Monday, May 16, 2022

Madhouse Author Interview: The Saint of Witches by Avra Margariti

Hello and Good Afternoon, Friends and Fiends:

Today in The Madhouse, I'm thrilled to welcome and host Avra Margariti as we talk about their recent poetry collection, The Saint of Witches from Weasel Press. Margariti writes: "In this dark poetry collection, witches escape stakes, wells, and other prisons with the help of their arcane saint. Girls dream of queer ghosts and carnivorous angels. Ghouls visit their lovers beyond the grave, while medical experiments seek a forever home. Bodies are dismantled and remade, despised and celebrated. Anti-heroines bare their blood-dripping teeth. In The Saint of Witches, there’s no telling who will sink, or swim."

Now I first saw Margariti post about this a few months ago, and the title alone (hello? Witches!) immediately grabbed my interest, but when they told me it was a queer exploration of witchcraft, gender norms, and sexuality, well is it any surprise you folks are here with us today? I don't think I could have asked for a more me collection to grace my shelves, and I was thrilled to talk to Margariti more about their process, inspirations, and themes some more. 

For those of you who have taken my Witch Lit course, please definitely consider picking up a copy of this book, and if you haven't taken the course but love discourse about history, fairy tales, folklore, and gender, then absolutely consider this book for you. Margariti does a wonderfully haunting job exploring the intersection of the beautiful and the grotesque, and their themes focusing on the body, identity, death, and violence spoke directly to me on more than one occasion as they provided an interdisciplinary approach that sent me thinking about artwork, history, theology, thanatology and more. 

Yeah, that's my long-winded and somewhat-academic way of saying you need to read this book. 

It's magic, much like Margaritti themselves. 

Channeling that Dark Goddess Energy, 

Stephanie

SMW: Hi Avra! Welcome to The Madhouse. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to poetry and who inspires you?

AM: Hi, Stephanie! So happy to be here! I’m a queer dark fabulist author from Greece, and although I’ve been writing poetry since I was sixteen, it’s only these last couple of years that I started calling myself a poet! Besides writing in English as a second language, I’m also an autodidact when it comes to fiction and poetry.

I adore the medium of horror poetry as a way of conveying bite-sized stories full of atmosphere and sensory detail. Some of my early inspirations of dark poems include Poe’s “Annabel Lee” and Blake’s “A Poison Tree”. My current obsessions are Sara Tantlinger’s “Cradleland of Parasites” and Octavia Cade’s “Mary Shelley Makes a Monster”.

SMW: What about the witch speaks to you the most? How do/did you connect with her while writing this collection?

AM: Most of those accused of witchcraft throughout history have been gender non-conforming, in one way or another. They take Christian patriarchal ideals of propriety and spit in their face. I like the idea of Witch as a metaphor for Queerness, for Otherness. A feminist perspective is essential when examining the accounts of various witch hunts and exterminations. At the same time, while writing this collection, I enjoyed delving deeper into the mind of the witch for a more intersectional approach, especially in matters of gender expression and sexuality. I thought about witches’ desires, their motives; how they have been victimized and vilified; how they themselves have embraced the thrill of revenge, the necessity of survival at all costs, but also the need to shield and protect members of their coven from those who seek to punish them for their non-conformity.

SMW: I absolutely loved your poem “21st-Century Girl” and it reminded me a lot of M. Ricket’s flash fiction piece "True Crime."When we talk about witches, the subject of violence inevitably comes up, especially when we talk about women’s rights, the MeToo movement, etc. How does this poem speak to how women and other minority groups are portrayed in the media?

AM: Whenever I read the various headlines written every day around the world, I’m always enraged by journalistic patterns of pure sensationalism when discussing gender-based crimes. Events that are true and devastating become just another narrative or plot point; the women involved (as well as the individuals mistakenly called female and misgendered by the public) become a final girl to cheer on, or a beauty queen to mourn. The public eye quickly--and callously--morphs into the horror gaze, a concept that I further explored in different poems of the collection (“Blessed Is the Final Girl”, “The Brides of Dracula Ponder the Manson Murders”, and “A Flame, Snuffed”).

SMW: Your poem “River-Mud Rose” really spoke to me. I tend to write a lot about burials as a theme in my work as well, and I connected a lot with your lines: “I am adulterated sand, dying before I can/ become a freshwater pearl/ A votive supplication to the gods of chaos./ My standard-casket prison smells of sewage/ and turpentine trickling down my legs.” With witches, we often talk about resurrection, hauntings, and curses as metaphors for generational pain. Can you talk a little bit about how you explore that in your work?

AM: I came up with the premise for “River-Mud Rose” while being inside an MRI machine for a scan. I’m not claustrophobic, so I could focus on all the sounds and other sensations inside the machine and draw inspiration from them for my poem. If you concentrate enough on the rumble of an MRI, it sounds just like arcane chanting, and words start to emerge amid other auditory patterns. It was a very surreal, though not [an] entirely unpleasant experience.

As for generational pain, I tend to borrow details from anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination throughout history, which become reworked into my horror poetry as feelings of urgency, oppression, and asphyxiation. Those details are terrifying even before literary embellishment. The trauma endured by the past generations isn’t all that distant, and unfortunately, it’s far from over even in the 21st century.

SMW: One of my favorite pieces of art is Willem De Kooning's "Woman 1" and I think what I love about it most is that it’s a woman portrayed as a monstrous creature, which arguably should make me mad right (it does, but that’s a discussion for another time). A different part of my brain really loves this though because when I look at her, I see strength, beauty, intensity, and power. She’s one of my favorite women to look at, and despite de Kooning trying to make her grotesque or Frankenstein her body together, I think she’s one of the most marvelous, beautiful figures. Your poem “Sunflower, With Skull” evokes similar feelings (as well as reminds me of this painting by Frida Kahlo) in how it honors the beautiful grotesque. What draws you to that binary?

AM: I adore grotesque imagery! The truth is I have always related to the Monstrous, and to most unwanted, unpalatable, and disrespectable monsters in all art forms. Occasionally I enjoy thinking of myself as a creature--a cadavre exquis--as well. Over the years I’ve found myself moving away from traditional beauty standards, both consciously and subconsciously. (One of my poems dealing with the rejection of enforced beauty and desirability is “Maiden, Muse, Crone”).

I think part of the reason I love monsters so much stems from the way my identity, my attraction, has been called monstrous by society. Embracing the grotesque has become my personal and professional journey of reclamation. For me, the sublime and the grotesque are both parts of a vast spectrum of expression, but they are also infinite nesting dolls stacked one inside the other. I believe there is beauty woven through monstrosity’s core. Strength and power in shedding one’s skin or stitching it together with whatever misshapen material [are] available, to build a new ineffable whole.

SMW: Poems like “Milk and Black Spiders” and “Pity-Party Fairy” remind me of nursery rhymes or fairytales that I would read as I kid. Do you find yourself inspired by folklore and fairytales? If so, why, and what are some of your favorites?

AM: I have a soft spot for "The Girl Without Hands" collected by the Brothers Grimm, a story which is gruesome even by fairytale standards. It features a mutilated woman, devils, and angels.

As for folklore, I’ve always been obsessed with a Greek murder ballad called "The Bridge of Arta" (<<Το Γιοφύρι της Άρτας>>). In it, a woman is buried [in] the foundation of a stone bridge to keep it from collapsing. Her husband and his team of builders trick her, using her sacrifice as a way to complete the cursed construction. The ballad includes talking birds as messengers and prophets, leading the murdered wife to her doom.

SMW: Poems like “The Moths, The Rabbits” and the “My Anatomy” series play into the body horror subgenre. Why do you think horror, as a genre, puts so much emphasis on the body?

AM: The human body is without a doubt a marvel of nature and ecstatic engineering--it’s also an inherently horrifying prison of flesh and electricity. For a lot of us, the corpus can be a source of anguish, either because of our own perception of it, or other people’s. This is one of the reasons body horror and body bizarre speak to me and to so many other writers and readers on such a personal level. Chronic pain and gender apathy/dysphoria coalesce into an indistinguishable undercurrent of unease, which can sometimes result in an explosive, transcendental metamorphosis. I find that very cathartic.

SMW: There’s an exploration of rage and the enraged in your collection, particularly when we look at poems such as “Volcanic.” How do you think the enraged woman has been reinterpreted and subverted over the last several years, and why do you think it’s important to see this iteration of her?

AM: Tales of pure rage are hard to come by in the current literary landscape and difficult to stomach for some readers unless that rage is mellowed by feelings of grief or sadness. I find myself attracted to the enraged, the unfettered bursts of righteous fury. I feel seen by such depictions in fiction. I also really enjoy how lethal the anger of female figures is in ancient Greek myths and tragedies. Some might call such depictions problematic and stereotypical, and maybe they are, but I also think they reflect a truth from which we have tried to distance ourselves in modern works of fiction.

As marginalized people, we are often shamed for our rage even when it’s warranted, so I enjoy exploring such themes in the safe space provided by the horror genre.


SMW: What poets are you currently reading? Are there any collections you’re looking forward to adding to your TBR list?

AM: I can’t wait to dive into “Under Her Skin”. As a fan of body horror, I know I will love the inaugural Women in Horror Poetry Showcase.

SMW: What’s next for your readers?

AM: I recently completed a collection of folk horror poetry after pledging to write a poem per day during 2021. I’m also working on a dark short story collection on the theme of vore--the desire to consume and to be consumed. A few of those stories are forthcoming from various horror anthologies and should be available to read very soon!

Author Bio:

Avra Margariti is a queer author, Greek sea monster, and Rhysling-nominated poet with a fondness for the dark and the darling. Avra’s work haunts publications such as Vastarien, Asimov’s, Liminality, Arsenika, The Future Fire, Space and Time, Eye to the Telescope, and Glittership. “The Saint of Witches”, Avra’s debut collection of horror poetry, is available from Weasel Press. You can find Avra on Twitter (@avramargariti).

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Madhouse Author Interview: We Are The Ones Possessed by Adrian Ernesto Cepeda

Hello Friends and Friends, 

Today in the Madhouse, I'm chatting with poet Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, whose work I first read when I picked up a copy of his collection La Belle Ajar from Clash Books a year or so ago. Followers of this blog know that I'm pretty much obsessed with Sylvia Plath, so there was no way I wasn't going to read that collection, and I'm happy I did because it introduced me to one of my favorite contemporary poets, a poet whose most recent release We Are the Ones Possessed also took my breath away. As such, I wanted to chat with him a bit about his process, his inspirations, and just generally see what makes him tick when it comes to form, style, and voice in the poem. 

SMW: Hi Adrian! Welcome to The Madhouse. I’ve been a fan of your work since I read your collection La Belle Ajar two years ago, but for those readers who might be unfamiliar with your poetry, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what drew you to poetry in the first place?

AEC: My name is Adrian Ernesto Cepeda and I am a LatinX poet living in Los Angeles. Although I have been writing poetry for over twenty years, it’s been in recent years that my poems have begun flourishing, catching lyrical fire. 2018 has been the most successful year of my career as a poet. My first poetry chapbook So Many Flowers, So Little Time was published by Red Mare Press, and my first full-length poetry collection Flashes & Verses... Becoming Attraction was published by Unsolicited Press. 2019 saw the publication of Between the Spine, a collection of erotic love poems published with Picture Show Press. This year, La Belle Ajar a collection of cento poems inspired by Sylvia Plath's 1963 novel by CLASH Books. Alegría Publishing published Speaking con su Sombra in 2021 and CLASH Books published my latest poetry collection We Are the Ones Possessed in 2022.

My first introduction to poetry was in sixth grade at Thurston Elementary School in Mr. Babcock’s class. Every week he would have us memorize a famous poem and each of us would have to recite it in front of the whole class. This was when I first learned about Robert Frost and “The Road Not Taken.” Well, I was very ill one week and when I came back to school, I thought since I was sick, I didn’t have to recite my poem. Poetry doesn’t take a day off from anyone, is what I remember Mr. Babcock telling me. So, I had to stand there as he fed me lines, and this experience left a trauma that would trigger me for years afterward when anyone even mentioned a poem or Poet.

This lasted until college, specifically during my undergrad years at the University of Texas at San Antonio. At UTSA, because I wrote many romantic poems, an older female classmate introduced me to Pablo Neruda. She told me if you want to seduce a woman read their poems from 100 Love Sonnets. She was right because I used Neruda’s book as inspiration, and I seduced her later that year.

Poetry has saved me. Given me strengthen when I felt embarrassed by my speech impediment. I have a stutter and writing poems empowered me. I found my voice on and off the page when I rediscovered my love of la poesía.

SMW: Your most recent collection, We Are the Ones Possessed, still features a heavy influence on Sylvia Plath, and you start the collection off with the following quote by her: “Death must be so beautiful.” Can you talk a little about your connection to/with Plath and her work? What about her continues to be a muse for you?

AEC: My wife is the Plath scholar in our family yet, after mi Mami passed away in 2017 and we arrived home from her memorial service in San Antonio, I became sick and very depressed. I was in my office, sitting on my chair when I turned to our bookshelf and saw a copy of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar glaring back at me. I picked it up, I turned the pages to Chapter 1, and I started culling words and crafting cento poems. I was trying to channel my energies to something creative and I felt an instant connection with Plath. At times, I felt like she was there guiding me while I was writing these poems that became La Belle Ajar. Because mi Mami had died, I was looking for a mother figure, and Sylvia because this inspirational figure for me. I went and purchased all her books, so many bios and literary critical theory that wrote about her work. For a year afterward, Plath’s presence was with me, and she helped me so much. I owe her so much, for she was there for me when I was mourning and inspired so much of my work, and she still does to this day.

What I learned about Plath, while writing, La Belle Ajar, was that Sylvia would write with a dictionary open. She was so meticulous with her word choices. She was a Maestra of words and her books and poems reflect this. To this day, she inspires me to be as meticulous as she was on the page.

SMW: This collection has themes of death, loss, grief, and trauma, all of which are wrapped up in this idea of memory and possession, things we can’t forget or run away from. In your poem “A Ghost Can Be a Lot of Things” you write: “A daydream memory, /secret guilt, most times, /in grief, we wish to see/a ghost.” How do you think your poetry tackles ghosts?

AEC: For me, and my last two poetry books, Speaking con su Sombra, a collection of bilingual poems, published by Alegría Publishing in 2017, was written for and inspired by my mother and her death. And my latest We Are the Ones Possessed, published with CLASH Books, and both of these books tackle this issue. I feel like Sombra most of these verses I am speaking to the spirit of mi Mami. And in Possessed, I am having conversations with ghosts in my Poems. Especially in “Two Americans Estranged in A London Kitchen, February 11, 1963” and “Her Garage Emotes” where I am speaking to Plath and Sexton on the moments before their death.

Poetry has helped me heal and face the trauma of missing my mother. I feel like Poetry is the best medium to connect with ghosts. Often, we write to future paramours, former lovers, heroes we admire, our odes are ways to weave through time as we attempt to connect with them on the page.

SMW: Anne Sexton has always spoken to me as a poet, and I have such a complicated relationship with her, but nevertheless, I can’t deny that I’m attached strongly to her poems. You have a piece in this collection that I absolutely loved: “Her Garage Emotes.” This poem is heartbreaking for so many reasons, and there are pieces of this piece specifically that I think will stay with me forever such as: “Anne wants to make/ out with poems/in between breaths” and “Anne loves idling/eternally inside my mouth.” What draws you to Anne Sexton? Since she and Sylvia were contemporaries and even taught together on occasion, I’m curious if your relationship with her is similar to what you have with Sylvia or if you contextualize her work differently in the scope of your own writing.

AEC: I was actually into Anne Sexton before I Plath came into my life. Sexton was such a spark of inspiration. I would write so many love poems to her. Here, this unpublished poem is an example of how Sexton inspired me:

How Sexton Slays MeSometimes I swear seeing

her reaching through her
softback tinging my own
spine, nuzzling with this
goddess, I feel her whispered
couplets undressing title,
pages, her words definitely
recline, reigniting rolls from
my tongue as I read her free
verse reflecting our lips,
our skins intone as she
unfastens and intricately
interlocks our lips together
far away, some nights she
feels even closer. Forget
risqué—I love the form of
Anne's body of poetry, how
her verses nakedly swim,
splashing me as she entrancingly
intertwines with my longing,
flickering redefined with pauses
of desire—teasing me with her
dangling stanza break kisses,
Anne’s rhymes always
swallowing me initiating
another little death within
her seductive exhales—
Sexton always eternally
gripping me with her
softest end rhyme.

Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, 2022

She empowered me to craft some of the most erotic love poems which led to my second book Between the Spine published with Picture Show Press in 2019. Sexton encouraged me to embrace the art of the erotic love poem. And I love her and I am eternally indebted to Anne for her inspiration.


SMW: I recently listened to an episode about Assia Wevill via The History of Literature podcast, and it opened my mind to see her as a person rather than simply as Sylvia Plath’s rival. In your poem, “Assia’s Feet Almost Touched the Door,” you write: “she joined Sylvia/ Plath instead, on the other/side of the stove.” There’s always such a strong focus on women and tragedy in your work—one of the many reasons I adore your poetry—and I’m wondering if you can speak to your attachment to that topic and how if feels to write to and about that experience from a male point of view.


AEC: When I was in a poetry workshop in college, our instructor Heather Sellers, gave us an assignment where each of us would write a poem and she would read it aloud and the class had to guess which classmate had written the poem. The poem I wrote was called “Lonely as an Eyesore” and the speaker was a spurned wife. I challenged myself to write from a viewpoint that was not my own male experience. It was a success because they did not guess I had written it. Years after, I became enamored of discovering writers like Anais Nin, Anne Sexton, and Kim Addonizio, and I wanted to write poems that would honor them and make them proud. I also found out that Debbie Harry of Blondie always wrote in an omnisexual voice. Most of her songs were written from a male point of view. Along with reading writers like Nin, Sexton, and Addonizio, Harry inspired me to write in a female voice.

SMW: In your poem “She Eats Men for Breakfast” you write: “Using teeth, it’s the only/ morning after bed/and breakfast meal/ that satisfies her carnal/cravings.” First off, that phrase “morning after bead and breakfast meal?”—absolute perfection! Admiration aside, I love how you weave themes of death and sex throughout this collection. There’s this forever nod to la petite mort hovering throughout. What made you want to work with those specific themes this time around, and how do you think they speak to or inform your goals as a poet in general?

AEC: Ironically enough, the original title of We Are the Ones Possessed was la petite mort. I’ve always loved the term little death and it was this idea that sparked some of my favorite poems in Possessed. But my publisher wanted to change the title because not all the poems had this theme, and they were right. I prefer the new title.

As for the themes, it’s the continuation of the erotic love themes I had loved writing about for years. I just added a new layer of death along with female empowerment which made the poems more universal and carnal in the same breath.

SMW: There are a lot of attributions throughout the collection: Edvard Munch’s “Death of Marat I,” Nicolas Francois Octave Tassert’s “La Femme Damnee (The Cursed Woman),” Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” lyrics from Tom Waits, etc. How did you go about selecting these pieces to write to in this collection? I often get a lot of questions about how to organize a poetry manuscript, so I’d love to hear more about the connection these artists have for you and how you went about using them and their work to create new art.

AEC: Writing every day, years ago, before I was published, to challenge myself I would find artworks and photographs and craft ekphrastic poems. Along with erotic love poems, the ekphrastic form was my forte. Later on, I discovered the art of the cento poem along with the footnote poems. Taking words and lines from other famous works, and culling them together is one of my creative outlets that has inspired some of my favorite poems.

The art pieces in the book, choose me, they called out to me, and since I love the ekphrastic form I wanted to honor the artist and the paintings I chose with my poems. That’s the goal, to take a famous piece of art, or even a song lyric, or a story like “The Lottery” and pay homage with my own ode in poetic form. It is a challenge but challenging myself is how I have grown as an artist through my five poetry books and one chapbook.

SMW: I like that you explore poetry through centos. For those who might be unfamiliar with that format, can you talk a little bit about what a cento poem is, as well as what your writing process for them looks like?

AEC: A cento poem is a work that is comprised of lines from another poem or literary work. Like the art piece of my ekphrastic poems, the cento verses call out to me. I found whenever I try to force it, they come out weak and uninspired. My best centos, from La Bella Ajar and in my new horror poetry collection, possessed me and inspired me to craft the poems. Centos are not easy to create. They are a challenge and the best ones take days, weeks, and months to complete.

SMW: What poets are you currently reading? Are there any collections you’re looking forward to adding to your TBR list?

AEC: Natalie Sierra’s brilliant book Charlie Forever and Ever from Flower Song Press. Clara Olivo’s bilingual poetry collection The Whisper, The Storm, and The Light In Between was published with Alegría Publishing. Dorianne Laux and Leila Chatti collaborated on a Poems in Conversation & a Conversation called The Mothers from Slapering Hol Press. Briana Muñoz Loose Lips from Prickly Pear Publishing. Dylan Krieger’s chapbook Hideous Compass from Underground Press. Cry Howl from Edward Vidaurre was published by Prickly Pear Publishing. Nadine: Love Songs for Demented Housewives by Natalie Sierra. This Poem Might Save You (Me) by Jesenia Chávez, from Alegría Publishing.

I am looking forward to Jenn Givhan’s Belly to the Brutal (Wesleyan Poetry Series); Erika L. Sánchez, Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir; Lidia Yuknavitch's Thrust: A Novel, and new poetry collections from Alegría Publishing’s poetas Solany Lara and Virginia Bulacio.

SMW: What’s next for your readers?

AEC: I am working on a follow-up to Speaking con su Sombra. La Lengua Inside me is my most personal project to date, it’s a journey of rediscovering my bilingual voice. I just hired a manuscript consultant, and I will be sending my sixth book out to publishers in June.

I also am looking for a publisher to publish When Her Lips Spread Simpatico, a collection of erotic love poems written for and inspired by my wife.

PRAISE FOR ADRIAN ERNESTO CEPEDA


Cepeda’s atmospheric poems evoke an image of death that’s horrific and lovely, which I believe is fundamentally an optimism. We Are the Ones Possessed is not only an honor to many literary women; it’s an image of death as something more beautiful than it is—a death beyond death, its redemption.— CHARLENE ELSBY, AUTHOR OF PSYCHROS & HEXIS

The "little death" of orgasm isn't so small after all in Adrian Ernesto Cepeda's We Are the Ones Possessed. With the historical awareness of a cento and the contemporality of a soundbite, Cepeda explores the knotted entanglement of poetry's two age-old obsessions--sex and death-- with an eye toward tying the knot tighter rather than separating terror from pleasure. "Waiting under the mistletoe with a knife," this book rubs romance against bare mortality until the two fuse inextricably--a marriage too often relegated to the realms of erotica and gore. Cepeda reminds us, such a union is the home of poets, where horror and desire cuddle up together, swap spit, and let the boundary between them blur.— DYLAN KRIEGER, AUTHOR OF SOFT-FOCUS SLAUGHTERHOUSE

Adrian Ernesto Cepeda's poems always leave me breathless; We Are the Ones Possessed is no different. The lines can be mistakenly simple but say so much—like watching snowfall over a lake. Lines like “I suggest we roll down/the windows, reverse/our front seat” create gorgeous images while also narrating the mundane yet poignant moments in our lives. This book tells us how we possess ourselves and others—and how no one gets away unscathed.— JOANNA C. VALENTE, AUTHOR OF A LOVE STORY, NO(BODY), SEXTING GHOSTS, AND SIRS & MADAMS

Haunting, unnerving, and sexy, Adrian Ernesto Cepeda’s We Are the Ones Possessed makes a case for dark poetry with his collection of passionate calamities, smearing his poems with feverish pleasures, cursed confessions, and death shadows lusting for Blood.— JEAN-PIERRE RUEDA, AUTHOR OF HERENCIAS FROM ALEGRÍA PUBLISHING

Few poets know sex and death as well as Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, whose verse relishes in the escape, release, and transformation that both pleasure and the cessation of life have to offer. Each piece in We Are the Ones Possessed is a petite mort—a potent and intoxicating little death that scares us titillated—and through these poems, we may learn how to live and die deliciously.— KIM VODICKA, AUTHOR OF DEAR TED AND THE ELVIS MACHINE

We Are the Ones Possessed marries the corporeal horror of a Cronenberg film with the gauzy, creeping uneasiness of a midnight ghost tour in Salem, Massachusetts. A must-read for fans of the ethereal and sublime.— KOLLEEN CARNEY HOEPFNER, EIC, DRUNK MONKEY

Spellbinding, sensual, and sinister, Cepeda's We Are the Ones Possessed is a powerhouse collection of sex & death that excites the senses with every line. This is wedding-in-a-graveyard poetry. This is strip-naked-&-worship-the-moon poetry. This is wash-down-your-ex's-heart-with- champagne poetry. Decadent, deadly, & as consumptive as Possessed is compelling.— JESSICA MCHUGH, BRAM STOKER AWARD-NOMINATED AUTHOR OF A COMPLEX ACCIDENT OF LIFE

With nods to various icons of art, music, and literature, these pieces are so beautiful and stunning. Gilded in twilight and darkness, We Are the Ones Possessed is a collection of poetry that guides us along fragments of moments, with the tortured and the torturer. Scenes in dark rooms, across environments and situations, pulsate with bloody ecstasy, attraction, and betrayal. We Are the Ones Possessed shows us not only what we’ve had done to us, but what we have done.— CYNTHIA PELAYO, BRAM STOKER AWARD-NOMINATED AUTHOR OF CHILDREN OF CHICAGO

We Are the Ones Possessed is a vivid, heartbreaking, and tragic collection of poems that drips from the pages with the viscosity of blood. Cepeda is a Latinx talent you should be reading as a horror and poetry fan. I highly recommend this beautiful book that reaches out and grabs you by the heart and throat. I adored Night Stalker Tattoo on Her Back.— V. CASTRO, AUTHOR OF THE QUEEN OF THE CICADAS

Cepeda’s haunting poems, inspired by existing written work and visuals, are a medley of daydreams & nightmares, floating in the middle of a fateful dance of death and sex. The winged beauty in the shadows of love/revenge painted by his exceptional verse in We Are the Ones Possessed will take your breath away.— LINDA D. ADDISON, AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR, HWA LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT, AND SFPA GRAND MASTER

We Are the Ones Possessed brings poems that read like a movie you just don’t want to end. Cepeda’s brand of horror opens portals into worlds, immersing you into a collection of work that will leave you wondering if there’s anything more horrific than the human condition itself, and his brand of poetry is like a breath of fresh winter air — addictive and piercing. Cepeda’s work will sink its teeth into you and play on loop in your subconscious for years to come. A beautifully haunting piece of art.— JEAN-MARIE BUB, AUTHOR OF MANEATER

ADRIAN ERNESTO CEPEDA BIO:

Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, author of La Belle Ajar, brings you a horror-death-themed collection with mortality, murder, and muerte oozing from every one of these terrifying verses.

Inspired by NightWorms, Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties & Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads, get ready to be haunted by serial killers, fatal femmes, and poisoners, as these premeditated murderesses slay you in terrifying poems. One step inside these grave-inspired verses, you will want to re-experience We Are the Ones until the very end.

Embrace the terror and prepare to be Possessed, Cepeda’s poems will mesmerize you with his bone-chilling death rhymes from the other side.

Monday, May 2, 2022

April ’22 Madhouse Recap: True Crime, National Poetry Month, Comics, and Jack White

Hello Friends and Fiends—

Blessed and belated Beltane and Walpurgisnacht! We’re all recovering from this weekend’s bonfire (Evie’s first!) and rallying after a comic event Dennis and I vended at. It was Dennis’s first time going to an event as an independent bookseller, so I’m really excited to share this with him and celebrate all of his hard work—which has included a lot of all-nighters, endless amounts of cataloging, and more comic book boxes in our house than I care to admit. Sass aside though, it was a lovely event and everyone was really nice and welcoming to both of us. I’m looking forward to going to some more events with him and co-selling some of my stuff as well. We have big plans on the horizon, so I’ll be sure to keep all my horror fans updated. In the meantime, you can follow us on Instagram, me @theHauntedBookshelf, and Dennis @WanderingComics.

April was a pretty great month overall. I went back to work in the middle of the month, and honestly, I handled it better than I thought I would. It feels good to get that part of myself and my routine back, and it’s helped my mental health a lot. I will say that the days feel even more of a whirlwind now, so it’s going to take a minute for me to readjust to yet another schedule, but we’re all doing well with it, which is what’s most important.

Lots of other cool things also happened this month. I fell down the true crime rabbit hole pretty obsessively (this happens every couple of months, but admittedly, it’s been a while) and I watched and read crime stories pretty much exclusively, and it was a lot. I think between the two of us, I’ve had my fill for a while, but it did encourage me to sign up for two classes in the fall: Theories of Personalities and Critical Perspectives in Psychopathology. I’m really looking forward to them both and I think they’ll help me with my writing and teaching a lot, which is always a plus. For those who don’t know, I’ve been low-key studying psychology and philosophy over the past year or so in an effort to learn more about criminology and the science of evil, so you know, normal stuff that people do when they have free time…

Outside of that, I grabbed some cool merch from Fright Rag and Fangoria this month, and then Dennis and I went to see Jack White, which was phenomenal. It was my second time seeing him and he always delivers an amazing show, but this time I was excited to hear him play some songs from his Raconteurs days. It “takes me back” to some of my favorite moments and memories in my 20s.

I also attended a ritual workshop led by Pam Grossman and Janaka Stucky: Hecate’s Dark Moon. It was my first longer ritual/meditation since having Evie, and everything about this class was just such a gift. I felt so relaxed and connected and my body felt liminal and light and it was just marvelous. I’m so happy that they were my introduction back into the deeper parts of my practice. Both of them are pure magic and I’m always happy to support and/or be a part of anything and everything they do.

On the writing/teaching front:

  • I woke up to a poem acceptance the other morning that I’m really, really excited about. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more with you folks soon.
  • Finished teaching Writing the Vampire. This was my first time teaching this class, and I’ll admit, I was a bit worried with doing it so soon after having Evie, but I had such a blast, and it was something I looked forward to participating in every day when I woke up. I learned so much from the students and I greatly enjoyed reading everyone’s creative takes on the assignments and the artwork and stories we discussed. Cheers to the vampire and thank you to everyone who took the class. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
  • Under Her Skin went live! This is a powerhouse poetry anthology from Black Spot Books, and I remain so honored to be a part of this piece of magic. If you haven’t treated yourself to a copy yet, please consider it! It’s a great example of the work women in horror are doing, and if you’re a poet, specifically, you’ll be introduced to a cast of diverse and inclusive voices, some that are familiar, and some that are just emerging.
  • I did an interview with Cassie Daley from The Ladies of Horror Fiction for National Poetry Month and in celebration of my forthcoming nonfiction book from RDSP Writing Poetry in the Dark. You can read the full interview here.
  • My poetry collection, The Apocalyptic Mannequin, got a wonderful shout out in The Ladies of Horror Fictions article: Team Favorites, Dark Poetry Collections We’ve Loved.” You can read the full piece here.
  • My poem “Family Offerings”—which was previously published in Southwest Review, Vol 106.3–was awarded The Elizabeth Matchett Stover Memorial Award. This award is given annually to authors of the best poems published in the Southwest Review.
  • My poem “In the Gallery of Queens” was published in issue 44 of Eye to the Telescope. You can read it here.


This month I read:

  • Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
  • Drunks and Other Poems of Recovery by Jack McCarthy
  • Internet Girlfriend by Stephanie Valente (author interview coming soon!)
  • Under Her Skin edited by Lindy Ryan and Toni Miller
  • The Last Victim by Jason Moss (short review up on Goodreads)
  • The Science of Women in Horror: The Special Effects, Stunts, and True Stories Behind Your Favorite Fright Films by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence (short review up on Goodreads)
  • Something is Killing the Children, Vol 1 by James Tynion
  • Something is Killing the Children, Vol 2 by James Tynion
  • Slumber, Issue #1 by Tyler Burton Smith (Image Comics)
  • I started reading a short story collection by Karen Russell (Vampires in the Lemon Grove), and I read the title story “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” and “Reeling for the Empire,” both of which I’d read before, but wow did they hit harder than the time before. “Reeling for the Empire” might be one of my favorite stories…ever. It’s so intensely feminist and the body horror is both beautiful and grotesque. If you haven’t read it, please do!

On the media front:

  • Cleaner (2007), I Love You, Now Die (2019), Charlie Says (2018), Puppet Master (1989), Summer of ’84 (2018), You Are Not My Mother (2021), Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes (2021).
  • I rewatched Candyman this month. It had been years since I’ve watched the original and I feel like I loved and appreciated it so much more now. What a beautiful horror film. I’ve never read “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker though, so I finally ordered it and am really looking forward to fixing that soon.
  • I rewatched Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. I didn't realize that this was based on the book The Phantom Prince, My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall, so since this has been on my TBR since it came out, I finally decided to pick up a copy of it. Hoping to read it this month.
  • I rewatched the first season of Russian Doll. I love Natasha Lyonee and she is just so incredible in this series. I remembered it being emotional, but I had forgotten just how deep the storyline really was. I’m looking forward to starting season 2 here soon.
  • The Girl from Plainville (2022). Still watching, still disturbed.
  • Confessions with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes. I watched this while I was reading The Last Victim by Jason Moss, and it was a lot. I feel like I have a good understanding of the case and the timeline now, but honestly, I never want to read or watch anything about Gacy again. It’s too much and I’ve had my fill.
  • I finished watching The Thing About Pam (2022), which side note, WTF? An absolute sociopath, that woman. Renee Zellweger did a fantastic job in that role though. That reminds me: my new BFF at Barnes and Noble (the manager is a big True Crime buff and we talked for like 45 minutes the other day, ha!) let me know that there was a recent book release about the Betsy Faria case and I definitely want to pick it up soon. It’s titled: Bone Deep: Untangling the Betsy Faria Murder Case by Charles Bosworth Jr.
  • I also started season 2 of Cursed Films (2022) with The Wizard of Oz and the Rosemary’s Baby episode. Rosemary’s Baby was especially interesting. I have a feeling I’ll be rewatching that one again in the future.
  • Human Resources (2022). This was hysterical and moving and important, and I loved every moment of it. Big Mouth is one of my favorite shows and I’m just here for everything and anything this world and its extensions do.

Podcasts:

May starts my summer schedule, so I’m hoping to dive into some side projects here soon. I have two editing projects I need to finish up, not to mention some of my own personal writing that I need to jump back into, so I’m hoping that the creativity is planning on flowing this month because I’ll need and happily take any and all help I can get to write “the end” on a few manuscripts.

Oh, and I bought another pair of Crocs and I will not be shamed for it. Those shoes are comfy AF, and I love living in them. I’ve also gotten really into birdwatching in the morning…so maybe I have some more cottagecore tendencies to my personality than I was aware of? Either way, I’m fine if life slows down a bit. I feel like I’ve been running a marathon for 33 years and I’m ready to take a break and enjoy a slower pace for a while.

Best,

Stephanie

Friday, April 1, 2022

March '22 Madhouse Recap: WIHM, Postpartum, and Maybe a Vampire or Two

 Hello Friends and Fiends—

I’m sensing some spring energy afoot, and while I tend to be a dark and brooding fall/winter witch, I have to admit that I’m looking forward to a little bit of warmth, flowers, and sunshine on the horizon. 

This past month, I got to celebrate my first Ostara with Evie, and we made such a fun morning out of it. She had the most adorable, colorful dress on to welcome spring, and then we played with fresh flowers, opened all the windows, lit her Capricorn candle, and put our Rose on Jericho on water, too, to gently welcome all the things that will start to blossom here in the upcoming weeks. I also bought us some seeds to plant and we’re going to try our hand at making a little butterfly sanctuary here soon. I don't know–everything about that just sounds magical to me, and I want Evie to grow up around plants and have a deep appreciation for nature and all creatures big and small, so I think this could be something nice for us to do together. I also have some crystals I need to still hang in my windows, and it’s probably about time for me to get my hummingbird and bird feeder out from the basement, too, but because it’s the first of the month, you can be sure I’m washing my doors and archways down with peppermint oil to welcome in some positive, refreshing energy.

But like most things in life, everything has to balance out somewhere, and if I’m being perfectly honest with you folks, I’ve been having a fairly intense and rough postpartum journey. In addition to being back in therapy, I’ve also recently been diagnosed with OCD and I’m having a lot of issues with my hips, pelvis, and knees, which makes moving around less than enjoyable most days. I have a great support system in place and my treatment plan is going well for the above (in addition to some other things I won’t mention here), but in full transparency, things are a bit difficult physically, mentally, and emotionally right now. I don’t bring this up because I want pity or anything like that, but rather because I think mental health matters and that it seeps into everything we do whether we want it to or not, and I don’t want to feel like I have to be afraid to talk about stuff like this or worse yet, pretend that it’s not happening. It’s okay to not be okay, and while I’m not okay right now, I will be.

A quick note: my endless thanks, love, and appreciation for all of you who have checked in on me, made food, donated your time to help around the house, and sent Evie gifts and notes of love. I cherish you and will remember your kindness forever.

But let’s talk about something a little lighter now, yes? March was Women in Horror Month, and I did a LOT of reading and got to check out three new-to-me authors that have been on my list for quite some time: V. Castro, Sue Rainsford, and Hye-Young Pyun. I also read Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages, which is a special moment for me to celebrate because I wanted to wait to read this book until I had kids. Needless to say, I think Raising Demons is on the horizon here, soon, too. 

I also have been reading (and writing!) a lot of poetry. I’ve talked about how much poetry has helped me in the past, and I’m leaning into it again like an old friend. I’m planning on doing some author interviews here for some exciting 2022 releases, and I’m just about finished writing a collection of my own that came out of nowhere but has been beyond healing. I’m hoping to finish it up in the next month or so, and while I don’t know what my plans are for it yet (or if I’ll even publish it), I’m grateful for the outlet it’s given me during this time.

On the writing/teaching front:

  • We’re currently in week 3 of Writing the Vampire, and I’m having SO much fun teaching this class. In addition to learning about the lore and mythology about the vampire and where it stems from historically, we’ve also been uncovering different archetypes with the monster, writing stories about them, and dissecting artwork that speaks to the general nature and vibe of the creature. 
  • I’m also teaching two graduate classes right now, one on speculative fiction and the other on SF/F. I’m enjoying a lot of the discourse we’re having in these courses, and it feels good to have this part of my life back.
  • I’m working on Writing Poetry in the Dark and tying up some loose ends with things there. I’m hoping to be able to dive back into things with some more gusto this upcoming month as I head back to work and will have some more quiet time away from the house. I also have some editing projects with RDSP that I’m excited to start looking at more closely. This definitely has become the year of poetry for me, which is great because I feel like I’ve been away from bigger projects like this for too long and I’m excited to dive in and start really producing again. 

This month, I read:

        The Queen of the Cicadas by V. Castro

        Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

        Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson

        Approval Junkie by Faith Salie

        The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun

        Shapeshifters: A History by John B. Kachuba

        We Are the Ones Possessed by Adrian Ernesto Cepeda

I also read the short story“The Southwest Chamber” by Mary Wilkins Freeman. I saw Grady Hendrix make a post about her and I had never heard of her let alone read her work before so I wanted to amend that. I enjoyed her style and plan on reading more from her in the future.



 
On the media front:

  • Movies: Titane (2021), The Feast (2021), Fresh (2022), The House (2022), Last Night in Soho (2021), Hellbender (2021).
  • TV Shows: Worst Roommate Ever (2022), Life and Beth (2022), The Thing About Pam (2022), Single Drunk Female (2022), Pieces of Her (2022), Unbelievable (2019). 
  • I also voted for Fangoria’s Chainsaw Awards and I’m excited to watch things unfold later this year. Horror is so rich and intensely wonderful and challenging right now, and honestly, it was hard to make choices here!

April will be a big, transitional month for me. We’ll finally have our house fixed up (thank god), I’ll be heading back to work full-time, and there will be lots of changes to our routine as we all get adjusted, but I’m hopeful about it and I think everything will happen for the best. Right now, I’m just reminding myself to take things one day at a time, and I’m prioritizing self-care by making sure I work out and meditate for a little bit each day to help my body heal and bring me some peace. Until next time, know that I’ll be enjoying every moment of snuggle time and laughter with my sweet girl, cuddling the puppies with endless love, and basking in my final moments of maternity leave. This time has been so wonderful–even when it’s been hard–and I’m beyond thankful for it.

Best,
Stephanie

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

February '22 Madhouse Recap

 February ’22 Madhouse Recap

Hello Friends and Fiends—

February was…a lot. I feel like I’ve been in survival mode for longer than I care to be, but things are starting to finally slow down and work themselves back into a somewhat state of normalcy, so I’m grabbing silver linings when and where I see them.

At the beginning of the month, we had some plumbing issues that spontaneously happened and resulted in a literal rain shower on the second and first floor of our house. Evie and I had to stay with my parents for a bit while entire rooms were ripped out, floors and ceilings removed, and massive fans were installed to try and dry things out. Parts of the house were sectioned off, and for a week or so, it looked like we were on the set of a horror film.

Eventually, we were able to come back home, and now we’re just waiting to schedule renovations and square things up with insurance but trust me when I say things were much more intense than what I’m sharing and I’m just thankful no one got hurt and certain things were able to be saved/restored.

Outside of the house madness, we got to celebrate Evie’s 1 month! I can’t believe she’s six weeks old now. It actually feels a little surreal, to be honest, but it’s been so cool seeing her grow and change in that time. She’s super strong, and such a little wide-eyed brilliant soul. She already has a fierce personality and a love of 1930s monster movies, so needless to say, I’m really enjoying being her mom.  

On the writing/teaching front:

  • I’m getting ready to start teaching my new workshop Writing the Vampire on March 15. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read more about it and/or sign up for it here!
  • The latest issue of Rue Morgue contains an interview with yours truly about the rise of horror poetry where I talk about my experience editing the HWA Poetry Showcase and my upcoming book Writing Poetry in the Dark. There is also a wonderful interview in there from Toni Miller (Black Spot Books) about the upcoming horror anthology Under Her Skin.
  • My short story “A Trail of Feathers, A Trail of Blood” will be published in the upcoming Black Spot Books anthology, Into the Forest: Tales of Baba Yaga. My poem “Dinner with Baba Yaga” will also make an appearance there as well. This is so wonderful and special to me because I have such a kinship and connection with Baba Yaga. Also, fun fact! I have her chicken house tattooed on my thigh.
  • I wrote a lot of poetry this month…and I mean a lot. Like half a collection’s worth of poetry. I’ve been writing for some projects I want to submit to, but I’ve also been writing a lot for my mental health, and the project (if I can call it that?) has been really great for me when it comes to blowing off some steam and channeling stress as I work through some trauma. Honestly, the postpartum journey has been really difficult so far for a lot of reasons, but I’m working through it and writing through it and I’m starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel.

This month, I read:
  • Ascend Ascend by Janaka Stucky
  • I Love You, Call Me Back: Poems by Sabrina Benaim
  • What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer
  • Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Cackle by Rachel Harrison

On the media front:

  • Nightmare Alley (2021), Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021), Black Bear (2020), Cherry Falls (2000), Lake Mungo (2008), The Tinder Swindler (2022), Aileen Wuornos: American Boogeywoman (2021), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022), Valentine (2001), Frankenstein (1931), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Scream (2022).
  • Finished The Book of Boba Fett. That season finale! Seriously, that was so much fun and the final episode had me cheering and applauding and just in such a general state of excitement and pure nerd joy. I’m also still watching Pivoting and Single Drunk Female, and because I need a heaping mass of comfort right now, I’ve been watching Big Bang Theory, too; I don’t think I’ve seen the final two or three seasons, so that gives me something to look forward to.

Some podcasts I listened to:

March promises to be a busy month, and in the past, that would have excited me, but honestly, I’m a little nervous if I’m being perfectly honest. These days, I usually consider it a win if I shower and brush my teeth before noon, so starting to introduce more responsibility into my day-to-day life is a little intimidating, but I am really looking forward to it because I think this is the thing I need to start feeling like my old self again. Plus, I’m always happiest when I’m teaching and talking about monsters and haunted things, so hopefully, this will be a good move in the right direction for everyone! Plus, March is also my birthday month (and the perfect excuse to shower myself in daffodils) so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some sunshine, optimism, and screams that only come from movies and not an upset baby.

            With a little more madness than usual,

Stephanie

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

January ’22 Madhouse Recap

Hello friends and fiends, and Blessed Imbolc!

What a month it has been! Talk about a transformation.

Dennis and I welcomed our sweet girl Evelyn June Gallagher into the world on January 17th in the middle of a snowstorm and on the night of a full wolf moon (!) and she is just such a beautiful, bright spot in our lives and we’re so intensely grateful for every second with her. For the astrologists out there, our girl is a Capricorn Sun, a Cancer Moon, and a Taurus Rising (her and I share that last placement), and the wolf is definitely her guardian. I wore my wolf pendant at the hospital and kept it close to be throughout the entire ordeal and I like to think that Evie found comfort in it, too. But yes, it's been a wild two weeks of sleepless nights (and days), way too much coffee, and endless TV show binges and snuggles, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy, frustrated, enchanted, empowered, in love, exhausted, and excited about any moment in my life so far. Welcoming Evie into my world and holding her in my arms for that first time was an experience unlike anything I can describe, and truth be told, I used to get so frustrated when people would say that to me, but I get it now. Holding your child is magic—pure and simple.

I’m just completely smitten.

Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind of a month overall, and looking back on it, it all went by so fast yet dragged on in the slowest of ways. I went from being painfully pregnant where all time seemed to stand still, then transitioned into a rather intense labor/delivery where time had no meaning at all, but then came home in a blanket of snowflakes and winter magic to heal and bond with our little one. The nights have been long and have included countless word searches (which I’m oddly addicted to these days?) in a new-parent haze between bottle feeds and 4 a.m. snuggles, and I've been reading poetry more and more lately because it's always been the one thing that soothes me the most. I’ve also been keeping a journal throughout the entire experience so I can share this moment again with Evie later on in life, but outside of that, I’ve been taking loads of pictures, living in the moment, relaxing, and being gentle with myself as I find a new rhythm and routine with life.

Also! We finally brought the puppies home the other day and it went pretty much exactly as I thought it would. Maya basically vibrated off the walls in excitement, so we’re doing a slow introduction with her and Eve, but I will say that Maya is love-struck from a distance. She gets so excited when she sees her, and she kissed her head gently on their first pass with each other. Apollo on the other hand is like an experienced nanny, mentor, and guardian. I’m not saying he’s a better mother than me, but that dog is just next level. I even thought he was even going to change her diaper himself at one point the other night. He’s so attentive to her and forever concerned, and it’s the sweetest thing. Her cry doesn’t’ even bother him; he just wakes up, gets off the couch, and walks over to her bassinet to look over her and comfort her. Don't get me wrong, I selfishly hope I remain his favorite person, but I suppose I can make an exception to be runner-up if he falls madly in love with her (and truth be told, I can’t say I blame him!).



On the writing/teaching front:
  • I started the year off by wrapping up my third installment of Witch Lit via LitReactor. I so love teaching this course and I feel very lucky to be able to do so, especially because I’ve met such wonderful people (and stories/poems) through it. A big thank you to everyone who participated over the past two months. I’m looking forward to offering this course again in the future, but in the meantime, it will be fun to switch things up a bit in March with my course Writing the Vampire. I’m hopeful we’ll have a similar type of energy (and bite!) there as well.
  • This semester, I’m teaching two classes at WCSU.
    • Here’s what we’re reading/studying this term in my YA Science Fiction/Fantasy course: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh; Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire; A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik; Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs; For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten; Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke; Lord of the Flies by William Golding; and Paper Girls, Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughn.
    • Here’s what we’re’ reading/studying this term in my Horror course: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay; The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones; The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson; Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage; The Changeling by Victor LaValle; and Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie.
  • My letter Dear Emily Dickinson was published via LitReactor. You can read it here.
  • My book deal with Raw Dog Screaming Press was announced this month (eek!). Writing Poetry in the Dark is a craft book for speculative poets, by speculative poets. Edited by myself, with a foreword by one of the genre’s most celebrated authors, Tim Waggoner, this book meditates on craft, genre, style, and form as acclaimed SF/F/H poets come together to talk about their process, outlook, and approach to writing and incorporating the speculative into their poems. You can read more about the project here.
  • I had a chat with The Ladies of Horror Fiction about my New Year’s reading/writing resolutions. You can check out my goals here.
  • I was thrilled to see Attack from the 80s edited by Eugene Johnson on the 2022 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot. My short story “Mother Knows Best” is included within. Congrats to all!
This month, I read:
  • Where The Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire
  • You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson
  • An Exhalation of Dead Things by Savannah Slone
  • The Need by Helen Phillips


On the media front:
  • Don’t Look Up (2021), Dark Shadows (2012), The Rental (2020), Antlers (2021)
  • The Book of Boba Fett. Fully caught up, but wow--Episode 2 with the Tuskan Raiders, the spirit journey/ritual, AND the twin Hutts? My god. I was so happy watching the entire thing you would have thought it was Halloween morning. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the season and I *might* even like it more than The Mandalorian (which I also binged again—hey, watching TV was pretty much all I could do at the start of this month, ha—no judgment).
  • Chucky: I finally made it around to watching season 1 of Chucky and honestly, best decision ever, especially because I was massively pregnant when I got to this, and I needed something ridiculously and chaotic to make me laugh and give me some nostalgia. Too funny. Will I be watching the second season? You betcha!
  • Yellowjackets. Episode 9 totally took the wind of out me. Really frightening, intense stuff, and while I liked the season finale, I have to admit that I’m seriously itching for some more!
  • Dexter New Blood. Well, I finished the finale at the start of the month, and while I kind of figured this was the route it was going to go, I still found myself disappointed at the end. It wasn’t a bad series, and honestly, I’m happy it exists because I much prefer this ending to the “lost-in-the-hurricane-jk-I’m-a-lumberjack-now” original, but alas! However, I was super happy to see Batista back though! That was a marvelous treat.
  • The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window. I felt entertained-ish and I appreciated the level of satire that everyone was going for here in regard to psychological thrillers and how they've been currently marketed, but all in all, I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to. It was, however, exactly what I wanted at that particular moment and exactly what I thought it would be, so I guess I can't really complain. Plus, I love Kristen Bell so I'll watch her in anything.
  • Some non-horror movies/shows I got into this month: Pivoting and Single Drunk Female (Hulu); I also finally got around to watching Encanto and Raya and the Last Dragon. Side note: I loved Encanto, but Raya fell a little flat for me. And I binged Maid (Netflix) over the past two days, and it was truly phenomenal. I cried, I empathized, I got angry—there were a lot of strong emotions felt in my living room. If you haven’t checked this one out yet, definitely do (TW: domestic abuse).
Some podcasts I listened to:

Madhouse Author Interview: The Saint of Witches by Avra Margariti

Hello and Good Afternoon, Friends and Fiends: Today in The Madhouse, I'm thrilled to welcome and host Avra Margariti as we talk about th...