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To celebrate, here's something from my last collection, Dark Energies (P'rea Press 2015).

Of One Who Dreamed

The old gods wake! From pole to pole, that cry
Disquiets midnight in a thousand tongues
Both common & unknown to prophesy
Some cataclysm. Since this world was young,
Its gods have come & gone; their praises sung
In temples or in battle, their rites kept
With incense or with sacrifice fresh-wrung
From writhing flesh. Yet elder powers slept
Beneath our seas. Beyond our stars. Adept
At camouflage, they shaped the waking dreams
Of one whose bleak imagination leapt
To correlate its contents -- into reams
Of warning left behind for all who sense
The stirrings of a darker Providence.

--Ann K. Schwader
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The PirateThe Pirate by Harold Schechter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A well-crafted nibble of historical true crime, circa 1860s USA. One of a series of novella-length pieces being offered to Amazon Prime members, in both Kindle & Audible format.

True crime fans & readers who enjoy sensational history would probably find the entire series of interest. I downloaded the series (in both formats) when it was first offered free. This first sample makes me glad I did.

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The Good HouseThe Good House by Tananarive Due

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decent modern Gothic horror novel -- feels like Southern Gothic even though most of it takes place in the Northwest --with some really fascinating Vodou aspects. The story is female-focused with a sympathetic protagonist who refuses to be a victim. All good! This is the first Due novel I've ever read / listened to, and I was hoping to broaden my horror reading experience.

In some ways, the novel did this. Unfortunately, it felt much too long, even given that it was a generational story. Combine this with a nonlinear storytelling style (the entire plot zigzags back and forth, sometimes by decades at a time) and an unsatisfying ending, and you wind up with a book that's rather hard to get through.

I think I may have stuck with it because the Audible narrator was doing an excellent job. I'm not sure I would have been so persistent if I'd had, say, a paperback.

YMMV, especially if you're really looking for a chewy late-summer chiller.

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Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fine sequel to All Systems Red (which you should definitely read first, if you haven't), & expands upon Murderbot's world of humans, augmented humans, & bots of various flavors. If anything, Murderbot's observations about both humanity & itself are more pointed.

The plot of this one starts directly after All Systems Red. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that it involves suppressed information, stolen files, at least a couple doses of good old-fashioned SF violence, & a transport with an AI every bit as snarky as Murderbot itself. Murderbot also goes through certain modifications to appear more human (at least augmented human), which gives him no end of psychological grief.

I continue to find these novellas great -- & thoughtful - fun, though the pricing problem remains. This time around, I checked out a Kindle copy from my local library.

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I've just received my early contributor's copy of Wishbone Moon (Jacar Press), a really lovely little haiku anthology.

Billing itself as "a groundbreaking anthology of haiku by women in the international haiku community," this perfect-bound volume is edited by Roberta Beary, Ellen Compton, & Kala Ramesh.

These three editors hail from Ireland, the USA, and India respectively, and their selections are equally diverse. I haven't finished this anthology yet -- it begs to be nibbled through and paused over! -- but a quick flip through its pages reveals haiku poets from Singapore, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and many other places. This is not a themed anthology, so there's a lot of variety in the haiku themselves as well.

The official publication date for this one is September. It will be available on both Amazon & the Jacar Press website,
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with room
to spare now
moon dust footprints

-- Ann K. Schwader
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Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of SuspenseNight-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I checked this out (in Kindle format) from my local library simply to read "Night-Gaunts," & found myself unable to stop. I'd read a certain amount of Oates in the past, but never a full collection of her tales . . .wow. Definitely a mind-altering experience, though one has to get used to her ambiguous endings. In most cases, the reader is never going to be 100% sure how a particular story ended -- though this is not the same as a story dribbling away into nothing. These definitely end, but with a lot of uncertainty for both the reader and the characters.

The title tale is actually the final one (yes, I read it first), & will probably work best for those with some knowledge of H.P. Lovecraft's life. I didn't agree with all the author's plot choices in this one, but enjoyed it anyhow.

The other five stories do not have a Lovecraftian flavor (at least, they didn't to me), & could probably be appreciated by anyone with a taste for slow-burn creepiness. These are, indeed, tales of suspense rather than horror. Most of the horror is hidden between the lines of breathtakingly elegant prose. All six tales are reprints, but from such obscure sources that most readers won't have encountered more than possibly one of them before.

Highly recommended for fans of quiet/literary horror & suspense, and a great summer read for those of us who find our tastes running to darkness this time of year.

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The Blue RoomThe Blue Room by Georges Simenon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A creepy, slow-burn, literary crime novel. My first experience reading Georges Simenon (in translation -- my high school French wouldn't be up for this), and maybe not my last.

Essentially, this is the story of a passionate & adulterous affair -- possibly a love affair, possibly not -- and its consequences. The story is woven back and forth in time, adding to the reader's suspense.

For me this was practically a psychological horror novel. The main POV character, though unlikeable, is well and truly trapped. At times, his struggles seemed more cowardly than pathetic, and I never did warm up to the guy. The ending will be staying with me for a long time, though.

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the stretch
of one man's shadow

-- Ann K. Schwader
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All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A right-sized, straight-up SF mystery tale -- from the POV of a self-aware security android. This last bit makes all the difference. Murderbot (its own name for itself, due to a nasty piece of backstory) seems more aware of its own motivations -- and the motivations of others -- than any of the humans or augmented humans in this story.

I found Murderbot's quirky, brutally honest voice the most compelling thing about this visit to an Evil Corporate Future. The rest of the SF trappings are done well enough, but (for me) only this unique POV made the adventure stand out. I really liked Murderbot, which is why I'm sad about the Kindle pricing of future entries in the Murderbot Diaries. Novel prices for novella-length works, no matter how Nebula-winning, are pretty much a nonstarter for me

Fortunately, my local library has the next volume on order.

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Elizabeth II: Life of a MonarchElizabeth II: Life of a Monarch by Ruth Cowen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short (8, 30 minute "chapters") Audible Original offering is a well-produced brief biography of the current Queen. It is currently available on Audible Channels, and is well worth the listening time for Anglophiles. I'm not sure whether it's available for separate purchase.

I found this light but very interesting (with a few mentions of the royal Corgis, always a plus for me). It's a fairly balanced look at at the royal family, with plenty of dirty laundry being aired along with the high points. The tone was more historical than gossipy, which I appreciated.

Good for those still curious after the recent royal wedding, or anyone wanting a solid but quick overview.

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The Prisoner of Limnos (Penric and Desdemona, #6)The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Any new Penric and Desdemona adventure is worth celebrating (and for many of us, worth acquiring). How much a reader will celebrate this one depends on whether her/his tastes run to romance or magic systems. I personally craved a little more chaos demon and "uphill magic" in action, though I found this novella's resolution satisfying.

I won't attempt to summarize the fairly straightforward rescue plot. Most of the real pleasure here lies in the working out of Pen and Nikys' relationship (though, thank all the Five Gods, it isn't completely worked out -- which means another novella), with a heavy side order of this world's religious system.

As might be expected from the title, there are some nasty threats -- including some court intrigue I did want to see worked out better -- but no serious grimdark elements. Bujold does a fine job of implying rather than detailing the sometimes violent nature of her world, which I for one appreciate.

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CirceCirce by Madeline Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an utterly lovely -- though brutal at points & heartbreaking at other points -- book, possibly the loveliest I've read since my last Guy Gavriel Kay excursion.

Key points of The Odyssey are retold (possibly reclaimed) by a very NOT-minor minor goddess, in first person and with complete honesty. Speaking from a mythology from an ancient culture that did not value women highly, the witch/sorceress Circe turns the tables on narrative expectations and brings not only herself, but many other "minor" female characters (and monsters!) into the spotlight.

There is a definite revisionist flavor to this one, but the politics never get in the way. Highly recommended for lovers of mythology, prose poetry, and/or writers like Mary Renault.

The Audible version is narrated by Perdita Weeks, who sounds exactly as one would expect a Perdita Weeks to sound. YMMV, but I was very glad I spent a credit to enhance my experience.

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big blue pin
in their invasion map
Earth Day

-- Ann K. Schwader
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I am very happy to announce that speculative fiction webzine Abyss & Apex #66 is up,
with an extensive poetry TOC:

Introduction to Poetry Issue 66 by John C. Mannone
“The Song of Unknown Night” by Hongri Yuan
“To Watch the World Burn” by Jason Harris
“Rebellion” by Genevieve DeGuzman
“A City Built On Bones” by Ann Schwader
"Oatk Ash, and Crow" by Rebecca Buchanan
“The Honored” by WC Roberts
“Paul Bunyan and the Whirlwind Mountain” by Gabriel Ertsgaard
“La Belle a la Bête” by Brittany Hause
“Tea Leaves” by Hilary Biehl
“Zojaj” by Sheikha A.

My villanelle "A City Built On Bones"
was inspired by the 2017 earthquake in Mexico City, plus a healthy helping of Atzec mythology.
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West CorkWest Cork by Sam Bungey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one reminded me a lot of People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman, though set in a much different environment and with a less definite conclusion. The problem of an "outsider" woman killed in a mysterious manner is combined with her family (also "outsider") trying to get justice, plus less than helpful local law enforcement and a problematic legal system. There is also a remarkably irritating prime suspect.

The very Irish flavor here (a few of the interviewees needed subtitles, though how one could do that on audio I'm not sure) made a real change from traditional British mysteries, though it did have some of the same feeling. The series' close-up look at the An Garda Síochána (Irish national police) was fascinating.

I hesitated between 3 and 4 stars for this, but finally settled on 4 because it really did keep me listening. I suspect that a real true crime fan might find it even more worthwhile. Since I'm only an occasional true crime reader/listener, I was somewhat glad I'd gotten this one free from Audible.

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fifty years later
still waiting for HAL
pod bay door

-- Ann K. Schwader
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Here in the USA, at least, it's National Poetry Month! (Yes, it really is a thing.) Are you ready?

If not (and I never seem to be), here are some links to get a little more free poetry into your life:
(what the heck IS National Poetry Month, anyhow?)
(Poem-A-Day . . . get a fresh poem in your Inbox every day. Poems M-F are originals, weekends bring you classics. )
(how to sign up for Poetry Daily & their special April Poets' Pick emailings. They're running a fund drive, too, but everything here is free. Poem selections here are from a variety of mainstream poetry journals, & some are in translation.)
(Knopf Poetry Poem-A-Day sign-up. Free, & only for April, but does sign you up for occasional "information" about other poets they publish. I've found it non-intrusive, & the poetry here is excellent.)
(Rattle Poetry. Online & print journal offering yet another chance to have a poem in your Inbox daily. Some of the poetry here is speculative, though Rattle is not a spec poetry journal.)
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I'm a little late in posting about this, but still very happy to announce that Spectral Realms #8 (Winter 2018) is now available from Hippocampus Press.

This twice-yearly trade paperback journal of weird verse (edited by S.T. Joshi) continues to offer a comprehensive look at the latest renaissance of this sub-genre. This time around, it's over 130 pages: new work, classic reprints (only two), one article, and two reviews of recent collections.

Contributors include most of the Usual Suspects, both veterans and newcomers. One of the former is Yours Truly, with "Volunteers" (blank verse sonnet).

For the complete TOC, or to order with FREE shipping:

February 2019

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