In Niceville Nov. 12

I’ll be back in Niceville on November 12 for one day and I’d like to see all the people I can for farewells.

I’ll be at Cafe Bienville from 2-4 p.m. that Sunday, and then it’s back to Kansas City. Stop by and say hello before we go.

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HWA Poetry Showcase Volume IV is LIVE

I’m excited to announce that the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume IV is now available on Amazon. This prestigious collection showcases the work of some of the best dark and speculative poets in the industry today.

I’m proud to have been included this year, my third in a row with my poem, The Resurrection of Snow

I’d like to thank David E. Cowen for all his work putting this together. Big kudos also go to the Horror Writers Association for publishing this volume every year, and for all their amazing support of poets and writers in this genre.

If you are a writer, you should seriously consider a membership and submit to next year’s showcase!

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Amy, Absinthe & the Renaissance

Today I finally got to meet my first book editor and long time friend Amy Eye face to face. She happened to be in town for the Kansas City Renaissance Fair. She owns a booth there for the company she owns with her husband, Le Loup Garou Alchemy. They sell absinthe kits. As a bonus, I also bought two kits :)

It was good to connect face to face, but it hardly felt new. We’ve had so many long conversations and shared projects over the years it felt… normal.

We’ve known each other since my first book, End of Mae, which she edited. We co-hosted JournalJabber, a radio talk show about authors. We’ve published together. We have a history.

The Renaissance Fair itself was a blast and I wish we had more time to play there. Next year I expect we will get season passes. I love the raucous nature of things like this. The colorful chaos appeals to me as long as I can be my same, uncolorful self.

Of course, I took a ton of photos. I’ll try to post them in the morning. Until then, be sure to check out the absinthe kits from Le Loup Garou Alchemy. In about a month I’ll let you know what I think of absinthe.

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From Soraya: Interview with Jack Ketchum

Today I have another interview today from my friend, Soraya Murillo Hernandez, from Spain. Soraya speaks Spanish, and I only speak English, so our friendship has leaned heavily on technology and Google Translate.

Soraya has so many, incredible interviews, I’ve created a category for her work. You can find all Soraya’s interviews at From Soraya. Today, she shares her interview with Jack Ketchum.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ketchum a few times at StokerCon and at WorldHorrorCon. For a guy with such terrifying work, he seems like a really nice guy.

Photo credit Steve Thornton.

Soraya—Your novel, The Girl Next Door, is fantastically well written, but I don’t know if I could read it again because the story is so hard. What it compelled you to pass this true story to the paper?

Jack Ketchum—I had read about the crime it’s based on in J. Robert Nash’s BLOODLETTERS AND BADMEN, a compendium of true-crime stories, and the story haunted me for several years before I started writing.

The themes interested me: violence against a young woman perpetrated by a woman, adults giving children permission for horrible cruelty, and the heroism of one sister giving her life, if necessary, to protect her defenseless sister.

Soraya—You have received many accolades from Stephen King, what are these compliments for you? Do you think that these accolades helped or harmed you?

Jack Ketchum—When Stephen King talks, people listen! He’s been very generous to me over the years and his comments have definitely helped the sales and distribution of my books — particularly THE GIRL NEXT DOOR because of his long, extensive introduction to the hardcover edition, which reclaimed it from obscurity.

Beyond that, it’s very fine to know that a writer I admire and respect likes my stuff so much. And to top it off, he’s a very nice guy.

Soraya—Always it’s said that the reality surpasses fiction, however people see violent pornography in your work. Why do you think this happens?

Jack Ketchum—My first book, OFF SEASON, was accused by the Village Voice of being violent pornography.

Pornography is supposed to turn you on. Sexually excite you. If anyone is turned on by the violence in OFF SEASON, or any of my other books  for that matter, they need to see a psychiatrist— fast.

Either that, or the inside of a jail.

Soraya—I guess that you have been asked on numerous occasions  about why you chose the nickname of an outlaw?

Jack Ketchum—I liked Jack Ketchum. He rode with Butch Cassidy’s Hole-in-the-Wall gang but he was a pretty stupid outlaw.

He robbed the same stage at the same time of day from the same place something like five days running and somebody finally said, gee, maybe he’ll be there again tomorrow! And he was, so they caught and hung him.

I loved his last words. “I’ll be in hell before you finish breakfast, boys. Let her rip!” Colorful!

Soraya—The monster is always human in your novels. What attracted you to depart from the traditional monsters of terror?

Jack Ketchum—Simple answer. People scare me far more than monsters do. Always have, always will.

Soraya—In the novel Off Season, a novel with much stress, not knowing what will happen on the next page gives the feeling that there is not a lot of affection for the characters. There is never a second chance. Is it as well as you see life?

Jack Ketchum—Sometimes life deals us very bad cards, and there’s nothing we can do but lose the hand.

A fatal accident, an inoperable disease, or crossing paths with the wrong person at the wrong time. So I write about that.

But I’m essentially a hopeful person and I think that comes through in much of my writing too. Take the end of RED, SHE WAKES, or JOYRIDE. Granted, though, OFF SEASON, STANGLEHOLD and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR are very dark, very bleak.

The paraphrase Barbara Kingsolver, a pessimist says, it’s going to be a bad winter. We’re all going to die! An optimist says, nah, it won’t be so bad, we’ll be fine. A hopeful person says, maybe there will still be somebody left alive by February, so I’m going to put some potatoes down in the root cellar, just in case.

I’m that hopeful person.

Soraya—You write clear, uncensored, with all the precise details to read a torture or a dismemberment. Do you think this is why you have become popular? Do you think that society likes lurid things?

Jack Ketchum—Peter Straub once paid me the high compliment of saying that he thought people came to my work for the wrong reasons, and stayed for the right ones.

You may be drawn to my books and stories because you’re looking for extreme storytelling, but if you keep reading, you’ll hopefully just find some very good, well-told stories.

Soraya—Your novels have been taken to the cinema and in some you worked as an actor. You have involved much or you have given freedom to writers and directors. In acting, have you tried the character to appear as you have imagined it?

Jack Ketchum—I’ve been involved to some degree in all the films, either in working with the script in the early stages or later on, sitting in on the filming. I was most involved with THE WOMAN, because Lucky McKee, the director, and I wrote it together, and then I was on-set for almost the entire shoot.

We had to rewrite some scenes as we went along. I don’t butt in on other talented people who are trying to film my work, but I’m there if they want me to be. And to a great degree the films have all captured the intent and themes of the source material, the books themselves, so I feel quite good about them.

Soraya—And finally when will we have another of your books in Spain?

Jack Ketchum—Alas, my agent tells me that the publishing industry in Spain isn’t doing so well, that they aren’t buying a lot of books. But we’re still in there trying! And hopefully that will change soon.

Soraya—Thank you very much for your patience and attention.

Soraya Murillo Hernandez

From  Soraya Murillo Hernandez: I am an early reader, I started reading very soon and I was interested in terror, I liked to look for monsters and ghosts in the stories. Then I knew that the greatest terror came from humans. I am a book reviewer in Spain, I do it free to help its authors to know their works.

Soy una lectora precoz, comencé muy pronto a leer y me interese por el terror, me gustaba buscar monstruos y fantasmas en las historias. Luego supe que el mayor terror venia de los humanos . Soy reseñadora de libros en España, lo hago gratis para ayudar a sus autores a conocer sus obras.

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For Monsters & Dark Verse

Happy Friday the 13th! To celebrate this special day, I have two quick announcements. The first is that a new version of Monsters Are Everywhere is available on Amazon.

Now part of the Everly Everywhere books, it was the book that really started the series. Officially, it’s book #3.

More exciting news: the 2017 HWA Poetry Showcase Volume IV is about to go live on Amazon! A yearly tradition, this poetry collection features some of the finest writers of dark verse. I’m included again this year with The Resurrection of Snow.

Interesting Wiki trivia: Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year.

In 2017, it occurred twice, on January 13 and October 13. There will be two Friday the 13ths per year until 2020, where 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence.

The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: “triskaidekaphobia”; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”).

The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, “originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion” in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.

While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

So happy Friday the 13th! Two new books on the shelf for those that favor the other side of things.

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Back Into Newspapers!

I just received an opportunity to get back into the newspaper business by freelancing for The Kansas City Star.

With a circulation of one million readers, that is definitely a byline I covet. Ernest Hemingway wrote for this newspaper and attributes the Star for making him such a good writer.

There is a really interesting history of the Star online.

From their website:

October 1917: Ernest Hemingway gets a job through family connections as a reporter for The Star but leaves the next April to drive ambulances in Italy. Hemingway credits a Star editor, C.G. “Pete” Wellington, with changing his verbose high school writing style into clear, provocative English. The author referred to this admonition from The Star’s style sheet: “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.”

An article of faith at The Star is to aim for the readership of the 30,000 “best people” in Kansas City — the schoolteachers and preachers who love its restrained appearance. But concealed behind the genteel exterior is a newspaper full of human-interest stories: the country girl wronged by the city slicker; the failing Union Avenue druggist who wrote a note and then stuck a revolver in his mouth; the Anti-Vice Society complaining about women loitering in cigar stores on 15th Street enticing male customers into the adjoining saloons. Because photographs reproduce poorly, pictures are turned over to staff artists and turned into line drawings.

Other famous Star employees:

  • Harry S. Truman

  • Theodore Roosevelt

  • Walt Disney

  • Wilson Hicks

  • Eugene C. Pulliam

  • Bill Vaughan

  • William Rockhill Nelson

  • William Allen White

You can read all about them here.

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Thistle Haiku

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Why Kansas City is Now Home

Most of you are probably not surprised by the news that we have decided to stay in Kansas City indefinitely. I went and put a deposit down on an apartment yesterday and hired a truck for moving. We put the RV up for sale.

There are a few reasons we have decided to do this, but the biggest is family. My second daughter moved here a few months ago and loves it. My second son has also decided to relocate here. That’s half my kids in one place. I’m working on the other two.

Another reason is the plethora of opportunity up here. I came up here with my son to work a seasonal job and make a boat load of extra money to catch up on a few things. I’ve been offered five or six jobs now, each competitive and with perks. I worked 54.5 hours in my first week. That’s fast and furious opportunity.

Then, of course, are the other perks. Free Google Fiber internet everywhere. KC is considered a tech smart city. I already told you about the brewery (free beer!), the art museum (free admittance!) and the Money Museum at the Kansas City Federal Reserve (free shredded money!).

The cost of living is cheap here and the wages are high. There are also a lot of free perks here (beer, art, money!) so you get to keep more of those high wages. The apartment I found is right by my daughter’s and offers a free Google fiber internet, free water, valet trash pick up, washer/dryer/microwave/dishwasher included, fireplace, swimming pool, full gym, dog park, fitness trail, lighted tennis courts, free DVD library, free themed breakfasts and lunch on holidays such as National Waffle Day and regular, monthly resident parties with giveaways such as televisions and free rent. Mostly free rent I’m told. I’m so cool with that, and I’m not exaggerating.

I’ll be back in Florida for a day on Nov. 12 so I can help pack up and move and I’ll try to visit as many people as I can that day. Maybe we will even try to have a party. Until then know that we haven’t made this decision lightly. It was truly a wrestle between doing something to finally get ahead financially or stay in a fiscally depressed area to be closer to people we love.

It was a tough choice, but in the end we decided Kansas City was not only our best bet, but it may be a way for us to have both options. Wages are high and flights are cheap :)

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Haiku! Gesundheit.

I love haiku. They are fragments of thought in poetry. I think of them as keyholes in a locked door. You get to peek, but your imagination will have to fill in the details.

I have read that it’s impractical to follow the traditional Japanese form of of 3 lines with the first and last lines having five syllables and the middle line having seven syllables. I do like to keep to the traditional format. To me, that’s the point of a haiku.

It’s distilling a thought or experience into an essence. It’s like making a layered perfume—you get three layers. Five drops on the first layer, seven in the middle and topped with another five. You really have to be choosy with what you add to such a limited concoction.

I do cheat and often pair my haiku up with photographs. An image paired with words is my favorite combination. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how much is a picture with words worth?

Usually I try to take my own photos, but sometimes one jumps out at me that’s perfect. The other day I woke to find a spider hanging on the porch, glowing in the sunrise. I snapped a photo and wrote a haiku about her. My own photo turned out terrible, but I was fortunate to find this one to use instead.

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Review: Invert the Helix

It’s been awhile since I enjoyed reading John Reinhart’s Invert the Helix, and my review is past due. Unfortunately, my copy is still in Florida and I won’t be able to lay hands on it for a few weeks. This is my review, based on memory.

Invert the Helix is a challenging poetry collection. It isn’t challenging to read. It challenges the reader. Daring and experimental, Invert the Helix breaks rules. It questions the system. It invites you to take the red pill.

I especially enjoyed the concrete poetry in Helix. Reinhart plays with words by merging meaning and sound with visual elements to create surprising combinations. I found myself reading passages repeatedly. I paged back and forth, making my own connections between the works.

I enjoyed Invert the Helix and recommend it to anyone looking for poetry to cross boundaries and discover new territories.

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