Genre

I have been struggling with coming up with an apt genre for my novel for a long time now. This has been a novel that has been on my brain for seventeen years now, and I’m finally seeing progress on. I am in the last stage of revisions before sending it off to agents, but for so long, I have debated what the genre was: slipstream, urban fantasy, magical realism, contemporary fantasy, speculative fiction. Eventually, I just gave up and decided it was its own genre: dream fiction. Imagine my delight when tonight, unexpectedly, I discovered a pair of new genres that I had not heard of that seem to fit the tone and themes of my book: dreampunk and transrealism.

According to the website “What is Dreampunk“, “dreampunk fiction often makes use of surreal imagery, esoteric symbolism, dream logic (which may not be entirely logical), dream-related technology, false/subjective realities, shamanism, and Jungian psychology.” While my debut novel doesn’t feature all of these characteristics, it displays some of them, enough so, that I feel confident enough to call it a dreampunk novel.

Transrealism, as described by this article by The Guardian, “creates a detailed and realistic depiction of American high-school life will then shatter it open..” The article further posits “through this realist tapestry, the author threads a singular, impossibly fantastic idea, often one drawn from the playbook of science fiction, fantasy and horror.”

So, I would say, based on those definitions, my debut novel (and perhaps other works-in-progress) could be described as either dreampunk or transrealism.

This is an exciting moment for me as an author to finally have narrowed down the genre of my works so that when I pitch it to agents and publishers, I can finally explain where my books will fit in on shelves at my favorite bookstores!

What is my debut novel about?

Glad you asked.


One September morning in the city of New Amhurst, Aisling McHale wakes up and discovers something strange. A necklace her dead mother had given in a nightmare has shattered through the barrier of her dreams and into the waking world. The curtain between the two realms is lifted, dragging them into war and threatening to destroy everything she knows.

Choices that will forever change her destiny confront her. Demands are made. She must salvage the last few meaningful relationships she has left or surrender to this new world of strange dreams and grotesque nightmares.

As Aisling continues to disconnect from reality and succumbs to the lure of this alternate universe, will she prevail? Will she be able to save everything she cares for or will it all perish in the hellish apocalypse her nightmares leave behind?*

*This is a working blurb, and it may be changed or revised at any time.

Spoken Word Poetry/The Corpses of Unsaid Things


“The Corpses of Unsaid Things” is live on my Instagram page. I have been toying with the idea of releasing my reading of poems; instead of merely doing a couple of video montages with an overlay of my reading, I wanted to develop the bravery of facing the camera while reading my poems.

This is my first time doing such a thing, and while I know I was extremely uncomfortable, and it is not an amazing performance, I am proud of taking this as an opportunity to attempt to face the camera (flaws, blemishes, and all) and share my words.

Usually, I cower when someone is reading my writing. It could be fiction, and I would still hide or pace when someone’s reading. I only ever had one reader I sat still for, and that was because I trusted him completely with my heart.

But now, I am so frightened about sharing my poetry as stated in “Fears and Submitting a Poem”, yet I am doing what I can to conquer that fear.

So, if I have any friends who are authors, spoken word poets, poets, public speakers, can you give me some tips? I would love to learn from y’all on how not to be afraid when reading your stuff out loud!

Thanks in advance, but also, thanks for listening!

(Also, please, let me know what you think of the poem “The Corpses of Unsaid Things”.)

Expect the Unexpected

A fellow author passed away on the 12th. I’m just finding out about his passing today. He was one of the authors who supported me as a fledgling author. He took me under his wing and taught me about the craft, interviewed me about my works-in-progress. We confided in one another about relationships, friendships, and the craft of writing.

He wrote one of the most touching tributes to his dog that a human can write. He loved his daughters and wife immensely. He was funny, caring, sweet, thoughtful, and an awesome writer. Though he had published a few pieces, he had so many more planned, and his passing was so unexpected.

His health had taken a toll in the past few years, yet he kept his positivity, sense of humor, and charm. His author tagline was, Expect the unexpected, and for many of us, his passing was unexpected. After complications from open heart surgery and chemo, he succumbed to septic shock.

I’m still reeling from this loss as he was someone who encouraged me to write when everyone in my life told me to give up.

The writing community lost a fantastic author Friday and an even better man. Rest in peace, “Jim”.

If you are interested in helping a grieving family and have the means, there has been a Gofundme page set up in his memory: https://bit.ly/3j7STpf

When we Were Young: a Poem

anemoia: looking through old photos and feeling a pang of nostalgia for a time you’ve never actually experienced. (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, John Koenig.)

Shuffling through old photographs,
a wave of emotion undulates inside,
churning up a long-dredged emotion.

This anemoia conjures up memories
(memories of a time that never was).

You showed me photographs of you
when you were young –
your eyes glimmering bright
(twin stars gazing at me through the Polaroid),
that mischievous grin.

Are you sure our paths didn’t cross
when we were young?

I showed you the photos taken at school dances,
shiny hair, forced smiles (braces exposed),
dresses with corsets (constricting my breathing
like being smothered or controlled)
.

I told you how I wished I had known you then,
butterflies in my hair,
a few wriggling around my stomach.

Maybe we could have climbed that tree together,
and when I fell out of the branches,
you could have grabbed my hand.

I look through the photographs you hand me,
a past I never witnessed except through your stories
and think, “We would have been inseparable.
Why didn’t we meet sooner?”

Girl Making Bubbles Selective Focus Photography

When we were young,
we rode our bikes like maybe we could escape
this town.

When we were young,
we believed in magic tricks and caught fireflies
(and wishes on stars light-years away).

When we were young,
we were brilliant with naiveté.
You could have kissed me in that treehouse,
our mouths tasting like honey lemonade
and jangled-up nerves.

Instead, I grew up, wondering if I’d ever be loved.
I grew up, thinking myself in terms of ugly and stupid,
despicable, a monster.

When we were young,
we were impressionable.
You could have saved me
(and I could have saved you).

Fears & Submitting a Poem

For years, I have been subscribed to and watching videos of spoken word poems from a poetry publisher based out of Minnesota. Their poets never fail to make goosebumps prickle up and down my arms. Not only is it because of the language they employ and the metaphors they utilize, but the way these poets perform their poetry is nothing short of an art form. I interviewed a spoken word poet on my blog for Global Poetry Month (Poetry Spotlight on: Carlene Gist), but now, here is my opportunity to be a spoken word poet. I have read my poetry before, but spoken word poets have a different way of wielding their words. They emote their poetry. My personal favorite line from a poem I wrote is the very line I use as a headline for my social media and my blog:

Pierce a vein and watch calligraphy spill on the page.

These poets do not just spew lines like that haphazardly; no, they actually prick a vein on stage with razor-sharp words and raw emotion floods out. This is what I aspire to do with my poems: craft something raw, something that shears through emotions, and oozes the heart of what I’m feeling.

So, I am combing through my poems, trying to find the perfect one to put to video for this submission.

A couple of years ago, after my muse whispered in my ear that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to, and so, I braved my fears, quieted the demons, and submitted a chapbook to Button Poetry. It wasn’t accepted, but I was proud of myself for putting myself on the chopping block like that.

I think it’s possible to get too comfortable in your comfort zone.

What do I mean by that?

If you get too comfortable, that means you aren’t doing anything that scares you, and I think it’s important to do things that scare you. Those can be the things that make you feel alive. Sometimes, being too comfortable can feel like slowly being smothered by a pillow.

So, sometimes, I like doing things to shake it up a little.

Therefore, I am challenging myself to record a poetry video and submit it to this contest…because change is scary, but not changing at all is even scarier.

Submerged: a Poem

Submerged
(but hope sparkles).
Seawater fills lungs
(but still, we glimmer).
Finding our breath,

we might fail
& our throats cake
with salt–

but still,
we shine.

Choices are our own.
We’re not destined
to sink,

though our gazes travel
to the schools of fish
with fluttering fins & sputtering gills.

Person Holding Firework

We do not relinquish control.
This life is ours.
(We grasp sparklers like rope
to save us.)

We’ll hold those glittering sticks
above water
(illumination like stars).
We can guide the way
like constellations in the north
so the others don’t end up Titanics
or other colossal ship wrecks.

We are not alone,
despite what the devils in us hiss.
There’s a Navy boat submerged,
holding its breath
like a birthday wish,
teeming with sailors.

One day,
that boat will be an empty husk.
(A skeleton with no soul
to animate it,
but today,

hope shimmers
like a firework.)

But still,
we glimmer.

But still,
we sparkle.

Woman Holding Sparkler

New Beginnings: Part I

It was time. I bit the bullet until all I could taste was metal, but maybe that was the rust in my mouth from my teeth serrating my tongue. I have a duffle bag packed. Who knew my whole life could fit in a bag? The clothes were nothing, but packing away my crystals and tarot cards, that was when my eyes began to grow wet and puffy. I snatched my favorite photograph off the clothesline it hung from. The room began to tilt as though I had just gotten off a carousel.

I was doing it.

I couldn’t look back.

I had slipped a note inside of her favorite book so she’d see it before she settled in for the night. It was like pressing dried flowers between the pages. I put another note on the leftover Pad Thai she’d reheat when she got home from her shift at the hospital. I kept fidgeting with the ring she had bought me last year for my birthday. My legs were restless as I sat at the bus stop.

All these people coming and going, and I still felt alone.

“The terminal grew quiet, and I could have sworn I heard her whisper my name.”

My lips were dry but tasted of fear. I did not know how to cry, but my heart drummed like it was sore. I didn’t know anyone in Montreal, but that was the point.

The terminal grew quiet, and I could have sworn I heard her whisper my name. It was like a pair of butterfly wings fluttering together. Her lips buzzed with the familiar sound, and I turned my head at the sound. A ladybug sat on my shoulder, its antennae twitching like it was sending telegraphs, using wires and needles. I never felt at home in my own skin, but today, my body was a map, the veins riddled with roads.

“All these people coming and going, and I still felt alone.”

Stay tuned! On Saturday, July 10th, I will post Part II

Home

When I was young, perhaps eleven or twelve, I read the poem “Silence” by Marianne Moore. It was right around the time that I had started to explore my own poetry and craft my own metaphors. I remember the phrase “the glass flowers at Harvard” sticking out to me in a beautiful way.

At the time, it was a lovely phrase in the midst of a mixture of words that didn’t make sense to me. Now, on rereading it as an adult, I see how beautiful and eloquent Moore’s entire poem was. It speaks to me on a level that it did not when I was a child.


My father used to say,
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
or the glass flowers at Harvard.
Self-reliant like the cat-
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth-
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech,
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint."
Nor was he insincere in saying, "Make my house your inn."
Inns are not residences.



Given my childhood, it’s funny what pierces my heart and stabs my soul. It’s not the beauty of the phrase “the glass flowers at Harvard” (though, to Moore’s credit, that is a wonderful turn of phrase). It’s the last two lines of the poem.

Without getting too autobiographical, my childhood home felt as though it was curated for an interior design magazine. It did not feel like a home. I felt like I was walking into a stranger’s house every time I came home.

Home is such an interesting concept to me. I would love to explore the idea of it more in my writing.

PS: Anyone interested in reading an excerpt of a short story I’m working on?

Killing your Darlings

In the world of writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch advised students to “murder their darlings” in a lecture, and as I revise, I find I am reluctant to murder my darlings, but I’m doing my best to be brutal.

Some lines, no matter how beautifully they’re phrased, must simply be abandoned.

I keep a small notebook with phrases I adore from my murdering stage of my writing. I call it my Homeless File. It’s where lines that are homeless lay their heads to rest, a small trashcan fire burning to keep them warm.

Today, as I revised my novel, I came across one:

Ghosts of an unremarkable past haunted her.

Those words are beautiful to me and conjure up images of a mundane life now gone, but alas, the sentence was unnecessary, so it goes into the Homeless File.

The beauty of the Homeless File is that I can discover other beautiful fragmentary thoughts that add to my appreciation of language and maybe some day, can incorporate into a story or poem.

Ribbon my soul/and graft/the missing pieces onto your heart.

These words, alone, might not sound like much, but they all hold a place in my heart because though I might have given up their ghosts in their earlier works, this does not mean they will not find a home elsewhere.

I have lived so many lives/you might as well call me/a matryoshka doll/(Stacked inside of each other/to keep warm & cozy/we can be our own best friends./Whoever needed anybody else?)

I feel every author should have a Homeless File.

What do you think? Do any of my fellow authors keep the darlings that they kill?

I’m starting to wonder if it’s more of a morgue than a Homeless File.

This Author Disease: a Poem

My handkerchiefs are stained
as though I have been suffering
tuberculosis
all my life,
but instead of blood staining the cotton
a crimson Rorschach test,

it is the black of India ink.

She pressed a needle into my skin,
and I think the color seeped into my bones.
Now, I am fated
to spill ink wherever I go.

My scribblings have found home with me
(like shadows, like fireflies
inside of a Mason jar).

Even when I was locked inside of a cellar,
threatened with the rust of blood
and the tarnish of my reputation,
I carved poems into my mutilated flesh.

A dragon guarded my door,
false love glimmering in his eyes
(lust poisoning his tongue,
naïveté curling around me

like a lonesome lover).

The taste of gasoline numbed my soul
and left me begging for an exorcism.
(I never knew the Latin word for surrender,
yet I pleaded with the demons for the fruit of knowledge
.

Desired for them to vacate
this hollow body,
but they traveled the miles to remind me.)

The more ink I spill,
the softer their wailing becomes
until their keening is their own elegy.

I will never forfeit these words again.

(I will not neglect them
like a surrendered child
because some call them an obsession.)

I might never shatter the walls
of this foreign heart,
but give me a fountain pen
and I’ll wield it like a sledgehammer.