Saturday, August 20, 2016

THE MFA DEGREE DOESN'T MATTER. THE WRITING DOES.

I feel like whenever I log on to the internet these days, or pick up a writing magazine, all I see are people complaining about MFA programs and how they are worthless and a complete waste of money when you can learn everything you do in one, not only for free, but in the comfort of your own home by yourself. Naturally, I have a lot of feelings about this, and as someone who has graduated from one (Seton Hill University’s MFA Program forWriting Popular Fiction), worked as an assistant to another (Carlow University’sMFA Program for Creative Writing), and is currently teaching in yet another one (Western Connecticut State University’s MFA Program for Professional andCreative Writing), I think I’m entitled to my opinion here…just as all of you are entitled to yours.

There’s no denying that if you want to be a writer that you (1) have to write and (2) have to read. And yes! You can do that in the comfort of your own home. I myself read about 100 books a year and write at least four times a week (if not every day), and hell, I’ve been doing all of that to some extent since I was eight years old. Do I have to pay a shit ton of money to do any of that? No, but I guess that also depends on your book buying habits and how close you are to a library.

Now what I didn’t have access to was countless resources and mentors and critique partners and networking. Sure, some of you may be blessed and be way more intelligent and extroverted than I was/am, but when I graduated from undergrad, I had no idea half of this industry existed—and I’m talking about the conferences that I attend each year, the organizations that I have memberships with, the computer software that I use, some of my favorite authors, etc. I virtually knew nothing other than I liked horror, read a fair amount of it, and published with a ton of magazines that didn’t pay me and thought that giving me exposure was good enough.

News flash—it’s not.
Get paid for your work.

So yeah, I needed guidance and I needed an MFA program to show me the ropes of publishing and introduce me to a world that I eventually became savvy in, but more than that, I wanted the attention and the hand-holding and the community because I didn’t have the confidence to write a manuscript by myself. I wanted someone standing over me with a red pen smacking me when I did stupid shit, critiquing me when I made the same tedious mistakes, and I wanted to be in an environment of other like-minded people who had the same goals as me and wanted to learn about the industry.

If I didn’t go to Seton Hill, I wouldn’t know how to evaluate a contract. I wouldn’t know how to seed out shady people who make promises to me about my writing and don’t deliver. I wouldn’t know how to find an agent, properly use a comma, write a query letter, pitch my novel, build a website, create an author platform, teach a workshop, or have met half the people I know, love, and work with now.

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Seton Hill did for me, but regardless, wanting and learning all of that doesn’t make me pretentious. It also doesn’t make me a stupid. I got my MFA because I wanted to make myself a better writer and that was the best way for me to do it. My career goals and aspirations were worth the loans to me if I was going to be taught how to hold my own in this field, and I also wanted a terminal degree that would allow me follow my dream of becoming a professor, and you know what, all of those things happened…and more.

Seton Hill changed my life. 
  • Will I be in debt forever? No (laughs painfully), but yeah it will take a while to pay off. 
  • Was it worth it? I would sell my soul to the Devil himself to do it all over again. Shit, if they started a PhD program or fronted another certificate tomorrow, I’d be there waiting in Maura first thing in the morning.


The fact of the matter is, everyone learns differently. What worked for me may not be your cup of tea and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean my way is wrong, just like it doesn’t mean your way is right. Maybe you can do it on your own, and if so, I tip my hat to you, but I couldn’t, and I shouldn’t get ridiculed or attacked for paying for my education. I spent 2.5 years writing, studying, working three jobs, and not sleeping for me to take that lightly or not personally. So no, you don’t need an MFA to be a writer. What you do is need is the passion, drive, and commitment to learn and do whatever it takes to make you the best writer (and forever reader) you can be, and yeah, for some people, that means going to an MFA program to hone their art.

The point is that the degree itself doesn’t matter unless you’re trying to get a job as a professor. What does matter is if you learned how to write in the program and if you did something with the tools that you were given. If you did, then your money was well spent and to some respect, you can’t put a price on that.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SUICIDE SQUAD, EH?

This post will probably earn me my own place on a suicide squad, but I’m going to say it anyways. I’m not a big fan of superhero movies. I try to be—really. I’ve watched (and own) a decent handful of them, but for whatever reason, they’re just not my thing. Having said that though—since I’m a walking contradiction—I love Batman. Always have. He’s the one superhero that I’ve always been drawn too, even as a kid with the television series, and I think what I like most about him is that he’s in a constant struggle with himself. Sure, now there’s probably going to be a ton of people that comment on this telling me that all superheroes are struggling, but guess what? That’s fine and dandy and I salute you, but I only really care about Batman.

Fun facts:
  • I dig Batman because he’s an ordinary guy (okay, I mean yeah, maybe a billionaire isn’t ordinary, but whatever) doing something amazing.
  • I love the voice and the suit and the symbol of the bat, as well as the story behind it.
  • Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Alfred and Lucius hits me right in the feels.
  • I’ve watched all the Batman movies (except when he was fighting Superman… not sure how I feel about that one yet), and I’ve read a decent bit of the graphic novels, although not nearly as many as I probably should have because I’m only really interested in certain villains, Arkham Asylum, and the suicide squad.
  • Oh, and I’m obsessed with the Joker.

That last one is probably the most important to me when it comes to this DC franchise. The Joker is everything that I love in a villain—he’s brilliant, destructive, chaotic, and has a wicked rad sense of humor. I like the idea of him being a jokester and I will probably always have a soft spot for Jack Nicholson’s version of him, even though my heart will forever be with Heath Ledger now because when I watched that Dark Knight, my mind exploded. That was how I envisioned Gotham, how I imagined the mob wars going down, how I wanted the characters to interact and push each other, but more importantly, it was everything that I wanted in the Joker: sass, swagger, intensity, madness, and the willingness to send a message just to keep everyone on their toes.



I could write about the Joker forever, and maybe someday I will, but what’s relevant to me right now is what I just saw in Suicide Squad. Now let me perfectly honest and upfront with everyone when I say that I was pissed off about this movie as soon as I saw the trailer for it. It wasn’t anything like that I thought it was going to be, I wasn’t a big fan of the character development, and when I saw what Jared Leto was doing to my man, I about had a heart attack. BUT I figured that I couldn’t properly bitch about this until I went and saw the movie, which I did, yesterday afternoon.

Verdict: Disappointed, but not as much as I thought I was going to be.

I thought Will Smith played a wonderful version of Deadshot, and I was actually really impressed with his portrayal of him. Same with Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and Jay Hernadez as El Diablo. Count me happy—I thought their performances were vibrant, very relatable to the graphic novel series, and I believed what they were selling to me. My only complaint here is that I thought the breaking line with El Diablo should have had to be worked more---it seemed like he went from zero to 100 pretty fast at times, and sure, that might be okay for some people, but I like to see more psychological torment, especially in a character like him, who for so long, refused to access that side of himself.

I can’t talk about Killer Croc, yet. It’s too soon.
I’ve never been more disappointed with a character representation in my life.

But now we come to Jared Leto as the Joker, and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Now like I said, when I first saw the trailer, I was angry—super angry. I thought they were making jokes (no pun intended) out of two of my all-time favorite characters, and in a lot of ways, I didn’t want to see the movie because of that. So let’s start with the Joker:



  • I get that playing the Joker has to be pressure like one would believe—especially after Ledger’s portrayal of him. So yeah, if I was going to do this role, I would want to bring something completely different to the table and do my own thing with the character. And truth be told, that’s what Leto did. Is it the Joker that I love? No. But did I hate him like I thought I would? Surprisingly, not.
  • I will be honest and say that I do not like the look of mob-boss-gangster Joker. The tattoos and the grill don’t do it for me, and nor did the laugh, which I think is a pretty deal big here. Seriously, have a listen at the laughs over the years. Which one do you think is the weakest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aweuxVULizg
  • And that kind of brings me to my next point. Was I entertained watching his character? Yes. In fact, my favorite parts of the movie were when the Joker showed up and started interacting with Harley, BUT I was never afraid of him and I didn’t think he came off as crazy. Sure, there’s definitely a few nuts and bolts loose up there, but I didn’t get the loose cannon, unnerved, tormented, and genius-deviant that I wanted.
  • And hello? The smile was gone. Another one of my favorite character traits about the Joker is that no matter how dark he is…he’s always permanently smiling. The cartoon had the razor sharp giggle, Nicholson brought the stretched out smile with the prankster laugh to go with it, and Ledger had the scars and the manic hysterical giggle that made our hair stand on edge. But Leto? The laugh wasn’t there, the smile wasn’t there, and at one point, it was drawn on his face with black marker or something, and to me, that just felt insulting to the character.
    • But I’m going to play devil’s advocate here now and give them a pass. Something that I really did like in means of character development was the tattoo of the smile on his hand. I thought that worked really well with who/what they were trying to pull off with this character, and hell, it even made me smile when it first showed up. So I’ll give them some credit here. Not a lot. But some, because it still upset me.
Now for dear, dear, Harley.

Like I mentioned before, I was pretty upset when I saw how Robbie was portraying her. When I was reading Suicide Squad, I saw Harley as the perfect companion to the Joker: manipulative, insane, dangerous, and a woman of strength, power, and cunning. For those of you who know me, you know that’s what I love in female characters: someone with some bite. But was that who showed up in the film? Yes and no.


  • I didn’t hate Harley Quinn. In fact, if you put me under a lie detector test, I would have to tell you that I actually really liked her character. She’s strong, intelligent, a total bad ass, but still, calm, cool, and collected. I loved that. I dug the hair, the makeup, and even the wardrobe—which I know a lot of women will give me shit for, but the thing about this that we have to remember is Harley’s character is all about confidence. I mean, even her portrayal in the graphic series is in a corset with high stiletto books. Now mind you, I would have rather seen the actual costume because I’m a purist with these things, but I liked her look and how she wore it. In fact, they even had a throwback in the film where she picked up her jester costume and that totally made me smile. As a feminist, count me proud. But that’s the only pass I’m giving here with her looks.
    • I could go on a whole rant about the portrayal of the female form in comics, but I won’t because that’s not what this blog post is about, but I will say that the response that I’ve been hearing about Harley’s character isn’t that she’s this brilliant, beautiful psychopath, but rather that they got to see her ass for most of the movie. This is where I grow some fangs.
    • Margot Robbie is beautiful, and she looks beautiful in this film. But that’s not the point of Harley’s character, people! What I wanted to see here was an INTELLIGENT PREVIOUS-PSYCHOLOGIST LOSE HER IDENTITY WHEN TREATING THE JOKER AND THEN SEE HER TRANSFORMATION. To some extent, yeah, the movie showed me this and I liked it, but it didn’t show the struggle. I’m all about conflict, and I think that conflict has to be earned and showed for something to be pulled off successfully, and I didn’t buy it. I didn’t see the “I am woman, hear me roar” element in her, and I saw it in the graphic novel series. I saw how she fell for the Joker. I saw how she started embracing her crazy. I saw how she became strong and eventually, stood up to the Joker and told him how she really felt. That wasn’t in the movie—maybe it will be when she gets her own film, but Christ. Harley is a fucking a brilliant time-bomb. She’s not just some girl in short shorts carrying a bat. Shame on you, Hollywood. Shame.
    • *Deep breaths, Wytovich. Deep breaths.*
  • So now that I got that out, I can breathe a bit and talk about some elements I really did like. I loved how we were first introduced to her: a dancing/hanging ribbon act in her cell that she made out of what appeared to be a straitjacket. See, that’s my girl right there: graceful, beautiful, calm, and deadly. She attacked guards, had to be restrained, and all the while, she still smiled as giggled and made sarcastic comments, and she pretty much did this throughout the entire film, which I thought was true to her character.
  • I liked that she went rogue and made it very apparent that this was a girl who was going to make her own decisions, and make them when she wanted and as she pleased so high five, feminism. But while I don’t want to spoil a whole lot here for people who haven’t read the graphic novel series, while I dig the toxic relationship between her and the joker for the plot (and seriously folks, that’s what it is—a toxic, abusive relationship. Let’s not romanticize it), I think there were a lot of elements missing here that showed her strength when it comes to love and standing up for herself, and being a woman. And again, maybe that’s why she’s getting her own movie and we’ll see it there, but I missed that in this film, and that tarnished it for me.
    • Devil’s Advocate: did I hate what they did to their story line, though? No. In fact, I kind of really enjoyed seeing how the Joker and Harley interacted with each other outside of Arkham, and I liked seeing the hold she had/has over my favorite villain. Did I buy it though? Not completely.



So I have some feelings. Some of them are warranted, some of them are me bitching because I’m a purist, and some of them are legit problems that I think a lot of people would agree on when it comes to character development. I don’t think the movie was a total failure, but I don’t think that it stands up to the momentum that we had with The Dark Knight series. The vibe felt off for me, the cheesy neon colors and backdrop of the film felt weird and misplaced, and like I said, I didn’t feel afraid of these most wanted, dangerous criminals.

Except for Deadshot. I think he’d just about kill anyone if he had a legit reason to.

Overview:
  • Would I watch the movie again? Yes
  • Would I pay to watch the movie again? No
  • Should you pay to watch the movie in theaters? I would wait till you can rent it.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

HWA POETRY SHOWCASE III: MEET BRUCE BOSTON

Hi Everyone,

Today I'm interviewing the lovely Bruce Boston, a poet whom I've admired for many, many years. 
Bruce has published fifty books and chapbooks, including the novels Stained Glass Rain and the best-of fiction collection Masque of Dreams, and his work ranges from broad humor to literary surrealism, with many stops along the way for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Boston's novel The Guardener's Tale (Sam's Dot, 2007) was a Bram Stoker Award Finalist and a Prometheus Award Nominee, and his stories and poems have appeared in hundreds of publications, including Asimov's SF Magazine, Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and The Nebula Awards Showcase, and received a number of awards, most notably, a Pushcart Prize, the Bram Stoker Award, the Asimov's Readers' Award, the Rhysling Award, and the Grand Master Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. For more information, please visit his website at http://www.bruceboston.com/ 

How did you hear about the poetry showcase?

HWA Facebook Page

What  is the title of your poem? Why did you decide to submit that particular piece?

"Enough." I often have trouble placing poems with sociopolitical content. The Showcase took a political poem from me last time, so I though I'd try another one.

What is your process like for writing poetry?

Haphazard and sometime hallucinogenic, followed by a severe application of craft.

Who are some of your poetic influences?

Too many to name, but I will add that many of them are fiction writers.

Who are you reading now and who/what are you looking forward to reading for the remainder of the year?

Currently reading John Dickson Carr's The Dark of the Moon, so far one of his weakest novels, and also, David E. Cowen's new poetry collection, The Seven Yards of Sorrow, quite good so far. Don't know what I'll be reading for the rest of the year. Whatever grabs my fancy and draws me in. I read eclectically, but almost always fiction or poetry. 

Are you currently working on anything that you want to announce? Has anything of yours recently been published that you would like to talk about?

My latest collection, Sacrificial Nights, a collaboration with Alessandro Manzetti, just came out. This is a poetry novella that blends the genres of horror, surrealism, crime and noir. Both ebook and trade paper available at Amazon.

I've been finalizing a collaborative collection with fellow SFPA Grandmaster, Robert Frazier, Visions of the Mutant Rain Forest, fiction and poetry, due early next year from Crystal Lake Publishing.

I've also been collecting blurbs for a forty-year retrospective collection, Artifacts: Selected Short Poem, 1975-2015, due from Crystal Lake Publishing this fall.


Finally, I've begun assembling the best of my uncollected poems for a new collection, tentatively titled Brief Encounters with My Third Eye.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

HWA POETRY SHOWCASE III: MEET MICHAEL A. ARNZEN

Hi Everyone,

Today I stole my buddy Mike Arnzen away from his computer and threw him in THE MADHOUSE with me for a short stay. Mike has been here with me a couple times now, and fun fact, has even hung out with me and explored an actual madhouse before (see: Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum). So sit back, relax, and get into minds of my one of my favorite writers!

How did you hear about the poetry showcase?

I've wanted to be a part of the HWA's support for poetry ever since I first heard the HWA was publishing these Showcases.  I'd read the previous two anthologies and was really impressed by the work they contained, and I regretted overlooking the deadlines and never submitting to them. So when I heard another one was in production, I made it a point to not let the deadline pass me by this time.  The HWA has done so much for me over the years (I've been a member since the 90s) that I am trying to give back in different ways, from contributing to books like this to volunteering to things when I have the time, like mentoring and teaching classes at StokerCon and such.

What  is the title of you poem? Why did you decide to submit that particular piece?

"The Trappings of Poetry" is my contribution to Vol. 3, and I wrote it expressly for this collection.  I feel that the HWA is doing a fantastic thing in supporting poetry, but the majority of its writers remain fiction authors (myself included); so I wanted to try to explore the horror of the format itself and try to offer a text that said something about what it is horror poetry is, as much as to try to creep out the reader.  I often see this as my mission, even if it's not so conscious: to create "horror" that by its very nature is unique to the medium that contains it. So in this case I set out to write a horror poem that could only be done >through< poetry.  As with a lot of my experiments like this, I just let the proverbial muse take over -- but then I took control back -- and the poem became an exploration of point-of-view in the tradition of Poe:  a piece about devious compulsion and sadism that -- I'd like to think -- makes you more and more uncomfortable the longer you sit with the voice of the narrator... though, of course, it's really a poem about all of us writers, and thus, the readers of this collection.
What is your process like for writing poetry?

It's very spontaneous and loose -- a kind of word jazz.  This creates a lot of sick humor and puns along the way.  And this process is similar to how I write fiction, in that I really just try to channel my unconscious onto the page first -- striving to get as close to a "dream" state as possible (the proverbial "zone") and thereby release the nightmares -- and also trying to side-step all the things inside of us that censor and control us.  Poetry is best for this because it gives you the flexibility to avoid the structures of time, space, chronology, narration, characterization -- all the "structures" that impose order on ideas.  In a poem, anything goes, just like in a crazy dream, and I love that.  Not every horror concept works this way; narrative fiction is better for unleashing surprise and really giving us a "character study" or a way of contrasting reality vs. the fantastic.  For me there's a very thin line between the two forms, though.  In fact, I'd say that the most horrifying moments in a horror story are usually the scenes or passages most akin to poetry, since the language is fraught with weirdness.

Who are some of your poetic influences?

To write this stuff, you've gotta be open to surprise discoveries, so I'm never married to just one style, just one writer, or just one pet subgenre. I'malways exploring new things and trying to put myself into literary situations where inspiration and influence will come out of nowhere and change the way I think.  So most of my influences are people who have surprised me profoundly in the past, or who continue to freak me out and shock me with something new every time.  I already mentioned Poe, who is a big one, and maybe after that I'd cite someone like Jim Morrison -- but I really have been influenced most by contemporary genre writers -- friends in the business, I suppose -- who I always spend the most time reading and studying.  People like John Grey, Marge Simon, Ann Schwader, Kurt Newton...even you, Stephanie Wytovich. I try to absorb it all and want to be a part of the "conversation" we're all having about horror and mankind.  Outside of genre writers, I've been reading poets like Aase Berg and Zach Schomberg (all the poets at Black Ocean books are tops), and listening to weird music, with or without weird lyrics.  Like, right now, I'm digging a bunch of computer game "soundtracks" and have been listening to them as ambient noise as I write.  I also just discovered an amazing percussionist named Tatsuya Nakatani who is doing some crazy things to cymbals, gongs, bowls and skins that amazes me and inspires me to try to wrestle new ideas out of the mundane tools I already use in everyday life.

Who are you reading now and who/what are you looking forward to reading for the remainder of the year?

I just picked up "Underwater Fistfight" by Matt Betts, which I'm really looking forward to reading. He tends to tackle popular culture in a witty and surprising way.  I saw that the bass player from King Crimson and Peter Gabriel's band -- Tony Levin -- has a poetry book now, so I'll likely pick that up and see what he's up to.  After discovering and writing the intro to Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann's book last year -- On Quiet Nights -- I've renewed my appreciation for what musicians are doing, even if they aren't avid readers of other poets. Their instinctive play with the sound of language thrills me.   Aside from poetry, I'm hoping to catch up with the Stephen King books piling up on my "To Be Read" stack.  I still need to read the entire Bill Hodges Trilogy.  

Are you currently working on anything that you want to announce? Has anything of yours recently been published that you would like to talk about?

I was shocked to discover recently that next year will be a decade since my Stoker-winning short story collection, Proverbs for Monsters, came out.  It's been out of print and hard to find for a long time now, and I'd been holding back on releasing an ebook --  but since it's a Stoker-winning collection, it deserves to be out there.  So Dark Regions Press and I have been working up an exciting expanded edition to re-release around the time next StokerCon rolls around!  

All sorts of other irons are in the fire right now too.  My non-fiction study, The Popular Uncanny, should be out by the end of the year.  And I recently just finished polishing up 55 stories in a series for an anthology called "555 Vol. 2" which I'm really excited about. They're microshorts, but hilariously sick.  Too soon to announce my next novel, but it's in development and so far so good!  I also think I've got enough material to put together a new poetry collection as well.  So please let folks know about my free newsletter, The Goreletter -- it's the best way to keep up to date on my work and you get all sorts of things there that you can't get elsewhere, like original art, prize books and more strange poetry. 


Author Bio:



Michael Arnzen holds four Bram Stoker Awards and an International Horror Guild Award for his disturbing (and often funny) poetry, fiction, and other literary experiments.  He holds a PhD in English from University of Oregon and teaches in the MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University.  Raw Dog Screaming Press recently published the 20th Anniversary edition of his first novel (Grave Markings, along with a decade-long collection of his micropoetry (The Gorelets Omnibus), and will be releasing his new nonfiction study, The Popular Uncanny, this October. See what he’s up to now at gorelets.com

SOCIAL MEDIA:
BLOG & NEWSLETTER:  http://gorelets.com/
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/MikeArnzen/    [@MikeArnzen]
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/gorelets   [@gorelets]
Google+: http://profiles.google.com/arnzen
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ArnzenM
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mikearnzen/  [@mikearnzen]

Monday, July 11, 2016

SAINT OR SINNER? WELCOME TO THE MADHOUSE, PETER SALOMON.


Hi Everyone:

Today in THE MADHOUSE, I've kidnapped fellow horror author and poet, Peter Adam Salomon. Peter and I have known each other for a few years now as we both exchange and critique each other's writing from time to time, and most importantly, we both have the same twisted flair and appreciation for the dark arts, too. His latest poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners is now running free in the (under)world, and as such, I wanted to give you all a peek behind the veil to hear a little more about his creative process and how for him, the lines between fiction and poetry are a little blurred. Enjoy!

GUEST POST:
by Peter Adam Salomon

Despite two published novels and one Bram Stoker award nomination (for ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS) in the Young Adult novel category, I still think of myself as a poet. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I’ve been writing poems since I was seven and only started writing novels as an adult. Perhaps because I believe my natural ‘voice’ is found in my poetry, in the freedom and spirit that poetry represents.

Mostly, I consider myself a poet first because I feel a much stronger emotional bond to poetry, both as a writer and a reader. With my second novel, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS I threw out all the standard rules of fiction writing (no run-on sentences, no repeated words, no sentence fragments, etc.) and pretty much replaced them with some of the rules of poetry writing. I knew this would result in some people hating the book, which happened, just as much as I knew that some readers would love it for the very same reasons. I loved the poetry of the novel and am extremely proud of it. But it’s prose, no matter how poetic, and it left me with a burning need to write poetry again.

My first collection of poetry, Prophets, consisted of mostly old poems with only a handful of newer works. While it was rewarding to see some of my personal favorite poems in print that way, I still wanted to try to stretch my wings a little bit more. PseudoPsalms:Saints v. Sinners, my latest poetry collection (published by Bizarro Pulp Press), allowed me the freedom to do that.

While retaining a focus on the exploration of identity and self, religion/politics, and sanity/insanity which pretty much all of my writing deals with, PseudoPsalms also gave me the unique opportunity to do more than just explore the darkness and shadows I’ve grown so familiar with over the years of writing horror. As the subtitle suggests these are not all dark poems. There are glimmers of sunshine, if not outright joy and wonder, making the shadows, I think, just that little bit darker. Reaching outside of my comfort zone, into the light so to speak, forced me to improve my own writing in ways that I hadn’t really worked on before. I’d found so much comfort in exploring the shadows that all that illumination in the lighter poems I usually thought lessened the quality of my own writing. Embracing the light was more difficult than I’d expected it to be but I hope I managed to capture lightning in a bottle a few times in those poems.

When writing about those shadows, my process usually starts from a place of ‘what scares me?’ or ‘what would scare others?’ That difference (between ‘me’ and ‘others’) is what I believe enables me to write poems from different points of view, working the empathy muscle in order to attempt to understand someone else’s fears and worries. As I said: ‘attempt,’ since I’m never quite sure how successful I am but I’ll never stop trying to put myself in the shoes of other people in order to better understand the world.

When writing about the lighter things in life, my process was immediately derailed. ‘What do I like?’ Well, I honestly don’t really know most of the time. I like the shadows. Which, of course, leads me back to writing a darker poem than I’d originally intended in this particular process. ‘What do other people like?’ Well, have to admit that is a question I really don’t know the answer to.

Writing those lighter poems, therefore, presented a challenge from the very beginning. Plus, while writing them I’d find myself going off-course, adding shadows where none belonged to ‘improve’ the poem. And usually those improvements ruined the poem (though I was able to save some tangents for later poems, which was helpful, I suppose). In the end, I tried to really focus on keeping the shadows away, to really let the light shine through. To embrace, so to speak, the illumination in order for the shadows to be just that little bit darker. And to let the shadows make the light a little brighter. Or, at least, that’s what I hoped for.

Containing more of an equal mix of new and old poems (my next collection will be almost extensively new, if and when I finish it…), PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners was written to be an exploration of both the light and the dark, and, most especially, of that wicked grey limbo where they meet. Sure, monsters may be hiding in the dark, waiting for unsuspecting prey, but there are monsters in the light as well. They’re just sometimes harder to see. Which, come to think of it, might make them the scariest monsters of all.


Author Bio:

Peter Adam Salomon is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Horror Writers Association, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, the International Thriller Writers, and The Authors Guild and is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

His debut novel, HENRY FRANKS, was published by Flux in 2012. His second novel, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS, published by Flux in 2014, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Young Adult fiction. Both novels have been named a ‘Book All Young Georgians Should Read’ by The Georgia Center For The Book.

His short fiction has appeared in the Demonic Visions series among other anthologies, and he was the featured author for Gothic Blue Book III: The Graveyard Edition. He was also selected as one of the Gentlemen of Horror for 2014.

His poem ‘Electricity and Language and Me’ appeared on BBC Radio 6 performed by The Radiophonic Workshop in December 2013. Eldritch Press published his first collection of poetry, Prophets, in 2014, and his second poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners, was published in 2016 by Bizarro Pulp Press. In addition, he was the Editor for the first books of poetry released by the Horror Writers Association: Horror Poetry Showcase Volumes I and II.

He served as a Judge for the 2006 Savannah Children’s Book Festival Young Writer’s Contest and for the Royal Palm Literary Awards of the Florida Writers Association. He was also a Judge for the first two Horror Poetry Showcases of the Horror Writers Association and has served as Chair on multiple Juries for the Bram Stoker Awards.

www.peteradamsalomon.com
www.facebook.com/peteradamsalomon
Twitter: @petersalomon




Thursday, July 7, 2016

HWA POETRY SHOWCASE III: MEET CORRINE DE WINTER

Next up in my HWA Poetry Showcase Interview series, is Corrine De Winter. Please take a few moments to read through her words, learn about her process, and see what is next on her to-do list! Welcome to THE MADHOUSE, Corrine.

How did you hear about the poetry showcase? 
I have been a member of HWA for some years now.


What  is the title of you poem? Why did you decide to submit that particular piece?
"Always The Black and White Keys"-  The poem speaks of heartbreak, which we've all experienced, and how difficult it is to sometimes let go- Death takes over and we are at a loss, but the heart muddles through it.


What is your process like for writing poetry? 
A line will come to me usually that I can build off of- Reading excellent poetry really helps with meter and cadence, of course. I hardly ever sit down for the sole purpose of writing a poem- if they don't come organically I do not force them. 


Who are some of your poetic influences?
My absolute favorite is Conrad Aiken- so intense that you feel you have been deeply pulled into a trance of sorts, at least for me. Also love Anne Sexton,  Sylvia Plath, Muriel Rukeyser, Anna Akhmatova, James Merrill- hmm, trying to think of living people now, ha haa- Frank Bidart, David St. John, Andrew Harvey, Mary Jo Bang, among lots of others. 


Who are you reading now and who/what are you looking forward to reading for the remainder of the year?
I am reading a book "Above the Dreamless Dead" a book on World War 1 Poetry & comics. And "The Sacred Magic of Abramelin The Mage" (S.L. Mathers)  Very interesting....
Looking forward to reading AYESHA by H. Rider Haggard (this is a series that began with SHE, just finished "Wisdom's Daughter", also a part of the Ayesha story)  (I guess I tend to read older stuff!)
Patrick Mc Grath's books are great too and I have to catch up on those. I have been reading & studying quite a bit about Life After Death, and the realms beyond lately. 


Are you currently working on anything that you want to announce? Has anything of yours recently been published that you would like to talk about?
I'm ready to find a market for my new Oracle Deck (just about finished) and a book I've co authored with Denise Dumars, a paranormal romance involving Lord Byron. I released a book in February "The Sensitive Soul's Guide To Waking Up" , a slice of life book. I also have a new Poetry Manuscript "The Undertaker's Daughter" that needs a home (if anyone can turn me onto one!) 

I am the host of Supernatural Radio Show on www.blogtalkradio.com and focus on Mediums, Paranormal & supernatural subjects. We've done everything from channeling Kurt Cobain to EVP's and much more. 

Author Bio:

Nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize, Corrine De Winter's poetry, fiction, essays and interviews have appeared worldwide in publications such as the The New York Quarterly, Yankee, Sacred Journey, Atom Mind, The Writer, and over 900 other publications. She has been the recipient of awards from  Triton College of Arts & Sciences, Writer's Digest, The Esme Bradberry Award, The Madeline Sadin Award, The Rhysling Award, The Bram Stoker Award, and has been featured in Poet's Market 1995-2016. Her work is featured in the much praised collections Bless the Day, Heal Your Soul, Heal the World, Get Well Wishes, Essential Love, The Language of Prayer , Mothers And Daughters, and in Bedside Prayers, now in its 20th printing.

Ms. De Winter is a member of HWA (Horror Writer's Association), and the founder of SMALL WORLD FUND FOR CHILDREN.  She has studied the paranormal & supernatural for 28 years, including many tours with Ed & Lorraine Warren.

De Winter is the author of 9 collections of poetry, prose & fiction including "The Sensitive Soul's Guide to Waking Up", Valentines For the Dead (fiction), Like Eve, The Half Moon Hotel, and Touching The Wound, which sold over 3000 copies in its first year, "The Women At The Funeral", winner of the 2004 Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in poetry, and "Tango In The 9th Circle." (Dark Regions Press, Stoker nominated "VIRGIN OF THE APOCALYPSE" & “Venus Intervention”
Her latest project is "The Uncommon Destination Oracle Card Deck."

Thursday, June 30, 2016

HWA POETRY SHOWCASE III: MEET CHAD STROUP


Hi Everyone,

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting interviews with the poets whose work was selected in the top five for the third installment of the HWA Poetry Showcase. This week, I welcome Chad Stroup to THE MADHOUSE. 

How did you hear about the poetry showcase?

I can’t remember where I heard about the first volume because that was before I was a member of the HWA, but I most likely found out about the submission call for this most recent edition through the HWA Facebook group.

What  is the title of you poem? Why did you decide to submit that particular piece?

"Nuclear Winter Kiss." I decided to submit it for a couple of reasons: 1. It was the only poem I was writing at the time that hadn’t already been published elsewhere and 2. I honestly felt it was one of the strongest poems I’d ever written. It was dark without fitting into a neat box and it just felt so equally right and wrong, if that makes sense. I was so ecstatic when I found out it was worthy of being a featured poem. I can pat myself on the back all day long for a job well done, but when people I’ve never met before recognize it as special I feel like I must be doing something right.

3.   What is your process like for writing poetry?

Usually I come up with a title first, then just start letting my mind go wild. I’ve started developing sort of a signature visual style with many of my poems, so I often shape and arrange them based on what feels right. Sometimes my poems are abandoned short story ideas that I rip apart until only the core remains, which is how "Nuclear Winter Kiss" came to be. Sometimes the opposite is true. In the case of my upcoming novel, I wrote poems about all of the primary characters first, then the story started pouring out.

4.   Who are some of your poetic influences?

I’ll probably get publicly flogged for this, but I honestly don’t read much poetry. In  
fact, the only poems I’ve read in recent years were the poems in the other editions of the HWA Poetry Showcase (and I’ll certainly be reading them all in the new one as well). Though I’ve written and/or published a decent amount of poetry (perhaps even enough to do some sort of collection at this point), I’m predominantly a fiction writer, so that is where my literary influences lie. However, music is and always has been an enormous part of my life, and the best lyricists are also poets in my opinion. With that in mind, I can list influences like Steven Patrick Morrissey, Peter Murphy, Ian Curtis, Nick Cave, Darby Crash, Nick Blinko, Elizabeth Fraser (possibly the most brilliantly weird lyricist of all time), Rick Froberg, Jerry A., and Guy Picciotto.

Who are you reading now and who/what are you looking forward to reading for the remainder of the year?

I just finished The Fireman by Joe Hill and I’m about to start reading The Night Marchers by Daniel Braum. My Need-to-Read pile is as large as always, but I’m looking forward to reading new books by Paul Tremblay, Kristopher Triana, and Jeremy P. Bushnell (none of which I even have in my physical pile yet…yikes!), as well as a couple of older books by David J. Schow I just scored.

Are you currently working on anything that you want to announce? Has anything of yours recently been published that you would like to talk about?

Later this year, Grey Matter Press will be releasing my debut novel Secrets of the Weird. All I’m going to say is that I promise this book is not like anything else out there and I’m very excited for it to be unleashed upon the world. I also have a new short story called “Acquired Taste” coming out in July, published in a New Zealand-based e-zine called Capricious. The story is very dark, strange, and hopelessly dystopian.


BIO: Chad Stroup received his MFA in Fiction from San Diego State University. His short stories have been featured in anthologies like Splatterlands and Creature Stew, and his poetry has appeared in the first three volumes of the HWA Poetry Showcase. Secrets of the Weird, Stroup’s debut novel, is forthcoming from Grey Matter Press. Visit Subvertbia, a home for some of his short fiction, poetry, and reviews at http://subvertbia.blogspot.com/, and drop by his Facebook page as well. https://www.facebook.com/ChadStroupWriter.