From the Heart of Madness: John Baltisberger

Angela—You’ve recently published The Configuration Discordant with Things in the Well. Such an interesting name… what does it mean to you and what inspired this collection? (find it on Amazon here)

John B.—The collection focuses on various poetic forms, exploring all the rules we’ve sort of agreed upon over the last few centuries. While I was trying to choose a name, I wanted to focus on the idea that what I was playing with was form and configuration. That is the gimmick of the collection, almost every poem is a different form of poem.

But within each section there are different themes, different pieces of flash fiction all pointing towards a common goal of fear and discomfort. In the end I wanted a title that played with juxtaposition. That hinted at the tight rules I played with, and the discordant and jumbled mess I organized with it.

Angela—Tell me about yourself as a writer. Do you consider yourself a poet, proser or a blend of the two?

John B.—I’m a blend, absolutely, I spend the most time writing prose, but I write far more poems than I do stories. That’s partially because I love writing flash. A self contained story in as few words as possible is a challenge that I find intoxicating. There’s a book called Sharp Teeth I mention it in the afterword of the Configuration Discordant. Where the author tells an entire novel about werewolves in verse. And I love it, I’ve become fairly obsessed with the idea of creating that sort of novel, so…I suppose stay ready for that.

John Baltisberger

Angela—If you could be any monster, what would it be and why?

John B.—This is hard for me, I have a podcast called Wandering Monster, where we talk about our favorite monsters every single week. Is it too on brand to say Godzilla’s nemesis Biollante? For those of you who don’t know Biollante is a rose bush who has been injected with Godzilla DNA and possessed by a ghost. And it fights Godzilla. But Biollante is definitely a protector of mankind. Powerful, feral, but also plant and a guardian of this earth.

Angela—Imposter Syndrome really stood out for me. I think all of us have entertained dark fantasies like that. What’s the story behind the poem?

John B.—Well, I had just read an interview with a self proclaimed sociopath, and I had been reading up on serial killers. My mentor Devorah Winegarten (z”l) once told me that a good poem surprises you. She normally used it for the positive, a twist that would make you laugh or leave you hopeful. But as a horror writer, I can’t do that, I want people to identify with a poem at first, and then be left cold and uncertain either about their safety or even their own identity. Is one of your friends and impostor? Are you?

Angela— We may never know 😈 but back to the interview… What kind of horror do you prefer? Are you a slasher fan or more of a psychological thriller man?

John B.—I am very well known for being a kaiju fanatic. I love giant monsters. But I also adore slashers, and smart horror. When I say smart, I mean I want to be guessing the entire time what’s really going on. Gore and violence can be fun, but in the end their sort of substance-less to me.

However, what I write is very much geared towards action and things happening, I don’t tend to live in my character’s heads too closely.

Angela—Describe your perfect day writing… where would you be, who with and what would you create?

John B.—I would be alone in a place without wifi, with my music library and headphones. Probably a cafe so I can eat and drink. I distract easily so I need to limit that. But I am currently working on several Jewish horror pieces, Jewish Horror Poetry, Jewish Urban Horror and Jewish Kaiju Horror.

Angela—This far in your career, what do you wish you’d done differently?

John B.—I wish I had started sooner. I also want to tell people a very simple piece of advice. Just do the thing, dither about waiting to do research of sketching it out. The more time you spend not writing the more time you aren’t being a writer.

Angela—What are you working on next and where can we find you and your work?

John B.—So, you can join our patreon at, you can catch me on my podcasts Wandering Monster or Madness Heart Radio, or you can also find my books on Amazon. Thank you!

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Space and Time Adds Editor

There will be an additional editor coming to Space and Time magazine—Luiz Peters will be coming to the team to curate submissions in original Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. He will then translate the accepted poem or prose to English. 

Submissions for issue #136 (Spring) will open up December 19 and for the first time in S&T history we will be accepting work in foreign languages. Luiz will have a separate tab for foreign language submissions and will be a fourth editor to the already fantastic team of Poetry Editor Linda D. Addison, Fiction Editor Gerard Houarner and Art Editor Diane Weinstein.

As a welcome and introduction, Luiz has been added to the poetry line up of the next issue of S&T to be available December 21. His poem, Reticence | Reticências, will be presented in English and his native language of Portuguese. I’m excited for this addition to S&T which will open the magazine to a new pantheon of writers.

Luiz Peters, Foreign Submissions Editor

About Luiz Peters, Foreign Submissions Editor:

Luiz Peters has been translating and editing for websites, universities, customer support services and the like for over four years. Currently he works as an editor and translator for a major UK corporation when he is not reading and writing speculative fiction and poetry. Always fascinated by stories, Luiz began writing to escape a dark time in his life. He found that by writing better futures for his characters he helped improve his own.

He believes in sharing that freedom with others as the Foreign Submissions Editor at Space and Time. By building bridges of words, he hopes to connect our fragmented stories into one global narrative we share. Thanks to Luiz as an addition to the team, we can now accept poetry and fiction submissions in five languages: Spanish, English, Portuguese, French and Italian.

Visit Space and Time magazine here.

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Reader Reviews “Suites,” I Read Reader

This week I got an email from a fellow poet and author named Amy Langevin. She read Bitter Suites, took the time to leave a review on Amazon and then took even more time to send me an email telling me how much she liked it and what her favorite parts were.

Anyone with a few books out there knows how hard it is to get a review. Good books are consumable. As soon as the last page is digested, most of us want to sit back and savor what we just read, not write a review.

Reviews, social media shares and word of mouth are what help good books get noticed. They aren’t just cool ego boosts for authors… they are vital to our survival. If one person reads an excellent book but doesn’t tell anyone, that excellent book risks going unread for the rest of time.

Think for a minute of a book that means a lot to you. Now think of your life without that book. That book was there for you to find because someone recommended it. Maybe you randomly came across it in the library and fell in love. Someone still recommended it to the library for you to discover.

I appreciate that Amy left a review and took the time to send me an email about Bitter Suites. Because of it, I wanted to know more about this wonderful person with great taste and found out she’s an author herself. Her website says she writes “edgy horror.” I happen to enjoy “edgy horror.” I expect beautiful, horrible things from this Amy.

One of her titles caught my interest: The Man Who Married Death.  She called it a “horror poetry book.” She deals with the supernatural, psychosis and death. It’s already in my Kindle and on my reading list.

You can visit her for yourself at Terror Mirror, where she keeps many terrible things those who love dark writing will appreciate. I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading The Man Who Married Death. You can be sure I will be reviewing and sending her an email back about it.

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Year Fifty-One & Getting Warmed Up

My annual birthday selfie.

Last year on this day I was turning 50. That day I agreed to take on Space and Time. We were also approved for a loan to buy our first house. I’ll never top my fiftieth,” I remember saying. “I got a house and a magazine for my birthday.” Somehow, this birthday has been better.

Less grand, to be sure. There have been no new houses or magazines but both have turned out to be wonderful decisions. We love the house even more and the magazine has become a living, evolving part of our lives.

I did get a pretty big surprise—a near life-size poster came to me in the mail with a poem written by a dear friend. Few things are as surprising (at least to me) then a mystery package arriving and inside is… me! The poem is beautiful. Thank you, you know who you are. I’ll post a photo of it when I have it ready to hang. Until then I’ll leave it wrapped for safety.

The photo, by the way, was taken by Chelsea Hunter at CryptiCon 2018. It’s probably one of my favorite photos. I have to thank her, again, for taking it. She’s a fantastic photographer.

Otherwise, it has been a peaceful and busy day. I did some writing of my own, spent time with my family, cuddled dogs and answered emails for the magazine. I paid almost all of our #135 poets* and thanked them for their work. I took a long walk through the park, explored a construction site in the dark and spent some time thinking under my favorite tree. Yes, I have a favorite tree.

Thank you Laura D. for the BIG surprise! Photo by Chelsea Hunter

At the grocery store I bought a cake and the cashier accidentally bumped the frosting inside the container. She offered to get me a new one but I told her it was my birthday so I was going to do a lot worse to that cake with a fork—a nick in the frosting didn’t matter.

She discounted the whole cake to $2. I discovered $2 cake tastes much better than $10 cake. She also carded me for buying beer. When I laughed and told her it was actually my 51st birthday she acted like she didn’t believe me. She is now, of course, my favorite cashier.

I also got an amazing surprise in my messages. I was invited to write a story for The Wicked Library! If you have never heard their productions, you are in for a treat. Professional voice actors, music composers and authors combine their skills to make audio magic happen. I grew up listening to productions like this. To be an author of one is beyond exciting.

It’s pretty much on the same level for me as getting a house and a magazine for my birthday. They have a long line up of top-notch authors in their line up but I saw one name that made me fan girl out: Neil Gaiman. Don’t tell them, but I’d pay to share a list with my hero. More on this later, of course. In fact, here’s a disclaimer: You may be hearing a lot about The Wicked Library in the future so you may as well go check them out and follow now:

Now the second part of my life is officially underway and I’m really excited. The first fifty years were pretty wild, but it’s only getting better. Who knows what I’ll find at the end of the next half century?

Please note, no where do I say I am moving toward the second half of my life. I am having way too much fun in this one to move on. Between supernatural possibilities and science, I’m fairly certain I’m not going anywhere.

More exciting announcements coming soon, most likely Saturday if I get everything in place in time.

*If you are one of the last three unpaid poets, I just saw your contracts hit my email. I’ll be wrapping you guys up tomorrow.
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Space and Time Winter #135 Cover Reveal!

Here it is, the cover for the winter 2019 issue of Space and Time magazine. The cover art is by Alan F. Beck. If you aren’t familiar with this artist yet, go visit him now and prepare to fall in love with his work. You can find his site here.

This issue contains the second installment of Sarah Avery’s “Flashlight, Knife and Flowered Crown.” The rest of the fiction line up includes  “Kirti” by Alessandro Manzetti, “Slough” by Glen Hirshberg, “The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe” by Jennifer Shelby, “Hands of a Toolmaker” by Eric Del Carlo and “Inviting Oldwick” by Moaner T. Lawrence.

The poetry line up includes Briant Laslo, Tina Quinn Durham, David C. Kopaska-Merkel, Denise Dumars, Avra Margariti, William Landis, F.J. Bergmann, Elsa M. Carruthers, G. O. Clark, Sara Tantlinger, Denny E. Marshall, John Reinhart and Maxwell I. Gold.

The next issue is Winter 2019 #135 available on Dec. 21. This issue’s theme song is “We Will Rock You” by Queen. In case it matters, #135 is a Sagittarius. December 21 is also the winter solstice, the 355th day of the year and the longest night.

It will be dark and cold, perfect for curling up in your favorite reading spot, candles flickering and flashlight in hand. Pull the blankets over your head and sink into the lush stories, poetry and art you will find waiting. Let the words feed the long dreams that provide your inner sustenance during the frozen nights.

Savor it all, for life is short and the reading lists are long.

Here’s your mood music to get ready:

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Poetry, Poetry Everywhere!

Thanks to Novellas, we had coffee and brownies!

Last night we had our first ever open mic here in Independence. A surprising number braved the Missouri cold in the name of poetry.  We heard Jeff Wilson read from his soon-to-be-released book and poetry.

Ryan read some poetry from the last issue (#134) of Space and Time magazine—Darrell Schweitzer’s “Odysseus in the Underworld for the Second Time” and Marge Simon’s “A Hat of Crows.” I forgot to bring a magazine to read from so I read some of my own hay(na)ku and pantuoms.

The Mid-continent Public Library North Independence did a wonderful job setting up and advertising the event. If you missed it, I really am sorry. You missed something wonderful… but…we will have another open mic event next second Wednesday, December 11 beginning at 6 p.m.

Ryan has been hard at work finishing up the audio version of #134 and that will be released within the next week. We have found a much better distribution network, so it will be available on all platforms.

In other news from the universe of verse… here are the poetry selections for issue #135! I am so thrilled with both the fiction and the poetry going in the next issue… that’s all I need for Christmas.

Congratulations to our poetry selections for Winter #135 and a HUGE thank you to everyone who submitted. Please tag and share!

We especially appreciate the hard work of Linda D Addison as our poetry editor, Gerard Houarner as our fiction editor and Diane Weinstein as our art director. They are the keen eyes and open hearts that find our treasures.

Remember, no personal rejections will be sent. We’d rather spend our time reading rather than rejecting.

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Shift Happens: Writing as Therapy

I always love having a piece in Evolving Kansas City. I don’t do a lot of nonfiction anymore so it’s nice to dip back in sometimes. Up until now, I’ve always forgotten to get a copy. I think I’m on article #3 for them and this is the first time I’m actually holding one in my hands. It feels like going on vacation to somewhere exotic. Here I am, hanging out with massage therapists and herbalists… still talking about writing.

I know the text in the image will be difficult to read, even if you click to enlarge, so lucky for us Evolving Magazine has the whole thing posted online. Travel with me to this holistic place and see a horror writer on her best behavior.

Shift Happens: Writing as Therapy
By Angela Yuriko Smith

What if you could find a way to transform negative energy into positive, joyful energy? 

Meditation, medication, mediation… there are multi million dollar mega industries dedicated to profiting off of our need for positivity. We often avoid consciously processing what we perceive as negative emotions. Culturally we are taught to ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ and that we are at our most attractive when we smile. This is a wonderful sentiment, but not very practical—or healthy.  Read the rest at


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Celebrating Two Author Birthdays Today | Gaiman and Ketchum

Today is a lucky day for speculative fiction. November 10 is the birthday of Neil Gaiman and Jack Ketchum.  If November 10 never happened the world would be denied American Gods, A Girl Next Door, Coraline, Off Season, Neverwhere… the list goes on.

Jack Ketchum, a.k.a. Dallas Mayr, passed away on January 24, 2018 but in this post I’ll refer to him in the present tense. Essentially, he is still with us through his writing and his memories. I only met him a handful of times but he had a big impact on why I write horror today. That’s how Jack was. He made a big impact on everyone.

Neil Gaiman is also a big part of why I write. A long time ago somewhere in New Jersey I picked up a comic book called Sandman. I was there, waiting for someone else and not a big fan of comics, but Sandman riveted me.

It was a comic book, but complicated. The art was lush. The plot was intricate. I don’t think the term graphic novel was being thrown around a lot at the time, at least not in my world. This thing I read opened my eyes. Gaiman showed me something utterly unexpected. The thing I was reading transcended expectation.

Two great trailblazers born on the same day. Seems like if we can have things like National Milkshake Day, surely we should have a day set aside to honor these men, and all those who build bridges of words for the rest of us to travel on.

I began this post with one of my favorite Neil Gaiman quotes. I end it with one of my favorites from Jack Ketchum.

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Runaway Corpse Has Been Found

E. Corpse courtesy of Kyra Starr

Our last Exquisite Corpse had a record breaking 20 submissions… and then life pushed the poor thing off the rails. I’ve searched the ditches and found our friend. He’s been dusted off, had a few bits sewn back on and he says he’s ready to come back to play.

We last saw our corpse back in July with the community built poem titled “Revolting.” You can see that poem here. The next prompt given was “heat” and then our corpse went AWOL. Lucky for us, there were enough lines already submitted to finish the poem when he was found.

This poem came together easily, but it was Stephanie Ellis’ line that really pulled the whole thing together and gave it some dark humor. This is definitely a poem older women can relate to—I think our corpse may have a grandma or two stitched in there somewhere.

Now that our corpse is back to work, we are ready for new lines to be submitted. Just submit through the form at the bottom of the exquisite corpse page here. The newest community poem, “In Flammation,” will be posted there as well very soon.

The new prompt for November is kinship. I’ll accept your line of poetry from now until Thanksgiving, Nov. 28. Exquisite Corpse will be posted on November 30.

Image created by Angela Yuriko Smith from images by RedHeadsRule and Free-Photos on Pixabay

FYI: What is an Exquisite Corpse?
An exquisite corpse poem is created by different people giving a line unrelated to the previous line. A poem is built from many authors, following the same rule or theme. In this case, there are no rules but it is a line, so no paragraphs please. You can read more about them here.

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#TBT | Man Who Fell to Earth a.k.a Bowie

When I was 16 I got to have a party. I had recently figured out social skills so I even had friends to invite. I thought I’d wow them all with my favorite movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth.

The party was a flop. They spent the entire movie asking me silly questions and talking about boys. I decided friends were over rated.

The Man Who Fell to Earth remains one of my favorite movies, so when Space and Time movie columnist Daniel M. Kimmel said he was going to review it for the #134 issue, I got excited. His review is excellent and does a fine movie justice. You can read his review in issue #134 or online here.

In his column he mentions that the movie was adapted from a novel by Walter Tevis. In all my years of loving this film, I never knew there was a book first. Of course, I ordered it and read it… which brings us up to current events: The Review.

First off, I completely see why they cast David Bowie in the role of Thomas Jerome Newton. Newton couldn’t be anyone but the tall, delicate boned Bowie. Having read the book, he played the role of Newton perfectly. This is where the similarity between book and film ends.

As much as I love the film, the book is better. In the book we get to experience Newton’s inner thoughts which gives valuable insight to his character. The role of Betty Jo is clear and not at all what it is in the movie. Even Professor Bryce is a different character. The film isn’t wrong, but it is based on the book. “Based” is the key word here.

The tragedy of Newton is more poignant in the book. Newton’s intentions are clear and well thought out but the more human he becomes, the more muddled. In the end it’s his own vice and bureaucratic ignorance that unravels his mission. He becomes trapped and damned on a planet bent on self-destruction. Ironically, his fate is our own and we’ve damned ourselves as well.

Many things that I didn’t understand in the movie became crystal clear after I read the book. His relationship to his alien wife and Betty Jo is an example. In the end of the movie, Professor Bryce and Betty Jo have hooked up together and it felt like a betrayal to me. In the book it makes sense and I am happy for them.

I remain a fan of The Man Who Fell to Earth. It’s worth seeing simply because David Bowie is in it and it is a thought-provoking film with plenty of visual texture. Now that I know both, I suggest that any fan of the film must also read the novel by Tevis. It adds depth and clarity to an already wonderful film.

When I was 16 it was not the popular choice to show to a bunch of teen girls at a party but I regret nothing. Like Jerome, I felt like an alien at my own party not understanding how my friends weren’t mesmerized by every aspect of that film—and Bowie! Probably the best lesson that film has taught me is to choose like-minded friends.

I can’t freely mention the thing about the book that surprised me the most without spoiling it. If you don’t mind spoilers, drag your mouse cursor over the following, invisible paragraph to read my thoughts on it.

Betty Jo and Newton never have a sexual or intimate relationship in the book. It seemed out of character to me in the movie and I wondered how he could so easily betray his wife, having fun with this earth girl while she and his child are left to die. Also, as I mentioned earlier, when Professor Bryce and Betty Jo hook up after Newton is incarcerated by the government, it feels like his friends betray him. In the book, since Betty never has anything more than a friendship with Newton, it’s a happy ending.

But now I can say nothing more on the matter except to urge you to read this wonderful book. And thank you to Daniel M. Kimmel for his insightful review of the film. Again, you can read his review here:

Fish Out of Water: The Man Who Fell to Earth​​ by Daniel M. Kimmel

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