Category Archives: life

Women in Horror Month: Miriam H. Harrison

My guest today is Miriam H. Harrison. Like many readers and writers of horror, it is not a genre that presents unrelenting terror, but is a place from which people can heal from the real-life horrors in their lives.

Horror and Healing

Growing up, horror wasn’t a genre or an escape, but a word too close to home. I didn’t need prescriptive plot arcs or three-act sequences. Life itself was a series of rising tensions, fleeting denouements, and inevitable crises. It wasn’t as tidy, though. Writing gives you a chance to clean up the edges, tie up loose ends, find closure. Life just makes a mess. But in life as in writing, there’s room for rewrites, edits. For a time living was horror, but later, horror was healing.

Horror intersects with all forms, all genres, so it’s little wonder I found myself stumbling into it. Anything you pull deep from your soul can draw breath in the dark and surreal—horror leaves so little out of bounds. It is a wide open space to roam, to explore dark corners and re-imagine the familiar.

For me, writing horror brings together surrender and control. Surrender is the art of facing the blank page. There’s a vulnerability to giving over to the words, to seeing what emerges from your shadows. The memories that live deep inside can be frightening, yet light has a way of shrinking shadows. Unchallenged, the shadows spread deep and wide, whispering from every side. Shrunk down in the light of day, those ghosts can be captured in vessels of words. In words, there is control.

Control comes in many forms, but I have come to value it most in a red pen. Ghosts exorcised into words can be given closure. In editing and rewriting, we get to shape what came before, give it new meaning, new purpose. Here we can find the context and resolutions that life so often denies us. We cannot edit what is not written, but we are not unwritten. We are messy, and editing loves a mess.

This month, I invite you to celebrate both horror and healing. We all have healing journeys to navigate. For anyone living with unresolved trauma, this is not a journey to face alone. Bringing someone else into your process is a different vulnerability, but better than facing that pain alone. Mine was a common story. During Women in Horror Month—and every month—countless women are living in fear. Many turn to shelters or friends for safety. This year those opportunities for escape are fewer, but the needs are still there. As you look to support women in horror, think also of the everyday horrors women face and what you can do to help make healing possible.

Miriam H. Harrison writes to keep her fingers warm in her Northern Ontario home. She studies full time, works on the side, writes when she should be doing other things, and trains the dust bunnies to fend for themselves. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association, and any updates about her published works can be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/miriam.h.harrison) or her website (https://miriamhharrison.wordpress.com/).

She has two poems appearing in the Valentine’s Day issue of Tales from the Moonlit Path and five pieces in the Supernatural Drabbles of Dread anthology by Macabre Ladies Publishing, which is available for pre-order and anticipating a February release. Miriam co-edited with Dinah Lapairie and Kenneth Lillie, In New Light: The Many Paths of Identity, Struggle & Mental Illness for Northern Initiative for Social Action.

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Women in Horror Month Begins

The last few years I’ve featured female writers and did a set of interview questions for February’s Women in Horror Month. Last year I focused on poets. But this year, well, we have everyone living in horror and my juices have been sucked dry. This horror is more a slow building of dread and fear in the Lovecraftian sense as we live through the unending pandemic, the small blips of hope, the plummets of despair and fear, the isolation and feelings of insignificance and dread. Sound familiar?

If there is one good thing to be said of a global pandemic, it’s that everyone can understand what people are feeling no matter where in the world they live. We’ve been holding our breaths so long, hoping this will end, that we’re passing out from it and waking with brain damage and to discover that the living horror has not ended. We’re still in it. There is no place to escape to. Who needs invading aliens when the alien virus is among us? There is no massive conflict for space but inner conflicts of people enduring in silence.

Many people are living in prisons called care homes, or even their own homes. We all wear masks into banks, at airports, in stores, when just 2 years ago you would be arrested for doing so. When and if this virus is under control with a vaccine and if it just doesn’t spawn a new variant, the repercussions on global economy, mental and physical health will be seen for a long time to come.

S&T 137

Now, if that isn’t a horror we can relate to, I don’t know what is. Some writers have probably been hit with crippling malaise (as has the world) while others struggle on. I know that in an isolation I’m not handling so well, and coupled with grief of losing 2 family members 2 consecutive years before covid, and with feelings that I’ve become a ghost and a criminal, I have turned to writing to handle the gaping, hungry maw of loneliness. Is it any surprise I’m writing poems about becoming invisible, and about apocalypses? “Divinity in the Afterglow” was published last year in Space and Time and was probably one of my first pandemic apocalypse pieces. We are after all, informed by the world in which we live, even if we imagine other times.

The image for this year’s Women in Horror Month says it all. The hottest fashion item of 2020 was a mask. Everyone has one, young or old. We might have many. I should be talking about my writing here, as a woman in horror, and to feature our works. I should have done it months ago. I should have post this on Feb. 1, but the creeping malaise takes its toll. We’re experiencing covid fatigue with feelings of despair, sadness, confusion and anger. This SF horror movie isn’t ending and who knew that the greatest antagonist would be boredom?

I will be featuring a few women through this month, so check back. I might even post more about what I’ve been doing. If I can say one thing about writing; it’s been my outlet as I try to hold onto sanity and funnel my emotions into something creative. Welcome to Women in Horror Month.

And here are a few publications that have come out in Dec. and Jan. and in which I have some pieces. “The Metallurgist’s Dream” in HWA Poetry Showcase VII, “Telltale Moon,” nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Dreams and Nightmares 116, “Dragon’s Hoard” in The Fifth Dimension, “Offering” and “In Feline Grace” in Illumen, and the phobic story “Mousetrap” in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias II.

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February 5, 2021 · 12:38 am

Not White Like Me

Copyright Toronto.com John Rennison

I don’t have a TV and with working from home I haven’t been hearing as much news as before, but even so I know of the riots and protests and yet another murder of a person of color, of George Floyd. It makes me angry. I want to cry and it feels like nothing has changed since slavery was abolished. That’s partly hyperbole because things have changed, but the continual abuse of people of color, the fear under which they live and the treatment of them all as guilty first has not changed. The license to be more racist has certainly been given under the auspices of the racist, bigoted, misogynistic sociopath who is supposed to be leader of the US. But it certainly didn’t start with him and he’s a sign of an ongoing disease.

I live in Vancouver, BC. Canada is known for being polite, being a little more placid than some countries. Port cities throughout the centuries have always been more tolerant due to the many cultures that would flow in and out of the seaports. Though Vancouver is a port city, that does not mean we are free of racism. We have significant numbers of people of Chinese, Indian and Indigenous descent. There are other Asian races as well and black people though their numbers are higher in central and eastern Canada. However, we are naive if we think we don’t have racists and bigots living amongst us. There is still a percentage of people who think their whiteness makes them better than others. What we are though, is more privileged than many people of color.

Last night, in my quiet East Van hood I went down to a local bar for a drink. We’re still spaced for social distancing purposes but around the corner from where I sat at the bar was a woman of color. We got talking about COVID, as one does these days, and then moved off to other discussions of language and culture and countries. She’s a brown woman, born and bred in East Van but her cultural background is from India and Fiji and she identified herself as a brown dyke living in East Van.

I asked her if she’s ever experienced racism or police stereotyping and her answer was, hell yeah. She was taught that the moment you hear the whoop whoop of a police car, you put your hands above your head. She’s been stopped three times by police when she was going home from work. She’s been questioned and searched. She carries a pocket knife, partly because she works in a hardware store and uses it on the job, but it’s not illegal to carry a knife. She’s missed taking her bus home as she sat at a bus stop because police were asking her what she was doing and where she was coming from, and all because her skin is brown.

Taken from a 2014 post at Skepchick Nothing has changed.

I kept hearing about white privilege and didn’t feel that privileged. I’m not rich or elite or superior, but what I have that people of color don’t is that I have never had to worry about being shot, or beaten or questioned because of my skin color. I haven’t had to fear a police car. My parents did not have to teach me to live in caution and fear of the police, those who are supposed to protect all citizens equally. Sure, as a woman, I have to face other fears; that a man might overpower or rape me and I have experienced sexual abuse in the past. But I have not had to face this as a woman of color.

I’ve listened to news interviews and reports of people in other parts of the country and their experiences. In Toronto where there is a larger black population; CBC interviewed people about their experiences and they all had known someone who was shot or killed by police. I told this woman that I almost wanted to be with her to film these intrusions she’s had, but just by being there and being white, I would legitimize her, probably stopping the police from questioning her, which is a terrible thing to have–that a person is not seen a legitimate unless someone else of another class vouches for them. Sounds a lot like slavery, doesn’t it?

I’ve heard the stories where police would drive Indigenous kids to the edge of town in winter and make them walk home, sometimes with inadequate clothing as well. Some of those kids never made it. I’ve heard of Asians in Vancouver being verbally and physically attacked because of COVID 19. It’s here and it’s now.

Not all of this racism is perpetrated by police and not all police are terrible. In fact, I’m sure the majority in most places are good and upstanding people. But when you have a gas leak, it affects everyone in the area. And if you let racism leak in or flood those who are supposed to be upholders of justice and the law, then everything is tainted. People fear those who should be protecting them and there are far too many cases of people in police custody who have died from mysterious or downright blatant cases of violence. Justice stands for “just behavior and treatment.” To be just is to be fair and not be biased in any way.

Vancouver’s rally, from CTV News

I don’t believe in painting any one group with the same brush, and that goes for cultures, races, religions or even police. But as long as this blatant racial stigmatizing goes on, it will affect trust and incite anger. I worry about my friends who are not white, and what I don’t even know they have to face. I’ve lived in a protective bubble that I didn’t even know I had. My bubble shouldn’t have to pop but it should be so large that we’re all inside it being treated equal.

When those who have the power to uphold the law are the worst abusers of that law we will erode into a police state, where everyone lives in fear. Right now, for a significant portion of North America’s population, it is already a police state. Black lives matter: stop treating them like fodder.

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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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Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, health, horror, life, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

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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Filed under family, health, health care, life, nature, pets, poetry, Writing

Women in Horror: Marcie Lynn Tentchoff

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteDeeply hidden along the mysterious coast of Canada, there is another Woman in Horror. Today’s guest is Marcie Lynn Tentchoff.

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

I honestly can’t be sure when I first discovered poetry.  It has always seemed to be an important part of my life.  My mother loved poetry, and we shared story poems from when I was very little onwards.  She also introduced me to the story poems within folk music, which probably added to the start of my addiction.  Then again, it can’t have helped that my father started reading Shakespeare to me when I was seven.  By that point my tragic love of poetry was probably fated.  One can’t hear the chants of the three witches from Macbeth as a child, in the dimly lit cabin of a slowly rocking boat, without being at least somewhat doomed to adore rhyme, darkness, and drama.

Why do you write poetry?

This question sort of boggles me.  How could I not write poetry?  Lines show up in my head.  Patterns, rhythms, and twists haunt me if I don’t write them down.

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

I don’t find the writing of poetry to be difficult.  Remembering, on the other hand, that readers can’t see into the murky mess that is my mind, and that I might have to flesh things out a bit more for them, that can be tough.

Midnight

There’s no lock on the door
since the Midnight Men came,
with their pale, grinning faces
their tire-track eyes,
and the sound of the shadows
seems louder somehow,
on the street that runs empty
past Emily’s house.

She still plays there sometimes
on the grey concrete stoop,
with the screen door wide open
to welcome the rays
that spread out from the dish
on the middle school roof –
education for all’s what
the Midnight Men say.

And the grown ups all smile
as they murmur along
with the lessons they learn
in the new, better way,
while they work at new jobs
that the Midnight Men brought
till their finger bones show
white on red, like their teeth.

It’s much safer these days —
no one worries at all
about vandals or thievery —
those things are done,
and if every gaze shies from
the old Northgate Mall
no one says much about it
or questions the smell.

But young Emily wishes
her life would change back
to the way that it was
before fog drifted down
from the cracks in the sky
where tomorrow peeked through,
before Midnight came early
and never moved on.

## First Published in Star*Line

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

tentchoffI love to write about bitterness, about making difficult and possibly the wrong choices.  I also love writing about how things can be different when seen from differing viewpoints, and how the tales behind known characters and character types are often darker and more complex.

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

I think everyone has dark moments and thoughts and that reading dark poetry helps to unlock and almost soothe those thoughts, much as listening to sad songs can soothe a person who is hurting.  It is easier to deal with one’s own sorrow and despair if it is shared with others.  Of course, I also think that there is, perhaps, an extra dose of truth to be found in darkness.  These days especially, truth is valuable, and all too scarce.

Diggers

“Is that a thighbone?”
Smile and tell him
that you think it is.
He’s kind of cute,
if you discount
his hump and scarring,
and anyway,
it never hurts to
make an extra friend
in digger circles,
someone who can
swap you limb for limb,
or brain for brain.
One never knows
when one might need an
eyeball, or the toe of
a birth-strangled babe,
or even, as you do right now,
the perfect hips to match
with last year’s waist.

## First published in Dreams & Nightmares

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?tentchoff 2

I am currently trying to map out a new dark poetry collection, but somehow it keeps getting waylaid as I  realize that there are new markets that might want some of the poems that I am foolishly hoping to save for that collection.  We’ll see whether my writing can outpace my need to send work out.

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

In writing, as in acting, villains are always the most fun to play with.  Heck, even fairy tale based movies prove this, since the villain songs are always the best and the most memorable.  Writing the dark, the horrific, gives writers (myself included)  the chance to truly immerse ourselves in the villainous mindset.

Across the Floor

You held my eyes while dancing
Across the floor,
Your dainty feet
Twirling your gore-red lips
In smiling spirals.
And still,
While I weep blindly,
Bloodily,
In my corner…
You hold my eyes.

## First Published in Sometimes While Dreaming

Tentchoff mMarcie Lynn Tentchoff is a poet/writer/editor/acting teacher who lives on the west coast of Canada with her various family members, both humanoid and rather obviously not.  Her work has appeared in such publications as Strange Horizons, Polu Texni, Star*Line, Polar Borealis, and Dreams & Nightmares.  There have been two collections of her poetry, Sometimes While Dreaming, and Through the Window: A Journey to the Borderlands of Faerie, as well as On the Brink of Never, a collection of poems by her writing group.

Marcie won an Aurora Award for her long Arthurian poem, “Surrendering the Blade,” and other works of hers have been nominated, short, or long-listed for Rhysling, Stoker, and World Fantasy Awards.

She is an active member of the HWA and of the SFPA, and while for a long time she found it difficult to accept that what she wrote could often be called horror, after enough people asked her why there was so much blood, pain and suffering in her sweet little love poems, she started to understand that maybe horror was as good a word as anything else.

“Coins for the Ferryman” currently on Polu Texni http://www.polutexni.com/?paged=4
“Go Bag” currently up in editor’s choice at Star*Line http://sfpoetry.com/sl/issues/starline42.4.html

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Women in Horror: Michelle Scalise

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteMy guest today is Michelle Scalise. Her poetry punches hard and all the more wrenching for its reality.

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

I was taught dull, unrelatable poems in grade school but when I started high school I discovered Edgar Allan Poe on my own. “Annabel Lee,” in particular, made me obsessed with the art form. My work now is influenced by everyone from Charles Baudelaire to Sylvia Plath to Anne Sexton.

Why do you write poetry?

Besides poetry, I also write short stories but I can express myself and my life through poetry in unique ways. I love the way poetry lets a writer play with the sounds of words and the rhythm they make to create an image and feeling.

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

The most difficult part of writing is getting the feeling across to the reader but leaving enough room for them to relate to a poem in their own way.

MISTY WAS AN UGLY DOLL

When she grew weary
stubbing out cigarettes
on the old lady,
who paid dearly for
adopting a sewer rat,
Mama would come for me.

She’d lift me onto the stepping stool.
It didn’t help to beg and weep,
humiliation was a sound for the weak.

With giant antique sheers,
She’d chop off my hair muttering,
“Pretty girls are blonde like me.”

Upstairs in the shadows,
a box with my favorite doll
“Beautiful Misty” it read in bold print.
But they were wrong,
her hair was red
and grew long with the turn of knob.

Misty cried when I cut her locks.
I had no mercy for a toy that lied.

Sometimes Mama slapped too hard
but I couldn’t make Misty bleed.
So I colored bruises on her cheeks.
Now she’s dead inside like me.

## from Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning

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

scalise bookMy latest collection, DRAGONFLY AND SONGS OF MOURNING (LVP Publications 2019) is about the death of my husband, novelist Tom Piccirilli, of cancer. Most poets who write in the horror genre use death a lot but this is personal. It was also the only work I’ve ever done that was painful to write. My last collection THE MANUFACTURER OF SORROW (Eldritch Press) doesn’t have a theme. I am always writing about scarred childhoods and turning the image of mothers into monsters. That’s my way of fighting back at my past. Both of my short story collections also contain poems.

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

Life is dark and awful for everyone at times. There is something soothing about reading a poet one can relate to.

WORDS HE REMEMBERED

He couldn’t see her anymore
Morphine shuttered his eyes
And cobwebs hung from his lashes
But he heard her whispering
And her prayers became a chapter
On the white walls of his cell.
Words dripping from the ceiling
To languish on the cracked linoleum floor.

His writing was his hunger.
Words black as the poison inside him
Spun into strings of sentences.
Both the horror and the beauty
He longed to type.

Ideas drowning in an IV bag.
Page after page
Streaming from his brain
Too quickly to catch.
He cried watching them fly away.

But he didn’t grieve his own loss,
She’d do that for him.
It was the stories
He’d forgotten to tell
That ran like deer in the mountains
Through the silence he’d leave behind.

## from Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning

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

I have started something new but it won’t have an actual theme, at least so far. When I go back I may discover something similar running through the poems.

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

My love for horror began when I was a little girl. I would watch old horror movies with my father. He died young but his memory is always in my work.

Since 1994, Michelle Scalise‘s work has appeared in such anthologies as Unspeakable ScaliseHorror, Darker Side, Mortis Operendi I, Dark Arts, The Big Book of Erotic Ghost Stories, Best Women’s Erotica, and such magazines as Cemetery Dance, Crimewave, Space and Time, and Dark Discoveries. She was nominated for the 2010 Spectrum Award, which honors outstanding works of fantasy and horror that include positive gay characters. Her poetry has been nominated for the Elgin Award and the Rhysling Award. Her fiction has received honorable mention in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her fiction collection, Collective Suicide, was published by Crossroad Press in 2012. In 2014, Eldritch Press published a collection of her poetry, The Manufacturer of Sorrow in paperback and ebook. It became a bestseller in the women writers category on Amazon. In May of 2019, her latest collection of poetry, Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning, was published by Lycan Valley Press. It has made the preliminary ballet for the Bram Stoker Award. Michelle is an active member of the HWA and the SFPA.

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Women in Horror: Marge Simon

WiHM11-Scalples-whReally, no introduction is needed for Marge Simon, Anyone who reads or writes speculative poetry knows of her and she’s pretty much won every award you can get in the genre.

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

I grew up with poetry. My mother, an English teacher, also wrote poems and my father would read books of “grown up” poems with me. I loved the rhythms in such works as Sir Walter Scott’s “Hiawatha” and “Laska” by Frank Desprez, not to mention Poe. However, when I got to high school, it was the poetry of Steven Crane that hit me like a cyclone!This was long before I discovered genre/spec poetry. Flannery O’Conner and Angela Carter also were influences. Visions editor Bradley Strahan had a special sf issue of his magazine in the mid 80’s. I wrote my first speculative poem for him.

Why do you write poetry?

Why do I breathe?

A Hat of Crows

She’s posed, all feminine allure,
darkly unapproachable,
a murder of crows swirling
within, without that hat.

I fantasize touching her legs,
running the top of my hand backwards
over the soft brown skin,
stroking her torso upwards to her lips,
dreaming her into my power.

I beg her to remove her hat.
She only smiles that strange sweet smile,
as her crows circle slowly around her head,
beating their wings in terrible silence.

Space & Time Magazine 2019

##

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

I’d that is a relevant question for individuals. For example, I don’t enjoy writing rhymed verse. I have high standards for rhymed forms of dark verse. I don’t care for forced rhyme, so I leave that to those like Frank Coffman, Ashley Dioses and Ken Opperman, who write only in rhyme, or at least, for the most part. In writing free verse, I work to be sure I’m not being too heavy handed or preachy.

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

Subjects I like to explore: types of people, actions and reactions, climate change and all its many ramifications, human frailties – all with a dark or ironic twist. Unsung heroes and villains, subjects with rich comparison & contrast. My 2019 Elgin winning collaboration WAR, with Alessandro Manzetti is about all types of wars down the ages, the leaders and victims involved, the conditions. Mary Turzillo and I have another collection in progress: Victims. Currently: The Demeter Diaries, with Bryan Dietrich, an alternative love story of Vlad Dracula and Mina Harker told in poetry (Vlad) and prose poetry (Mina).

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

There’s a plethora of subjects and types of dark poetry, something for everyone from vampires and ghosts to ghouls and zombies, you name it. Besides the unsettling, the strange and creepy in verse appeal to a very large range of people from royalty to the village goof-ball.

Permuted

She once was
Winter’s bride to be,
but she gave her heart
to Autumn.

She knows
Winter’s wrath,
his bitter-cold breath,
knows she is bound.

Winter was not pleased
to hear of her betrayal.
So with one icy blast,
he tore a hole in her throat
& then blew out her eyes.

She longs for
sweet September mornings,
sleeping lazy, sleeping late,
the smell of Autumn’s skin,
his dear touch just before
he entered her
with the bounty of
all his knowing.

Polu Texni, 2018

##

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

As mentioned, a dark collection with Mary A. Turzillo, Victims, and Sifting the Ashes (victims of fires, climate change) with Michael Bailey.

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

I enjoy taking the writing challenges from Lee Forman’s Pen of the Damned, and Nina Archangelo’s Women of Horror FB writing to prompts project (flash prose or poems). I also have been fortunate selling dark flash fictions to Daily Science Fiction.

Marge 2016 300dpi small.jpg savedMarge Simon lives in Ocala, Florida and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees. She has three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Fiction, the Elgin, Dwarf Stars and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Clannad, Pedestal Magazine, Asimov’s, Silver Blade, Matter Press, New Myths, and Daily Science Fiction. Her stories also appear in anthologies such as Tales of the Lake 5, Chiral Mad 4, You, Human 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. www.margesimon.com Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B006G29PL6

Awards

  • Winner, Bram Stoker for excellence in a Poetry Collection: Vectors (with Charlie Jacob), The Four Elements with Linda Addison, Charlee Jacob and Rain Graves, and my own Vampires, Zombies & Wanton Souls, inspired by Sandy DeLuca’s art.
  • Twice winner, SFPA’s Elgin Award: Sweet Poison with Mary Turzillo and WAR with Alessandro Manzetti.
  • Winner, Best Long and Best Short Rhysling Awards
  • Winner, Dwarf Star Award
  • Grand Master Poet, SFPA

 

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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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Women in Horror: Sèphera Girón

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteStraight-shooter Sèphera Girón talks about earning a living and is my last blogger for Women in Horror Month, though you will have to come back for part II as she will post over two days. I lost a few writers to health and work commitments. It seems only fitting that since I started with a Canadian, and am a Canadian, that I also end with one.

Trying to Earn a Living as a Writer in 2019!

Well here we are in another Women in Horror Month. I’ve been working in the horror field since before Women in Horror Month was invented and at the time, I didn’t really feel like it was something that was truly necessary for I didn’t see the world quite as I see it now.

Giron DarkRainbow_I think because I came from a mid-sized University town and from very educated parents who already worked in the arts that it never occurred to me that I couldn’t grow up to be a horror writer as I had dreamed of since I was around 14 years old. And it never occurred to me that I was a woman or that being a woman meant anything at all. In my naivety, I thought that the best story would be picked, and it was up to me to work as hard as I could and learn as much as I could about the horror genre and how to be a writer in order to become successful in the horror field.

I was off to a flying start; I read voraciously, I took writing courses, I even graduated from York University with a BA in Fine Art Studies. By majoring in Fine Arts, I was able to embrace my love of all the arts because even to this day I still have my finger in several artistic pies. I am a writer, I’m a working actress, I’m a podcaster or YouTuber, I dabble in drawing badly, I still pick up my violin once in a while, and I love to sing. I’ve not done musical theater in many years, but I do earn a bit of a side income as a background performer in various movies and TV shows that come through Toronto.

In my quest to become a writer, I started to attend conventions in the late eighties, and I was one of those people who would sit in the audience and actually take notes and try to learn secret tidbits from the professionals who would give us wonderful advice. Back in those days, you really couldn’t get that advice unless you actually went to a convention and listened to these people speak. There was no Internet and so you had to wait a long time to get information month to month from the Horror Writers Association newsletters or from market reports like the Gila Queen and so on.

It was a much different time.

So, as far as I was concerned, my hope to become a woman horror writer just meant I Giron Gilda_and_the_Prince_Cover_for_Kindlehad to work really hard and it never occurred to me I would have to work harder than a man or anything like that. I just knew I had to be the best writer I could be. I spent a lot of time (YEARS!) writing and re-writing my books and eventually became a Leisure (Publishing) author until Leisure died and then a Samhain (Publishing) author until Samhain died and I published at several other houses as well alongside those. (Never put all your books in one market!) However, over the years it did come to my attention that perhaps women weren’t getting the recognition that they needed to get. For me, I believe that I got all the recognition I needed for the work that I did because it just never occurred to me that I didn’t. I still stand by that.

As time has gone on and society keeps changing, it almost seems like things are going a bit backwards. Now there is more call for women writers, diversity, and so on. Now the world seems to be splintering into factions of labeling and stereotypes, everyone is sorted into a little compartment and quotas are created to be filled. And yet, now, it does seem that women do have to work harder to get ahead in some instances because now there’s a big ol’ spotlight on us. And I still say, despite all that, editors just want to buy a good story, they don’t care who writes it, just make the publisher lots of money!

Giron6I have said this many times and I will continue to say it, that a large part of the problem with an imbalance of women in horror (and I can’t speak to any other genre because I haven’t asked people in other genres) is simple to see. Over the years I’ve spoken to many women authors while gauging whether there is a problem with women being published and recognized or not. It did come to my attention several years ago that often women aren’t getting published in horror because they aren’t writing it and they aren’t submitting it. PERIOD.

Sometimes women have to be encouraged a little more than men to actually show their work or to get it out there. It is not enough to say you’re a woman horror writer and that you are writing when in fact you’re not submitting and getting published. You are responsible for your own career and you need to make it happen. No one is going to come to you and ask to see your novel. You have to put it in front of people’s faces. And using initials as your name doesn’t fool anyone, so cut it out.

I guess in my naivete in not believing that I would ever be told “no” simply because I was a woman has definitely helped me in my career because I’ve always felt that if I want to do something, I can do it and I’ve always been that way about most parts of my life. So even though I’ve not been terribly prolific the last few years, it is because my energies are a bit scattered, because I am enjoying other aspects of my life as I have mentioned and also I had some emotional issues that have taken me about ten years to deal with and writing horror didn’t really go along with some of the stuff I’ve been trying to work through. In my case, the only person to blame for not having books out right now is myself because I have been taking an emotional break. However, this is all changing, and I do have many stories out or about to be out and I do plan to finish and have my publishers put out a couple of books this year.

One of the tools that has helped me heal and get refocussed is that I created an account on Patreon. Now before I get into my Patreon spiel, I also would like to recognize that in my twenty or maybe now it’s thirty years in the business that I’ve had observations about ways that women aren’t as supported as men when it comes to relationships; a kind of behind the scenes sort of thing.

I have met many male writers over the years who have the luxury of being full time writers because their wives work full time, or their wives at least make enough money to support them both until the husband earns a better income. These husbands are often very productive, they eventually earn a lot of money as writers because they can focus on their work and ultimately have a double income with their wives. Sometimes the wives not only provide an alternative income, but they also are the ones that do all that boring business stuff that writers have to do. It is fine to write a book or a story but then there is so much other work that goes into it, especially these days. Back before self-publishing and before publishing houses got all splintered and weird, you basically wrote a book, sent it out and then you would have to market it, send out press releases, maybe do a party, a reading, a launch, and more. A lot of these male writers let the wives do all the business aspects, like administrative assistants, secretaries, personal assistants, shoppers, and groomers. The wives would send out press releases, they would send out to markets, they would search market reports, they would deal with the agents, editors, publishers. They deal with publicists as they could hire publicists because they had double incomes, they arrange the parties, they do all the taxes, they do all the income, outcome, receipts, letter writing, letter campaigns, the fan clubs, the blogs, deal with the children, aging parents, and so on. This continues to this day.

Giron3I just began online teaching almost a year ago and I attended a workshop here in town put on by the company as a “road show” not long ago and I saw this exact same thing going on with online teachers as well. A lot of male teachers prepare their courses, write them, and film them while the wives do all the film editing, the marketing deal with the phone calls, and students and getting press releases out, preparing downloadable handouts, uploading endless hours of videos, promoting, creating coupons, and blasting it all out on social media. It was actually discussed at the workshop that the spouse should do these exact things to help the teacher spouse. It’s part of the strategy of success.

 The male writer or teacher gets to just focus on being a creative entity and put out the best work they possibly can with lots of time for writing and re-writing and dealing with the editorial notes because the wife is taking care of all the business side and so they don’t have to worry their pretty little heads about all that. I have never seen it in reverse. I’ve never seen quite the same dynamic where the woman is the sole writer breadwinner and the husband does everything else. I do know there are lots of supportive husbands who will help a little bit. There are husbands who will do some of the stuff but not like women do for men. I know this sounds sexist but hey we’re talking about Women in Horror Month and the Reality of Life. I figured as my own life went on, I would see more of the dynamic going the other way, but I don’t. I never saw it in my personal life at all and never expect to. There are a lot of men recognizing the hard work their wives do but I don’t see a lot of men actually giving up their lives to become personal assistants or secretaries for the women writers to make the women’s careers super dee duper although there are always exceptions and feel free to pile on me in the comments of how wrong I am. This rambling leads me to explore the reality aspect of things, which is earning a living as a writer in these totally difficult times of 2019.

In the nineties and early two thousands, I actually was earning a living as a writer and an editor. I made decent money, I had a beautiful home, I could put my children into various classes and activities. I wasn’t wealthy but I could do my thing and get by, go to conventions and things like that. However, over the last ten years my personal life took a huge blow, I was thrust into instant poverty for the very first time in my life, and at the same time, there was a massive recession with NO JOBS AT ALL, traditional publishing crashed and burned, and self-publishing became a thing. I don’t have the beautiful income I used to have, my editing job that I had for about ten years went good-bye that same year (thanks to off-shoring to cheaper countries) and major horror publishing houses went good-bye and so it’s been a matter of creating a new life in a new world order. After many years of struggling just to survive in this expensive city and being on a waiting list for five years, I ended up in an artist co-op which is where I am now, and I’ve been here for about a year and a half. This helps a lot with the rent and things like that because the rent is a bit lower than regular Toronto rents so that buys me a tiny bit of wiggle room as I re-calibrate my life and career and move forward.

(Tomorrow, I’ll continue with the second half of Sèphera’s, where she continues talking about earning a living as a writer.)

GironSèphera Girón is an author, actor, tarot card reader, and mom. She has over twenty published books. Watch for Taurus in the Witch Upon a Star series to be released this year from Riverdale Avenue Books. She has stories in Dark Rainbow, Dawn of the Monsters, Abandon, Group Hex 1 and Group Hex 2, Intersections: Six Tales of Ouija Horror and more. Sèphera is the astrologer for Romance Daily News. Be sure to watch for her monthly horoscopes at https://www.romancedailynews.com/ Sèphera lives in Toronto.

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