Thoughts on poetry

This post originally appeared on my official author blog, KMRandallAuthor.com on 7/6/2014 

5431063I’ve read a lot of poetry lately from fellow writers floating around on Facebook and authors’ blogs. I used to be really into it when I was a teenager and even in my early twenties. But at some point it became less of a focus, or else I just lost my knack for it. But I’ve always loved to read it. I have books that belonged to my mother and my grandfather before her, that I’d sit with, endlessly flipping pages and trying to find the perfect poem to describe a mood or situation. A lot of angst-ridden teens, or even those without the angst, tend to get in on the moody word play that can be so satisfying in the art of poetry.

I honestly haven’t written a poem in years at this point except to have put together a prophecy for my novel,Fractured Dream, and that sort of writing is kin to poetry. But I thought I’d share one I wrote when I was 20 or so. This was after my first love broke my heart and I was left picking up the grainy pieces. And then the second is just my favorite poem from when I was younger. I used to read it over and over. It’s about death, which is morbid, but it’s also about endless love. And I think that’s what I liked best about it.

The poem by me is called I Loved You Last. I actually had it published in some book at the time, but it was one of those set-ups where you sent in a poem and, to actually get a published copy of it, you had to spend $20 or so to buy the hardcover book, which in this case was called The Brilliance Of Night: The International Library of Poetry. I don’t really think they were too discerning about who they put in the book. What can I say, I was young, naive and broken-hearted . . . I do have the book though. It sits on a shelf beneath my coffee table, although the cover is by now pretty worn. I did get to show the boy in question some years later the poem I had written after he’d so effectively torn my heart asunder. But by then, I was of course beyond the apology that was issued, although it was appreciated. Hearts break all the time and sometimes poetry is borne from it. I’ve since found two loves of my life, my husband and son, so this poem is just a blast from the past, but the heart healed long ago. You can be the judge of whether it was bad or good.

I Loved You Last

Do you remember when we first sat there and you told me you loved me? My gaze drifting away uneasily as I slightly smiled and said, “Thank you.”

And you claimed you’d love me until the end of eternity, and that roses would never smell so sweet, and that the sun would never burn so hot, and the wind would never feel so right if I wasn’t there.

Do you remember when I first started to love you, when your smile shone from the depths of your soul and I couldn’t help but fall, my “thank yous” stopped and “I love yous” began?

It somehow seemed at the end that it was I that loved you more, and the irony has fallen deeply on me since you’ve gone away, for the snow is not as fresh, nor the autumn leaves as beautiful, nor the night’s deep stillness as mysterious since you’ve gone away.

You loved me first, but I loved you last.

***

Now, reading the below poem, I remember why I liked it so much as a teenager. One, I think I was really into the fact that she had dark brown hair, like me, and thin lips, also like me. I was self-conscious at the time that I didn’t have the lush, full lips of all the girls in the books I was reading, or the movies as well as some of my actual friends. Second, I was fascinated with death, the afterlife. At that time in my life, my one friend and I had weekly sessions with the Ouija Board. And of course, finally, this poem is also a love story. I’m not the same teenage girl, but I do still love this poem. I like it now because I like what it says about living beyond death (my aging self likes to believe there’s something beyond), and that love never dies, which my now-jaded spirit can still get in line with. I’m a writer after all.

He and She

“She is dead!” they said to him; “come away;
Kiss her and leave her—thy love is clay!”

They smoothed her tresses of dark brown hair;
On her forehead of stone they laid it fair;

With a tender touch they closed up well
The sweet thin lips that had secrets to tell;

About her brows and beautiful face
They tied her veil and her marriage lace;

And over her bosom they crossed her hands,
“Come away! they said; “God understands.”

And they held their breath till they left the room,
With a shudder, to glance at its stillness and gloom.

But who he loved her too well to dread
The sweet, the stately, the beautiful dead,

He lighted his lamp and took the key
And turned it—alone again, he and she.

He and she; yes she could not smile,
Though he called her the name she loved erewhile.

He and she; but she would not speak,
Though he kissed, in the old place, the quiet cheek.

He and she; still she did not move
To any one passionate whisper of love.

Then he said: “Cold lips and breast without breath,
Is there no voice, no language of death,

“Dumb to the ear and still to the sense,
But to heart and to soul distinct, intense?

“See now; I will listen with soul, not ear.
What was the secret of dying, dear?

“Was it the infinite wonder of all
That you ever could let life’s flower fall;

“Or was it a greater marvel to feel
The perfect calm o’er the agony steal?

“Was the miracle greater to find how deep
Beyond all dreams sank downward that sleep?”

“Did life roll back its records, dear;
And show, as they say it does, past things clear?

“And was it the innermost part of the bliss
To find out so, what a wisdom love is?

“O perfect dead! O dead most dear,
I hold the breath of my soul to hear!

“There must be pleasure in dying, sweet,
To make you so placid from head to feet!

“I would tell you, darling, if I were dead,
And ‘t were your hot tears upon my brow shed–

“I would say, though the Angel of Death had laid
His sword on my lips to keep it unsaid.

“You should not ask vainly, with streaming eyes,
Which of all deaths was the chiefest surprise,

“The very strangest and suddenest thing
Of all the surprises that dying must bring.”

Ah, foolish world! O most kind dead!
Though he told me, who will believe it was said?

Who will believe that he heard her say,
With the sweet, soft voice, in the dear old way;

“The utmost wonder of this—I hear,
And see you, and love you, and kiss you, dear;

“And am your angel, who was your bride,
And know that, though dead, I have never died.”
–Sir Edwin Arnold

Fractured Dream’s playlist grows

This post originally appeared on my official author blog, KMRandallAuthor.com on 6/30/2014

 

I love music, but I’m not always that great with names of songs or even remembering to write it down when I hear something I like. So I think it’s really cool when I find someone who has read Fractured Dream and tells me that a scene or a character makes them think of a specific song. Recently, one of my early readers mentioned that Without You by Breaking Benjamin really reminded her of my main character, and once I listened to it I was totally on board. A work friend and fellow writer is currently reading Fractured Dream and told me today that Howl by Florence and The Machine reminded her of another character(s) in my book. Now, there are many fairytale retellings within these pages, so can you guess who the song might be about? I’ll let you think it out, and in the meantime, you can have a listen. I think it’s perfect. I could never build my own playlist for my book, but I love that readers are beginning to.

 

The search for symbolism & meaning in literature

PictureA friend of mine and I were recently talking about the launch of my debut novel, Fractured Dream. He went on to say that he’s never known an author before and began to reminisce:


“I always blanched at my English teachers who talked about symbolism and shite in One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest or Slaughterhouse Five or the Great Gatsby or the Catcher in the Rye. Now I can actually ask the author, what did you mean by that, and you can say, nothing, nothing at all.”

He has a point. I remember college discussions breaking down piece by piece various authors and their books. What did they mean by that? What did this object in this scene convey? What did it represent? I took a class, titled Witchcraft, when I was probably in my second year. It was an honors class in which we learned about the European witch trials as well as the original fairytales. And I remember thinking as we discussed phallic symbols (and there were a lot of them), did the writer really mean to pepper their prose with penis-shaped objects or clouds, or what have you, to symbolize masochism? Was there really a thought process behind it all? There very well could have been, but it does seem as if the readers and thinkers who came later perhaps pushed agendas onto whole pargraphs that were merely meant to be description or backdrop to the setting of a scene.

My friend continued to note how he’d gotten into an argument with a teacher in high school over a scene where Randle Patrick McMurphy, the main character in One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest, flicked a low hanging Halloween decoration of a bat with his fingers. and she told his class it symbolized evil and his aversion to it. My friend’s comment: “And I’m like wait, ‘I see a low hanging something anywhere and I just hit it for no reason. Isn’t it possible that it symbolizes nothing?’ She would have none of it.”

This is not to say that writers don’t have agendas, because they most definitely do. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe are just two examples of literature that was also a social commentary on the inhumane treatment of fellow human beings. And these novels helped to change the world. Even fantasy can have overarching elements. I’ve read before that JRR Tokien’s The Lord of The Rings was influenced in part by his dislike of industrialism.

But, sometimes description is just that. Description. I write fantasy, so first and foremost, I write for entertainment, to give people the mode to escape by discovering new worlds, by allowing people to revel in the magic of a new reality. That’s not to say there aren’t underlying themes, which if you paid enough attention to you could catch: class/racism, environmentalism, religion, cosmology and of course, loyalty, self-discovery, sacrifice, taking responsibility for one’s actions and love. I also often assign names to my characters that gives some insight to their personality or inner nature, and in doing so giving more meaning to their presence within the book.

Indeed, context and depth are important elements in my writing. But the rock, Story, my main character, picks up to skip across the water while lost in thought? It’s just a rock. And that bat was probably just a bat.

A fellow author and friend gives some insights into the use of symbolism in her own writing. She notes that although she believes a lot of times it happens on a subconscious level, using symbolism can also be a great writing tool. Check it out here at Thayer’s Grey Matter.

Fractured Dream launches!

PictureIt’s finally here! Fractured Dream (The Dreamer Saga) launched today! Eight years ago I had an idea and today that idea has come to fruition. I am so thankful to everyone who has supported me and all the reviewers out there for reading and getting the word out there. Check it out on Amazon, available in both print and e-format.

Here’s the blurb for anyone who might be interested:

Have you ever wondered where fairytales go once they’re created?

It’s been eight years since Story Sparks last had a dream. Now they’re back, tormenting her as nightmares she can’t remember upon waking. The black waters of Lake Sandeen, where her Uncle Peter disappeared decades before, may hold the secret to Story’s hidden memories, or a truth she’d rather not know. On a bright summer afternoon, Story and her two best friends, Elliott and Adam, take a hike to the lake, where they dive into the cool water and never reemerge. What they find is beyond anything they’ve ever imagined could be possible, a world where dangers lurk in the form of Big Bad Wolves, living Nightmares and meddlesome witches and gods.

 

Puff the Magic Dragon: Mommy Slayer

 

PictureThis week my mother gave my three-year-old son a children’s edition of Puff the Magic Dragon, along with little finger puppets featuring Jackie Paper and Puff. She recently told me he was very unhappy about the fact that he was missing the copy of Puff The Magic Dragon I had originally bought him some months ago. Except it was the old-school edition, adapted from Romeo Muller’s film version I’d always loved as a kid. He’d ripped many of the pages out of the book a while ago on some little boy’s destructive bender, and I’d taken it out of his room in an attempt to salvage what was left. This is why I highly doubted that he was actually missing this specific book, which we’d barely read because of its length. But she insisted. I think they have a secret language because my son is delayed in language so his expressive vocab is fairly limited at the moment. So like I said, I was skeptical he had actually detailed this to her in anything but a few words and gestures.

But anyway, he was happy when she brought it over. He’s been carrying around the book and the finger puppets for the last two days. But it was today when my heart got squishy over Puff, Jackie Paper and my son. My mom, as grandmothers do, loves to bring presents. Today, she came bearing a stuffed Puff music box that winds up and plays Puff the Magic Dragon, a poem written by Peter Yarrow and Leonard Lipton and first put to music in 1963 by Peter, Paul and Mary.

I made some comment about how his birthday must have come early, and she responded that Puff helped Jackie Paper talk (in the cartoon movie and Muller rendition). It was then that I realized why Puff was so special for a little boy still grasping with language. He’s been carrying around the stuffed toy all day and clutched it hard to his chest as we mounted the stairs to bed.

At bed time we always read books, and tonight it was Puff the Magic Dragon. As I sang this beautifully illustrated book rendition of the song to him, we used the finger puppets to make the book come alive, making Puff frolic through the air and Jackie Paper give him “sealing wax and other fancy stuff.”

But it was when Puff goes into his cave because Jackie Paper doesn’t come back that I felt like I was about to turn a magical bedtime moment into sniffles.

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.

While my son was winding up his music box Puff and making finger puppet Puff frolic, I was about to melt into a puddle and start sobbing. Because little boys grow up and it was never so apparent to me more than in that moment with my little boy snuggling his Puff. And someday he’ll talk in full sentences and the memory of the time when his vocab was a bit miniscule will be but a distant thought. But unlike Jackie Paper, I hope he never stops believing in the power of flying dragons, just like I will never forget the very essence of childhood magic wrapped up in a stuffed toy given as a symbol of love, a song and my little boy.

This post originally appeared on my official author blog, KMRandallAuthor.com on 6/11/2014

TPicture I just wanted to let anyone know stopping by who might be interested in reading Fractured Dream that there are several giveaways going on at various book review blogs. Check out the links below if I’ve piqued your frugal interest!

The Bibliophilic Book Blog is giving seven e-copies away until June 23.

You can enter the book blitz for Fractured Dream at Tome Tender, who also gave me a lovely 5-star review. The offer ends June 21.

Finally, Dave Brendon at Dave Brendon’s Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog posted a giveaway offering three e-book copies in addition to posting an excerpt from Fractured Dream. If you’re interested in hearing more, here’s your chance to meet some Big Bad Wolves.

Friday excerpts: Death does cheerleading

This post originally appeared on my official author blog, KMRandallAuthor.com on 05/23/2014.

 

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Artist Credits: Steven G. via DeviantArt.com

The picture to the left is a little abstract, but the pale blue eyes match Blake’s, my main character in my work in progress, called The Reaper’s Daughter. I also liked the wings because they also symbolize to me the Grim Reaper’s wings of death. Anyway, the excerpt below is from Chapter 1. I’m hoping to have this book finished later this summer/early fall.

The Reaper’s Daughter by KM Randall
Excerpt from Ch. 1

The Specters are black
The Specters are white
The Specters will haunt you and fight, fight, fight!

My breath fogged in the air as I shouted the cheer, while my fingerless gloves muffled my claps in the early autumn afternoon. I marched and clapped my way into formation and prepped myself for the lift. I felt my base, Brandon, wrap his strong hands around my calves and ankles and then I was soaring up, the wind whooshing around me, my feet instinctively planting onto his shoulders and my muscles working to keep myself balanced. The adrenalin kicked in, giving me that rush, the one that made it seem as if my blood sparkled within me and my heart danced in symphony to the head thrashing of eighties hair bands. The only reason I was on the squad was to be a flyer. It was like a death wish, sailing through the air like that, propelling my body in a way most sane people wouldn’t dare. Plus, I got to satisfy both my physical need to be propelled through space and my dad’s need for me to do it in a structured environment while furthering my school career.

Just as I got my balance atop Brandon’s shoulders, I noticed the crows. Their big, black bodies were littered all over the field like a bad omen—just sitting there, not doing anything but staring. Or maybe they were watching. I don’t know why in those moments I was so focused on the birds, but they had always creeped me out. Maybe because they tended to hang out in my backyard like they were waiting to pick someone off. And that’s when I saw him.

He had light brown skin that made me think of caramel and his silky black hair was pulled back into a ponytail. But it was his intense dark eyes that looked as if they’d been lined with kohl that made me pause, because there was no way to look away. He was sitting amidst the crowded stands, but he was the only person I saw. Everything around me fell away aside from the thundering of my heart and his slow, cocksure grin that split his mouth as he winked a dazzling golden brown eye my way. It was the grin that did it, making me shudder so hard I felt my balance slip. I tried to recover, my arms wind-milling around me, but I heard the audience in the bleachers gasp and knew it wasn’t good. And then there was just air around me.

Copyright by Katrina M. Mendolera

Book Cover Love

This post originally appeared on my official author blog, KMRandallAuthor.com on 5/21/2014.

I’m back with new, pretty book covers. Here’s a few of my latest faves. I’m going to totally include my own since I’m biased like that.

The first two I nabbed from Summer Reads YA, because the blogger features some really great eye candy picks on a weekly basis. Although, I’d seen an ad for Dorothy Must Die on Goodreads several times and was intrigued by the cover and premise. I simply just like the second one. You can’t see the tagline, but it reads, “off with their heads,” so it was as much the art as it was the tag that got me. In the third cover, the red of her hair creates such a sharp contrast to the gray of the sky. 

The first book below is, you’ve probably guessed, my beautiful book cover designed by the talented Greg Simanson at Booktrope Publishing. The second, also designed by Simanson, is a book I edited. But biased or not biased, the cover is beautiful, with the blues and greens looking like strokes from a paintbrush. Thirdly, I give you Joe Vampire: Night Falls. Although I have yet to read this new short in his series, author Steve Luna recently redesigned his covers and this one is my favorite. But they’re all pretty fantastic. 
If you have any favorite book covers send me a link. I love book cover eye candy.

Fractured Dream starts to get a soundtrack

This post originally appeared on my main author blog, KMRandallAuthor.com on 5/12/2014/

One of my early readers was listening to this recently and said it reminded her of my upcoming novel, Fractured Dream. I just love that she thought of my book when listening to music, and the fact that it’s already got the first song of a soundtrack

 

Excerpt + fantasy art: taking down the big bad wolf

 This post originally appeared on my main author blog, KMRandallAuthor.com on 5/9/2014/

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Artist Credits: Julie Bell & Boris Vallejo

Here’s an excerpt from my writing with a fantasy art pic to go with it. I just love fantasy art, and what better way to appreciate it than illustrate scenes from Fractured Dream. The below excerpt is from the beginning of Chapter 10: The-Inbetween, and gives us our first glimpse of one of the fairytale characters that gets a retelling. Although the girl in the picture is lacking in clothes, I imagine Jess looking fierce like this, but with silvery eyes of course.

Excerpt Chapter 10 – The In-Between
Fractured Dream (The Dreamer Saga) pub date: June 21

Story’s dreams that night starred the same red-haired woman from her paintings. She was tall, fierce, and terrible. Her eyes gleamed like chrome lit with a vengeful mercurial fire as animals ran from her, their eyes white with terror. It was her painting come to life.

Story watched from an unseen place, wondering why this deceptively beautiful night stalker made her feel so afraid—not for herself, but for the woman. The red-haired predator came upon her quarry, a hulking black-pelted wolf. She leapt with feline grace and landed on the animal, sharp steel glinting in the moonlight before she plunged it into its neck, the wolf’s fur soaking up the red that leaked from his wound. She started to gut the animal and seemed intent on the task for a few seconds. Story thought she might start puking in the bushes any moment, watching the girl slice into the wolf. She was swallowing bile back down when she realized the redhead was staring directly at her. The girl’s steel eyes widened as if she were seeing a ghost, the cold glint of her gaze losing its edge. A smile slowly curved the woman’s full, sensual mouth.

“Story?” she asked, rising to her feet.