Category Archives: health

Writing, Pandemics & All That Jazz

bookWell, I don’t think there is much point in singing the pandemic song. This might be the only time in recent world history, or ever, where the world is experiencing the same event at the same time, and we’re all in the same boat. Isolation, depression, sadness, frustration, anger, fear: it’s affecting all of us in different ways. We don’t know if our world will ever go back to what it was and maybe all of it shouldn’t.

I live alone, so I’ve been suffering loneliness on a grander scale than I already did. And I’m lucky; I still have a job that I can do from home. Though I would never have any issue in filling my days if I weren’t working–that is, if I could go out. These days, the big excitement amounts to going to buy food. Like most writers who need some alone time to write, I have that but, like many people, we haven’t seen our production go up as the unpredictable future weighs on us.

The quarantines have cut into everyone’s lives. I didn’t get to be guest of honor at the Creative Ink Festival. Maybe that will happen again in the future, if we have events anymore. I didn’t get to go to Europe or to Stokercon, or bond with friends and writers. So, yes, I too am suffering a malaise.

I have continued to sell various pieces so this will be a catch up post. Back in February, for Women in Horror Month, I had guest poets for every day of the month. I also wrote a guest post for Horror Tree, called “Writing Horror is a Nightmare.” It’s a short piece looking at the hard part of writing horror. Horror Tree for those that don’t know is both a zine that posts on markets as well as has blogs and articles to do with horror. However, all the markets they highlight are not all just horror. I subscribe to the newsletter for market tips.

I have had friends ask me where I find my markets, and I’m a search maven. So I thought PoetryShowcaseCoverI’d add this into the post, also for my friend Vie. Besides Horror Tree, I also check out Ralan.com.  Ralan has been running his site for a very long time and it lists specifically speculative markets. He breaks them into pro, semi-pro, pay and token categories, plus a few others. You can run down the list and see who is open and briefly what and when they accept.

A year ago, I started to use Submission Grinder as both a market search engine and to record my writing and sales. I have a hybrid system where I still use index cards for listing each story and poem and where I’ve sent them, plus I put them in the Grinder. I know I could switch to a spreadsheet (which I also use for taxes to list my sales) but I like the 3D aspect of searching for pieces by going through the cards. If you click on the Grinder logo it will show you tabs for Recent Activity, Recently Added Markets, and My Market Response List (the last for places where I have submissions). I check the Recently Added Markets to find new listings. I’d say it’s 50/50 on response since some “new” markets seem to be dead or unresponsive. The Grinder also lets you search for markets by genre and for poetry or fiction.

While those three are my mainstays, there are many others I use. Submittable lets you subscribe to their newsletter and they list callouts for submissions. You cannot tell if they’re paying or nonpaying unless you click on the market. Dark Markets is another one though I don’t find it that easily searchable. There is Publishing, and Other Forms of Insanity, which updates calls by month. Winning Writers is another one that lists markets, as well as contests and which ones are free. Some of these I get as newsletters, such as Funds for Writers and Pamelyn Castro’s Flash Fiction Flash Newsletter. I don’t always intensely study all of these but sometimes I do. And sometimes, I just google search to see if there is anything new. There are more market report sites out there but some of them are dated and therefore list markets no longer in existence. The ones I’ve listed here are the best and I’ve done a lot of searching. There is Duotrope, which is not free but is also recommended by other writers.

Pulp Horror Phobias 2Onto other news. I was awarded a BC Arts Council Grant in March. Oddly it was for an application from last year but I’m not saying no to funds for my writing trips. Engen Books in eastern Canada sponsors the Kit Sora flash fiction–flash photography monthly contest. I’ve used the short 250 word entries as a way to continue writing while grieving my bother’s death last year. In Dec. I came third place with “Accidentally, He Gives Her Dreams.” “Dinner Plans,” a drabble was part of the Quarantine Quanta contest in the humor category, and “A Taste of Eden” was podcast on Starship Sofa #625 in Feb.

There have been too many sales to list so, for poetry, I’m posting the ones that have been published:

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Poetry, My Brother and Spring

This was going to be another post about poems that I’ve sold and in a way it is. But it is bookmore than that. Last year on March 20th my brother Dennis died unexpectedly, though he had been in ill health for a few years and we had been justifiably worried. Spring when everything is bloom is now inextricably linked with death for me.

Dennis was the eldest of four and he was burdened not so much by being the big brother but by the world. He always wanted to make the world a better place, and that probably started with being the support for his siblings, in believing in us and helping hold us together. We four were weighted by the way our narcissistic parents had used us, who had planted seeds of doubt, self-loathing, fear and sadness deep within us. We battled or succumbed in different ways. Our parents’ needs drew the four of us together. We certainly weren’t always united, and we could drive each other crazy but we have always remained close.

That mentally unhealthy upbringing affected everyone. Not only did Dennis feel he had to be there for us, he had to also be there for the world. If he wasn’t giving and contributing to the betterment of society and humankind, he didn’t feel his life was worth living. I worried at different times that he would kill himself if he couldn’t find this deep purpose. He never had a hobby. Perhaps if there was any hobby, it was Dennis’s love of animals, something we all shared. But he could never just let go and ease himself into something mindless, something to let his mind rest for a bit and regenerate.

It is what killed him. He literally could never sleep. His body forgot how to turn off, even with machines and medicines. He could never shut his brain down and stop thinking of ways to make the world better. Dennis never finished high school. In some ways he was too smart for it and I’m sure desperately unhappy, searching for a sense of place. I doubt any of us were happy in high school though I think if you look back there were probably more searching lost teenagers than there were contented ones.

In seeking approval in my mother’s eyes, Dennis strove to do more. He was successful in Dennisprovincial politics. He became a Thai Consul, he worked on senate reform, and was Edmonton’s police commissioner. He worked in other parts of the world, trying to assist various cities and countries with government. And he worked at advocating for mental health, something that we had never really had in our family. He was given an honorary doctorate for his work. Dennis contributed a lot to mental health and created the Chimo Project, which brought pet assisted therapy to Alberta long before experts were recognizing the benefits of animal-human interactions and healing.

I could go on about my deep-thinking brother, who was perhaps only second to my mother in stubbornness about their own health. He didn’t believe he could be helped, he was leery of psychologists/counsellors/psychiatrists and thought they would bleed his secrets to the world. He resisted seeking treatment. Dennis always tried to see from another person’s point of view, and it was as his body was deteriorating that I saw a darker side come out. I had rarely seen him angry until those later years, where that dark mood and glumness was troublesome and he became more fatalistic. He seemed to believe less in democracy as all the ills of the world ate at him.

20190320_165506

This bee, here.

Yet, he still cared about us and we, about him. Last March 20th was the first day of spring. I found a bee on the steps staggering about, having awakened too early to a chilly day. I rescued it and brought it sugar water at about the same time as my brother was dying in another province. I like to think that as the weight of the world and his burdened brain wore down, that his spirit lifted free and ended up in that bee, small and seeking nectar and the warmth of a new day. I like to think that he was finally able to fly away from worry and sadness.

 

It does not feel like a year. I still cry every week, missing him. And this is about poetry. In trying to move through my grief, to not cry constantly, I immersed myself in poetry. I couldn’t write longer works because of my sorrow, so poetry it was. I started exploring different forms, where structure and length occupied my mind with these word puzzles. In a way, I became obsessed and have written more poems in a year than probably many years combined.

That obsession hasn’t stopped. I’m still exploring forms and writing poems. But my many many poems that have sat for years have had a scrubbing. I’ve not only written new works and explored different themes but I’ve truly looked deeply at my old poems, asking myself, what does that mean? Some of these haven’t sold in over 20 years. In some cases, I set them aside, feeling something wasn’t right—the proof was in no sales. With other poems, I would send them out, not always every year.

Now, with this deep cleansing I have rewritten quite a few poems and have submitted them resurrected and they’re selling. In this way, every time a poem is sold, it reminds me of how my brother believed in me and how, even though he is no longer physically here, he continues to inspire me. I know that if he were to read this, he would kind go “Huhmp!” raise his eyebrows and give me a look.

I think of my brother every time I sell a poem. The ones sold in the past month (the ones with links are already published) and with different release dates are:

  • “Monster” in Breath and Shadow
  • “Telltale Moon” in Dreams and Nightmares
  • “masquerade” in OnSpec
  • An untitled hay(na)ku “luring” and my first haibun “Sacrifice” in Scifaikuest
  • “Three’s a Charm” in Songs of Eretz Poetry
  • “Spinning Wheel,” “Broken Words” and “Penned By My Hand” in Cascadia Subduction Zone
  • “Hacker Halloween” in Polar Borealis #14
  • “Family Dinner, Prince George” and “Sweat Lodge” in Transition magazine
  • “Hand of Fate” in Cosmic Horror Monthly
  • Widow’s Lament” in The Weird and the Whatnot
  • To the Core” in TERSE Journal

To my brother, I thank you. I miss you and I still wish you were here.

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Women in Horror: Emma Gibbon

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteWhen did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

I started writing poetry as a teenager. I was extremely angsty and trying to put down some of the darkness I felt was a way of releasing it. I read the first poetry that really blew me away around the same time at school–Coleridge and Blake. “Christabel” was a wonder to my teenage brain and “The Sick Rose” was the first poem I ever memorized. Later, Plath and Sexton really spoke to me. I find my influences come from different mediums too–the music videos of Mark Pellington, the works of Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier, film and TV like Donnie Darko and Twin Peaks, and the photography of Gregory Crewdson. I’ve always said that if I can ever create something that gives me the same feeling as Nirvana’s version of “In the Pines” then I’ll feel like I’ve finally made it.

Consumption

I had always envied Emily’s beauty
her life it seemed
charmed
and I a hobgoblin in her wake,
the ugliest sister,
while she of the flaxen hair,
rosebud lips
and a laugh that
tinkled like spun glass
sailed ahead.

Even when the sickness settled into her bones
like a cursed sea fret
and the hack, hack, hack of her cough filled rooms
still her suitors came.

This creature,
this consumption,
enhanced her beauty still.
Burrowed into her body
and made it shine
like a thing that must die.

Her cheeks, inflamed, bloomed
in their hollows
and those famed lips,
crimson and blood-bitten

but it was her eyes
her eyes
that stopped the menfolk across
the room
feverish green
gasoline on water burning
come-hither and much, much more.

How I wanted what she had
How I wanted to be her
How I wanted

I watched her obsessively
as she lounged on every chaise longue
trying to hide what she produced with her hack, hack, hack.
She was sly but not as sly as
I. I tracked those delicate handkerchiefs she
spat into,
folded,
and tucked under cushions,
pillows,
behind drapes,
trying to hide the shame
of her mortality.

Still the men simpered,
her tragedy an aphrodisiac.

When she was abed,
swimming in laudanum dreams,

I would retrace her faltering steps,
collect the small silken packets
she would leave like presents.

When alone I would open them,
inspect the slime,
the bloody sputum.
Steeling myself,
I would lick the silk,
consume her sickness,

steal her beauty for myself.

## published in Eye to the Telescope #33

Why do you write poetry?

It’s the same as all the writing I do, it really is a compulsion. I am a happier person when I do. I don’t necessarily find writing easy but not writing makes me feel uneasy in my skin.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

There are certain poems that come out almost fully formed and it feels like magic. I can reverse engineer them and see what my subconscious was working on and where they came from, but in the moment of writing, I experience a flow that is the best feeling of writing. The difficulty comes when it is the opposite of that when there’s something I want to write about but it really takes work and a lot of drafts to get it right. The irony is is that I don’t think the reader can tell the difference between the finished poems.

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I do. I have themes that come up over and over again. Very often, I am only aware of it retrospectively. I’ve been writing for over twenty years now, and I can track what my concerns and worries and interests are through my work. I also have certain “obsessions” that I come back to. My librarian-brain means I go down research rabbit holes and these resurface later in my writing. Some of the themes and motifs you’ll find in my poetry (and other writings) are illness (especially tuberculosis), sympathetic portrayals of monsters, underdogs and outcasts, robots and AI, death and funeral rituals, the supernatural, gothic sensibilities, dystopias, punk and glam rock and much more!

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

I genuinely think that there are many people (myself included) that are just hardwired to be attracted to darker themes. I’m deeply suspicious of people who are relentlessly sunshine-y and positive. I believe that art is full of dark and light and all the gray areas in between and to experience all of it is to live a fuller life.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I have “Persephone,” a poem out with Kaleidotrope this year and I also have a chapbook, Monster, Miasma & Myth, out on submission that I hope someone will pick up. Very excitingly, I have two poems nominated for the Rhysling: “Fune-RL” and “Consumption.” In not-poetry news, I have a story “Purgatory” due out in the folk horror anthology, Would But Time Await, and my debut fiction collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is due out in May. I’m also going to be a Readercon program participant this year, and I will be editing Eye to the Telescope 36, House and Home which will release in April.

Emma J. Gibbon is originally from Yorkshire in the U.K. and now lives in Midcoast Maine. GibbionShe is a Rhysling-nominated speculative poet, horror writer and librarian. Her poetry has been published in Strange Horizons, Liminality, Pedestal Magazine and Eye to the Telescope. Her stories have appeared in the New England Horror Writers anthologies, Wicked Haunted and Wicked Weird, The Muse & The Flame and Toasted Cake podcast. Her debut fiction collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is out in May from Trepidatio Publishing. Emma lives with her husband, Steve, and three exceptional animals: Odin, Mothra and M. Bison (also known as Grim). She is a member of the New England Horror Writers, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, the Angela Carter Society and the Tuesday Mayhem Society. Her website is emmajgibbon.com and you can find her on twitter @EmmaJGibbon.

 

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Women in Horror: Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert

You will notice a theme with many writers on the therapeutic nature of writing. Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert is my guest today and she talks about the healing nature and the joy of writing.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?WiHM11-Scalples-wv

I have been writing poetry since I was quite young. I used to submit to and win poetry contests in my local newspaper. Poetry has always been therapeutic for me, even before I knew what “therapeutic” meant. I’ve always had this need to transform my thoughts and feelings into words.

My earliest influences were probably Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. I don’t recall reading a lot of poetry at school, which is a shame. By junior high I’d discovered The Raven by Poe, which remains my favorite horror poem. Later, I discovered William Blake and liked his work, but wanting to read from women poets, I found Marge Piercy and Margaret Atwood. Much of their poetry has speculative elements, which dovetailed nicely with my lifelong love of scifi, fantasy, and horror.

Why do you write poetry?

I have said that poetry saved my life, and that sounds melodramatic even though it’s true. I’ve always struggled with depression and anxiety, and sometimes it felt as though putting my thoughts to paper was the only way to ease the darkness.

Aside from that, I love the way poetry can conjure images and descriptions in a way that other fictions cannot.

The Waiting Room in Purgatory

Chair pads of crushed red velvet,
singed;
stained by unknown liquids
over
countless centuries.

Ornate, carved wood backs darkened
with
age, gleaming from layers
of wax,
gouged by nails and claws
and
teeth
and
desperation.

The air is thick
with fetid breath,
and
smoke
and
dire need.

For eons, my tired eyes
have
traced, ev’ry thread; ev’ry
hole and
stain on the moth-eaten
tapestry that reads:

Neither here nor there.

## (Yet again, the wierdness of WordPress has allowed formatting for the second poem and not this one. The lines beginning with “over,” “of wax” and “hole” should be indented.)

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

One of the more difficult aspects of writing poetry for me are when you have an idea—or a sense or mood you want to convey—and want to describe it poetically. You start writing, and you find that the words coming out are not doing justice to what is in your head. Sometimes that can be overcome. Sometimes it just spills out the way you intended. More often than not, for me, I save what I have and try to go back to it later to “get it right.” But usually I fail. The times I succeed feel amazing!

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I can’t say my poetry has any particular themes. My work does tend to be speculative and dark. And I’d say that a lot of it reflects a woman’s experience, but certainly not all of it. ReynoldsMy one published poetry collection, Interview with the Faerie (Part One) and Other Poems of Darkness and Light is divided into three sections. The first, “darkness,” has “dark” poetry, including a short poem written from the perspective of a man who is physically abusive to his partner. The middle section, “shades of grey,” has one poem that is not dark or “light,” although it has an ominous tone. The last section, “into the light,” contains a poem about a goblin on his first day of school. It’s one of the few things I’ve written that is suitable for children.

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

I believe that horror-themed fiction is attractive to people generally. Horror-themed movies and books are certainly undergoing a resurgence right now.

Dark speculative poetry is appealing because it can describe the unfathomable, the unthinkable, the grotesque, in beautiful and stunning ways. It makes the true horrors of our world digestible. It’s easier for many to read a horror poem than spend ten-plus hours digesting a horror novel. And to others, seeing horror play out on a screen is too visceral.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I’m actively working on two projects: I’m finishing up a horror short story for an anthology call, and I’m in the beginning stages of pulling together a new collection of short stories and poetry. Some of the material will be reprint, but much of it is new. I’ll be looking for a publisher once I have it together.

I also discovered painting last year during a mental health break I took from writing. I’m hoping to explore some darker themes in my painting this year.

That Witch We Dread

       A witch, sometimes,
should be dark. Should wear
a crooked nose,
a frock black like ink;
murky and stale
as the corner of a root cellar floor.

       Some witches exist,
to haunt your thoughts. Dive
gleefully into your mind,
unseat logic;
pulling up shadows
that were well-hidden, placed with reason.

       This witch is not
Wiccan, not Goddess.

       She is horrible.
The pit in your belly,
the earth falling away,
the dread that lives tightly coiled,
dormant; awaiting its moment with
grotesque implausibility.

##

Is there anything else you would like to say about horror or poetry?

I’ll say a word about women and traditionally underrepresented voices in horror. The horror that women often write reflects our lived experiences, and too many of us experience horrific things regularly. Women’s voices in the speculative genres are crucial. I feel that often it’s the underrepresented voices that make you really experience the “otherness” that drives so much of speculative fiction. To provide a concrete example, the experiences of Octavia Butler as a poor woman of color allowed her to write about human-ness, other-ness, and gender and sexuality in a way I don’t think a

Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert writes short fiction and poetry in the science fiction, horror, Reynolds bioand dark fantasy genres. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies The Final Summons, Killing It Softly (Vol.1), and The Deep Dark Woods. Read her poetry in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. VI, the anthologies Beneath Strange Stars and Wicked Witches, the websites Tales of the Zombie War, Eternal Haunted Summer, and Strong Verse; and in The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature. She published a short collection of poetry, Interview with the Faerie (Part One) and Other Poems of Darkness and Light in 2013.

Suzanne is a freelance content creation expert, editor, and works as a technical services librarian. She writes in between driving her daughter around and meeting the incessant demands of her feline overlords. https://suzannereynoldsalpert.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7394656.Suzanne_Reynolds_Alpert

 

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Women in Horror: Trisha Wooldridge

WiHM11-Scalples-wh

Today’s guest poet for Women in Horror Month is Trisha Wooldridge who has had fiction in the EPIC award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad, and Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory. She also won the Eye on Life prize for her poem “To Me, You Are Holy,” in 2011.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

I discovered poetry in my childhood through nursery rhymes and nursery rhyme collections, many of which have surprisingly disturbing poems! I was probably only about six or seven when I read Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” and I was physically ill from the thought of eating that school of baby oysters. On the other hand, I couldn’t stop rereading it because I sensed that there was a Deep Truth to the nonsense: you couldn’t trust people; not everyone has your best interests in mind; people will hurt you to their benefit. In fact, if you look at a lot of children’s nursery rhymes, they talk about horrible and true things. London Bridge falling down, the plague, children getting hurt, being unable to heal from injuries… And then in grade school, we had Shel Silverstein, who also dealt with complicated and sometimes dark issues with nonsensical verse: being lazy, being bullied, things going wrong for no reason, dealing with the fair and unfair consequences to actions… So, from a young age, poetry was where I found a place to explore complicated and scary emotions.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry to process my most complicated and difficult emotions. While I love prose, poetry works on more levels than linear storytelling. With poetry, the white space, line breaks, punctuation are as much the message as the words—and word choice and word order carry more meaning than in a prose construction. So often emotions or situations—dealing with death, betrayal, self-analysis, pain, truest love—don’t fit into just words or just sentences. They need more—more dimensions, more meanings, more places to fit meanings. Poetry is a gift and tool for such feelings and experiences.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

Honestly, everything! If I’m writing a poem, it’s because I already have a complex, possibly painful or achingly beautiful—relationship with a topic. But the construction of a poem is also a challenge. Some poems are meant to be shorter free verse, others are 5,000-word rhymed and metered monstrosities! Some poems need a haiku, so you’re limited with an exceptionally short and rigid form. So, writing a poem is not only doing a deep-dive into emotions, it’s painstakingly finding the right form and then working it into that form. And then making sure it might hopefully make sense to someone else.

If I can share a bit of a story behind this one? It’s currently unpublished. I wrote it as a challenge to myself when I was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago: I would to record the first month of taking Adderall by writing a poem about mental health every day. It was my most productive and poetic month; I’ve actually found myself able to write more poems overall since the diagnosis. At some point, once I edit them all, I plan on collecting all 30 poems and some other ADHD related ones into a chap book.

Poetic Coping Strategies – An Adderall Poem

I’m reading three
different
books of poetry—
one whimsical songs of birds, death, and dinosaurs;
one exploding, burning galaxy that equally loves and tears asunder;
one a musical road trip of drugs, sex, murder, and suicide—
       not always in that order.

They are different sized books
       with different textured covers,
 and I read from each in parts
       and in succession,
 and together they make sense
       in the coils and tangles
            wiring my brain.

I’ve written more poems
       than there are days
            in these past months.

Last time I hyperfocused
       on poetry,
Death was on the lines—
       past and future.
That then-present medicated haze
       left me leaving
metered and rhymed
       text messages
            unintentionally.
It rewired my brain—
       not that it was
       factory setting normal
       in the first place.
Or ever.

But that was then—
      an emotional fractal
      honed by a deadline I didn’t
      want to miss—
 And this is now—
      a mental fractal
      tasting medicine
      enhanced by the
      promise
            of opportunity.

No less
      an interest-based
      obsession.
No less
      a force of nature.More me,
      being the me
            I want to be.

## Due to WordPress issues and to preserve the formatting–which is not spaced as Trisha wanted it–I could not get this to show in the same font.

If I can share a bit of a story behind this one? It’s currently unpublished. I wrote it as a challenge to myself when I was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago: I would to record the first month of taking Adderall by writing a poem about mental health every day. It was my most productive and poetic month; I’ve actually found myself able to write more poems overall since the diagnosis. At some point, once I edit them all, I plan on collecting all 30 poems and some other ADHD related ones into a chapbook.

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I do tend to write in themes. A lot of my poetry explores mortality and the relationships people have with death and mortality through faith, spirituality, and religion—and how faith, spirituality, and religion can be positive or toxic to one’s life before they die. I’ve also recently been having quite the unwelcome roller-coaster of emotion in relation to health, mental health, the American medical culture, and the social culture around women’s health and overall mental health, so I’ve written a LOT of poems on that recently. I also love writing about the weirdly or eerily or creepily beautiful things in nature. And I have always been drawn to speculative topics—to magic, to monsters, to mythology, to the fae. So, while I do have some poems that are specifically fantastical or speculative, a lot of speculative elements work their way into my poems. As far as I’m concerned, magic is real and all around us, so most anything can and should acknowledge that.

Woodridge book

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

Everybody has things they are afraid of; speculative anything creates metaphors, thought experiments, that let people explore their fears from a safer distance than actually experiencing those fears; and poetry pushes the brain to think and comprehend the message in a different way than prose. Dark speculative poetry gives people a means to explore their fears, and thus give them some measure of power to handle those fears, through the use of metaphor and thought experiment in a form that both creates distance from the fear but also forces them to think about the fear in a different way. And in thinking about the fear differently and from a distance, a person can further empower themselves and perhaps see new ways to deal with that fear.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I’m really bad at putting together poetry publications. Usually I submit single poems to particular markets, and I currently haven’t got any poems I know are coming out soon. However, I am editing the next New England Horror Writers anthology, Wicked Women, and we are open to poems. It’s open to women who are current members of NEHW with a deadline of February 29. So, if you’ve got women readers in New England, they should check out the NEHW organization, join if so moved (it’s free!)… and send me some work! That should be out this October. Also, my contribution to New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, also coming out this October, is poetic prose. As for what I’m working on, poetry-wise, I have a collection of Ekphrastic cards (poems paired with photos) that I’ve been bringing to events; I’m very proud of those. And I’m currently going through a set of poems I wrote when I was diagnosed with ADHD that deal with mental health and putting that together in likely a chapbook collection.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about horror or poetry?

I went for some years just writing fiction and non-fiction, focusing on those for publication, and then I happened to hear Linda Addison read at a SF/F convention in Long Island…and I like to say she broke my brain in the best possible way. I bought one of everything she had that day and consumed it all. Since then, I’ve actually had the honor and pleasure of getting to know her through the horror community, so I can’t recommend her enough. But once Linda set me right and back into poetry, life was altogether better. Besides Linda, I love the poetry by Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, whose poetry may or may not get employed by Unseelie courts to entrap humans. Stephanie Wytovich’s poems cast amazing and beautifully profane spells that shatter reality into lacy spiderwebs. Donna Lynch (who I first discovered through the band Ego Likeness, which everyone should also check out!) will eat you alive, heart or liver first, with the jagged teeth of her poems, while you sing along. Um…many more. But those three happen to actually be in my line of sight while I type this. Check out the HWA Poetry Showcase collections!

wooldridge bio

Trisha J. Wooldridge (or child-friendly T.J. Wooldridge) writes novels, short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry about bad-ass faeries, carnivorous horses, social justice witches, vengeful spirits—and mundane stuff like food, hay-eating horses, social justice debates, writer advice, and alcoholic spirits. Her publications include stories and poems in all of the New England Horror Writer anthologies, The HWA Poetry Showcase Volume 5 and Volume 6, the Pseudopod podcast, and The Book of Twisted Shadows, The Jimmy Fund charity anthology Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, and the upcoming New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, as well as three spooky kids’ novels. Her poetry and art have been featured in the Blackstone Valley Artist Association Art-Poetry shows of 2017, 2018, and 2019. She is also editing the 2020 New England Horror Writers anthology, Wicked Women, open to all NEHW members who identify as women. Rare moments of mystical “free time” are spent with a very patient Husband-of-Awesome, a calico horse, and a bratty tabby cat. Join her adventures at www.anovelfriend.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

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Where I’ve Been & the End of a Decade

writing2Sometimes life is hills or valleys, and sometimes it dives so deep into the underlayer that you end up in orbit without a safety suit. To say I will be happy to see the end of the second decade of the third millennium is an understatement. Fair warning: this will be a long post.

2018 started with a bang…literally. I was driving to work on a slow, quiet, dry day. Thankfully, the traffic was light. My car had always had a sporadic and unpredictable issue of brakes locking at low speed. I always left lots of room in between cars before this. This time I was driving at 100km/hour when my brakes chose to lock, spinning me about and slamming me into a cement barrier. Totaled the car, smashed my leg but otherwise, with a couple of months of physio I was mostly right as rain (yet another permanent bump to my leg though).

In March, I visited my family. My mother, in her 90s, had nearly died in January, so I was seeing her while she had her health. I was also working on writing through my Canada Council grant and Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, the anthology of Lewis Carroll based stories, came out. That was the slow, almost normal time.

DSC03616

I shot this in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic ©2017

In June, I fell and broke my hand, but the doctors misdiagnosed it for three months which then required some other treatments to fix it. Just after that, I finally landed a new job and was getting ready to leave my previous toxic workspace. Then my cat died on the July long weekend. My job ended on Friday, July 13 and I would be starting the new job the following Monday. Instead, at midnight the same night I was booking a flight as my mother was failing fast. I was in Calgary for five days, and when I booked the return my mother was recovering. But before I had left she was failing again. I returned to start my new job two days late. I worked one day when my new boss gave me a flight back to Calgary the next day. I arrived on the Friday, the last day my mother was really conscious. She died that Sunday morning.

I stayed in Calgary for two weeks to deal with her effects and for her celebration of life. I was only back a week, grieving these deaths, when my landlady of more than 20 years chose to evict me. I live in Vancouver, the land of exorbitant rents. My landlady had once been a friend but she turned into an even more passive aggressive and petty person, had stopped talking to me at all and claimed that she and her new husband (she became very bitter when she divorced her narcissistic ex four years before) needed more space when they lived in the biggest house on the block, with 2 floors, and 3 bedrooms and were semi retired. Needless to say, she had become more bitter and paranoid and odd, and I now had to grieve losing my home and moving. On top of that she had known since the spring that I was in Europe in October and guess which month I was going to have to move?

December came and I was still setting up my new place. My brother and sister-in-law came out for a short visit. I didn’t make it out for Christmas, being stressed and exhausted. My brother’s health wasn’t good and he was suffering the extreme effects of sleep apnea, including brain fatigue and memory loss. We were very worried about him.

2018 came to a close and I was thankful, thinking this was the end of a terrible year. That was not the end of terrible or trauma though. In March, my brother died unexpectedly, which sent the whole family into a tailspin. Dennis was much loved and as siblings we were all very close. Again I was in Edmonton, helping my sister-in-law and grieving terribly.

Burning-book-mrtwismI had barely written in 2018 and the weight of grief made it extremely difficult to think of writing. I applied to the Horror Writers Association for the Scholarship from Hell, a scholarship to attend the Stokercon convention and masterclass workshops, as well as free flight and accommodation. I didn’t win the scholarship but was awarded a runner-up scholarship that included free attendance and master classes. I desperately needed the energy of writers to inspire me.

During the con I took a master class in poetry with Linda Addison. I came back, somewhat inspired but still fatigued by grief. I began exploring a few short forms of poetry, which was one way I dealt with my brother’s death.

Then in July, just past a year from having broken my hand, I fractured my ankle. I’m lucky my job allowed me to work from home as I was stuck in a walk-up. I also damaged the tendons in my thumbs and my shoulders from crutches and started physio before I was even out of a cast.

You would think that was plenty but it still didn’t end. My boss reluctantly informed me that there wasn’t the budget to continue my job in the new year. So now I was back looking for work. Then in September I was stung on my hand by a wasp. My hand and arm swelled up with extreme itchiness. Several weeks later I had hives on my head, side and leg. My doctor was pretty useless and for over two months I dealt with hives.

Then I caught a sinus cold. Just a cold, no big deal. Except it brought tinnitus with it and I’m still suffering ringing in my ears. Three months later, the sinus drainage continues. I have been doing all sorts of self care–physio, chiropractic, massage, counseling–all to get me through these challenging years. On top of that, I ended up with a stye so bad that my nose and cheek swelled. My doctor sent me to ER but thankfully, it just turned out to be some very extreme version of a stye.

Stress can be brought on by various things and the grief and trauma of my last two years has left me with stress and a dread of what could possibly be next. One extreme health issue after another has had me worried. Stress can cause a candida infection and I believe that might be the cause of the lingering tinnitus, the stye, the sinus issues and the extreme reaction to the wasp sting. I’m working on getting this sorted out.

received_312365166192812

Art by Jenn Brisson, published by Black Shuck Books

With everything that happen and still missing so very much my dear brother (I still can’t believe he is gone.), I do have to remember that there were some good things in my life. The compassion of my current employer was amazing and I will always cherish that I had the time to grieve with my family. My solo anthology Alice Unbound, as well as my collection, A Body of Work, were both published in 2018. I had received a Canada Council grant for writing, and a runner-up scholarship from HWA. I was also asked and will be a guest of honor at the Creative Ink Festival in 2020.

On top of that, I had record years in publishing my fiction and poetry. I wrote more new poetry this year than I had in years. In 2018, 12 poems were published and 3 stories. For 2019, 23 poems have been published and 10 stories. I’ll be listing links after this piece for 2019 and where most pieces can be read or bought. I don’t know if what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, but I have weathered the worst two years of my entire life. I’ve had enough.

What do I hope for 2020 and the new decade to begin?

I want calm and peace, no endings, no trauma, no grief. I want health and the only excitement to be in what I get published. I want the continued support, love and compassion of friends and family, and hope that I can give it as well. I want to write more, maybe get that novel done and publish one of the two others that are languishing. For the world, I’d love to see an increase in understanding, empathy and compassion and a decrease in mistrust, fear mongering and hate. To all of you, may you have a wonderful, harm free 2020.

Noor5Poetry

Fiction

 

 

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Writing: The Storm of 2013

writing, writing contests, short fiction, stories, competitions, horror, SF

To write or not to write; there is no question. Creative Commons: http://freshink.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

I’m rather late to a sum up of 2014 (hahaha, I’m an idiot. This is why everyone needs an editor. I meant uh, 2013, because it really was that busy.) and it’s because it was one of the busiest years I’ve ever had. I barely had time to think or write on this blog. Hence, while I hoped to get out all of the Tesseracts 17 interviews within two months of its October release, it took me till January. And that’s how last year started; editing the 450 submissions for the anthology. I also participated in Women in Horror month in February, by posting interviews with Canadian writers or horror.

I had made a vow to have a rough draft of my ever languishing novel done by April but that was thrown to the wind. Along with the editing I also did a bit of other freelance editing around a full time job that went to double full time in April. That meant I was pretty worn out when I came home. I’d also injured my shoulder and was in unendurable pain that hit high levels in August. Using a mouse and typing aggravated it as well. So I had to add in physio on top of all that.

demons, anthologies, horror, fantasy, Demonologia Biblica

Available through Amazon. This is my favorite cover.

I then threw in a trip to Europe (Germany, France and England) where I also attended the World Fantasy Convention at the end of my three weeks. Luckily my shoulder was better enough to survive the trip. But guess what, I volunteered to be on the preliminary jury for the Bram Stoker awards (the major horror award in speculative fiction) and I was suddenly reading in every spare minute I had. It was probably around 50 entries in all . I hope to do some book reviews here at some point of the books I read.

So let’s see, there was editing, and copy editing, and reading, but was there writing? Why yes, there was writing and works being published. In fact, I had a pretty good year in published pieces, though a couple of publishers are in bad graces at the moment for not paying on time nor sending me my copy of the book. (More on that soon if I don’t hear from them.) Here is a list of works that came out last year:

  • “P is for Phartouche: The Blade” in Demonologia Biblica by Western Legends Publishing
  • “Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood” in Deep Cuts by Evil Jester Press
  • “The Book With No End” in Bibliotheca Fantastica by Dagan Books
  • “The Highest Price” in Artifacts and Relics by Heathen Oracle
  • “Gingerbread People” in Chilling Tales 2 by EDGE SF & Fantasy
  • “Tower of Strength” in Irony of Survival by Zharmae Publishing
  • “The Diver” in Readshortfiction.com (free under literary)
  • Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast by EDGE SF & Fantasy, co-editor with Steve Vernon
  • “Heart of Glass” in Polu Texni  (includes an interview and is free to view)
  • “Illuminating Thoughts” in Polu Texni
  • “Father’s Child” in Polu Texni
  • “Don Quixote’s Quandary” free in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

writing, fantasy, horror, speculative fiction, anthologies

The Book With No End, is in this anthology out from Dagan Books.

I should also mention that I launched for Chizine Publications and Sandra Kasturi the Vancouver branch of the Chiaroscuro Reading Series. We began quarterly with three readers in April and then again in July and October. The new one is coming up on Feb. 12th, at Tangent Cafe in Vancouver, with speculative authors Ray Hsu, Geoff Cole and Noah Chinn. It’s free, so if you’re in town come out and enjoy some tales.

Somewhere in all this I did have a social life and I did sleep… I think. I also completed, by the very last day of the year, the rough draft of my novel. After so many stops and starts, it was done. Of course I have a massive rewrite to do but at least the plot and character arcs are down. So, yes, it was a very busy year and very productive.

CZP, Chizine, dark fiction, women in horror, Canadian writer, female authors

Colleen hosts the Vancouver ChiSeries, funded in part by CZP.

I’ve also found out that I made it onto the Bram Stoker Awards preliminary ballot for my short story “The Book With No End.” The Stokers are the top dark fiction awards for the genre and rank with the World Fantasy Awards, the Hugos and the Nebula. I will eventually write about the process for getting on the ballot because it’s a bit confusing. The Stoker prelininary ballots are a mix of recommendations from the membership and the jury. Once the membership votes, there will be a short form final ballot and then I believe another vote. I’ll find out if I make it that far.

Works to come out at some point soon in this year are “The Collector” in Cemetery Dance. I’m promised it will be very soon and I’ve been waiting over five years so it will be nice to see that one show up. Bull Spec also promises to publish my poem “Visitation” soon. I’ve also just learned that I’ve sold three poems to Burning Maiden and I’ll be featured in the next edition. Those poems are “Tea Party,” “Medusa” and “As I Sleep.”

So what’s in store this year. Obviously more writing and rewriting, and we’ll see. Some irons are in the fire but until I have an answer everything is just a dream. 😉 But we all should dream, shouldn’t we? May you all have a productive year.

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Body Adornment or Modification

body adoarnment, body modification, piercing, tattoos, body ornaments, fetish,

This image shows to types of body decoration, neither permanent: jewelery and mehndi. Creative Commons: Henna Designs

I’ve had some interesting comments on the post about genital bleaching. Some people defend it as just another way of decorating ourselves, such as having tattoos or piercings. This is actually inaccurate. While a tattoo or a piercing is a body modification, it is also body adornment or decoration. True, there are some piercings that veer from being only decoration (and used for enhancement of sensations or fetishism–bondage, humiliation, etc.) but for the majority it is about decorating the body in some way.

This is extreme body adornment and modification. Creative Commons Boing Boing

This is extreme body adornment and modification. Creative Commons Boing Boing

It’s true that humanity has been doing this as long as we’ve been building shelters and making things. Stuff…adornments, decorations, artifacts are what define civilizations. It’s an inherent part of our nature. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a vibrant fashion industry, laws and rules throughout the ages regulating clothing and dyes and styles, nor many types of jewellery. So, yes humans have been decorating themselves forever and continue to do so except for those religions that try to suppress human nature.

But a pure body modification is not necessarily adornment. Sometimes it’s a medical necessity, such as a disfigurement that is painful or limiting of a person’s movement. It might be surgery after an illness, disease or accident that requires a modification. Or it might be for decoration. Obviously, piercings modify the body’s structure to some degree. Any piercing you can see is one of decoration, though it can mean more. Those that you can’t see, such as breasts, genitalia or the subcutaneous implants might be body adornment as well. Like I said, some people do these piercings for ritualistic or fetishistic reasons. It may give them a sexual thrill, indicate they are into some form of fetishistic situation such as domination or submission, be a form of emotional catharsis, or be part of a religious practice.

I suppose anal bleaching could be religious. I certainly don’t know all of the spiritual practices out there. However, it seems that unless you’re a porn star where your butthole is displayed on screen that in fact it’s not decoration, so comparing a pierced ear or a tattooed arm to a bleached anus is not the same thing at all. I’d be happy to hear arguments that indicate this falls under decorating the body as opposed to modifying. Yes, both could be seen as forms of beautification and can definitely fall under fetish, or body modification. In this case when one has a nose job, a scar removed, a circumcision, a breast implant, or the genitalia bleached, it is body modification, whether it is for health reasons or vanity. I will still maintain that a person who worries that their labia isn’t pretty enough or their butthole of the right shade, has got their priorities mixed up.

skin bleaching, vanity, body modification, adornment, skin, blemishes

Skin whitening can be done to remove discolorations caused by sun or birthmarks but do you really need it where the sun don’t shine? Creative Commons: Tribune

This sort of worry is what creates a society where anorexia runs rampant, where we’re stuck on any flaw or imperfection as bad because we watch movies or look at magazines where people are lit, done up in make up and airbrushed to godlike proportions. Relationships become harder to maintain because they’re based on superficial forms of attraction. This isn’t about being confident; it’s about lacking confidence so much that you worry about what anyone will think of every aspect of your body.

We’re losing perspective. Personality and being human is what really matters, and going down the road of worrying about the shade of your genitalia, how your pubic hair curls, whether your toenails grow the right thickness and if your neck is long enough is trying to change how we were born. It’s an unending battle and a slippery slope. Michael Jackson is a fine example of someone who couldn’t stop trying to be someone else, to the point of having extreme cosmetic surgery and bleaching his skin so he looked less black. His talent was in his voice and his musical skills. His downfall was in his quest to be someone else.

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Writing: Remembering Lydia Langstaff

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Lydia Langstaff was just starting out but accomplished a great deal. Creative Commons: Dave Morrison, flickr

Today I heard that there is a celebration for a man who is one of the longest living with a heart transplant. Diagnosed at 21 with a fatal heart disease and given weeks to live, he received a heart transplant and 26 years later, he’s still going strong. This made me think of Lydia Langstaff, a young writer who I once knew. We were both part of the same writer’s group. Lydia and I began to do some individual critiquing of each other’s work on the side.

She was under thirty and was truly like a porcelain doll. Her skin was nearly translucent, a pale white, and her eyes were large. Lydia’s hair was blond and her rounded nails had a tinge of blue. In many ways she was as delicate as a fey being who spends a short time navigating the world of humans. You see, Lydia had a congenital heart defect. Her nails and skin were part of her condition. Her heart was such a tremulous thing that Lydia could never fly, nor even walk up a flight of stairs. The strain would have been too much.

She told me once her family called her their miracle because she had never been expected to live past birth. And yet she did. She

Lydia Langstaff, memento mori, remembering writers, speculative writing,

Writing may be less ephemeral than our lives. Creative Commons: pirano Bob R, flickr, by William Michael Harnett

made it through her world carefully, and uncomplaining. Lydia’s husband, Jeff Langstaff, supported her and they were both aware of her tenuous hold on the reins of life.

For the brief while I got to know Lydia she was a determined writer. She never ever complained about her condition. She persevered and lived with it. And she was becoming a good author. She sold a few stories and possibly some poems. She and I were working on novels. I had read some of hers. And then one day we heard that Lydia had died suddenly, one night in the arms of her husband. They had always known it could happen any time, but it was still a surprise that she died so young, at 28.

After Lydia’s death, her husband Jeff asked me to look through her manuscript. It turns out she had finished the first draft of a novel and he wondered what it would take to make it publishable. I read it and didn’t charge him, in honor of Lydia. It was a mythic tale, of traveling back in time to Scotland’s early history, of accepting one’s destiny. I told him that it would take some editing to make it publishable but it wasn’t bad. I couldn’t do it for free but I would halve my rate. He told me he’d think about it because even an edited manuscript doesn’t mean it will be published. It languished in a drawer and I never heard from Jeff again.

It’s been about 16 years since Lydia died and I still have her manuscript. I don’t know what her maiden name is and attempts to find Jeff have not succeeded. I’m loath to throw out the manuscript as it seems to disrespect Lydia’s memory. Yet should I edit it and then self-publish it under both our names? If I did that, I’d have to split the proceeds after my cost; Lydia’s half going to heart research. But is that ethical? I feel stuck and wonder what would be right. I’d love to honor her memory and let her story see the light but I’m not family and yet, I can’t find them. What do you think I should do? And if you know a Jeff Langstaff, have him read this and contact me if he’s the right one.

There is a Lydia Langstaff Memorial Prize that On Spec puts out (possibly sporadically) given to a writer under 30. I think it will be resurrected again. But I’d like to know what to do with Lydia’s manuscript and I’d dearly love to find her family. In the meantime, I have another part of Lydia’s legacy. She taught me to cherish each moment because time is ephemeral and I’ve had so much more time than she did. She showed me that one can accomplish a great deal, even with physical handicaps. I don’t always remember  these lessons but I try to because Lydia gave it her all for her short time in this earthly realm.

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Cooking Without Fat: Indian Curry

diet, cooking, Indian curry, low-fat cooking, eggplant, yams, food, healthy eating

The great veggie goodness, before the chicken and mushrooms were added.

I’ve been doing a diet to kickstart my body into losing weight. This means eating low sugar vegetables (no beets, corn, carrots), low sugar, whole wheat grains (no potatoes, bread or white rice), low sugar fruits (no tropical fruits) such as berries or apples, white meat only (skinless chicken breasts, fish) and no fat at all. That means no olive oils, no nuts or seeds and no fatty meats. The warning with this type of diet is you have to do it under a doctor’s supervision because we need fat to function, both for nerves and our brains. By day four you can start to feel shaky or nauseous because the body is missing the fat and going into ketosis. You have to take potassium tablets while on it (available with a prescription) and it is only short term, two weeks at most.  Anorexics, if you normally feel shaky, nauseous, tired or foggy, it means you are starving yourself to death. Stop, before you die and damage your body permanently.

In some ways this diet hasn’t been a big challenge. I normally do a no fat, no grain lunch. This usually consists of a piece of meat, such as a skinless chicken breast, in seasoning, cooked in the microwave with a bit of water, plus some form of vegetable. Either a salad with lemon squeezed on or something like broccoli or bok choi. Sometimes I’ll add some avocado, which is a fat but a good one.

The challenge has been cooking, where I’m not using a microwave. I have a cast iron frying pan and find that if I put it on a low to medium heat I can start with cooking my vegetables a bit. Of course you don’t really “stir-fry” and have to watch for sticking, but I found it works okay for doing eggplant that takes a bit of time. Last night I decided to make a curry. Normally I would have used a pre-bought curry sauce but I realized that these have a lot of oil in them. No curries with coconut milk, which I love because it is high fat, though also a good fat.

The curry needed to simmer with the spices I was adding so I decided to use a pot on low heat. I chopped up yams (my carb for the day) and put the chunks into the pot with chopped onion, garlic, chive tops and Thai chili. The onion has enough water in it that this prevented burning. The key to cooking without fat is to never put the heat too high.

Indian curry, cooking, no fat diet, vegan, vegetarian, diets

The finished result. Worth using a spoon to get every drop.

I wasn’t sure how the baby eggplants would do if I just tossed them in to the pot, so I cut them in chunks, put on a grill, sprinkled with salt and stuck them into the toaster oven on broil to get them going. In the meantime, I added green beans, the last of peas in the pod that were too old and starchy, and celery.  I added curry powder, basil, cayenne, rosemary, dried chilies,  salt and pepper. I meant to add a touch of lemongrass powder but slipped; it turned out okay though. Because the curry powder can be a bit bitter I put in one sugar cube.

Once this was all mixed, I added half of a large can of tomatoes. That was my base sauce. By then the eggplant was browned and softened and I added that in. I let everything simmer for about twenty minutes until the yams were softened. Then I added sliced mushrooms and chunks of chicken breast. The eggplants break down to give a thicker base and adding the chicken at the end kept it tender.

There are probably gourmands out there shuddering at my culinary abuses but it worked. I had a tasty curry with enough for four servings. Without the chicken this would work for a vegan or vegetarian meal, and adding in some healthy oil isn’t a problem. I like my foods spicy so you can see I used three different types of hot in this.  I’m a concocter more than a cook and it’s why I could make my apocalypse diet work, because I could adapt. The recipe, as it is, follows.

LOW TO NO-FAT INDIAN CURRY

Garlic
Chive tops
Thai chili
White onion 2-3 slices, chopped
2 medium size yams
4-5 baby eggplants, chopped into chunks (any variety will do)
1 stalk celery
Green peas (optional)
2 cups green (string) beans, chopped to one inch size
6-8 mushrooms (chopped or sliced)
Skinless chicken breast cubed
2 cups canned, peeled tomatoes
½ tsp rosemary
1 ½ tsp basil
3 pequeno chilies
1 tsp lemon grass powder
½ tsp cayenne powder
1 ½ tbsp curry powder
1 sugar cube
salt & pepper to taste

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