Category Archives: horror

Women in Horror Month: Tabitha Thompson

Tabitha has chosen to submit some of her writing. Below are two short pieces: “Sacrifice” and “Highway 54” for readers of Women in Horror Month.

Sacrifice

It was that time of year again. My body caught the flu, which sent my mom into a cleaning frenzy. Whiffs of pine cleaner, bleach, and even her homemade disinfectant entered almost every room, letting everyone who entered know that her house was not just clean, but immaculate. I’ve always loved my mother and she was always willing to help me get better. Each day, she used just a bit of disinfectant to take all of the germs away.

From what I’ve been told, I was a happy baby. My parents had the brightest smiles in the room when I was born; but the good times didn’t last. By the time I was eight, my dad got real sick and died. Mom tried her best to make him better, but by the time the doctors helped him, it was too late. The flu they said was the cause. Since then, my mom made it a mission to keep the house clean, so we won’t end up like Dad.

Five drops here, five drops there, Mom used her disinfectant. I had become used to the smell of lavender and lemon, which was always more soothing than the pine and lemon. Mom enjoyed when I complimented her on her cleaning and creativity, so she would make my favorite soup.

Chicken noodle. Smelling the rich, warm broth fill my nostrils always made me feel instantly better before I even tasted it. Bit of carrot and potatoes to make sure that I got my vegetables, and chunks of chicken. Every gulp made me smile even more, and made Mom very happy. But one day she wasn’t as happy. She told me she just missed Dad and how she ached for his love. I knew that she missed him, which I shared too, and she promised that we’d all meet each again someday.

Mom said it had been two weeks and I was still sick. My cough was getting worse, making Mom more concerned. More soup, more cleaning. The scents became heavier, but she said she wasn’t cleaning hard enough. From two times a week to almost every day, I heard the rag in the bucket or the sink and Mom’s voice hum a tune. She said she was having another one of her “days,” so cleaning happened every hour and she started making nothing but soup for me.

Although I didn’t mind, my taste for the soup started to wane. Mom hated when I complained and said soup was going to be my only meal. I hated making her mad; it made her clean more. Gulp by gulp, the soup became almost inedible, but I had to be grateful for what I had, which included the love of my mother. After all, I was her only child. The taste of lavender hit my lips and she explained that it was a new twist on the soup to make me more relaxed; but all it did was make me cough longer. Perhaps I was allergic to lavender but all I knew was Mom’s standard five drops of disinfectant became daily capfuls of usage.

Perhaps my immune system wasn’t strong enough to fight off the cold, and I reunited with Dad. Perhaps I wasn’t Mom’s love after all, especially once Dad’s and my life insurance policy dropped into her bank account.

Highway 54

Brown teddy bear with standard stitching and right eye removed, soaked from the rain on Highway 54. It was then his life changed. It was only a few miles from where he figured that for once his life would finally come back together, but during that moment it was replaced with fear, something that he never knew until he looked into the eyes of his son. Everything except the smells were a distant memory. The smell of the air thickened in his nostrils as it happened, the smell of the rain kissed with humidity, and the smell of blood. From his lips and nose to his glass covered car seats and his son, the scent was all around him, a constant reminder of that particular moment.

As he clutched the now tattered teddy bear in his arms, he tried to forget, but it was inevitable, the final moments in the car with his son were still there, including the tiny shards of bloody glass hidden in the creases in the road. Blue and red lights were in the distance, and as they came closer, it sank in. He wanted nothing more than to have the love of his life back, their lives filled with laughter and love. Improper placement of the car seat is what he would tell the police. He had no choice, it was the only way he could keep his marriage.

Tabitha Thompson is a lover of writing words that become horror stories, reading, coffee, rock music, and video games while residing in Florida as a college student. Her work is featured in publications such as Sirens Call Publications, JEA Press, and Mocha Memoirs Press. When she’s not writing, she spends time with loved ones. Always inspired, always creating.

Twitter ID: @Tabicat90 Instagram: http://@tabby_t137

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Women in Horror Month: Katie Berry

Sometimes, people ask me, “Why do you write what you write, Katie Berry?” I usually respond, “I don’t know.”

The question is a good one. I have always loved reading horror stories and fantastic fiction. My earlier forays into the unknown and unseen came through the works of such legendary writers as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and Bram Stoker, amongst others.

It was when I was in my middle teens that I discovered more current writers, such as one with the last name of King, and also a gentleman named Koontz. It was overjoyed to find this amazing treasure-trove of phenomenal tales conveniently located under the letter “K” in my local library. After that, I delved into writers who don’t have a last name starting with “K” and discovered such greats as James Herbert, Graham Masterson, V.C. Andrews, Robert R. McCammon, Anne Rice, Gary Brandner, Michael Crichton, and the list goes on.

But that is more of a who’s-who instead of an explanation as to why. Sometimes, at this point, someone will ask, “Maybe it the environment in which you were raised? Or perhaps it’s a genetic predisposal due to some childhood trauma?” Fortunately, there was very little trauma in my actual physical environment during my early years that would have triggered my predisposition toward horror. I think really think that distinction would have to go to my mother, bless her little heart. However, where she got it from, is anybody’s guess.

As a child, I shared her enjoyment of classic horror movies from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s right up into the 1970s. Universal’s Monsters were our favourites, along with the Hammer Films of the fifties and sixties and the Corman-Price pictures from the same period. This was around the same time I discovered reruns of Dan Curtis’s The Nightstalker on the Late Show on CBS. After seeing that show, I wanted to be an investigative journalist, just like Darren McGavin. I actually took journalism in college, and though I never worked for a news service, the research aspects that I learned through those courses have been something that has aided my writing greatly over the years. I had also begun reading some of my brother’s old comics, such as DC’s The Witching Hour, House of Mystery, etc. And though too young to appreciate the original EC Comics of the ’50s, I was able to enjoy them through reprints I came across in later years.

Comedy mixed in with the horror is something I remember enjoying very early on in life. And so, it was inevitable that Mom and I also watched Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, then The Wolfman, followed by The Invisible Man. Humour and horror mixed together have always held great fascination for me. I find that the two go together like a fine wine paired with a lovely aged cheddar (or yes, chocolate and peanut butter)—just the right amount of each is a very pleasurable experience. When I write, I try to inject a little levity into all of my stories. I find the moments of lightness help to enhance the moments of darkness, so it’s really a win-win for me!

This isn’t to say my writing is outright horror-comedy or anything like that, far from it. But I feel that nothing beats a good chuckle after having the crap scared out of you, as I am sure many of you might agree. According to some readers of my stories, I have succeeded in that regard. And that, for me, is everything. To know that I have helped someone get away from their everyday life, if only for a few hours at a time, and step into another world filled with thrills, chills and chuckles is a wonderful feeling, and I feel very blessed to be able to do so.

I like the analogy that a good horror story, or any dramatic story for that matter, is like a roller coaster ride. You have your peaks of excitement and dips of despair, along with some curves and corkscrews thrown in for good measure to keep things interesting. The sort of story that, when you put the book down, you have that same feeling of excitement and regret that you do exiting the rollercoaster, that it was overall too quickly.

If a writer can give that ride to a reader and add in some believable and relatable characters, they will have succeeded. As one reviewer said of my novel, CLAW, “What a great adventure! Loved the characters, the creatures, and the humor of this great story. Everything felt so lifelike. This is one of those books that you don’t want to stop reading and pull you in deeper and deeper from page one…”  

That comment is the kind that makes my long hours, lack of social contact, and sleepless nights, all more than worthwhile. If you tell your tale well, and you’ve done your job, you’ll scare the bejeesus out of some unsuspecting reader and perhaps even make them laugh a little at the same time. It is the ultimate compliment for any horror writer.

However, I will say this for sure; I do not view what I do as a job. Writing is a lifelong passion that I have fortunately turned into a career thanks to years and years of practice before even thinking of publishing my first novel. These days, I am fortunate to look forward to the morning slog to the office, even if it is only over to the next room; a place where I can dream as I write and then turn those dreams into an exciting, and hopefully terrifying reality for my readers.

In parting, I would like to thank Colleen Anderson for the opportunity to write a few thoughts for her blog today. It has been a pleasure to talk of writing and horror in general like this. In the future, I hope some of you reading this might consider visiting a small fictional town located near me in the Kootenays called, Lawless, BC, home to CLAW: A Canadian Thriller. Or, if something a little less outdoorsy is more your style, then perhaps you might want to consider checking-in for a stay at my latest creation, the Sinclair Resort Hotel, the location of my upcoming novel, Abandoned, releasing this month. Until then, I hope your frights are filled with fear, and that your thrills have plenty of chills.

Katie Berry is a Canadian Author of Thrillers. Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Katie moved west to British Columbia during a family migration that occurred during the later half of the 20th century.

A long-time writer and voracious reader, Katie enjoys a variety of creative and recreational activities when she’s not absorbed in the written word. With many years of keyboard experience, Katie is an avid digital musician, and has been involved in several musical theatre and stage productions in the beautiful West Kootenay region of BC over the past few years.

An eye for detail helps Katie capture many magical moments with her camera as she interprets the natural beauty of the world that surrounds her through its lens. Always looking for something new to advance her artistic experimentation, Katie is also an accomplished sketch artist. She specialises in detailed drawings of friends, family and fur-babies, such as cats, dogs and the odd ferret.

After a lifetime of experience in numerous fields of endeavour, Katie now spends her days, and most nights, doing what she loves, bringing stories to life for people who enjoy a tale where the everyday suddenly becomes something much, much more…”

Titles by Katie Berry: CLAW, CLAW Emergence: Caleb Cantrill, CLAW Emergence: Kitty Welch

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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: LindaAnn LoSchiavo

Today, from New York, I introduce LindaAnn LoSchiavo, writer and thinker. LindaAnn was nominated for the SFPA’s Elgin Award last year, for a collection of poetry. She has many works to her credit.

Handmaiden to the Dark Side

A bogeyman, like the one lying in wait under your bed, is likely to be unprepossessing. Beauty in folklore reflected inner worthiness, kindness, and morality. Conversely, fantasy’s evil-doers―goblins, trolls, demons, and miscreants―are born beastly: grotesque, misshapen, stunted, lacking sex appeal.

Tweaking that stereotype, Bram Stoker [1847-1912] decided to depict his iconic bad boy and animated corpse as a humanoid shapeshifter, erotically charged, his fangs coexisting with a sensual mouth. A charming cosmopolitan, Count Dracula is a tall, strong, mature aristocrat with the ability to regain youthfulness via blood-sucking. Stoker’s wealthy Transylvanian confirms his passion for real estate and ancient architecture, explaining, “A new home would kill me.” He’s courtly, too, holding the door open―for his guest’s untimely departure.

Our favorite creature of the night.

Dracula, the 1897 bestseller that’s been a model for supernatural horror writers, is one of the titles that thrilled me during my formative years. I read prodigiously as a child, one library book a day, memorizing poems and whatever caught my fancy.

Introduced to grand opera as a toddler, and taken to Broadway shows since I was four years old, I was not shielded from menacing adult themes onstage. For instance, since I had devoured Henry James’ gothic horror novella The Turn of the Screw as an elementary school pupil, I was taken to a performance of Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera adaptation. It featured two evil spirits who prey on the children; sexy, demonic Peter Quint and his cohort Miss Jessel, whose beautiful costumes and vocal chops dispelled some of their inherent Jamesian monstrosity.

Narrative and drama padded my girlish dreams. At nine, I had a poem accepted for publication and staged my first one-act drama in New York City (adapted from Alcott’s Little Women), my script typed six times for cast members. My nine-year-old self never heard of the sleight-of-hand trick of photocopying. 

Whether writing or reading, what captivated me were the transgressive characters, who dared to be different, whether it was Jo March, Queen of the Night, Peter Quint, or Count Dracula. But whenever I put pen to paper, unlike Bram Stoker, I gave villainy a long leash. No intrusive vampire hunters in my stanzas. 

My speculative poetry collection, Elgin Award nominee, A Route Obscure and Lonely [Wapshott Press, 2019, 62 pgs.] dances to dark music, featuring, for example, Black Sabbath rites, sinister deeds, and the Grim Reaper, who’s kept busy.

Two of my poems focus on vampires and what they vibe to: real estate and rejuvenation. “Unquiet House,” a dramatic monologue, is voiced by a vampire, posing as a house-hunter.

  Unquiet House         
 
 Dilapidated house. The broker’s keen
 To pitch the property to newlyweds
 From out-of-state, which we pretend to be.
  
 Maria’s chatter is distracting him,
 Eyes showing gleams of true engagement, winks.
  
 I slip out ― for a photo, I explain ―
 Meticulously cautious. Quiet shoes.
  
 How many bargain hunters have been here,
 Inspecting dirty cellar walls for clues
 Of water damage, not suspecting mold
 Is not the worst homeowner’s legacy?
  
 The deck is clouded. Spiders overhead,
 Suspended from dead vines, await a broom
 Knifing through filaments spun secretly.
  
 Unnatural deeds carry threads forward
 Like the black widow spider, breast-stroking
 Through gossamer voids under ragged moons.
  
 Sweet blood’s in undiscovered special rooms,
 Unconquerable sorrows tendon-taut.
  
 The “For Sale” sign nods back and forth as if
 It recognizes me through my disguise.
  
 No longer called a conjuror, my steps
 Still carry the pulsations of lost hearts.
   
 The agent doesn’t realize what’s right
 Behind him, why he must be sacrificed.
  
 Maria’s eyes meet mine, a message swept
 Across in spidery blinks of eyelash.
  
       The undead must have dreams for which to wait.

Published in Bewildering Stories, Issue # 827, October 7, 2019
You Tube Link: Unquiet House  ― as a video-poem   

Published by Wapshott Press

Of the thirty-three poems in A Route Obscure and Lonely, twenty-six were written in 2019 for this collection and composed with some symmetry. For instance, “The Mermaid’s Lament” was paired with “What Mother Failed to Mention about Dating a Mer-Man;” a chant royal “Persephone in January” was mated with a dramatic monologue on Persephone’s abduction “The Son-in-Law from Hell;” “Samhain” set on October 31 was offset by a spookier vision inspired by Mussorgy’s 1867 orchestral tone poem: “Night on Bald Mountain, St. John’s Eve, June 23.”

Then, ready for another round of vampire versifying, I retrofitted Dracula as a player in a Regency romance in the vein of Jane Austen. The first line of Pride and Prejudice―about “a truth universally acknowledged,” inspired the epigraph to “The Tale of the Vintner’s Daughter.” Her family’s vineyards depend on sun, whereas “he shuns daylight, potato-like.” Could Dracula’s real estate portfolio be date-bait?

           The Tale of the Vintner’s Daughter
  
                         “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a foreign bachelor,
                         in possession of a drafty castle, must be in want of a wife.”
  
 She overheard her parents mentioning
 A vast estate, long vacant, just changed hands.
 Inheritance. Fortunate foreigner,
 Related distantly. A gentleman ―
 Aristocrat ― whose bloodline staked his claim,
 Will take possession soon of Mount Ardeal.
  
 Townsfolk with daughters gave approval, sight
 Unseen. A bachelor! Well-circumstanced!
 Considering an heiress gets respect
 At any age, she was insulted when
 Her father dared to call her “an old maid.”
  
 Inspecting manicured and chaste white hands,
 Aware there’s merit in matched wedding bands,
 Realities of warring unmet needs
 Upbraid the tight lips of virginity.
  
 Receptions will be held, bite-size buffets.
 This heir, unknown, is suddenly “a catch.”
 The vintner’s daughter can sense life’s about
 To change once she’s in a relationship.
 Enchanting friendships could lead to courtship.
  
 Her early childhood memories were filled
 With bone-dry men admitting they had come
 To slake their thirst, which is unquenchable,
 She learned, while watching mother pour and pour.
  
 Vacationing at vineyards tutored her.
  
 She watched the women kneeling to tie off
 Vines ― how their expertise was in the knots
 Not grapes ― enduring, bending, bowing low,
 And salving calloused hands at quitting time.
  
 Admiring the fruitfulness of their
 Harvest on horseback, they see an ornate
 Black carriage pass, its curtains tightly drawn.
 It must be him, the heir they’ve heard about.
  
 Born in Romania, this bachelor
 Inherited five castles, acreage.
  
 Unlike the grapes, their ripening athirst
 For sun, he shuns daylight, potato-like,
 Basks in his soft cocoon of native soil.
  
 Their fete won’t start till red horizon’s drained
 And autumn air’s electric with decay.
  
 Assuming his disguise, Count Dracula
 Arrives, polite, attired properly,
 Seductive, well turned-out considering
 He can’t see his reflection. Mirrors won’t
 Hold him. Avoiding long engagements, he’ll
 Tell ladies he prefers to sleep alone.
  
 Echolocation guides his strong black wings
 To candle-lit bed chambers. Milky white
 Breasts, pleasure’s playthings, don’t stir his manhood.
 Sharp fangs seek virginal smooth necks. Always
 His type, blood’s sustenance is what he craves,
 Imagining the process from the grave.
  
 He’s parched when entering the ballroom.
 Delaying satisfaction sweetens it.
 Unmarried females study him, inspect
 His gold ancestral jewelry engraved
 Impiously. Flirtatious words affect
 The vintner’s daughter, nodding glassy-eyed,
 Intoxicated. His gaze penetrates
 Until she’s under his hypnotic sway.
  
 The heiress has arranged to meet the Count
 In private. At eleven they will mount
 Their horses, undetected, take a ride.
  
 Discreet, she’ll hide in the orangerie,
 Alerting him to the romantic grove
 By a rose-petalled trail, a daring ruse.
  
 Excited to imagine his caress,
 The dark dissolving inhibitions, she’s
 Startled by flapping wings overhead.
  
 Peculiarly, her petals were consumed.
  
 Spotting a white handkerchief on a chair,
 She rests her rosebuds there ― a silent prayer. 

Published in Bewildering Stories, Issue # 825,  Sep. 16, 2019 

Dark poetry is not a road to warm refuge. Death occurs often in these pages and never in service of a higher purpose. Yet contemplating the eternal quietus is bracing. For away from the abyss, all height’s revised.

N.B.: Some poems have a video version.

You Tube Link: The Son-in-law from Hell  ― as a video-poem   
You Tube Link: Poe and His Women  ― as a video-poem   


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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

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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Women in Horror–Extended: Ann Schwader

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteWhy should women get short shrift? Women in Horror Month (February) is the shortest month of the year, even in a leap year! So, with that in mind, I’m doing my own extension of Women in Horror. I’ve featured 30 female poets, with Ann Scwader as guest today. There have been many award winners, nominees and extremely well published poets. I’ve had the chance to read more of their works and also read some new poets. Stay tuned; I’ll be featuring other writers from time to time, both male and female. I hope you’ve enjoyed these short interviews as well and continue to search out other works by the authors. The world is a vast and rich place, and the worlds shown by these poets expand those horizons.

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

My first introduction to poetry was through the Good Doctor Seuss. I discovered early that rhyme and meter were absolutely magic.  I read a lot of children’s poetry after that–think Beastly Boys & Ghastly Girls, not A.A. Milne! Later on, about high school age, I found Edna St. Vincent Millay and her remarkable sonnets. I know Millay’s not all that popular any more, but she taught me what a modern woman’s voice in sonnets could sound like.

Why do you write poetry?

Because I can’t help it? Mostly, because I pretty much always have written it, from grade school on. I love the sounds of words fitting themselves into patterns, and the way poetry will stick in the mind even when prose doesn’t–or at least, it doesn’t stick the same way.   I’m also very interested in ancient history and archaeology, and poetry goes all the way back. It’s one of the earliest ways humans learned to carry stories around in their heads long-term, and share them with others for entertainment or information.

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

I’m a formalist, so my major problem when starting a poem is to figure out what form will work best with the lines or phrases that have already popped into my head, or possibly with the story I want to tell. Once that’s been decided, things seem to move much more easily. I’ve never been prolific, and my speed seems to be getting even worse as the years go by.  I tend to fiddle with individual words, trying to figure out which one sounds best with the rest of the line. I’m also overly conscious about repeating words too often in a poem, or making sure my line breaks don’t line up with my sentence breaks.  There’s a lot of structural worrying.  Poems very rarely just flow for me.

Time Ghosts

Our times call ghosts to us. Though Homer knew
the power of dark blood to loosen tongues
parched centuries past silence, we insist
on sensory amnesia when the same
shades permeate the wreck of Port-au-Prince
with Pompeii’s wailings. While the limbless wraiths
who stalk Rwanda mourn their martyring
in Cathar accents, or some murdered girl
misnames her honor killing as sati,
we disbelieve . . . as if coincidence
alone explained such wounds of history
reopening afresh to slake a thirst
familiar as the ghosts of our bad nights,
& like them wandering unsatisfied
between hells happening that no one meant.

## from Ideomancer #14.1, 2010

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

Archaeology and astronomy / cosmology, though I frequently write about these subjects through a very dark filter. The bleaker side of SF also comes up a lot, and cosmic horror (Lovecraftian or otherwise) is my default when it comes to the really dark stuff. I’ve only had one completely themed collection.  That was In the Yaddith Time (Mythos Books, 2007), my answer to Lovecraft’s Fungi From Yuggoth. It’s a very SF Lovecraftian sonnet sequenc –complete with laser carbines!–featuring a female POV and an apocalyptic ending. My other poetry collections have all been mixtures of dark SF and horror/dark fantasy.

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

It depends upon the type of dark poetry. Poetry has always been a part of traditional weird fiction magazines (like Weird Tales) and websites. Weird fiction readers are drawn to formal dark verse very easily, though they may not appreciate free verse in quite the same way.  I’m not sure what other horror readers are looking for when they turn to poetry, though poetry has always, always been a big part of horror. Thank you, E.A. Poe.

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

I’ve just turned in a new collection of dark poetry to Weird House Press. The title is Unquiet Stars. I’m very excited to be working with Joe Morey & F.J. Bergmann on this one! As usual–at least, for my last few collections–this one has a new sonnet sequence: “Faces From the House of Pain.”

Void Music

Space is not silent, save for mundane ears
Attuned to flesh alone. The aether swells
With arias & whispers while we tell
Our tales of plasma waves, reshaping fear
As placid science. Island-dwellers cast
Adrift by proxy on a vast black sea
Should trust a little less in certainties
So fragile: did we voyage here unasked
Expecting welcome? Blind inside this drape
Of instruments, our curiosity
Expands as hubris, exponentially,
Athirst for evidence of our escape.

Meanwhile in undimensioned night beyond
Our sphere of ignorance, strange shadows drift
& sing the death of starlight. One by one,
Their threnodies thread ripples through this pond
Reality . . . until some chorus shifts
To sound the flickering of our brief sun.

## from Spectral Realms #2, 2015

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

I’d just like to put in a good word for rhyme, meter, and form in general when it comes to horror poetry. Well-crafted lines of formal verse have a way of haunting the mind, sometimes long after the poem itself has been put aside. Stark, startling imagery is fine–but I think there’s room in our field for spectral music as well.

SchwaderAnn K. Schwader is a poet, short fiction writer, and occasional reviewer of SF and dark works. She lives, writes, and volunteers at her local branch library in suburban Colorado. Her eighth speculative poetry collection, Unquiet Stars, is forthcoming from Weird House Press in late 2020.

Other poetry collections, readily available and otherwise, include: Dark Energies (P’rea Press 2015), Twisted in Dream (Hippocampus Press, 2011), Wild Hunt of the Stars (Sam’s Dot, 2010), In the Yaddith Time (Mythos Books, 2007), Architectures of Night (Dark Regions Press, 2003), The Worms Remember (Hive Press, 2001), and Werewoman ( Nocturnal Publications, 1990). Ann also has two collections of weird/Lovecraftian short fiction: Dark Equinox & Other Tales of Lovecraftian Horror (Hippocampus Press, 2015)  and Strange Stars & Alien Shadows (Lindisfarne Press, 2003).

She is a two-time Bram Stoker Award Finalist (for Dark Energies and Wild Hunt of the Stars) and a two-time winner of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association’s Rhysling Award (once each for short and long-form poetry). SFPA named her a Grand Master in 2019.

Website: http://www.schwader.net/home
Dreamwidth blog, Yaddith Times
Goodreads Author profile

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Women in Horror: Saba Syed Razvi

Saba Syed Razvi is today’s guest, on the leap day of February. You’ll find that besides her poems, her answers are poetic as well. Note that due to special formatting her poems are put in as pictures to maintain the integrity. Thanks for stopping by for Women in Horror Month.

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

Honestly, I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t around poetry. My parents recited poems to me alongside lullabies, and I learned to memorize and recite them back. Sometimes we sang them. Sometimes they were in English, and sometimes they were not. I read poems to my younger sisters, often. I think I wrote my first poem when I was in kindergarten; it was about seeing colors beyond the darkness, and the letter M–and maybe also about M&M candies! So, for me, poetry and music have always been linked– and have probably always been about sugar as much as shadow. In the ghazal tradition, in the lyric tradition, there is music alongside the musicality of verse, and those sounds are in my earliest memories. Perhaps that music from distant dunes and distant drums, from ancient flutes and a longing for new ones, has always influenced my understanding of the capacity for language to invoke something of an otherworldliness in the otherwise worldly words on our tongues. As an academic, I’ve made poetry the terrain of my scholarship and search, so I am heavily influenced by the traditions I have encountered along the way. The poet I am today has probably been mostly influenced by Baudelaire, Dickinson, HD, Lorca, by Rumi and Hafez, Ghalib and Attar. I’m fascinated by the logic of the ancient world, and the language that carries its shadows into the new world in which we live and in which we create technologies for the death of living.

Why do you write poetry?

The world around me bears song and light, and sometimes I want to share it. Poetry isn’t like prose. One can sit down to tell a tale, and make it happen by plotting it and mapping it out, but poetry needs something of a living fire inside of it. When I feel the world alive in me, or when I feel the anxious spectre of death nagging at me, at the things in my life I hold most dear, I feel compelled to write them into being, just a little. Sometimes, it’s my anger that I want to seal into a vessel of verse, and sometimes it’s my grief. Sometimes, the beauty of the impossible is what breaks my heart. I write poetry because I am compelled to write it, because sometimes I feel like the words are lightning on the tongues in heart, like the world is bleeding from fingers, aching to spill free. Poetry is born from an image that takes root like a madness, from a thought that leaves me haunted, leaves me hunted, and the writing is a way to put it somewhere other than my nightmares.

saba

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

The other day, in a class, I talked to my students about the difference between the source of inspiration and the process by which it is crafted into a work of literary art. Someone once called that the distinction between flame and fuel. I think it is more than inspiration or expression. I think poetry is a kind of alchemy of the self. Every poem takes something of who we are and transforms it into an offering. We take some aspect of ourselves, who we are at the core, at the most real, and we shape something from it. Maybe it comes from a desire of our shadow selves, or from the light of a lovesick delirium and its sabaOfTheDiviningAndTheDeadCoverlonging for the world. The most difficult aspect of writing poetry, then, isn’t finding the shape or the words or the idea, it’s the ability to let the world go long enough to invoke the energy that is the poem, to bring it into being. The ordinary world in which we all live is filled with obligations and tasks, responsibilities to be checked off and managed. We flit from one thing to the next, barely being in the world despite the time we spend. Poetry demands a deeper engagement, a vulnerability that comes from setting down those other duties and reins. I think the most difficult aspect of writing poetry is the point in the process when we must let go of our grasp on the ordinary world, trust our tether to allow us a space to create and a path to return. Composing poetry is a bit like falling into a trance; it isn’t something you can do while driving to the post office, but something you have to lean into. It needs deep time, and finding that time can be a challenge in our modern, busy lives!

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

Each of my books and each of my chapbooks takes on a different sensibility, a different theme, as organizing principle. In the Crocodile Gardens takes on myth and nightmare, dream logic and prophecy; it is about how we are beyond how we choose to be. heliophobia is more concerned with the promises of the fairy tale and the archetype; it asks us to think about who we are in the darkness, how light and shadow shape the places we belong. Limerence & Lux is really all about the dangerous pull of desire, the nightmare of longing or the delight of restraint. Beside the Muezzin’s Call & Beyond the Harem’s Veil takes on a different kind of darkness; it takes up the issue of the ordinary lives of Muslim Americans and the horror of their reality in a world which does not want to see them as something other than a foreign enemy, a horror more based in reality than in the supernatural. Of the Divining and the Dead takes up issues of the end times, of the realm of the soul beyond the life of the living, of prophecies and oneiromantic realities, or logic built from the idea of an afterlife built from sufi ideas of the material world and a world beyond the veil of the known. I suppose that the connecting thread among them all is that I am really drawn toward the spooky and the weird in our lives. I tend to write about the things that leave us feeling unsettled, disarmed, bare to the elements and to ourselves. I also like to write about robots and the goth scene, so it’s not all morbid mayhem, all the time!

saba2

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

I think there is comfort in the darkness, honesty. Bliss and joy and rapture are all ways of expressing happiness, with some sorrow mixed in. I think that speculative and dark poetry tends to be willing to confront the aspects of our human experiences that we often hide away from the world of sunlight and manners. Dark and Speculative poetry asks us to consider our masks – and who we are beneath them, and what made us choose them anyway. It permits a depth of contemplation that we tend to shy away from in moments of levity. I think that such a complexity can be highly rewarding – and, ironically, remarkably illuminating, too. The Aurora Borealis is most stunning in the dark of solitude. In the dark and in the grotesque, we can find ineffable dimensions of the sublime.

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

I’m currently finishing up a book of poems featuring a haunted castle in Ireland, a game hunter, a captive faerie creature, domestic violence, environmental destruction, and the ghosts left behind by grief. // One of my stories – a short piece that blurs the distinction between prose and poetry, called “Haunted Hearts” was recently published by the international online literary journal Queen Mob’s Teahouse. My haunted castle collection leans heavily into the poetry of the poems, if that makes sense, though a narrative is woven by the poems in the collection; it embellishes more of the grotesque. The story I’ve mentioned gives you a different sense of my appreciation for the things that haunt us, and it is tethered not by the emotional dimensionality of language, but by the shadows in the narrative and the outlines they bring to our attention. // If you haven’t checked out the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase Volume VI (it’s filled with some wonderful poems by a lot of cool people), please do – and read my poem in it about vampire mermaids & Fukushima.

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

saba BesideTheMuezzinsCallCoverAbout my poetry: I like to test the limits of language, its textures and materiality, its logic and its magic. My poems are often fashioned into invented or embellished forms, sometimes inherited from gestures of divination or worship, from storytelling and from science. I tend to prefer things that are complicated, that slip between our expectations, and I write poems in such a manner that exaggerates such a sensibility in my form and my cadence. I’m not interested in making the familiar new, but in making the weird even weirder. My formal innovation and defiance of strictly traditional forms is a kind of linguistic play and ritual, all at once. As such, I tend to be drawn to and to explore literary works that blur the lines in all ways. A rebel on the page, if not in life! My academic research tends to explore more social and communal aspects of literature, technology, science, and the speculative. I’m drawn to the ways in which our literature reaches back into our human heritage, and what it projects forward with its words and with its technologies. After all, our language is all haunted and its words are the machines through which we experience those echoes of memory and the valence of the expression. I’m interested in work that blurs the lines and the distinctions, that deliberately transgresses the structures of literary art and human experience. It is my hope that my own work can inspire the same kind of interest in others as I feel for the things I write about and the things study.

Saba Syed Razvi, PhD is the author of the Elgin Award-nominated collection In the saba author photo January 2018Crocodile Gardens (Agape Editions) and the collection heliophobia (Finishing Line Press), which appeared on the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Award ® for Superior Achievement in Poetry, as well as the chapbooks Limerence & Lux (Chax Press), Of the Divining and the Dead (Finishing Line Press), and Beside the Muezzin’s Call & Beyond the Harem’s Veil (Finishing Line Press). She is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston in Victoria, TX, where in addition to working on scholarly research on interfaces between contemporary poetry and science and on gender & sexuality in speculative and horror literature and pop-culture, she is writing new poems and fiction.

Website: www.sabarazvi.com

Links to Books:
In the Crocodile Gardens, Agape Editions. From Amazon
heliophobia, Finishing Line Press. From Amazon
Beside the Muezzin’s Call and Beyond the Harem’s Veil, Finishing Line Press. From Amazon
Limerence & Lux, Chax Press.
Of the Divining and the Dead, Finishing Line Press.

 

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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: Carina Bissett

WiHM11-Scalples-whCarina Bissett graces the virtual pages for Women in Horror Month. The month is nearly at an end but the poetry continues strong.

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

I have always been interested in the cadence and presentation of poetry, but it wasn’t until I read Anne Sexton’s Transformations that I realized I could walk the path of a poet. The real turning point for me was when Terri Windling invited me to write a fairy tale poem for Endicott Studio. That was two decades ago, and I’ve continued ever since.

Bissett Arterial BloomWhy do you write poetry?

For me, poetry is the perfect place to explore themes and imagery, both of which tend to drive my work. Not every image pairs well with the narrative drive expected in short fiction or novel-length work, but poetry is perfect for that sideways glimpse into wonder.

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

Usually, a poem will take as long, if not longer, to draft than a short story. I like to taste the syllables, shift sounds. I enjoy imposing structure on my poems even if they start out as free verse. That reinforcement often makes me look at lines in a different way. It can be frustrating writing to form, but sometimes it also opens doors to places I never expected to find.

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

All of my work is grounded in fairy tale and myth. The themes that tend to crop up in my work revolve around female relationships, estrangement and isolation, and domestic violence. Fairy tales have been a source of comfort for me since I was a young girl. Even then, I worked through issues in my personal life through the lens of fairy tale. As I grew older, I was introduced to feminist re-imaginings of these stories with The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. There is a special sort of freedom that comes from taking a well-known story and turning it on its head. In my own work, I tend to gravitate towards the fairy tales I hate the most. In rewriting them, I’m also to able to re-envision and explore my own personal narrative.

Swimming with the Shark Boys

I was warned to be wary in water,
especially when swimming with the sharks.
But those were the boys I always liked best,
with their slick-backed scalps, sharp smiles,
and eyes like bottomless pits.

I recognize them by their restlessness,
the subtle gleam as they cut through the crowd,
the shimmer of shadow in a clear sky.
But others also watch them prowl.
Deadly beauty attracts admirers
seeking the sharp taste of fear.

I watch mermaids flirt through a mirror’s lens
as they pout full lips and flaunt dangerous curves.
Scales glitter in a practiced seduction
as they comb hair perfect for binding men.
The shark boys just laugh, teeth bared.

The sirens orchestrate a counterpoint,
chaos conjured from the deep, dark places.
They measure out the notes of seduction,
drowning the protests of the waves
relentlessly breaking upon the rocks
— a requiem for the dead.

My selkie sisters and I know better
than to venture out of reach of safe shores.
We cinch our seal skins tight around our waists,
watching for the warning signs,
the scent of blood on the waves.

But every time one of the shark boys turns,
gliding out of the gloom with graceful ease,
I can’t help but wonder how it would feel
to shed my skin, press flesh on flesh,
smother in a crush of deadly kisses,
falling into the abyss.

## published in Mythic Delirium, May 2016. It also received an Honorable Mention from Ellen Datlow in 2016 for Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 9

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

Once, when I was a young woman, I was caught out in the desert during a particularly intense storm. Once the rain let up, I left the safety of my car to explore the new world that was left behind. When I looked at the ground, I discovered beads of polished obsidian everywhere. The rain had washed away the top layer of accumulated dirt to reveal these beautiful memories created by volcanic activity millions of years ago. I think dark poetry is akin to those obsidian pebbles, otherwise known as Apache tears. That darkness already exists, and the poets who work with this subject matter are simply exposing those gems for readers to discover.

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

I’m currently working on a collection of poems about monstrous women in myth and Bissett Arachne Dorefairy tale. I also have a Snow White retelling coming out in Arterial Bloom, which was edited by Mercedes Murdock Yardley and is scheduled for release by Crystal Lake Publishing in April 2020. It features some wickedly gorgeous work, and I’m ecstatic that my story is included in this anthology.

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

In addition to writing, I’m lucky enough to work with other writers in my online, generative workshops at The Storied Imaginarium (https://thestoriedimaginarium.com/). These writers have created an incredibly supportive writing community, and many past participants have gone on to publish stories and poems generated in workshop. Just a few of the recent anthologies featuring their work include The Twisted Book of Shadow, Not All Monsters, and Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors. Seeing these writers’ successes gives me great joy. It has been a wonderful experience, and I look forward to seeing what they will write next.

Bissett Author PhotoCarina Bissett is a writer, poet, and educator working primarily in the fields of dark fiction and interstitial art. Her short fiction and poetry have been published in multiple journals and anthologies including Arterial Bloom, Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, Hath No Fury, Mythic Delirium, NonBinary Review, and the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V and VI. She teaches online workshops at The Storied Imaginarium, and she is a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at Stonecoast. Her work has been nominated for several awards including the Pushcart Prize and the Sundress Publications Best of the Net. Links to her work can be found at http://carinabissett.com.

O MAD ARACHNE: A Folle in Three Acts

ACT I

Of course she’s bent
back, legs splayed
open for inspection
pride punished, Purgatory
reflected on a monster,
flanked,
an Infernal tapestry,
color curled,
secrets spun by sinners
who dared to fly to close
to the sun.

ACT II

In her Wisdom,
the goddess punished
the girl, a weaver, who needed
to learn a lesson—
as all girls do.
After all,
maidens are meant to be seen,
not heard.
Hubris for humanity,
despair hanging,
suspended, judged,
a tapestry of tragedy
wrought in twisted limbs,
bruised breasts, plundered spoils
of a war undeclared,
unquestioned.

ACT III

Talent?—Never, the matron
says. Wait!
The time will come—
an hour-glass counting down
minutes slipped,
regret shrouded,
ghosted, shed, obscure
glory days remembered
on cigarette breaks,
red lipstick smeared, feathered
lines, regret drowned,
boxed wine.

Remember, the matron says
to the dumpster, remember
she says to the stray
dog-bear, winged beast
remember, she says
to the spider who stares back,
eight eyes reflecting pride
shattered—
a warped mirror.

Inside the diner, a girl,
so young, so beautiful.
An artist—
a peer, a student, a child.
Listen, the matron says, stern,
unyielding.
An echo.
Wait.
The cycle resets.

## NonBinary Review #19 Dante’s Inferno, Zoetic Press. December 2018. The image above of Arachne is by Gustave Doré and is in the public domain. It was the inspiration behind this poem.

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