Sunday, December 21, 2014

OFF KILTER TV
Where Horror Rears its Ugly Head on Family Television



The Weird Western Lassos the Rawhide TV Show
Reviewed by
Anthony Servante
(originally published in The Black Glove Ezine 09/01/2011).


When we watch family television, we have certain expectations about the plots and the behavior of the characters. We expect Lucille Ball to get into and out of trouble; we expect Scully and Mulder to encounter supernatural phenomena. What we don’t expect is Lucy taking on monsters or Mulder stealing John Wayne’s cement footprints from the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. When the unexpected happens on our favorite shows, I call them Off Kilter TV.


Eric Fleming as Gil Hodges


In today’s column we will take a look at the 60s TV Western, RAWHIDE and an episode called, “Incident of the Four Horsemen”, written by Charles Larson, who wrote for the TV show, One Step Beyond, and directed by Thomas Carr, who directed for Adventures of Superman and Dick Tracy. The includes Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. 


Fleming and Eastwood  


What I like about Rawhide is that the stories are always on the verge of the supernatural: a mysterious figure in black follows the drovers, killing them off one by one, the Murder Steer (a bull with the word ‘murder’ branded on its side) appears and whoever sees it soon after dies; there’s the rolling wagon with no driver, a supposedly haunted Indian Burial Ground, and a zombie Indian, but the episodes always end with an explanation: the figure in black is a man who murdered his wife and child and seeks his own death by killing others; the Murder Steer is planted by a corrupt judge who plans a crime; the zombie Indian was just very ill and never really died as his tribe believed. However, in the episode, “Incident of the Four Horsemen”, it turns out to be a true supernatural tale, an Off Kilter TV yarn closer to weird than western.





Let’s first refresh our memories as Rawhide is over 50 years old. The western TV show revolves around a cattle drive of about 3000 head of steer, the trail boss, Gil Favor (Eric Fleming), the second in command, ramrod Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood), Wishbone, the cook (Paul Brinegar), and the 20 or so drovers played by regular and guest actors from week to week.


Rawhide: Incident of the Four Horsemen
 View Episode Here Before Proceeding if you Wish


In the Four Horsemen episode, the drive is stalled between two feuding families, and in Romeo and Juliet-style, a young man from one family, Louden, and a young woman from the other, Galt, marry, triggering a murder and fueling the feud toward a full-scale war. One by one, each of the horsemen arrive as the war nears. Here we need to get a little biblical guidance before we resume the episode analysis. The coming of the horsemen heralds the Apocalypse, that is, the final battle between Christ and the Antichrist for the souls of mankind, and these riders are known traditionally as Death, War, Famine, and Pestilence. The head of one family is Galt (God?), and the other is Louden (Lucifer?); it is difficult to say who is the good one and the evil one in that their names are interchangeable with double meaning: for instance, Galt can be gaunt or god, while Louden can be Lucifer or Lord. This ambiguity causes us to focus on the horsemen rather than the families, just as in the biblical Apocalypse there will be false prophets and one will not be able to tell the rise of the Antichrist from the second coming of Christ. Many souls will be lost as they choose the wrong side.


The Four Horsemen


So, in the Rawhide episode, the family feud on the brink of battle represents the coming Apocalypse. Thus, the first horseman to appear is War: Initially, we meet Gus Marsden (Claude Atkins); get it, Mars, Roman god of war? The den of war. Nudge, nudge. His first act is to instigate the murder of Carl Galt (Edward Faulkner) right after the marriage between Amy Galt and Frank Louden. Next we meet Ben Kerran (carrion?) (John Dehner) who plays the horseman Death. We can tell he’s Death because Wishbone finds him dead and buries him, and a few seconds later, he rises from the grave. Of course, Favor hires him immediately. When Marsden and Kerran meet, they get on like old acquaintances, for what is war without death?


John Dehner as Kerran (Death)


The horsemen, Famine and Pestilence, are found in a ghost town. They are called Hombre and White. Hombre represents famine as he eerily eats nonstop for the rest of the episode. White is pestilence as he coughs nonstop, a cough deep inside where no medicine can reach, as he points out. Soon, the two horsemen join the others and the four are now together, ready for the families to begin their bloodshed so they can thrive. Only Gil Favor stands between the four men and their goal. Favor must drive the cattle across the river, preventing any of the armies from using the steer to feed their warfare. But the Four Horsemen are not going to make it easy for him.


Claude Akins as Marsden (War)


As Kerran reminds Favor that he’s driving the herd straight into a brewing war, the trail boss points out that he makes his own fate, thus alluding to free will and that the outcome is not predetermined. He tries to convince Louden not to go to war, but Galt and Kerran barge in on them. Kerran (Death) pushes the newlywed groom to make it seem like he’s reaching for a gun and Galt shoots him. The horseman tells Favor that he was trying to push him out of harm’s way, the same lie Marsden used to trigger the first murder, of Carl Galt, that brought them to the brink of battle.

Favor is not deterred and plans to cross the river. Marsden, Kerran, White and Hombre sit atop their horses on the other side of the river and the herd refuses to cross. It is then that someone says that the four men are the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and call Kerran by the name Death. Favor insists that the sun is in the cows’ eyes and they just need to wait a few hours for the sun to be overhead. But war threatens. Marsden and Kerran are steely-eyed, White coughs away, and Hombre continues to eat. The trail boss challenges Kerran to a fight, winner takes all; if Kerran wins, he claims the lives of everyone, including the cattle’s, but if Favor wins, war will be averted and the cattle can cross the river.




So, it’s mano a mano with Gil Favor versus Death. Since we can’t have the hero of the show get killed, Favor wins, and Kerran admits that his timing was off, that it was not yet Favor’s time, but that he’ll be back. In essence, Death will return for Favor. I guess even Death can make a math mistake. Anyway... War is averted, the cattle cross, the family feud is settled, and the Four Horsemen ride off.

Much of the fun of this supernatural episode is the weak attempt to explain away the strange behavior of the drovers (some come down with a bad cough, similar to White’s, others choose sides for or against Galt and Louden, and many are driven to drink to handle the pressure of impending war), but the best they could come up with is the sun got in the cow’s eyes. Throughout the episode there is talk of devils and demons, god and man’s place in a godless land. Through it all, as Favor tries to talk sense to his men, we as viewers cannot ignore all that has transpired, the deviousness of Marsden and Kerran, the insatiable appetite of Hombre, and that wicked cough deep in White. But there's no explanation other than Death mistimed Favor's demise. The rest (the disease, the evil, and the deaths) can only be explained by the presence of Death, War, Pestilence, and Famine. It's as if the writer Charles Larsen deliberately left the episode open-ended. I mean, what else could we expect from a guy who wrote for the supernatural TV show ONE STEP BEYOND?! Still, “Incident of the Four Horsemen” can be added confidently to the list of Weird Westerns and to the list of Off Kilter TV shows brought to you by yours truly.

Until next we meet with another Off Kilter TV program, keep the TV on in the darkness.






Monday, December 15, 2014

Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods VI: The Last Zombie
A Final Look at the Literature of the Zombie Apocalypse

Compiled and Formatted by Anthony Servante





Greetings, Zombie Lovers, to our last (?) look at the literature of the zombie apocalypse. 


With us we have Allen Gamboa, author of "Zombie Island: Operation Zulu" (2014). 


Ten years after the world was nearly decimated by a zombie virus, there is a desperate race for an antidote. A team of commandos are sent to a remote island populated by the undead to rescue a group of stranded scientist. The commandos come up against the hungry dead, Russian mercenaries, and shady government conspiracies. Dead Island: Operation Zulu is a fun, action packed, blood splattered, horror adventure. Dawn of the Dead meets Aliens!



Allen Gamboa



Biography:
I'm a former U.S. Airforce sgt. I'm retired California State Peace officer. I live up in Northern California Redwood country with my lovely wife who was also former Navy and a peace officer, in a zombie free zone.


The Interview:

Anthony: Tell us about your history with zombies.

Allen: My first encounter with zombies was in the early 70s. My Grandmother lived across from a cemetery in Bakersfield. I was sleeping on the couch one night and Night of the Living Dead was on tv. Scared the crap outta me. When Dawn of the Dead came out I had to see it! I talked my dad into taking me since it was rated R and that was that. Spent many Friday nights at the midnite movies watching Dawn of the Dead.

Anthony: Compare George Romero’s original zombie from Night of the Living Dead with a zombie from any of your books.

Allen: Romero's zombies were afraid of fire, used tools and seemed to have some kind of dim thought process. Mine are just ravenous without intelligence. Newly dead are fast. Older dead are slower. 

Anthony: What is the most cliché thing to come from the zombie genre and how do you avoid it? For instance, a trauma to the head kills a zombie.

Allen: Eating brains are a cliche. Mine eat everything. Burp. I do have the brain as the zombies weak spot. That's hard to avoid . I have fun being creative in the way i kill them. I hated in Return of the Living Dead where the zombies were Invincible. It gives the characters no hope. In my books, hope and redemption are recurring themes. I like nihilistic books, but I don't like to write them. I put a lot of humor in my stories. I'm an optimist. 

Anthony: Are we reaching the end of the zombie apocalypse stories? What do you see in the zombie literature of today that leads you to believe otherwise?

Allen: No I don't. So many writers are very creative and they make up for the redundant ones out there. I've read a lot of good books lately with the same story told differently. I hope it's not going away. I just started. I have to pay for my kids' college. I like to focus on my characters. The zombies are secondary.

Anthony: What’s the best zombie apocalypse movie and why?

Allen: You've never heard this before but...Dawn of the Dead..the original. Mostly for nostalgia reasons. Spending time with Dad watching zombies. It gave me the zombie bug and I'll be loyal to Romero for that.

Anthony: Is the popularity of zombies today limiting the imagination of writers who are repeating the same plots? 

Allen: I don't believe so. There are a lot of good, sharp, writers nowadays. Mine is set after the outbreak had been contained and life is getting back to normal. Greed turns things around. Sure there is excessive repetition in the genre. There are a lot of great writers out there that make it interesting and fun.

Anthony: Which writers do you feel are keeping the originality alive in the zombie genre?

Allen: Oh man. I have a list. W.J Lundy is writing some exciting zompoc with his WTF series. Micheal Robertson has a really dark vision on the whole zombie genre, which I like. S.g. Lee has a great book out that has some of the best character development I've read in a long time. H.J Harry has a different take on the zombie outbreak which is really fun and scary. 

Anthony: How are you being original?

Allen: Dead Island is more of an action story than a straight up zombie tale. The reanimated dead aren't the worst things on the island. I put in a lot of humor and some plot twists. I want whoever reads it to have fun yet, care about the characters. I wrote Dead Island to entertain. I have very strong male and female characters. I have a disabled vet as one of the main leads. My goal is for the reader to have a good time. Root for the good guys and want to see the bad guys get there's . Also my book is set ten years after the outbreak and life is back to normal. Or so they think. Things are not what they appear to be. 

Anthony: What’s on the horizon for you as a writer of zombie literature?

Allen: I'm working on a prequel to dead island that I'm really excited about. It's a combination of the wild bunch and Night of the Living Dead. Also an anthology of zombie shorts.



Next up, S.g. Lee, author of Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising.






Synopsis:

The residents of Littleville, Pennsylvania are about to meet their new neighbors…

New to Littleville, the Wexley twins, Matt and Emma assume fitting in at Lincoln High and making new friends will be their biggest worries. They couldn’t be more wrong. Fate would introduce Evan Stone into the neighborhood and all three attempt to navigate the murky labyrinth of eleventh grade but Evan has a secret. His godfather is Dr. G.E. Mitchell, author of Journal of the Undead: A Survivor’s Guide and Evan has been learning about zombies from one of the best.

With an excellent school system, safe streets, and a strong sense of community, the Philadelphia suburb of Littleville has proudly attracted a diverse blend of people but up until now they’d always been living. When Lincoln High School is overrun by flesh-eating corpses, Evan rescues Emma and they battle their way through the zombies to Matt but fleeing the school doesn’t solve their problems. Friends, enemies, and loved ones are lost in the battle against the undead and the entire town is completely overrun. The true terror unfolds, as the survivors must escape and make the dangerous trek from suburban Philadelphia to the highest mountains of West Virginia with the hope of finding a safe haven at the Stone family cabin. If they can reach the secluded refuge, they just might survive the Littleville Uprising.




The Hand of S.g. Lee



Biography:     S.G. Lee was born in Philadelphia and raised in its suburbs. Forever a die-hard Philly sports fan, S.G. bleeds a dedicated swirl of Orange & Black, Red & White, or Green & Silver, a phenomenon that baffles nurses and phlebotomists alike. Still, it is the love of reading and writing that trumps all else...all except for an encouraging spouse and a rambunctious puppy. Currently, all three reside in North Central West Virginia but this author's heart still belongs to the City of Brotherly Love.

Though it is rumored that the desire to write about zombies was spawned by intense road rage, and a secret longing to club slow drivers with a tire iron, that claim has yet to be substantiated. S.G. is also a contributing author for the Zombie Response Team's blog in addition to a personal blog containing free horror stories and random musings at www.sgleehorror.blogspot.com. You can always connect with S.G. on Twitter (@sg_lee_horror) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/sg.leehorror).


The Interview:

Anthony: Tell us about your history with zombies. 
Lee. Even as a child, I was a sucker for horror. My dad and I used to watch ‘Creature Double Feature’ every Sunday afternoon on a local channel in the Philadelphia area. My very first introduction to the word zombie was Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie (1932). My dad really got a kick out of those old black & white films even though they were way before his time. Of course, that movie was the voodoo zombies but by the time I’d gotten around to Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead, I realized that I’d been bitten!


Anthony: Compare George Romero’s original zombie from Night of the Living Dead with a zombie from any of your books. 
Lee: The interesting thing about Romero’s original zombie was that he was easily mistaken for a regular man in the cemetery. As a tribute, I have a couple paying respects to the recently deceased but the boyfriend is teasing his girl and imitating the iconic, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara”. In my story, her name is Tanya and she gets angry because Night of the Living Dead terrified her. While she’s pouting in the car, real zombies rip her boyfriend to shreds. The whole time she thinks it is an act until she sees his insides spilling out.


Anthony: What is the most cliché thing to come from the zombie genre and how do you avoid it? For instance, a trauma to the head kills a zombie. 
Lee: I’d have to say the most cliché aspect of most horror and especially the zombie genre is that no one has ever seen a zombie movie. I just can’t play by that rule so there are references to all sorts of horror movies in my stories. In fact, my main characters go to a retro theater one weekend to see the original Dawn of the Dead. Just like I’d expect in real life, there are still characters that refuse to accept that the dead have reanimated and are feasting on human flesh. Some even make jokes that they aren’t in a horror movie.


Anthony: Are we reaching the end of the zombie apocalypse stories? What do you see in the zombie literature of today that leads you to believe otherwise? 
Lee: No, I do not think we are reaching an end of the zombie apocalypse stories. I do believe that, like other forms of entertainment, fads ebb and flow. It does seem that the traditional zombie is often shelved for the fast-moving, super human strength creatures. I rather enjoy the shuffling zombie but I think there are still purists who do not like the evolution of the zombie’s characteristics so much that they shun the newer, faster zombies.


Anthony: What’s the best zombie apocalypse movie and why? 
Lee: This is a tough one so I’m going to cheat a little. My go-to zombie film will always be the original because, like my dad, I am hooked on the classics. I will always pick the original Night of the Living Dead because without it, we would not have such an amazing collection of books, movies, and so on. That being said, I absolutely love that zombie horror/comedy has evolved. Shaun of the Dead is brilliant, hilarious, and something of a cinematic love letter to Romero’s films. Nothing chases away the blues like popping in my Shaun of the Dead BluRay.


Anthony: Is the popularity of zombies today limiting the imagination of writers who are repeating the same plots? 
Lee: No, I think it is the exact opposite. The popularity of zombies means that we, as authors, need to stretch ourselves to come up with something new and different. Readers are not going to hand over their hard-earned money to keep re-reading the same story, over and over with different characters. Nor would I want them to; I was a reader long before I was a writer. Especially since the advent of the ‘free preview’ on Amazon, most of the people I know will check out the preview first, before purchasing. (Unless the book is free, of course) These are the things that make us better at our craft.


Anthony: Which writers do you feel are keeping the originality alive in the zombie genre? 
Lee: Okay, now I am terrified that I will forget someone. I am going to say that the zom-poc authors from At Hell’s Gates are definitely doing something original. We are giving away the profits … by that I mean that 100% of the proceeds are donated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The IFHF supports the brave men & women in our armed forces, their families, and veterans as well. I hope you all don’t mind a shameless plug here but be sure to check out the At Hell’s Gates website at: http://www.athellsgates.com/. Additionally, there are some individual authors who really have something unique in their work. Just to name a few (in no particular order): Ian McClellen, Khail Lerma, Cedric Nye, Stephen Kozeniewski, Shana Festa, Jackie Druga, Devan Sagliani, and your previous guest, Allen Gamboa. I am also hearing amazing things about some authors who are still in my TBR file like: Lesa Anders & Matt Kinney, Mike Evans, and Stevie Kopas. 


Anthony: How are you being original? 
Lee: Part of what is different in my Journal of the Undead series is that the featured character(s) shift. In Littleville, our heroes have a chance encounter with a couple trying to reach their family. Book two shows you how those peripheral characters got to that rendezvous point but also what happened when they separated. In a way, the ‘main character’ of my story is the book, Journal of the Undead: A Survivor’s Guide, written by my character Dr. G.E. Mitchell. Throughout the apocalyptic uprising, his books circulate and lives are saved. One other huge difference is that, because the series is Y/A appropriate, there are no ‘F-bombs’ dropped. I realize that can be a pro or a con but I think I manage to execute it in a way that feels authentic— not prim and proper. While I wholly believe that, even a religious figurehead might be apt to let some bombs fly, I captured the fear and desperation without using language that might deter a younger reader. Fear not, there’s still plenty of blood, gore, and mangled bodies for all!


Anthony: What’s on the horizon for you as a writer of zombie literature? 
Lee: Fortunately, my Journal of the Undead series has just started so we can expect at least 3 more books— Journal of the Undead: New York Outbreak, which is slated for publication late spring of 2015. Journal of the Undead: D.C. Cover Up and Journal of the Undead: A Survivor’s Guide are both in the works. I think readers will be curious to see what Dr. G.E. Mitchell actually wrote in his book since it saved so many lives. Of course there is always the chance it will exceed the original four books that I’d planned. Also, my upcoming story in Volume 2 of At Hell’s Gates features a sort of zombie/infected/bloodsucking freak hybrid. 







Let's welcome Stephen Kozeniewski, author of "The Ghoul Archipelago".






Summary: 
After ravenous corpses topple society and consume most of the world’s population, freighter captain Henk Martigan is shocked to receive a distress call. Eighty survivors beg him to whisk them away to the relative safety of the South Pacific. Martigan wants to help, but to rescue anyone he must first pass through the nightmare backwater of the Curien island chain.

A power struggle is brewing in the Curiens. On one side, a billionaire seeks to squeeze all the profit he can out of the apocalypse. Opposing him is the charismatic leader of a cargo cult. When a lunatic warlord berths an aircraft carrier off the coast and stakes his own claim on the islands, the stage is set for a bloody showdown.

To save the remnants of humanity (and himself), Captain Martigan must defeat all three of his ruthless new foes and brave the gruesome horrors of...THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO.


Stephen Kozeniewski



Biography: 
Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced "causin' ooze key") is a contributor to the #1 bestselling AT HELLS GATES horror anthology and is the author of bestselling novels BRAINEATER JONES and THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. He lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s is in German.
The Interview:

Anthony: Tell us about your history with zombies.

Stephen: The first zombie movie I ever watched was "Cemetery Man." It was on like Starz or Showtime or one of those weird premium channels at like 3am on a Saturday night around 1998 and I just couldn't stop watching. But I really fell in love with the genre about twelve years ago after catching the tail-end of NOTLD on Sci-Fi (back before it became SyFy), and then feeling obliged to pick up Dawn of the Dead on VHS. (Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm dating myself.) I started working on a TV pilot which was then called "Flesh," but eventually became THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. And, of course, BRAINEATER JONES slipped in there ahead of the bell since it was a NaNo baby.

Anthony: Compare George Romero’s original zombie from Night of the Living Dead with a zombie from any of your books.

Stephen: Ah, yes, the estimable Bill Hinzman. Would I be outing myself as a zombie nerd if I pointed out that Braineater Jones's real name is (spoiler alert!) William Hinzman? I suppose since the ur-zombie used a rock to smash in Barbara's car window, it would make sense to compare him to Crunchy from THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO, who, while wearing the mind control collar, was also capable of wielding tools.

Anthony: What is the most cliché thing to come from the zombie genre and how do you avoid it? For instance, a trauma to the head kills a zombie.

Stephen: Oh. Probably the scene where, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, one of the characters insists, "No, dammit, it's still HIM in there!" I think I avoid this by having my characters be fairly shrewd. They're still emotional, but you've got to call a spade a spade, especially in the wake of Armageddon.

Anthony: Are we reaching the end of the zombie apocalypse stories? What do you see in the zombie literature of today that leads you to believe otherwise?

Stephen: No. Hell no. I always compare zombie to mobsters. Yeah, if you keep trying to recreate "The Godfather" your mobster movies are going to suck and be repetitive. But mobsters, like zombies, are inherently interesting and can be put into any circumstance and still have it be a good story.

Anthony: What’s the best zombie apocalypse movie and why?

Stephen: Oh. Um...I usually say "Dead Alive" as best zombie movie but that's not really an apocalypse movie, per se. So we're talking post-apocalypse? The only one that really jumps out and grabs me (ha!) is "Land of the Dead." Although I might be overthinking this question, because I keep eliminating all the obvious choices for not being apocalyptic enough.

Anthony: Is the popularity of zombies today limiting the imagination of writers who are repeating the same plots?

Stephen: Some of them. It's a bit tiresome to keep reading "Walking Dead" clones but people are going to keep writing them, just like they're going to keep writing Harry Potter fanfic. Of course, you've still got the Ian McClellans and H.E. Goodhues of the world pushing all kinds of boundaries, so it's not like the creative stuff isn't out there if you look for it.

Anthony: Which writers do you feel are keeping the originality alive in the zombie genre?

Stephen: Ha! Just screwed myself mentioning those two guys. Now I've got to pick a few more. Um...keep an eye out for newcomers A. Giacomi and S.G. Lee. Shana Festa's got her own weird vibe. Phillip Tomasso is pretty great, too. Oh, and, what the hay, I'll throw in Stevie Kopas, too.

Anthony: How are you being original?

Stephen: You ever see zombies fight pirates? All right then.

Anthony: What’s on the horizon for you as a writer of zombie literature?

Stephen: Oh, well, the sequel to the AT HELL'S GATES anthology will be coming out January 31 featuring my own "The Man With Four Scars" about prehistoric zombies. The FAT ZOMBIE anthology will also be coming out next year featuring "The New Dark Ages" which might be the darkest thing I've ever written. And I'm putting the finishing touches on the sequel to THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO right now, tentatively titled NOTES FROM THE UNDEAD. Oh, and I'm hoping to get a BRAINEATER JONES cartoon series off the ground. I've been working with talented voiceover artist Steve Rimpici and animator Zee Risek to pitch it to a few networks and studios, and there's been some interest, so fingers crossed!



Next up: Carl S. Plumer, author of ZOMBIE EVER AFTER.


For fans of Warm Bodies and Zombieland and for readers of A. Lee Martinez and Christopher Moore comes a new literary adventure about love and survival in San Francisco that has been called “hilarious, action-packed, and original.” Trek along with Cathren and Donovan as they fight to evade brain-hungry zombies, vengeful survivors, and a megalomaniacal CEO and his blood-thirsty henchmen. Can the forces of evil be stopped? Can love conquer the undead? Will Cathren and Donovan find freedom, safety, and true love? Find out for yourself by reading "Zombie Ever After"!


Carl S. Plumer


Biography:


I was born and raised in New York City, and was writing as soon as I could successfully hold a crayon. Now I hold advanced degrees in writing (see what I did there?). As for words, I’ve spent my life surrounded by them in a way. I’ve delivered newspapers, worked at a printing press, managed a bookstore, taught writing, wrote for literary magazines and pop culture newspapers (in NYC), and published both technical and fiction books. In short, even before I started creating novels, I’d been a writer. I’m proud (and humbled) to be an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist (with my very first novel, Zombie Ever After) and a National Indie Excellence Award Finalist (same book). I was also chosen to be a judge for the World's Best Story award, an international writing contest, which was an honor and a privilege. In the coming year, I’ll be putting out to an unwitting audience four new novels and a second collection of short stories. In edition, I’ll be initiating both a podcast on writing and a couple of udemy courses on the same topic. Busy, but very fun, year ahead!


(Contact Carl Plumer for more information and links). 


The Interview:

Anthony: Compare George Romero’s original zombie from Night of the Living Dead with a zombie from any of your books.

Carl: It’s interesting. Every writer, or reader or moviegoer for that matter, has an opinion about how zombies should “be” – I think it is ALL based on Romero’s original zombies. They should be slow, shuffling, and mumbling. I don’t get the sprinting zombies from WWZ, for example. They’re reanimated corpses. Ever been a runner? Takes a ton of energy. Where are these zombies getting that energy? They don’t have working stomachs. So, we all just make it up. Funny zombies, fat zombies, smart zombies, zombies who can drive, zombies who can swim. In my book, ZOMBIE EVER AFTER, zombies don’t swim. From my book:

“The zombies, focused on their victims/dinner, stepped right off the edge and into the water, as if they didn’t know that the dock would end, that there would be no more walking surface. The mutants plunged in like windup toy soldiers, and then sank like anchors, one after another after another.”

But they don’t stay down, either. Again, from Zombie Ever After:

“Back by the docks, they collected their unconscious comrades and then side-stroked with them back to the island. By the pier, the undead bobbed to the surface like wine corks. Pallaton’s men swam around them, once in a while colliding with a waterlogged zombie as it rose to the surface.”

Anthony: What is the most cliché thing to come from the zombie genre and how do you avoid it? For instance, a trauma to the head kills a zombie.

Carl: Two things drive me crazy. First, every single survivor is a crack shot. No matter how close or how far away the zombie is, BANG—perfect headshot, front and center on the forehead. Really? Second is that survivors never, ever, no NEVER run out of ammunition. They may temporarily run out for one moment, but apparently when the zombie apocalypse comes, we will all have magic, refilling ammunition stores everywhere, no matter where we run to, even in the middle of a forest: endless ammo. Again, in my book, there’s a crazy shooting frenzy when the breakout begins. People kill the first zombies with 10 or 20 bullets. Then there are hundreds, then thousands of zombies. The ammo runs out in the first two weeks. Now you only have one option: run like hell.

Anthony: Are we reaching the end of the zombie apocalypse stories? What do you see in the zombie literature of today that leads you to believe otherwise?

Carl: I don’t think this need for stories about the dead walking will ever go away. It fills a primal need for us on a couple of levels. First, hell, regardless of how we might look, it is in some ways “eternal life.” Ugly, but potentially forever (as long as you don’t take one between the eyes). Second, we are all going to die. Except for a few that will die by fire or be cremated, we will all, every single one of us, one day be a rotting corpse, reanimated or not. I think the zombie genre helps us confront that real, but mostly unconscious, horror.

Anthony: What’s the best zombie apocalypse movie and why?

Carl: I write horror with a twist of humor. Or maybe it’s the other way around. So my favorite so far, hands down, is SHAUN OF THE DEAD. What’s not to love? Then there’s COCKNEYS VERSUS ZOMBIES. Two great, but very different, films. Both with genuine scares (SHAUN especially), but also laughs. SHAUN OF THE DEAD of course has a wink or two or twenty to a number of classic zombie films. (See http://www.neatorama.com/2009/01/18/movie-trivia-shaun-of-the-dead/ for a short list. Google for more.)

Anthony: Is the popularity of zombies today limiting the imagination of writers who are repeating the same plots?

Carl: I think to a large degree, yes. However for the better writers, I think it is making great things happen. I recently read HANDLING THE UNDEAD by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist (he wrote “LET THE RIGHT ONE IN”), and I thought it was heartbreaking and it was a literary novel, not a genre novel, yet there were zombies. I’ve seen other writers doing the same, looking at zombies as people. I think AFTEREFFECTS: ZOMBIE THERAPY by Zane Bradey did that especially well. In that novel, they’ve found a cure. Now, the ex-zombies have to deal with memories of the loved ones that they killed and ate. I think good writers will always find a way to look at tired old tropes and breathe new life into them. Oh, that was unintentional… There has also been great work done in comics and graphic novels. I liked the Archie Comics take on zombies in Riverdale a lot.

Anthony: Which writers do you feel are keeping the originality alive in the zombie genre?

Carl: I’d have to say Maberry’s doing a good job with his Zombie CSU and Rot & Ruin series. Then there’s folks like Sean T Page and his fully illustrated ZOMBIE SURVIVAL MANUAL: From The Dawn Of Time Onwards (All Variations). A lot of creativity there.

Anthony: How are you being original?

Carl: If readers check out my books on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Carl-S.-Plumer/e/B009BHL84K/)
, I think they’ll find that they break the boundaries of the genre they’re assigned to. They’re not really science fiction or fantasy or romance or comedy or YA. I consider myself in whatever category A. Lee Martinez and Christopher Moore are in. That is, a category called, “Carl S. Plumer” books. I’m not saying that to be boastful. But because, well, that’s really what they are.

Anthony: What’s on the horizon for you as a writer of zombie literature?

Carl: I’m hoping to return to Cathren and Donovan in a sequel, with them a year or two down the road. I have a lot of ideas and surprises in store. Buy the first book (ZOMBIE EVER AFTER)! It’s really the only way I can gauge if there would be any real enthusiasm for a sequel. In fact, leave a review if you like the book and mention in your review that you want a sequel! That will get me started. I have to prioritize right now. I have four books and another collection of short stories coming out in 2015. I don’t want to sideline any of those projects unless a true demand is there. Other than a sequel to ZOMBIE EVER AFTER, I really don’t know. We’ll have to see what the future holds!


As you see, we keep adding new authors to the Zombies VI interviews. Hard to let go of some things that I feel have utility in the literary field. 
I suppose it's never say never in the world of zombies, so I'll just say "So long". 
Anthony Servante

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Poetry Today: Trends and Traditions 18
Christmas Light and Christmas Dark

Compiled and Formatted by Anthony Servante


First Santa by Thomas Nast



Introduction: 
It is tempting to write a thesis about the first Santa and his relation to the horned and demonic Krampus, but I leave that to the anti-Christmas folk who like to dwell on the pagan aspects of the holiday. In today's poetry column, I choose to give equal attention to the lighter and darker elements of the Christmas spirit. To help me in my cause, I welcome our poets for today's poetry column: We have Michael H. Hanson, Jaye Tomas, Coralie Rowe, Kay Irwin, DS Scott, Rick Mohl, Lemmy Rushmore, and Jerry Langdon. You may notice that I had an extra spot for Light Christmas poetry, so I included two songs by Trans Siberian Orchestra to add some sound to the proceedings. So gather round the computer screen with the elves, the Krampus, and Saint Nick to read a few poems of Christmas cheer and fear. 

Let's begin.



The Dark



Lemmy Rushmore




Biography:
Lemmy Rushmore is a mechanic by trade and father of three who occasionally dares dabble in the world of words. Until recently unpublished, his pieces touch on many topics, but tend to lean toward the darker side of those things encountered daily. Ranging from emotionally dark to horror, some of his work can be seen in the anthologies We are Dust and Shadow, Demonic Possession, and No Sight for the Saved, which features the superbly dark art of Niall Parkinson. All have been released by James Ward Kirk Publishing and are now available. In addition he will be lucky enough to be included along with a great many truly talented writers and poets among the pages of the anthologies Hell II: Citizens, Cellar Door III: Animals, Indiana Horror Review 2014, The Grays, and Bones III, all coming soon from the great team at James Wark Kirk Publishing. His newest work can be viewed on the Facebook page, Parkinson Rushmore Project as he is currently involved in a unique collaboration with the extraordinarily talented artist, Niall Parkinson...

Facebook page....
https://www.facebook.com/lemmy.rushmore

Parkinson Rushmore Project page....
https://www.facebook.com/TheP.R.SProject

http://parkinsonrushmoreproject.wordpress.com/

No Sight for the Saved....
http://www.amazon.com/Niall-Parkinson-No-Sight-Saved/dp/0692255796/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411581807&sr=1-1&keywords=no+sight+for+the+saved

Demonic Possession....
http://www.amazon.com/Demonic-Possession-James-Ward-Kirk/dp/0692249176/ref=pd_sim_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0FR0Z65XKA50MYVDYCQA

We Are Dust and Shadow....

http://www.amazon.com/Dust-Shadow-James-Ward-Kirk/dp/069222601X/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=0QZ45RKBE1Z0F5AM5BVY








The List

all the lights had been hung
and the stockings by fire
then good nights had been bid
'fore to room he'd retired
for Saint Nick he would wait
ever anxious and ready
while the rest were asleep
and he clung to his teddy
but the year had been his
and for no others he'd cared
it seems naughty he'd been
and only torments he'd shared
he knew nothing of nice
and he'd not listened at all
every chance he had gotten
under skins he would crawl
soon was bells he would hear
'pon the roof as they jingled
then the sound of those hooves
as with shingles they mingled
down the stairs he would fly
hoping red suit he would see
but another there was
and horns and fur there would be
to his lair he'd be dragged
in the bag Krampus carried
and so soon it would be
in the snow he'd be buried...

Copyright © 2014 Lemmy Rushmore  All rights reserved.






Silent Night, Violent Night

to my ears flew my hands
while all those carols were sung
and I found naught but disgust
for those lights neatly hung
no good tidings had I
seems I hated the season
while rejoice they all would
I could see not the reason
that cruel ghost of the past
it so endlessly haunted
and with Christmas it seems
it was me that it taunted
so a stop I would have
to that ache that repeated
with each ounce that I am
I would see it deleted
down the chimney he'd creep
but was I who was peeking
and I'd see the whole thing
as toward tree he was sneaking
there in act he was caught
and he'd pay for it dearly
was my point I would make
and he'd see it so clearly
wasn't joy I would spread
but instead it was violence
it was even I'd get
with that night and its silence...

Copyright © 2014 Lemmy Rushmore  All rights reserved.




The Light


Michael H. Hanson




Biography:
Michael H. Hanson is the Creator of the Sha'Daa shared-world, horror/fantasy anthology series (currently consisting of "Sha'Daa: Tales of The Apocalypse," "Sha'Daa: Last Call," "Sha'Daa: Pawns," and the soon to premiere "Sha'Daa: Facets," all published by Moondream Press (an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC).

He has written two collections of poetry, "Autumn Blush" and "Jubilant Whispers," whose second editions will soon be published by Racket River Press (an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC).

In the upcoming year Michael will not only be overseeing the writing of the new Sha'Daa anthology "Sha'Daa: Inked," but he is also overseeing the writing of the shared-world novel "Not To Yield," a science fiction tale inspired by The Odyssey.




The Call of Snow
by Michael H. Hanson

The call of snow is whimsical,
both silly and mellifluous
like a live, joyous musical
sprinkling a lush, seasonal blush.

The call of snow is so selfless
it cares not who hears its rich song,
a most blissful, buoyant chorus
entertaining all winter long.

The call of snow is a grand gift
announcing a time of giving
beneath a tree that will uplift
our souls for their blest forgiving.

The call of snow is charmed and clear,
a humble chime that love is near.





Wintertide
by Michael H. Hanson

Angelic choirs of laughing rhyme
which giggling kids can’t hold inside;
we smell the pitch of blushing pine
that snuggles us this wintertide.

Sweet crystal flakes upon our tongue,
flimsy toboggans all can ride.
we gulp hot cider like a sponge
and sculpture snow this wintertide.

The thrill of daily greeting card,
warm crushing hugs at fireside,
a loving call beckons homeward
uniting us this wintertide.


The Dark


Jaye Tomas




Biography:
Jaye Tomas has "scribbled" all her life but found her audience growing hugely after she created her Chimera Poetry blog. Her first Book, 'Nocturnes', has been very well received and she is hard at work on the second which will be ready for publication early in 2015.
Jaye loves all things bookish and her reading tastes are extensive: Tolkien, Lovecraft, Gaiman, Valente, Harkness, Plath, Ellison, Christie, Aaronovitch, Yeats, Blake, Servante, King, Barker, Straub, Lopez, Maugham, Rimbaud, Ness, Funke, Taylor, Kipling, Chaucer, Morgenstern .....to name a very few.
Originally from Chicago, she is currently residing in the UK but has begun to cast her eyes in other directions. "The beauty of the story, she says, is in the journey, not the arrival."






Black Dwarf ~

All eyes were turned upwards to the sky on that special night
the angelic host shining splendorous
and the singing rose in celebration against the blackness and the conquering of all ultimate fears.
Or so it was thought....
for in that worshiped starfire,
that golden time,
a second star rose
and with violent precision
fell.
A streak of fury
of raging crimson,
overlooked and burning with injured conceit
heavy in its malevolence
it collided with the aquamarine world in an explosion of dirt and rock
and lodged there silently
unsung and unheralded.
Cooling into sullen metal and sending slivers burrowing blindly
deeper
into the disrupted soil.
This cold black dwarf
this star without light
seeding itself in preparation
of a new age.
Not of hope or of peace,
but Chaos.


©jayetomas2014


Lazarillo Stealing Grapes from the Poor Blind Beggar
by Thomas Wijck-



The Forest For the Trees ~

It was always easy pickings at this time of year
he thought
which made his bleared eyes brighten to a lighter shade of mud.
Plenty of cash around for shopping,
for getting the "flash",
the tallest tree and the most electric lights.
As he wandered in that forest of cut pines
propped and priced to hook the buyer he reminded himself...
You smile at them, offer to carry the tree,
the heavy parcels
(they like that)
keeps them from getting needles and pine sap on their designer jackets.
Easy pickings;
wallets
keys
cash
smaller items dipped from bags,
all ready to be turned into... enough.
Whats enough?
The price of a bottle.
Or two bottles maybe? 'Tis the season and all that..
He laughed without much humor and stumble-shuffled towards the gates
The gates....
but they were nowhere in sight.
He turned
turned again.
What the...
no opening, no fence.
Only trees far as the eye could see...
Can't see the forest for the trees he chuckled nervously,
his feet slowing because they already knew what his brain wouldn't accept.
He was somehow lost in the forest
an impossible forest
an unkind
hungry
forest.
Thicker and darker the trees leaned in greedily
as the wind spun the dusting of snow in small devils around his feet
and dimly he heard someone
something
coming.
Heart failing him, he closed his eyes and waited.

This time of year
it's always -
they're always -
easy pickings...


©jayetomas2014



The Light


Rick L. Mohl, Sr.




Biography: 
I was born May 9, 1959 in Frankfurt, Germany. Moved to Richland, Washington in 1960, lived here ever since. Graduated Kennewick high School, class of 1977, never attended College. Married (1986-28 years) Two daughters (31 and 21) One son (18). I love to read (big Terry Brooks and Stephen King fan),and I love to write poetry.





CHRISTMAS TIME

CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE,
YOUR MONEY DISAPPEARS.
EVERYONE ON THIS EARTH,
SPENDING ALL THEIR WORTH.
TO THE MALLS, ALL YE COME,
SHOPPING TILL YOU ARE NUMB
WILL THAT BE CASH TODAY?
OR CHARGE IT OFF YOUR PAY?
SPEND AND SPEND SOME MORE,
INTO EACH AND EVERY STORE.
ONE OF THESE, TWO OF THOSE,
IS IT NEEDED? NO ONE KNOWS.
SOON THE MONEY IS ALL GONE,
THERE IS NO MORE TO CALL ON.
NOT ONE DIME TO YOUR NAME,
A MERRY XMAS ALL THE SAME.
AND WHEN IT’S SAID AND DONE,
IN THE END, IT WAS ALL IN FUN.
CAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT THE JOY,
EVERY MAN, WOMAN, GIRL AND BOY.




UNDER THE TREE
IF YOU TAKE A LOOK AROUND,
SEE THE SNOW ON THE GROUND.
GLITTER AND TINSEL IN THE TREES,
SCENT OF PINE FLOWS IN THE BREEZE
EVERY HOME IS FILLED WITH LIGHTS,
STEALS THE DARK FROM THE NIGHTS.
SING A FEW CAROLS TO THOSE INSIDE,
SINGING WITH LOVE AND WITH PRIDE.
ALL THOSE YOU SEE SO FULL OF CHEER,
EVEN THE ONES THAT YOU HOLD DEAR.
FEEL THE SPIRITS LIFTING YOUR HEART,
THE FESTIVITIES ARE ABOUT TO START.
ON CHRISTMAS EVE, THE NIGHT BEFORE,
ALL ARE SLEEPING BEHIND THEIR DOOR.
WAITING FOR THOSE BELLS TO RING,
DREAMING OF WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS,
THE SUN WILL RISE, THE DAY HAS BEGUN,
A MERRY CHRISTMAS WISH TO EVERYONE.
SPEND THE DAY WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY,
HANDING OUT LOVE FROM UNDER THE TREE.




The Dark



Jerry Langdon




Biography:
I was born and raised in Michigan. Lived in Germany since the early 90's. I have had great interest in painting and poetry since my teen years. Dark things have always interested me. Been a fan of horror and fantasy. I have chosen this path in my writing and painting.

Amazon Page:
http://www.amazon.com/Jerry-Langdon/e/B00DPGTGQ0





Twelve Nights of Christmas

On the first night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
A wreath of thorns

On the second night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the third night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns
Upon this decrepit door

On the fourth night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the fifth night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the sixth night of Christmas
You'll never guess
The ghosts brought to me
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns
Upon this decrepit door

On the seventh night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the eighth night of Christmas
Revisiting
The ghosts brought to me
Eight spikes ~ thrusting
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the ninth night of Christmas
I'll be damned
The ghosts brought to me
Nine broken mirrors
Eight spikes ~ thrusting
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns
Upon this decrepit door
I plea no more

On the tenth night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Ten demons ~ screaming
Nine broken mirrors
Eight spikes ~ thrusting
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the eleventh night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Eleven angels ~ crying
Ten demons ~ screaming
Nine broken mirrors
Eight spikes ~ thrusting in my heart
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns

On the twelfth night of Christmas
The ghosts brought to me
Twelve hearts ~ bleeding
Eleven angels ~ crying
Ten demons ~ screaming
Nine broken mirrors
Eight spikes ~ thrusting in my heart
Seven minds ~ maddening
Six dying souls
Five lumps of coal
Four goblets of blood ~ not wine
Three matches ~ burning
Two rusty chains
And a wreath of thorns
Upon this decrepit door
And came no more

© Jerry Langdon 2013




Obscure Yuletide

It is bitter cold outside

As the last dying flames subside

The remaining warmth leaving the fireplace

It has lost its comforting grace

Unfed ~ Of life denied


Deadly silence floods the room

As it fades into gloom

All the love has left this place

Took all the joy and left empty space

Naught remains but this mournful groom


You'll find nothing under the tree

Emptiness reminding me of place I'd rather be

Not a carol being sung

Not a stocking hung

No one here other than me


It's bitter cold outside

As the last dying flames subside

Deadly silence floods the room

As it fades into gloom

Oh, My obscure Yuletide


© Jerry Langdon 2013



The Light



Kay Irwin




Biography:
Kay Irvin is a single Leo and a lyrics and poetry writer with a penchant for all things beautifully eerie. Her signature style is Gothic-Victorian. Often dark, haunting and with just a subtle twinge of something unnerving from time to time, is how she likes to pen her verse and prose. She has been writing for well over two decades and maintains a blog, chronicling a large amount of her work.
She admires the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron, Robert Frost and especially a piece entitled, 'Ode' by Arthur O'Shaughnessy. She enjoys the lyrical attributes of Jim Morrison, 
Stevie Nicks, Nirvana, Type O Negative, Evanescence, Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.
She considers these artists - her teachers, learning from them but developing into her own.
I hope to offer something pleasing to those who come across my work.'

Poetry and Lyrics Blog ...
A contact form is located on her blog
or she can be contacted via ...









The Dark


Coralie Rowe




Biography:
C. Rowe is new to the writing scene. Previously a baker by trade, now a mum, Rowe found an interest in writing poetry and has been published in a horror anthology recently.

Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coralies-Rhetorical-Rhymes/227361550805522






"Xmas Lunch"
Santa and his elves
Are a merry little bunch
Eating all sorts of naughty kids
For their christmas day lunch
Randal got caught
Spraying graffiti on a sleigh
Now he is going to be
The appetizing entrée
Tommy was bad
He had hit his sisters
Now cooking in the oven
His skin crispy with blisters
Suzie was mean
Others feelings she hurt
Now getting whipped slowly
She'll make a great desert
So children beware
Because if you are bad
You'll be the best christmas lunch
Santa, ever has had





Jolly Folly
Christmas bells
Satan's hell
Watching the kids play
Feeling pissed
And slightly miffed
Where is his heyday, hey
Singing songs
Righting wrongs
Giving love and kisses
Opening gifts
The paper rips
Sounds like Satan's hisses
Feeling miffed
And slightly pissed
He's the red suit man
But another came
With toys and games
And ruined his grand plan
Now Satan frets
While Santa nets
All the greed of men
He's so jolly
They don't see the folly
Only what they yen 



 The Light


Trans Siberian Orchestra





Biography:
Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American progressive rock band founded in 1996 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O'Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli (both members of Savatage) and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team (Wiki).


The Snow Came Down

 Christmas Canon Rock



The Dark


D.S. Scott 




Biography:
When D. S. Scott was fourteen, a friend suggested he write a short story. He began writing and immediately took an interest in it. A couple weeks later he finished and was surprised to find how much he enjoyed writing it. In the years since, Scott has written in several genres but has found a particular interest in horror and suspense. He enjoys writing poetry, short stories and has started on a novel. Finding writing to be a creative outlet, he kept with it and followed his goal to publish.





Christmas Cheer - © D. S. Scott - 2014


Coming downstairs this Christmas Eve
I see the back door open letting in the cold
Santa can’t fit all my gifts down the chimney
I see him and realize he’s not like I was told

He doesn’t hear me approach from behind
But I see my parents are already there
Santa has let them join his party
And he has given them each a chair

I see with wide eyes that they are afraid
Then I notice they both are bound
With Christmas lights tied around them
I know I must not make a sound

Santa looks so very different
He is nothing like I thought
He does wear a suit of red
But in the act he has been caught

He must be taking my presents
Wanting to keep each one
I hear my mother sobbing
And my dad looks fed up and done

He asks Santa why he’s doing this
And Santa tells them that as a boy
He never once got a nice Christmas
And not a single moment of joy

Santa’s red suit looks so very strange
I see in big letters the word “INMATE”
He has no white hair and no long beard
He’s not even jolly and overweight

And so I decide to come a little closer
I need to know what this man is about
That is when my parents spot me
And both let out a scream and shout

Santa turns and seems startled
Recovering quickly he advances on me
I hear my dad tell him not to hurt his son
But this is the plan, it’s easy to see

He grabs me by the shoulders
And shakes me all around
But then he stops and hugs me
Like something lost and found

He yells out with joy
“Hello there, little brother
Come join us for Christmas
With father and our mother”

Suddenly I’m confused
Everything has changed
This man is not my Santa
This man is just deranged

“I never had fun with my family
Nothing quite like this
The times I never had
Things like this I had to miss

You see I was locked up
Thrown away and jailed
Mom and Dad here, well …
They quite simply failed

And so I did decide
To break out on this day
I wanted to be with you
To meet with you and stay

So I came here quickly
I came to see you tonight
I hope they don’t catch me soon
If they do I’ll put up a fight

I just needed to see you all
I didn’t know what else to do
You never visit, Mom and Dad
I really missed you too”

I truly have to wonder
So I give my parents a glare
They look away uneasily
As I continue to stare

Then the man inspects me closer
A long look of sheer glee
I don’t know what he expects
Surely he can’t think I’m happy

That’s when we hear the sirens
And across his face comes a frown
He seems quite depressed
So very dark and down

“Well I guess that’s my cue
It’s time for me to go
I left gifts for all of you all
Oh, and just so you know …

It was great to see you tonight
I hope I brought you cheer
One last thing before I leave …
I’ll see you all next year”





The Christmas Gift - © D. S. Scott - 2014

Waking up from a noise
I sneak downstairs to detect
I wonder if it’s Santa Claus
The one I do expect

All I see is a single gift
A present under the tree
I must know what it is
I know that it’s for me

Gifts come from Mommy
Nothing’s real about Santa Claus
Presents come from Daddy
But something I see gives me pause

There on the top of the box
Is a name penned in red letter
Signed by the one and only
It couldn’t get any better

I knew it all along
I knew Santa was real
I thought the stories were right
And this seals the deal

Mom and Dad don’t know
Everything is true
There’s only one thing left
I know what I must do

I know it’s not Christmas yet
It’s just a little bit early
It is only the night before
I think it would be okay, yes surely

I rip open the crinkly paper
And I cast aside the bow
I find a cardboard box
What it could be, I just don’t know

I am so very happy
I’m oh-so excited
I can’t wait a moment longer
I just know I’ll be delighted

So I pull apart the box
And I take a peek inside
Suddenly I can feel
A little bit of me has died

There is a piece of paper
A simple little note
Nothing more, nothing less
And here is what he wrote

“You have been naughty this time
I’ve watched you all year
Especially on this night
I saw what you did, oh dear

So this is why you won’t get any gifts
Not from me, your mom or dad
I can understand how upset you are
But it is your own fault that you are sad

Maybe you should check on your parents
Make your way back upstairs if you dare
Go into their bedroom and check
Make sure that they are still there”

Now I feel horror in my stomach
Now I am truly terrified
I run to the base of the staircase
And as I ran up them I cried

Running down the hall
Trying to reach the door I snuck past
Earlier that night I had to creep by
And finally, I reach it at last

I feel the floorboards creak below me
As I open up the door
I’m struck by a horrible sight
One plagued by blood and gore

There stands Santa Claus
Just at the foot of the bed
Mom and Dad aren’t moving
I think they may be dead

The jolly man bellows laughter
He doubles over with fun
Finally he spoke to me
As he pointed at me with a gun

“Hello there little child
I bring no games or a toy
Here’s what you get for being bad
So Merry Christmas, boy!”


************

Thank you, readers, for visiting the Poetry Today column. It's been a mixed blessing of ups and downs for the column this year, but as I've noted before: The column comes out each month somehow. It's a mystery and miracle to me how it gets done, but it does. Thank you to all the visual media folk for your contributions and to the poets themselves, be they scribes or musicians, for their participation this year. May you all have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from your blogger, the Servante of Darkness, Anthony Servante. 



Andrew D. Blacet (Words) Brande Barrett (Art)
Buy this fantastic poetic journey here.
Description: Here are poems for those who prefer to linger among the ruins, to listen for ghosts in leaning doorways or the driplines of caves; for those who appreciate the incipient dread of long shadows, the dark flourish of root and branch, the reflections of stars in wet sand. These are poems for the reader who does not require every puzzle to be solved, every monster to be dragged from its well and thrust into withering light. For those seeking reassurance from the familiar or mundane, look elsewhere. These are the thud of moist earth on the lid of a casket, the suggestion of half-formed faces budding in the boulders of a cliff – these are the occupants of the ditch.
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