Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Two Poems: Words For Jim Morrison & Ray Bradbury

I know, I know, my consistency has been less than stellar lately.  Well, I expect to be on more often starting in August--yes, tomorrow--with more writing updates, fiction, writing advice, even book reveiws, I believe.  Whatever, maybe even random thoughts, too.

Let's see, going to whip up this blog, then read a bit before getting down to my own dark words.  There's a lot in progress and it's time to lock in, baby!

So now...two poems.  The first one is for Jim Morrison, influenced by his own words, the vibe he projected, perhaps the vibe I get from The Doors song, "Riders On The Storm," shaken, not stirred, and this is what came out.  Well, not exactly.  When I was a teenager I started writing lyrics.  I still have two books of the stuff, mostly horrible, but cool to skim through because one can see development, and see where I was in my life at the time, the influence of Bradbury, Ian Curtis, Bowie and Morrison and more.  Toward the tail end of those books, now in my early twenties, perhaps even just after I was keeping them, I wrote a poem for Morrison.  Yes, the original version of this poem is possibly 25-30 years old!  But...it's always been in need of something, a tweak, shaping...something.  I think that now, but know it's...mostly where it needs to be.  One of those brighter writing moments amidst the deluge of crap I used to write.  Not saying it's all that, but it's stuck with me and I like the mood.  The second poem, a gentle thing, was written more recently, after the death of Ray Bradbury.  A light piece, but maybe it will bring a smile and, again, as always--perhaps I just don't want to admit a poem is completed--I sense the need for a tweak, but here they both are for your amusement.


The Soul Of The Lizard
by John Claude Smith

(for Jim)

in the gloom he is king
leather-panted god
lizard skinned drunkenness

a bottle of scotch
acid tongued visions
cinematically sumptuous prose

illusive reality
mind warped highways
scorched desert’s his only castle

blood spattered asphalt
subconscious frisson
the killer, the king’s pawn now smiles

for they’re one and the same
the ghost not to touch but to roam

For Ray
by John Claude Smith

 I was going to pack up the dinosaurs today
Pack up the carnivals and rocket ships
Pack up the endless rainy days and dandelion wine.
A great wordsmith has scribbled his last sentence.

But then it struck me my thinking was all wrong.

So I unpacked the suitcase
Holding the gifts he had given us
As well as the shadow of my youth,
Letting these things out to frolic freely,

Ready to fill the minds of generations lucky enough
To discover the great wordsmith’s tales
For the first time
As the fog horn mournfully blows…

A richer joy I cannot imagine.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Rules Of The Road In Rome & A Snippet From A WIP.

This is true:  All road signs and Rules of the Road in general in Rome are merely suggestions.  Suggestions often ignored.  Even the lines down the middle of the street--who cares?  I've gotten tickets in the states for what qualifies as the norm here.  And if you don't have an aggressive bone in your body, don't even consider driving here.  Everybody is inching forward at all times, if not simply ignoring the stop light and zipping on through.  Tiny cars swarm as ants over a fallen beetle at every street corner, fighting for their place, a taste, the possibility of being The First To Turn!  Probably explains why most every car is covered with little dents, nicks, scratches.  It's a War out there!

If you think I am kidding, think again.  It's fairly outrageous...though Alessandra only laughs and says some day she'll have to take me to Naples, where, apparently, this lack of acknowledging the Rules of the Road is amped up to unbelievable, and Road Warrior gear is mandatory...


Here's a clip from something in progress.  One of, perhaps, five shorter pieces in progress, though one of those shorter pieces is currently at 15k and climbing.  

It's a rough draft but taking shape.  Called, "Heirloom."


     The rumpled collection of smeared colors—algae greens to serene, cerulean ocean blues all trimmed with sun-dappled, coral sparkles—hung slack, the fabric glossy as the lips of your fantasy girl, any fantasy girl, dew-kissed and anticipatory.  The kind of girls I write about in my songs; the kind of girls who always lead you to trouble.
     Kind of like Delia, whose fingers cross-hatched mine, more a cage, barb-wire clutch, than a sign of affection or even caring.  She had dragged me here out of some compulsion I was not privy to.  Sure, I’d made initial contact, the connection, but it seemed more kismet that our meeting a mere month ago and this trek through an imaginary southwest of my soul, one that would work well for another ode to love, dark love, dark souls, well, it was more steeped in something she needed than me.  She knew things.  I wanted to know things.  Hence, our venture.  Hence, her compulsion and the sense I was being dragged inexorably to some place I should probably avoid.
     But that was never my way.  Fool that I often can be.
     Instinct extended my hand toward it, this mesmerizing suit, when the slack posture stretched upward, as if awakened, an impossible possibility--alive, she cried!--or perhaps the dream of life being realized before my stunned countenance.
     I’m sure I jerked my hand back sharply, as if the fingers had met a skillet spitting grease, and let out a tiny, “Oh.”
     Something lifted itself from within the dark, silken ocean, and turned to face me, teeth an ivory brigade, eyes, polished ebony, yet dancing.
     “Can I help you find anything?”  The voice carried history on a taut string between perhaps a hundred years ago and this moment. 
     I wondered if he’d been sleeping that long and if I had really awakened him just now.  As if it all had a purpose.
     The figure was a man, though the distinction was only clear because of the deep intonations that reverberated from within a skeletal architecture that revealed no windows, no doors, no revelations of self, of gender, while the face was deeply carved, the sensation of the chiseled edges of bones shaping the appearance there as well, from the inside; of lines aching to tell stories I could almost read as I stared wide-eyed at him. 
     He seemed still to be adjusting himself to his status as alive and kicking.  He moved without grace, bones firecracker popping with every twitch.
     I again got the impression I’d just awakened him and was ready to simply leave my quest by the side of the road and move on, move on.  It was all too weird for me to comprehend, yet that’s been the road I’ve travelled for months now, ever since my father died and him bequeathing his only son a coin, an heirloom, smudged fingerprints shading the designs beneath and me not too anxious to polish it to see its beauty or horror, its message, perhaps.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  I didn’t know why I was really here.  I thought again as the man hunched his shoulders and yawned, mouth wide as Nietzsche’s hungry, monster-riddled abyss, if I had awakened this man and why was I really here.
     “No, sonny. Been wide awake and waiting for you for years.”  There seemed a sliver of recognition, a shooting star slashing the polished ebony eyes.
     Great!  He could read minds, too!
     “It’s not mind readin’, sonny.  It’s mind knowin’.  You carry the same vibrations as your great-great-grandaddy.”


Hmmm, what the heck is this fella looking for? Funny, as usual, the writer in me was tweaking things even here, mid-post.  haha...

Anyway, one of a few pieces in progress.  Next week I jump back into revisions for the Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N' Roll...and Cicadas novel, still in need of a title, a temporary one pasted on it--The Mantra of Metamorphosis--but that doesn't quite do what's necessary.  Or does it?  And perhaps with B-Movie glee, I should simply call the damned thing Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N' Roll...and Cicadas,with those words spattered across the cover like the Bams and Whams and Bonks from the old Batman show, or the Michael Keaton Batman movies--didn't they do that in those, too, during the battles?  Whatever, stuff in progress, what am I doing here?


Here's a picture from the movie, Cars, which looks a lot like the clutter at every stop sign in Rome, though I forgot to add there's a ton of motorcycles and scooters weaving between all vehicles as well.  Crazy!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark...Reloaded: "I Wish I Was A Pretty Little Girl." Yes, THAT Tale...

     She is so pretty, thought Leslie.
     Lean, with just a hint of the woman she would become—if he let her—starting to show in the slight curvature of her tiny hips, and the bud of her nipples gaining uneasy prominence on breasts eager to bloom, jutting forth under the thin fabric of her pink t-shirt. 
     Leslie remembered his first feeble attempts at transformation, and the sweet pain clothespins like deliciously pinching clamps had brought to his nipples.
     “When is my mom going to be here?”
     Leslie reflexively gripped the little girl’s hand, and immediately loosened it, trying not to appear any more suspicious than he was sure the circumstances seemed.  He glanced at his watch, then down the empty shoreline.
     He could see the place they needed to be. It wouldn’t be long now.
     “Twenty minutes,” he said, his voice cracking as if whipped by the potent lash of the wind. 
     After bringing so many pretty little girls here before, one would think Leslie’s nerves would be calm, but they were a complete blender-spun jumble.  He placed his free hand on the flat hollow of his abdomen, gently massaging, as if that would quell them.  But the anticipation and the possibilities still made him anxious, as it had always made him anxious. 
     He wished he was a pretty little girl.
     Memories, like sea shells scattered along the beach—some perfect and polished as if by the ocean, some cracked or broken by their sea-bound travels or the clumsy feet of negligence—shuffled through Leslie’s mind, distracting him, while a mad congregation of gulls fluttered in disarray in the distance. 


So begins this deep, dark psychological trek through the frozen mind of our protagonist, Leslie, a man whose mindset was derailed at an early age, never to move beyond the event that helped shape the person he became...which was not the person he wanted to become; or, more so, helped him realize the person he wanted to become...  

Ideas come from anywhere/everywhere.  A drive to Half Moon Bay in California, a flashing thought of a conical shell with an arm jutting out of it, flopping about on a beach.  

A song by a band called Brighter Death Now, "I Wish I Was A Little Girl," tweaked in my head as a good title for a story, with no story in sight.

The desire to put you on guard immediately, as featured above, noted in the description of the young girl, leaning into places most people might want to ignore. 

And...as the story developed, the odd asides tossed in, the brain remembering a clip, P.J. Harvey on Leno shaping into this weird addition.

     Leslie remembered seeing the alternative pop singer, PJ Harvey—a woman, but very much still a pretty little girl and so petite—on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno sometime in the early 1990s.  After she had sung a song, just her and her guitar, appropriately stripping it to the bare bones, she sat down for her five minutes of interview time with Leno.  Leslie remembered thinking Leno a jerk, not even asking questions of worth, like: “What’s it like to be a pretty little girl, even though you are not a child anymore?” and “What could we all do to become pretty little girls?”  No, Leno, the ogling buffoon always on the lookout for a crude rejoinder, had slavered over the fact that PJ Harvey was raised on a farm, and she’d had a hand in castrating the bulls.  This ignominious fact had become the focal point of Leno’s whole interview.  Wasted time, when so much more important information could have been gleaned. 
     But the thing about the bulls, about tying rubber bands around the testicles, had made Leslie think in ways he had yet to perceive.  It was a start or, rather, it was a continuation of designs never fully realized—meandering and vague internal propositions re-ignited after such a long delay.  It was something Leslie could work with.


And then...taking it all down a road less traveled, the road of surrealism, horror nipping at the edges, but the finale is dreanched in surrealism and the incomprehensible possibility that if you are human, no matter the implications of that first sequence, the purposeful discomfort, you might just be feeling sympathy for Leslie's downfal, no matter what Leslie is...

One reviewer, the estimable author/editor, Gery Huntman, confirms my perceptions:

"A powerful piece. It's hard to be original as a writer, writing from the POV of a serial killer. Smith succeeded. Again, the protagonist had a horrendous, nightmarish life leading to the current events. An explanation as to why this particular person became a monster - and convincingly. This story set me in uneasiness from the first few sentences. A child being led somewhere by a clearly disturbed adult - one of the hardest things to read about if Smith chose to follow the path of describing murder in gory detail. And yet he didn't. This story isn't about love of violence, rape, sex, or some bizarre blood letting. This is about the man who wants to be something else. The uneasiness generated from the start was a masterful stroke, allowing the reader to be unbalanced from the beginning, and then throughout the story. The ending was apt and horrifying, and almost makes one feel sorry for the killer."

I like it when readers really 'get' the stories.  ;-)

So, that's the final 2nd round promo run-through for my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me, available online at many distributors, the most prominent being Amazon (most of the sales have been via Amazon).  I hope you check this blog post, perhaps skim backwards for more of them, and are tempted to buy the book.  I'm quite proud of it


It will not be the only one.  Already there are designs developing in my wee head for a second collection and, beyond that, getting the novels out.  I'm working on a long piece that, if finished soon, could become the centerpiece for that collection.  We will see.  There's a lot on motion, a lot of ideas and, within my rarely resting mind, gameplans, things taking shape.  More on that soon.  

Are you ready?!

Here's the cover of The Parasitorium: Parasitic Sands, the anthology in which this story originally appeared.  A quality anthology at that, if you can still find it.  


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Word is a Living Thing.

Okay, back in the saddle as the old cliche goes.  Yes, I know I have one more teaser/sample from the collection to post, for the story that probably gets the most reaction, but right now, settling into Rome and settling into blog writing again, I want to talk about something different.

The Word is a Living Thing.

Late last week, the Rome Revolutionary Brigade had a reading along the Tiber, partly to promote the release of our first anthology, partly because that's what we do anyway, trying to jostle the sleeping minions into action or at least opening their eyes to the Real World around them.  A strange set-up, only a couple people besides us showed up--I am the honorary Across The Pond member, ahem--but we attacked our fiery poetry with enthusiasm and more.  It was quite fun.

As I type this, the dog is sleeping beneath the table below me; I just heard him snoring.

So, we all went up onstage this cool evening and spat out salvos, words disguised as scud missles.  Because I am the lone primarily English speaking member, I would read a poem and another member would read the Italian translation.  I opened my two poem set with "Hyenas & Vultures," after which Olga Campofreda did a stellar reading of the translation.  My second poem was "Legacy of Warhol."  I felt good about my reading, felt I got it right.  That's when I learned

The Word is a Living Thing.

Marco Cinque, Italian poet, musician--he was adding musical accompaniment to all of the readings--and Force of Nature, stepped away from his instruments to read the translation of my poem.

He set it on fire, man.  Let me tell you, he attacked my short poem with a ferocity I'd not pictured with those words, sinking his teeth into the text, slightly altering, doubling up the last line.  Hence, he tore it up in such a way I was left flabbergasted and overjoyed.

I was shown something about words, about perception, about the living, breathing, malleable LIFE within my words I'd not envisioned.  And I loved it!  You know me, always learning, always wanting to know more, well, this was more...so much More, haha...

As we lugged his instruments away, walking back to the car, he turned to me and said in his rarely spoken English, "The Word is a living thing."  Experimenting, especially in the live environment, is his way.  Feeling the words as much as speaking them.  It reminded me of live concerts and bands that repeat their shows verbatim, while other bands shake it up on a constant basis, even shake up the musical presentation, no cookie-cutter live versions, lets try...this...or...That!  Whatever, the point is, this sentence really struck me with potency, made me think more about the music and my words and the next time I get to read them, shaking things up.  Sure, in stories and fiction, there's less an inclination to do this, there's a set manner in which the words are laid out...but that doesn't mean they aren't alive.  Our individual takes on stories give them a life only we understand, perhaps.  (That's why some fiction works for us and some does not.)

Whatever, rambling here, but good to get this out.  Because, especially for poetry and words spoken out loud, meant to leave an impression, meant to smack the listener in the head--Wake Up!--

The Word is a Living Thing.

PS. Also, as the writer's mind tends to do, a story and poem seem possible responses to this sentence.  The story being twisted and weird, of course.  Is there any other way?  Okay, sure, there is, because

The Word is a Living Thing.


Monday, July 2, 2012

A Quickie, A Short Story--"Ring Finger"--And Rome.

Only one more teaser/sample from the second run promo push for my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me, but since I will be finalizing everything for my trip to Rome tomorrow, I figure I will just catch up on a few things here, today, so there's not too much lag time between blog posts, and get to the last story--probably the best story; one of the best stories I've ever written--a day or three after settling in.  Resting. Dealing with jet lag.  Yeah, a day after or simply amidst all that.


If you haven't been following along, paying attention, Rome is where my girlfriend lives.  It is also an amazingly inspiring environment for my writing.  Last year I wrote much there, including the first draft of a novel which will include the tag-line, Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N' Roll...and Cicadas!  This year I want to lock in with some pieces in progress, some new stuff, and do the revisions for that novel. And this and that and writing, man, let me say, no excuses, but sometimes the hectic world around me gets in the way.  When locked in and writing consistently, it does not matter, the words come, I get the work done.  But honestly, for a spell now, seems everything's been in limbo...but no more!  I demand of myself much focus and a LOT of words while there.  I NEED to get everything aligned and ride it not just for the time there, but for the rest of my life. See, while there, getting the rhythm for writing is what I know I must do.  I haven't got time to waste.  There's too many stories frolicking madly in my head.  I need to let them out.  I do this, haha...go through spells where the writing pours out, then spells of getting things aligned, but know that staying locked in is a key for me. 


Yeah, just thinking out loud. 

So, writing and a massive amount of reading--a couple books from Laird Barron, the new Elizabeth Hand, a collection by Lucy Taylor, a novel by Jason Duke that I've already dipped into a bit and leaves me smiling, some Lucius Shepard--a mandatory fix--a bio on Percy Bysshe Shelley, etc.--are in order.

And breathing the Roman air with the woman I love. ;-)

So, you want something short and sweet to read?  How about my latest publication, "Ring Finger," at the new high quality SF, Fantasy & Horror mag, SQ Mag.  I like what I'm seeing from them and am quite pleased to be a part of the mix.  The story was written while I was reading the novel, Winter's Bone, that ambience, the chill...imbuing my words, though of course my story veers into something much stranger.  Here it is for your perusal. 

Also in the pipeline,  my bizarre story about Love lost, "Photograph," will be up as one of the weekly offerings at Phantasmagorium.  I will, of course, keep you posted when it hits the cyber alleyways because it will only be up for a week.  Also coming sooner than later, my story, "The Misfits Of Mayhem Meet Their Match," will be a part of the anthology, Peep Show, Volume 2.  This is most amusing as my story, "The Sunglasses Girl," was a part of volume 1, many years back--2004 I think.  (It was also written by my former alter ego, John Kiel Alexander; no, wait, it was written by me but published by him; no, wait, we are one and the same so...[head implodes].)

So there's the lowdown for the moment. 

Got it? 


Here's a photograph of...what?  Well, it is summer, the plan is to get a lot of reading in...so this young woman has the write, er...the right plan.  And with an octopus, too?!  Delightful!