Friday, October 31, 2014

Autumn Poetry -- Happy Halloween!

In the newest issue of Star*Line, the poetry magazine of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, contributing columnist Denise Dumars writes at the end of her piece: Write a formalist poem 
about autumn that does NOT mention falling leaves, bones, October/November holidays, Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino, or similar tropes. Oh, and it has to contain the color blue.

I do not use any of the list of words she has forbidden. And I succeeded in putting the color blue into it. But she did say no to "similar" autumn tropes. Well, I used the words: skeleton, moonlight, be it. And I don't write formal verse except for haiku and very very rare moments of rhyme so this is not a "formalist poem." But anyway, not one to pass up an autumn poetry challenge, here is what I came up with.

Happy Halloween!


I write to you
so many pages of mist
of winter suns
of sea foam

in this poem
are jars of dusk
and smoke
icicles in moonlight
shimmering skeletons

trees spill coins
at this edge of the year
this poem
alights in your eyes
all the silver days

I write to you of an older season
breathing its iron river-scent
of rain and lichen and chrome-blue stars
drunk on toadstool wine

this poem conjures
sweet long nights
phantoms of alabaster and lamplight
floating by
competing with the fog

of all the wind-dreamt evenings
I write to you
where the fields snap with frost
and the air’s voice
the coldest secrets of the dead

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mini-Interview With Author/Poet David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Welcome to yet another author mini-interview for my blog. And welcome David C. Kopaska-Merkel.

David and I have known each other through mail and the Internet since the 1980s. He has also been kind to publish a lot of my poetry in his wonderful poetry magazine Dreams and Nightmares. That magazine's 100th issue is coming out soon, complete with color cover, and I am honored to have a poem within it. I'll announce here and on Facebook when it is out. In the past, David and I have also collaborated on poems together. That was a great experience.
Last year I read (and reviewed for Star*Line) his collection Luminous Worlds from Dark Regions
Press. Because David has written so many books, I heartily recommend this one as a good sampling, a great place to start if you have not had the privilege of reading him before.

And now, on to the interview!

David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Why do you write what you do?

I don't usually plan ahead. I write what comes into my head. I have ideas that knock hard to be let out. I like science fiction and fantasy, so that's what I write. I made up stories and poems for my children when they were small, so I write those things too. One thing I set out to write, deliberately, is the daily poem. These are usually haiku and they are usually about something that is in my presence. That is how haiku are supposed to be written, at least traditionally. I do try to write for themed issues and such, but sometimes everything I come up with just doesn't fit.

How does your writing process work?

I sit down to write, and sometimes something intelligible comes out. If I think I might be able to improve it, then I fiddle with it, adding commas and taking them out, wholesale reorganization, that sort of thing. Quite often, I decide the avenue I'm following is unfruitful. At that point I either start over with a piece of what I've got in front of me or abandon it altogether.

I have an online writing group. Each week we propose words and then the idea is that each of us will write a poem using some or all of the words. I find this is a good way to get started writing. Also, if you really try to use all the words, the challenge encourages creative thinking.

 What are you working on now?

I am working on a second book of children's poems. The Edible Zoo was written for my children, nieces, and nephews when the oldest ones were only a couple of years old. They really liked the funny poems about people and animals trying to eat each other, and over the years when more nieces and nephews were born, and another daughter, I added poems. Eventually it was published and a couple of them bought copies for their own children. So recently I wrote a silly children's poem about an animal (it wasn't being eaten). I read this poem to my other writing group (this one is local). Several members are pretty serious and accomplished writers. Anyway, everybody liked the poem, so that's my new project: write some more.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I don't know how to answer this question. I am one of several science-fiction poets who includes a fair amount of science in some of their poems, and I am the only one of these who is a geologist (as far as I know.) In many of my poems a viewpoint character struggles against a hostile or uncaring universe. Sometimes I feel sorry for this person. But does this set me apart from most other speculative poets? I don't think so.

Bio: David C. Kopaska-Merkel

When not writing poetry, David Kopaska-Merkel studies the varied and strange part of the Earth called Alabama. Kopaska-Merkel has written myriads of poems, stories, and essays since the 70s. He won the Rhysling award (Science Fiction Poetry Association) for best long poem in 2006 for a collaboration with Kendall Evans. He has written 23 books, of which the latest is Luminous Worlds, a collection of dark poetry from Dark Regions ( Kopaska-Merkel has edited Dreams & Nightmares magazine since 1986. DN website @DavidKM on twitter.


Thank you so much, David, for taking the time to answer my questions. Look for future interviews with more authors on this blog.

Wendy Rathbone

P.S. Below is David's complete bibliography! Check it out.

Poetry and fiction books by David C. Kopaska Merkel

Contact information: 1300 Kicker Rd, Tuscaloosa, AL 35404 205-553-2284

1.      underfoot, the runaway spoon press, 1991, ISBN 0-926935-60-7, 2nd printing ($6)
2.      a round white hole, dbqp press, 1993, a few left, available from author ($5)
3.      The Conspiracy Unmasked, Dark Regions Press, 1994, out-of-print
4.      hunger, Preternatural press, 1996, out-of-print
5.      Results of a preliminary investigation of the electrochemical properties of some organic matrices , Eraserhead Press, 1999, out-of-print
6.      Y2K survival kit, smoldering banyan press 1999, out-of-print
7.      The Ruined City, gnarled totem press, 2003, out-of-print
8.      Shoggoths, Sam's Dot publishing, 2003, out-of-print
9.      The Deadbolt Casebook, Sam's Dot publishing (fiction), 2004, out of print
10. the egg show, speakeasy press, 2005, ISBN 0-9762962-0-9 ($40, entirely handmade including the paper)
11. I don't know what you're having, Sam's Dot publishing, 2005, out-of-print
12. Separate Destinations (with Kendall Evans), D66 Press, 2005, ISBN 1-892958-02-3, a few left, available from author ($7)
13. Hasp Deadbolt, Private Eye, Sam's Dot publishing (fiction), 2007, out-of-print
14. Drowning Atlantis, (flash fiction), 2007, out-of-print
15. The memory of persistence, Naked snake press, 2007, out of print
16. Nursery Rhyme Noir, Sam's Dot publishing, 978-09821068-3-9  (fiction; incorporates 9 and 13), 2008, 2nd printing, available from author ($14)
17. Night Ship to Never (with Kendall Evans), diminuendo press, 978-0-9821352-3-5, 2009, out-of-print
18. The simian transcript,  Banana Oil books, flash fiction, 2010, a few left, available from author ($8)
19. Brushfires, Sam's Dot publishing, poetry, 2010 ($9)
20.  The Tin Men (with Kendall Evans), Sam's Dot, poetry, 2011 ($9)
21.  The Edible Zoo, Sam's Dot, children's poetry, 2012, available from author ($10)
22.  Luminous Worlds, Dark Regions Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1-937128-92-0

Available from the author (except 10 & 22); prices include shipping. Make checks out to author.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Beneath the Blue Dusk and the Sea

Lots of new stuff going for me and I'm enjoying every bit of it.

First I have a new book out, a collection of short stories, half new, half previously published in various anthologies. The collection is called Beneath the Blue Dusk and the Sea and was great fun to put together.

The collection contains 8 stories and 8 poems.
All the poems except one are brand new, never before published.

Next, I have designed a new cover for my science fiction novel, Pale Zenith. I'm quite happy with it. Much better than the first.

New cover for Pale Zenith
And speaking of Pale Zenith, I have one short story and one novella, both set in that universe, that I am now re-editing. They will soon be put out in a book which will be a companion book to Pale Zenith. The book will be called Moltenrose, and I am finalizing the book format now.

Another project I am working on is a collection of some of my previously published vampire short stories. The book will be called Bitters and I plan to have it out before the end of the year with a nice, enticing cover!

And not to be forgotten, my new poetry book, Turn Left at November, will be coming out from Eldritch Press in November of this year. I'm very excited and as soon as I have a cover to show I will post it here.

I have plans to begin a new novel. Nothing specific yet because, well, I'm a seat of the pants kind of writer. I write "into the dark" and that is why I enjoy it so much. I have found, after much trial and error (and some success) for decades that giving myself permission to just play on the page (and never to someone else's expectations or specifications) has produced some of my best work.

You know, people have accused me of "having stars in my eyes" because I say I enjoy writing. Some people don't even "trust" writers who say that. But I've worked long and hard at my craft, more than 30 years of practice, millions of words. I'm no newbie. I have created an environment both physical and mental that is like a writer's toybox wherein I lift things out and play all day (when my travel-for-work season is over,) losing all sense of time. If I'm doing it all wrong, so be it, I don't care. I've spent years unlearning so many writer-myths that I could write books just about that. As a result of all that, no more blocks, self-censorship, self-criticizing. This is for me. I work at the craft I love stress-free. Any sales to magazines, anthologies and publishers I've made is, really, just the extra cherry.

If you have read this blog before, you know I write poetry ALL THE TIME. So here is the first part of a four part poem about rain I wrote last night. (I mostly write just before I go to sleep...sometimes I fall asleep with my journal pen in my hand.)

I Am Rain

haunting the window
wanting into
my mind
to slide its cold-moss thoughts
helm my dreams
liquid and alive
letting clouds walk into me
for awhile
I’m a shattered lake
drifting on
mouths of air
I contain
shimmering mirrors
pools where the moon laps me
briefly unfolding its wide circle
to let me see inside
I hear
the lone weeping of stars
as I fall

More free stuff: For today only (Oct. 27, 2014) my erotic romance The Foundling is free on Kindle until midnight. Enjoy!

Upcoming: I will be at Mystery and Imagination Bookshop in Glendale, CA for a book signing at 6 P.M. November 6, 2014. The signing is for the long-awaited iconic anthology A Darke Phantastique edited by Jason V. Brock. My short story "I Keep the Dark that is Your Pain" appears within.

My next blog will be an interview with the wonderful poet David C. Kopaska-Merkel.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mini-Interview With Maria Alexander

In continuing my series of mini-interviews with fellow authors, today's focus is on Maria Alexander. Maria and I share room in the anthology Mutation Nation, where her horror story, "Nickelback Ned," is collected. You can also find this story in her collection, By the Pricking. We actually met at a book signing for Mutation Nation. She is a quick-witted, enthusiastic, sparkling personality.

She is also a wonderful poet and screenwriter.

Her first novel, Mr. Wicker, was just released in September from Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Here are her answers to my questions.

Maria Alexander

1. Why do you write what you do?

Writing is like possession. I let a story ride me like the loa until the spirit is done with me. But why did a particular story take over my life? And why did it have such deep emotional resonance that I can't let go of it? I can't say. I suppose darker stories inhabit me because I am pretty spooky in general. Do I sometimes make choices about projects? Of course. But when Papa Ghede wants to get hitched, that cigar smoke is the sweetest perfume on earth. I can't resist it. Mr. Wicker was born from a specific incident in my life that was quite bizarre yet powerful — so powerful, in fact, that I've carried it with me all these years. But I'm not telling that origin story in interviews or on my blog. Rather, there's a puzzle at the end of the book trailer:

If you solve it, you will embark on a journey that reveals the story as you go.

2. How does your writing process work?

Normally, an idea strikes and I can't stop thinking about it. If I'm in the middle of another project, I finish that project before moving onto the new idea. (Often, the new idea needs time to "bake," anyway.) Soon, the skeleton of the story lies before me, including and especially the ending. There's usually something cathartic about that ending, which I think is why it's so important for me to write the story (getting back to the first question). I start with 3 x 5 cards if it's a book — which it is almost always these days — and I look for structure first. Are my opening, midpoint and climax in place? I used to be a screenwriter, so I'm very conscious about structure. I usually have a firm idea about my main character, but the others are more fluid. I start writing, trusting that, even if I initially don't like what I put on the page, I'll eventually come up with something much better.

3. What are you working on now?

I just finished writing Snowed, a YA novel in a dark trilogy. I'm currently researching and outlining the second book, Inversion, as well as querying agents. The first book has gotten such a wildly enthusiastic response from my beta readers — almost all teenagers and their mothers who couldn't put it down — that I feel confident it'll soon find its way into readers' hands.

4. How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I cannot for my life come up with a story about zombies, werewolves, vampires, witches or any other popular trope. I suspect that, if I could write about zombies in particular, I would have had a much bigger career by now. I've thought about this quite a bit, but it's just not in my creative DNA. I do have one published vampire story ("Veil of Skin"), but the original version had no real vampires at all. For years, I couldn't sell the story until I turned this one character into a real vampire rather than a person in a costume. I have written about ghosts, but most of those tales are based on my real-life personal experiences, of which I've had many; that might be different from most authors who write ghost stories.

For me, I tend either to twist existing myths or come up with my own creatures and mythologies. If there is a trope that I've embraced at all, it's the psychopomp. An example of that is "The Dark River of His Flesh," a story that first appeared in Paradox: The Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction. Set at the dawn of Queen Victoria's reign, it's about a man grief-stricken by the suicide of his illicit lover. One night, a mysterious link boy leads him to an absinthe bar that magically changes location every time he visits. The absinthe drinks allow him to see his dead lover, but they're also leading him somewhere increasingly hellish with each visit.

So, that's how my stories might be different. I just hope people enjoy them. Thanks, Wendy!


Maria Alexander is a produced screenwriter, games writer, acclaimed short story writer, virtual world designer, award-winning copywriter, interactive theatre designer and Bram Stoker Award-nominated poet. Her debut novel, Mr. Wicker, is now available from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Library Journal gave it a Starred Review. Publishers Weekly calls it "...(a) splendid, bittersweet ode to the ghosts of childhood."

When she's not wielding a katana at her shinkendo dojo, she's being outrageously spooky or writing Doctor Who filk. She lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats and a purse called Trog.


Thank you to Maria for doing this interview!

Next week I will interview the poet David C. Kopaska-Merkel.