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.