Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: My Year in Review

Instead of talking about what I accomplished this year in narrative form, I'll let my list of 2009 publications pretty much speak for itself:

Poetry 2009
Fairy Bandits..........Aphelion, December 2009.
The Devourer Took a New Name..........Bewildering Stories, Issue 364, December 7, 2009.
Horrorku (will-o-wisp)..........The Shantytown Anomaly Issue #8, November 2009.
The Sheerie..........Aphelion, November 2009.
Horrorku (weeping tree)..........Scifaikuest (on-line), November, 2009.
Amongst Faerie Oaks..........Abandoned Towers Issue #4, November 2009.
Gathering of the Dead..........Tales From the Moonlit Path, Halloween Issue, October 2009.
The Haunted Castle..........The Absent Willow Review, October 15, 2009.
Coach-a-Bower..........Aphelion, October 2009.
Visages of Betrayal and Madness..........The Monsters Next Door, Issue Eight, September 2009.
Eldritch Mistress..........Aphelion, September 2009.
Roiling Gyre..........Aphelion, August 2009.
Electric Blue Sparks..........Aphelion, July 2009.
Yellow Eyes..........Every Day Poets, June 26, 2009.
Clattering Hooves..........Aphelion, June 2009.
Nightmares Fell my Fantasy..........Scattered Verses, Moonlit Curses Horror Poetry Anthology, May 2009.
Howling on the Moor..........Scattered Verses, Moonlit Curses Horror Poetry Anthology, May 2009.
When Wizards Dream at Night..........Tales of the Talisman, Volume IV Issue 4, Spring 2009.
Temporal Crack..........Aphelion, May 2009; also on-line version of Abandoned Towers, June 2009.
Labyrinthine Pile..........Aphelion, April 2009.
The Damnation of Daniel Brewster..........The New Bedlam Project, Vol. 1 Issue 1, April 2009.
Mother Earth's Children..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, March 2009.
Drifting Flakes..........Aphelion, March 2009.
Winter Crows..........Every Day Poets, March 10, 2009.
Serpent of Storms..........The Monsters Next Door, Issue 6, March 2009.
When Hunger Takes Me..........The Monsters Next Door, Issue 6, March 2009.
Scifaiku (clash of tempered steel)..........Scifaikuest, February 2009.
Two Dimensional Visitors..........Aphelion, February 2009.
Wandering Ole Willow..........Bewildering Stories, Issue 322, January 26, 2009.
Haiku (moaning hemlock tree)..........Every Day Poets, January 12, 2009.


Non-Fiction 2009
The Good and the Bad of Critiques..........Creator and the Catalyst, August 2009.
Speculative Poetry: Past, Present, and Future..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, January 2009.


Illustrations 2009
Nanomite 323..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, December 2009.
The Haunted Isle..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, December 2009.
West Dingleton's Loss of Humanity..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, December 2009.
Internut..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, November 2009.
Holiday on Phreetum Prime..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, November 2009.
Robin in Sherwood Forest..........Abandoned Towers Issue #4, November 2009 (colouring page).
Amongst Faerie Oaks..........Abandoned Towers Issue #4, November 2009.
The Banshee's Cry..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, October 2009.
Cosmic Journey..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, October 2009.
The Birth of Sentience on Aggraboth V..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, October 2009.
They've Come for me Again..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, October 2009.
A Leviathan Ascendant..........Abandoned Towers Issue #3, July 2009 (cover and colouring page); also MindFlights, November 2009.
Memories of Camelot..........Abandoned Towers Issue #3, July 2009.
The Armour of Loki..........Abandoned Towers Issue #3, July 2009.
Polypod at Home..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, June 2009.
Temporal Crack..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, June 2009.
Barixas Hunt..........Dreams and Nightmares #83, May 2009.
The Faces..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, May 2009.
Warring Ants..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, January 2009.
Maginot Line Fortification Cross-Section..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers, January 2009.

Plus, I had several reprint poems published in various venues:
Life is the Life.........Scattered Verses, Moonlit Curses Horror Poetry Anthology, May 2009. (originally published in The Monsters Next Door, Contest Issue 4.5, November 15, 2008. Poetry Winner, "Through My Eyes" Writing Contest).
They've Come For Me Again..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers October 2009 (originally published in Aphelion, November 2008).
Sorceress Devolution..........A Time To...Volume 3: The Best of The Lorelei Signal 2008 (originally published in The Lorelei Signal, October-December 2008 Issue.)
The Phantom Dimension..........Horror Bound Magazine, February 2009 (originally published in The Ashen Eye, on-line promotional article w/ contributor's bio April 11, 2008 ).
The Haunted Isle.........Horror Bound Magazine, February 2009 (originally published in Illumen, Issue 8, Spring 2008)
The Birth of Sentience on Aggraboth V..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers October 2009 (originally published in The Fifth Di..., Edition 10, #1, March 2008).
Your Bloody Face..........Scattered Verses, Moonlit Curses Horror Poetry Anthology, May 2009 (originally published in Tales from the Moonlit Path, Issue 9, February 2008).
The Incubus..........Scattered Verses, Moonlit Curses Horror Poetry Anthology, May 2009 (originally published in Sounds of the Night, Issue 2, February 2008).
The Accursed Castle..........Scattered Verses, Moonlit Curses Horror Poetry Anthology, May 2009 (originally published in Champagne Shivers, 2008 Issue).
Book of Dimensions..........Abandoned Towers Issue 2, March 2009 (originally published in Niteblade, December 2007).
Explorers..........Wondrous Web Worlds Volume 8, June 2009 (originally published in The Fifth Di..., September 2007).
Worrying..........on-line version of Abandoned Towers March, 2009 (originally published in Skyline Magazine, Autumn 2007).
The Unseelie Court..........Horror Bound Magazine February 2009 (originally published in Fantastic Horror, June 2007).
Midnight Sabbath..........Horror Bound Magazine February 2009 (originally published in DemonMinds, April 20, 2007).

In addition, I had some artworks published as reprints as well:
Tom-Tit-Tot.......... Horror Bound Magazine January 2009 (originally published in Macabre Cadaver Issue 3, October 2008).
Wander the Ether (aka Ethereal Journey)..........Horror Bound Magazine January 2009 (originally published in Scifaikuest, Issue 20, May 2008).
Demons of the Dark Nebula..........Horror Bound Magazine January 2009 (originally published in Hungur, Issue 6, Walpurgisnacht 2008).
Things in the Swamp..........Horror Bound Magazine January 2009 (originally published in Champagne Shivers, 2008 Issue).
Gothic Window..........Horror Bound Magazine January 2009 (originally published in Aoife's Kiss, Issue 23, December 2007).
Book of Dimensions..........Abandoned Towers Issue 2, March, 2009 (originally published in Niteblade, December 2007).
Forest of the Damned.......... Horror Bound Magazine January 2009 (originally published in The Willows, September 2007.
The Unseelie Court..........Horror Bound Magazine January 2009 (originally published in Fantastic Horror, June 2007).

I guess you could say, for me, 2009 was the year of the reprint!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Souls Adrift" to be Published in FEAR AND TREMBLING

I received some good news in my in-box today. My ghostly speculative poem "Souls Adrift" has been accepted for publication in the horror e-zine Fear and Trembling. Wahoo!

I'm quite glad this one has found a home at Fear and Trembling. I believe it's one of my best poems yet, poetically-speaking. I think it effectively taps into feelings of loneliness and despair. It also happens to be the one that elicited a "wow" when I read it at the open mic at Flavour Cafe. Not only that, this will be my first work in Fear and Trembling. Another market cracked (and a paying one at that)!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Baying Cry

baying cry
paws scratch wire mesh
homeless hound

***

My daughter volunteers at the local humane society. I was inspired to write this haiku when my wife and I picked her up this past Sunday afternoon. As we sat waiting, I listened to the shelter dogs barking, baying, and howling. Some of them sounded so sad that it touched my poetic soul. I just had to write something about the experience.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Weirdness of my Life...

...as a dark poet.

Yesterday, I was sitting listening to cheery Christmas music, drinking coffee, and starting work on a spooky dark speculative poem inspired by an abandoned old house just about around the corner from where I currently reside. I thought the combination a bit weird. Then again, I guess the telling of ghosts stories used to be a part of certain Christmas traditions.

I may do a little more work on the poem today, or I may leave it 'til after the holiday. I'm very distracted at the moment, especially as I watch the snow come down from a surprise mini-snowstorm. I didn't think it was supposed to snow today, certainly not like it is out there right now. There is already a dusting outside. We may just have a white Christmas after all!

Have a Spooky, er, I mean a Merry Christmas! Wassail!

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Fairy Bandits" in APHELION

My cinquain "Fairy Bandits" now appears in the December/January issue of the web-zine Aphelion. Check it out!

Ever wonder what happens to those items around the house that mysteriously disappear, seemingly lost forever? Well, fairy lore blamed such things on fairy thefts. Sometimes they borrowed from neighbouring mortals, but sometimes they stole. And the fair folk were known to occasionally steal cattle, milk, grain, and even human beings. Sometimes they only took the substance, the "foyson", out of foodstuffs, leaving an insubstantial likeness behind. In the case of my "Fairy Bandits", the fay appear to be responsible for the theft of bread meant for breakfast. However, are the good neighbours really to blame? Hm...

It looks like this will be my last poetry publication for 2009. And it may just be the end of my monthly poetry publication roll. All good things must come to an end, and I simply haven't had the time, energy, or inspiration to keep the roll rolling any longer. Anyway, I think it's a nice little piece to finish out the year. Now on to 2010!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Art for English IV

A while back, Jeff Parish asked if he could use some of my medieval-themed art on his web site for the English Lit class he teaches. I thought it would be a splendid idea, and even supplied a version of "Memories of Camelot" with text for use on the site's doorway. I then promptly forgot all about it, until today.

Well, it seems that Jeff did indeed use my art for his site English IV at North Lamar High School. He not only used "Memories of Camelot" on the doorway, but he also used "Robin Hood" on the "Assignments Page", "Boar Hunt" on the "Contact" page, and "Knight" on the "Links" page.

Cool!

Friday, December 18, 2009

"The Haunted Isle" Illustration in ABANDONED TOWERS

My illustration for my poem "The Haunted Isle" now accompanies the poem in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers. It can also be found on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store.

Nanomite 323



Nanomite 323

A miniscule probe
Drifts on a gentle breeze
Through an aluminium mesh
Framed in white-painted steel
And into a strange twisted forest...

Sensors detect synthetic material.
Access main memory banks:
Polyamide fibres
Mixed with chemical colorants,
Wound into strands
And woven onto a backing
Upon a hard organic surface.
Further information required...

A gigantic shaggy beast
Thunders dangerously close,
Blotting out the light.
Its sharp retractable claws
Tear at the artificial trees
As its hot breath
Blows like a steamy tempest...

Warning, danger!
Reporting possible aggressive actions.
Registering native creature’s traits:
Internal calcium skeleton,
Endothermic metabolism,
Heart rate 120 per 60 zorts,
Attributes suggest carnivore.
More data needed...

A monstrous mobile engine
Roaring like a thousand rockets
Rumbles over the robot.
A churning, swirling vortex
Sucks up the probe
And deposits it in darkness...

Initiate system recovery.
Visuals impaired.
Sensor intakes jammed.
Latest obtainable readings
Suggest debris mass of mixed origin,
With resident life-forms
And airborne particulate matter.
Further analysis impossible...

After a period of inactivity
The probe’s internal stabilizers
Sense a violent motion.
Once the movement ceases
The blackness closes in
As a metal slab presses downward.
Crushed by massive machinery,
Nanomite 323 sends a dire message
Prior to its total destruction...

Earthlings hostile,
Abort colonization mission,
Repeat, Earthlings...

(Poem originally published in Bewildering Stories Issue 259, September 10, 2007)
***
The above illustration now accompanies "Nanomite 323" in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers. It also appears on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle store.

Art or Writing?

I was going to take a few days off from art to work on a bit of writing, maybe even working on my long-neglected prose fiction, but now I'm not so sure I want to. The idea of writing is starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth. After all the bull crap I've seen, after encountering more than my fair share of miserable people in the world of writing, after seeing debate after debate after debate about the publication industry where everyone HAS to prove with a persistence bordering on obsession that they are right and the other guy is wrong, I'm fed up with it all!

I'm afraid I might be guilty of some of that obsessive persistence myself - I can grab hold of an argument like a bulldog long after I should just let it go. I don't want to become as miserable as those that trouble my sensitive soul, but I worry that's exactly what is happening. And many of these debates are, in the greater scheme of things, worthless. When will I learn?

Many years ago, I worked in retail. After that, I worked for the state for several years. Both are known for their preponderance of weird and wacko characters, often nasty characters at that. And yet, I never saw half the craziness while in retail or the state that I'm witness to in the field of writing. Much of it seems to have little to do with the "real world", not by a long shot.

Maybe I just need to walk away from it all for a while and think things over. Maybe I'm just letting it get to me again. Or maybe I just need to take some time to enjoy the upcoming holiday with my family, and try to attack it at a later date refreshed and rejuvenated.

I will admit, I've got art stuff I should do, projects that a publisher/editor wants me to work on, so perhaps I should just go with the flow and continue shifting my focus more and more toward my art. After all, is there anything wrong with playing to your strengths?

Still, I will probably think about writing that article a certain editor wants. And I probably should keep writing a little poetry, at least coming up with a few more pieces for that collection-in-progress. I guess it depends on how I feel.

"Shroudeater" to be published in HUNGUR

And now on to more pleasant things...

"Shroudeater", my 80-line long poem based on the Alpine lore about the powerful ghoulish vampire known as a schrattl, has been accepted for publication in the May 2010 issue of the print horror zine Hungur (and, yes, it is a paying venue). Actually, I had submitted the poem to Aoife's Kiss, but the managing editor at Sam's Dot felt that it would be a better fit in the other zine. I didn't submit the piece to Hungur because it didn't seem "science fiction" enough, but I'm fine with it being accepted for publication there. I had vampiric works appear in several previous issues of that zine, and "Shroudeater" should feel right at home amongst all the other blood suckers!

Not only did the editor let me know that the poem was accepted for publication in Hungur, he also suggested that I write a little article about the schrattl. I know this doesn't guarantee acceptance and publication even if I do pen the piece, but it's worth considering. I am more than capable of writing non-fiction. And I did have a poem and article combo in Hungur at least once before. My cinquain chain "Chupa-Chupas" and my article "Vampiric UFOs" both appeared in the All Soul's Night 2008 Issue. I guess I'll just have to see what I come up, if anything.

I like when my poetry leads to other opportunities. It makes it feel like it's actually worthwhile. Sometimes I wonder.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tainted Image?

All the time, I see writers giving other writers advice on where to market their works. And often times, many of these writers say that publication in "4 the luv" venues is of little help to an aspiring writer's nascent career. Some even hint that such publications may actually do harm to a budding writer's reputation.

Okay, I get that publication in amateur zines certainly won't make a writer rich and famous, and in most instances such publications won't do much to build a writer's reputation within the writing community, but is it as bad as it is sometimes portrayed? Have editors of pro zines, or agents, or publishers, actually turned down a writer's work based SOLELY on the fact that the writer had material published in amateur "4 the luv" zines? Have writers who have been published in amateur zines become pariahs in the higher levels of the writing community simply because of their less-than-glowing publication histories? Is publication in "4 the luv" zines such a terrible thing that it can ruin careers before they've even begun? (By the way, I get the desire to want to get paid for your work - I have that desire, too. However, just because I want something badly enough doesn't mean I'm always gonna get it.)

Ultimately, I always thought the work in hand was the most important thing agents, publishers, and editors considered. Isn't the quality of the writing the most important attribute they look for, not publication history? Ideally, editors, agents, and publishers should be judging a work based mostly on the quality of that work, not based on the quality of venues the person has been published in previously. I know we don't live in an ideal world, but I've been told many, many times that quality should trump all.

Frankly, I might not want to work with editors, publishers, or agents that let such things as previous publications in amateur zines shade their judgments. I would hope that my works would speak for themselves. Maybe I'm just an idealist at heart.

So, have I been irrevocably tainted by my continued association with certain "4 the luv" zines like Aphelion and Bewildering Stories? Have I blown my chance of ever having work published in a pro zine because of it? Or is this really an absurd notion? Besides, don't people in other activities often start out as amateurs, working their way up to pro status? Or is writing that much different than every other human endeavour?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Horrorku in THE SHANTYTOWN ANOMALY ISSUE #8

In the mail today, I found a manila envelope containing my contributor's copy of The Shantytown Anomaly Issue #8. My horrorku "will-o-wisp" appears in the "Scifaiku Corner" section of the journal. And it is indeed my work, even though the by-line and table of contents lists "Richard H. Ray" as the author of that particular piece. With all my poetry publications in various venues, I have no need to claim the work of someone else as my own! Besides, it should be pretty obvious that the horrorku is in my style, as it were.

Having seen a handful of other editorial goofs in my material in print over the past couple of years or so, I'm starting to take it all in stride. It happens. We're all human; we all make mistakes. At least my name was right on the envelope containing my contributor's copy. I had moved over the summer, and I hate to think about what the post office would have done about forwarding "Richard H. Ray's" mail! I forgot to send the editor my new address - my mistake.

Anyway, this is a bittersweet publication, since the editor of The Shantytown Anomaly has decided to go on an extended hiatus from publishing new issues. This was my first poem in that journal, and I'm afraid it might be my last, at least for a while. I'm saddened to see any speculative poetry market shut-down or go on extended hiatus. We need more speculative poetry markets out there, not less!

Art to be in DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES 85

It looks like one of my pieces of filler art originally accepted for publication back in April will be appearing in the January 2010 Issue of Dreams & Nightmares:
http://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/2009/12/dn-85-contents.html

This is good. I will have something new coming out in January, albeit art and not poetry. Alas, for the first time since starting this crazy ride back in April 2007, it appears as if I will have no new poetry publications for the coming month. Yes folks, you heard right, the new year will probably bring Richard's poetry roll to an end.

As of this very moment, I actually don't have much poetry at all slated for publication in 2010. And I only have a small handful of poems currently in submission limbo. That's what happens when you shift gears and move on to other things, like lots of art.

Maybe I should take a break from drawing and write more poetry. We shall see what my muse thinks about that. It's always ultimately up to the muse.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Poem accepted at HOUSE OF HORROR

I received word today that my dark speculative cinquain "My Final Masterpiece", first published in the December 2008 issue of Niteblade, has been accepted for publication in Issue 10 of the e-zine House of Horror.

As always, I'll post a link when it's up. It might be a while, though; I think they are currently on Issue 7.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ghosts at Fort Ticonderoga

My mother-in-law, who lives up in Essex County in the northern part of the state, e-mailed me some intriguing information. Apparently, the TAPS team were filming an episode of the television show Ghost Hunters at Fort Ticonderoga, a historic fortification on the shores of Lake Champlain. And, according to my source, they actually found some interesting activity at the fort.

Wait a minute! I know that ghost! Well, one of them at least.

One of my most disturbing encounters with something potentially paranormal occurred in one of the barracks buildings at Fort Ticonderoga, back in August of 1995. In this case, it wasn't so much what I saw as what I felt.

As we entered the southwest corner of the ground floor of the South Barracks building, as I tried to view the artifacts in the display cases, I suddenly became dizzy and weak. I sensed a great heaviness, as if I bore the whole weight of the upper floors upon my shoulders. The footsteps of the people walking the floor above felt like marching troops stomping across my head. My eyes throbbed, and I couldn't focus. Then my vision darkened, as if I was looking down a long, dark tunnel. I came very close to blacking out.

Strangely, the feeling left almost as suddenly as it came, departing in a swift wave as I crossed the threshold into the next room. The disturbing sensation didn't come back until we walked down the stairs on that side of the building, going from the first to the ground floor. I briefly felt it again, albeit milder than before. I remember declaring at the time that I wasn't going back into that room!

I'm not prone to fainting spells. I felt fine prior to the incident. I pretty much felt fine afterward (excepting the slight return of the feelings as mentioned above). And my instincts told me that something unnatural had caused me to feel like I was going to drop to the floor. It sounds hokey, but I swear I could almost sense a presence that day, a spirit angrily bearing down on me. Of course, feelings count for very little, but it made me wonder just the same.

Additionally, my daughter was visibly scared and upset in that very same room. She wanted to get out of that building altogether. Later, she claimed to have seen a "green thing" in the room, something that frightened her badly. Unfortunately, she was not quite three years old at the time, so she was unable to describe what she saw or experienced in any sort of exacting detail. It remains just a "green thing".

Oddly enough, when I saw the somewhat famous ghost that haunts the "stacks" in the New York State Education Building, it appeared as a greenish blob. And another person saw a green-hued man in that very same place. Perhaps there is some sort of connection between the supernatural and the colour green. Or, perhaps my daughter saw one of the Green Mountain Boys dressed in green! (I think there was a mannequin in uniform on display in that room, but I believe my daughter was able to differentiate between the mannequin and the "thing". However, it was years ago, and my daughter was very young at the time, so I can't say for certain.)

Is any of what I described real evidence of the supernatural? Of course not; there could be mundane explanations for everything that happened that day. However, it remains a weird experience, and one that I think could possibly have been due to supernatural reasons. Based on other experiences I've had, I wouldn't completely rule it out. Hearing that the TAPS team might have encountered something supernatural at the fort just helps bolster my claim.

Now I will be anxiously awaiting airing of that episode next season, to see exactly what they found in a place I personally believe to be haunted. I hope they did indeed find some interesting evidence.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"The Devourer Took a New Name" in BEWILDERING STORIES

My seasonal dark speculative poem "The Devourer Took a New Name" now appears on-line in Issue 364 of the e-zine Bewildering Stories. Check it out!

How in the world could a dark poem entitled "The Devourer Took a New Name" have anything to do with the Christmas season? Have I gone mad? No, well, maybe, but it wasn't madness that sparked the concept that led to this piece. Without giving too much away, let me just say that I took the idea of an ageless diabolic entity with a thousand different names and faces, thought that the dreadful being might decide to shape shift into something new in the modern world, and mixed in a bit of holiday symbolism in the process.

Perhaps I already gave too much away, but you'll just have to go read the poem to find out.

Merry X-Mas! Mu ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Monsters Next Door Dead?

What's this? Ralan's is listing The Monsters Next Door as dead? And there is a message in The Monsters Next Door blog on MySpace stating that there will be no future issues. Oh no!

This is tragic news; I thought this zine would be one to watch, one with a bright future, especially when the editor decided to switch to print instead of on-line publication. I actually contributed poetry to The Monsters Next Door several times (three poems published in Issue 3, three horrorku in Issue 4, the winning poem in the poetry portion of the "Through My Eyes" writing contest published in Issue 4.5, two poems published in Issue 6, six in the Scattered Verses, Moonlit Curses poetry anthology, and one published in the first print issue, Issue 8).

I'm saddened by the loss of yet another zine, especially a horror one, and one concentrating on monsters to boot! Every death of a horror zine that published dark poetry hurts a dark poet like me. It makes me wonder if I should continue writing dark poetry, or if I should switch to lighter verse only. Is it even possible for me to do that? I don't know, I can't say, but I will say this - it's not always easy to find a home for horror verse.

I want to thank L.B. Goddard for doing a fine job while The Monsters Next Door still lived. I was glad to have several poems in her publication. She was always a courteous and enthusiastic editor, and she really seemed to like my poetry!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Haunted Isle



The Haunted Isle

I lie beyond the narrow sandy strand,
A jagged mote upon the horizon,
A rugged speck upon the ocean.
Sailors skirt past my flanks in morbid dread.
My dark hollows house the unshriven dead.

I lie amongst the angry, swelling waves.
Churning foam obscures my treacherous shoals,
Doom for innumerable imperilled souls.
Wretched spirits weep on my savage shore,
Unheard above Poseidon's constant roar.

I lie shrouded in a bleak, swirling mist,
Cloaked in an eternal obscurity,
Wracked by a turbulent, restless sea.
Haggard spectres drift amidst my grey stones,
Vainly searching for their sun-bleached bones

I lie beyond a mortal's tenuous ken,
A dismal harbour for woeful secrets,
A forlorn abode of abject regrets.
Rendered barren by the sea's bitter breath,
My rocky bosom knows nothing but death.

(Poem originally published in Illumen Issue 8, Spring 2008.)

***

Posting this, I realised that I mentioned "grey stones" in the poem, but made the stones in the illustration more of a brownish hue. I always have to go where my art takes me, and my art took me in the direction of brownish stones. I wanted a decent contrast between the stones and the spectral mist, which I wouldn't have gotten if I had made the stones more of a grey hue. I like the colours, and I ain't gonna change 'em now!

Oh well. Sometimes my artistic side and my literary side do clash just a bit. Funny how the artistic side usually seems to win in the end.

West Dingleton Illustration Published

My illustration for my speculative poem "West Dingleton's Loss of Humanity" now appears in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers. It is also featured on several items in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store, under the title "Science Fiction Nightmare".

In other illustration news, I have almost finished work on an illustration for my poem "The Haunted Isle". And this one is pretty much a landscape, something I don't get a chance to draw very often. I made sure it was a dynamic, even darkly evocative, landscape.

In case anyone was wondering why I'm doing all this work for nothing but exposure and a cut of the profits from Zazzle merchandise, all these poems and illustrations are slated to be in a future collection. However, the publisher doesn't want a mere chapbook, she wants a major work, chock full of art and poetry. I seem to recall her saying something about 125 pages, truly a daunting proposition.

I think I have enough poems already, although I may still add a poem or two, but I need lots more art. To make this project a reality, I have to illustrate almost every single poem. It won't just be a book of poetry; it will be a book of art as well.

So I had better get drawing, because it may be a daunting task, but it's one I want to see become a reality. I just don't know how long it's going to take. I'm a slow and deliberate artist, not one that can usually whip off several drawings in a day. At least each finished illustration puts me that much closer to reaching my goal.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Zazzle Merchandise Makes Great Gifts

Just a quick note, Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store items featuring my art and designs would make great holiday gifts. And I do get a share of the profits from each sale of items featuring my work.

C'mon, make my Christmas just a little bit brighter by brightening Christmas for your family and friends by giving the gift of art this year. There are a lot of different images to choose from, from the surreal to the historical, from the folkloric to the fantastic. And the items available range from binders to stickers, from aprons to t-shirts.

Check it out!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

West Dingleton's Loss of Humanity


Illustration Copyright © 2009 Richard H. Fay

West Dingleton's Loss of Humanity

It all started with a strange cloud,
A nebulous mist of colours
Glowing faintly
In the night.

An aurora in the east
Some suggested.
Electrically charged fog
Others said.
Ambient mood lighting
A few joked.

It descended upon the sleepy town
In a dull rainbow shroud.
Noises were muffled,
Bare flesh
Tingled.
No one worried too much
Until the changes began.

Subtle hints appeared at first,
Crooked eyes,
Drooping lips,
Peculiar warts,
Odd tufts of hair.
Deformities soon multiplied
And grew more and more grotesque.
Limbs twisted,
Noses dropped off,
Mouths expanded into
Gaping maws,
Bulbous lumps of human flesh
Sprouted vestigial limbs.
Their minds remained clear
As their bodies were corrupted.
Tears fell
While tears could still fall.

Word of the calamity soon spread.
Surrounding communities panicked.
The outside world
Shunned the town,
Barricaded roads,
Protected mankind.
Plans were made
To wipe out the creatures,
Destroy the mutations,
Cleanse the land.

The poor people of West Dingleton
Had become something different,
Something monstrous,
Something dangerous,
Something alien,
No longer human.

Or did they?

(Poem originally published in Bewildering Stories Issue 256, August 20,2007.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another Illustration Published

Just a quick note: my illustration for "Holiday on Phreetum Prime" now appears alongside the poem in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers.

Now back to composing more art and poetry (I'm currently working on an illustration for my speculative poem "West Dingleton's Loss of Humanity").

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Internut


Internut
by Richard H. Fay
Ink on Bristol board, digitally coloured

The above illustration now accompanies Doug Hilton's story "A Brief History of the Internut" in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers. It also appears on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store. This merchandise features various "green" phrases and messages in an attempt to use the image to tie-in with environmentally conscious concepts.

I had to dig up pics of an old computer and a peanut plant for this one. Even after I found images to use as references, I wasn't sure at first if the concept requested by the author of the story would work. However, once I drew the computer, the plant, and the roots, I realised that it almost had a "Dali-esque" feel to it. It's certainly on the weird side.

Weird often works for me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What I Want for Christmas

My mother-in-law, who is more of a mother to me than my own mother, asked what I wanted for Christmas. I told her I wanted this:
Super Pro Edition 1/24 VsTank Pro PanzerKampwagen German Tiger I Late Production Desert Brown Airsoft Radio Remote Control Battle Tank.

Yeah, I'm a kid at heart, and a World War II armour buff to boot! When I had the time for such things, I used to build plastic armoured fighting vehicle models from kits. I still have a few of the models I put together on display, along with some decent-quality ready-built ones. However, I always wanted an RC tank, especially a Tiger. There's something especially bad-ass about the Tiger tank.

Well, my mother-in-law ordered the tank. So, it looks like I'm going to get to play like a kid come this Christmas morn. I'm excited!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"The Sheerie" in APHELION

My speculative cinquain "The Sheerie" has been published in the November 2009 issue of the web-zine Aphelion. Check it out!

In case anyone was wondering, I once again dip into the well of fairy folklore for inspiration. More specifically, I again delve into the connections between the realm of fairy and the realm of the dead. The sheerie are said to be the spirits of unbaptised children imbued with dark fairy magic and dangerously jealous of the living. They appear as tiny beings shimmering with a corpse-light glow, or dark goblins carrying burning lengths of straw, or nothing more than glimmering lights darting about in the fashion of will-of-the-wisps. No matter the form they take, the sheerie delight in causing the living misfortune. They have the power to derange unprotected humans, often with fatal consequences.

The sheerie are definitely not butterfly-winged Tinkerbells. As a matter of fact, they're downright menacing. It's best to carry a crucifix or a bit of iron when travelling about during twilight, especially near fairy hills or boggy ground, just in case the sheerie are roving the countryside. Following those corpse-light brands will lead you astray, and may even lead to your death.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Trouble with Freelancing....

...is there are never any guarantees. Even a "sure thing" can suddenly go down in flames, or so my recent experience indicates.

During most of last week, I was busily working on the illustrations for a book of short stories that was supposed to be published by a publisher I've worked with on a regular basis. The author of the collection in question had requested that I do the art for the book, and the publisher agreed that I was the best illustrator for the job. I was to do four new interior illustrations, plus the cover art. An illustration and a diagram I did for one of the author's previously published stories would also have been included. It appeared to be a good opportunity for me to flex my artistic muscles. Not to mention, I was to get paid for this project.

I had finished one illustration, received the author's approval of the image (he actually said "wow"), and made darned good progress on a second. However, it seems all was for naught.

This morning, the publisher e-mailed me with a rather disturbing message. She said that work on the book has come to a screeching halt, due to the fact that she and the author had a rather tense discussion about whether or not she was going to publish it! She no longer wants me to do any work on the illustrations for the book in question.

As Charlie Brown would say, "good grief". Or, to put it more bluntly and crudely, "what the hell?".

I will admit to being rather miffed over this latest bad news. If things have fallen apart beyond any chance of repair, what do I now do with an illustration of an upside-down welcome sign dissolving into a psychedelic swirl? And do I still go ahead and finish the illustration of an old computer sitting in a farmer's field with roots coming out its bottom and a peanut plant growing out of its top? It was looking so cool, almost "Dali-esque" in a way, that I'm reluctant to abandon it now. Even so, perhaps the best thing to do is to cut my loses and chalk it all up to experience.

Yes, I'm pretty frustrated. It seems I wasted a week's worth of work for nothing. Admittedly, lately I've been drawing slower than usual, although the fact that I had to dig up images of old computers and peanut plants to use as references is partly to blame for my snail's pace. Of course, in some ways I'm glad I didn't make better progress in regard to this particular project. It would just have meant more drawings would now be in limbo.

Coming right on the heels of a second rejection of my eighty-line poem about a ghoulish vampire based on alpine lore, this latest bad news has made me wonder if any of this is worth it. In some ways, this is even more frustrating than a rejection of my work, since my art was never the problem. In this case, the flighty and often insane nature of the publication business is the true problem.

I guess this is just more proof that I have to continue the effort to expand my horizons and find more art venues, even though that is proving to be yet another frustrating venture. And I worry it might end up being a venture in futility.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holiday on Phreetum Prime



Holiday on Phreetum Prime

by Richard H. Fay

Twin red suns rise over a crimson sea
As wudols twitter a raucous chorus
Amongst the majestic etafal trees.
Saunter beneath the weeping purple fronds
And sip a cup of sytunn flower tea
While wine-stained waters kiss a chartreuse shore.

Sail the ruby waves on a solar sloop.
Watch black-winged tijucks fish for mugaspits.
Feel the droning hum of an ulorn's song
As it dives right under your silver ship.
Weigh anchor beside Glastornak Island
And marvel at its tall crystalline spires.

Return to your quaint cliff side veranda
In time to see the blue shubiyemps dance.
Laugh at their crazy mating rituals,
But then shed a tear when the males drop dead.
Join the joyous feast and masquerade
To honour the fatal change of seasons.

Rest quietly beneath the yellow gaze
Of Phreetum Prime's seething volcanic moon.
Spy golden sprites flaring in the night sky
As ion storms clash in the stratosphere.
Be lulled to sleep by a burgana's trill
As a soft breeze blows across the dark sea.

(Poem originally published in Star*Line, March/April 2008)

Illustration available on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store

Sunday, November 8, 2009

J. Bruce Fuller's Article about Persona

J. Bruce Fuller posted a very interesting article about persona in horror poetry:
Imagination and Persona in Horror Poetry
His points about using persona in horror poetry can apply equally well to speculative poetry in general.

Speculative poets often speak through an imaginary or historical narrator. I don't think most speculative poetry is meant to be confessional verse, at least not it the usual sense of the term. Speculative poets frequently take on the voices of others, and these others need not even be human. Speculative poets might speak with the voices of aliens, or fairies, or demons, or mythical beasts, or mundane animals, or even objects traditionally seen as inanimate. It should be obvious that the poets haven't actually turned into such things. It should be obvious that the poets are imagining. However, the concept of confessional poetry has muddied those waters, and the line between imagined and real might not always be clear to all readers or listeners, especially when speculative poets speak with voices all too human.

I've used this idea of persona again, and again, and again in my own speculative verse. I'm certainly not a demonic serpent ("Serpent of Storms") or a life-draining vampiric entity ("Life is the Life"), or a killer being driven to madness and suicide by visions of the face of the lover he killed ("Your Bloody Face"), or a bleak haunted island ("The Haunted Isle"). However, I spoke as if I were a demonic serpent, or a life-draining vampiric entity, or a killer, or a haunted island. I think the ability to speak in the voice of another is just as important to fictional poetry as it it to prose fiction. And it's one of the creative techniques that can set speculative verse apart from mainstream.

Not all poetry need be confessional, at least not personally confessional. Unfortunately, I think some poets seem to think otherwise. They apparently think poetry is, by it's very nature, confessional. And this can lead to a misunderstanding of speculative verse.

During one of the Poet's Live Corners I attended, after I stated that I had some dark speculative pieces to read, one of the other poets present mentioned the time they had a poet show up and read poetry about murder and mayhem. I got the impression that they had been shocked by this poet's material, as if it were almost confessional in nature. Did they truly have a murderer in their midst? I doubt it. I had to smile, knowing the dark and often diabolic nature of much of my own verse. Does that mean I'm a dark and diabolic person? Of course not!

Just because a poet writes about bloody murder doesn't make that poet a bloody murderer. There is such a thing as imagination. However, I think my experience at the Live Poet's Corner exemplifies the lack of understanding speculative poets and poetry occasionally face within the broader poetry community. And this is why I often explain the type of poetry I write before I begin reading it in public.

One of the first things a reader or listener of speculative poetry must understand is that such verse is imaginative verse. The poet isn't confessing so much as imagining (although confession may still be buried beneath the imaginative trappings). Unfortunately, if you operate under the notion that poetry is confessional by default, you might misunderstand the concept of persona in speculative poetry. You might not fully realise that the speculative poet is speaking as someone else, that they are imagining. And that means you miss the whole point.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Editing is Censorship

Stephen Colbert said it - editing is censorship. He stated this fact while interviewing his guest Harold Evans:

http://www.comedycentral.com/colbertreport/full-episodes/index.jhtml?episodeId=254660

So, all you editors out there, stop being censors! Don't filter what readers want to read! Don't filter what brilliant writers, poets, reporters, and hacks want to write! (I say with an impish grin on my face and a mischievous glint in my eye - there are always blogs for the truly brilliant stuff.)

Bigfoot not an Ape...

...if it truly exists, at least according to the primatologist Esteban Sarmiento:

http://www.bigfootencounters.com/interviews/esteban.htm

While I may be no primatologist, and only have a B.S. in Biology, this is something I've been saying quietly for years. For all their wildness, in some ways Sasquatches look and act too human to be in the great ape branch of the bushy primate family tree. I always thought Bigfoot was closer to us than it was to the gorilla, appearances aside. I only briefly bought into the "Gigantopithecus theory", then discarded it in my own mind after Bubba the Bigfoot moved into our former neighbourhood.

Some of Bubba the Bigfoot's apparent actions, untying garbage bags and stacking food wrappers dug from the bags in a neat pile, leaving sticks beside the garage door, and having the wits to roam the wooded hills on the outskirts of North Troy relatively undetected (he learned to quiet right down not too long after his initial noisy arrival) seemed very human-like. It certainly weren't no bear! And I know of no known animal around here big enough to howl like Bubba howled that first night.

Oh well. If only most scientists would stop being as extreme in their views as certain religious extremists, if they started being as open-minded as they claim to be, if they stopped proclaiming that Bigfoot couldn't possibly exist and actually looked carefully at the mountain of evidence gathered so far, then maybe we could have some real interesting talk about WHAT the Sasquatches truly are, rather than this endless debate about whether or not they even exist. Personally, I don't have the luxury of disbelief; I've had some interesting close-encounters, and my wife actually caught sight of Bubba once. Should I call my wife a liar or a nutter, especially when she's the no-nonsense, level-headed one in the house? And how dare scientists try to tell us we must be mistaken because it simply cannot be, according to current scientific dogma? Shame on them!

Anyone catch the mid-season finale of Destination Truth last night? Anyone catch the true importance of the hair sample Josh Gates and his team recovered from Bhutan? Hair was found that was determined to be from an unknown primate, in an area where locals have claimed a primate still unknown to science has lived for centuries. Hm...

Yeti CAN'T be real because? Sasquatch CAN'T be real because? We MUST believe science has discovered all large animals because? Cuvier's "rash dictum" has been proven wrong again, and again, and again, and again. Why must scientists still adhere to this rather pompous notion? I understand the need for evidence, but in these days of DNA extraction and analysis, not to mention the scientific analysis of footprints and the like, why must the proof necessarily be in the form of a corpse? At the very least, don't the other forms of evidence warrant further investigation, or has science become so stodgy that it can only explore within already-known parameters? Whatever happened for searching for the truth? I thought self-evident truths were for preachers and lawyers.

And for those of you who think Bigfoot couldn't stay hidden in the wilds of North America, go take a trip to the Adirondacks sometime, or even the Catskills. And that's nothing compared to the Pacific Northwest.

I once stayed hidden from a troop of neighborhood delinquents, who had seen me in the woods behind my parents' house outside of Oneonta, NY. The group set off to find me. They stayed on the trail; I stayed behind a fallen log. I kept my eyes on them the whole time; they looked for me but never found me.

All the time I spent in the woods of upstate New York, I think I found deer bones only once. I never found the bones of some of the rarer residents. Bones are devilishly hard to find in the forest; nature cleans up the mess pretty quickly. Porcupines gnaw on bones, leaf litter covers them, and they quickly become hidden and recycled.

As for tracks, these are hard to come by on a forest floor covered with thick layers of leaves, needles, and loam. Tracks are more typically found when the forest floor is blanketed in snow, or in muddy areas near streams, or on swampy ground. And often times, you only knew an animal was about by its tracks. I once saw bear tracks in the wild (a mother and cub walked right past my rabbit's cage one night), but I have yet to see a bear in the wild. Some have asked why we don't see Sasquatch tracks more often. I'm amazed we find the ones we do! And those tracks do have a tale to tell, if you are willing to listen to what they have to say.

As for the line "people are crawling all over those woods", rubbish! I could walk from my parents' home, across the hills through the woods to a friend's house several miles away, and never meet another human being. Once in a blue moon I would run into other local kids, but this only happened on very rare occasions. And I encountered a bow hunter only once (and didn't see him until he spoke, due to his camouflage). I stayed out of the woods during gun deer hunting season; it was too dangerous. Of course, if I knew to stay out of the woods during certain months of the year, perhaps another intelligent primate would have known to avoid the deer hunters.

Besides, Bubba is a perfect example of how a Bigfoot can live alongside humans. Apparently, they don't all need to remain in the deepest, darkest wood. Some can do quite well on the outskirts of human settlement, or even closer than that. And Bubba isn't the only garbage-eating Bigfoot I've heard about. He certainly wouldn't be the first wild animal to acquire a taste for human garbage.

Oh well, until there's a body to shove under scientists' noses, the official line will be "they don't exist". And people like me will just go on looking like nutters until we're finally proved right.
Tags: bigfoot, cryptozoology, sasquatch

Ouch! That Rejection Hurt!

I don't like to post about rejections as a rule, but I seem to be doing it a lot lately. And I just had to talk about this one, since it was perhaps a bigger blow than the usual rejection.

All five poems that I submitted for consideration in a vampire anthology, including three reprints, a cinquain chain of four cinquains about the Leanan-Sidhe, and an eighty-line piece about a ghoulish vampire of alpine lore, were turned down. I was really hoping the editor would find at least one of the five worthy for inclusion. The fact that he didn't makes me question my abilities as a poet. Having all five rejected at one fell swoop was quite a blow. Ouch!

I'm beginning to hate vampires, especially the contemporary image of vampires. I'm usually not overly interested in writing about vampires, unless prompted to do so. I especially hate the current perception of vampires as sexy-cool characters (although the Leanan-Sidhe is certainly seductive). I was hoping my poem about a ghoulish vampire of traditional lore would help reverse the trend, but perhaps it was a futile stand against the mighty torrent of popular thought. Or maybe it was simply a case of rotten execution. I thought the piece was good, but I've learned over these two-and-a-half years that my own judgment regarding my work means little to nothing.

Even though I'm usually a vocal exponent of the need for persistence and perseverance, this recent rejection has made me question this whole poetry-thing. Am I wasting my time? Is it worth it anymore?

My success seems inconsistent at best, and I wonder if I may merely be a mediocre speculative poet, all the praise from certain individuals aside. It's ironic when some people debate the old paying venues versus "4 the luv" markets issue, and I seem to struggle to find a home, any home, for certain poems. It's as if others have their choice of venues, and I just have to take what I can get. What the bloody hell am I doing so wrong? (Not that this antho was a paying market, but what was I doing wasting several days of my time writing an epic-length poem specifically for this antho, just to get it rejected? The time would have been better spent on art.)

Oh well. Don't mind me. I've been depressingly ill for days now. I had a cold early last week, then the flu just in time for Halloween, then another cold right after the flu. Crud settled in my lungs, and now I have a bad case of bronchitis. I'm sure my current state of unhealth is adding to my miserableness. That, and this lingering feeling that I'm wasting my time with poetry. It makes it hard to be motivated to write more.

Anyone know a market that might be interested in an eighty-line poem about a ghoulish vampire based on alpine folklore? Or how about a four-cinquain long cinquain chain about the Leanan-Sidhe?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"weeping tree" in SCIFAIKUEST

My horrorku "weeping tree" has been published in the on-line version of Scifaikuest. Check it out! (THIS should take you right to the horrorku page. Just scroll down the page to find my contribution.)

"Weeping tree" combines the concept of a weeping willow with the potentially dangerous, and possibly even murderous, animate willow of folklore (think Tolkien's Old Man Willow). I play a bit on the name weeping willow (although I never mention willow by name). Why does the tree weep? Perhaps it weeps for a bitter loss, one it must avenge.

Yes, I've been down the path of murderous willows before, but I love the concept so much (I like willow trees), I just had to go there again.

A Leviathan Ascendant in MindFlights

"A Leviathan Ascendant" now appears on the cover of the November 2009 issue of the e-zine MindFlights. Check it out!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

On This Halloween

On This Halloween

by Richard H. Fay

Knock, knock, knock
Sounds upon front door
Clad in frightful garb,
While quickening gloom
Darkens Autumn sky
And a dying breeze
Swirls crisp fallen leaves
On this Halloween.

Who could it be?
Heroes and villains,
Princesses and ghouls,
Witches and wizards,
Monsters and goblins,
Werewolves and robots,
All waiting for treats,
Stand upon my step
On this Halloween.

Knock, knock, knock
Sounds upon front door
Bathed in porch light's glow,
While dimming candle
Behind grinning face
Of grim hollowed gourd
Sputters and snuffs out
On this Halloween.

Who could it be?
Nothing but a chill
Carried on a breath
Blowing from nowhere
Stirs at the threshold.
Not a living soul,
No visible thing,
Treads upon my step
On this Halloween.

Knock, knock, knock
Sounds upon front door
Silvered by moonlight,
While night creatures call
And tattered grey ghosts
Scoot swiftly across
An eventide sky
On this Halloween.

Who could it be?
Unearthly black forms
Reeling to fell tune
Send scared heart racing
And steal frightened gasp.
Devilish sprites loosed
To play impish tricks
Dance upon my step
On this Halloween.

***

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Monsters?

Talking about monsters seems to be appropriate this time of year. So, why do certain people (like me) write about monsters, read about monsters, draw monsters, watch monster movies, and just tend to find great fascination in all things monstrous? Is it creepy? Is it abnormal? Or is it just good, clean fun?

At times, I like to think of drawing monsters and writing about monsters as a bit of monster-slaying, creating diabolic beasts on paper to vanquish the demons in my past. And there are plenty of real-life monsters in my past. At other times, it's just a bit of monstrous fun.

I've always been fascinated by monsters, often times much to my mother's chagrin. She thought it was rather disturbing, my obsession with terrifying creatures, especially when I would scare myself silly. I recall being a wee lad and watching the opening of Chiller Theatre from behind the sofa. The creepy hand that would come up out of the quicksand and devour the scary-looking letters spelling out "Chiller" frightened me more than the movies themselves. And yet, I looked forward to seeing that hand, and the movies it helped introduce, every weekend. It was often the highlight of my week!

I guess I just loved the thrill of being scared by something that I knew, deep down in my heart, couldn't really hurt me. I've been more seriously frightened by the real monsters in my past, abusive drunks and dangerous psychos, than I have ever been by something on television, in the movies, or on the printed page. The fear of real monsters, ones all-too-human, is a fear I could live without. It wrinkles this troubled brow and causes grey hairs to sprout on this harried head. However, the fear of make-believe is something I don't really want to give up, and never have.

And why should I? I see nothing abnormal in that thrill, anymore than it's abnormal to be thrilled by a roller-coaster ride or a sky-diving jump. As a matter of fact, my own style of thrill-seeking may be a bit safer than many other thrill-seeking activities. Plus, we all have certain things that stir the blood, that capture the heart. For some, it's sports. For me, it's monsters (and ghosties, and ghoulies, and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night).

Why monsters? Why not?

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Niteblade Art Blog: House of Chamberlin

This Halloween, for a different kind of treat, visit the House of Chamberlin. Open its heavy oaken doors, step through its dark stone threshold, and prowl its eerie halls. Spy strange, wondrous, fantastic, and frightful scenes. Meet lusty vampires, hungry werewolves, macabre musicians, and deadly dragons. Check out examples of Ric Chamberlin's artwork in the latest Niteblade Art Blog entry, "House of Chamberlin".

Cheers and chills!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Greg Schwartz's Article About Horrorku

Greg Schwartz, a fellow poet and composer of haiku both light and dark, penned a very interesting article about horrorku entitled "Trick or Treat: Haiku and Its Place in Dark Poetry". I strongly suggest checking it out (and not just because I'm mentioned in there alongside the likes of Josh Gage, Aurelio Rico Lopez III, and Deborah Kolodji). All fans of dark poetry, and all dark poets considering trying their hand at horrorku composition, should read Greg's article. You might just be scared into writing your own minimalist moments of terror and fright!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why do I Write Poetry?

A fellow member on the Read Write Poem network asked the age-old question "why do we write poetry?". Of course, I couldn't resist answering the question in verse. The poem I came up with might be a bit rough around the edges, being composed in a matter of a few minutes, but I still think it does a stellar job of conveying my reasons for continuing to write poetry, even when prose may be more "the thing" in today's writing world. Anyway, I liked the piece well enough to share elsewhere, so here is my poetic answer to the question "why write poetry?":

Why do I write Poetry?

An insistent muse,
A demanding voice
Calling out in verse,
A sensitive soul
Stirred by the beauty
Inherent in words,
A restless mind
Full of swirling ideas
Released in a flurry
Of poetic potential,
Readers clamouring
For more and more
(Or so I hope),
Those are the reasons
why I keep writing
poetry.

Or maybe,
Just perhaps,
That's what sells.
That's how my voice,
My creative shout,
My artistic cry
Gets heard.

And I just can't stop.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

yellowed leaves

yellowed leaves
cracking broken spine
treasured tome

(a revision of a haiku that originally appeared in Haiku Haven, May 2007)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Gathering of the Dead" in TALES FROM THE MOONLIT PATH

My dark speculative poem "Gathering of the Dead" has been published in the Halloween 2009 Issue of the dark and haunting e-zine Tales from the Moonlit Path. Check it out!

Gathering of the Dead" combines two things near and dear to my heart - ghost stories and fairy folklore. The fairy connection may simply be implied through the mention of "rath" (as in "fairy rath") and "glamour" (as in the fairy power of glamour), but it's there just the same. And the traditional tale that inspired this piece, that of Hugh King's disturbing encounter with the fair folk on November Eve, makes a pretty strong connection between fairies and the dead. The two realms do overlap. I merely added even more ghostly trappings to the eldritch spirits that gather on the rath each November's Eve.

The photo I chose to accompany my bio below the poem caused a slight stir in this household. I wanted to go with something seasonally appropriate. After all, it is a Halloween poem in the Halloween issue of a horror publication. However, my wife laughed when she first saw the pic, saying that I don't normally look like that. My daughter just stared in shock.

It wasn't quite the reaction I was looking for. I guess I should be glad of the fact that I don't normally look scary-evil. Well, at least my family doesn't think so. Others may disagree.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Guest Blogger at LEARNING DARK ARTS

Today, I am a guest blogger over at Robert G. Male's blog Learning Dark Arts. Robert graciously asked if I could be a guest blogger sometime this month. He hoped I could come up with an entry discussing my personal creative process. Well, I did, resulting in "Traditional Meets Digital".

If you want to learn a little bit more about how I go about creating my artwork, please read my entry in the Learning Dark Arts blog.

Art Accepted at MindFlights

Today, I received word that the editorial team at MindFlights has accepted my artwork "A Leviathan Ascendant" for use in a future issue of their e-zine. I don't know when the piece will appear, but as always, I'll post a link when it's up.

"A Leviathan Ascendant" was one of three pieces of artwork I sent to MindFlights. The other two were turned down. Now, I will be the first to admit that they accepted the best of the bunch; I consider "A Leviathan Ascendant" to be one of my finest works yet. And now that I know they like my style enough to use my art, down the line I may compose something new for submission to the zine ("A Leviathan Ascendant" originally appeared as the cover image for Abandoned Towers Issue #3). However, there was an interesting dichotomy apparent in a couple of the comments regarding the rejection of another illustration, "Polypod at Home". This is what two different members of the editorial team had to say:

"I find the color scheme jarring. A no from me."

"I like the colors but not the content."


One apparently didn't like my rather weird colour scheme. Another seems to have liked the colours, but disliked my choice of creepily alien subject. I can't help but to grin with mild amusement over these opposing opinions. This rejection is too interesting to be upsetting.

It looks as if my constant comments about tastes, opinions, and preferences differing from reader to reader apply equally well to viewers of visual art, which should come as no real surprise. After all, art appreciation can be a very subjective thing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Wrong Style

Rats! I received word back regarding one of the art queries I e-mailed earlier this month, queries I sent out in an attempt to expand my horizons and find more illustration work. And the reply was a frustrating "nice art, but not right for us".

While the editor of the venue in question said he digs my artwork (his phrase, not mine), he also stated that it is definitely not the style of art he is looking to use in his zine. Although, he did add that he would keep my info in case things change at a later date. His comments could simply be polite gestures meant to lessen the sting of the rejection, or he might actually like my art, and there may be the very slightest glimmer of hope that he will find use for my work in the future.

As much as my art may have a slightly higher acceptance rate than my poetry (I've had art accepted in venues that have yet to accept my poetry), I might suffer the same curse with my art that I often do with my poetry. I may compose art in a style that simply doesn't fit the style of certain publications. My particular brand of illustration could prove wrong for many places.

Oh well, time will tell. And now's the time to send out even more queries. I may yet find a place outside of my usual venues that both digs my art and wishes to send illustration jobs my way. Hopefully, I'll find several.

You know what I often say about the importance of persistence and perseverance in the publication game? It doesn't just apply to the writing side of things; it applies equally well to art, too.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"The Haunted Castle" at THE ABSENT WILLOW REVIEW

My dark speculative poem "The Haunted Castle" is now on-line at The Absent Willow Review. Check it out!

In this poem, I combine my love of castles with my interest in things supernatural, something which I admit to doing once or twice before. And this time, the castle's ruinous state and the strange goings-on within are told from the perspective of the dreadful fortress itself.

I really stuffed this piece full of interesting vocabulary (interesting to me, anyway). You won't find too many works of 31 lines containing motte (as in the mound upon which early castle towers were built), eldritch (my favourite word), cot (as in cottage), bailey (as in courtyard), bines (as in twining plants), obfuscating, miasma, laird (as in Scottish lord), cadaverous, and fete. I may have overloaded this one just a bit word-wise, but I make no apologies for doing so. I just love words.

"Coach-a-Bower" in APHELION

My horrorku "Coach-a-Bower" is now on-line in the October issue of Aphelion. Check it out!

Although the kernel of inspiration for many of my works comes from conceptual seeds gleaned from various reading materials, once in a while something I see in a television program or in a movie sprouts into a usable concept. "Coach-a-Bower" actually blossomed after I watched an episode of the British television show Strange featuring a banshee and the "costa burra".

According to an entry in Bob Curran's A Field Guide to Irish Fairies, tales from County Tyrone and other locales tell of the headless Dullahan driving a black coach known as the coach-a-bower, from the Irish coiste bodhar (deaf or silent coach). The Dullahan summons those about to die. Wherever he stops, death soon follows.

I figured that the coach might be silent, but the souls it carries away may not be, especially if they were bound for Hell.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Banshee's Cry



The Banshee's Cry

A fell keening echoes across the moor,
Punctuated by the pealing thunder.
Pouring rain lashes at the windowpane
While argent cracks flash in the darkened sky,
But the tumultuous storm cannot quell
The ominous wailing of that fey hag.

A figure wrapped in a funeral shroud
Glides swiftly across the tempest-wracked heath
And draws closer to this ancient estate.
A fearful being of mist and shadow,
Well imbued with sinister witchery,
Forewarns of a preternatural doom.

Master of this mouldering edifice
Inhabited only by grey shadows
And a myriad of pallid spectres,
A withered scion of a once great house,
I know the dreadful truth of the legends;
The eldritch oracle foretells my death.

The prophetic call chills my troubled soul,
But I resolve to accept my dim fate.
A raddled face stares through the murky glass.
My weak heart pounds rapidly in my chest;
I hold the revolver up to my head.
The banshee will be proved right
One last time.

Poem Copyright © 2007 Richard H. Fay
Originally published in Sinister Tales, October 2007

Friday, October 9, 2009

Poem Accepted at THE ABSENT WILLOW REVIEW

October is finally shaping up the way it should for this dark speculative poet. My dark speculative poem "The Haunted Castle" has been accepted for publication in the October 16th issue of The Absent Willow Review, an e-zine featuring tales of horror, fantasy, and science fiction (I believe I discovered them through Ralan's).

I speak a lot about the need for persistence and perseverance in the mad world of publication. And the forthcoming publication of "The Haunted Castle" shows how handy these traits can be. This happened to be the eighth time I submitted this piece for consideration at various zines. It was turned down at the very first venue for being all description and no action (yikes!). On the fourth try it almost made it into the final issue of the now-defunct zine Whispers of Wickedness, but the poem didn't make the final cut. After that, I rewrote the piece and sent it out a fifth time. Unfortunately, the rewritten piece was turned down by the fifth venue. So, figuring that my execution of the concept was indeed a bit flawed, I rewrote it a second time. I added a fifth stanza to up the action quotient just a bit. The zine I sent the poem to on my sixth try went on indefinite hiatus shortly after I submitted the piece, so I sent it out again. It wasn't the sort of thing the seventh venue was looking for, so I sent it back out yet again, this time to The Absent Willow Review. And finally, after eight tries and two revisions, success!

I could have given up at any time along this crazy path, but I trudged on. After a handful of attempts to get the poem published I could have either stuffed it in the trunk of no return or posted it on my blogs, but I wasn't quite ready to give up on finding the piece a proper home. I figured I would try two more times, for a total of ten, and then give up.

And what is the poem in question all about? Well, I tried to echo what I did in my poem "The Haunted Isle", but for a ruined fortress instead of a desolate island. The concept of writing something from the perspective of a haunted isle worked so beautifully that I just had to compose one for a haunted castle as well. Unfortunately, my creative vision may not have been the sort of thing most places wanted to see. That happens sometimes.

At least "The Haunted Castle" has now found a home, and in the month of October, too. Halloween spookiness comes a little bit early this year.

Cue ghostly noises: woooo-oooo-oooo-oooo!

(In case anyone wants to know my count for forthcoming poems in October, in case anyone cares, "The Haunted Castle" is my third new poem scheduled for October publication. I already had a couple of reprints published in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers earlier this month. Yay, October!)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I am so Embarrassed

Yesterday, I had to send out my first-ever rejection of artwork submitted to the Niteblade art e-mail address. The submitted works, while somewhat imaginative, just didn't fit the fantasy and horror theme of the art blog. I tried to come up with something professional-sounding, something that said in a few words why I was turning down the art without sounding critical of the artist. I typed it in, went over it a couple of times, hit send, and then the bloody e-mail decided to crash! So, I hit the back button, found that the message was still in the reply box, and hit send again. And the e-mail crashed again. I think I tried a third time and then gave up.

I was going to try to send the message today, when I noted TWO messages to the artist in question in the sent mail. Yes, the blasted e-mail HAD sent my message, twice. It looks almost as if I was making darned sure I drove my point home. How embarrassing!

As much as an editing job is a goal many writers seem to strive for, I think this is as close to being a genuine editor as I want to come. I hate sending rejections about as much as I hate receiving them. And I hate embarrassing myself even more.

Poems & Art up at ABANDONED TOWERS

Update: my speculative cinquain "They've Come for me Again" and my speculative poem "The Birth of Sentience on Aggraboth V" , along with their respective accompanying illustrations, are now on-line at Abandoned Towers.
"They've Come for me Again"
"The Birth of Sentience on Aggraboth V"
If you missed it when I posted the poems and illustrations here last Friday, check 'em out at Abandoned Towers!

By the way, it looks like Crystalwizard managed to make the Abandoned Towers site somewhat simpler to navigate. It's certainly easier to find the appropriate links. Yay, CW!

Monday, October 5, 2009

What do you do...

...when a piece you wrote for a specific publication with a specific theme (especially a seasonal one) doesn't end up making the cut at that particular market? Well, in my case, I tend to drive myself bonkers trying to find another market, one that might still manage to get the piece published in time for the season it was written for. I'm stubborn that way.

Of course, this brings up the potentially frustrating aspect of writing specific material for specific markets, especially when that material also happens to be seasonal in nature. If that material gets rejected, it may prove tricky to find another good fit thematically and temporally. This thought always make me just a little bit leery about writing for markets with specific, even seasonal themes, but I keep doing it anyway. And perhaps I'm making a big deal out of nothing.

After seeing Marge Simon's depiction of a sinister Santa for the cover image of the forthcoming Niteblade anthology, I ended up writing something to submit after a bout of midnight inspiration. When I first heard word of the anthology's theme, works based on Marge's art, I didn't think I would come up with anything. Then my muse decided otherwise.

Alas, the piece I wrote, "The Devourer Took a New Name", didn't make the cut. I was then faced with the task of trying to place a dark speculative poem about a sinister Santa elsewhere, hopefully in a timely venue. I could have waited six months or so and tried for next Christmas, but I'm not that patient. So, I sent the piece right back out to Bewildering Stories. With their quick response time and issues published on a weekly basis, I figured my poem stood a good chance of making it into a timely issue.

It looks like "The Devourer Took a New Name" will appear in a forthcoming issue of Bewildering Stories. I'm not sure when, but I'm guessing it will probably be some time in December.

And why am I sharing all this? I'm not really trying to gripe. Rejections happen; it's all part of the game. And I understood the risks of penning an unsolicited seasonal piece for a specific market. I see this story as less a complaint and more an example of how one needs persistence, perseverance, and an acknowledgment of the lack of guarantees, to play this mad publication game.

Art Agents?

Currently, I'm trying to expand my art venue horizons. I've sent out a handful of queries and art reprints, but I wonder about the possibility of finding an art agent. At least one or two of the artists I know have art agents assisting them in finding different prospective venues for their works. So, the question becomes, how do you go about finding an art agent?

I am certainly aware of lists of literary agents found in places like the latest Writers Guide books and the Preditors & Editors web site, but do similar listings exist for art agents? The paltry information I've been able to find myself hasn't been overly helpful, and the majority of art agents I've run across deal mostly with gallery and museum exhibits. I'm looking more for opportunities to have my art used on merchandise, similar to the deal I already have in place at the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store. I think many of my designs lend themselves nicely to such use, but I have no clue as to how to go about finding such opportunities.

At times, I still feel like the same aimless social floater I was in high school over twenty years ago. I feel like I'm not in any of the right cliques; I never seem to have the right connections.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Poems & Art Accepted at ABANDONED TOWERS

My speculative poem "The Birth of Sentience on Aggraboth V" and my speculative cinquain "They've Come for me Again", along with their respective illustrations, have been accepted for publication in the on-line version of Abandoned Towers. Yes, these are the same poem and art combos that I just posted here yesterday, and they are already featured on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store, but I'll still post a link when they're up at the e-zine.

As much as I've always thought sending out new material was better than sending out reprints, I could get into the reprint habit quite easily. I might have to consider sending out reprints more often, to publications that take reprints, anyway.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Black Hole Update...

I finally heard from one of those markets that made me wonder a while back about what you do when you're waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a reply that never seems to be forthcoming. Alas, when the reply did come, it was a rejection of all four poems submitted. Now I have to go through the process of finding yet another potential market (or markets) and submitting to that market (or those markets).

Oh, what fun! The way I see it, writing can be fun some of the time, seeing your written works published is fun almost all of the time, but searching for and then subbing to potential markets for those works is not really fun at any time. It's a necessary drudgery. I would much rather spend the time writing or drawing.

Yes, it is a frustrating process at times, but that's the way it goes. One has to get used to it, or give up. And I'm simply too stubborn to quit. Now I'm off to see where next to send my poor homeless poems. (At least I did receive some sort of reply. Any reply is better than none at all.)

They've Come for me Again



They've Come for me Again

Bright lights,
strange silhouettes,
voices inside my head
signal my departure from Earth
once more.

Poem copyright © 2008 Richard H. Fay
Originally published in the November 2008 issue of the web-zine Aphelion.

Poem and illustration available on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store.

The Birth of Sentience on Aggraboth V


The Birth of Sentience on Aggraboth V

A green jungun raises her head
Out of the black primeval muck.
She spreads her rainbow hued neck frill
And stares at the huge crimson sun.
The sight ignites a mental spark;
Enlightenment widens her world.

Strange ideas course through her brain
And fill her mind with new notions.
"Who am I?" she wonders gravely,
"And what might I be doing here?
How was all this I see first made?
Is there a purpose to my life?
And what may greet me at life's end?"

With clearer vision than before
Her amber eyes look all around.
They espy her scaly comrades
Feeding on some armoured quibbibs,
Oblivious to her wondrous
Contemplative epiphany.

Anxious to share her new-found thoughts
She opens her fanged maw and roars;
Junguns lack a spoken language
To put concepts into real words.
Disappointed at her failure,
She sheds a tear and sinks back down
Into the primordial ooze.

Poem copyright © 2008 Richard H. Fay
Originally published in The Fifth Di..., Edition 10, #1, March 2008.

Illustration available on merchandise in the Abandoned Towers Zazzle Store.

A Word on Admiration

Take care that who you admire is truly worthy of admiration. All too often nowadays, I see people admiring personages in the entertainment industry and elsewhere that are perhaps less than admirable characters. For me personally, it takes more than mere success in a given field to earn my admiration. Heck, I've been relatively successful in many different endeavours, from earning a B.S. in Biology with honours to writing publishable speculative poetry on a consistent basis, from mounting chironomid larvae on microscope slides like an experienced pro to selling my art for a profit at a local medieval fair, from home-educating my daughter well enough that she was more than ready for college to composing illustrations for publication. And I've failed in a few of my endeavours. Perhaps because of my various successes and failures, I tend to be picky about where I focus my admiration. I don't typically admire those that possess traits I find far from admirable, regardless of how successful they may be.

Maybe I just have different standards than most. Or perhaps I'm simply hard to impress. Whatever the true case may be, I do think my advice is worth considering, even for just a moment.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Poem Accepted at Tales from the Moonlit Path

There was a bit of good news in my e-mail inbox today. My dark speculative poem "Gathering of the Dead" has been accepted for publication in the Halloween 2009 issue of the dark e-zine Tales from the Moonlit Path. As always, I'll post a link when the poem is on-line.

"Gathering of the Dead" draws upon the link between faerie and the dead, perhaps even amplifying it for dramatic effect. I found my inspiration in a story extract included in The Ultimate Fairies Handbook by Susannah Marriot. The folktale that served as my inspiration, from Lady Wilde's Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, concerned Hugh King's encounter with the fair folk late one November Eve. I took the idea of a gathering on a fairy rath on November's Eve, added some ghostly imagery, potentially fatal consequences, and perhaps a dash of irony, and turned the whole thing into a cautionary verse. And, as I tend to do quite often, I also threw in a bit of archaic vocabulary, using the word "gasts" as a synonym for "ghosts" or "spirits". (Gast used in that sense does appear in the archaic and obscure section of my old Websters New International Dictionary, as well as in the copy of the OED I consulted in the college library.)

I believe this will be the fourth poem of mine to appear in Tales from the Moonlit Path. I like it when this happens; after the second or third time, it gets harder and harder to think of it as just a fluke. By the fourth time, I actually begin to think I might know what I'm doing. Then again...

Anyway, I'm always especially pleased when one of my fairy lore pieces gets picked up for publication. And I'm glad that I managed to get this particular poem accepted for publication in a Halloween issue, since it is all about what happens on the fairy rath on November's Eve.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mould Ate my Leather Armour!

While cleaning house over the weekend, I noticed worrying spots on the back of my wax-hardened leather scale armour. Upon further inspection, I realised that the whole lower half of the back, scales and backing leather, was covered by spots of mould. The scales had been treated by immersion in melted wax, and the backing leather by a varnish, but the mould got through anyway.

Alas, there was no saving the scale shirt. The mould growth looked too extensive, and was particularly bad under the overlap of the scales. I bagged up my ruined armour and threw it away. There goes a couple hundred dollars worth of leather and several days' work down the drain. Granted, the piece had been on display in my home for many years now, but that doesn't really lessen the pain.

I hate the humidity here in upstate New York, just a few blocks from the Hudson River. I especially hate the mould that seems to grow so prolifically around here. This growth was particularly bad in our previous place of residence, one of the reasons we moved back in July. And I am furious when my things get ruined by this mould from hell, something that had happened before (again, in our previous residence).

Oh well, if ever I find the time and money to make it possible, I will have to go ahead and make a replacement scale shirt. And I just found out that this armourer recently added DIY steel scales to his inventory. So, perhaps I can actually create an improved version, one where I don't have to worry as much about mould. Rust will still be an issue, but there are ways of dealing with rust.

Unfortunately, I don't think I ever took any pictures of my leather scale armour. It did look impressive.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Shameless Parental Brag

My daughter received a letter in the mail yesterday informing her that she has been invited to join Phi Theta Kappa, the international honour society for students of two year colleges. I am very proud, and this proves that she was more than ready for college. I guess we did something right in home-school after all. I saw it as my duty to prepare her for college, and I guess I performed that duty admirably. Of course, credit must go where credit is due, and Stephanie would never have earned this honour if she hadn't work hard to achieve it. She is a good kid (alright, young adult), and she understands the importance of a college education.

Anyway, this makes three-for-three honour society inductees (or soon-to-be-inductees) in this household. I was made a member of Phi Beta Kappa back in '92, during my last semester at SUNY Albany. My wife was inducted into Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honour society for adult learners in continuing higher education, in '99. And now my daughter will be a member of Phi Theta Kappa.

Aren't we just a family of braniacs?

Niteblade Art Blog: Faerie and Fantasy

I just posted another Niteblade art blog entry. This time around, I feature the faerie and fantasy art of the character concept artist and illustrator Amber Alexander. A soldier turned traditionally trained artist, Amber discovered digital art during her last semester at the University of California at Berkeley. She was hooked, and decided that digital was the medium for her.

Check out more about Amber and her work here: Faerie and Fantasy: The Art of Amber Alexander.

Oh, by the way, I managed to slip "fays" into the entry, just to make a point (and because it worked). I simply couldn't help myself. Not to mention, I didn't want to use "fairies" after using "faerie" earlier in the paragraph.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Visages of Betrayal and Madness" in THE MONSTERS NEXT DOOR

My dark poem "Visages of Betrayal and Madness" has been published in Issue Eight of The Monsters Next Door, their very-first print issue. The poem can also be seen in the free pdf sneak-peek, but I suggest buying a print copy to help support the editor's efforts in making the switch from e-zine to print zine. Besides, reading something on the computer screen just isn't the same as reading something actually in print.

Hmm...what do I say about this poem? Do I dare admit that it deals with my very real, very troubled thoughts regarding my own parents? It is true; I did delve into my own pain, disappointment, and resentment when writing this piece. It's a hell I've revisited once or twice before. Not that I'm going to turn into a murdering monster because of what the monsters in my past did to me, but I figured it could definitely happen to the subject of this poem. And I also took something I saw on the telly about a madman tearing the faces off his victims (or something like that), gave it a slight twist, and added it to the brewing pot of bloody mayhem.

In a departure from my more typically supernatural dark verse, there is nothing otherworldly about the events in "Visages of Betrayal and Madness". The monsters this time around are decidedly human, not creatures from the shadow realm. I've written about human monsters before, but I don't do it very often. Perhaps it hits too close to home. After all, I grew up surrounded by plenty of examples of monstrous humanity.