Book Review: This Ae Nighte, Every Nighte and Alle

This Ae Nighte, Every Nighte and Alle is a fascinating tome of narrative poetry and a cornucopia of dark treats. The author, Frank Coffman, is an accomplished poet, and the tales woven throughout the verse are wondrous.

This Ae Nighte, Every Nighte and Alle

Coffman’s work begins with the description of a book, one of great power. It is, like Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, bound in human skin and inked in blood. The difference is, this volume is authored by a sorcerer and augmented through the ages by seven others.

The first part of This Ae Nighte, details the sorcerer’s creation of the book and his quest to cheat the devil. (He aims to keep his soul though it is bound for Hell.) The second part concerns individual stories contained within the book. Here, you’ll find vampires, werewolves, and other horrific monsters familiar to those who enjoy dark fantasy.

 

I also enjoyed “The Killing Man,” “Convert,” and “The Strigoi.” These poems spark the imagination. I could almost see the monsters, the forests, the blood, and the hang rope in my mind’s eye.

I loved this book. Coffman’s verse is beautiful, precise, and captivating. My favorite poems involved the sorcerer’s transformation into a Lich (a creature animated by the soul of a dead sorcerer.) He is all-powerful in this form and in control of terrifying monsters. No one can stop him, save one. And, believe me, this hero isn’t what you’d expect.

Frank Coffman

As a novice poet, I appreciated Coffman’s introduction to each poem. (I didn’t know a sonnet from a strophe until I’d read this book.) For those eager to learn about poetry, he provides a “poem glossary” at the back of the book. For the more advanced reader, he’s supplied a new and interesting style.

I highly recommend This Ae Nighte, Every Nighte and Alle. Not only is it a great read for dark fantasy fans, it will also appeal to the Horror Addict in everyone.

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Chilling Chat Episode 162 Mary Turzillo

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Mary Turzillo’s latest novel is Mars Girls, Apex 2017.  Her Nebula-winner, “Mars Is no Place for Children” and her Analog novel, An Old-Fashioned Martian Girl, are read on themary International Space Station. Her poem, Lovers & Killers, won the 2013 Elgin Award. She has been a finalist on the British Science Fiction, Stoker, Dwarf Stars, Nebula, and Rhysling ballots. Sweet Poison, with Marge Simon, was a Stoker finalist and won the 2015 Elgin Award. Satan’s Sweethearts, also with Simon, came out in 2016.  She lives in Ohio USA, with her scientist-writer husband, Geoffrey Landis. She represented the US in the World Veterans Cup in foil fencing in 2016.

Mary is a brilliant and witty woman. We spoke of history, writing, and the nature of evil.

 NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Mary! Thank you for chatting with me today.

MT: I am so flattered to be asked!

NTK: You are, primarily, a Science Fiction author. How did you get involved in writing Satan’s Sweethearts?

MT: That’s really two questions. I’m a science fiction writer who has these little dark twinges in my fiction. I just can’t help it. A guy is stuck in a prison on Mars, trying to stop a biological catastrophe, and suddenly he’s being chased by an eight-foot-tall sex doll. Somehow that just popped into the story. I think I’m a natural horror writer who has a science-fiction worldview. As to how I got into writing Satan’s Sweethearts, Marge Simon and I know each other from still another world: she was a high muckety-muck in the small press world. And of course a genius poet besides the horror work. So, I knew her name and was delighted to actually meet her. We clicked right away and started writing poems back and forth to one another. At first it was humor stuff, like her poem about a gay dragon who prefers knights to maidens. Then we wrote some poems about evil cats. Eventually, Marge and I decided on doing more serious work and we did Sweet Poison together. That evolved into explorations of women murderers and torturers and other offenders. Marge has one poem that is so dark I shudder every time I even think about it, about a slave-holder, obviously a psychopath, who used her helpless slaves as targets for horrendous experiments and disembowelings. We felt the world needed to know that women are not all angels, that in addition to “Me, too” there were also men and women who were abused and murdered by powerful or insane women. (“Delphine LeLaurie’s Upstairs Room” is the poem I’m thinking of, by the way.)

NTK: So, you’re a horror writer at heart? What got you interested in horror?

MT: I suppose early reading: Poe, History of World War II, The Conquest of Mexico.

And, my mother had a very dark imagination.

NTK: Was she your first influence?

MT: Well, she did buy that complete collection of Poe stories and poems for me, so, yes, definitely an early influence.

NTK: How did you like collaborating with Marge on Satan’s Sweethearts?

MT: It was fun, and it was scary. Marge is a genius. I asked her once how many poems she had published, and she said she had completely lost track, that’s how many there were. Marge has a dark sense of humor, and we would get into it about some of the evil babes we were writing about. Sometimes both of us felt the poems were giving us nightmares. But it was all about truth, about the true nature of human beings, and we had to persevere. We developed a close friendship through this project. Very much in tune with each other’s fears and hopes and sense of humor.

NTK: Do you think humans are more frightening than any supernatural entity? Do you tend to write about the darkness in the human soul?

MT: Hmmmm. “More frightening than any supernatural entity.” What a question! I think most, if not all, of the supernatural entities in horror fiction, poetry, and cinema are extrapolations of stuff that human beings have inside their imaginations. Two things that astonish me: 1) how could a Jeffrey Dahmer walk among us? For that matter, how could a Delphine Lalaurie have lived a civilized life with nobody suspecting her evil actions? 2) How do we, ourselves, and I mean myself, come up with these horrific ideas—and yet be noble enough not to act on them? Women are seen as being lesser offenders, but I think it’s not because they are more civilized, but because they are more skilled at hiding their evil. Take the “baby farmers” that Marge and I wrote about (Amelia Dyer, for one). They took on infants pretending to do day-care for working mothers, and then summarily killed the babies, and sometimes with great pleasure, as with Dyer’s enjoyment watching children die as she slowly strangled them with tape. Yes, I know, we have the Golden State Killer, but actually his tally is LESS than Amelia Dyer’s. I think we tend to think about her murders as “oh, well, the mothers were just low-class working girls, maybe even prostitutes.” Hello? These baby farmers (and Amelia was only one) were SERIAL KILLERS with kill-scores of the magnitude of Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. Babies are totally helpless. Bundy’s and Gacy’s victims fought back.

NTK: Do you think it’s easier for these women to get away with crimes because of their social status? Or because no one believes a woman would do such things?

Satan's SweetheartsMT: Oh, Marge and I talked and talked about that. Some women got away with it because of social status—Delphine is one example. Some got away with it because they had political or gang-related power. Bloody Mary and Queen Ranavalona were the supreme authority in their countries. I don’t know how Ranavalona is regarded by historians, but she was basically a serial killer supported by her country’s laws. Then take one “heroine” that many people think is wonderful because she was a female ruler in a time when women did not become Empresses: Wu Zetian. She killed her own baby in order to keep her position. Good lord. Another favorite example of mine is Ching Shih, the female pirate. The poem is called “The Sister.” Oh, and it’s really noble to be a pirate? She nailed men’s feet to the deck for fornication. She tied cannon balls to the legs of women who “strayed,” despite the fact that she had started life as a prostitute.

Shall I continue with examples of “how they got away with it”? For one, they preyed on children, as with Enriqueta Marti (“Mother Marti”) whose deaths often weren’t investigated.

We tried to find women who hadn’t been as much in the news, and we also tried to give a fresh perspective on their activities. We found that sometimes actions that would have been considered evil if done by a man were “heroic” if by a woman.

NTK: They preyed on the helpless. That’s really frightening. Who do you think the worst villainess is in Satan’s Sweethearts?

MT: The worst villainess? Oh man! Aileen Wuornos was a baddy, but I think she was of diminished intelligence. Of course Delphine was one of the most horrific. I guess I might settle on Ilse Koch, the “Red Witch of Buchenwald.” She was the one who wanted the skins of victims so she could make pretty lampshades out of them. Heaven help us. The Jewish religion frowns on tattoos, so maybe some Jewish people were spared that final indignity (although they probably still died).

NTK: Going back to your writing, where do you get your ideas? Do they come from dreams? Or is the door to your unconscious mind cracked open allowing the darkness to slip in?

MT: I don’t know so much about how Marge gets her ideas, but mine come from reading. I should mention that my sister, Jane Turzillo, is an author of historical non-fiction and several of her books focus on women offenders: Wicked Women of Ohio from the History Press.

NTK: When you write a character, how much control do you exert over said character? Do they have free will?

MT: Do [my] characters have free will? I know there are brain malfunctions that cause people to do awful things. Mary Ann Cotton, who poisoned twelve of her babies, might have pleaded post-partum depression. But no. I think we have free will. We think horrible things. We don’t have to act on them.

NTK: Is Poe your favorite author? Who is your favorite horror author?

MT: Stephen King and, a close rival, Joe Hill. They not only terrify, they also have an underlying message about the nobility of the human soul. I think that’s necessary to horror. Aristotle said “pity and terror.” Without the pity (and maybe hope), horror is just a road to depression, insanity, suicide. I like Peter Straub for the same reason.

NTK: Do you have any favorite horror television shows? Any favorite horror movies?

MT: Movie: an old favorite of mine is SCANNERS, with (spoiler alert) the exploding head scene. Some Dr. Who episodes are horrific enough. TV? Not sure. In the old days (three years ago, maybe?) the really scary stuff wasn’t so much an element. I haven’t kept up with TV enough to know what’s good now. I love Game of Thrones, but that’s not really horror. Oh, I guess it has some horror elements, the Wildings, the decapitations etc., but it’s really SF/fantasy, with the emphasis on fantasy. And lots of sex.

NTK: Mary, why do you think humans create monsters in literature? Why do you think Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde exist?

MT: Naching, no matter what age we live in, the Middle Ages, prehistory, the Holocaust, the present day, the world is scary. Your best friend can die at any time. You get in a car bonsai babies screen.jpgand you could be dead 50 minutes later. You see a pink ribbon and immediately worry about that last mammogram. Our parents died. Hell, my son died! Nothing can protect us from war, disease, accidents, serial killers, drive-by shootings, poisoned lettuce (seriously, who saw THAT coming?). So we need to make sense of the world. In horror fiction, bad things have causes. So we think, Oh, he died because a malignant alien lived in his microwave (By the way, a Nebula winner had this premise). “But I don’t have a microwave, so I’m safe.” Or we think, “We all die, but there is reincarnation, or heaven, or at least a meaning to our life, or even just a cessation of pain.” It’s the human condition. Aristotle said tragedy provided catharsis. (And Greek tragedy was pretty horrific, what with eye-gouging, father killing, hunting for the body of your fiancé in a dung heap.) We need to make sense of the fear and the horror and pain. If nothing else we know that others have suffered and either survived or left a legacy.

NTK: Mary, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

MT: I’m working on something a little sunnier right now. This girl is a high school fencing competitor, but every time she does a flying attack called a fleche, she time travels to one of Jupiter’s moons—five billion years in the future. One of the leading characters is a giant cat who becomes her mentor. No horror in it. Or at least, not much. Knowing me, the horror will suddenly pop up.

NTK: Awesome! And, speaking of fencing? You compete, don’t you? Could you tell the Addicts about that?

MT: It was sort of a reaction to my son’s death. He was very interested in swords and sword fighting. I’ve always wanted to fence, so I took it up. I get my nasty urges out in it. It’s very aggressive. You stab people. Oh, they’re wearing protective gear, but still! You STAB people. Talk about the evil in people’s souls. By the way, I was at one time the 6th best foil fencer in my age category in the US. (Now, I’ve dropped down to number 11.) I also represented the US in fencing in my category in a World Cup in Germany two years ago. My husband fences, too. I get to stab him sometimes. And vice versa.

NTK: Your husband is a writer too. Does he enjoy your darker works?

MT: I hope so. He has to live with me, no matter what he really thinks. I so far haven’t written anything that actually scares him. I’m still trying.

NTK: As you know, season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

MT: Let me think…hmmmm. Sometimes, I tell telephone solicitors that I’m a voudou adept and that parts of their bodies will fall off with every minute they stay on the phone with me. Who knows? Maybe it actually works. My favorite verbal curse is “Shitfire!” Got that from my sister.

NTK: (Laughs.) Those are great curses. Thank you so much for chatting with me, Mary. It’s been an honor and a pleasure.

MT: The honor and pleasure are all mine! Thank you SO MUCH!

Addicts, you can find Mary’s work on Amazon.

Satan’s Sweethearts took second place in the Full-Length Book Category of the Elgin Awards on September 21, 2018.

Chilling Chat Episode 162 Marge Simon

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Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on Board of Trustees.  She is the second womanmarge 2016 bw to be acknowledged by the SF &F Association with a Grand Master Award. She has won the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, Elgin, Dwarf Stars and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Urban Fantasist, Daily Science Fiction, You, Human; Chiral Mad 2 and 3; and Scary Out There, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

Marge is a talented woman with a great sense of humor. We spoke of collaborations, war, and evil women. 

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Marge. It’s an honor to speak with you.

MS: Thanks for doing this, Naching!

NTK: You’re welcome. Let’s begin with WAR: Dark Poems, your new collaboration with Alessandro Manzetti. Tell us a little about the book.

MS: The collaborative experience has been incredible in many ways. Alessandro invited me a couple of years ago now, at the Stokercon in Vegas. He and his lovely wife, Sanda, took me to lunch (and Paolo de Oriezo was also there.) Sanda gave me a t-shirt that said “I heart Roma” (that’s where they were living before they moved to Trieste)—what lovely folks! And, as I sipped my Chardonnay, he asked me if I’d like to collaborate on a collection. I said, “Oh, yes! And, what is the topic?” “War,” he replied. I was instantly amazed and excited and of course I said, “YES!” War is one of my topics for poems of all sorts. It’s true.

It was a totally new experience to collaborate with a man who has such a fine grasp of history—he had me researching all of our collaborative work just so I could get a grasp of what his poem stanzas were about. I learned so much (and here at my age, you would think I’d know it all—NOT!)

NTK: What’s it like to collaborate on a poetry book? Did you write poems together? Or, did you each contribute your own work?

MS: Poems together? I guess you think Marge writes one line or stanza and then Alessandro writes another until it’s done? No, not like that. Alessandro would start the collaborations—which was fine with me! He’d send me maybe five-seven stanzas and that was the base for me to go with. So, I’d write more when I had the right response in mind (“response” meaning continuation.) Sometimes, we’d move stanzas around so they worked better.

Alessandro kind of mapped out the book’s progress as we went along. Individual poems and collaborative poems—he is a maestro at such details.

NTK: That’s awesome! You drew inspiration from each other. And, the poems mesh together so well. Did you have any individual contributions you’d like to expound on?

WAR: Dark Poems by [Manzetti, Alessandro, Simon, Marge]MS: I do. The Mandingo Wars [for one.] I was going for finding wars around the world in history and was thinking, Roots and Kunte Kinte (being Mandingo) and all about the Mandingo Wars against the French, led by Samory Toure. [I ]also (being of Scottish descent) had to include the Battle of Culloden which is so well reenacted in Outlander. Found a song about it, quoted that at the start of the poem. AND, another particularly sad war which ended with the Trail of Tears and the horrors of the once proud Cheyenne Nation being moved thousands of miles on foot from their reservation and homeland. I felt very strongly about these events. Then, too, I had to address the unconscionable deeds of Dr. Mengele in “Chocolates for Twins.” No magazine would take it for publication. But, these horrors DID happen.

NTK: These horrors should be remembered and these subjects should be published! Do you think society is too sensitive when it comes to historical horror?

MS: Good question. Some PC factions don’t even want to admit or know about history’s worst realities because they involve “trigger words” or “child abuse” or POC abuse. Hey, it happened and we should face that, swallow it, and think (in my opinion.)

Niemoller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Socialist. Then, they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Trade Unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

There is a quote inscribed on the front of the Colorado University library “The Roots of the Future lie deep in the past.” That is my “go-to” for so many points.

NTK: WAR does make people think and it does and it does approach some difficult subjects. Vietnam is a forgotten war these days and the poem, “Little Miss Saigon,” really captures the flavor of that time. How did that particular poem come about?”

MS: Alessandro began “Little Miss Saigon,” and of course I had to go find out more about what was going on there. Then, I found out about the razor blades that the young street girls somehow ingeniously inserted in their vaginas as a way of revenge. For, indeed, you can imagine the life they had to look forward to as fodder for the occupying Yank soldiers.

And, that’s the part I contributed. I still wonder how I did it. But it was “there” waiting to be written.

NTK: It is a powerful poem. What inspires you, Marge?  And, what poets have influenced you?

MS: Oh, let’s see. WHAT inspires me? Do I have to pick? I have many contacts, many friends, read a lot of books, am on Goodreads, am with Ladies of Horror where Nina D’Arcangela gives us visual prompts and we can write poems or flash fictions—then they appear for others to see after the deadline.

Poets? A long list of past and present poets. I always say that once I read Stephen Crane’s poem in 12th grade on the chalkboard of my advanced English class, I knew the world made sense. It was like finding out I wasn’t alone.

NTK: Are you primarily a visual person? Is it easier to find inspiration in a painting or a song?

MS: Inspirations are when and where they occur. I don’t go looking for them. They happen, is all!

NTK: Do you think poets have a different perception of things as compared to the rest of the world?

MS: I think each poet, if true to themselves, has their own views and voice. But, the best express it in a way that has substance and resonates to others (not to all, you can’t reach everyone.) My husband, Bruce Boston, usually uses that as a standard—has substance, resonates. I love that. It fits well.

NTK: It does. Going back to collaborations, you’ve also written a book called, Satan’s Sweethearts with Mary Turzillo. How did you like working with Mary?

MS: Mary Turzillo and I have collaborated joyfully on numerous collections (some about cats and dragons, Dragon’s Dictionary, and Dragon Soup. We also wrote Sweet Poison together, which garnered an Elgin Award from the SF & F Poetry Association.) BUT, Satan’s Sweethearts is not fun or funny in any respect. Mary is a horrible person to collaborate with. We are not on speaking terms except all the time. I can’t wait to see her again, for a fact.

Satan's SweetheartsNTK: (Laughs.) Did you write Satan’s Sweetheart’s in a similar manner to WAR? Or was it a different process?

MS: Different entirely. We picked various very nasty, most wicked women in history and wrote independently about what we chose. But, some we did collaborate on. One being Ma Barker (who was really an angel compared to others.)

NTK: What poem are you most proud of in Satan’s Sweethearts?

MS: I’m most proud of two. “Aileen” (about Florida’s own serial killer who became the first woman to be put to death in the electric chair) and “Delphine La Lourie’s Upstairs Room” and you can’t imagine what she did to her slaves. Look her up if you want to know.

NTK: Of all the people you’ve collaborated with, is Bruce Boston your favorite?

MS: Actually, Bruce is daunting, very daunting. Our collaborations are exciting and rewarding for sure, and I must do my penultimate best—or try, anyway! It’s a challenge but that’s what life is. The best of it is to challenge yourself to exceed expectations.

Also, I don’t like to and won’t name favorites to collaborate with. I welcome challenges.

NTK: Do you have any advice to share with up and coming poets?

MS: Read. Read authors old and not that old. Read poets whose work speaks to you and think about the how and why. Don’t imitate. Incorporate. And, please—personal angst poems are fine for what they are for. They get you through the lusts and loves of yore but, you’re not the only one! Read Sara Backer, read Bruce Boston, read (I could go on and on.) But, wait! Join the SFPA (Science Fiction Poetry Association), and then READ!! You will find horror as well as dark and light fantasy, and speculative from some of the best in the field. It’s a community of poets and readers of poetry who are all grown up now. So join and learn!

And the SFPA, like the HWA, is an international association!

NTK: As you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

MS: I’m sorry, but I’m not into curses very much at all, really.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

MS: The future? You hold my future in your hands, Naching. Be kind. I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow. Some irons in the fires, if that’s what you mean. And, I hope to meet lots of you readers next year at Stokercon in Grand Rapids!

NTK: I see a long and glorious future ahead, Marge. Thank you again for taking the time to chat. It’s much appreciated.

MS: Loved your questions and thanks for the interview.

Addicts, you can find Marge on Goodreads and Amazon.

Satan’s Sweethearts took second place in the Full-Length Book Category of the Elgin Awards on September 21, 2018.

Parts of this interview were published in the July 2018 edition of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter and are reprinted with Editor Kathy Ptacek’s permission.

Chilling Chat Episode 152: Valjeanne Jeffers

valjeanne-jeffers-author-picValjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College and author of ten books including Immortal and Mona Livelong I and II. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies including, Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures, Sycorax’s Daughters, and The City and Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. She was honored as a “Seer” by the HWA Diverse Works Inclusion Committee in 2016 and is a screenwriter for the horror anthology film, 7 Magpies (in production.)

Valjeanne is a remarkable woman. During our interview, she shared some interesting facts about her early life, creating characters, and her upcoming projects.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Valjeanne. You have a varied background. Your parents are English teachers and you have an MA in Psychology. How does this inform and affect your work?

VJ: Because my parents were English teachers, I came in contact with writers at a very early age. They were in and out of our house wherever we lived. I remember my mother cooking for them…poets, writers, artists and I got a chance to sit in on their discussions.

NTK: Wow! What writers?

VJ: This was years ago, so I can’t remember very many names. Quincy Troupe was one I remember. Another regular visitor to our house was Eugene Redmond. I re-connected with him about nine years ago and he published me in his anthology Drumvoices Revue (poetry.) It’s been a huge honor because my poetry appeared in an anthology with some really famous folk.

We did have a library and I was reading Richard Wright and Chester Himes from age 9 or 10. The authors I read had a huge impact on me. Himes and Wright’s use of magical realism influenced my writing horror and science fiction.

NTK: Did this interest in Himes and Wright lead to your writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective?

VJ: Yes, and I had other influences. Mona Livelong is an urban novel. And, Robert Beck (believe it or not) and David Goines brought this out. You know Robert Beck as “Iceberg Slim.” He’s notorious for his anti-heroes but he’s also a brilliant writer.

Tananarive Due and Brandon Massey are also huge influences, especially when it comes to writing horror.

NTK: Which of their works are your favorite?

VJ: For T. Due, it’s My Soul to Keep (the series.) For B. Massey, it’s Within the Shadows and into the Dark.

NTK: You’ve spoken of Stephen King and Dean Koontz as favorite authors. Which one do you like best?

VJ: Stephen King. Definitely. He has been a huge influence.

NTK: Which of his books do you like the most?

VJ: The Talisman and The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three.

By the way, earlier, you asked about how my MA affects my work. It helped me construct personalities and also “character careers.”

NTK: What made you choose the career of “paranormal detective” for Mona?

VJ: I had been toying with the idea of a paranormal detective for a while and I decided to take the plunge and just do it.

NTK: What’s the process of creating a character like that? Do you decide what she’ll do and won’t do? Do you decide what powers she’ll possess?

VJ: Characters for me are based on people I have known and sometimes, those I see on TV that week. I take someone and add and subtract the things I feel they should have. And, some, (Tehotep from Immortal, for example) come straight out of my unconscious. Both Mona and Karla (Immortal) are based upon a young woman who babysat me in California. She was coping with the death of her mother and brother and raising her two remaining siblings.

NTK: Did Tehotep come from a dream? Or, did he just come to you?

VJ: Tehotep came to me in waking dreams, bit by bit. As far as their [character] abilities go, that’s a process of imagination. Since I decided early on that Mona would be a sorceress, I had to decide what she could and couldn’t do. Her powers had to be limited. If that makes sense.

NTK: Let’s talk a little about Sycorax’s Daughters. How did you become involved in that project?

VJ: Two of the editors, Linda Addison and Kinitra Brooks, contacted me. They said they were publishing Sycorax’s Daughters and asked if I’d be interested in submitting something. Of course, I said yes!

NTK: How did it feel to be included among such original voices? Sycorax’s Daughters is an anthology like no other. All the writers are women of color.

VJ: I was blown away! We made (are making) history and to be a part of this—it’s incredible!

NTK: It was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

VJ: Just to be nominated was incredible.

NTK: Could you talk a little about 7 Magpies?

VJ: Yes. What would you like to know? It’s still in the works.

NTK: Is it an anthology film? What is the significance of the Magpies?

VJ: It’s a film anthology. Each person involved contributed a story or poem. We got the Magpies from the creator, Lucy Cruell. It’s based on a nursery rhyme. “One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.

I contributed an excerpt from Immortal III: Stealer of Souls to the film. All the screenwriting will be done by screenwriters Lucy chooses. Here’s a description of the film from the website:

“The first horror film anthology written and directed by Black (or African-American) women. Authors include: Tananarive Due, Sumiko Saulson, Eden Royce, Crystal Connor, Valjeanne Jeffers, Linda D. Addison, and Paula Ashe. The directors are: Lucy Cruell, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nicole Renee, Robin Shanea, Lary Love Dolley, Meosha Bean, and Rae Dawn Chong.

NTK: What did you think of the adaptation process? Was it difficult bringing your excerpt to the screen?

VJ: Actually, I looked at what Lucy wanted and chose stories I felt were appropriate. She picked the Immortal III excerpt. That one was my favorite too.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What work do we have to look forward to?

VJ: Quinton Veal (my cover artist and guy) and I are planning on releasing Scierogenous II: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy. Scierogenous I was well received.

I’m also writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child.

NTK: Will you include horror stories in Scierogenous II?

VJ: Maybe. We’ve got a great crew so let’s see what they come up with.

NTK: As you know, season thirteen of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED. Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

VJ: Sorry, I don’t have one.

NTK: If you were to have Mona face a curse, what would it be?

VJ: (Laughs) Girl, I don’t know.

NTK: (Laughs) Ok, thank you for chatting with me, Valjeanne. It’s been a pleasure.

VJ: Thank you so much.

NTK: You can find Valjeanne’s work at the following link:

http://tehotep.wixsite.com/immortaliiiaudiobook

And, you can follow her on Twitter here at: @Valjeanne

Book Review: The Hatch by Joe Fletcher

The Hatch  is a book of poetry by Joseph Fletcher.

Drawing upon Edmund Burke’s definition of the sublime—the odd beauty associated with fear and self-preservation; our astonished delight in what destroys, what overpowers and compels us toward darkness—these strange poems mine the sinister fault lines between weird fiction, expressionism, gothic horror, and notions of the absurd, cracking the mundane shell of our given metaphysical order. In the traditions of Nerval, Trakl, Schulz, Tadić, Poe, and contemporaries Aase Berg and Jeff Vandermeer, the wonderful disassociation brought to bear on the reader lies in the conjuring of unprecedented worlds, their myths and logics, their visions and transformations—worlds that resist interpretation almost successfully, and reveal to us the uncanny and nightmarish.

On first impressions, this book boasts an incredible cover which conveys an uncanny look at the emotion contained within. Each poem embraces the reader with a mountain of emotion and collapses upon them until every emotion spirals into a dark chasm. If I have to be honest (which I do because…well, this is a review), the poems aren’t what I’m used to.

Admittedly, I’m not a poetry expert. With that said, I am used to-and prefer-another style. Don’t let that stop you from reading this book though, because this author delves deep. If those kind of poems are what you’re looking for, then this is the book for you. I’m more used to poems with more rhyme, and gentle flow but Fletcher’s style rocks you out of your comfort zone and causes you to scramble for the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the end, you will feel every scar-emotional and mental-this author has experienced in some way throughout his life. I recommend it to anyone who wants a little something different. Rinse your pallet and give this one a go

Book Review: Sycorax’s Daughters

Sycorax is an unseen sorceress and presence in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. She is present in the memories of men and though invisible; she is the force behind her son, Caliban.  The anthology, Sycorax’s Daughters, introduces us to women like her.  Women whose existence as storytellers is outside mainstream entertainment. Black women who weave stories of enchantment and horror.

And, they excel at it.

Sycorax’s Daughters is imaginative, lyrical, intelligent, beautiful, and terrifying. The editors, Kinitra Brooks, Ph.D., Linda D Addison, and Susana Morris Ph.D. chose powerful stories, poems, and novel excerpts. When you read them, you step into another world.

The book begins with a “Tree of the Forest Seven Bells Turns the World Round Midnight” by Sheree Renèe Thomas. In this tale, a man’s journey to meet his lover’s mother meets with chilling results. The story is a perfect introduction to the book. It gives a taste of what’s coming.

Within these pages, monsters receive fresh and startling retellings. Vampires aren’t tired, Transylvanian Princes. They are far more deadly and erotic. Mermaids are outcasts among their own kind, demons require vengeance, monsters prey upon males (and wear interesting footwear), paranormal detectives investigate, and ghosts seek to leech off the living.

My favorite story concerns a woman called Naomi and her spirit partner, Alexa. Though Alexa can possess Naomi, she is not a demon. Rather, she is an ally, one who aids Naomi in her chosen profession. Alexa also disapproves of Naomi’s choice in men and must take matters into her own hands. I hope the author will consider turning this tale into a book. The world she created is amazing.

The book ends with an afterword (in the form of a poem) by Linda D. Addison. It’s called “Sycorax’s Daughters Unveiled,” and it’s a fitting and beautiful piece.

I’ve read many anthologies. Most have included big name horror authors. None of these previous anthologies thrilled me as much as this one. I kept expecting to find a lump of coal among the gems.

I never found one. I don’t think you will either.

#NGHW Top 6 Poetry Excerpts

These are the top 6 poems from the Horror Poetry challenge.

Poem 1:  Under the Water by Sumiko Saulson
Over sea, floating ye, staying abreast of watery crests

Midwinter air caresses curls unfurling over briny sea

Cool wet skin, paper thin… I can see your soul within

Every capillary pumping blood, intestinal processes digesting food

Your loving heart plain to see… how intimate your transparency

 

A sea-deep mystery, stories untold, windows into your ancient soul,

Your eyes speckled, flecks of gold cascading within jet black coal

Encasing your exquisite charms, enfolded within my fragile arms,

I am the contemplator of your delicacy, hear ye now my mortal pleas

May your ethereal heart, thorny spine and eternal love be ever mine

 

Adrift on my back, your tentative fingers in mine entwined

Long slender tail wrapped around my thighs, tendrils twixt toes

The smooth flesh of your undercarriage where barnacles grow

My flesh puckers where their tiny mouths burrow into my skin

Digesting the healthy white blood cells within


Poem 2: Siren’s Song by Riley Pierce
Through crashing waves and dying light

I fight, I fight, I fight the night.

Many begged to turn away,

But on this final course I stay.

 

The siren sings again tonight,

And so I wait until I might,

Find her perched upon the rocks,

With eyes of red, and golden locks.

 

She’ll sing her song, but just to me.

I’ll belong to both her and the sea.

My crew, at last, they hear her song,

And I’ll be hers before too long.

 

Mystic music through the air;

It moves like wind and lingers there.

It seeps into their ears, my crew.

Yes! My god! The tales are true.

 

The moon is up, it pulls the tide,

And our wooden ship from side to side.

The wind has blown, all light is gone.

This ship will not survive the dawn.

 

A sacrifice to her, I bring,

Shall earn me last to see her sing.


Poem 3: Flesh Passion by Fiend Gottes
All my desires, I’ve fulfilled them all
A deviant well overflowing from hell
Demons speak, voices tell me all
Spewing forth they entice dark desire
Dark visions boil in my mind
Bathe in blood of the pure
Snuff life within the eyes

Dreams of death dance within my mind
With my hands I strangle out their life
Yearning to know
Where is my sorrow

Then I saw
Beauty profound
I felt confusion
Ache in my heart
Time stood still
Could she be?
Warmth in the cold
Or merely a dream


Raven hair floats upon the breeze
Electric blue eyes mesmerize me
Olive skin glistens by the moon
Her soul cries a song only I hear
The voices tell me she is mine
For me to taste, me alone
Heart no longer stone

Feel her flesh
Vanquish her light
Eternal smile
Echo of her screams
My need to feel
Her last moment
My need to feel
Something pure


Poem 4: A Warning on Wings by Jonathan Fortin
His prayer was drawn in blood, the circle like a door

He sat beside the threshold, book open on the floor

This will never work, to himself he sighed

But he was so lonely that every night he cried

 

He was a somber man, not blessed with good looks

Hated by his village, he found solace in books

Tonight he stripped naked, legs crossed, arms spread

He whispered the words that from the pages bled:

“For you I’d be the greatest that I could ever be

I would do it all, anything you ask of me.”

 

The circle was no prison; he did not seek a slave

Nor mindless copulation, which would bore him to the grave

No, he sought the thing that was most beyond his reach:

A love felt too deeply to be bought or breached.


Poem 5: The Only Thing That Remains by Jess Landry
Summertime blossoms as you take your first steps

onto a path laced with dirt and stone.

Though your feet know the way,

your heart’s lost count as to how many times

you’ve walked this forgotten road,

you’ve watched the sun rise,

you’ve heard the same birdsong echo from the trees.

A leafy canopy sways high above,

a cathedral ceiling with light piercing through.

Lilacs in bloom follow the morning breeze;

olive grass as high as your dress’s frayed hem

ebb and flows like the sea,

the wind teasing them along to its silent rhythm.

Your hands swing at your sides and you breathe in,

remembering what it was to take a breath,

remembering how he took it away the first time you met—

steely eyes, blithesome smile—

how his touch was as warm as the sun’s.

The path clears to an opening,

an unkempt field forgotten by man and time,

and there he stands,

as always,

like a lighthouse on a cliff of a pear-coloured ocean.


Poem 6: A Vampire and a Zombie by AE Kirk
I shall tell you a tale of a romance most deluded,

Between a zombie and a vampire and nothing else included,

They once came together during the end of the world,

The vampire was a man and we think the zombie was a girl,

 

He tried to attack her, but all she did was groan,

He bit her rotten skin, all she did was moan,

He pulled back and frowned, looked at her dry-bloodied face,

Flicking the maggots off, she was the last of the human race,

 

She had no toes and half of a head,

She was the only body to keep him warm in his bed,

And although she craved no blood, nor food, or sleep,

He made up his mind, for her he would keep,

 

They went for long walks; rotting corpses did they pass,

They played with dead dogs, birds, cats it was a blast!

Then every evening, they sat and stared,

At the crumbling city around them, which they could never compare


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net