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Four Murders can only be bought here.

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Well, I have been through two disasters when it comes to small press genre publishing.  I don’t bring them up to pour salt on anybody’s wound, but to simply point out how happy I was to see Needfire publish Barry Napier’s “A Mouth For Picket Fences.”   My history with Barry is rather simple.  One day, while reading for a poetry anthology, I opened up my email to see a submission from him.   I never talked or interacted with him before.  It was the first time I ever saw his name.  I seriously considered the poem for a moment, and then typed out a kind rejection.  Then, I tried to go on my way.  For some reason, his poem lingered for awhile, even if it didn’t fit the guidelines I was operating under.  Basically, the poem was written in a very contemporary way, which sometimes is a highly rare thing when it comes to horror and poetry.  So, I wrote him back and asked for him to seriously consider sending me something else.  He did, and both poems easily became my two favorite poems in Death in Common.  So, began, via email, to twist his arm into writing a book of poetry.  He seemed interested, so I applied more pressure to twisted arm.  Then, the floor fell out from the publishing arrangement that I had at the time, and then it also crumbled around the follow up attempt to publish that anothology.  With those set backs came the sinking realization that I was harassing a guy into writing a book, and then had no means to publish it.  That changed with my new relationship with Belfire Press and its Needfire imprint.   And, I’m very glad I was able to stick with Barry and see it through to the end, wherever that end took us.  A Mouth For Picket Fences is a really, really good book.  I’m honored that I was able to facilitate Barry’s interest in every way that I could.

Oh, and yeah, it’s available on Amazon.  I highly recommend it.

Well, this book has been a long journey, but I’m very happy its finally out and available on Amazon.  Wrath James White takes a fairly restrictive form of poetry and runs with it to great effect.  This book also features a short preface on “White Space” (pun not intended) by myself, explaining the effect empty page space has on poetry.  (Cover by the always good Bob Freeman)

In about two to three weeks from KHP/Skullvines, a Merchant Keep exclusive e-book:

It’s a quartet, ranging 30ish pages, using other poets as starting points, and then radically diverging from them, including:

Men of Dirt and Dust:

Based off lines taken from Adelaide Crapsey.

City without a Hero:

Based off of a haiku by Masoaka Shiki.

To Be Bandersnatched

Plays around with the made up words from Jabberwocky.

In Contempt of Sleep

Based off of two lines from Anna Akhmatova.

A fragmented (but very readable) book about the messy psychology of a serial killer

Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble.

Books-a-Million

I love this cover, and often I count myself lucky that Bob Freeman likes to work with me, both on my own work, and for Bandersnatch Books.    This is a story with a hard to place length, and it’s already been rejected from a few markets.  I really like the story, however, had fun writing it, and Scott Colbert and I thought maybe we could use it as a fund raising tool for the press.  Basically, have a title where the profits go 100% back into the press, rather than our standard 50/50 profit split with writers.

So, the low-down.  Caliban is character from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”  In the play, he’s Prospero’s servent — and he’s a bit of a brute and perceived as an easy to fool simpleton.  There are, however, flashes of something else, something deeper with the character.  So, I thought to examine the character a little bit, and write a story about his youth — long before Prospero ever came to the island and subjegated him.   Also, I wanted to write a horror story, so I threw in some Lovecraft inspired elements (read: Tentacles).  So, this little chapbook is the result.  There’s no official release date; when it’s done, it’s done.  In the meantime, here’s an excerpt:

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When Caliban brought the human yellow buttercups, she screamed. He dropped the flowers, and for a moment, he stood over her and stared down.  Her tattered purple dress was still waterlogged, as it had only been half an hour since Caliban had pulled her from the ocean.   It was stifling, humid, and hot; sweat beaded on her forehead and cleavage.  Much of her hair stuck together in clumps.  Caliban wanted her – she was the first human woman he’d ever seen, and his mouth watered.  Yet, the sight of him made her faint.  He lumbered away, crushing yellow petals beneath his calloused bare feet.

He raised his hand to his cheek, running his fingertips over large bumps.  He didn’t like looking at his reflection in the water; he knew the geography of his face rather well, and he didn’t like it.  On top of his narrow forehead, dreadlocks thick as cables hung, but the lower half of his face was broader, fatter, and more bloated.  Half-inch white spots dotted his black cheeks.  They even marked his broad, thick neck.   Each time he’d seen his reflection or even thought of it, it reminded him of how different he was from his family, and every time a tempest had sent a ship into the island’s barrier reef, he saw smooth faces of those who washed ashore.  It made him think of his human ancestry, and that confused him.

It never made his chores easier, either.  Caliban stepped from the clearing, and onto the beach’s pink sand.  The horizon had gone dark red with the setting sun, textured only by a few clouds.  At his feet, fifty bodies lay scattered, all of them breathing, but barely cognizant.  Caliban’s mother had enchanted them from afar, with the same spell she’d used to whip up a violent storm.

Caliban bent over and picked up a bearded bald man.  He placed the guy onto a cedar cart’s flatbed. He stopped and looked back at woman’s cave.  Unlike her fellow travelers, she hadn’t succumbed to his mother’s magic.  He shrugged and simply assumed his mother’s charms only worked on human males.  It was the easiest explanation, and he didn’t think about it any further, turning and lifting the next guy by his foot.  This guy was fatter than most, with a belly barely restrained by his belt buckle.  Caliban lifted him without even a grunt or a strain, tossing him onto the cart.  He repeated the process three more times before pulling the load inland.

It was unnaturally silent.  No birds chirped, no animals stirred, and not even the breeze rustled through the trees.  The walk didn’t take long.  Within a few minutes, he reached a vast black, limestone hill with grass on top.  Chambers had been hewn into the rock, and two of those were sealed with boulders.  One housed the woman, and farther away, a stone closed in a larger cavern.  Using his shoulder, he pushed it out of the way.

He dragged the top man off, uncaring how his head smacked against the hard packed dirt.  It wouldn’t matter in the end – Caliban knew what was eventually going to happen to each of these men, and he didn’t like thinking of it.

So, today, while I was eating a rueben at Applebee’s, I was thumbing through the latest edition of the American Poetry Review. When it comes to that journal, it’s kind of hit or miss with me. Anyhow, I happened across something that touches on my aesthetic beliefs about horror in literature. APR republished an old essay by William Carlos Williams, entitled “The Practice.” Basically, Williams is reflected back on his other profession (the one that paid his bills), medicine. Basically, he suggests that without his practice of medicine, he wouldn’t have been able to write. Basically, making daily house calls kept him in touch with other people’s humanity, and that, in the end, fueled his writing.

That is why as a writer I have never felt that medicine interfered with me but rather that it was my very food and drink, the very thing which made it possible for me to write. Was I not interested in man?

It’s something I always circle back to. People make literature interesting, as language can only go so far. In the end, it’s always Achilles or Hamlet that keeps us reading, not the meter Homer or Shakespeare wrote in. The drum I often beat about horror is: in order to understand or comprehend inhumanity, you also have to understand and comprehend humanity. Squirting blood can only get you so far, and it’s the people written about that keeps readers reading. Have an uninteresting character, and you have an uninteresting story. If we adapt this to poetry, it’s a matter of voice and persona, in most cases. You have a listless voice, and you have a listless poem.

But that’s not the all of it. APR also published some other material on Williams, some of it from Robert Lowell, and then there’s Christian C. Thompson’s essay “The Science of Subjectivity.” Thompson basically seeks to examine Williams through the Lens of Immanuel Kant. But, those greater points aside, I found the third paragraph of the essay and instructive reminder of what it is to be a writer:

The serious poet — whether he or she realizes it or not — is a social scientist. On a daily basis the poet is inundated by a vast amount of cultural data which excites the sensibility, is synthesized and stored by the brain, until on occasion, something happens–sometimes immediately, somtimes weeks, months, or years later, which results in a poem.

As writers, to an extent, we are the sum of our experiences. Even if fiction is largely contrived, there’s still some form of observation going on, some sort of stimulus that has warranted a response. For Williams, it seems, this came by way of his patients and his house calls. And, it makes one wonder, at least, what might happen to horror writers if they took these observations, this sort of writing ethic to heart.

Funky Werepig recently “Whored” Into the Cruel Sea’s digital edition!

Care of Skullvines Press and Horrormall (Click here for more info)! I’m excited, as this is my first foray into e-books.  However, it should be noted that the digital version is the stripped down version of the chapbook.  So, there are no internal photographs from my time in Bermuda.

In “Wood Life,” Rich Ristow takes the reader on a very dark descent, plumbing the depraved depths of psychological horror, slowly twisting his way deeper and deeper — from disgruntled anxiety to madness to murder to…beyond.  The narrative menacingly twists and turns like one of those wood boring tools, each new poem a twist of the handle, until you’re drilled somewhere down deep by its depravity and find yourself sitting comfortably inside the mind of a killer haunted by his lifetime of victims. A remarkable poetic feat that only a writer of talent could pull off.’ — Michael Arnzen, author of Proverbs for Monsters