Interview with Poet Sun Hesper Jansen

Sun Hesper Jansen 2020
Photo submitted by Sun Hesper Jansen

Biography:

I was raised in godless, liberal Madison, Wisconsin, where I still live and work in order to support a longstanding travel habit. I always called myself a writer, but it wasn’t until about ten years ago that I really made an effort to learn the craft. That was when I was diagnosed with MS, and I created my first blog as therapy for that. Currently, in addition to posting poetry and prose on my blogs, I’m working on a high fantasy novel, and hope to have that published in 2021; that will be my debut novel.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

This last year, a poem of mine was included in the anthology, As the World Burns; Writers and Artists Reflect on a World Gone Mad (Indie Blu(e) Publishing, 2020); that was the first time I’d been invited to submit my work, and it’s an extraordinary time capsule, and I was in the company of many authors I admire. I look forward to working on other projects with that group in the future. 

Why do you write?

To function in society. That was true before MS, but between that and depression and the magical-realist lens through which I’ve always seen life, if I didn’t write to channel it all, I’d either be dead or institutionalized. Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I do it to entertain myself with worlds I’d rather live in. But writing SFF gives me the ability to write social commentary too, so it’s not just self-indulgent escapism.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

My processes for poetry and prose are pretty different. I won’t revise a poem more than twice — and no one else edits it — but I will rewrite the same chapter of my book five times before I say it’s good enough to give to my editors/friends/beta readers. In all my writing, though, I read everything out loud when I consider it the next-to-final draft. The full audiobook treatment; it’s the best part.

My writing habits are dictated a lot by how well I feel, but I try to write at least a paragraph every morning — before work on a weekday, but on weekends, I will write (or rewrite) all day if I can. I can write anywhere, but I usually wrestle my cat for the sunny spot on the living room couch.

As for rituals, when I’m dealing with some blockage or just testing something new, I do Tarot readings. Just a single card can illuminate some aspect of a character or plot line that’s giving me trouble. I have different decks for different sorts of problems.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

Not often for the blog, or other publications I’ve submitted poems to, but for the novel, absolutely. It’s a good thing my critique partner/editor, Audra, is such a fan of it because I’ve given her so many new drafts and it’s been years…  I’m also grateful to my friend Kat, who writes middle-grade SFF/horror and is a master editor; she doesn’t really have time for my work these days but everything I write passes the scrutiny of my ‘inner Kat’. And also I’m lucky to be married to someone who’s well-versed in SFF; Steve is way better than a Tarot deck when it comes to serious plot dilemmas.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

I can tell you about To Tune the Beast, the novel in progress; it won’t be a spoiler since I don’t have a publication date, and everyone will have forgotten all about it by the time it comes out! It features manticores that are essentially living instruments, several non-human species, parasitic ghosts, revolutionaries, a tyrannical musical aristocracy, and several star-crossed lovers including the protagonists — two young women from opposite sides of the class divide. I call it a ‘high fantasy’ but it’s really a romance with monsters. My plan for 2021, in addition to publishing “The Beast”, is to write a satisfying number of short monstrous romances.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

To create memorable characters and worlds that will occupy the brains of as many human beings besides myself as I can manage, and do no lasting psychological harm.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Even if you consider yourself a novice, never call yourself an amateur. That is advice I actually got from Gene Wolfe (may he rest in peace), who replied to a letter in which I’d spoken of myself as an amateur by saying “If you write, you’re a writer; that’s what it means.” So, in other words, forget about your list of publications, read and befriend good writers and develop your craft, and write every day. And don’t worry that by studying the styles of the writers you admire, you’ll be derivative. I always wanted to write like Gene Wolfe, but instead I pretty much ended up just sounding like myself.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

The WordPress poetry and fiction and art community is amazing. That’s how I discovered The Chamber. A lot of writers are out there sharing great information on the literary craft and business, and though comments will never take the place of critique, the support and inspiration you get are invaluable. Writers’ conventions are useful, but if you write SFF/horror, it can be underrepresented as a genre. So if there’s a sci-fi Con near you, and it offers writing workshops, take advantage of that. Or come to Madison! We’re the home of WisCon, a world-class feminist sci-fi Con with excellent writers’ workshops, which are unbelievably affordable. (I’m looking forward to when it’s in-person again, but hopefully they’ll run it online this year.)

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

My two blogs are Away from the Machine (awayfromthemachine.wordpress.com, mostly poetry) and The Fairy of Disenchantment (thefairyofdisenchantment.wordpress.com, which has most of my older writings). You can also find me on Twitter @SunHesper, and Instagram @sunhesper (caveat: there’s not much there but pictures of knitting, craft beers, instruments, and my cat).


“The Exact Same Words” Micro Fiction by Marcelo Medone

“It’s been a long time since you came to visit me,” my mother said, in her best victim voice.

I didn’t want to explain her that my relationship with Alice wasn’t going well and the same thing happened to me at work. I looked helplessly at the bouquet of flowers in my hand.

“You never failed visiting me before” she insisted. “If your father lived, he wouldn’t allow it.”

“Precisely, Dad is dead.”

“Because of you!”

I threw the flowers at my feet, disgusted.

“Death solves all problems,” I said, ending the conversation.

The exact same words I told Alice before hammering her head. And that I told the boss when I showed up at the factory with my AR-15 rifle.

“Bye, Mom,” I muttered.

I walked away from her grave without looking back.


Marcelo Medone (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1961) is a medical doctor, lyric tenor singer, painter, journalist, fiction writer, poet and screenwriter. His fiction and poetry has received awards and has been published in reviews and editions in various languages in more than 20 countries, in Latin America, USA, Canada, Spain, France, Nigeria, India and Australia. He currently lives in San Fernando, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

“Potions” Short Story by Tom Garback

I did not know her name, nor if she went by she. It was them, then, who made me this way because I had stolen something. So much for the memory of ghosts.

The visual proof of my beautiful body had faded fully. Once on a beach south of here, in San Diego, a dog seemed to sniff out where I’d known my left foot to be, but it was only a rat coming through.

Life’s not all as bad as dogs. They’ve taken me off the Wanted billboards, for example.

Without a reason one day, I decided to fix myself. But how could I regurgitate that drink I’d drunken if my body were gone? It almost made me wonder at my sentience, but I learned to forget about that.

No one lived in the vacated property where it happened. The stained-glass windows were pounded in, their litter mixed in with tiny pebbles, and I thought of how anything adds up, and the dual tigress statuettes out front only licked dry grass now. I envied the impressions they made. The broadness of daylight reminded me of how it felt to stand in the sun. Remembrance called me to go inside. Police tape and water warped planks had fallen here, forming my red carpet of sorts.

My creaks and clatters were muffled by distance and the freeway. I thought of how little invisible meant when you had sound, though my voice had been taken with my flesh.

Spaces as I’d left them: the grand piano to the left with three broken keys, a refrigerator peeking from down the hall, its only occupants melted and dried up out of the icebox. Up the stairs a bedroom. I made sure it wasn’t my own, but theirs.

Inside the scrapbook, plastic sheets melted, binding ashy. The memories were hardly useful to me now. I set the book down, wondered at having been able to pick it up, and was humored by my contradictions.

Then the opaque bags in the closet. I picked one up to weary déjà vu. By their last night, I’d almost grown as hooked. Seeing their restful fate, I wish I had.

Laughter came through the window’s slanted ray of light. Kids on the street. “We dared you,” one said.

“Alright, alright.”

I tried to scream, recalled my restrictions, and took to stomping around, tossing the melted curtains, upturning the piss-stained mattress, shattering the lamp’s glass base. Immediately, screams. Then nothing. It was good. I couldn’t bear the thought of them discovering the closet. This was how I came to seeing the noise I made as an end to the cycle that had taken me halfway, taken them all the way. It would not take anyone else anyway, so long as I kept guard here, even if it be for eons of unseen wreckage.

I allowed myself to peer out on the street, wondering at my lack of eyes. There a boy stood over the tigress statuettes. He kicked their dumb tongues, growled, pounced.

“A New Vision” Micro Fiction by Marcelo Medone

I never liked flies. Perhaps because I associated them with death and illness, with corpses and worms, with the filthiest of the zoological scale.

So, when my Buddhist teacher told me that there was this possibility of reincarnating into a lower being, I panicked.

I changed my lifestyle and I set out to climb the steps of the ladder towards the enlightenment of Nirvana.

I got rid of my belongings and relied on charity.

I meditated fervently.

Even in my last agony, I followed the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead to the letter.

Now, in my new life, I see everything differently with my multifaceted eyes.


Marcelo Medone (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1961) is a medical doctor, lyric tenor singer, painter, journalist, fiction writer, poet and screenwriter. His fiction and poetry has received awards and has been published in reviews and editions in various languages in more than 20 countries, in Latin America, USA, Canada, Spain, France, Nigeria, India and Australia. He currently lives in San Fernando, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

“Sonata No. 6 (for Julian Scriabin)” Poem by Sun Hesper Jansen

 I shiver when the work is finished,
 and ask if she is pleased – knowing she
 cannot answer in any human tongue. 
 I do not breathe until she retreats
 to the silent murk, sated for now. 
  
 Such were your words, Papa – murky, 
 nightmarish, and uncleanfor the 
 one piece that will ever appease her. 
 Did you know that it would fall to me,
 endlessly, to feed what you released?
  
 No longer. My music, neglected, strains
 in the hollows of my skull. I wake
 for days, and fear to sleep, certain now
 that no choice remains but this. Today,
 I will take our little skiff into the mist.
  
 The water is black and deep here, and 
 there are no witnesses for what's to come. 
 Far below, the mud stirs and in that
 obscure movement I hear the accursed chord.
 Her gaze glitters like buried stars.
  
 I drop to the depths a futile bargain.
 For time, for even temporary freedom,
 to create what I can. There is sorrow
 in her opening arms, but no mercy. 
 Your legacy, Papa, engulfs me.
 

Sun Hesper Jansen is a writer of romantic high fantasy, magical realism, and poetry who divides her time between south-central Wisconsin and northern New Mexico. She is the author of the blog ‘Away from the Machine’ (awayfromthemachine.wordpress.com) where she writes on/as literary therapy for multiple sclerosis.


“Ouija Board” Short Story by Bogdan Dragos

Well, when you’re desperate you’re…

“Me,” he said. He was alone in the room and lonely enough to have bought one of those Ouija boards from some old woman who called herself a medium. It was time to try it out.

All he hoped for was a sexy ghost that would haunt him, maybe hurt him a bit, he wouldn’t mind. Anything just to take away the soul-crushing loneliness. Anything!

He said the prayers exactly as the medium instructed and did the breathing exercises and was ready to use the board. He moved the piece to spell HELLO. Got no answer. Looked around the room. Nothing. Again, he spelled HELLO. IS ANYONE HERE? ANYONE AT ALL? ARE YOU FEMALE? Nothing. Nothing new at least. Only more loneliness and more frustration and deeper down the rabbit hole of misfits he slipped.

WELL FUCK YOU! he spelled, and jammed the pointy side of the piece into his eye and rammed his face into the board, driving the piece further into his skull.

After his body was found the media concluded that the Ouija board must’ve been really cursed and the poor boy had summoned a ghost or some demon or something like that, and it killed him.

Well, they weren’t too far from the truth. And the saddest part of all was that the story was powerful enough to make other lads like him try out Ouija boards just like he did.

He was now a legend among those circles.

***

Bogdan Dragos works as a dispatcher for a Romanian gambling company (supervising casinos) and that implies spending twelve hours alone in the office (where he daydreams and writes poetry that he emails to himself). He is the author of Pour the Whiskey Over My Heart and Set it On Fire.

Interview with Clay Waters

The Chamber Magazine is embarking on a new feature of conducting written interviews with authors whose work has been published on this website. Today’s interview is with Clay Waters, whose story “Frozen Dinners” was published on January 8.

Clay Waters has had short stories published in The Santa Barbara Review, The J.J. Outre Review, Morpheus Tales, Hello Horror, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye. His website is claywaters.org, featuring his self-published cozy mystery novel Death in the Eye. Clay lived in Florida until the age of four and recently returned to find it hasn’t changed a bit. Three of his six memories from that first stop involve the alphabet, which in retrospect was a bit of a tell.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

Probably my short story in The Santa Barbara Review, a “literary” literary magazine, in my early years of publishing.

Why do you write?

It’s a compulsion, an odd need to fill clean white paper (tip: yellow legal pads provide less pressure).

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

My mother is an excellent continuity checker for my fiction and has also guided me back onto the straight path when I get too obscure or haven’t properly explained something.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

A thriller-murder-mystery novel with some gothic-science-horror thrown in, set in a small retirement home in Central Florida — about 98% complete.

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

They tend to ruin my whole day, but with patience and purposeful breathing I’ve gotten that down to 12 hours. 😊

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Once you get a promising idea, and have at least a vague sense of where you think it will end up, stop worrying about how to write it, and just get on with it. Write mindlessly, then clean it up later. Don’t wait for the perfect sentence to come, and certainly don’t try to write the perfect sentence. Find words you use too much and try to cut back (mine is “rather”). And keep in mind that your ending may not veer in the direction you originally envisioned. Don’t sweat it. If you’ve gotten that far, you’ll figure something out.

Also, people say “write what you know,” but that can be limiting. I know nothing about interstellar travel or being trapped in a closet with a giant spider, but I’ve written about those things. Some of my better short stories have been told from a female perspective (I am a man). I’d reverse it and say “Know what you write.” I write hard-science-fiction sometimes though I don’t have the brain for it, but I can do some Wikipedia-level research and at least fudge it sufficiently to convince over the space of a short story. No one comes to your story wanting a science lecture (unless you’re a reading Analog magazine, of course).

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

www.claywaters.org gathers my short story, poems, reviews, and academic writing in one handy spot, and will hopefully feature info on my new novel in the not-too-distant future.

“Staticus” Poetry by Jennifer Patino

fear
Photo by Samer Daboul
 
 I know how quickly a lightning bolt
 can strike, can defuse you.
 Like the moment in the middle
 of the highest rope bridge,
 fingers clutching the netting,
 swaying blood in tense veins,
 earthquake rumbling beneath you
 as fearless children rush past.
 Wanting to scream at them,
 [can't they see you're dying?]
 but breath must be savored
 & embarrassment of such a
 display of terror can kill.
  
 Or when keys rattle in a doorknob,
 when faint footsteps seem to
 follow you on the road where the
 streetlights have been shot out.
 When a voice on the end of a
 late night phone call
 tells you to brace yourself.
 Like falling asleep & immediately
 jolting awake because hypnagogic
 visions always entail a cliff where
 you suddenly lose your balance.
  
 There's a figure, bewitching,
 twitching in the corner --
 it's familiar & disturbing,
 & a shower of sparks in your side-eye
 field is a sign that your neural
 impulses, all firing at once,
 are prepped to begin their
 consumption of your total control.
  

Jennifer Patino is an Ojibwe poet living in Las Vegas. She has had work featured in both online and print, including A Cornered Gurl, Half Mystic Press, Font Magazine, and L’Éphémère Review. She shares poetry at www.thistlethoughts.com and on Twitter @thoughtthistles.

“Mother forbade feeding the poor thing” Short Story by Bogdan Dragos

dog

There was a dog outside and it kept barking for some reason. Ah yes, it was chained and the chain was terribly short and the poor animal was hungry.

Mother wouldn’t bother feeding it. No, mother wanted it to die because it had been father’s dog, inherited along with the house after father died. Mother forbade feeding the poor thing.

Her child stood next to the window and listened to the poor thing barking outside. It was better than listening to mother drinking and talking ugly words with her boyfriends.

He opened the window and the dog saw him immediately and barked at him. He wanted to cry. Tried talking to the creature but it wouldn’t listen. It kept barking.

“Mother would cut my hand off if she caught me stealing food for you.”

But he was a smart kid. He leaned over the window and thrust two fingers down his throat and
vomited before the dog. It was just close enough for the tortured soul to reach with its tongue and
that’s what it did and the barking stopped.

***

Bogdan Dragos works as a dispatcher for a Romanian gambling company (supervising casinos) and that implies spending twelve hours alone in the office (where he daydreams and writes poetry that he emails to himself). He is the author of Pour the Whiskey Over My Heart and Set it On Fire.

Call for Submissions from Around the World

The Chamber Magazine would like to publish more writers from around the world, regardless of your country of origin.

I am seeking short, dark fiction and poetry and non-fiction articles on dark fiction, but I am open to more than those to formats. I am open to almost all genres, so long as it is dark.

The first criterion is that your work must be in English. It can a translation from your native language, but it must be in English, which is spoken around the globe.

For more information on what I am accepting and on the submissions guidelines, please go to my submissions page.

Please note that there is no pay for this other than a publication credit and exposure to the American and English markets. However, all rights remain with the author.

Call for Submissions from Around the World

The Chamber Magazine would like to publish more writers from around the world, regardless of your country of origin.

I am seeking short, dark fiction and poetry and non-fiction articles on dark fiction, but I am open to more than those to formats. I am open to almost all genres, so long as it is dark.

The first criterion is that your work must be in English. It can a translation from your native language, but it must be in English, which is spoken around the globe.

For more information on what I am accepting and on the submissions guidelines, please go to my submissions page.

Please note that there is no pay for this other than a publication credit and exposure to the American and English markets. However, all rights remain with the author.