Category Archives: science fiction

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: Denise Dumars

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Denise Dumars is today’s guest poet. She talks about her love of poetry, interests in weird themes and being considered strange.

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

I honestly don’t remember NOT knowing about or reading poetry. In my day it was common for people to learn to read before starting school, and children’s books are full of poetry. My favorite poem when I was a little girl was called “Overheard on a Saltmarsh” by Harold Monro. It’s about a goblin who is just dying to get these green glass beads that a nymph is wearing. He’s howling and freaking out and the nymph tells him to shut up because she stole the beads from the moon. So, yeah, fairly dark poem for a little girl. I guess I haven’t changed. I went on to favor Poe, Lovecraft, Baudelaire, and especially Emily Dickinson. Dickinson lived in a repressed era in which formalist poetry was pretty much the only poetry, and so she made up her own forms and lived her life her way. When she discovered that the neighborhood kids were whispering about her, she started wearing white to add to her “legend.” She also had an unrequited love for a married clergyman. Dark romantic all the way!  I discovered the small press in the late 1970’s, and found so many poets that I felt a kinship with and who wrote work that I admired. There are too many to name, of course, but some names for Women in Horror month that pop up immediately are Corinne DeWinter, Ann K. Schwader, Marge Simon, Stephanie Wytovich, Linda Addison, Deborah Kolodji, Nancy Ellis Taylor…I could go on and on. See also my answers to the last question.

Dumars solarWhy do you write poetry?

I had this student who always wore cat ears to class. I asked her one day, “Why do you always wear cat ears to class?” She said, “Why not wear cat ears to class?” She had a point.  It’s like that with poetry, and people look askance at you for writing it almost as much as they look askance at someone wearing cat ears every day. But seriously, I think poets are born, not made. Poetry is just something I do; it’s part of my identity. No matter how much fiction and nonfiction I write, people primarily think of me as a poet. And I haven’t had much time to write in the last few years. I still have to make a living, and most of my free time has been spent taking care of elders in my family and managing their lives. I’m just now getting back, gradually, to my writing. My most recent book of poetry came out in 2012, and was nominated for an Elgin twice, and then later that same year my aunt got sick and I became her conservator. I’ll spare you the details; right now I’m trying to manage my late father’s estate and see that my mother is cared for. It’s a full-time unpaid job. I’ve been recently published in Star*Line, Dreams & Nightmares, Space & Time, Eternal Haunted Summer, The Literary Hatchet and several other genre and mainstream poetry journals. Not having time to write has almost driven me over the edge, I’ll admit, so I guess I could say that poetry has saved my life multiple times.

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

Well, except for the fact that people in the U.S. think you’re weird for writing poetry, I think getting in a poetic frame of mind is hard, especially if you’ve been writing a lot of prose. Few people really encourage you except when you write fiction and nonfiction, so when I write a lot of that I find it very hard to come back to poetry. I’m working on a couple of novels right now and have several new short stories I’m revising. I also have to write a second volume of one of my most popular nonfiction books, The Dark Archetype. Teaching doesn’t help. It’s really been the kiss of death for my vocabulary. I can’t spell anymore, either. A colleague warned me about that when I first started teaching and I thought she was kidding, but now that I’ve taught college English for 24 years I find that it’s true. Thankfully, I’ve been nominated for a Rhysling several times and even won a second-place Rhysling once.

Ghost Riders

They’re not what you think.
Transparent Hells’ Angels,
Dude may have weighed 280 in life
But now weighs less than a feather.

A last member of the Hessians’
“One percent” is on his oxygen tank today
Telling me how he saw his late friend,
The one Jim Carroll wrote about,
Who came looking for him
Right there in Intensive Care,
Transparent as a hooker’s raincoat.

You don’t tell him that you’ve seen them
As they laugh through red light cameras
Disappearing into the Milky Way
Out around Yucca Valley,
Heading toward the honky-tonk
At Pappy’s Pioneer Town,
Leaving you in the dust of life

Out where the sky
Is vaster than the afterlife,
Darker than the demons
That compelled the ghost riders
To leave the mainstream world behind
Even while they were alive,
None fearing the end
That inevitably comes too soon.

You taste salt and Reaper Ale
On your tongue, grow claustrophobic
Beneath a sky you had no idea
Was so fucking crowded,
And the hollow roar
Of phantom engines nearly drowns out
The Gram Parsons tribute band
At Pappy’s, and you are the one sad
Mutherfucker alone in the crowd.

You could disappear
Into the tarantula darkness
Of the Mojave,
A vision quest
Beneath the great chaotic
Smear of the night sky,
Or you could stop awhile
And listen to their voices
Before going back to the bar,
“Last call,”
Just too damned ironic,
Then the long, dark
Lonely road home.

Don’t worry; they’ll be here
When you travel the dark highway
Again. You’ll start to feel the freedom
Of coming and going as one pleases,
Without corporeal limits.

It’s a trap; don’t believe it.
Every one would come back full-throttle
Sell his weevily soul
For just one more taste of Jack Daniels
One kiss from the girl singer
In Daisy Dukes.

Finish your beer; say a prayer;
Give them the middle-finger salute
Or any other gesture
You feel is appropriate,
And let them fade, fade,
Headlights lost in the Milky Way.

## I wrote this poem in memory of my late cousin, James Hicks, who was a biker. It appeared in my book Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal, 2012, White Cat Publications.

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

My latest book of poetry, Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal has a theme: paranormal investigation in the modern world. It just cracks me up the way ghost hunters nowadays use a plethora of electronic devices to talk to ghosts! They go hollering down hallways and banging on walls. Whatever happened to séances? Whatever happened to being quiet and listening? I find the whole thing hilarious. Overall I tend to write dark work: horror, dark fantasy, dark SF. I prefer the supernatural and the mysteries of nature and the universe, but I do write some mainstream poetry. As for themes, I think alienation, melancholy, loneliness, decay—you know, the usual! All of my books are out of print except the ones I still have copies of to sell. However, I do a lot of poetry readings. Check out my website or my Facebook page for info. I started performing with Casketeria, a dark romantic poetry performance troupe that also delves into humor. They’re an offshoot of a troupe I read with back in the 90’s called Undead Poets Society. Poetry is part of the oral tradition; it’s meant to be heard.

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

It’s the same frisson you get from reading a horror story, watching a horror movie, listening to Goth music or viewing dark artwork. It’s all about the emotion; horror is a feeling, not a genre, really, and I forgot who first said that! Poetry is uniquely suited to evoking feelings, so if those feelings are dark and creepy, poetry really brings those emotions to the fore in an immediate way.

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

I mentioned novels and short stories and nonfiction, but as for poetry, I have a couple of collections working, and I’m promising myself that in 2020 I will submit far more poetry and get some of my chapbooks and book-length stuff together to submit to publishers. As for a themed collection I keep thinking of goofy crazy things—I have one called Heisenberg’s Phone Bill and another called Cajuns in Space, but I’ll probably finish a darker collection first—Kali Yuga Raga. We’re living in the Kali Yuga—the time of troubles. According to Hindu lore the Kali Yuga started on my birthday—Feb. 18th—around five thousand years ago. A raga is a Hindu pattern of notes that can be played for, oh, several hours to several days! I have a very dark view of our society and the future right now. That definitely does factor into my poetic themes. I’m a Lovecraftian, also, but as much as I try to stay away from Lovecraft these days the themes of cosmic horror keep sneaking up on me. My column on finding speculative poetry in mainstream magazines is published in each new issue of Star*Line, so look for that.

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

I really believe in the beauty of decadence in its literal sense of decay. It’s a romantic thing; the love of cemeteries and ruined buildings and famous people whose lives ended tragically. I can be pretty harsh in my writing, but I think it all goes back to the darkly romantic. I was “Goth” before the word had begun to be used to describe the subculture. I like that science is now able to observe decaying orbits and suns and things like that, so that we can enjoy the beauty of the decaying cosmos. I love Paris, like all poets, but I also love Mexico and New Orleans, both of which display some of the same cultural tendencies toward dark romanticism. New Orleans is a part of my heritage on my father’s side, and it shows up in my poetry a lot. I keep a picture of his aunt Josephine on my bookshelf guarding some of my contributor’s copies. It’s an eerie picture of her in her nun habit in the fog—like the ghost of the Flying Nun! A sizable part of my interests also run toward surrealism and Dada—Andre Breton, the founder of surrealism, went to Mexico and famously said, “This country does not need our movement.” In Mexico they have meet-ups for all the kids who wear black—it doesn’t matter if you’re emo or Goth, a metalero (fan of heavy metal), a witch, a vampire or whatever–wear black and come to this coffee house at such and such a time on such and such a day. How poetic is that?

Denise Dumars is a college English instructor, poet, fiction writer, and writer of Dumars biometaphysical nonfiction. She is the author’s liaison for the academic journal Coreopsis: Journal of Myth and Theatre, and writes a quarterly column for Star*Line. She also helms Rev. Dee’s Apothecary: a New Orleans-Style Botanica, available online at www.DyanaAset.com and https://www.facebook.com/RevDeesApothecary/. She has a blog that no one reads at https://dyanaaset.blogspot.com/. See these links and her own website, www.DeniseDumars.com, for more info and book sales. She was born and still lives in Los Angeles County’s  beautiful South Bay region, but her heart is in New Orleans. She has published two collections of short fiction, several poetry chapbooks, one full-length book of poetry, and two metaphysical texts, one co-authored with Lori Nyx. Many years ago she also had a screenplay optioned, co-authored with Nancy Ellis Taylor. She can be found grousing and muttering to herself at https://www.facebook.com/denise.dumars.

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Women in Horror: Halli Lilburn

WiHM11-GrrrlWhite

Today’s guest is Halli Lilburn, a Canadian poet, editor and fiction writer.

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

I started in high school when I was first diagnosed with depression. I used it as an outlet. My first great influences were Neil Gaiman, Shakespeare (thanks to the curriculum) and my grandmother.

Why do you write poetry?

For attention.  Honest answer.  I need to understand myself and I need others to understand me.

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

I want to have a point and often it’s difficult to translate the feelings and misgivings of my heart into a formula that others can understand.

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

I enjoy themes like steampunk, nature, resurrection and spiritual powers. My chapbook, The Ballad of the Sea Lion Woman takes myths and fairy tales and spins them into steampunk tales.

Monster

I need your eyes
Scoop them out for me
So bright and alive
They will show me much more than before
I need your legs
Just chop them off
So strong and steady
They will take me much farther than before
Give me your voice
I wrecked mine when I stopped caring
So, I will rewind time
And breathe deep again.
Your brain, I need your brain next
To fill in the holes and the shadows
Carved out by abuse and ignorance
You should hear the things I was told.
The racist, sexist, ablest common norms
That stained me.
I got to switch up that rubbish with hipster tolerance and representation
While you’re at it, give me your liver, your heart, your age, your diet, your height and your depth.
The depth you stabbed me with when you tried to kill me.
Tried to rid society of old monsters like me.
Me and my entitlement, fake news and fake tan
But I can’t die. I can’t even get sick
Drown me, crush me, incinerate me.
My broken bones will snap back in place
And I will reach out and steal your parts
Piece myself back together.
You never wanted the responsibility or ownership or accountability
I’ll leave what’s left of you propped up in a chair
Hooked up to machines
With the occasional lightning bolt to zap life into you.
Your eye sockets can stare out
The passive listener like you always wanted
‘Cause man, if you had legs you might have used them.
If you still had a voice you might have to speak out.

## from We Shall Be Monsters

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

People need to wake up to the world around them.  The horror of indecency needs to be exposed so that we can abhor it and fight it.

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

I am working on a sky pirate adventure novel with my 17-year-old daughter.  She creates the monsters and I write the fight scenes. We are excited to get it published.

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

My spelling can be horrifying and I apologize for that, but I won’t let it stop me from writing. Not any more. I had teachers who cared about nothing else and that really stifled me but my skills lie in structure and imagery so stop telling me I’m stupid.  Not lilburn biohelpful.

You can find Halli at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5301255.Halli_Lilburn  I have works in Tesseracts 18 and 22, Carte Blanche, Vine Leaves and many others.  I am an editor with essentialedits.ca and The Dame Was Trouble by Coffin Hop Press.  She teaches creative writing, art journaling and steampunk workshops.  She is also a Dungeon Master.

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Women in Horror: Tiffany Morris

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteToday’s guest is Tiffany Morris

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

I’ve always loved and written poetry, but I feel like I didn’t truly find my poetic voice until I was introduced to Anne Carson’s translations of Sappho in If Not, Winter. This provided a new way for me to view how poetry is written, and how experimenting with form, language, and omission can make poems hit harder.

Why do you write poetry?

Poetry just makes sense to me in a way other writing doesn’t! I think it’s because writing an image is easier for me than writing a more prosaic sentence; poetry allows me to weave images into a web of connection with an immediacy that other writing forms don’t provide.

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

Formatting, but it’s also the most joyful, because where you can have fun and surprise yourself. I love to see, for example, how throwing an enjambment in an unexpected place can make the same words sing in a different voice.

the adversary

slow comes        [the dawn]
buried and         barely
survived:
light is                 a ragged breath
taunting veins [on]
closed eyelids.
sap     coats        the coarse
tongue of           night, glues
entropy              -> to bark.

battered [and] battered
and bruise-[knuckle]d
hope is             a revenant
scraping          wakefulness
from                 stormclouds.

thunder           rolls
[sideways]
into nothing.
wake : pause : wake
continue          if
[and only if]
you must

##

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

I’m fixated on the apocalyptic, the spectral, and the liminal – my chapbook, Havoc In Silence, explores all of them – and how those themes create a stratum of calamity. Everyone encounters these ideas in some way, so I like to examine and dissect them into image systems and turn those into poems. I’ve also expanded into writing on demons and possession, linking these same ideas to the infernal, and looking at how leaning into calamity can simultaneously make us powerful and rob us of power.

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

A lot of poetry, I think, is a distillation of moments and ideas to barer essences. In dark or speculative poetry, we’re able to explore the terrain of anxiety, terror, and the macabre by using poetry’s tools of structure and form to reveal the mind to itself. Plus, y’know, it’s spooky and fun!

chaos is a ladder

black, the water. grey,
the skin. tearing and torn,
growling. climb despair
into tomorrow. open
the door, close the
window. burn the
dry grass, pray
in the embers. clutch
the rot to your chest.
spoil in black, the water.
grey, the skin. seeping
and crawling. climbing
despair like a staircase,
creaking and swaying
in nuclear wind.

##

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

I’m Mi’kmaq, but am not fluent in the Mi’kmaq language, so at the moment I am working on a collection of horror poetry that includes Mi’kmaq words and their translations in each poem as a way of learning the language. Mi’kmaq itself is verb-based, and horror is an action-based genre, so the two have a surprising amount of harmony and congruence. I also have poems coming out in Augur Magazine and Helios Quarterly this spring, and a full-length manuscript that is currently out for consideration (wish me luck)!

Morris bioTiffany Morris is a Mi’kmaw writer of speculative poetry and fiction. She is the author of the chapbooks Havoc in Silence (Molten Molecular Minutiae, 2019) and It Came From Seca Lake! Horror Poems from Sweet Valley High (Ghost City Press, 2019). Her work has been featured in Room Magazine, Prairie Fire, and Eye to the Telescope, among others. Find her on twitter @tiffmorris or at tiffmorris.com.

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Women in Horror: Sara C. Walker

 

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday, for Women in Horror Month, we’re back to Canada with Sara C. Walker who gives a list of some inspiring female authors and Canadian writers who do science fiction horror.

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an early example of SF horror.

When asked to name a woman writer with stories at the intersection of horror and  science fiction, Mary Shelley is first to come to mind. Author of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, originally published in 1818, Shelley is credited for writing the first science fiction story, though it’s often forgotten the story was intended to be horror. With that story, the sub-genre science fiction horror was born.

Science fiction horror ponders the current state of science and projects all the worst ways things could go wrong. As in Frankenstein, the true monsters of science fiction horror are human. From horrible dystopian societies to nightmare post-apocalyptic landscapes to brutal experimentation in the name of science, the stories are varied but also seek to answer the same question of every horror movie: who will survive?

Two hundred years since Mary Shelley’s creation, the genre crossing is a fertile playground for Canadian women writers, and while there are plenty of short stories that fit the science fiction horror genre, here are several suggestions for novel-length works to keep you up at night. This list is by no means exhaustive but is meant as a beginner’s guide.

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Real life SF horror–cancer ad from the 1800s

When looking for Canadian women who write science fiction horror, the first to come to mind is Margaret Atwood, specifically The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, which has been adapted into a film, an opera, and now an HBO series, airing since 2017. This dystopian story imagines a pretty horrific future for women.

Ten years ago, the Canadian documentary Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror interviewed actors and producers in the genre, along with Tanya Huff and Nancy Kilpatrick, two of Canada’s top horror writers. Huff’s contemporary vampire series was turned into Blood Ties, a television show that aired in 2007, but Huff also writes military science fiction series with a female protagonist—start with Valor’s Choice (DAW, 2000). Kilpatrick is also known for her vampire series, Thrones of Blood, but she also writes science fiction horror, as in Eternal City (Five Star, 2003).

Well known for her Otherworld series, especially her first novel, Bitten (Vintage Canada, 2009), which became a television show for three seasons in 2014 to 2016, Kelley Armstrong also dabbles in science fiction horror. The Darkness Rising series, beginning with The Gathering (Doubleday Canada, 2012), is a trilogy in which the main character, who lives in a medical-research town, finds strange things happening, beginning with the drowning of the swim team captain. Armstrong is also brilliant at writing psychological thrillers that will scare your pants off. Just try reading the beginning of Omens (Random House, 2013) or Exit Strategy (Seal Books, 2010).

Author Ada Hoffman’s novel The Outside, a science fiction horror, is due to be published June 2019 by Angry Robot. Hailed as “fast-paced, mind-bending Big Idea science fiction, with a touch of Lovecraftian horror”, The Outside features cyborg servants, a heretic scientist, and an autistic protagonist.

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The Handmaid’s Tale, base off of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel.

I do love Frankenstein, The Handmaid’s Tale, and stories that seek to show us what future might come of our choices, but my true love is for urban fantasy, a genre that’s a sibling to horror as both have roots in urban myths. So, with that in mind, I have one more reading suggestion for urban fantasy that fringes on horror, although this one leans more toward fantasy than science fiction.

These days she lives in Los Angeles and is more known for being the ex-wife of Elon Musk, however, Justine Musk is from Peterborough, Ontario and wrote horror back in 2005 with her first book, BloodAngel. The sequel was released in 2008, Lord of Bones (both published by ROC, in imprint of Penguin Books). We’re still waiting for more books from Musk.

walkerSara C. Walker writes fiction, usually urban fantasy, from short stories to novels. “True Nature” can be found in Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland (Exile Editions, ed. Colleen Anderson) and “If Wishes Were Pennies” in Canadian Creatures (Schreyer Ink Publishing, ed. Casia Schreyer). Forthcoming stories include “Stag and Storm” in Canadian Dreadful (Dark Dragon Press, ed. David Tocher) and “Call of the Ash” in Not Just A Pretty Face (Dead Light Publishing). She’s edited two anthologies of stories set in the Kawartha Lakes. When not writing, she works at a library and is always ready to give reading suggestions. You can find out more at www.sarawalker.ca.

 

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Women in Horror: Colleen Anderson

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s the ides of February. Well technically, that would be true possibly every four years, but it is halfway through the month and there are still many other women in horror to showcase. I would be remiss if I left myself out of the Women in Horror Month. So I too will talk about how I stumbled upon horror.

story collection, fantasy, horror, SF

Available on Amazon

Like many of the people who have already posted, The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery were stories that stayed with me but I really don’t think I read them when I was a child. (And I have to mention the very good TV series of The Haunting of Hill House.) Most likely I watched these as a teenager. My first brush with horror was earlier with movies though. Not so much Dracula for me, though I do remember Frankenstein. When I was about six or seven my parents fought so badly that my mother would bundle us in jammies into the car and off to the drive-in we would go. The House of Seven Gables and The Fall of the House of Usher with Vincent Price, another king of horror, are forever conflated into one movie for me. I was that young and my mother certainly didn’t seemed worried about our young minds being warped.

Those two movies where Vincent’s character pickaxes his sister and buries her in the walls (or under the floors) stuck with me, along with the first nightmare I remember at age six. After that, the endless recycling of The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits coupled with reading Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury made me who I am today.

horror, dark fantasy, death, speculative fiction, Season's End.

The Beauty of Death contains “Season’s End”

While I always liked the weird I was not a fan of horror. I detested most horror and gore movies. Slasher and murderer thrillers were not and still aren’t really my cup of tea. But the strange is and always has been, and that may be reflected more in the shows I watched and books I read.

When it came to writing, I was writing fantasy and SF. I wasn’t writing horror. I was a member of SFWA for a long time before I even knew of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). But I found stories I sent to magazines of SF or fantasy would be rejected with a note that they didn’t do horror. I was confused; maybe I still am, but my stories didn’t seem scary to me. Of course, they came from my mind so I knew where they were going.

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Colleen’s launch for A Body of Work takes place Feb. 23 at The Heatley.

Somewhere along the way I started to submit to some of the darker markets and like the sun setting on the longest day, I finally figured out that I sold more stories if I went darker. I have written a few truly terrifying depictions of horror in the gore sense, such as my flash piece “Amuse Bouche,” but while it was an exercise for me, it wasn’t where my heart lay. A writer friend once asked, “What theme are you exploring? We all explore a theme.” Hers were animals. Another writer’s was children…

 

I never thought I explored one theme until I put together my first collection of fiction Embers Amongst the Fallen. At that point, it became clear that I do morality tales. Not all of them but there is often a disturbing moral dilemma that a character must face (“The Healer’s Touch,” “An Ember Amongst the Fallen,” “Season’s End,” “Hold Back the Night”). In that sense, as opposed to the “other” outside of you invading your sanctity of life or home, it is the “other” inside. What deals with the devil will a character make to save something dear? I find that extremely interesting and personal, something to which we can all relate.

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains 22 speculative stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

As with many of the writers here, we have a fascination with vampires, or werewolves, or creepy crawlies, or disturbing dolls, or clowns, or the dark, or subterranean depths or things hidden in fog or water or space. Just a readers do. It is as old as humankind–that fear and need to conquer it, and an intense curiosity about the unknown and the strange.

I have written several stories that also explore the psychopath/sociopath (modern studies don’t really distinguish between the two) intellect. The mind encased in a human body where that the person doesn’t think like a regular human. It is alien. I’ve look at aspects of this mind in such stories as “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” “Sins of the Father,” “The Book With No End,” and “Gingerbread People.” The first was one story that very much disturbed me in the writing, and the last was an examination of the nature of evil based off of the two Canadian serial killers Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka, where she was given a lighter sentence because she said he made her do the terrible crimes. Can you be made to commit horrors that go against your fundamental core, and who is more evil–the person committing the crime or the one making that person do it?

And this gets down to what is the scariest thing: to many it is man/woman as monster, the feral side, the side the loses control; like Dracula, like werewolves, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You could say my fascination with the weird is my fascination with people and that no matter how normal all of us look there is something that makes us individual, and sometimes it is disturbing. Thankfully though, most of us are just  harmless eccentrics.

hoodieColleen Anderson is a Canadian author with over two hundreds works published including fiction and poetry. She has two fiction collections, Embers Amongst the Fallen, and A Body of Work which was published by Black Shuck Books, UK in 2018. She has been longlisted for a Stoker Award and shortlisted for the Aurora and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, as well as having placed in several poetry contests. A recipient of a Canada Council Grant, Colleen has served on Stoker and British Fantasy Award juries, copyedited for publishers, and edited three anthologies (Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, Exile Publishing 2018).

Look for some of her work in Canadian Dreadful, Tesseracts 22, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias and By the Light of Camelot. A book launch for A Body of Work will take place in Vancouver of Feb. 23, at 3pm at The Heatley. Come by and say hi and hear Colleen read. Read a review of the collection here.

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Eye to the Telescope Submission Call

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Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

Lisa Trimpf, editor of the Eye to the Telescope submission call on sports and games gives some insight into what she’s looking fr.

Wanted: “Sports and Games”-Themed Speculative Poetry

Star Trek’s three-dimensional chess. Quidditch, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. The race to solve a gaming challenge in Ready Player One. Those are only a few examples of sports and games popping up in speculative literature, movies, and television—sometimes in a feature role, and sometimes as a side interest.

When the call went out for volunteer editor for Eye to the Telescope, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s quarterly online magazine, I put up my hand. Tasked with suggesting a topic, I thought, why not sports and games? Having played a variety of sports throughout my lifetime, it’s an area of long-standing interest for me. Plus, the field is wide open for more speculation, more thought, more invention.

From where we’re standing in early 2019, it’s hard to predict with any certainty what the

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Lisa Trimpf writes and plays sports.

future of sports and games might look like. We might guess wrong, and we might guess right. The reality might surprise us, because it’s something we didn’t foresee at all. I can attest to that from my experiences as a female athlete.

When I was growing up, there were no girls’ hockey teams in my home town, and as for playing on a boys’ team—at the time, it just wasn’t done. So my friends and I played pick-up ball hockey instead, or rented the local arena occasionally for a game of shinny. We wore the jerseys of our favorite NHL hockey stars, because those were our only role models.

balero(1)In the space of just under 40 years, so much has changed. Girls’ house league and rep teams abound in many areas of Canada. Women’s hockey is now in the Olympic Games—something that I would have found difficult to imagine in the late 1970s.

There have been, and continue to be, female role models young players can aspire to emulate, people like Hayley Wickenheiser, Marie-Philip Poulin, Cassie Campbell—and the list goes on. Women are now sports announcers and commentators. A handful of female hockey players have even been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, something I can assure you my friends and I never saw coming back when we were shooting a tennis ball at a goal my friend’s father cobbled together from two-by-fours and plastic netting.

There are other trends, too, that many of us wouldn’t have imagined a few decades ago. marblesFan participation in certain aspects of sport has broadened—all-star voting, for example, or fantasy leagues, in which fans get to pick their “dream team” and see how they perform. The Olympic Games now include events like aerial skiing or half-pipe snowboarding, sports that weren’t even a thing back when the modern Olympics were re-vitalized in 1896. And, of course, there are increasingly sophisticated sports-themed video games, a notion that seemed light years distant back in the 1970s when we thought Atari’s Pong was a big deal.

So, here we sit in 2019, almost 2020. What will sports and games look like four decades from now (or later) here on Earth? What new twists might we see on existing traditions? Will we eventually see gender parity in sports? Will parents of the future opt for genetic tweaking to produce the ultimate athlete? What sports and games will colonists bring with them to Mars, or the moon, or asteroid mining operations, or even further afield? What pastimes might aliens enjoy? Those are examples of ideas that might be explored or entertained in a speculative sports poem.

But the great thing about speculative poetry is that thinking about the future is only one avenue you might pursue. Speculative poetry opens so many other doors: magic and magical creatures, alternate histories, parallel universes, and so on.

Just one caveat: every editor has their own biases, and while I’m looking for good poems, I’m also looking for poems in which the link to the theme of sports and games is direct rather than oblique.

Some people like to participate in “theme-related” submission calls, while some do not. While everyone is entitled to their preference, I can say from my personal experience that themed submission calls such as the ones provided in Eye to the Telescope have spurred me to create works I might not have created otherwise.

In some cases, I’ve had success with submissions. In other cases, I’ve had submissions declined by the publication they were initially inspired by, but have later placed them elsewhere, making it worth the effort. Over the course of time I’ve learned not to look an inspirational gift horse in the mouth.

I’d encourage anyone with the inclination to do so to send in a poem or three Eye to the Telescope: Issue 32, Sports and Games. The complete guidelines can be found at the Eye to the Telescope web site.

So, why not give it a shot? Deadline is March 15, 2019, and all submitters should expect to receive an acceptance or decline by April 1, 2019.

Simcoe, Ontario resident Lisa Timpf first started writing speculative fiction and poetry in 2014 after retiring from a 26-year career in human resources and communications. She has had more than 30 speculative short stories and 70-plus speculative poems published. Timpf’s work has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including Star*Line, New Myths, Neo-Opsis, Enter the Rebirth, and Tesseracts Twenty-One (Nevertheless). You can find out more about Timpf’s writing projects at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

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Guest Writer: Lorina Stephens

writer, Lydia Langstaff, young writers, heart defects

Today, I asked Lorina Stephens, writer, editor, and publisher of Fiver Rivers Publishing to talk about the writing business. Before your read her article, note that Feb. 1 begins Women in Horror Month and I’ll be featuring different women who write horror. Take it away, Lorina.

The Hat Tree I Tango With

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Copyright Lorina Stephens

In 1980 I took a fall. A rather spectacular fall which is far too embarrassing to discuss in polite company. That fall had me laid up, with two small children careening through my days, and a gentle man of a husband slogging it out trying to keep us all afloat. I thought I would go insane during those months with nothing to do but recover and play with my bairns—that’s bairns, not brains. While I loved them—the bairns, not the brains—greatly, there’s only so far you can take Sesame Street and the quality of Pampers in conversation. I found myself creating doggerel out of Shakespeare: the quality of Pampers is not strained…. Trust me, you don’t want to know the rest.

So, I thought I would write a novel, which turned into three, which was in reality a trilogy with a great concept and all the wrong words. But that first foray into the rigors of being a full-time writer taught me a great deal about discipline not just of working hours, but of the economy and efficacy of words. So, I wrote another novel. And then another.

We moved to the country. Great! While parents, in-laws and friends fretted I was too isolated, spent too much time alone, I kept bashing away at the keyboard while the children were at school. I discovered one of the local newspapers was receptive to a column, which morphed into a half page feature called Lorina’s People. In between writing about worlds in my head, and characters who whispered over my shoulder while ferrying the kids thither and yon, I interviewed the diverse and rich society of artists and entrepreneurs in my region, and wrote about them. I wrote about them so much I found myself a celebrity in a small, regional pond.

That gig led to another with a regional lifestyle magazine, a gig I talked my way into stephens caliban_coverwhen I lied to the editor and said sure I had images of hummingbirds. How hard could it be to capture the little buggers on film, I figured. Several rolls of blank film later, and then a new 35mm SLR Canon with a zoom lens, I had the article, and the images. The economy of that enterprise put me at almost break even on the gig.

Undaunted, I took that camera, my tape recorder, and my wit and carved myself a wee niche as a journalist, all the while bashing out fiction, mostly novels. I even ended up as the assistant editor for the lifestyle magazine, and just before they were bought out, and subsequently folded, I was asked if I would consider taking over as editor. The answer to that was no, simply because I was not prepared to assist in the crucifixion of the man who had given me a remarkable break.

Somewhere in between all that I wrote a book with my husband, Gary—who had taken over as photographer, thank the gods—on the Niagara Escarpment, which was published by Boston Mills Press. That took up two years of our lives. I wrote and researched, and wrote some more, then researched some more, digging through dusty archives and white-glove-only stacks. We traveled the length of the escarpment several times, often hauling our two unwilling urchins with us, thinking it would be a great experience for them. I sorted through 3600 35mm transparencies, and around 150 4x5s, all Gary’s work. It was a memorable two years, and some of those moments I will carry with me as nuggets of wonder until the day I die. And it’s important to understand that while I was cutting my teeth on the importance of accurate research, I wrote that book for Gary, so there would be a showcase for the remarkable photographs he captured.

stephens ssI spent the next nine years perfecting a historical fantasy, Shadow Song, and tried to find a publisher for it. Had several near misses. It was cultural appropriation. It was genre-crossing. It was a square peg looking for a home in a world of round holes. Two agents tried to market the novel. And still no joy.

Then the publishing industry started a remarkable evolution, and print on demand with distribution became a viable entity.

Never one to back away from taking a risk, or flying in the face of common practice, I launched myself and that novel into self-publishing, defying anyone to tell me the work and the printed product weren’t up to standard. While some lauded my venture and work, others sniffed. But never mind. I’d achieved something remarkable. And fearlessly, I carried on.

But life is a fascinating journey, and while you’re busy making other plans, things happen. Or rather, you allow things to happen.

A colleague had a dictionary of historical colour names and definitions she wanted to publish, called Elephant’s Breath and London Smoke: Historical Colour Names, Definitions, and Uses in Fashion, Fabric and Art, and would I consider, so I did, and voila, I edited and created a book. It sold very well. And then another colleague came along and said I should print his book on how to write a book in 60 days. So I did. And it sold really well. And so and so and so.

Like most everything in my life, the journey from writer to publisher just sort of happened. One day I fell off a desk and was injured. The next I was hammering out stories. And the next I was publishing other people’s work, watching that work go on to be shortlisted for awards, tucking a catalogue of nearly 70 books under my wing after a decade, along with some 30 or so writers whose work I’ve given voice.

And somewhere along the way my own voice sort of faded. There wasn’t time to write. There wasn’t time or resources to promote my own work when I was deeply committed to giving voice to, and promoting the work of the writers I’d pledged to publish. How could I appropriate a portion of the budget for my work when there was this very profound obligation I’d undertaken?

So it took me some five years to write, polish and publish From Mountains of Ice, a stephens cookscultural fantasy, about two to dust off and polish my speculative fiction, Caliban, and then another five to complete a modern novel of magic realism called The Rose Guardian. That novel releases September 1, 2019. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written, and also the hardest. And after this I probably will seldom speak of it and instead turn people to the next novel by Michael Skeet, or the two posthumously published novels by Dave Duncan, or any of the audiobooks being released next year. Or even Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts, which I’ve edited with Susan MacGregor, and also releases next year.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still believe in my own work. It just means I have an overriding commitment to others.

Has being a publisher honed my own skills as a writer? Without question. Ask anyone who has been on the receiving end of one of my edits, and they will tell you I am a bear about the nuances of the English language, of historical accuracy and material culture, of the necessity of good grammar and spelling. And in all of that I find myself craving a well-crafted plot, with a tight story arc. In seeking these requirements in the work I read, and in the work I edit and publish, I find myself continually questioning every word, every phrase, every aspect of the way my own story unfolds. Whose voice is this? What is their raison d’être? How do they interact with their environment, with the people and creatures around them? To borrow a phrase from Den Valdron: how do they live? And moreover, what are their justifications?

Would I change this journey if I had it to do again? Not sure. Don’t think so. Because every occurrence had a lesson, taught me something, either directly about writing, or about life which is sort of the same thing because all of life is reflected in art.

What’s next? More of the same. It works. Or rather I make it work.

Lorina Stephens has worked as editor, freelance journalist for national and regional print media, is author of eight books both fiction and non-fiction, been a festival organizer, publicist, lectures on many topics from historical textiles and domestic technologies, to publishing and writing, teaches, and continues to work as a writer, artist, and publisher at Five Rivers Publishing.

She has had several short fiction pieces published in Canada’s acclaimed magazine Postscripts to Darkness, Neo-Opsis, Deluge, Strangers Among Us, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy anthology Sword & Sorceress X.

Her book credits include:

  • The Rose Guardian, Five Rivers Publishing, 2019
  • Caliban, Five Rivers Publishing, 2018
  • Stonehouse Cooks, Five Rivers Publishing, 2011
  • From Mountains of Ice, Five Rivers Publishing, 2009
  • And the Angels Sang, Five Rivers Publishing, 2008
  • Shadow Song, Five Rivers Publishing, 2008
  • Recipes of a Dumb Housewife, Lulu Publishing 2007
  • Credit River Valley, Boston Mills Press 1994
  • Touring the Giant’s Rib: A Guide to the Niagara Escarpment; Boston Mills Press 1993

Lorina Stephens is presently working on a new novel, Hekja’s Lament. She lives with her husband of four decades in a historic stone house in Neustadt, Ontario. You can find her at lorinastephens.com, Facebook, and Twitter @LorinaStephens.

 

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Writing Guest Post: DD Barant

Happy New Year to everyone the world around. I realize that in other cultural calendars the year begins at different times and that in some ways a new year is an arbitrary thing. If I look at all the things that happened in 2018 it definitely began with a bang last January (a car accident) and ended with settling into a new place.

Because of a very tumultuous year ,many things were sidelined including my writing and my blog. In an effort to have posts appear more regularly I have asked some writers to do a guest post. The first one is by DD Barant. Take it away, Don.

Thanks, Colleen, for letting me guest. Your earlier post about life sucking you into a vortex got me thinking−you see, I know a little about the Life-Sucking Vortex and how much its suckage can suck. I also know something about Alice−which is the subject of the short-story collection Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, edited by you−and now I’m going to stop addressing Colleen directly because it sounds like I’m mansplaining.

When I first heard about this collection, I was in the midst of my own Alice-related project. I wanted to submit something, but didn’t. Partly because my project is a webcomic, not prose−but mostly because of the Life-Sucking Vortex.

When you get to a certain age, you’re abruptly at risk for the Big Trifecta: parents dying, divorce, and health problems. Guess who nailed all three? (Hint: it me.)

And suddenly, like Alice, I was falling.

The main difference between the Rabbit Hole and the Vortex is that the Vortex tends to be rather aggressive. It grabs you and sucks you down, and while you’re in there you tend to smash rather a lot into other things. What those things are doesn’t really matter; the point is, you usually wind up breaking them or they break you.

But eventually−like Alice−you find yourself somewhere else. Confused, shaken up, hopelessly lost. And you can either sit and drown in your own tears, or get up, fortify yourself with whatever’s at hand, and go have adventures.

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Barant created strange creatures from second-hand toys as he escaped the vortex. Copyright DD Barant

Like Alice, I did both. Like Alice, the experience was transformative: I made myself into an artist. I’ve been a prose writer my whole life, but I love comics and have always wanted to make them. I can’t draw worth a damn, so I taught myself how to manipulate digital images instead. I downloaded hundreds of public domain images from online museums and art galleries, scoured the internet for Creative Commons photos, took stills from old black-and-white films, made bizarre creations out of second-hand toys and stuffed animals and took pictures of them.

Alice had no control over which unusual creatures she encountered, but I did.

My Alice goes by the name Liss. She comes from an alternate fictional world known as an

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Liss searches for other Alternities. Copyright DD Barant

Alternity, one where Alice Liddell refused to believe that her childhood adventures were a dream, and devoted her time to the study of the occult. She grew up to be a powerful eyemage under the tutelage of Londinium’s most powerful magician, until she was forced to flee her own reality. These days, she works as an interdimensional thief, pilfering alternities for private collectors who’ll pay through the nose for a genuine artifict−a prized item from a fictional universe.

She does most of her business in a multiversal bar known as The Crossover, neutral ground for all manner of smugglers, thieves, and assassins. She uses a flamingo as a weapon.

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Help from strange beings in the Alternity. Copyright DD Barant

Everybody has their own Vortex, sooner later.  It sucks you in and whirls you around, you smash into things and things smash into you.  We all live in worlds of both chaos and order, and this is the chaotic bit.  But as dire and deadly as chaos can be, don’t forget that it’s also what makes freedom possible.  That can be hard to see in the middle of all that whirling debris . . . but it’s there.  When I look at my webcomic, at the mishmash of styles and images and ideas and characters, I see that chaos; but I also see how I’ve used it, nudged it here and there, made this piece bounce off that piece to wind up in a new orbit, got it to twist and swoop and lunge in a particular way.

You can’t control the Vortex.  But you can teach it to dance.

THE CROSSOVER is now up at : http://thecrossover.thecomicseries.com/. You can find more information about it at my blog, on Facebook at The Officialicious DD Barant page.

DD Barant is best known for the Bloodhound Files series: Dying Bites, Death Blows, Killing Rocks, Better Off Undead, Back from the Undead and Undead to the World. He also writes science fiction under the pseudonym Don DeBrandt: The Quicksilver Screen, Steeldriver, Timberjak, and V.I., as well as numerous pop-culture essays for Smartpop Books, and the Buffyverse media tie-in Shakedown (an ANGEL novel).

As Donn Cortez, he’s written five CSI: Miami novels, two CSI: Vegas novels, a murder mystery set at Burning Man (The Man Burns Tonight) and a thriller (The Closer) which became a bestseller in Germany. (The sequel, Remote, is available as an e-book in English).

As Dixie Lyle, she writes the paranormal animal cozy series The Whiskey, Tango and Foxtrot Mysteries: A Taste Fur Murder, To Die Fur, A Deadly Tail, and Marked Fur Murder.

Books: Steeldriver: https://www.amazon.ca/Steeldriver
Timberjak: https://www.amazon.com/Timberjak
V.I.: https://www.amazon.com/V-I-Intelligence
Bloodhound Files: https://www.amazon.com/Dying-Bites-Bloodhound-Files
WTF Mysteries: https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Fur-Murder-Whiskey-Foxtrot/
Remote: https://www.amazon.com/Remote-Suspense

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