folk who know
the secrets of my immortality

I am not the Devil
and most certainly not a god
my lineage is closer to that
of the gargoyles or gryphon
but without sacred blessings
So I am a monster

Savoring a smorgasbord
city during the hot nights
when the windows are open
Allowing me to just blow in
on the fitful breezes or
be sucked inside by a fan

But I never touch animals
those trusted spirit guides
into the next world
They are true innocents
and take too much abuse
from their “masters” as it is

Nothing in any world
can be totally evil or
every atom to the good
I have my purposes
but it is rare for anyone
who sees me to listen

A pity, but not my problem
that people are so set
on what reality should be
Meanwhile, I drink blood,
stay alive, and clear the streets
of dead men walking

Now my eyelids grow heavy
The spells only last so long
which means that it’s time
to draw the curtains and
transform so I may sleep
until the darkness calls again

_____________________________

Brian James Lewis, Info –

Flannel author pic

Brian James Lewis is an emerging disabled poet and writer, for whom writing is as important as breathing. After an accident left him with spinal injuries and mental health problems, Brian turned to writing as a way to feel better and channel energy positively. He writes in a wide variety of styles has appeared in Bards And Sages Quarterly, the EconoClash Review, Aphotic Realm, and the Haunted Are These Houses anthology of poetry and stories published by Unnerving. Brian is also a member of the Journalstone and Gallows Hill book review teams, SFPA, and the Academy of American Poets. When he has time, Brian repairs vintage typewriters and uses them for first drafts.

Contact or find more infomation on Brian James Lewis at his site Damaged Skull Writer or follow and talk to him on twitter: @skullsnflames76.

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National Poetry Month: Sara Tantlinger Brings Us Poem on the 1893 World’s Fair and a Discussion on Involvement of Serial Killer H.H. Holmes #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Natl Poetry Month pen

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more by writers I admire and adore, and also some new poetry writers as well, so stop by often. Tuesday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here and yesterday we read some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich, which you can enjoy here.

Today, Sara Tantlinger joins us with a poem from her Bram Stoker Award nominated recent collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which features poems surrounding serial murderer H.H. Holmes. We are able to read the poem below as well as a discussion by Sara about the themes and locale of the piece – the 1893 World’s Fair – and H.H. Holmes and his involvement in it. As some of my historical fiction friends know, I am a World’s Fair and carnival fanatic. I love anything revolving around it!! Mix that with my obsession with true crime, you’re making me shiver in delight. That means I really enjoyed Sara’s poem and article – I hope you do too!

Thanks, Sara!

crescent moon

An H.H. Holmes Poem Analysis
by Sara Tantlinger, author of The Devil’s Dreamland

Thank you so much to Erin for hosting some poetry fun on her website for National Poetry Month! I am excited to contribute with a poem from The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, and to provide a little backstory and history on the poem. The piece is titled “World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)”, referencing the very fair that helped make serial killer H.H. Holmes famous.

Without further ado, please enjoy the poem!

World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)

1893, we celebrate the 400th anniversary

of the barbaric slaughtering

Christopher Columbus brought

unto a new world,

but you will find no anger

toward his history here

as the fairgrounds take form, as visitors

flock in droves to taste the excitement

flickering in the air like pixie dust

 

People keep dying,

workers falling from buildings

accidents in the form of skull

fractures and electrocution

all this death contained within

designing the great fair,

 

yet a madman paces inside

his castle, creating spaces

where supposed accidents

will swallow visitors whole

 

a madman forges his dreams

into piping hot realities

where his World’s Fair Hotel

promises spectacular service

so very close to the fair itself

 

Opening Day comes upon the city

in jovial bursts of color,

mouthwatering scents of exotic

pastries and delicacies from themed

exhibits stationed around the park,

thousands of visitors holding their

breath for President Cleveland

to push a button that ignites

a hundred thousand

glowing lamps across the fields,

illuminating neoclassical figures,

the work of men named Tesla

and Westinghouse

 

Dr. Holmes turns away men at the door,

citing reasons of already being booked

to capacity, yet the young women

stroll right in, are welcomed,

intoxicated by their own freedom

blushing at the handsome doctor

who offers great prices,

who offers warm touches

 

they do not see how excitement alerts

trembles into his fingertips,

eager to taste innocence, summon

screeches from their tender tracheas

lick away saccharine death from dying lips,

listen to the snapping of a windpipe,

 

hungry to snuff out light from

wide eyes,

hungry to cut the lights open,

sever the heart to see how it beats

beneath such fine skin,

glowing like the thousand lamps

across the enchanted fairgrounds

(Originally published in The Devil’s Dreamland, StrangeHouse Books, 2018).

About the Poem –

The fair of 1893 was a magical time. The undertaking and thus construction of everything the fair needed to be successful was an exasperating project. I wanted the poem to reflect the enchantment this exposition offered. After all, people arrived in the thousands during the fair’s run – people from all across the globe. Over 20 million people ended up attending the fair altogether!

This was Chicago’s chance to show the world how beautifully they recovered from the Great Chicago Fire. Gone was the soot and wreckage of the fiery aftermath, and in its place stood a gleaming white city, warm and inviting. However, the poem also needed to honestly reflect what the fair organizers and architects didn’t want anyone to see….

1893 Worlds Fair

While the shine of the fair easily put forth its best face, a true darkness lingered beneath the food, exhibits, new buildings, rides, and everything else the celebration displayed. Construction workers died during the assembly of the fair. A fire broke out in July killing over a dozen fairgoers and firefighters. The White City was a fairytale. Outside the fair, animal corpses rotted on the streets. Stockyards and factories filled Chicago with smoke and filth. Garbage piled up along roads. Poverty and disease were no strangers here. And of course, a madman paced inside a castle fit for Bluebeard himself.

While it’s unlikely H.H. Holmes is responsible for hundreds of murders, he evolved into a tall-tale of someone who invited hundreds of women to stay at his hotel where he supposedly killed them all. This has never really been proven. While the fair showed great strides in science (like Tesla’s work), forensic evidence was not quite evolved enough to give us the solid facts we need to know everything Holmes might have done. However, we are quite sure he did take Minnie Williams and her sister Anna to the fair (I have more poems about their fates in my collection). So, for this piece, I took both fact and fiction, truths and exaggerated ideas, and spun them into a version that fits the Holmes of my book. Either way, this is one fair I think we should all be glad is far in the past.

H._H._Holmes.jpg

Sara Tantlinger, Biography –

Tantlinger_ap2019Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of Love For Slaughter and the Stoker-nominated The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, both released with StrangeHouse Books. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA.

Her debut novella, To Be Devoured, will be published in July 2019 with Unnerving. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com

The Devil’s Dreamland, Info –

The Devil's Dreamland full rezH.H. Holmes committed ghastly crimes in the late 19th century. Many of which occurred within his legendary “Murder Castle” in Chicago, Illinois. He is often considered America’s first serial killer.

In her second book of poetry from Strangehouse Books, Sara Tantlinger (Love For Slaughter) takes inspiration from accounts and tales which spawned from the misdeeds of one Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. Fact and speculation intertwine herein, just as they did during the man’s own lifetime.

There’s plenty of room in the cellar for everyone in The Devil’s Dreamland.

“…chilling poetry…” —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of “How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend” and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner

“…morbidly creative and profound crime documentary…one of the best works of horror poetry I’ve read in years.” —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Grave Markings and Play Dead

“…fascinating and absolutely riveting…powerful and vivid prose…will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.”—Christina Sng, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Collection of Nightmares

Purchase on Amazon

Add to your GoodReads

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National Poetry Month: Poetry from Bram Stoker Award Winner Stephanie Wytovich #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more so stop by often. Yesterday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here.

Today, please enjoy some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich. I dare you not to feel.

Thanks for sharing with us, Stephanie!

crescent moon

Surgical Fantasies of the Past Ten years
Originally Published in Yes, Poetry

I tattoo incision lines on my stomach,
dream about surgically removing my ugliness.

At sixteen, the girls put laxatives in my peppermint tea,
laughed at me in the mirror when I tried to scream away my calories.

At 26, I cried in the shower when my skin didn’t fall off,
vomited the memories of my ex telling me I was diseased.

Inside, my lungs are a crawl space filled with candy wrappers,
my ribs broken from too many bathroom breaks ending in blood.

There are 206 bones in the human body,
Tell me, how many are in a monster?

 

____

 

Emergency Masturbation Fantasy
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

I masturbate to an empty chair

My hand moving up and down

like yours never did

I try to see your face

Scream your name

But     I       can’t

And I wonder if you exist

If my memories are from photographs of people I never met

Whose stories I don’t know

I climax to your eyes

Taste the saliva on your lips

But       I           don’t

Because you’re an empty chair

And my box is broken

Like yours never was

I should stop blaming myself

Quit bleeding for sport

But       I           won’t.

 

___

 

Post-Traumatic Spiders
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

My doctor scribbled in her notepad,

“What do you want to talk about today?”

I was already crying

I ate all the cough drops on the table when she wasn’t looking

Her dog was asleep on my foot

I just left my one-night stand in the parking lot.

Frustration wore on her face like the foundation she forgot to wear

“Are the nightmares back?”

I spun my ring around my thumb

I thought about how you said I wore too much jewelry

I tongued the scar on the inside of my cheek

The tarantulas are everywhere.

Her right foot tapped against the carpeted floor

“You know it’s okay, right? That none of this is your fault?”

I didn’t believe her

I felt its legs crawling up my shoulder

I watched it watch me.

I could have stopped it. I could have said no.

 Fifty minutes passed like fifty seconds

“Same time again next Wednesday?

I nodded my head

I picked the spider off my cheek

I swallowed the web it had spun around my mouth

The silk tasted like semen and blood.

Stephanie M. Wytovich, Biography –

Wytovich Headshot_4Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction.

Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog and on twitter @SWytovich​.

Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare is her most recent collection. Read about it here!

Sheet Music Front CoverSheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, Info –

Roll the windows down, wipe the blood off your cheek, and turn the music up. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich is a collection spattered with dirt and blood, sage and corpses. The poems inside are confessionals and dirges, their stories the careful banter of ghosts and sinners over tequila at the bar.

These pages hold the lyrics to the beautiful grotesque that Wytovich is known for, but here she writes with a raw honesty that we haven’t seen from her before. This new direction takes readers to hospital rooms and death beds, shows the mask that was skinned off her face time and time again. There’s a brutality to her lines that cuts with the same knife she fantasized about it, her blood and tears mixed in with stanzas as she talks about suicide and abuse, heartbreak and falling in love.

Written during a time when the road was her home, these poems were sung under the stars and screamed in the woods, carved into trees. They are broken bottles and cigarette butts, stale coffee and smeared lipstick, each its own warning, a tale of caution.
Listen to them carefully.

They very well might save your life.

Find it on GoodReads to Add or Buy.

Stop back tomorrow for a post from Sara Tantlinger. Then, join us next week when we highlight a bunch more wonderful poetry. Have a great week!

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

PoetryMonthGraphic

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.

poetry and books quote

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.

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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.

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 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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Hooked on Reading: 35 Favorite Books I Read in 2018! #amreading

Over 35 Favorite Books I Read in 2018!

Better late than never is my new motto. Plus, hey, it’s still in the first quarter. I wanted to post a list of some books as reading recommendations I read and really liked in 2018. I discovered after the fact that 30 are by women! It’s not a “best of” list, as with my work and home schedule I didn’t nearly have enough time to read all the books I wanted to in order to do a proper comparison, but a best of what I personally read.

My Best Books 2018 final

When I did read in 2018, it often was books I was editing or a publicity client’s book, and so, you’ll see none of those on this list because I think it’s more ethical to not include books you might have made any money with by association. I am sad to not include some, but I feel it’s the right call. I don’t want to be perceived in offering any bias. These are books I sought out for my own reading interest or pleasure that I really liked (but that’s not to say that books I worked with and/or on this year are not some of my favorites I’ve read from the year either) or were anticipated ARCS.

There were many books I know are worthy or I know I’d have loved if I’d only had time to get to them, but that doesn’t mean I won’t read them in 2019. Also there are some books I started in 2018 but finished in 2019 so they won’t be on this list. Some of the titles below were not published in 2018, but I simply read them then. Therefore, it’s a list of favorite books I read in 2018. It shows you that I have a wide array of interests; I am very happy and proud of the fact that I read widely, cross-genre, both trad pubs and indie, and with diversity and inclusion in mind. To me, this only helps my own writing and editing and allows me to bring much more insight to the writing work I do with others.

One more note, because I am sure some will wonder why there aren’t more indie titles and that’s because I work so much in the horror genre in editing and publicity that I did read quite a few, I just can’t list them, as I said before. Also, there are indie and trad published books that just simply didn’t make the list. If a book didn’t grab me in the first five pages this year, I didn’t pick it up again. I didn’t have time. Also, keep in mind I read book submissions, beta read books, read books prior to and while editing, and read almost 600 short story and poetry submissions for an anthology project as well this year – most all of that horror. So while I read horror, I read so much of it in other ways, I switched gears in some of my pleasure reading (and I was sent very little straight horror ARCS as I am in other genres – go figure?). Though I love fantasy and sci-fi as well, I wasn’t able to read much of it this year due to time.

Some of these favorites below were given to me as ARCS, especially in the historical fiction genre, some were titles I found in trad magazines or watched the buzz about and requested from my library, maybe some I bought. Any print ARCS I am given usually find preference and I understand I still have plenty in my pile that I didn’t get to this year – many I truly want to read. Several I was given at the end of the year and have since read, but that will be January 2019 and the reviews are to come. I’ve switched and organized my schedule to hopefully begin to be more caught up on ARCS this year and be responsive to others, but work, my own writing career, and family always comes first. Please don’t fault me for reading a few books for my own pleasure here and there too (and yes, I ask this, because people do say stuff). I was sad this year I didn’t have more time for reading, but I managed to squeeze in some during insomnia, waiting in the car or other places for my children, or on weekends. I just didn’t have time to type up reviews for all as when you work for yourself time is money. This year one of my goals is to get up more reviews in a timely fashion!

Now that I hopefully have all the disclaimers out of the way, here are some books and collections I enjoyed in 2018:

Horror/Thriller/Fantasy

the-Chalk-ManThe Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor – I read this debut thriller shortly after it came out, mostly because these types of thrillers are some of my personal go-to books when I want some entertainment. This one was getting a lot of positive buzz. I highly enjoyed it and read it in one night. I was captivated throughout and she surprised me in the end.

The-HungerThe Hunger Alma Katsu – I’ve liked Alma’s work for a LONG while, probably before most people in my circles knew her name. I highly anticipated The Hunger, due to it having several factors that make me raise my hand: history, extreme cases in history, and survival. I’m primarily an historical fiction reader, so couple that with my next love of horror, and I’m happy. Alma’s writing is so professional, clean, and interesting. I loved the complexity about it. I highly recommend for fellow fans of Dan Simmons.

MelmothMelmoth by Sarah Perry – I just loved the description of this next book by Perry (the follow-up, but not linked, to The Essex Serpent) and so it was on my highly anticipated list. Perry is a very skilled writer and I love the intertwining of so many cool places around the world (set in Prague – I mean I’m silently screaming) and again, through flashbacks, an historical aspect. I mean if you truly love 18th century gothic to its core like me, this one will suck you in and most likely dry and you’ll need to recover. It’s fantastical and unique.

ProvidenceProvidence Caroline Kepnes – I mean CAROLINE. Caroline has a very original sort of writing. The type that you could pick up a book blinding and know it’s her writing as you start to read it. She’s funny, dramatic, soul crushing, and inspiring all at once. I mean the gamut of emotions I experienced reading this book left me wondering just how I truly did feel – terribly sad and broken? Inspired by devotion? Light humor always takes away the gloom realities of Caroline’s books and I love reading her for it. There are many popular authors I won’t name who are trying to do the same thing (ahem, sorry men) and it doesn’t work even 90% as well as Caroline doing it. I really enjoyed reading it.

The Forgotten GirlThe Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers – This is a page turning read that was just a lot of fun, with twists, turns, and originality. Youers gives great voice to his characters and you truly feel for them, even though the story is being unfolded at a very fast pace. You can’t help but want to know what happens to them and want it to end well, but you’re just not sure if it will at the same time – or if they will ever be the same. It has a lightness to it, as a read, and some humor of course. The plot propels the reader.

UNBURY CarolUnbury Carol by Josh Malerman – I don’t think I really love anyone’s work in horror at the moment more than I love Malerman’s. To me, he transcends writing and puts it into some other plane of creative existence. Literary, without being too posh, horror that doesn’t wreck your emotions in the way many horror books do – by being in your face – but subliminally strokes your insides until your weeping in places you didn’t realize or searching for lost places inside yourself or others. He knows how to tell a tale, but within it, he’s trying to get a glimpse at humanity himself. At all those lost questions. He’s phenomenal and he’s only getting started. Unbury Carol was not a favorite to some, but to me, it was my favorite so far! I can so relate to Carol on various levels and it just really spoke to me. Couple that with the fact I like deconstructed fairy-tales (Sleeping Beauty here) and even westerns, I was sold from the start and enjoyed every moment of it.

Siren and the SpecterThe Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz – This could also be put under Gothic category. I’ve read all of Janz’s books over the years and this was one of the best I’ve read of him flexing his paranormal fingers. He writes a solid haunted house story with an original plot. I’d say he truly keeps showing his mastery at the southern gothic style and should be receiving way more accolades for his work than he is – he really should have made the Bram Stoker ballot this year. He writes with intelligence and creates meaningful, complex characters, wrapping them up in just the right amount of scares. Ominous, atmospheric work.

(In full disclosure, his last two books were with the publisher I worked with so I promoted those books, as well as he’s been my personal client at times when he needed publicity support, but I felt I could give one tiny inch past my ethical presence on this one since I am not associated with Flame Tree and I didn’t work on this particular title. Plus, I REALLY loved it!)

The Night MarketThe Night Market by Jonathan Moore – I have loved Moore’s work since his first crime thriller/horror novel Redheads, and then, first in his next loosely-connected series of three books, The Poison Artist (one of my top favorite reads ever), from which The Night Market is the third book. I’ve neglected, as with many reviews in 2018, to get a review written and up, so I will remedy that in 2019, but suffice to say that this was one of my favorite books of 2018 – and it came in the first month of the year. Moore is precise in his plot, creative with characters and setting, unique in his mysteries, and yet, also manages to put in such cool scientific and forensic work too. The Night Market has him at the top of his game with his captivating suspense and decadent prose. This one, being set in a near future San Francisco, has a different appeal from the previous too so might enchant fans of dystopian and sci-fi as well.

Damned by the AncientsDamned by the Ancients (Nemesis of the Gods #3) by Catherine Cavendish – It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Cat Cavendish is one of my favorite horror suspense and/or gothic authors. In this series, she’s combined several other favorites of mine by using history, art, and Egyptology as her base for some captivating thrills. Though top on my list as personal fun reads, I hadn’t gotten to the first two books yet, but opted to dive into the third since it came out this year. You can read them stand alone, but I am sure they are better in order. At any rate, I’ll be going back to the other two for sure after I read my copy of her highly anticipated The Haunting of Henderson Close, which came our January of 2019. Damned by the Ancients has an intricate plot, good historical research, mesmerizing characters, and a pace that can quicken the heart of any reader because it’s also very scary!

methodThe Method by Duncan Ralston – This book, a Kindle Scout Winner from 2017, was just way better than I even thought the concept might be from reading the back cover copy. This was a psychological suspense thriller that is also categorized as horror, because it’s more violent mid to end; terrorizing. He combines it all nicely, leaving you uncomfortable, unsure, and wanting to know with every page, from the very first page, what is about to happen next and who you can trust. The characterization, plotting, and suspense all are stable foundations for a very entertaining read. Would be a great film (in fact he’s just finished writing the screenplay)!

Gothic Mystery and Mystery

The Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware – Have you heard me say how much I love Ruth Ware? I’m President of the Ruth Ware Fan Club. Not really, but I’d be happy to if anyone wants to form said club! I was really looking forward to what book she was putting out in 2018 after reading The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game in 2017. I was thrilled to find this one a little more on the gothic side as well, which I love of course. Ruth always gives me a good mystery and this one didn’t fail to twist, turn, and surprise me. I always identify with her main character. It’s a great summer read.

RebeccaRebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – This was a re-read for me that I picked up after many, many years so I could try to do the read-a-long with the Ladies of Horror Fiction. I read it all again within a couple days because I couldn’t stop. I just love this book as much as ever. There are so many things I could say about the novel – from its mystery to its atmosphere to its clever clues placed within scenery and characters, Du Maurier reminded me again why she’s a big influence on my own writing.

The AtrocitiesThe Atrocities by Jeremy Shipp – What a very strange novella that I had to read twice. I picked this book up as it seemed very different, surreal maybe, and gothic. Maybe much like Slade House. I’d say that all held true. Shipp’s mind is imaginative and flowing – almost like you’re reading a dream state. It was an experience for sure that I’m glad I tried, and I’d certainly recommend if you like literary horror that colors outside the lines like me.

The Body in the LibraryThe Body in the Library by Agatha Christie – I never tire of Agatha Christie and love reading her books, books about her, watching the movies, etc. I enjoyed reading The Body in the Library as a fun summer read and re-visiting the mystery with Miss Marple. I am largely a Poirot fan in general as it pertains to Christie’s detectives, and Miss Marple needs to shine more in this title, but overall I enjoyed the plot. I picked it up…well, because of the library of course. I enjoyed her descriptions and humor as always and the fact that it seemed very modern even though it was written decades ago.

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Polombo

SpellbookI love anything “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as most people who know me will agree. I was eager, both in reading previous books by Polomobo (and liking them) and because this re-telling of Sleepy Hollow was from Katrina’s point of view and added the new twist of the disappearance of Ichabod on All Hallows Eve. Polombo introduces the character of Charlotte, who is the witch friend of Katrinia, and together they use magic to search for him. It was a fun read perfect for last October. It’s a little more on the romance/sex side than what I normally like in books and it was hard to know what category to put it in. Fellow horror readers didn’t think it was horror, though obviously it has horror and paranormal elements, it has witches and magic, it’s a mystery, and historical readers claimed it as her other works feature women in history (and the setting), plus it has this romance and some suspense as well. It’s an entertaining read encompassing all these things and is probably most likely suited for mainstream readers, not genre readers.

Domestic Thrillers/Suspense

The WifeThe Wife by Alafair Burke – I have followed Alafair Burke’s career since her first book. Though I haven’t read all of them in between, I’ve read quite a few. This one was SUPERB. Alafair’s writing never disappoints. Just what I needed for an escape into something else. I highly recommend this one for your next snowed-in or summer read if you like family crime or thriller dramas. It will suck you fully in and leave you astounded at the end.

Bring-Me-BackBring Me Back by B.A. Paris – Another stand out thriller from Paris that kept me guessing. I loved the including on the Russian nesting dolls in this one – and since I received this as an ARC, a doll showed up in my mailbox too (THRILLED!). It’s signature her if you’ve read her other books, though if you’ve read all her other work before this one, it might start to feel a little bit same in some respects. Nonetheless, it was a fun summer read I really enjoyed. Of course, her twists and turns always surprise me.

sometimes_i_lie.jpg.size-custom-crop.0x650Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – Another in the vein of the thrillers I like, this title might be at the top for one of my best novels read last year. And it’s a debut, so I look forward to more to come from her. I feel it was a little cleaner and tidier than some of the other popular domestic thrillers (my editor eye coming out I guess) and that it flows and ties up things more smoothly. Plus, I felt I was in this character’s head with her! From my GoodReads review: “Page-turning quick read that hooked me and had me guessing. So many twists, made me think and go back to re-read parts. Excellent psychological thriller. Very enjoyable!”

the perfect strangerThe Perfect Stranger Megan Miranda – This was totally another fun summer read that took just a night to get through because I wanted to find out what would happen. It was so entertaining and it was one I truly enjoyed reading. Memorable characters and page-turning suspense. This is a great read for long summer evenings or on vacation. I will read anything Miranda publishes.

 

Historical Fiction

Tiffany BluesTiffany Blues by M.J. Rose – I am a HUGE fan of Tiffany glass and have had a decade long interest in reading anything having to do with the Tiffany family. As past reviews over the years on my site indicate, I’m also an enormous fan of Rose’s writing and books as well. Once I finally got a chance to sit down with this book, I breezed through it in no time at all. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book, the mystery intertwined with romance, and the descriptions. I still owe a full review for this one on my site and I’ll still get to it this year.

The Lost Season of Love and SnowThe Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam – Jennifer is wonderfully smooth historical fiction author. It’s easy to get swept away in her novels and it suddenly be the next morning (which is in fact what happened to me). Of course, I love any fiction that has to do with Russia – this one of course even showcased a favorite poet, Alexander Pushkin! I read this over a year ago now, in January 2018, and I still owe a review on my site. I really must do that because if you like historical fiction, stories of women in history who were with powerful men, slight romance, and/or even want to learn a take on the life of Pushkin, this is highly recommended by me. Beautiful, tormenting, and sad, it’s also light-hearted in its pen because of Jennifer’s sweet writing skills.

Trial on Mount KoyaTrial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann – Susan is one of my most beloved historical mystery fiction authors. I love her descriptions of Japan and her characters – I’ve come to feel like I know them. This one I did get a review up on the site for and you can find it HERE. It’s book six in her fantastic series. You can find review and interviews with her throughout the years on my site by putting her name in the search bar.

MyDearHamilton-500x750My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie – I mean this book is a NYT best-selling national sensation and it’s well-deserved. It’s historical fiction at the very finest. You can read my full review and interview from this year here.

The Romonov EmpressThe Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner – Again, I love anything surrounding Russian history in literature. I also am a giant fan of Gortner and read all his books. If you like historical fiction, you can’t get much better than reading Gortner. This book was OUTSTANDING. I am late on a full review of it as well, but I’ll still have one up for those interested this year. It’s never too late to add this one to your collection.

Ecstasy-by-Mary-SharrattEcstasy by Mary Sharatt – Mary is also an author I look forward to every year and she never disappoints. This historical fiction book was a highlight of my year. Her writing is so deep yet so delectable, it’s like eating a really good meal (and I love a good meal). I always am swept away by her writing. If you like stories of strong women in history, this one is another to add to your list. Alma Schindler, wife of Gustav Mahler, but brilliant composer in her own right, is explored in ultimate ode to the beauty of women’s perseverance for their own talents and passions.

Collections

The Purple Swamp HenThe Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories by Penelope Lively – If you’ve never read Booker Prize winning London author Penelope Lively, you need to rectify that immediately. When I first started reading Lively, I wondered about the style of writing in the stories (this published in 2017 and she’s towards the end of her career). I took a breath and re-trained my brain to go with her flow. I was glad I did, as it took on a whole new cadence that I really enjoyed. Sharp, perceptive, witty, and emotionally captivating, I was drawn in to each one differently. These are stories I could re-read again.

Anthologies

The Devil and the DeepThe Devil and the Deep edited by Ellen Datlow – I love anything that has to do with water and that carries over to literature. In fact, I have a collection of “water associated” books! I think Ellen Datlow is one of the finest editor and curators in the business and I really enjoyed over half of the stories in this anthology, if not all of them on some level. I feel she did a great job at funneling a wide array into the anthology and as well was inclusive as far as authors. I still owe a review on this one too – which hopefully I’ll get done soon. It was only one of a few anthology reads for me this year, which is a shame as I LOVE anthologies, but it was the favorite of those I read.

Poetry Collections

I-Am-Not-Your-Final-GirlI Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire Holland – One of my favorite books of poetry this year, Claire’s debut work really humanizes and values all the strength of the final girls in so many horror movies we’ve watched over the years, taking them for granted. No more, as she gives them their due, with a swift blade for a pen and a black heart for those against these women. I need to present you a further review for this one soon as well, but I highly recommend it – to anyone. If you’ve never read poetry, so what? Read it.

Lessons on ExpulsionLessons on Expulsion by Erika L. Sanchez – I have a lot to say about this poetry collection and so at some point I’ll be posting a stand-alone review, but honestly, this TORE MY GUTS out and really made me feel for women and children in Mexico. From sex workers, murder, narco- traffickers, rape, abuse to artists and love, this is all about survival. I was just BLOWN AWAY. Consider eyes opened. This was my favorite poetry collection of 2018 – and one of my favorites ever read.

Your Heart is the Sea by Nikita Gill – “People aren’t born sad, we make them that way.” That is a line from the poem “Why We Are All Afraid to Be” from Gill’s latest collection. Your Heart is the Sea 2I read everything she puts out because it’s beautifully heart-wrenching and soul cleansing and reminds me a lot of things I’ve been through, things I’ve written about myself, and yet, offers hope to hold onto at times as well. This collection came out in December 2018, and I was drawn to it because as most people know, I love the sea. There are so cool illustrations inside, but the poetry is the highlight of course. Her honest rendering of humanity and the heart gives me purpose.

WarWAR: Dark Poems by Alessandro Manzetti and Marge Simon – The back cover copy states, “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.” This collection takes us around the gamut of the globe, our relationships, and our hearts to parch our dehydrated tongues and bolster our internal defenses. I love historical work – mixing historical with horror is something I enjoy – so being able to read this historical horror poetry collection was grand. It’s something I aspire to – both Manzetti and Simon are master poets, bring vividness to the page. 

fierce-fairytalesFierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill – All of Gill’s collection have qualities of female empowerment, as does this one, all wrapped up in references to fairy tales. I love fairy tales, but since they are a little cliché and delve into stereotypical references, Gill re-molds the pieces giving us some empowering stuff. I loved what Gill did with these poems and the cover is beautiful as well as her own original art which graces the inside pages.

to-make-monsters-out-of-girlsto make monsters out of girls by Amanda Lovelace – Lovelace’s collection of poetry books are must- haves for any strong female who has been through a lot and is coming out swinging. Her collection from 2018 offer no less empowerment and words to survive by. This one particularly hit home to me as a domestic abuse survivor. The poetry is all about being in a relationship like this and completely moved me. Deep, dark, emotional, but there’s also healing.

Sea of StrangersSea of Strangers by Lang Leav – Leav is an inspiration writer on love and life and heartache and personal growth after break-ups. This collection has poetry written in stanza, some short essays, some quotes – all types of poetry that breaks your heart again or soothes it or both at the same time. Probably her best so far. She’s much more inspirational and empowering than dark in anyway and offers enough light that her poems and quotes are very sharable.

The-Poet-X-by-Elizabeth-Acevedo-309x468Poet X by Elizabeth Acevado – I first entranced learning of Acevado in my son’s college magazine from George Washington University. They featured her this year, and the book, as she is an alumnus from there with a degree in performing arts. A child of Dominican immigrants, raised in NYC, she now lives with her husband in Washington D.C. Something about the connection drew me to her, but upon reading her words, she mesmerized me all on her own. I educated and found out she is a renowned slam poet, then she went on this year to win a National Book Award for Poet X, which was highly deserved (I had been rooting for it when I heard it was nominated). This is primarily a YA book, catalogued as such, but anyone can read it – it’s just that the characters are young. It’s a book told solely in poetic verse about a young girl in Harlem discovering slam poetry and using it to understand her mother’s religion and her own coming of age. It’s a lovely, but strong, book of female empowerment and how words can truly help us in so many ways. LOVED IT!

If They Come for UsIf They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar – I have been trying to incorporate reading with diversity in mind. Not just women, of course, but works and poetry stemming from other cultures as well. This book, written in various flashbacks and time periods over the course of Indian’s history of colonization, was eye-opening. Even having a history degree, I was not aware of the atrocities bestowed in the 1940s upon India during their occupation. Asghar grew up in the more modern eras, but she intertwines life of her ancestors and her own modern world as an immigrant in America and offers a horrible bird’s eye view. Her writing is fierce, angry, visceral, haunting, but overall so very important. I absolutely am humbled by this poetry, a little terrified at humanity, but so very glad I read it.

Most Disliked Book of the Year

Strange WeatherStrange Weather by Joe Hill – Of the books I read this year, completely, but still didn’t like, the short story by Joe Hill takes the cake. I absolutely abhorred his story ideas, his comedy, his snark, and his overall writing. I think I maybe liked one of the stories, but it felt like maybe his dad had already done it and/or several movie scripts somewhere down the line – “been there, done that.” I know some people liked it, but I just didn’t connect.

Best Liked Book of Others I Couldn’t Like

Final Girls

The Final Girls by Riley Sager – I tried to read this book three times, and each time I was so bored, I never made it past the fifth chapter. I won’t be reading anything from him again, no matter the buzz. I loved the idea of it but I just couldn’t get into the writing.

Most Anticipated Book I Didn’t Get to Read

The outsider.jpgThe Outsider by Stephen King – I got through 30 pages of it before it was due back at the library (too  many holds!) but was so busy didn’t bother to check it out again. Will wait to buy it and then read it. Looking forward to it though, because I was enjoying what I read of it.

 

Stay tuned for our FAVORITE READ LISTS in YA and Middle Readers as Emma (15) and Addie (11) weigh-in with me on the books we each enjoyed most!

Happy Reading!

About Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi –

Erin Al-Mehairi Bio PhotoErin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has twenty years of professional experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently an author, writer, journalist, publicist, and an editor.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving in 2017, is her debut collection of dark poetry and short stories and was an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Hot New Releases in Women’s Poetry and held both that and the top ten of horror short stories for months. She has poetry and short stories featured in several other anthologies, magazines, and sites and was the co-editor for the gothic anthology Haunted are these Houses.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her books at Amazon, or GoodReads. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter (@erinalmehairi), and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

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